- Kuwait Times Extra
ALEPPO, Syria: Troops clashed with rebels near the centre of Aleppo yesterday as snipers sowed panic in Syria’s second city, residents told AFP as monitors reported at least 85 people killed nationwide. The fighting raged in Suleiman Al-Halabi, one of Aleppo’s main streets, and the army prevented residents from venturing in the area as steady gunfire rattled the district. Violence nationwide left at least 85 people — 34 civilians, 28 soldiers and 23 rebels-killed yesterday, according to a watchdog.
“The clashes broke out two days ago,” said Salah who fled his home on Suleiman Al-Halabi with his wife and three children on Friday for a safer location two streets away in neighboring Midan district. “When the clashes began, we would go down to the basement with four other families, but for the past two days the fighting has been almost non-stop so we decided to move to a safer area,” he said.
According to Salah “almost 80 percent of the people in Suleiman al-Halabi left their homes after rebels entered the area.” The leaders of the rebel Free Syrian Army said yesterday they moved their command center from Turkey to Syria with the aim of uniting rebels and speeding up the fall of President Bashar Assad’s regime. Brig Gen Mustafa Al-Sheikh, who heads the FSA’s Military Council, told The AP that the group made the move last week. He would not say where the new headquarters is located or give other details.
The FSA is the most prominent of the rebel groups trying to topple Assad, though its authority over networks of fighters in Syria is limited. Its commanders have been criticized for being based in Turkey while thousands are killed inside Syria. Despite the announcement of the command move, rebels still have to rely on Turkey as a rear base for supplies and reinforcements. In the past few months, rebels have captured wide swaths of Syrian territory bordering Turkey, along with three border crossings, allowing them to ferry supplies and people into Syria.
FSA commander Col Riad Al-Asaad announced the move of the command center in a video with the title “Free Syrian Army Communique Number 1 from Inside.” Wearing a military uniform and surrounded by a dozen gunmen, the commander said the aim is to “start the plan to liberate Damascus soon, God willing.” In the adjacent neighborhood of Midan, which is held by the regular army, residents panicked as they heard gunfire and some shouted: “Watch out there are snipers.”
Streets in the neighborhoods were empty and shops were locked up while several buildings were gutted and apartments destroyed. “The battle is now between snipers,” Sheikh Walid, the head of a rebel brigade in the southern Amiriya district, told an AFP correspondent who reported that only few hundred meters separate the rival snipers.
The correspondent witnessed a sniper as he took cover behind a pile of sandbags to open fire while behind him other fighters armed with rocket launchers and machine guns prepared to swing into action. Elsewhere in Aleppo, five members of the same family, including children, were killed in the eastern Maysar district, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Residents also told AFP that rebel reinforcements were pouring into the eastern district of Sakhur and Shaar. Yesterday’s death toll also included 11 soldiers who were killed in fighting and rebel attacks in Aleppo province, near the border with Turkey, said the Britain-based Observatory which relies of a network of activists on the ground.
The soldiers, and six rebels, were killed in the Orm and Kaf Jum areas, the monitoring group said, adding that a woman also died in shelling as rebels attacked checkpoints in Abezmo. “The state has no presence except for military and administrative posts” in the western region of the Aleppo province in northern Syria, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone.
In Damascus province, three women were among seven people who died when a shell hit a civilian bus and the bodies of six people killed by gunfire were found in the central Qadam neighborhood of the capital, said the Observatory. According to the Local Coordination Committees, the six people were from one family and died at the hands of regime forces. In the northwest province of Idlib, a Syrian-Arab Red Crescent worker was shot dead along with another man by regime forces, the Observatory said. – Agencies
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