Aleppo: Fighting raged in Aleppo on Monday as rebels doggedly resisted a regime onslaught launched in the northern city a month ago as clashes also erupted in part of the capital Damascus as a watchdog reported at least 84 people killed across Syria on Sunday — the first day of the Eid Al Fitr holiday.
Aleppo, the main northern city which lies near the Turkish border, has borne the brunt of the conflict since fighting erupted there on July 20 after the regime warned it would be the scene of the “mother of all battles.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops backed by helicopters pounded several Aleppo sectors on Monday, including parts of Salah Al Deen neighbourhood where much of the regime’s military operations against the rebels have been focused.
Despite claiming to have overrun Salah Al Deen on August 8, the rebels still control pockets of the southwestern neighbourhood, according to the Britain-based Observatory and activists on the ground.
Parts of Damascus too were rocked by clashes on Monday, with the Observatory, which gathers its information from a network of activists on the ground, reporting fighting in several southern Damascus neighbourhoods, where loud explosions were heard.
Opposition activists of the Syrian Revolution General Commission also said the army used tanks and machine guns to pound the Damascus suburb of Maadamiet Al Sham through the night.
Besides the fighting, Syrians have had to face food shortages, the closure of many shops, and street demonstrations at Eid. President Bashar Al Assad made a rare public appearance with top officials for Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque on Sunday, while demonstrators took to the streets of the capital and other cities to vent their rage at his regime.
“Eid is here, Eid is here, God curse you, O Bashar,” protesters in Qudsaya in Damascus province sang to the tune of Jingle Bells, according to amateur video posted on YouTube.
Al Assad, from the minority Alawite community of an offshoot of Shiite sect, has characterised the conflict as a battle against a foreign “terrorist” plot aided by the West and its allies in the region, led by Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Syria’s popular uprising, which began in March 2011, has spiralled into an armed conflict with more than 23,000 people killed, according to the Observatory. The United Nations puts the death toll at 17,000.
It is impossible to verify the figures.