BEIRUT — Syrian warplanes pounded a strategic northern city with three airstrikes today as ground troops pushed forward in an intensified effort to recapture the area recently taken by rebels, activists said.
The airstrikes targeted Maaret al-Numan, located on the highway connecting Syria’s two main cities, Aleppo and Damascus. It was captured by rebels on Oct. 10 and in the weeks since, the regime has subjected the city and the area around it to heavy air bombardments.
The rebel hold on Maaret al-Numan has disrupted the regime’s ability to send supplies and reinforcements to Aleppo, where government forces have been bogged down since July in a bloody fight for control of Syria’s largest city. Rebel advances over the past week in Aleppo have added urgency to opening the route.
The death toll for what was supposed to be a four-day cease-fire ending Monday exceeded 500, and activists speculated that the government’s heavy reliance on air power reflected its inability to roll back rebel gains.