Syria Shells Aleppo, Daraa as Rebels Vow to Take Capital

Syria Shells Aleppo, Daraa as Rebels Push to Control Capital
Syrian soldiers walks past destroyed buildings in the al-Arqub neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo during fighting against rebel forces on September 23, 2012. 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 yesterday 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.

Valerie Amos, the UN’s top humanitarian affairs official, told Al-Jazeera that 2.5 million people are being affected by the Syrian conflict, and that 100,000 people fled Syria in August alone.

“This is a crisis that demands a political solution,” Amos said in an interview broadcast by the Qatar-based network yesterday.

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 yesterday. The move is “bold” and while it is significant, it isn’t enough to unite the opposition in ousting Assad, he said.

Headquarters Moved

FSA Colonel Riad al-Asaad announced the movement of the command center Sept. 22 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.

In Hama, where Syrian Red Crescent teams recovered more than 40 bodies 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 yesterday.

Syrian forces loyal to Assad killed 70 people across the country yesterday, including 17 in Damascus and its suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement.

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