24 Jul 2012

Aleppo sees fierce fighting for fourth day

Aleppo is reportedly bombed by Syrian fighter jets in a blistering attack on the fourth day of clashes between government and rebel forces battling to control the commercial hub.

Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad reportedly used fighter jets to fire shells and rockets into rebel-held districts in the northern city on Tuesday while rebels attacked a police headquarters close to the city walls.

It remains difficult to independently verify reports in a civil war dominated largely by YouTube uploads, activist and witness accounts, and international squabbling.

Regime forces continued fighting with rebels in the Salaheddine and Sukkari neighbourhoods where they inflicted heavy losses, the state news agency said.

But opposition activists said fighting was restricted to certain outer neighbourhoods and had not reached the city centre. A new alliance of rebel groups called the Brigade for Unification have announced operations to liberate Aleppo, the country’s largest city with about 3m people.

The state news agency reported today that Damascus, where there was a fierce rebel assault last week, was back in government hands with troops scouring neighbourhoods for the remnants of rebel fighters.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that territorial gains made by rebels would eventually provide them with “safe havens” for future operations in Syria.

“We have to work closely with the opposition, because more and more territory is being taken,” she told reporters in Washington.

Slow going

But Channel 4 correspondent Alex Thomson, reporting from Damascus – where the regime appeared very much still in control – said he foresaw the civil war continuing indefinitely until one of three conditions were met: 1) Moscow and Teheran stop supplying arms and money; 2) the army can no longer function with so many defectors or 3) President Assad is pushed to step down.

"a grindingly slow process" - Read more of Alex Thomson's blog

Syrian security forces dropped leaflets across Damascus today warning rebel gunmen to give up their arms and surrender, opposition activists told Reuters.

“The weapon you are carrying has become a burden on you, and there is no hope for you to survive unless you drop your weapon,” according to the leaflets dropped on Zahira and Midan (see photo above, left) where there has been serious clashes.

“The moment of truth has come. The men of the Syrian Arab Army are coming, time is running out and the wise man is the one who saves himself,” the leaflets said. They were signed by the armed forces general command.

Chemical weapons warning

While Damascus warned the international community that it had chemical weapons and would use them in the case of any international aggression, US President Barack Obama warned Syria against using such plans.

“Given the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching,” Mr Obama said in a speech before a veterans’ association in Reno, Nev. “They will be held accountable by the international community and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons,” Mr Obama said.