Smoke billows from the scene of a reported barrel bomb attack by Syrian government forces on March 5, 2015 on the Qadi Askar rebel-held district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. AFP PHOTO/AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI
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Heavy fighting shook the Syrian city of Aleppo Thursday as the exiled opposition chief said for the first time that President Bashar Assad's ouster need not be a pre-condition for peace talks.Syria's second city Aleppo saw fierce clashes between regime forces and rebels near an air force intelligence headquarters that the opposition tried to seize in a spectacular attack Wednesday.Aleppo has been hit by significant violence this week after the opposition rejected a U.N. plan for a temporary cease-fire in the divided and devastated city, once Syria's main commercial hub.A U.N. delegation was in the city to push a plan for a temporary "freeze" of fighting in Aleppo which was rejected by the opposition on Sunday -- part of a range of efforts to resolve a conflict that has left more than 220,000 dead since March 2011 .The violence this week in Aleppo has dampened hopes of a cease-fire in the city, where U.N. envoy to the Syrian conflict Staffan de Mistura has been seeking a halt to fighting as a first step towards humanitarian aid deliveries in the area and a broader political deal.
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