Syrian forces pound Aleppo, Damascus

2012-07-26 14:07

Beirut - Damascus and Syria's second biggest city, Aleppo, came under shell fire on Thursday as troops loyal to President Bashar Assad stepped up efforts to crush rebels threatening the government's two main power centres.

One of the most senior figures to defect from Assad's inner circle, Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, put himself forward as someone who could help unite the fragmented opposition inside and outside Syria on a blueprint for a transfer of power.

A bomb attack that killed four of Assad's closest lieutenants last week prompted predictions among his enemies that the 46-year-old president's time in power was drawing to a close.

But in the days that have followed that attack, Assad's forces have noticeably toughened their response to the armed revolt, with fixed-wing combat aircraft seen in action over Aleppo and rebel fighters said by opposition sources to have been summarily executed on the streets of Damascus.

Residents in the capital reported a shell landing in southern districts every minute on Thursday morning. Helicopters were attacking the Hajar-al-Aswad district, one of the last rebel strongholds in the city after days of street fighting, opposition activists said.

After a major assault on rebels in Damascus last week, the army has turned to Aleppo, reinforcing troops there with an armoured column that had been operating in a northern province, apparent evidence of the government's aim not to lose control of Syria's commercial capital, a city of 2.5 million.

24 killed

Fierce clashes raged in the early hours of Thursday in Aleppo, and an activist said rebels now controlled half of the city, a claim that could not be independently verified.

"There was shelling this morning on the Salaheddine and Mashhad districts," said Aleppo activist Abu Hisham. "Now it has stopped, but helicopters are buzzing overhead."

Activists said 24 people were killed in fighting in and around Aleppo on Wednesday, swelling a national death toll of about 18 000 since the revolt against Assad began 16 months ago.

In the Syrian capital, a resident in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp reported heavy shelling, particularly near the southern Hajar al-Aswad district.

She said the army seemed to be targeting sites on the edges of the camp, firing shells every minute. The bombardment started around 07:00 and was still going three hours later.

As hostilities have intensified in the north, in and around Aleppo, Turkey closed its border posts to commercial traffic on Wednesday, but not to refugees fleeing Syria.

Overstretched army

At the Syrian town of Azaz, a few kilometres south of the Turkish border, rebels appeared in control after heavy clashes over the past month in which they succeeded in driving government forces out of what had become a rubble-strewn ghost town, a Reuters correspondent who visited the town said.

Military experts believe an overstretched Syrian army is pulling back to concentrate on Aleppo and Damascus, while leaving outlying areas in the hands of rebels.

In its most recent comment on the fighting, state-run Syrian television said on Wednesday that government troops were imposing security and stability in and around Aleppo.

"The terrorists are suffering terrible losses. Groups of them are throwing their weapons away and giving themselves up. Others are fleeing for the Turkish border," the television said.

Assad himself has not spoken in public in more than a week since the Damascus bomb attack on his inner circle, confining himself to appearing at formal televised events.

General Tlas, a former friend of Assad's who could play a role in any transition of power, said he had not defected from Syria in order to play a leadership role.

Tacit Saudi support

"I am discussing with ... people outside Syria to reach a consensus with those inside," he told Thursday's edition of the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

"I left [Syria] try to help the best I can to unite the honourable people inside and outside Syria to set out a road map to get Syria out of this crisis".

Tlas, who is in Jeddah and has been interviewed by a Saudi-owned newspaper and a television station, appeared to have tacit Saudi support for his stance.

The general, a Sunni Muslim member of Assad's mostly Alawite inner circle and a senior officer in the Republican Guards, defected earlier this month.

"I will co-operate with every honourable person who wants to rebuild Syria, be it the National Council or the [rebel] Free Syria Army," he said.

Western powers have been calling for Assad to be removed from office for months, but they fear that he will fight to the end, raising the risk of sectarian warfare spreading across one of the world's most volatile regions.

Blame game

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing the Bosnian parliament in Sarajevo, said the world must unite to end the "slaughter" in Syria, recalling the inertia of the United Nations in 1995 during the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.

At the UN Security Council, members blamed each other for rising violence in Syria. Western states pledged to seek an end to the conflict outside the world body, while Russia warned of "likely catastrophic consequences" with that approach.

