Heavy shelling and clashes rage on across swathes of Syria’s second city of Aleppo, as both the regime and rebels claim they are gaining ground in the key northern battleground.
At least 24 people are reported to have been killed nationwide, among them women and children in Aleppo, as the Syrian government presses its onslaught on rebel areas.
The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed on Tuesday that it controlled almost two-thirds of Aleppo, which has been battered by a month of air strikes, shelling and fighting.
“We now control more than 60 per cent of the city of Aleppo, and each day we take control of new districts,” said Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, a colonel with the FSA. He went on to list some 30 districts which he claimed were under FSA control, including about half of the embattled neighbourhood of Salaheddin.
But a security source in Damascus rejected the claims, according to the AFP news agency, calling them “completely false”.
“The terrorists are not advancing,” the source said. “It is the army that is making slow progress. Terrorist groups occasionally come out of districts under their control and attack other districts to be able to then claim they have this or that street under their control.”
Activists also reported that troops had stormed a town near Damascus, torching homes and shops, while helicopters and war planes strafed several suburbs of the capital, which the regime claimed to have largely recaptured last month.
Clashes in Lebanon
The violence in Syria also continues to spill across the border into neighbouring Lebanon, where two people were killed and more than 60 wounded in clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in the northern city of Tripoli.
Gunmen in the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and their Alawite rivals in Jebel Mohsen exchanged gun and grenade fire in sporadic fighting overnight and into the day, despite action by Lebanese army troops deployed in the port city, residents said.
One of the dead men was identified by residents as Ahmed al-Farfour from Jebel Mohsen, a hill inhabited mainly by Alawites and which overlooks the predominantly Sunni area below.
The other man was from the Hejjar family in Bab al-Tabbaneh.
An army statement said soldiers raided buildings used by gunmen and “retaliated swiftly against sources of gunfire.” It said five soldiers were wounded on Monday evening and another five, including an officer, were hurt on Tuesday by a hand grenade lobbed at an army base.
Aside from the army casualties, about 35 civilians or fighters were wounded in Bab al-Tabbaneh and 15 in Jebel Mohsen, residents and medics said.