Thursday September 13, 2012
Warplanes pound Aleppo as Syria rebels advance
ALEPPO, Syria: Syrian fighter jets and tanks pounded the northern city of Aleppo on Thursday, an AFP journalist said, as witnesses reported rebels advancing into the key contested central Midan district.
Columns of black smoke rose over the embattled city, scene of some of the country's heaviest violence since fighting erupted there on July 20.
Warplanes fired at several districts from high altitude in a bid to stay out of range of rebel weapons, he added.
Air strikes have sparked frequent condemnation from rights groups, as the rebel Free Syrian Army has intensified attempts to limit the effectiveness of the military's air power.
"After the regime started to resort more heavily to the use of fighter jets and helicopters, military airports and fighter jets became one of the FSA's strategic targets," said Ahmed al-Khatib, FSA spokesman in Damascus province.
"The FSA has already succeeded in forcing planes to fly at a higher altitude - making their strikes less accurate - and to limit the number of flights from certain key airports," he told AFP via Skype.
Rebels, meanwhile, advanced into at least one street of the Midan district, a resident said.
"They were at Bustan al-Basha (district) and had already advanced up to Suleyman al-Halabi Street. Now they have entered a street in Midan," he added.
Midan is strategic because it opens the way to the main square of the city.
A helicopter gunship attack killed at least 11 people in Aleppo's Tariq al-Bab district, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It did not say whether the victims were rebels or civilians, but distributed video footage showing several bodies, some bloodied and others badly burned, in pick-up trucks and on pavements.
In the south of the city, Bustan al-Qasr was bombarded and fighting was reported at Kalasseh, residents said.
A military source also reported clashes between troops and rebels in the western neighbourhood of Saif al-Dawla.
Elsewhere in the strife-torn country, the Observatory reported clashes and heavy shelling in several areas of Damascus and its province.
It also said a former MP, Ahmad al-Turk, was shot dead by security forces who raided his house in Harasta in Damascus province at dawn and arrested his son.
The Observatory said a car bomb exploded in the Rokn Eddin neighbourhood of the capital, without causing any casualties, while there was also shelling in Tadamun, where anti-regime sentiment is strong.
The district of Sayyida Zeinab, home to an important Shiite shrine, was also shelled, and fighting raged between rebels and the pro-regime Popular Committees, according to initial reports cited by the Observatory.
Violence nationwide in Syria on Thursday killed at least 53 people, most of them civilians, according to Observatory figures. -AFP