Russia, an ally of Syria, and China have repeatedly blocked Western-backed Security Council resolutions on Syria.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-26 14:21

    The only goal for the Syrian security forces to pursue is the merciless annihilation of the armed gangs that are supplied and incited by the hegemonic powers.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-26 14:56

      Fidel drinking Cuba Libres and a touch of hedonism is much better than your continued incitements for death and destruction.

      dominic.goller.9 - 2012-07-26 15:06

      you need to get a job and stop trolling the internet

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-26 15:11

      But it's you that's bee inciting these terrorists to fight till the end. It's the hypocrisy of doing that and then complaining about the body count when the government fights back that I find offensive. I've said several times on these threads that they should be pursuing negotiations with the Syrian government. Don't apply some ridiculous standard on Syria by which the Syrian armed forces cannot be allowed to respond to violent rebels with an equal degree of force.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-26 15:19

      The present government of Syria is as illegitimate as Assad's father's government. His father murdered 20000 people because the people wanted to overthrow the unelected Assads. Deja vu!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-26 15:23

      There's a stalemate in Syria. It is either the continued blood letting or negotiations.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-26 15:52

      Fidel it is over. The Assads are finished. I don't understand why you cannot see the writing on the wall.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-26 15:55

      You must be a mgoqi.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-26 16:02

      In Fidel's world, "the hegemonic powers" are "the evil West". Not the neo-Communist Russian and Chinese regimes, the former of which is actually arming the UNELECTED dictator of Syria who is in control of the state and its military. The uprising by Syrians against the 50-year UNELECTED and oppressive rule of the Assad family is fake. The eleven months of unarmed demonstrations for THE RIGHT TO VOTE met with killing by sniper-fire, detentions, torture, and rape of tens of thousands of Syrians by Assad and his generals did not happen. Everything that is happening in Syria is the work of "the evil West". This is Fidel's "binary" world view, crafted with an immature anti-West core belief.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-26 19:55

      Fidel, ""It is either the continued blood letting or negotiations"" WRONG AGAIN !! With your silly childish anti Western views, you cannot see the third option, and the most sensible one; this assad terrorist OUT!!! Only in a comic strip do the ones whose family and friends been slaughtered by a terrorist, sit down at the same table as this monster.!! i think you are too mixed up with hegemonic merciless annihilation powers , to understand this. PORKCHOP!!

      ghengis.khan.585 - 2012-07-27 12:59

      It's interesting how Anthony and Fred only see one side of the coin. They keep on about unelected dictator, oppressive this and that, murderer who killed and raped thousands (without a shred of evidence) but still support a country who's former president was found guilty of WAR CRIMES and has yet to face any kind of punishment for his crimes. Not once could these two trolls provide any evidence as to who these rebels are, what percentage of the Syrian population support them, and keep denying evidence that these bunch of thugs are being given arms and support by foreign governments. All the keep doing is repeating the same nonsense 'Unelected dictator'. Syria was never a democracy, so what is your point. Where is there a law that every country should be a democracy. If it is to become a democracy, then this should happen in a transitional way. There is no good outcome here, the only way is for the US to speak to their Free Syrian Army and tell them to support the cease fire and negotiate with the legitimate government.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 14:07

      Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey announced that they are now openly sending arms to the Syrian rebels. This has widely been reported. The US is not helping the rebels. Unfortunately it and the rest of the freer world are doing little to help them. This too has widely been reported. There is report after report, with video footage, of the atrocities being committed by Assad and his generals on the Syrian people, across Syria. Assad himself has openly stated that he is a the bloody surgeon of Syria. Kofi Annan has stated that Assad has not complied with the UN Peace Plan and is committing atrocities across Syria. It is a basic human right that the citizens of a country vote for their leaders. It is sad that you prefer unelected dictatorships, but consistent with your oppressive and faulty view of what is really happening in Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians ARE being killed, detained, tortured and raped by Assad and his generals, who are in control of the Syrian state and its military. It is of course your prerogative to choose to blind yourself to what is really happening. In so doing you are enabling the forces of darkness that are causing untold human suffering on the Syrian people.

