Syria wages new onslaughts on two main cities

2012-08-25 23:04
Syria (File, AFP)

Syria (File, AFP)

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Aleppo - Syrian forces launched a deadly assault in the southwestern belt of Damascus on Saturday, in what activists said was a new bid to crush "once and for all" the insurgency in the capital.

Combat helicopters and tanks also pounded rebel-held areas of the battered northern city of Aleppo, an AFP journalist and monitors said, as the army pressed on with its war against fighters seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.

The fresh violence erupted a day after new international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi admitted he was "scared" of the enormity of the task he faces to try to end the increasingly ferocious conflict, now in its 18th month.

Brahimi, who takes over from former UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan next month, held talks with UN leaders in New York on Friday, saying the Syrian people "will be our first masters".

Relentless bloodshed


Annan, a former UN chief, quit earlier this month after the failure of his six-point plan to try to bring peace, which was left in tatters by the relentless bloodshed and divisions among world powers over how to tackle the conflict.

In the latest in a string of such cases, dozens of bodies were found in the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, where troops have been waging a fierce assault against rebel holdouts, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

And at least 23 civilians, including two women and three children, were killed in gunfire and summary executions in Daraya, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, bring the death toll in the town to more than 120 this week alone.

Fears of another massacre

"Security forces have launched a campaign of arrests, and residents are anxious and afraid that there will be another civilian massacre" in Daraya, said the Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground.

State television, for its part, said Daraya was being "purified of terrorist remnants".

The army claimed to have retaken most of Damascus in late July, after about two weeks of intense fighting across the capital's southern belt.

Most rebel Free Syrian Army fighters were forced out into the nearby countryside, but have since resumed hit-and-run operations, according to activists.

In Aleppo, an AFP correspondent reported heavy shelling by tanks in several neighbourhoods, sending civilians scrambling for safety as exploding shells sent up clouds of smoke and dust.
Read more on:    bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict
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