Dozens Reported Dead in Damascus as Syria Rebels Try to Halt Advance on Aleppo
Violence flared yet again around Syria on Saturday, with the opposition reporting outright executions around Damascus and voicing fears about a climactic battle for the city of Aleppo as regime forces approached.
Free Syrian Army fighters told CNN that two large columns of government troops were heading toward Aleppo, the Middle East nation’s most populous city. One is moving from Latakia on the Mediterranean coast and the other from Damascus.
Mohamed Said, a spokesman in Aleppo for the Syrian Revolution General Commission, said late Saturday that members of the opposition Free Syrian Army are trying to head off some of the approaching troops by attacking them in Idlib province.
Fighting in the northern Syrian city has raged for days, causing widespread destruction and casualties and forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee. The addition of thousands of more troops to the mix, and even bloodier battles to follow, has fueled worries within the rebel ranks and around the world.
In remarks Friday to the U.N. General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern the situation may get even worse, saying the “ancient and storied” city is now “the epicenter of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it.”
Rebels in Aleppo exude gritty confidence and possess growing clout. They say they control significant parts of the city and are working to wrest control of the entire sprawling metropolis from the much larger, better equipped forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The regime reported deaths, injuries and the capture of dozens of “terrorists” — the term it commonly uses for opposition fighters — in several neighborhoods of Aleppo on Saturday. Opposition activists, meanwhile, said al-Assad’s forces had unleashed persistent and powerful bombs and shelling, while rebels have launched their own attacks in multiple neighborhoods.