Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad clashed with rebels in the commercial hub of Aleppo as the insurgents started what they called a “decisive battle” to take over the nation’s largest city.
The main insurgent force in the northern city of 3 million people, the Tawheed Brigade, said on its Facebook page that its fighters entered the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood. Syria’s state-run TV said four civilians, including two children, were killed today by rebel mortar rounds. Government forces killed large numbers of “terrorists” in several neighborhoods, it said.
Rebels have been fighting to overthrow Assad since March last year in a conflict that has left at least 30,000 people dead, according to estimates by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group.
Syrian TV also reported fighting on the outskirts of Damascus. The U.K.-based observatory said government forces stormed several suburbs of the capital, destroying homes and arresting civilians.
At least 122 people were killed in Syria today, including 50 in Aleppo and 24 in Damascus and its suburbs, according to the Local Coordination Committees in Syria.
The United Nations Human Rights Council today approved extending the mission of its independent commission of inquiry. An EU statement called on Syrian authorities to “immediately put an end to the violence and condemned in the strongest terms the gross human-rights violations by the Syrian authorities which may amount to crimes against humanity.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Washington news conference that intelligence suggests Assad’s government has moved some of its chemical weapons, though the U.S. believes the main sites remain secure, the Associated Press reported today. Panetta said he doesn’t have enough information to confirm if any of the moves suggest that some of the material has been acquired by rebels, AP said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the humanitarian situation in Syria deteriorated rapidly this month amid continuing violence. Marianne Gasser, who heads the ICRC’s Syria delegation, said in a statement that “the arrival of cold weather will mean even greater suffering for people fleeing the violence.”
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