Aleppo: Rebels claim advances as Syrian aircraft and artillery pound city


Syrian boys inspect a destroyed army tank in the northern town of Atareb, 25 kms east of Syria's second largest city Aleppo, on July 31, 2012. While fighting raged in Syria's commercial capital Aleppo for a fourth straight day, clashes between the Syrian army and rebels also erupted in Damascus and other parts of the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.



Syrian aircraft and artillery pounded parts of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, as pro-government troops tried so seize control, Reuters reported.

Rebels claimed that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were forced into retreat, and the rebels reportedly control an arc covering the eastern and southwestern districts in Aleppo.

"The regime has tried for three days to regain Saleheddine, but its attempts have failed and it has suffered heavy losses in human life, weapons and tanks, and it has been forced to withdraw," Colonel Abdel-Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the Joint Military Council, one of the rebel groups fighting in Aleppo, told Reuters.

Oqaidi, who defected from the Syrian army six months ago, said, "We don't have goals for the coming months. We have goals for the coming days. Within days, God willing, Aleppo will be liberated," according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

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According to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, rebel fighters attacked Syrian police stations and seized control of the buildings, with at least 40 police officers dying in the fighting, CNN reported.

Emboldened and ecstatic fighters shouted, "Hafez Assad, the dog of the Arab Nation" and "The Free Syrian Army forever, stepping on Assad's head," said CNN. Hafez Assad was the late leader and father of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Syrian state TV, however, claimed that Syrian forces were inflicting heavy damage on "terrorist groups" in Aleppo, gaining ground in several neighborhoods, according to the BBC.

"Our armed forces continue to pursue terrorists in Salaheddine neighborhood in Aleppo. The operations resulted in inflicting heavy losses among the terrorists and the confiscation of their weapons," state TV reported, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency said it is unable to reach around 200,000 people fleeing the fighting in Aleppo, according to the Associated Press. An agency spokeswoman said residents were seeking shelter in schools, mosques and other makeshift facilities.

Those who have remained face food and fuel shortages, Reuters noted.