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Syrian rebels fend off 'regime forces and Hezbollah militias' as civilians flee

Syria's al-Sham Front announces capture of 27 pro-Assad fighters, Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah members in Aleppo's Ratyan village
A rebel fighter holds a position in al-Mayasat, a rebel-controlled area near the industrial zone of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 4 February, 2015 (AFP)

Syrian opposition group al-Sham Front announced the capture of 27 pro-government soldiers, including Iranian fighters and Lebanon's Hezbollah members supporting President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday in Aleppo's Ratyan village.

"Intense clashes between opposition groups and the Syrian regime took place in Ratyan," Yaser Ahmed, al-Sham Front’s spokesman told the Anadolu Agency. 

"Opposition fighters besieged some of the regime forces in a building during the clashes." 

Samir Zaytun, al-Sham Front’s artillery commander, said opposition forces targeted Syrian army points with machine guns, tanks and mortar strikes in the al-Mallah area in Aleppo’s countryside.

"We destroyed a regime tank and captured another," he said. "Regime forces and Hezbollah militias sustained severe damage in the intense clashes.” 

Opposition forces managed to retake control of Hardatnein village after the army's earlier attack on the area.

Meanwhile, mass internal displacement was witnessed on Wednesday from Aleppo province to Afrin district following the intense clashes between pro-Assad forces and armed opposition groups.

A local police officer who spoke to the Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity said thousands of civilians fled Aleppo’s northern and western villages. 

A civilian told the Anadolu Agency he had to flee his home unexpectedly with his family of nine, all of them women and children.

"We were forced to flee the village after the intense clashes and random regime shelling," Abu Ahmed said. "We are heading to Afrin and from there, we will pass to Turkey.” 

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) called on "all parties to the conflict to allow people to seek refuge in safe areas and grant the provision of humanitarian assistance."

"Our paramount concern is that the clashes block the only road open between Aleppo and the northern border with Turkey, making it almost impossible for ambulance services to run and for medical and humanitarian assistance to reach the people trapped in eastern Aleppo," said Raquel Ayora, MSF’s director of operations.

"This already grave humanitarian crisis will deteriorate further if medical teams have no access and no way of getting lifesaving supplies through. We are talking about tens of thousands of people isolated from any kind of assistance," added Ayora.

Syria's civil war began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement inspired by the pro-democracy Arab Spring, but morphed into a brutal war after pro-Assad forces unleashed a massive crackdown on dissent.

The war has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 210,000 people, and displaced roughly half of the country's population, according to the UN. 

The majority of fatalities are reportedly civilians, primarily killed by pro-Assad forces, although other groups are also implicated.

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