BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government tanks backed by attack helicopters have swept into Aleppo as President Bashar Assad's regime tries to regain control of the country's largest city.
The assault comes a week after rebels seized several neighborhoods. Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed says rebels are trying to repel the government counterattack back and, so far, have held their positions. He says about 1,000 fighters from the main rebel group the Free Syrian Army have come from outside the province to help.
State television reports that government forces had inflicted heavy losses on what it describes as groups of terrorists. A pro-government newspaper calls it "the mother of all battles."
The high-stakes battle for the country's commercial hub and largest city has raised fears among activists and the international community that a new massacre could be looming.
Even Syria's longtime ally, Russia, has joined the chorus of alarm, saying a "tragedy" may be imminent in Aleppo. But Russia's foreign minister also says it's unrealistic to expect the Syrian army to stand by while rebels were trying to take over major cities.
110-r-08-(Sound of Syrian rebel fighters firing anti-aircraft gun into the air in Alepppo, from an amateur video)--Sound purported to be Syrian rebel fighters firing an anti-aircraft gun into the air perched on top of a destroyed Syrian army tank in Aleppo. ((The AP cannot independently verify the authenticity of this audio)) (28 Jul 2012)
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111-r-14-(Sound of Syrian rebel fighters on foot and driving in Aleppo, in amateur video)--Sound of Syrian rebel fighters on foot and in a vehicle on a street in Aleppo. ((The AP cannot independently verify the authenticity of this audio)) (28 Jul 2012)
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GRAPHICSBANK: SYRIA topographic map highlighted, with ALEPPO locator, partial graphic (28 Jul 2012)
APPHOTO CAI106: In this Friday, July 20, 2012 photo, destroyed Syrian army armored vehicles are seen in Aleppo, Syria. It has been a difficult two weeks for the Syrian government with rebel assaults first on the capital, Damascus, and then on Aleppo, as well as several high-profile defections and a bomb that killed four top security officials. (AP Photo/Fadi Zaidan) (20 Jul 2012)
<<APPHOTO CAI106 (07/20/12)>>