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Rebels now command parts of Aleppo, Syria's largest city

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 31st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As both rebel forces and the Syrian army pound their nation's largest city of Aleppo, there are conflicting reports of who now has the upper hand. The army claims that it has taken Salaheddin. Syrian state television now says that government forces were pursuing the remnants of a group of "terrorists" there, suggesting the army did not have full control of the area.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A rebel commander in Aleppo said his fighters' aim was to push towards the city center, district by district, a goal he believed they could achieve "within days, not weeks." Rebels now control a section that covers eastern and southwestern districts.

Syrian helicopter gunships and artillery continue to batter two key areas of Aleppo. Heavy gunfire was heard in the Salaheddin district in the southwest of the city. Rebels deny the government's claims that rebel fighters had been driven out by troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Rebel fighters insist it was regime troops that had been forced to retreat.

 "The regime has tried for three days to regain Saleheddin, but its attempts have failed and it has suffered heavy losses in human life, weapons and tanks, and it has been forced to withdraw," Colonel Abdel-Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the Joint Military Council, one of several rebel groups in Aleppo declared.

It's not been possible to determine who controls Salaheddin, a district that lies on a major road that the army could use to bring reinforcements into the city.

Hospitals and makeshift clinics in rebel-held neighborhoods were reportedly filling up with casualties from a week of fighting in the city.

"Some days we get around 30, 40 people, not including the bodies," a young medic in one clinic says. "A few days ago we got 30 injured and maybe 20 corpses, but half of those bodies were ripped to pieces. We can't figure out who they are."

The Observatory said 40 people, 30 of them civilians, were killed in Syria alongside two rebel fighters in Salaheddin.

Since the government's assault this weekend, the rebels "already repelled three offensives" against Salaheddin, Oqaidi said, adding that they control "between 35 to 40 per cent of Aleppo."

Rebels seized a strategic checkpoint on the road from Turkey after a 10-hour battle, securing them free movement between the northern city and the border, an FSA commander said.

"The Anadan checkpoint ... was taken this morning after 10 hours of fighting," General Ferzat Abdel Nasser, a rebel officer who deserted the Syrian army a month ago says.

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