Opposition fighters in northern Syria launched a major offensive Monday against government-controlled areas of the war-ravaged city of Aleppo, days after government troops seized the only supply road into the opposition half of the divided city.
Monitors said the rebel operation began at dawn on several fronts. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later reported 19 troops loyal to embattled President Bashar al-Assad were killed in a single assault in Aleppo's Old City.
But Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told the French news agency, AFP, that the main assault had been stalled in the face of heavy government aerial bombardments. Monitors said those government air raids killed at least 13 civilians Monday.
The latest fighting follows a failed opposition counter-attack late Saturday aimed at reopening the Castello Road — the main travel artery for the 250,000 people residing in rebel-controlled areas of the ruined city.
Monday was to have signaled the end of a five day cease-fire promised and then extended by the Damascus government to commemorate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
But observers said the Eid al-Fitr truce had been routinely violated since it was announced on Wednesday.
Reuters last week quoted an unnamed U.S. intelligence official as saying Syrian and Russian forces appeared to be using the truce as an opportunity to encircle rebel-controlled areas of the city.
Aleppo — a city of more than 2 million residents before civil war erupted five years ago — has been divided for much of that time between opposition and government sectors.