Fighting rages on in Syria’s Aleppo

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 4:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 4:51pm

Fighting raged in a strategic district of Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo on Saturday, the third day of an all-out rebel offensive to seize the city, monitors said.

The focal point of combat was Salaheddin, a rebel stronghold on the southwest side of the city where insurgents attacked an army position, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Elsewhere in the country, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled localities in the southern province of Daraa, where fighting was also taking place, as well as in Deir Ezzor in the east and the capital itself.

At least six soldiers were killed in Daraa, while four civilians died in the Deir Ezzor shelling and two rebels were killed. An unspecified number of people were wounded in Damascus.

In the Aleppo province locality of Maskana, a year-old baby died, and his mother and brother were wounded by shelling.

On Friday, residents of Aleppo neighbourhoods previously spared the worst of the two-month-old battle for the northern city told AFP the violence was unprecedented, but the offensive had stalled.

“The sound from the fighting... has been non-stop,” said a resident of the central district of Sulamaniyeh, who identified himself as Ziad.

“Everyone is terrified. I have never heard anything like this before.”

Rebels said they had advanced on several fronts, particularly in the southwest, but admitted they had failed to make any significant breakthrough.

Abu Furat, a commander of the Al-Tawhid Brigade, the most important in the city, summed up their problem.

“To win a guerrilla street war, you have to have bombs and we don’t.”

The Britain-based Observatory said the intensity of Friday’s fighting in Aleppo had been unprecedented.

Yet it was not yielding major gains for either side, said the Observatory’s head Rami Abdel Rahman.

“Neither the regime nor the rebels are able to gain a decisive advantage,” he said, and by Friday afternoon the intensity of fighting had abated.

Across the country, at least 117 people had been killed on Friday, 71 of them civilians, the Observatory said.

In New York, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a total of US$45 million in new funding for humanitarian aid and to help Syria’s civilian opposition.

Some US$30 million would go towards aid, bumping up the total US funding for humanitarian relief to $130 million, with a further $15 million for the civilian opposition, she told a meeting of the Friends of Syria.

Washington has stuck by its refusal to provide arms and military support to the rebels, fearing it would further complicate the situation on the ground.