The battle for Syria’s most populous and strategically important city of Aleppo has been raging for a week, and the violence has only intensified.
According to numerous activists, supported by reports by The Associated Press (AP), Syrian forces have deployed military helicopters and tanks to flush out opposition fighters in what could very well be the most important battle either side has had to fight since the uprising began 17 months ago.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has cited its extensive network within Syria, saying soldiers have begun targeting rebel-controlled neighbourhoods in the hopes of dealing a crippling blow to the opposition, which has constantly plagued them.
The group also estimated that more than 19,000 people have died since March 2011, with 160 having been killed on Friday alone. Various opposition activists fear that Aleppo may befall the same fate as Damascus, which was subjected to door-to-door searches and the use of heavy weaponry to keep the rebels at bay.
As the battle raged on Friday, the United Nation’s outgoing chief observer in Syria expressed concern that the Syrian government could turn its full military force on the rebels as the Syrian government begins to crumble. Unverified Free Syrian Army sources added credibility to the claim, saying that an assault which included a number of tanks and ground troops with heavy weaponry has been repelled for now. Some tanks were destroyed by roadside bombs in the process.
Unconfirmed reports have also surfaced claiming aerial bombardments in rebel-held areas have increased, with various witnesses sighting military aircraft at low altitudes flying over the city.
The fighting in and around Aleppo has intensified to the point where the Red Crescent group decided to suspend some of its operations in the city. There have been calls from activists for urgent medical aid in the Salah Al-Din and Hamdanieh quarters close to Aleppo’s centre after violent clashes were reported. The activists have called for doctors to go to these areas to provide medical aid, the BBC reported.
Russia stood behind Basher Al-Assad’s government once again yesterday, after government officials said that Aleppo was facing a rebel-led assault. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was unrealistic to expect the Syrian army to stand by while rebels tried to take control of major cities. Russia further warned the West saying they would not allow Russian-flagged ships to be searched, as per the latest European Union sanctions, which call for the inspection of vessels suspected of transporting weapons to Syria.
Turkey expressed its concern on Friday, when government officials said international institutions needed to work together to address the military assault on Aleppo, as well as Al-Assad’s threat to use chemical weapons against ‘external enemies.’