25 Jul 2012

Fighting raging in Syrian second city Aleppo

As the regime seeks to regain control of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub, fighting also flares again in the capital Damascus where another massacre is alleged to have taken place.

In Aleppo regime forces continued their crackdown, using tanks brought in from Idlib and Hama to pound the city with artillery fire.

There were reports of many clashes within the city and video was posted on the internet reportedly showing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) attacking and burning police stations. The images showed captured weapons, ammunition and gas masks proving, opposition fighters claimed, the regime’s intention to use chemical weapons.

Further uploaded footage also appeared to back up reports that the army was using helicopter gunships and Mig21 fighter planes over the city.

Gunfire returns to Damascus

On Wednesday fighting could be heard in the south Damascus neighbourhood of Kadam.

Channel 4 News reported gunfire a couple of miles from the hotel where Herve Ladsous, the UN Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, was speaking to reporters on Wednesday. The violence is increasing, not decreasing, despite UN demands, he confirmed.

“The UN is being heard by both sides and ignored by both sides,” Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson said.

There was also fighting reported in the south Damascus districts of Hajar al Aswad, Nahr Eshe and the district of Yarmouk – an area where Syrian refugees have been taking shelter within long-established Palestinian refugee camps.

Bloodiest week

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human RightsActivists 1,261 people have been killed since July 15 although the figures could not be independently verified. If confirmed, it would be the bloodiest week so far in an uprising in which an estimated 18,000 people have died.

Activists posted video of what they said was a massacre in the northern Damascus district of Qabon yesterday. The pictures showed deserted streets and up to 120 bodies said by activists to be people who had not fled recent fighting. Qabon, known to be a centre of FSA activity, has been the scene of fighting for some weeks.

Syrian state TV today broadcast what it said were bodies of “armed terrorists” captured and executed by the Syrian Army in Damascus. The video shows weapons, bullets and bloody clothes.

“We will pursue the rest of the armed terrorists wherever they are,” an unnamed soldier told Syrian state TV.

Speaking in Sarajevo, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recalled the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 men and boys died and said: “I make a plea to the world: do not delay. Come together .. Act now to stop the slaughter in Syria.”

Turkey closes border

Meanwhile Turkish authorities told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that its borders with Syria will close to commercial traffic in both directions but remain open for fleeing refugees.

“We’ve received assurances that it is staying open,” Sybella Wilkes, spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

An official from the Turkish Customs and Trade Ministry had earlier told Reuters that all Turkey’s border gates with Syria were to be closed from Wednesday, in response to worsening security conditions.

An estimated 30,000 refugees have fled Syria into Turkey, according to reports.

Tensions along the border were fuelled by the shooting down last month of a Turkish military reconnaissance jet by Syrian air defences.

Turkey has called for Assad to quit after he failed to heed calls for reform and the country has harboured Syrian rebels and tens of thousands of refugees along its border with Syria.