70 killed north of Aleppo in Syria as Assad tries to seize Al-Maleh

The conflict in Syria, which has lasted five years, has killed more than 280,000 people. Photograph:( Getty )

AFP Beirut, Lebanon Jun 30, 2016, 04.36 PM (IST)
At least 70 regime and rebel fighters have been killed in 24 hours in a government assault and a jihadist-led counterattack in northern Syria, a monitor said Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 30 regime soldiers and 39 rebel fighters had been killed in battles around Al-Maleh, north of Aleppo, since Wednesday afternoon.

Jihadists fighting for the Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, were also killed, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, who did not provide a precise number.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad has been attempting to seize Al-Maleh for more than two years.

His forces have been trying for months to surround Aleppo by cutting supply lines between rebel-held districts of the city and nearby Turkey which supports opposition forces.

For nearly a week, regime troops backed by Syrian and Russian warplanes have been battling for control of Al-Maleh.

Assad's regime is also attempting to cut the Castello Road, a key supply route from the Turkish border to rebel-held eastern suburbs of Aleppo.

The pro-regime website, Al-Masdar News, reported that the Syrian army withdrew from the farms of Al-Maleh as they faced a rebel counter-offensive led by the Al-Nusra Front.

It said rebels attacked government forces with two suicide car bombs.

The majority of Aleppo province is controlled by Al-Nusra and its Islamist allies, while the city, the country's pre-war commercial capital, has been divided since July 2012 into rebel-held and regime-held areas.

The conflict in Syria, which has lasted five years, has killed more than 280,000 people.