Assad troops shell Aleppo

2012-08-05 18:38
Free Syrian Army soldiers in Anadan 16km from Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)

Free Syrian Army soldiers in Anadan 16km from Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)

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Cairo - The Syrian military heavily shelled a rebel stronghold in Aleppo on Sunday, the opposition said, and fierce fighting broke out in other parts of the country's largest city.

President Bashar Assad's troops attacked the rebel stronghold of Salaheddine, in the northern city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, a day after rebels reported bombardment by army helicopters and artillery as they tried to enter the district.

Clashes between Assad's army and rebels were reported in the districts of Meridyan and Ansari. The Local Co-ordination Committees said eight people were killed in Aleppo.

The battle for Aleppo could decide the course of the 17-month conflict. Rebels and government forces have been fighting for control of the city for a week, with neither side making significant gains.

"As far as we are concerned, the authorities have lost credibility and legitimacy," Abdul-Basset Sayda, head of the opposition Syrian National Council, told Asharq Awsat newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

"Bashar and his gang must leave, then we will move to negotiations with other officials whose hands were not stained with Syrian blood nor were they involved in corruption cases," he said.

Meanwhile, members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard were among the Iranians kidnapped by rebels from a bus in Damascus, a Syrian who defected from the army claimed in video broadcast Sunday by Al Arabiya.

The video showed Abdul Nasser Shumeir standing in front of a group of people he said were 48 kidnapped Iranians. He showed an identity document purported to belong to one person in the group, saying it showed membership of the Revolutionary Guard.

Followed for months

"We have been following the Iranians for two months, since we received information about them," Shumeir said, according to Al Arabiya.

"We will announce our next steps after we finish investigations with the Iranians," said Shumeir, identified as the commander of the Baraa Brigade, part of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

The Iranian consulate in Damascus said Saturday that 47 Iranian pilgrims were kidnapped by "armed terrorist groups" in the Syrian capital while on their way to the airport.

Iran is a staunch supporter of Assad and has sided with him since the uprising began in March 2011.

Across the country, 40 people were killed on Sunday, according to the observatory.

In the central province of Homs, more than 60 shells fell on Rastan area, leaving many wounded, the observatory said. Clashes also erupted between rebels and government forces in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

On Saturday, 220 people were killed nationwide, the observatory said.

The opposition says more than 20 000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.

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