Syrian government launches offensive south of Aleppo

BEIRUT: Pro-government forces in Syria launched an offensive Tuesday to retake a strategic hilltop village south of Aleppo from insurgents, including al-Qaida’s local affiliate, as the government prepared for parliamentary elections set for Wednesday.


The vote will only be held in areas controlled by the government, and is expected to produce a rubber-stamp assembly loyal to President Bashar Assad.

Al-Manar TV, run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces, reported the offensive to retake the village of Tel al-Ais early Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist-run monitoring group, said clashes were ongoing around Tel al-Ais and the nearby village of Khan Touman.

Tel al-Ais overlooks a supply line connecting the capital, Damascus, to the northern city of Aleppo, parts of which have been held by groups opposed to the government since 2012.

Insurgents captured Tel al-Ais earlier this month after heavy fighting despite a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire, which excludes the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front.

The fighting comes as U.N. brokered indirect peace talks are set to resume Wednesday in Geneva. The U.N. envoy is expected to meet with an umbrella opposition coalition backed by Saudi Arabia, the United States and other Western powers. The Syrian government says its delegation will arrived Friday.