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Assad planning to take Aleppo away from rebel control

By Andrew V. Pestano
Assad planning to take Aleppo away from rebel control
The Syrian civil war has killed at least 250,000 and led to the displacement of millions, some which have fled to Europe as part of a migrant crisis. Recently, about 12,000 migrants were left stranded at a makeshift camp in Greece near Macedonia after the border was closed. The Syrian regime is planning to retake the rebel-controlled city of Aleppo with the aid of Russia, threatening future peace discussions between the warring factions. File photo by by David Caprara/UPI

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 11 (UPI) -- The Syrian regime under President Bashar al-Assad is planning to retake the the city of Aleppo with the aid of Russia amid an unstable cease-fire.

Aleppo has been partly controlled by rebels opposing Assad since 2012. Recent hostilities in Syria have threatened a cease-fire established in February between the Assad regime and a consolidated group of rebel forces.

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The cease-fire does not include the Islamic State nor the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

"We, together with our Russian partners, are readying ourselves for an operation to liberate Aleppo and blockade all illegal armed groups which have not signed up to or are violating a cease-fire," Syrian Prime Minister Wael al Halqi said during a meeting with Russian parliament members, TASS Russian news agency reported.

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The Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front last week launched an offensive against government forces that recaptured territory near Aleppo. On Tuesday, Islamist rebels shot down a warplane belonging to the Assad regime and captured its pilot.

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Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday that the strategic northern city of al-Rai is under the control of the Islamic State after a fierce offensive against rebel forces. The city is close to Turkey and serves as an important supply route into Islamic State territory in the Aleppo province.

Al-Rai was captured last week by rebels fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. The Islamic State confirmed it retook the city on Monday.

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Despite growing uncertainty over the cease-fire between Assad and rebels, representatives from both factions are scheduled to participate in peace talks mediated in Switzerland by the United Nations.

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