Thursday 22 March 2018

'Mother of all battles' ahead in Aleppo

Syrian tanks backed by attack helicopters swept into Aleppo yesterday as the government launched an assault to regain control of the city.

The battle for Aleppo, a commercial hub, has raised fears that a new massacre could be looming. Even Syria's long-time ally, Russia, added to the chorus of alarm, saying a "tragedy" was imminent in the country's largest city.

But Russia's foreign minister said it was unrealistic to expect the Syrian army to stand by while rebels were trying to take over major cities.

The latest fighting centred around the south-western district of Salaheddine. Activists said helicopters were strafing the area and rebels faced artillery barrages.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been massing outside the city over the past few days, and Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed said rebels had been pouring in to help defend the areas under their control.

"About 1,000 fighters have come from the Free Syrian Army from outside the province to help," he said.

The pro-government daily newspaper Al-Watan called it "the mother of all battles" in a front-page headline.

Sunday Independent

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