Assad forces pound rebels in Aleppo

Declare Damascus victory

 The government of Bashar al-Assad declared victory on Sunday in a hard-fought battle for Syria’s capital Damascus, and pounded rebels who control of parts of its largest city Aleppo.

Assad’s forces have struggled as never before to maintain their grip on the country over the past two weeks after a major rebel advance into the two largest cities and an explosion that killed four top security officials.

Government forces have succeeded in reimposing their grip the capital after a punishing battle, but rebels are still in control of sections of Aleppo, clashing with reinforced army troops for several days.

“Today I tell you, Syria is stronger... In less than a week they were defeated (in Damascus) and the battle failed,” Foreign Minister Walid Moualem said on a visit to Iran, Assad’s main ally in a region where other neighbours have forsaken him.

“So they moved on to Aleppo and I assure you, their plots will fail.”
Rebel fighters, patrolling opposition districts in flat-bed trucks flying green-white-and-black “independence” flags, said they were holding off Assad’s forces in the south-western Aleppo district of Salaheddine, where clashes have gone on for days.

Decisive phase

Opposition activists also reported fighting in other rebel-held districts of Aleppo, in what could herald the start of a decisive phase in the battle for Syria’s commercial hub, after the army sent tank columns and troop reinforcements last week.

Helicopter gunships hovered over the city shortly after dawn and the thud of artillery boomed across neighbourhoods. State television said soldiers was repelling “terrorists” in Salaheddine and had captured several of their leaders.

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