Fierce fighting rocks Syria’s Aleppo: rights group
BEIRUT – Fierce fighting rocked the heart of Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo early yesterday as troops shelled rebel-held districts in the east of the key battleground city, a human rights group said.
At least seven people were killed yesterday in the embattled city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that some 31 people were killed nationwide - 23 civilians, four soldiers and four rebels.
Of those killed elsewhere, at least five were children who died when regime forces shelled the Deir Baalba district of the central city of Homs, the Observatory said.
An amateur video distributed by the Observatory showed several wounded people covered in blood.
Tuesday’s violence came a day after at least 265 people were killed in violence nationwide, 182 of them civilians, the Britain-based group said, revising sharply upwards an earlier toll.
The figure made Monday one of the deadliest days since the outbreak of the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule in March last year, it said.
Troops battled rebels in the Bab Antakya, Aziziyeh, Bab Janin and Sabaa Bahrat areas of central Aleppo and near the Palace of Justice in the west, the Observatory said.
Fighting also erupted for the first time in the Ashrafiyeh district in the northwest, the watchdog’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “Clashes broke out there after rebels attacked a military post,” he said.
Aleppo has been bracing for a threatened ground offensive by the army against the rebels, who say they control around half of the city.
A senior security official said on Sunday that the army had completed the build-up of some 20,000 troops in readiness for a decisive showdown in the battle under way since July 20.
Troops shelled rebel-held neighbourhoods including Salaheddin and Shaar, the Observatory said. Opposition activists of the Syrian Revolution General Commission said the army used helicopter gunships to pound the Hanano district.
The head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye expressed concern for civilians trapped in the fighting in the city of some 2.7 million people.
Fighting in Aleppo killed 57 people on Monday alone, the majority of them civilians, the Observatory said.
“I urge the parties to protect civilians and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law,” Gaye said in a statement on Monday. “Civilians must not be subjected to shelling and use of heavy weapons.”
Approximately 20 unarmed UN observers were moved out of Aleppo back to the mission’s Damascus headquarters at the weekend because of worsening security, a UN spokeswoman said. – Nampa-AFP