Brahimi arrives in Syria amid raging violence


Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Syria on Thursday on his first official trip aimed at ending nearly 18 months of violence as rebels advanced in Aleppo where at least 11 people were killed.
Brahimi, who replaced former United Nations chief Kofi Annan who quit in August over Security Council divisions on Syria, was due to meet Foreign Minister Walid Muallem at 18:30 pm (1530 GMT), an official source said.
On Friday, he will meet members of the Syrian opposition tolerated by the regime, and will hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday, the source said.
Brahimi highlighted to Arab League envoys in Cairo this week that he knows he faces an uphill struggle, with no sign of any lull in the violence ravaging the country.
He told envoys of the Cairo-based League that “he was approaching the crisis in Syria with his eyes open and the full knowledge that it was an extremely difficult task,” a UN spokeswoman told reporters in the Egyptian capital.
In Brussels on Thursday, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi reiterated that Assad must step down as “a president that kills his own people is not acceptable.”
And British Foreign Secretary William Hague, visiting Iraq, said that the regime in Damascus was doomed.
“We believe that the Assad regime is doomed, that it is not possible for it to survive, and so many crimes (have been) committed that it should not survive,” Hague said at a joint news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
On the ground on Thursday, Syrian rebels advanced into the contested central Midan district of the country’s commercial capital Aleppo, witnesses and military sources said, as combat rocked several city neighbourhoods.
Aleppo has been the scene for nearly two months of fierce clashes between regime forces and rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and Midan is strategic, as it opens the way to the main square.
Elsewhere, several rebel-held districts of the northern city were bombarded, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least 11 people died when a helicopter gunship targeted a crossroads in Tariq al-Bab, the Britain-based Observatory said.
It did not say whether the victims were rebels or civilians, but distributed video footage showing several bodies, some bloodied and others badly burned, in pick-up trucks and on pavements.
In the south of the city, Bustan al-Qasr was bombarded and fighting was reported at Kalasseh, residents said.
A military source also reported clashes between troops and rebels in the western neighbourhood of Saif al-Dawla.