Rebel group claims Aleppo takeover |
Gulf Today - 22 August, 2012
Syria’s rebels control almost two thirds of the northern city of Aleppo, a top Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander said on Tuesday, in a claim denied by a security source in Damascus.
“We now control more than 60 per cent of the city of Aleppo, and each day we take control of new districts,” Colonel Abdel Jabbar Al Okaidi told AFP by telephone.
His claims could not immediately be verified.
“Every time we seize an area, the army responds with shelling,” Okaidi said.
“This is completely false,” the security source told AFP.
“The terrorists are not advancing, it is the army that is making slow progress. Terrorist groups occasionally come out of districts under their control and attack other districts to be able to then claim they have this or that street under their control.”
“After that, they quickly return to their lairs.” Syria’s second city has been at the epicentre of the conflict since fighting erupted there almost a month ago, triggering a major army assault about a week later.
Okaidi, who is the FSA commander for the province of Aleppo, listed more than 30 districts that he said are under FSA control.
Among them were the southwestern neighbourhoods of Saif Al Dawla, Bustan Al Qasr, Mashhad, Ansari and Fardoss, as well as Shaar, Hanano and Sakhur in the east, Bustan Al Basha in the northeast, Sheikh Saeed Fardoss in the south, and Kalasse near the city centre.
About half of the embattled district of Salaheddin is in rebel hands, Okaidi said, adding that the FSA also holds the central neighbourhood of Tilal.
Okaidi said Aleppo’s residents are helping the FSA by giving them food and water. “The people are with us,” he said.
“How else do you think we could have lasted a month?”
Earlier in the day, Syrian forces launched a wave of deadly air and ground attacks on northern Syria and Damascus, a day after US President Barack Obama warned the regime over its chemical weapons arsenal.
Forces stormed a rebel-held town outside Damascus on Tuesday after days of fierce fighting, killing dozens of people including at least 23 fighters, according to activist groups and a rebel spokesman.
Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) activist group and a rebel spokesman said regime troops entered the opposition-held town of Moadamiyeh at dawn from four points, raiding homes in search of anti-Assad fighters. The rebel spokesman, who asked to be identified by his first name only, Ahmed, said three men in their late 20s and early 30s were shot dead execution style in the town soon after its fell to regime forces.
He also said 23 fighters from the Free Syrian Army rebel group were killed when government forces stormed the town at dawn.
But Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said it was not clear whether they were people who had been killed in the shelling, or whether they had been shot dead. The reports could not be independently verified.
Tuesday’s violence followed a bloody day in which 167 people were killed nationwide, the Observatory said.
An AFP reporter in Marea reported that mourners joined a funeral procession for a 20-year-old man they said was killed when a fighter jet fired on his home that morning.
“To paradise we go, martyrs in our millions,” mourners chanted as they held the man’s body aloft on a makeshift carrier, wrapped in a blanket but with his waxen face uncovered.
Newly appointed UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is to be based in New York, the UN information service said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council, main opposition group is studying the formation of a transitional government, its leader Abdel Basset Sayda said on Tuesday.
“We are currently studying the formation of a transitional government,” Sayda said after meeting French President Francois Hollande here against a background of hints from the Syrian regime that President Bashar Al Assad could soon step down.