Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged US support to Syria’s opposition and urged them to begin planning for a post-regime future. The announcement came as helicopters attacked rebels in the city of Aleppo.
The US supports Syrian opposition forces in their battle against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Tuesday. The announcement came as the Syrian government sent helicopter gunships into its second largest city, Aleppo. Clinton went on to stress that a peaceful resolution with Assad was still possible.
“We do believe that it is not too late for the Assad regime to commence with planning for a transition to find a way that ends the violence and begin the serious discussions that have not occurred to date," she said.
Clinton expressed her belief that the Syrian conflict would end soon, urging the rebels to begin thinking of how to rebuild their country safely and securely.
"It's important to look at these day-after issues," she said. "They have to set up humanitarian response efforts that we can also support. They've got to safeguard the chemical and biological weapons that we know the Syrian regime has, and so there's a lot to be done."
Clinton's pledge signalled a more aggressive approach toward ending the Syrian conflict, coming less than a week after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution for a third time on Assad's government.
Fighting gains momentum
Tuesday's fighting was marked by more aggressive tactics by the regime as it sent in helicopter gunships to its second largest city, Aleppo.
Soldiers had been fighting to prevent rebels moving in on the city's center.
"On the ground, troops were defeated by the rebel,s but they are now using their helicopters to bombard those areas," activist Abu Haytham al-Halabi told news agency dpa by phone.
Residents and activists said rebels had been clashing with government soldiers and intelligence officers at the gates of the Old City, a United Nations World Heritage site.
Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad also put down a jail mutiny on the outskirts of the city, killing at least eight people.
Aleppo, a major commercial hub in the north, was long spared fighting in the 16-month upheaval affecting Syria, but clashes are escalating as rebels increase their efforts to seize the city.
Nationwide clashes drive refugee crisis
The Local Coordination Committees, which organizes opposition forces on the ground, reported renewed shelling in parts of the capital, Damascus. Fighting was also reported in the rebel district of Rastan in Homs province as well as the Kurdish mountains in the northwest of the country.
The British-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the nationwide death toll across Syria by Tuesday afternoon stood at 33.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Syria is taking on giant dimensions.
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said that the number of displaced people within Syria had risen to about 1.5 million, up from a previous estimate of 1 million.
Activists say at least 18,000 people have been killed in the uprising in Syria since it erupted in March 2010.
kms, tj/ncy (Reuters, AFP)