Rebel brigades check loyalist advances in Aleppo

Hezbollah-back forces loyal to Assad are stopped by rebel fighters in main Syrian city; human rights leaders fears bloodshed.

June 16, 2013 18:55
4 minute read.
A Free Syrian Army fighter prepares his weapon

a free syrian army gunman 370. (photo credit: reuters)

An opposition operations room in northern Aleppo said in a statement rebel fighters had destroyed an army tank and killed 20 troops just northwest of the town of Maaret al-Arteek.

Opposition sources say rebels there have been holding back an armoured column for the last two days sent from Aleppo to re-enforce loyalists recruited from the Shi'ite villages of Nubbul and al-Zahra further to the northwest.

"Assad's forces and Hezbollah are trying to control northern rural Aleppo but they are being repelled and dealt heavy losses," Colonel Abdeljabbar al-Okeidi, a Free Syrian Army commander in Aleppo, told al-Arabiya Television.

He said Hezbollah had sent up to 2,000 fighters to Aleppo and the surrounding areas, but expressed confidence the opposition would prevail.

"Aleppo and Qusair are different. In Qusair we were surrounded by villages that had been occupied by Hezbollah and by loyalist areas. We did not even have a place to take our wounded. In Aleppo we have a strategic depth and logistical support and we are better organized," he said.

"Aleppo will turn into the grave of these Hezbollah devils."

Battles also raged inside Aleppo itself, where the thousands of loyalist troops and militia reinforced by Hezbollah have been massing and attacking opposition-held parts of the contested city, driving rebel fighters back.

Opposition activists and military sources said the army was also airlifting troops behind rebel lines to Ifrin, in a Kurdish area, that would give access for a bigger sweep inside the city.

"For a week the rebel forces have been generally on the retreat in Aleppo but tide has started reversing in the last two days," said Abu Abdallah, an activist in the area.

He said three main fronts had developed: inside the city; to the west at Maaret al-Arteek; and further northwest in farmland between the two Shi'ite villages and Ifrin.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission opposition group said in a statement that three people were killed in the al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Aleppo, two by army snipers and one rebel in fighting near the airport.

It is impossible to verify the accounts because of the restrictions imposed on international media by Syria.

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