Syrian government forces walk amidst debris in the largely deserted Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat, north of Aleppo, on Sept. 24, 2016 after they captured the area following multiple Russian airstrikes. AFP / GEORGE OURFALIAN
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Syrian government and rebel forces battled for control of high ground on the Aleppo outskirts Saturday as warplanes bombed the city's opposition-held east relentlessly in a Russian-backed offensive that has left Washington's Syria policy in tatters.In their first major ground advance of the offensive, the army and its militia allies seized control of the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp, a few kilometers north of Aleppo, only for rebels to counterattack a few hours later.The assault on Aleppo, where more than 250,000 civilians are trapped in a besieged opposition sector, could be the biggest battle yet in a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million from their homes.Rebel officials said airstrikes Saturday hit at least four areas of the opposition-held east, and they believe the strikes are mostly being carried out by Russian warplanes.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 45 people, among them 10 children, were killed in eastern Aleppo on Saturday.A pro-government Iraqi militia commander in the Aleppo area told Reuters the aim was to capture all of Aleppo within a week.
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