Syrian forces pound rebels in Aleppo

2012-08-04 20:22
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Aleppo, Syria - Syrian artillery, planes and a helicopter gunship pounded rebel positions in Aleppo on Saturday, witnesses said, as President Bashar al-Assad's forces tried to break through the insurgents' frontline in Syria's largest city.

Syrian forces clashed with rebels around Aleppo's television and radio station, activists said, and a local rebel commander said his fighters were preparing for a "strong offensive" by government forces on the city.

In the capital Damascus, troops backed by armour stormed the last opposition bastion on Friday in a drive to crush a rebel offensive that coincided with a bombing that killed four of Assad's senior security officials. The onslaught continued on Saturday as jets bombarded the city, a resident said.

Syrian forces battered Aleppo's Salaheddine district, seen as a gateway for the army into the city of 2.5m people. The fate of the district could determine the outcome of a conflict that has already claimed some 18 000 lives.

"There is one helicopter and we're hearing two explosions every minute," a Reuters witness said.

The civil war has intensified in the past few weeks, with fighting engulfing Damascus and Aleppo for the first time in the 17-month-old uprising against Assad family rule.

The two cities are crucial prizes for both sides in a conflict that has eluded all attempts at a diplomatic solution and risks igniting a wider conflagration.

UN member states on Friday voted overwhelmingly to condemn the Syrian government at a special session of the 193-nation General Assembly that Western diplomats said highlighted the isolation of Assad supporters Russia and China.

Western and Arab powers want Assad to step aside but Russia and China have used their Security Council vetoes to block attempts to force him out. They say outside interference is prolonging the bloodshed.

Assad's government, allied to Iran and Lebanon's armed Shi'ite Hezbollah movement, is at odds with Turkey and most of the Arab world, especially US-aligned states such as Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-ruled Gulf partners.

Read more on:    bashar al-assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings
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