Dubai: Syrian forces have launched a massive offensive on rebel strongholds in Aleppo as violence across the country killed at least 58 on Wednesday, rebels and a rights group said.
“I can tell you the decisive battle for Aleppo has started,” Abu Omar Al Halabi, a commander in the Free Syrian Army, said adding that at least 15 people have died in the clashes.
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Government forces were using artillery, jet fighters and rocket launchers and had pushed into an area called Al Maalab Street, on the outskirts of Salah Al Deen, Al Halabi said.
Rebels said they counterattacked the advancing regime troops in Salah Al Deen, recapturing part of the southwestern neighbourhood.
“For an hour and a half, the Free Syrian Army has staged a counter-attack and reclaimed three streets out of five seized by regime forces,” rebel commander Wassel Ayub told AFP. “We staged our counter-attack after 700 fighters arrived,” he added.
Meanwhile, a dozen countries agreed to attend a hastily called meeting in Tehran on Thursday to discuss the crisis, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.
“Our main argument is an end to the violence and the holding of national dialogue in Syria. Iran’s efforts are aimed at ending the violence in Syria as soon as possible,” he said.
Sameeh Maayteh, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs and communications, gave the first official confirmation of former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab’s defection and presence in his country, in a report on the official news agency Petra.
In other clashes, three people were killed in Homs, including a nurse who died when armed forces pounded the village of Zaafarana.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 225 people were killed on Tuesday, one of the highest tolls in the 17-month revolt. Among them were 129 civilians, 50 rebels and 46 soldiers.