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Syria Shells Aleppo, Daraa as Rebels Vow to Take Capital

Syria Shells Aleppo, Daraa as Rebels Vow to Control Capital
A Syrian soldier takes position behind a destroyed vehicle in the al-Arqub neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo during fighting against rebel forces on Sunday. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled the provinces of Aleppo and Daraa after the rebel Free Syrian Army said it moved its command center into the country as part of a strategy to “liberate” Damascus.

Shelling today in Aleppo in the north and Daraa in the south, as well as the capital and its suburbs left more than 30 people dead, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who was appointed to revive UN peace efforts in Syria, said last week that the crisis may spread regionally if the bloodshed isn’t contained. More than 26,000 people have died since the conflict between Assad’s opponents and the military began in March 2011, the observatory said.

The relocation of the FSA’s command from Turkey to Syria shows the group is “becoming more robust, more organized and is serious about this struggle,” Anthony Skinner, Middle East director for Maplecroft, a global risk adviser based in the English city of Bath, said by telephone today. The move is “bold” and while it is significant, it isn’t enough to unite the opposition in ousting Assad, he said.

FSA Colonel Riad al-Asaad announced the movement of the command center yesterday to one of the “liberated areas” of Syria. Speaking in a video posted on the Internet, he said the group “plans to liberate Damascus soon.” He didn’t give the location or details of the facility.

Downed Aircraft

The rebels said they shot down an Air Force warplane yesterday in the northern province of Idlib, Al Arabiya television reported, citing activists.

In Hama, where Syrian Red Crescent teams recovered more than 40 bodies yesterday after the Air Force bombed the neighborhood of Mashaa al-Arbaeen, government forces arrested many people after breaking into homes, the observatory said in an e-mailed statement today.

Syria’s official news agency, SANA, said yesterday that troops destroyed one of the headquarters of “terrorists” in Aleppo, killing 20 people and injuring 10.

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