November 6, 2013
By Mohammad Rabie and Jacob Wirtschafter
AMMAN: After capturing the southeastern gateway to Aleppo late last week, Syrian government forces have launched a comprehensive assault to control both the city center and retake the Kiwires military airbase where armed rebels have encircled Assad’s troops since January.
State news agency SANA reported Wednesday that the government’s army destroyed missile launching pads and mortar batteries used by “terrorist forces ” around Kiwires and near Aleppo’s central prison.
Both opposition and pro-regime media also reported fierce battles in Al-Rashidien neighborhood and the nearby Scientific Research Center, a pro-Assad outpost in which has been largely opposition controlled territory.
The rebel Liwa Isood unit posted video Wednesday of its forces launching Grad missiles at the Scientific Research Center.
Rebels posted near Old Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque. Photo courtesy of Aleppo Shab.
Fighting had intensified earlier this week as regime forces and rebels clashed in the central Aleppo district of Bani Zaid and in Aleppo’s Old City, where 30 regime soldiers were killed during a battle for the Umayyad Mosque, according to opposition sources.
The regime’s capture of Safira, the last town along the desert road leading to Aleppo, and the forward encroachment of government troops have put new pressure on the fragmented rebel command structure in Syria’s largest city.
“The regime is trying to control [the village of] Tel Arn after capturing Safira in order to open the main road to International Aleppo Airport,” said Mohammad Nour, a 23-year-old reporter for the opposition Sham News Network in Aleppo. They are using all possible weapons.”
The head of the FSA’s Aleppo Revolutionary Military Council resigned on Sunday amidst the series of losses.
General Abduljaber al-Aqidi, who defected from the government’s army in March 2012 and founded the council, is known as solid logistician who attempted to balance the distribution of ammunition and ensure the weapons quality was even among all battalions operating on the ground.
Al-Aqidi said in his resignation, posted on YouTube, that he blamed both the Syrian Coalition and fractious local resistance groups for losses suffered by the Free Syrian Army.
“As a result of others not responding to calls to unify and join ranks, our force has declined, we’ve lost fronts and supply routes, most recently after the fall of Safira, and we face an internal war between factions,” said al-Aqidi, who vowed to continue fighting alongside his troops while renouncing his overall command role of the city’s rebels.
On Tuesday the FSA’s Revolutionary Military Council in Aleppo elected First Colonel Abd as-Salam al-Hamidi to act as the Council’s temporary head, replacing Colonel Aqidi.
Safira fell to government troops after a nearly month-long assault in which 450 explosive barrel bombs were dropped, destroying homes and the town’s commercial center.
“The explosive power of each barrel is equivalent to a standard car bomb,” said a spokesman from Safira’s Local Coordination Council.
The spokesman said Safira was pummeled by missile launchers and artillery located on an adjacent mountain which is also the site of a large munitions factory and weapons research facility.
“At the top of this mountain there is also the Scientific Research Center that assembles and manufactures short-range missiles as well as the Zinyan Research Center which has a chemical weapons storage unit and factory for producing chemical material,” said the spokesman.
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