Syria: Fighting Intensifies In Aleppo, Turkey Closes Border
REUTERS, BBC NEWS, THE GUARDIAN (UK), HURRIYET (Turkey)
Troops loyal to Syrian president Bashar al- Assad converged on Aleppo on Wednesday as fighting between rebel and governmental forces intensified, signaling a shift of the uprising against the regime that began last year to a full-blown insurgency.
BBC News and Reuters reported that the regime is moving thousands of troops as well as armored vehicles away from the Turkish border to focus on Aleppo, a commercial hub and Syria's second city, where violent clashes broke out five days ago. Turkey sealed its border with Syria in response to worsening security conditions after several border checkpoints were captured by rebels earlier this week.
The Syrian regime appears to be consolidating its stretched out troops in an effort to concentrate on fighting insurgents in Aleppo and capital city Damascus, as the holy fasting month of Ramadan started last week.
Heroes breaking their fast. Proud sons of #Syria fighting for god and country not a man. #FSA— (@)">twitter.com/MidaniSpeaks/s…— Racan Alhoch (@MidaniSpeaks) July 25, 2012
Activists and residents who spoke with Reuters said gunship helicopters were firing missiles in Aleppo, where the fighting is now the heaviest after government forces repelled a rebel assault on Damascus.
This video published by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights purports to show police headquarters in Aleppo set on fire by rebel forces. The BBC also reported that government fighter jets were strafing and bombing rebel positions in the city.
Hürriyet and Reuters reported that an official from the Turkish Customs and Trade Ministry announced that all border gates with Syria were closing on Wednesday. Only three were still open before the announcement. Trucking has become increasingly dangerous along the trade routes that link the two countries and the closed border could cripple Syria's economy. . Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has called for Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Yesterday, Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a senior regime official who defected earlier this month, offered to lead a transitional government in a video statement on Al Arabiya, according to The Guardian. "Allow me to serve Syria after President Bashar al-Assad's era. We must all unite to serve Syria and promote stability in the country, rebuilding a free and democratic Syria," he said.
The new head of the United Nations monitoring mission in Syria also arrived on Wednesday. The mission was extended for 30 days last week.