One of the few journalists reporting from Aleppo on the battle for Syria’s second city gives a vivid eyewitness account of the fighting and denies government claims that it has control of Salaheddine.
Kim Sengupta, a correspondent for The Independent newspaper, is currently in the centre of Aleppo, Syria‘s most populous city, as fighting rages around him. He has accompanied rebels as they attacked and overran a series of police stations in the city and witnessed the ferocious response from government forces.
“What happened today was sporadic skirmishes all over the place,” he said in an interview with Channel 4 News.
It certainly isn’t the case, as the government has claimed before, that they control Handaniya… We were in Salaheddine this morning and yesterday afternoon and that remains in rebel hands. Kim Sengupta
“There was an ambush of rebel fighters near the airport by regime forces – about 15 were killed. I have been with rebel fighters who have been attacking police and military posts. They were successful in the first three, which they managed to storm and take, and kill quite a few policemen and shabiha (government militia) in the process.
“The fourth one they went to attack…wasn’t quite that way. The rebels ran out of ammunition, which had been a problem all the way through, and then the regime called in the air strikes and there were missiles fired, followed by several very large explosions.”
Mr Sengupta, who has covered the battle for Aleppo since it began a few days ago, challenged Syrian government claims that they had overrun and recaptured the key Salaheddine neighbourhood of the city.
“What we have now is a basically a standoff in Salaheddine and a similar situation in Handaniya and pockets of areas changing hands in between,” he said. “It certainly isn’t the case, as the government has claimed before, that they control Handaniya…We were in Salaheddine this morning and yesterday afternoon and that remains in rebel hands.”
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Video images from Tuesday show regime tanks, artillery and armoured vehicles being sent along the road from Damascus to reinforce the units in Aleppo.
Mr Sengupta told Channel 4 News that a critical battle may lie ahead, and that the rebels expect they will come under a heavy bombardment from the regime forces which already have significant numbers of tanks and artillery pieces in the city.
“They will have to do something because at the moment in low intensity fighting which is going on in the street, the rebels seem to have the advantage,” he said.
“At the moment the regime is responding by calling in helicopter gun ships and planes. Now at some stage, one would think that they will start using their heavy weapons and artillery, but that hasn’t happened to a large extent yet.”