Damascus aims to seal the border with Turkey, a major sponsor of the insurgents fighting President Bashar al-Assad, and to retake rebel-held areas of what was Syria’s biggest city and industrial hub before the conflict began in 2011.
“These battles are not easy, but the day will come, God willing, when all Aleppo – its rural areas and the occupied part of the city – will return to state authority,” Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in an interview on Wednesday.
He declined to predict how long the campaign would last, but added: “I do not expect the battle of Aleppo to go on long.”
The Syrian government has made significant gains against rebels north of the city in the last week, in a dramatic advance backed by Russian air strikes and allies on the ground including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iranian fighters.
The government assault helped to derail already struggling Geneva peace talks this month. Russia’s intervention has tipped the war Assad’s way, reversing gains rebels made last year.
Aleppo would be the biggest strategic prize in years for Assad’s government in a conflict that has killed at least 250,000 people and driven 11 million from their homes.
The offensive has already cut vital rebel supply lines into opposition-held areas of the city from Turkey. Tens of thousands of people have fled towards the border.
Zoubi said the insurgents were well-financed and armed, naming groups that have received US-made TOW anti-armour missiles, as well as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, and other jihadists such as the Turkistan Islamic Party.
“They have TOW, they have tanks, they have armoured cars, they have bombs,...