Syrians flee Aleppo, rebels plan new push
Posted on 9 months ago
ALEPPO (Agencies): Rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Aleppo promised a counter-attack on Friday after losing ground earlier and residents fled in cars crammed with belongings during a lull in fighting.
The rebels were pushed back from the Salaheddin district on Thursday by troops seeking to reestablish control over Syria's largest city and its economic hub - a crucial arena in a struggle which the United Nations said would have no winner.
"I have about 60 men positioned strategically at the frontline and we are preparing a new attack today," said Abu Jamil, a rebel commander, saying sniper fire in Salaheddine had prevented his men from retrieving a comrade's body for two days.
Reuters journalists saw residents streaming out of Aleppo, seizing on a calm spell to pack vehicles with mattresses, fridges and toys. At least two air force planes flew overhead. Random shooting echoed from inside Salaheddine, a former rebel stronghold that controls access to Aleppo from the south, and an unmanned drone aircraft buzzed directly overhead.
Some residents of the shattered neighborhood slipped back to try to salvage possessions, despite army snipers lurking there. Two civilians were hit by gunfire in nearby streets. One, apparently shot in the buttocks, was dragged off the street by rebels and treated by medics before being taken to a field clinic. A second man was wounded in the back and arm. Blood soaked through the sleeve of his yellow jacket and his face was contorted in pain as rescuers put him in a vehicle.
Assad is fighting to crush a rebellion that aims to end his family's four decades in charge of Syria. A member of the country's Alawite minority, Assad is engaged in an all-consuming fight with mostly Sunni Muslim foes who Damascus says are backed by Sunni-led states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Though sympathetic to the rebels, neither these countries nor Western powers have intervened militarily. Russia and China have blocked any U.N. Security Council action against Syria.
Iran, Syria's closest foreign ally, called for "serious and inclusive" talks between the government and opposition at a meeting of states sympathetic to Assad in Tehran on Thursday.
"There will be no winner in Syria," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to the conference. "Now, we face the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying Syria's rich tapestry of interwoven communities.