Syria army recaptures Aleppo heart as fighting rages

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The Syrian army recaptured three Christian neighbourhoods in the historic heart of Aleppo from rebels Thursday but fierce clashes continued in other parts of the main northern city, residents said.
Loyalists forces also battled rebels in Damascus, shelling districts and storming houses, after launching a ferocious assault to try to reinforce its hold on the capital, activists said.
The West stepped up the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s government, with Britain joining the United States in warning it against using its chemical weapons in a conflict that shows no sign of ending after more than 17 months of bloodshed.
Washington is also ramping up its military presence in the region, dispatching a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to deal with “threats” from Iran and the turmoil in Syria.
Aleppo residents spoke of heavy exchanges in the heart of the city during the army’s offensive to recapture neighbourhoods seized by the rebels at the weekend.
“We have had the worst two days of our lives,” said Sonia, the wife of a wealthy businessman in the northern city told AFP.
“If our house weren’t built like a fortress, we’d all be dead. The entrance is very badly damaged.”
Rebels had seized control of three Christian quarters of the Old City of Aleppo during the weekend, including Jdeide and Telal, once frequented by tourists for their restaurants and handicraft shops.
The rebel Free Syrian Army had also seized the nearby neighbourhood of Sulamaniyeh, most of whose inhabitants are Armenian Christians.
The neighbourhood is home to some ancient monasteries and a cathedral of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
“Battles on Monday and Tuesday were very violent, and they lasted for many long hours before the army managed to expel the rebels,” a resident of the neighbourhood told AFP by telephone.
“After cleansing the area, hundreds of residents of the districts of Telal and Sulamaniyeh took to the streets to celebrate and express their support for the army,” he added.
After the rebels’ expulsion, residents set up “popular committees” to prevent their return, another resident told AFP.
Communities like those in the heart of Aleppo are among those in which support for Assad’s government and suspicion of the rebels runs highest.
But in the southern belt of Damascus, where fighting also raged on Thursday, opposition to the government runs high.
“Parts of Damascus look like Gaza, with the army deployed on the outside, setting up major checkpoints, but unable to get in,” said a Damascus resident and opposition activist who identified herself as Samara.
“Fear is everywhere,” Samara told AFP via Skype. “Most people in the violence-stricken areas are stuck in their homes.”
The army shelled the south Damascus district of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, scene of bitter fighting last month, as well as the town of Daraya, on the capital’s outskirts, for a second day in a row, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

1 COMMENT

  1. why all these lies,The areas mentioned in this report have never been under the FSA,and never one bullet fired in these mostly christian neighborhoods.

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