The Syrian army and its allies have driven out rebels from a strategically important area of eastern Aleppo in an accelerating attack that threatens to crush the opposition in Aleppo.
One rebel official denied the report that al-Sakhour had fallen, an advance that would cut the rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo in two, while another said the situation was not yet clear. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had lost control of more than a third of eastern Aleppo in recent days.
Citing a military source, Syrian state TV said the army and its allies had seized the entire Sakhour area and were working to clear it of mines. Backed by allied militiamen, the army has been advancing into eastern Aleppo from the northeast since last week, making steady gains over the weekend.
A fighter on the government side in Aleppo said the army and its allies had now driven a wedge through eastern Aleppo, leaving a corridor for rebels to quit the northern part for the south.
"In the coming hours, the rest of the northern sector will be taken," the fighter told Reuters, declining to be identified because he is not an official spokesman.
Capturing rebel-held eastern Aleppo would be the biggest victory for President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011. Aleppo is the most important urban stronghold of the uprising.
Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said government forces were now in effective control of a swathe of eastern Aleppo stretching north from the al-Sakhour neighbourhood, having seized a third of eastern Aleppo in recent days.
"It is the biggest defeat for the opposition in Aleppo since 2012," he told Reuters. Abdulrahman said the army and its allies were now in control of an entire swathe of eastern Aleppo stretching north from al-Sakhour.
Part of the northern area was seized by the Kurdish YPG militia, which is hostile to the rebel groups in eastern Aleppo and advanced into the rebel-held territory from the Kurdish-controlled Sheikh Maqsoud district, Abdulrahman said.
Backed by the Russian air force, the Syrian army and its allies have been gradually closing in on rebel-held eastern Aleppo this year, besieging it before launching a fierce assault in September.