BEIRUT - Syrian army helicopters fired rockets and machine guns near central Aleppo on Tuesday as they battled rebels trying to enlarge their foothold in Syria's second city, forcing residents to flee. Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub and its largest city, lies close to the country's northern border with Turkey.
Residents said fighter jets were flying over some rebel-held neighborhoods, and that helicopters were firing at eastern and southern parts of the city located around only 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) east of Aleppo's ancient citadel in the city center.
"I heard at least 20 rockets fired, I think from helicopters, and also a lot of machinegun fire," said a resident near one of the areas being shelled, who asked only to be identified by his first name Omar. "Almost everyone has fled in panic, even my family. I have stayed to try to stop the looters, we hear they often come after an area is shelled," he added.
Rebels in Aleppo said Bab al-Hadid sits on a strategic hilltop area close to a security force compound and that it had become the main battle site. They said that opposition forces held nearly half the city.