Syria Widens Offensive to Aleppo As Suicide Attackers Strike

Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad attacked rebel positions in and around Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, as the government seeks to extend its military advance northward.

Among targets today was Minnigh Airport, which is partially under rebel control, according to a statement on the Coventry, U.K.-based opposition group’s Facebook page.

The Syrian army started “qualitative operations” on more than one front, according to a report in the pro-Assad Al-Watan newspaper, which describes the assaults as “the storm of the north” offensive. Al-Watan is among pro-government media outlets to have said over the past few days Assad’s forces were planning a major attack against rebel hideouts in Aleppo.

Last week, government forces backed by Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group, took the strategic central town of Al-Qusair, securing lines of communication from Damascus to the coast. The victory was described as an important turning point in the two-year war that would enable Assad to move on to Aleppo, by Middle East analysts including David Hartwell at IHS Jane’s.

The northern offensive comes as a twin suicide bombing in the capital, Damascus, killed 14 people and injured 31. One bomber blew himself up inside a police station and the other bomber blew himself up outside it, the Observatory said. Most of the casualties were members of the police, it said.

The uprising against Assad began with peaceful protests in March 2011 that have evolved into a civil war. At least 80,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in 2011, Vuk Jeremic, president of the UN General Assembly, said in May.

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