Beirut: Nearly 40,000 Syrian civilians have fled a regime offensive north of Aleppo city that began earlier this week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said today. The Britain-based group said the mass exodus began on Monday as government forces began an operation that has seen them sever the main rebel supply route into Aleppo city and break an opposition siege on two regime-held towns.
The Observatory said the displaced had fled to different parts of Aleppo province, including the Kurdish town of Afrin, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) northwest of the area where the offensive has taken place.
Others have taken refuge in the west of the province, with the towns hosting them overwhelmed and some forced to sleep in the open. Thousands more have fled to the northern town of Azaz or were sleeping in nearby fields along the border with Turkey,
which is currently closed, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Syrian government forces and pro-regime fighters began a major offensive north of Aleppo city this week, backed by heavy Russian air strikes. The offensive has cut the main rebel supply line from the Turkish border to the opposition-held east of Aleppo city, and ended a siege on the towns of Nubol and Zahraa along the same route.