Syria conflict: Aleppo districts 'under fresh assault'
Published: 9th Aug 2012 11:48:44
The Syrian city of Aleppo has come under fresh bombardment, activists say, as the government attempts to retake districts seized by rebel fighters.
Several areas of the city were reported to have come under attack, including strafing from helicopter gunships.
The fighting comes as Iran prepares to host its own international meeting on the Syrian crisis.
Iran, Syria's only regional ally, says it will be attended by countries with a "realistic" position on the crisis.
But it is unclear exactly which countries will be attending the summit, held in Tehran.
Western governments have expressed scepticism that Tehran can mediate, because of its close relationship with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday, Syria's state military launched a large operation to retake Aleppo from the rebel fighters, who overran some districts three weeks ago.
The fighting was concentrated on the strategic Salah al-Din district, a densely-packed area of narrow streets.
Aleppo is Syria's largest city, and Salah al-Din is considered a vital supply route for government troops coming from the south.
State media say the army is now in full control of the district, reporting that hundreds of "terrorist mercenaries" have been arrested or killed.
But the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said it had launched a counter-attack and retaken the district, and that government forces had retreated after suffering heavy losses, with tanks and armoured vehicles destroyed.
The situation on the ground is unclear, but latest reports say the FSA may have partially or totally withdrawn from the area.
"The FSA has withdrawn from two streets where there has been fighting in recent days," rebel commander Hossam Abu Mohammed of the Dara al-Shahbaa Brigade in the northern city told the AFP news agency by phone.
"The fighters are withdrawing to [nearby] Sikari district, where they are preparing a counter attack against the army."
There were reports of further clashes overnight in the districts of Hanano, Saif al-Dawla, Shaar and Shakur, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, quoted by AFP.
The Local Co-ordination Committees network of activists also reported shelling and gunfire in several districts.
The Syrian Observatory said at least 26 people were killed in Aleppo on Wednesday - it said they were among 130 people killed across the country.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the foreign ministers' summit in Tehran will be a gathering of countries with "a correct and realistic position" on the Syrian conflict.
He said it would be an opportunity "to replace military clashes with political, indigenous approaches to settle the disputes".
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by state media as saying "12 to 13 countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America" would be taking part, but did not name them.
Kuwait's foreign ministry told al-Seyassah newspaper it would not be sending a representative. Lebanon has also said it will not attend while Russia is sending its ambassador and not Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says this is a meeting of people who are already close to Tehran and to the Syrian regime.
There is deep scepticism in the West about Iran assuming a peacemaker role, given its recent strong commitments to the survival of the Assad government, our correspondent adds.
Earlier this week, Iran's security chief Saeed Jalili visited President Assad in Damascus, to pledge Tehran's support.
Mr Jalili said Syria was one part of a vital regional alliance which he described as the "axis of resistance", which Tehran would not allow to be broken.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Syria conflict: Aleppo districts 'under fresh assault'. [Online] (Updated 09 Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news.php/1445350-Syria-conflict-Aleppo-districts-under-fresh-assault [Accessed 21st May 2013]
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