Syrian Government Assault Targets Rebels in Aleppo

Syrian government jets and helicopters bombed targets in the besieged northern city of Aleppo Wednesday as tanks launched a ground assault on the rebel-held district of Salaheddin.

There were reports of fierce battles with Syrian state television saying rebels were being overrun. Leaders of the rebel Free Syrian Army denied their forces were retreating.

Syrians look at a destroyed house after it was hit by an air strike killing six Syrians in town of Tal Rifat on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria.

Reports from some foreign journalists in the city, however, say some rebel forces had pulled back from their positions in Salaheddin, while others continue to hold their ground. One rebel commander near the city was quoted as saying that his men were running short of ammunition.

Heavy destruction

Arab satellite channels showed several buildings in Aleppo that had collapsed after being bombed by fighter jets. Amateur video also showed rocket and bullet-pocked concrete facades and burnt-out flats destroyed by field artillery.

Earlier on Wednesday, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting in Aleppo was the most violent since rebels first claimed control of part of the city.

Rebels near Aleppo’s iconic historic citadel, in the center of the city, continued to attack the fortress as government soldiers fended them off. The rebels claimed they had captured part of the fortress, but the report could not be verified.

Rights group Amnesty International released satellite images of Aleppo and the surrounding region this week, showing what it says are signs of increased use of heavy weapons, including near residential areas.

The group says the images raise “urgent concerns” about an impending assault on the city. It warned both rebels and government forces that attacks against civilians will be monitored.

“Amnesty International is sending a clear message to both sides in the fighting: Any attacks against civilians will be clearly documented so that those responsible can be held accountable,” Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager for Amnesty International USA, said in the statement.

Fighting spreads

Witnesses reported heavy government shelling in other flashpoint towns and cities including Homs and nearby towns. Witnesses also reported heavy shelling amid a government siege of the desert-oasis town of Deir Ezzor.

Analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in London said that despite the media focus on the Syrian government’s offensive in Aleppo, other parts of the country are being more heavily attacked.

“I don’t see that the battle for Aleppo has really started yet,” he said “They may just be encircling the city and doing skirmishes here and there.

“If you look at the casualty figures, they are more in Damascus and Rastan and Deir Ezzor and in other places than in Aleppo,” he said “So the focus is now on Aleppo, but there’s a lot happening elsewhere, military-wise.”

Shehadi said that the government may be counting on rebel forces to alienate the civilian population of Aleppo, causing them to lose support before a Syrian forces launch a full-scale invasion.

Source: Voices of America

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