Bashar al-Assad with Syrian soldiers .jpg
A handout picture made available on 27 June 2016 by Syrian Arab news agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meets with Syrian soldiers before he take his Iftar (break of fasting) of Ramadan along with members of the Syrian Arab army in Marj al-Sultan airport, Kharabou area, in Eastern Ghouta of Damascus countryside, Syria, 26 June 2016.
Photograph: EPA/SANA / HANDOUT

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have cut off the only supply road to rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, state media and monitors reported on Thursday.

Citing an unnamed security official, Syria's state news agency SANA said the strategic Castello Road on the northern outskirts of Aleppo is under government firepower after they took full control over the southern part of the Mallah Farms area that overlooks the road.

The agency cited unspecified casualties among the "terrorists," a term it uses to refer to the rebels fighting to oust al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported fierce fighting in the area between regime forces and rebels, including the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

Unidentified warplanes carried out dozens of airstrikes in areas adjacent to Mallah Farms and Castello Road, according to the watchdog. No specific casualty numbers were given.

Military reinforcements were on their way to the rebels in the area, an Islamist rebel going by the nom de guerre Abu Rami told dpa by phone without giving details.

Earlier on Thursday, the observatory said regime troops and allied paramilitaries retook control of the area of Ketlet al-Jamae in Mallah Farms.

Al-Assad's forces have been trying for months to recapture Castello Road.   

"The rebels are engaged in fierce battles in their attempt to take back Ketlet al-Jamae because it is an important area for them," observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman said. 

Activists inside Aleppo said that opposition rebels had launched a counter-attack to dislodge regime forces from the area.

The violence comes a day after the Syrian army announced that a three-day ceasefire went into effect and would continue until midnight on Friday (2100 GMT Friday).

The observatory said that the truce was meant for the entire war-torn country.

The ceasefire coincided with the start of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Islam's holy month of Ramadan.

"This is a fake ceasefire," said Mahmoud al-Shami, an activist based in Aleppo. "This is a new manoeuvre by the regime to score military advances," al-Shami told dpa.

Al-Assad's forces have made territorial gains since September when allied Russia started an air campaign in Syria.

Meanwhile, US-backed Syrian forces made some important advances against Islamic State militants south of the city of Minbij in the north of the country, the Observatory said.

The US-backed Democratic Forces of Syria (DFS) - comprised largely of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), but also including Arab and Turkmen groups - are carrying out heavy battles in the neighborhood of al Hazwana and the so-called Al Shariya School in southern Minbij. 

"The DFS has infiltrated deep into the city and managed to control the southwestern part of Minbij and is now only one kilometre from the city centre," the Obsevratory said.

Taking control of Minbij would cut off Islamic State from the Turkish border - just 20 kilometres from Minbij city - and supply routes, while also isolating the militant organizations de facto capital al-Raqqa.

Latest news

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

Juncker: Not good for W. Balkans that some in Washington want to water down EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday it was not good for Western Balkan countries that some people in the new US administration gave the impression of being against the European Union because those countries needed the prospects of EU membership.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok named Asia's best for third year

Bangkok's Indian eatery Gaggan on Tuesday was named the best restaurant in Asia for the third consecutive year by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

HGK: 16 Croatian companies to exhibit at IDEX defence exhibition

Sixteen Croatian companies will exhibit their products at the 13th IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to be held on February 19-23.

Trump and the nuclear codes: Carnival again takes aim at politicians

US President Donald Trump, Brexit, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Germany's right-wing AfD party: Floats unveiled Tuesday for this year's Carnival parades in Cologne and Mainz once again turn to political satire to entertain revellers.

Barcelona police open fire on stolen lorry laden with gas canisters

Security forces in Barcelona opened fire on a stolen lorry laden with gas canisters to bring a rampage through the city to an end, police in the Spanish city said on Tuesday.

Stuttgart to issue bans on high-polluting diesel vehicles from 2018

Most diesel vehicles will be banned from roads in the southern German city of Stuttgart during times of heavy pollution, a bid to clean up the city's air, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg decided Tuesday.

Slovenia welcomes construction of LNG terminal off Krk, but won't join for now

Slovenia is not planning for now to connect to the floating LNG terminal to be built off Omisalj on the northern Croatian Adriatic island of Krk, but welcomes any additional energy source, Slovenian media say.

German court rules against automatic refugee status for Syrians

Syrians fleeing the multi-sided civil war in their home country do not have an automatic right to refugee status under the Geneva Convention, a German court ruled Tuesday.

Business conference pushes for intensified privatisation in Croatia

As long as the state authorities pay high bills, this means that the government has not yet seriously delved into the privatisation of state-run companies, although their sale can alleviate the pressure on the state budget, a business conference in Zagreb heard on Tuesday.

HND condemns judge's verbal tirade against reporters

The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) on Tuesday condemned a verbal tirade by Sibenik Municipal Court Judge Maja Supe against reporters in the courtroom, claiming that they were not educated to report on trials and that they had called her the "most corrupt judge in the country."

Mosque attended by Berlin attacker Amri closed, police confirm

The mosque in Berlin attended by Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri has been closed. The mosque is permanently closed, read a note in German and Turkish on the door of the prayer rooms which was seen on Tuesday.

German army to expand to almost 200,000 soldiers

Germany's Bundeswehr, plans to expand its number of professional soldier to 198,000 by 2024 because of increasing duties, the German Defence Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Fired Audi engineer says he was 'sacrificed' for emissions scandal

A fired Audi engineer was "sacrificed" amid the ongoing VW group diesel emissions scandal, his lawyer claimed in court on Tuesday as he contested his client's dismissal.