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British special forces have been pictured for the first time on the ground in Syria

The exclusive BBC images appear to show troops securing the perimeter of a rebel base.

BRITISH SPECIAL FORCES have been pictured operating on the ground in Syria for the first time, according to newly released images.

The images, exclusively obtained by the BBC, show special forces riding open-air Thalab long range patrol vehicles and armed with an arsenal of weaponry.

The BBC reports that the images were taken in June, and appear show the British forces securing the perimeter of a moderate rebels New Syrian Army base in Al Tanaf on the Syria-Iraq border.

The images follow an attack on the base by the so-called Islamic State; according to witnesses the British forces were there in a defensive role.

These images mark the first time British forces have been pictured with boots on the ground in Syria since the beginning of the bloody and protracted civil war, which began over five years ago and has claimed about 300,000 lives to date.

The British Ministry of Defence said it wouldn’t comment on special forces operations when it was shown the images by the BBC.

Aleppo

Meanwhile, fierce fighting has rocked the city of Aleppo in the north east of the country in recent weeks.

Aleppo has long been a flashpoint for the conflict between rebels and Syrian government, with its location close to key supply lines and its proximity to the Turkey border making it a strategic point.

Mideast Syria File photo of destroyed buildings in Aleppo. Source: Manu Brabo/AP/Press Association Images

Now, more than two million people in the city are in danger of coming under total siege, the United Nations has warned, calling for immediate access to the heavily bombed city.

Ferocious fighting has resurged in Aleppo in recent weeks, with rebels and regime forces seizing rival access routes and cutting off residents.

In a statement yesterday, the UN’s top humanitarian official in Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, and regional coordinator Kevin Kennedy called for a “humanitarian pause” in the hostilities.

Two million people in the city are living in fear of besiegement, including up to 275,000 people trapped in east Aleppo, the statement said.

Mideast Syria Timeline File photo of a Free Syrian Army soldier standing on a damaged Syrian military tank in the town of Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo. Source: AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File

The fighting in Aleppo is reported to have killed at least 130 civilians since the end of July, and has damaged hospitals, clinics, and the city’s power and water networks.

“The UN stands ready to assist the civilian population of Aleppo, a city now united in its suffering,” the statement reads.

At a minimum, the UN requires a full-fledged ceasefire or weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses to reach the millions of people in need throughout Aleppo and replenish the food and medicine stocks, which are running dangerously low.

Fighting in Aleppo flared in late June when government forces closed in on the Castello Road, the last route into rebel-held parts of the city.

The road was severed in mid-July, sparking food shortages and skyrocketing prices in the eastern districts.

download (9) File photo of a building destroyed in Aleppo. Source: Associated Press

In a major push last week, a coalition of rebels, Islamists, and jihadists cut off the regime’s own main access road on the southern edges of the city.

Each side has used their newly acquired territory to bring food and other supplies into neighbourhoods of the city they control, but the roads are still not safe for civilians to use.

“When used to intentionally deprive people of food and other items essential to their survival, siege tactics constitute a war crime,” the UN statement said.

With reporting from © – AFP, 2016

Read: A city destroyed: What you need to know about Aleppo

Read: Syrian rebels say they have broken the siege of Aleppo

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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