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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrian Troops Continue Crackdown on Aleppo Rebels

RIA Novosti

15:26 26/07/2012 BEIRUT, July 26 (RIA Novosti) - After regaining control of Damascus, the Syrian army has continued a large-scale offensive to force rebels out of the northern city of Aleppo, on the border with Turkey, Syrian and Lebanese media reported on Thursday.

Fierce clashes between government troops and Free Syrian Army rebels are taking place in many districts of Aleppo, including Sakhour, Bustan, Salaheddin, Maskin Hannanu, Tarik al-Bab and Shaar.

According to Lebanese satellite television channel Al Mayadeen, the Syrian army has so far only managed to regain control over one Aleppo district, Saif Al Dawla. Syrian state television claims most parts of Aleppo province have been returned to government control.

Aleppo has been the scene of heavy fighting since July 20, when rebel forces launched an all-out assault to overrun Syria's commercial hub. The rebels say their goal is to turn Aleppo into a “Syrian Benghazi,” a reference to an opposition stronghold in north-eastern Libya during last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

Army units in Aleppo have been reinforced with troops from southern Syria, while the Free Syrian Army has moved more of its fighters from neighboring provinces to Aleppo, signalling preparations by both sides for major fighting, media reports said.

According to witness accounts, clashes also erupted on Thursday in the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, as government troops moved to mop up the last pockets of rebel resistance in the capital.

“Fighting began at 7.30 am and is still continuing on the central street of the refugee camp,” a Yarmouk resident told RIA Novosti by phone, adding that a local hospital had been hit by a shell.

Earlier this week, the Syrian government and activists said government troops had largely regained control of Damascus, after a week of fierce clashes with the Free Syrian Army.

But according to Al Mayadeen, fighting was still underway on Thursday in the Damascus districts of Meydan and Basatin Daraya, as well as in the Qadam, Qudsiya and Tel suburbs.

Government troops have also clashed with rebels in several districts in the western city of Homs, the television channel said.

The Syrian conflict has already claimed up to 17,000 lives since it broke out in March 2011, according to UN data based on activist accounts.

Last week, Russia and China vetoed a third UN Security Council resolution threatening Assad with sanctions, including a possible military intervention, if he fails to stop bloodshed in the country.

Russia says it has no special interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but stated that the “Syrian people” should decide his fate. Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed earlier this year not to allow a repeat of the “Libya scenario" which saw the ouster and murder of Gaddafi after a NATO military campaign.

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