Fighting intensifies in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city


Anti-government rebels brazenly tried to seize a state-run broadcasting building on Saturday as the bloody battle for Syria’s largest city persisted.

The rebel Free Syrian Army pushed into the radio and TV complex in Aleppo, where the government broadcasts, and seized some control. But the fighters eventually had to withdraw because of snipers and military shelling, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

The regime reported “a large number of terrorists killed and injured during their attempt to storm the state-run TV and radio building in Aleppo.”

But the rebel thrust reflects the confidence and growing clout of the armed resistance, which intends to wrest control of the sprawling metropolis from the much larger and better equipped forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The fighting across Aleppo has raged for days in the city, causing widespread destruction and casualties and forcing civilians to flee.

Across the country, at least 45 people were killed Saturday, the LCC said, including 29 in Deir Ezzor, 14 in Damascus and its suburbs, and six in Aleppo.

The Syrian government also acknowledged widespread deaths Saturday in other places, saying security forces clashed with “armed terrorist groups” in the Deir Ezzor countryside, the Arbaeen neighborhood in Hama, and Homs province, “killing and injuring a large number of these terrorists’ elements and arresting others.”

The latest reports of bloodshed came as the Syrian regime turned to Russia for financial aid, saying the economic squeeze of international sanctions has taken its toll.

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil told reporters in Moscow on Friday that Syria is facing an unfair Western economic blockade and that Western sanctions target the Syrian people’s livelihood, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Jamil made the comments after meeting with Russian officials.

Syrian Finance Minister Mohammad al-Jleilati mentioned the possibility of Russia providing loans to to help Syria, SANA said. Al-Jleilati added that while Syria has sufficient reserves, the current situation requires extra reserves.

“We ask for some hard currency. Russia promised to consider the request,” al-Jleilati said, according to Russia’s official Itar-Tass news agency. “That would help Syria to recover from the crisis.”

Syria has not determined how much money it wants to borrow from Russia, but a decision will be made within weeks, Jamil said, according to Itar-Tass.

While Syria bemoaned Western sanctions against the country, a myriad of world ambassadors rebuked the regime.

On Friday, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution that slams the Syrian government for its actions and the U.N. Security Council for its failure to counter the crisis. It adopted the Saudi-sponsored resolution 133-12, with 31 abstentions.

The resolution notes “human rights abuses by armed opposition groups” and condemns “all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, including terrorist acts.”

But most of its ire is reserved for al-Assad’s regime. It strongly condemns “the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities and pro-governmental militias.”

General Assembly resolutions are legally non-binding, unlike Security Council resolutions. Diplomats hope the action will put pressure on the Security Council to take tough action on Syria. So far, Russia and China have blocked tough council resolutions against the regime.

The Syrian conflict has claimed roughly 17,000 lives, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month. Opposition activists put the toll at more than 20,000.


photo: Syrian rebel fighters celebrate on top of a tank captured from the Syrian government forces at a checkpoint in the village of Anadan, about five kilometres (3.8 miles) northwest of Aleppo, on July 30 2012, after a 10-hour battle. The strategic checkpoint of Anadan secures the rebel fighters free movement between the northern city of Aleppo and Turkey, a Free Syrian Army commander and an AFP journalist said. AFP PHOTO/JUNOT DIAZ