Syria rebels fend off Aleppo assault

Syrian rebels staved off a fightback by regime forces in Aleppo on Saturday amid growing concern about the risks of reprisals against civilians in the country's commercial capital.

After massing for two days, troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships moved on southwestern Aleppo where rebels concentrated their forces when they seized much of the northern city on July 20.

At least 29 people were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, contributing to a figure of around 140 nationwide.

The watchdog said more than 20,000 people, the majority civilians, have now died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March 2011.

"It started at 4:00 am (1:00 GMT) and eight hours later it's still hell. This is madness," an AFP correspondent reported from the Aleppo district of Salaheddin.

Civilians crowded into basements seeking refuge from the bombing, with the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman describing the clashes as the uprising's "fiercest."

"There are thousands of people in the streets fleeing the bombardment. They're being terrorised by helicopter gunships flying at low altitude," said an activist, adding many had taken refuge in public parks.

Official news agency SANA reported fighting in Furqan district where "a terrorist group was terrorising residents."

It said two "terrorists" had been killed and three others captured, and their arms and vehicles seized.

Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi of the rebel Free Syrian Army said his forces had repulsed troops in Salaheddin and that the regime offensive had been stopped.

"We managed to force the army to the neighbourhood of Hamdaniyeh," he told AFP on the phone, adding that while the army had been halted on the ground, artillery and gunships continued to pound the city.

Abdel Rahman said the fact the soldiers had been stopped in Salaheddin "does not necessarily mean a withdrawal as their strategy is to bombard ... to cause an exodus then launch an assault even more fierce."

An AFP correspondent said rebels were poised to launch a final raid on a strategic police post in the city centre, where 100 men armed with Kalashnikovs have been holding out for three days.

Its capture would open a corridor between Salaheddin and the rebel-held district of Sakhur, some six kilometres (four miles) to the northeast.

Pro-government daily Al-Watan had warned the "mother of all battles" loomed in Aleppo as the government moved to reassert its authority after recapturing rebel-held districts of Damascus.

Both sides acknowledged casualties were likely to be high, and world powers have called for "maximum pressure" to stop the regime from carrying out the assault and to avert another massacre.

In late May, at least 108 people were killed near the central town of Houla, the United Nations said. On July 12, regime forces killed more than 150 people in the central village of Treimsa, the Observatory said.

Russia warned a "tragedy" was looming but said it was unrealistic to expect the government would stand by when rebels were occupying major cities.

"We are persuading the government that they need to make some first gestures," said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"But when the armed opposition are occupying cities like Aleppo, where yet another tragedy is brewing as I understand ... it is not realistic to expect that they will accept this."

Lavrov accused the West of aiding opposition fighters.

"Our Western partners ... together with some of Syria's neighbours are essentially encouraging, supporting and directing an armed struggle against the regime."

"The price of this is yet more blood," he said.

Russia has repeatedly rejected accusations it is backing Assad's regime in the conflict, claiming to have an even-handed approach while rebuking the West for siding with the rebels.

Lavrov added there were meetings planned in the near future with Syrian rebels "in Russia and foreign countries where these boys are based," and that the point driven home would be "that if it is a revolution, they must not seek the backing of the UN Security Council".

Asked later if Russia would provide Assad with asylum, he said: "We are not even thinking of that," Russian news agencies reported.

French President Francois Hollande specifically addressed Russia and China as he urged the UN Security Council to rapidly intervene to pre-empt an all-out civil war in Syria.

Hollande said Assad's regime was doomed and "will therefore use force right to the end."

"The only solution which will allow Syrians to reconcile and reunite is the departure of Bashar al-Assad and the formation of a transitional government," he told reporters.

"It is not too late but with every passing day it's more repression, upheavals and consequently massacres."

Turkey warned it could "not remain an observer" as violence raged across its southern border.

"We must do what we can together in the United Nations Security Council, and also in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League, to make sure that we can make some important progress in trying to avert this appalling situation," said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippine, Vietnamese troops play soccer and sing on disputed island

    By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - Vietnamese and Philippine troops played soccer and sang karaoke on a South China Sea island on Wednesday in a sign of the growing security ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most at odds with Beijing over the contested waterway. Cooperation has blossomed between Hanoi and Manila since they shelved decades of enmity over their competing claims in the Spratly archipelago to try to counter China, whose creation of artificial islands in the region …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Fall on renewed U.S. rate hike concerns

    BANGKOK, May 27 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets tumbled on Wednesday as investors resumed selling on expectations of an interest rate hike in the U.S. sooner rather than later, derailing Philippine ... …

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options