Friday, July 27, 2012


Regular Syrian forces have begun to pound Aleppo again with helicopters and tanks. Syrian opposition controls about 40 per cent of the city. More bloodshed is likely. A pro-Assad lawmaker defects to Qatar.

Aleppo (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - The Syrian military is getting ready for a showdown with rebels who have been under siege in the northern and south-western districts of Aleppo, where at least 34 people were killed in the city on Thursday.

This morning, combat helicopters, tanks and armoured personnel carrier from Idlib province (on the Turkish border) began shelling districts under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups.

Experts say opposition leaders, including in the FSA, are working to set up a united anti-Assad front to confront what pro-government al-Watan newspaper has warned would be the mother of all battles.

It is expected that foreign paramilitary groups like al-Qaeda and Hizbollah will join their respective allies for the fight.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday accused Syria of recruiting members of the PKK, a nationalist Kurdish party operating in Turkish Kurdistan. He warned that Turkish forces would respond to any crime on its territory.

With a population of 1.9 million, Aleppo is Syrian's main commercial and industrial hub. It also has the third largest Christian community (300,000) in the Arab world after Beirut and Cairo.

Local sources report that thousands of civilians are fleeing the city for the Turkish border.

Signs of a coming slaughter come from the Syrian government, which has warned its officials still in the city to leave for Damascus by plane.

Other officials have taken advantage of the situation to escape abroad. They include Ikhlas Badawi, who represents the city of Aleppo in Syria's recently elected parliament. After crossing into Turkey, she is expected to fly to Qatar where other top defectors have found refuge. She is the fourth Syrian lawmaker to break with the regime.

UN Human Rights Chief Navy Pillay said she is concerned about the conflict escalating, especially in Aleppo, where clashes have been reported in the Citadel, which is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.

She called on the government and the armed opposition to protect civilians, and respect international conversions on human rights. In case of violations, both parties would be liable for sanctions.


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