7 children among 51 killed in Syria
BEIRUT FIERCE fighting rocked the heart of Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo on Tuesday as troops shelled rebel-held districts in the east of the city, a human rights group said.
At least seven civilians were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that at least 51 people were killed nationwide — 30 civilians, 13 soldiers and eight rebels.
Among the dead, at least five were children who died when regime forces shelled the Deir Baalba district of the central city of Homs, the Observatory said.
Tuesday’s violence came a day after at least 265 people were killed across the country, 182 of them civilians, the Britain-based group said.
In Aleppo, in the northwestern district of Ashrafiyeh, rebel forces attacked the regime’s auxiliary Popular Army headquarters from 5:30 am (0230 GMT) and 9:00 am, the Observatory said, adding that some 300-400 troops and pro-regime militiamen were there at the time.
Army helicopters pounded the area and pushed out the rebels, who moved on to attack a nearby medical and legal institute.
After clashes there, the rebels retreated to Ashrafiyeh, which is controlled by the Syrian branch of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey.
“Kurdish fighters let the rebels into the district, but they did not allow them into residential areas, in order to ensure the regime would not bombard them,” the Observatory said.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said gunships pounded the rebel-held neighbourhoods of Salaheddin, Sukkari, Shaar and Sakhur on Monday. “It looks like they are preparing a ground offensive,” he added.
A security source in Damascus told AFP air strikes against rebel positions in the west of Aleppo were forcing the rebels to redeploy towards the centre and the east.
On Tuesday, clashes raged in the heart of Aleppo, including in the Antakya, Aziziyeh, Bab Jnein and Sabaa Bahrat districts, as well as the vicinity of the Justice Palace in the west, the Observatory said.
Rebels say they control around half of the city.
A senior security official said on Sunday that the army had completed the build-up of some 20,000 troops in readiness for a decisive showdown in the battle underway since July 20.