Sun, Jul 22, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Clashes raging in Aleppo, with tense calm in Damascus

AFP, DAMASCUS

Heavy clashes between troops and rebels raged into a second day in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, yesterday, activists said, while a tense calm reigned in Damascus after days of fierce fighting.

The fighting in Aleppo came a day after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to grant a “final” 30-day extension to a troubled observer mission charged with overseeing a tattered peace plan for Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in Aleppo “battles have been ongoing since Friday morning between regular forces and fighters from rebel units in the Salaheddin neighborhood.”

The clashes appeared to be spreading by early afternoon, the group said.

“Violent clashes are taking place between Syrian regime forces and rebel fighters in the Sakhur neighborhood and the Haydariya area,” it said, adding troops were “using heavy machine guns and shelling.”

The Local Coordination Committees — a grassroots activist network — reported “an exodus of residents of the [Salaheddin] neighborhood because of fear of regime bombardment and an offensive.”

The fighting is the worst yet in the northern commercial hub, which had been largely spared from the protests and violence that have accompanied the country’s 16-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On Friday, activists said troops had opened fire on demonstrators in the city, killing at least one person.

In Damascus, a day after regime forces launched a major counter-offensive to retake rebel-held areas, residents reported the city was largely calm.

However, the UK-based Observatory said the army had bombarded the al-Kaddam and Assali neighborhoods on the southern outskirts overnight, and residents reported fighting in the al-Hajar, al-Aswad and Tadamon districts.

A resident of the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, on the outskirts of the capital, said he had not left since Wednesday.

“It’s dangerous to leave the camp because there are snipers posted at the entrance and they shoot at any gathering,” he said.

The Observatory also reported government forces were shelling several districts of the rebel city of Homs, including Khaldiyeh, and said fighting was ongoing in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

After the Tuesday announcement by rebels of the “battle for the liberation of Damascus,” the army has stepped up operations in the city, as well as elsewhere in the country.

The Observatory said yesterday the nationwide death toll for Friday stood at 233, including 153 civilians, 43 soldiers and 37 rebels.

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