- Syrian forces seize villages in the northern part of Aleppo, state news agency reports
- One village sits on hill overlooking only entry point into area, opposition group says
Syrian military forces have taken control of villages in the northern part of Aleppo, Syrian state news agency SANA reported Friday.
Syrian army forces "eliminated big numbers" of militants and destroyed scores of vehicles used by them in three villages in the northern countryside of Aleppo, the news agency said, citing a military source.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday that one of the seized villages, Handarat, which is crucial because it sits on a hill overlooking the only entry point into the area.
The Observatory, however, later reported that rebels had retaken the hill of Handarat amid heavy clashes, which continued Friday.
It is estimated that there are up to 300,000 people in the rebel-held areas, and it's unclear if the militants will allow civilians to leave the war-torn region.
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war surpassed 3 million in August, and a further 6.5 million are believed to be displaced within the nation, the U.N. refugee agency has reported.
The war, pitting an Alawite Muslim-dominated regime against a largely Sunni Muslim insurgency, has torn the country apart.
Numerous factions, some of them Islamist, oppose the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and one of them -- ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria -- has captured large swaths of northern and eastern Syria for what it says is its new Islamic caliphate.