Rebels report major gains in Aleppo despite Syrian air attacks

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NICOSIA — Sunni rebels are said to have advanced amid the Syrian
Army assault on the nation’s largest city.

The opposition has reported heavy street fighting amid a Syrian Army
invasion of Aleppo. Rebels are said to have blocked infantry and armored
units loyal to President Bashar Assad as fighter-jets and attack helicopters
struck two districts of the city of 2.5 million.

A destroyed Syrian government tank is seen on a street near Aleppo. /EPA

“The Army has been shelling neighborhoods constantly, but troops can’t hold on to any significant part of the city,” a rebel commander said.

On July 31, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a major rebel attack on regime positions in Aleppo. The London-based opposition group said two police stations in Aleppo were stormed, which resulted in numerous casualties.

“Hundreds of rebels attacked the police stations in Saliheen and Bab Al Nayrab neighborhoods, and at least 40 policemen were killed during the fighting, which lasted for hours,” Syrian Observatory said.

The rebel Joint Military Council has been hosting Arab and Western
journalists in Aleppo to witness the fighting. Commanders said Assad troops failed to capture the southwestern Aleppo neighborhood of Salah Eddin despite three days of massive assaults, including strikes by MiG-29 fighter-jets on Aug. 1.

The army was said to have lost main battle tanks, armored personnel
carriers as well as heavy weapons as rebels were expecting to receive their
first man-portable air defense systems from Turkey. The rebel command has
long appealed to allies for weapons to repel Syrian fixed- and rotary-wing

The rebels, armed with light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, have
established a base in an Aleppo school. Commanders said more than 3,000
rebels were preparing to advance toward the center of the city amid
deteriorating morale among Assad forces.

The Assad regime, said to have deployed more than 100 T-72 main battle
tanks, indicated heavy fighting in Aleppo. On July 31, the
state-owned Syrian media said the Army was still chasing “terrorists” in
Saleh Eddin.

“Armed forces continue to hunt the remnants of terrorist groups in
Aleppo’s Salah Eddin district and inflict heavy losses on the enemy,” Syrian
state television said.

Western diplomats said Assad has abandoned many of the army positions
along the Turkish border in the effort to capture Aleppo. They said rebels,
particularly those aligned with the Free Syrian Army, have been seizing
checkpoints and even bases in northern Syria, including those near Aleppo.

“There is now a corridor from the Turkish border to the outskirts of
Aleppo,” a diplomatic source who monitors Syria said. “It’s an unprecedented
achievement, although it might not last for very long.”

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