Syrian forces storm the last rebel stronghold in Damascus in tanks and armoured vehicles and blast artillery at rebels in Aleppo, where the UN say the army was preparing a massive assault.
The violence came within hours of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan quitting as international peace envoy for Syria, underlining the impotence of mediation efforts in the 17-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
A senior U.N. official said a long-expected army onslaught to take Aleppo, Syria's largest city and economic hub, was imminent following a buildup of army reinforcements. The fighting in Aleppo has focused on the Salaheddine district, seen as a gateway to the city for the Syrian army.
Rebels poured into Aleppo in July after being largely driven from the capital, Damascus, where they had launched an offensive that coincided with a bomb blast that killed four top security officials. The fighting in Syria's two main cities has intensified the conflict over the past three weeks.
Rebels claimed that they had captured a large police station after days of clashes. Rebel commander Abu Zaher said fighters had taken several police officers prisoner and seized weapons and ammunition.
Other rebels said heavy fighting was taking place in Saleheddine, the main battleground district, where they estimated 20 civilians had been killed. They say 50 of their fighters have been killed there in the last several days.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "acts of brutality" reported in Aleppo could be crimes against humanity. Both sides have accused each other of carrying out summary executions of prisoners in the city.
U.N. member states 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
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blasted the Saudi-drafted resolution, which condemned Damascus and called for a political transition, as "harmful" and said it "hides blatant support for the armed opposition." Russia and China were among the 12 nations that voted against the text, which received 133 yes votes and 31 abstentions.
Annan resigned on Thursday, complaining of "finger-pointing" at the United Nations while the bloodshed in Syria went on. His mission, centred on a peace plan and a ceasefire that never took hold, had looked increasingly futile amid escalating violence.
02 August 2012
01 August 2012