BEIRUT

Middle East

Fighting rages for control of Aleppo’s Midan neighborhood

A Syrian man reacts after returning to the destroyed building of his relatives in Aleppo where his aunt, uncle and five nieces and nephews were killed in an airstrike.

ALEPPO, Syria: Syrian government troops and anti-regime forces battled Thursday for control of the strategic Midan district of central Aleppo, which opens the way to the main square, with fighting raging around two police stations, residents said.

Rebels captured the police stations at dawn but were driven out by the army, residents said, adding that the insurgents fought their way back into the area and clashed fiercely with troops as the army tried to dislodge them again.

The rebels managed to post a video that purports to show fighters entering one of the police stations in the neighborhood, in a joint operation by two Free Syrian Army battalions.

Warplanes fired at several districts from high altitude in a bid to stay out of range of rebel weapons and an AFP journalist reported columns of black smoke hanging over the city, scene of some of the country’s heaviest violence since fighting erupted there on July 20.

“Today is one of the worst days we’ve lived,” Mariam, an Aleppo resident, told another AFP correspondent as she rushed to treat wounded patients at a makeshift field hospital in the western neighborhood of Saif al-Dawla.

“Here we have the proof that the army’s only goal is to indiscriminately kill as many civilians as possible.”

Most of the wounded brought to the field hospital were women and children hit by shelling as they were out on the streets, the AFP correspondent reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several rebel-held districts of Aleppo were bombarded, with at least 11 people killed when a helicopter gunship targeted a crossroads in Tariq al-Bab.

It did not say whether the victims were rebels or civilians, but distributed video footage showing several bodies, some bloodied and others badly burned.

The Observatory added that clashes also took place around the Aleppo International Airport.

“The Free Syrian Army 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,” FSA spokesman in Damascus province, Ahmad al-Khatib, told AFP via Skype.

One of Thursday’s victims was an Armenian man shot dead by a sniper in Midan, the Observatory said, while seven people thought to be anti-regime fighters died in clashes and shelling in the south Damascus district of Sayida Zeinab. The Observatory reported fighting between rebels and pro-regime Popular Committees south of the capital.

According to the opposition network of Local Coordination Committees, at least 125 people were killed throughout the country, including 45 in Damascus and surrounding areas, and 40 in Aleppo.

It also said a former MP, Ahmad al-Turk, was shot dead by security forces who raided his house in Harasta in the Governorate of Rural Damascus at dawn and arrested his son.

The Observatory said a car bomb exploded in the Rukneddine neighborhood of the capital, without causing any casualties, while there was also shelling in Tadamun, where anti-regime sentiment is strong.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 14, 2012, on page 8.

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