Syria army launches assault on Aleppo
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The Syrian army launched a massive assault on rebels in Aleppo on Saturday amid growing world concern about the risks of reprisals against the civilian population of the country's second city.
At least 29 people were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, contributing to a figure of at least 90 people nationwide.
The watchdog said more than 20,000 people, the majority civilians, have now died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March 2011.
Troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, which had been massing for the past two days, moved on southwestern districts of the commercial hub, where rebel fighters concentrated their forces when they seized much of the northern city on July 20.
Artillery pounded Salaheddin and other rebel neighbourhoods from 1030 IST as ground troops made their advance.
Panic-stricken civilians crammed inside minivans, on the back of pick-up trucks and inside cars, the word "shelling" on everyone's lips.
"The fiercest clashes of the uprising are taking place in several neighbourhoods of the city," the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.
At least 10 soldiers and three rebels were killed in fierce fighting after the launch of the assault, the Observatory said.
"The regime's forces tried to storm the headquarters of Salaheddin but thank God, the heroes of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army repulsed the attack," FSA Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi said.
"We have now destroyed eight armoured vehicles," he said. "There are 100 tanks massed on the outskirts of the district. The battle will be hard because there is no balance of forces but we are determined and we have faith in God," he added.
While the rebels' small arms and rocket-propelled grenades are little match for the heavy armour of Assad's forces, Abdel Rahman said "the army has not made any progress since the morning, and even lost five tanks."
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