Syrian rebels and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad clashed in Aleppo as an opposition group said insurgents used a captured government tank to shell a military airport in the northern province.
The rebel shelling hit Menagh air base northwest of Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city and commercial hub, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today in an e-mail. The government has been using helicopter gunships and jet fighters to bomb rebel strongholds in the city.
The United Nations observer mission in Syria has “confirmed that the opposition has tanks in Aleppo province,” Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for the mission, said by phone today from Damascus. “We have received reports from both sides that the opposition has them, but we haven’t seen them and we don’t have reports they have been used.”
The fight for Aleppo is emerging as a major test for the lightly-armed insurgents and the Syrian army. Assad said in a speech yesterday that the “destiny of our people” depends on the outcome of the conflict between rebels and government forces. About 200,000 people have fled Aleppo and nearby areas, Valerie Amos, the UN’s top humanitarian affairs official, said on July 29.
At least 22 people were killed across the country today, the Local Coordination Committees in Syria said in an e-mail. They include 15 dead in Damascus and its suburbs, where fierce clashes were reported, the activist group said.
About 3 million Syrians need food, crop and livestock assistance, the Rome-based UN Food & Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme said today in a joint statement. About 1.5 million will need urgent assistance in the next three to six months, they said.
Syria’s agricultural industry has lost $1.8 billion this year because of the crisis, according to the statement.
Government soldiers and insurgents have been fighting for control of Aleppo since last month. Until July, Aleppo and Damascus were spared the worst of the violence since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011.
Syrian authorities have shut down all communication methods in Aleppo, Al Jazeera television reported yesterday, citing opposition activists.
At least 180 people were killed in Syria yesterday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees in Syria said in an e-mail. They included 50 people in Jdeidet Artouz and 27 in Yilda, both suburbs of Damascus, the group said.
Syria’s state television said on its website that government troops pursued “terrorist” groups in the two areas, killing and injuring many and uncovering hideouts where explosives belts and bombs were made.
The Syrian army opened fire on a group of Syrian refugees early today as they approached the Jordanian border and attempted to enter the kingdom, Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Samih Maaytah said. Some of the refugees were slightly injured, Maaytah said in an e-mailed statement.