Monday 18 December 2017

We will win, say rebels facing brutal onslaught of regime

Damien McElroy in Musalmiyeh, Aleppo Province

Rebel fighters streamed into Syria's commercial capital of Aleppo yesterday, convinced that the tide of battle had turned their way. But the enthusiasm they brought was countered by the thunder of the regime's response.

As the insurgents poured into the city, so thousands of residents fled in the face of a government onslaught.

Hassan Abdul Majid, one of the many refugees, told how he watched as one of the regime's helicopter gunships attacked an apartment building in the city's middle-class Hanano district.

"I was bending down in the street to clear some rubbish when I saw the helicopter sit still at the junction," the father of five said. "It fired into a block of flats facing it. They all collapsed."

Thousands of families crammed into taxis, vans and the back of lorries yesterday in an attempt to escape what has now become the principal battleground in the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

An activist said taxi drivers were charging $300 (€250), more than the monthly wage of many Syrians, to take families out.

Aleppo's rebel-held districts of Al-Haideriya, Hanano and Sakhour, relentlessly shelled by the army, were at the centre of the fighting, with the regime forced to deploy tanks on to the city's leafy streets.

An FSA rocket-propelled grenade humbled one, while rebels claimed to have destroyed at least one other. "This is a large-scale hit-and-run battle," said a spokesman from the Islamist rebel group the Battalions for the Free Men of Syria. "The whole point is to bleed the regime dry. It is a very long fight, and it will be especially long in Aleppo."

Irish Independent

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