Syrian regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes recaptured Wednesday hills and villages on the outskirts of south-western Aleppo from rebel groups, a monitoring group and state-run media said.
The regime has been launching a counterattack on areas captured by rebels in the last two days, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Since the attack began and until Tuesday midnight, 40 civilians have been killed on both sides of Aleppo, among them 22 children," Abdel Rahman said.
Some 50 rebels and dozens of regime troops have been killed since the assault began Sunday, according to the Observatory.
Syrian state-run radio confirmed that regime troops have started a "wide-scale counterattack" against rebels in south-west Aleppo.
"There are tit for tat attacks in all areas across south-western Aleppo, amid dozens of Russian strikes on areas which were taken by the rebels," Kenan, an activist based in the rebel-held Salaheddine neighborhood of Aleppo, told dpa via Facebook.
Government troops managed to seize two hilltops including Telat al-Mahroukat and the villages of Khweriz and al-Amriyeh, which the rebels took control of two days ago, the Observatory said.
The rebels' offensive was aimed at capturing the district of Ramousseh in south-western Aleppo to cut off a supply route for government troops and open a new passage to the rebels' side of Aleppo.
Last month, eastern Aleppo witnessed its heaviest blow since rebels seized control in 2012. Regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes blocked Castello Road, the enclave's last route to the outside world.
In a statement issued late Wednesday in Brussels, the European Commission said that "conditions on the ground in Syria are deteriorating" and called for urgent negotiations led by the United States and Russia to create "intra-Syrian talks" to end the conflict.
The European commission urged the United Nations "to prepare a proposal for political transition, based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions and input given by the Syrian parties. This proposal should serve as the starting point for future direct negotiations" to be organized by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura.