Syria army, rebels ready for major Aleppo battle
The Syrian army, which concluded Sunday, the deployment around Aleppo, heavily bombed the city amid fighting with insurgents ahead of launching the decisive offensive to re-take control of Syria's second largest city.
Early Sunday, the artillery resumed bombing Salaheddin area, which is besieged by the army, according to Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR). Fighting continued in other parts of the city, which is considered the economic heart of Syria, said the NGO.
The Syrian Army completed Sunday the mass deployment of its reinforcements around Aleppo and is now ready for the "decisive" battle, a security source conveyed. "All the reinforcements arrived and surrounded the city. The army is now ready to launch the final assault, but waiting for orders," the source said. "But the war could last because there will be street battles to dislodge the terrorists."
Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the Syrian regime, reported that "the current mission (of the army) is to give blows to the terrorists and to tighten control on entrances to the city in order to to prevent them from fleeing".
The newspaper added that "between 6,000 and 8,000 terrorists" are active in Aleppo, stressing that "hundreds of them were killed or wounded."
On their part, the rebels say they hold half of the city and insist that despite the bombing, artillery and aviation, the regime soldiers can't advance. According to AFP journalists on the site, the situation seems frozen. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have been involved in sporadic fighting with regime troops in Salaheddine but "everyone is still waiting for the big offensive."
In a statement, the Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest opposition coalition, accused the military of shelling the architectural heritage sites of Aleppo.
Elsewhere in the country, five members of the FSA were wounded in the bombing of a building in the area of Jabal al-Akrad, in the coastal province of Latakia, according to SOHR.
Meanwhile, the first Syrian cosmonaut General Mohammad Ahmad Fares, 61 defected and arrived in Turkey. The Anatolia news agency said that before entering Turkey, he visited the headquarters of the FSA in Aleppo in solidarity with the rebels.
In a related development, Iran has asked Turkey and Qatar, who are supporting the rebels, to intervene in order to release 48 Iranians abducted yesterday. The rebels said that among the hostages were members of the Revolutionary Guards, according to a video aired by Al-Arabiya TV station.
But, according to an opposition leader, the abducted Iranians are Sunni extremists belonging to Jundallah group and they were the behind the abduction and murder of 15 supporters of the regime in Yalda, south of Damascus.
"Jundallah is an Islamic extremist group that has a religious-based hatred of the Shiites and Alawites," a security source was quoted as saying.