Middle East

Food scarce in Aleppo's rebel bastions: activist

Image provided by Shaam News Network (SNN) and accessed by the Associated Press on Sept. 4, 2012 purports to show smoke from shelling in the Izaaa neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

ALEPPO: Life returned to central Aleppo, an AFP reporter said, in stark contrast with the Syrian city's rebel-held outskirts where activists reported renewed bombardments and food shortages on Tuesday.

Shops were open for business and residents went about their errands in the city centre, while fighting raged in the east, west and south of the country's commercial capital.

But, after more than a month of violence in Aleppo, the frustration was palpable nonetheless.

"People just walk down the street and look at our merchandise, shirts and pants, but very few are buying because they fear for the future," said 25-year-old shopkeeper Abdu al-Ghafoor.

"Instead, they buy clothing and backpacks for the school year," he told AFP.

Ongoing violence in the northern city and elsewhere in Syria have cast doubt on whether schools can actually be reopened in conflict-hit areas of the country.

In rebel strongholds of the city, activists spoke of ongoing shortages.

"The regime prevents food from reaching the liberated areas (under rebel control). Residents are forced to smuggle products from neighborhood to neighborhood," Barra, an activist in the opposition bastion of Sakhur, told AFP.

"When I buy something, I have to go to several grocery stores and supermarkets before finding what I want. Eggs, yogurt, rice and childrens' milk are almost non-existent. Markets are almost empty," he said via Skype.

"It's difficult to find gas canisters also... It's a real siege, collective punishment," said the activist. "If the regime could deprive us of air, it would."

According to Barra, "garbage is everywhere and people are trying to clean what they can, but the bombing is so intense."

On Tuesday, the activist said several districts were bombarded with artillery and rounds of mortar fire as was an area near Aleppo airport, on the edge of Nayrab district in the southwest of the city.

In Salaheddin district, a rebel was killed in clashes with government forces, while a civilian was killed by sniper fire in the southern area of Sukari, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog also reported army shelling of Izaa, next to Saif al-Dawla in the city's southwest.

State television reported that a "unit of the armed forces killed five terrorists, including a sniper, behind a building for immigration and passports in the Old City" of Aleppo.

On Monday, a senior commander in charge of the government's five-week military assault on Aleppo predicted his forces would recapture the city from rebels within 10 days.

Elsewhere in Aleppo province, shelling killed two girls and an attack on an army checkpoint left four soldiers dead.

In Damascus, fighting erupted in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp overnight between rebels and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Observatory said.

Panicked residents fled the camp in droves, said the Syrian Revolution General Council, an activist network.

On Tuesday, the Observatory reported fierce bombardment by troops of the Damascus suburb of Deir al-Asafir.

In the central city of Hama, regime forces closed off roads to Al-Fraya neighborhood and stormed the area, killing 12 men including an army defector, it said.

Elsewhere in central Syria, a 15-year-old rebel was killed during clashes in Old Homs, in a city which has been devastated by shelling since the early days of the revolt.

Violent clashes also raged in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor as rebels battled for control of a military security headquarters, costing the lives of three rebels and eight troops, according to the Observatory.

Two rebels died in fighting elsewhere in Deir Ezzor, two civilians -- including a child -- died in the southern province of Daraa, and a man was killed in the northeastern province of Idlib at an army checkpoint, bringing Tuesday's initial toll to at least 37 dead.

The watchdog says more than 26,000 people have been killed overall in Syria since the revolt against President Bashar Assad's rule broke out in March 2011, more than two-thirds of them civilians.





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