  • jans.opresser - 2012-07-26 20:01

    to all of you people who are supporting these foreign terrorist by lying and calling them freedom fighters,please get a life that involves the truth. these are not syrian citizens that assad is fighting against. these are foreign jihadist who are coming in from over the border of turkey! if these are syrian citizens as you lie and claim,then please explain to me where they are getting their Steyr AUG assault rifles from? this has just been confirmed by the UN observers that the rebels are using Steyr AUG. how did they get them? who gave them to the terrorist? is turkey arming these foreign jihadist in the so called refugee camps in turkey? nw the UN claims to want to know how the so called rebels are being armed from a western nation. and please spare us with all of the lies on how assad's days are numbered. the lies that you post mean nothing to Putin or the syrian govt or the chinese. if you all want assad gone so bad,fly to syria and help the terrorist lead the assault against the legitimate govt of syria and watch the russians shoot you down.they have already identified HUNDREDS of foreign al-qaeda members fighting against assad! there is no way that the rebels win this! the russians wont allow it! and Israel has just warned the rebels that if they get control of the country they will attack them if they get a hold of the WMD's in that country. does that still sound like freedom fighters to you all? not to the Israeli's.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-26 20:17

      You're a little slow and behind what is happening. Firstly, for eleven months of unarmed demonstrations by tens of thousands of Syrian people across Syria FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE, the UNELECTED dictator Bashar Assad, who's family has been in control of the Syrian state and military for 50 years, responded by killing thousands WITH SNIPER FIRE, and detained, tortured and had raped tens of thousands more. He has openly called himself the bloody surgeon of Syria. In the UN General Assembly, the overwhelming majority of the countries of Earth voted that Assad is illegitimate and must step down. Only 12 of the 166 countries on Earth voted that he was legitimate. After these eleven months of sheer, brutal oppression, and no real action from the freer world to help the Syrian people, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar announced they would provide arms to Syrians so they could at least defend themselves. It's one thing to not know what is going on and ask for information, quite another to not know and jump to an uninformed conclusion.

      jans.opresser - 2012-07-26 20:28

      those countries that voted against Assad,are they citizens of syria? and put WHO in charge there? and what part of foreign jihadist do you not understand? your lies about turkey and qatar and the saudi's arming these terrorist doesnt fly.they have ALL denied arming them as of today. so where did the Steyr AUG assault rifles come from? did Allah drop them out of the sky for the rebels?. why dont you go and tell your lies to the russian govt? see if they are as nice to you as I am?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-26 20:39

      No-one's in charge, Jans. That's precisely the point. Again, you're behind the news. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar openly stated a few months ago they were sending arms to the Syrian freedom fighters.

      jans.opresser - 2012-07-26 23:27

      On Wednesday, CNN’s crew met a Libyan fighter who had crossed into Syria from Turkey with four other Libyans. The fighter wore full camouflage and was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle. He said more Libyan fighters were on the way. “The foreign fighters, some of them are clearly drawn because they see this as … a jihad. So this is a magnet for jihadists who see this as a fight for Sunni Muslims,” Watson reported on CNN International’s “Amanpour” Wednesday night. “And that’s definitely cause for concern among some Syrian revolutionaries I know … who do not want an Islamist political agenda to be mixed in with their revolution.” A majority of Syrians are Sunnis, and Sunnis make up a bulk of the opposition to Syria’s regime, which is dominated by minority Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Earlier this week, in neighboring Idlib province, residents of a village where the rebel Syrian Falcons brigade was headquartered said fighters of several North African nationalities were serving in the brigade, even though the group's leader insisted all of his fighters were Syrian. At least one armed man there introduced himself to CNN as a citizen of Turkey. you were saying Fred? these are FOREIGN INVADERS!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-26 23:34

      They're certainly present, more so now after the more than a year of violence-induced chaos by Assad and his generals. It's what the PAC and other extremists would have done in South Africa WITH HELP FROM ACROSS THE BORDER had the Apartheid government not ended itself. Syria will be free. Assad will fall. There will be extremists, more so now, but they will not determine Syria's future. That time has passed.

      jans.opresser - 2012-07-27 00:11

      fred,you need a lobotomy! you are the biggest liar in the history of the net. anthony,your alter ego is a close second! these are foreign jihadist,who america is backing simply to destabilize the region. RUSSIA will never allow assad to fall to these terrorist! you are wasting your time with your lies. the russians have just demanded the rebel terrorist to leave the country or THEY will bomb them with assad! and the russians are NOT fooling around now that they know that the rebels are foreign invaders who have invaded their ally!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 02:10

      "The US is backing the Jihadists infiltrating Syria". Hahahaha! Good one. Actually, Russia's arming of Assad is allowing Jihadists to move into the dark chaos. They ate desperately looking for a base from which to ATTACK THE US abd freer world. Jans, I understand you aren't aware of what is really happening, but I must tell you that in your total delusion you are enabling the slaughter of Syrians and their families by the unelected dictator of the country, who has control of the Syrian state and its military. He won't have control of these much longer.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 02:30

      Jihad is the Islamist's war ON THE US.

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