Rebels fend off troops in Aleppo | News | DW | 28.07.2012
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Rebels fend off troops in Aleppo

Rebel forces remain in control of their neighborhoods in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, having fended off an offensive by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Fears have been raised over a possible massacre in the city.

Syrian troops unleashed their offensive in Aleppo on Saturday, with artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships, but the outmanned and outgunned opposition fighters held strong, retaining their control over parts of the city.

Local activist Mohammed Saeed said the opposition had managed to keep the tanks of Assad's troopers at bay with rocket-propelled grenades.

"The army hasn't been able to take any neighborhoods yet, there are too many from the Free Syrian Army," he said.

On the ground

The opposition is believed to be in control of between a third and half of the city's neighborhoods, having begun their attempt to "liberate" the city from government control a week ago.

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Battle for Aleppo prompts bloodbath fears

By nightfall Saturday, according to the Observatory, it appeared that the government's forces had pulled back on the ground but were continuing to target neighborhoods with artillery, with attack helicopters hitting rebel positions.

Since fighting began in Aleppo last week, over 160 people have been killed there, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, bringing the total of those killed to 19,000 in the 17-month conflict that kicked off in March 2011. Activists believe approximately two dozen died in Aleppo on Saturday alone.

In the past two weeks, Syrian troops have been dealing with rebel assaults on the capital Damascus, as well as Aleppo, a bomb that killed four top security officials, as well as a string of high-profile defections.

International outcry

World leaders have expressed concern for the residents of Aleppo, fearing that a possible massacre may be under way in the city of three million. Syria's state-controlled al-Watan newspaper referred to the fighting for Aleppo as the "mother of all battles."

For the most part, the international community has had to sit back and watch events unfold, powerless to stop the bloodshed, despite diplomatic efforts to bring about a cease-fire and way forward for Syria.

Kofi Annan, the UN envoy who brokered the agreement, expressed concern Saturday about the weapons buildup in Aleppo. "I remind the parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, and urge them to exercise restraint and avoid any further bloodshed," he said.

The Arab League also chimed in on the use of heavy weapons by Syria against its own people, expressing "deep dissatisfaction for the Syrian regime's acts of oppression." It urged Assad to lift the siege on Aleppo and bring an end to the bloodshed.

French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, took aim at Russia and China, urging the UN Security Council to intervene and asking the veto-wielding nations to "take into consideration ... that it will be chaos and civil war if at some moment Assad isn't stopped."

"The only solution which will allow Syrians to reconcile and reunite is the departure of Bashar al-Assad and the formation of a transitional government," he added.

tm/rg (AP, AFP)

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