Syrian army forces are fighting to maintain control over Aleppo, the country's former financial capital. Rebels are also battling President Assad's forces to recapture Zabadani, on the Syrian border with Lebanon.
Clashes between the Syrian regime's army and rebel militias intensified on Saturday in Aleppo, once the country's economic powerhouse. Heavy fighting was reported from Aleppo's western regions.
The assault began on Thursday when fighters of the Ansar al-Sharia, dominated by Islamists and Nusra Front militants as well as the conservative Ahrar al-Sham group, attacked several Aleppo neighborhoods including Zahra, which houses an air force intelligence facility.
The rebel coalition made some initial gains but was pushed back by air raids conducted by the regime. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Assad's army carried out some 40 airstrikes, killing around 29 Ansar al-Sharia fighters on Friday.
Assad's forces advance on Zabadani
Meanwhile, Syria's Shiite regime's soldiers were fighting together with the Shiite Hezbollah militia from neighboring Lebanon to gain control over Zabadani, one of the last rebel strongholds north of Damascus. The city is close to the Beirut-Damascus highway and capturing it would be a big gain for President Bashar al-Assad.
"Army units supported by the Lebanese resistance this morning launched a major operation in the Zabadani region in the Damascus province," Syrian state television announced on Saturday, referring to the Lebanese Hezbollah, a Shiite group allied with Assad's army.
Assad's troops have however regained most of the rebel-captured territory in Qalamun region, where Zabadani lies. The city was one of the first to fall into rebel control in 2012. Heavy fighting was still underway between the regime's forces and rebels, the Syrian Observatory confirmed.
Syria has been in war since nearly five years. The conflict has killed more than 220,000 people, injuring more than a million, according to the United Nations.
mg/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)