Dozens of civilians tried to flee rebel-held east Aleppo but were forced to retreat by gunfire, as the Syrian army and its allied militias on Wednesday pressed on with an offensive to recapture the whole city.
The government last week resumed its push to retake the east, where more than 250,000 civilians have been trapped under siege for months, with dwindling food and fuel supplies.
Recapturing the area would give President Bashar al-Assad’s government perhaps its most important victory yet in the conflict, which has killed an estimated 400,000 people since it began in March 2011.
Several families attempted to smuggle themselves out of the besieged section of the city overnight on Tuesday, paying smugglers to take them from the Bustan al-Pasha neighbourhood into the Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsoud area, before heading into the rebel-held Aleppo countryside.
“Two or three families paid smugglers and were attempting to cross when clashes and gunfire broke out and forced them back,” Aleppo-based journalist Zouhir al-Shimale told Al Jazeera.
Syria’s government accuses rebels of using residents as “human shields” and preventing them from leaving.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of civilians tried to flee but were stopped from escaping because of fighting.
“But when the civilians tried to cross to the other side, gunfire broke out,” Syrian Observatory director Rami Abdelrahman told AFP news agency.