Syrian rebels claim to have retaken Aleppo neighborhood

Syria-rebels
BEIRUT -- Fighting and military shelling continued in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Friday as rebels said they had regained  control of the strategic Salahuddin neighborhood.

The claim came a day after fighters with the Free Syrian Army said they had withdrawn from the front-line area because they had run low on ammunition and faced continued bombardment from government tanks, warplanes and helicopters. But the rebels said Friday that reinforcements from the suburbs arrived overnight, the insurgents destroyed three tanks and were able to retake several strategic streets.

The government of President Bashar Assad has said previously that it retook the area and purified it of what it calls terrorists.

“They are saying they have occupied the neighborhood, but on the ground they haven’t occupied it,” said Abu Firas, an activist with the Free Syrian Army who requested that he be identified by a nickname for the sake of security.

There were unconfirmed reports also that regime soldiers have begun to make a quick withdrawal from the adjacent Hamdania neighborhood, where troops and tanks have been stationed for weeks, firing on Salahuddin.

The conflicting accounts could not be readily reconciled because the government has severely limited the access of outside media to the conflict zone.

More than 80 people were killed in Syria on Friday, including 45 whose unidentified bodies were found in a park in Salahuddin. There were conflicting reports among the opposition about whether the dead in the park were the victims of a government massacre of civilians or were suspected shabiha, or pro-government militia, slain by the rebels.

Elsewhere in Aleppo, an apartment building in the Masakin Hanano district was shelled and 13 people inside were killed, Abu Firas said. Nearby, a school where refugees from other parts of the city have sought safety was also shelled, leaving some injured.

And in the opposition-controlled neighborhood of Tareeq Al Bab, a bakery was hit by a rocket fired from a warplane, killing 11 people and injuring others. For months there has been a shortage of bread, a staple of the Syrian diet, and bakeries are regularly inundated with long lines of customers.

Meanwhile, there are reports that former Algerian foreign minister and U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi might be chosen to replace Kofi Annan as the United Nations special envoy on Syria. Last week, Annan announced his plans to resign by the end of the month. His six-point peace plan in April was seen as a final chance to prevent civil war in Syria, but since it went into effect the death toll has only increased.

The replacement comes at a time when opposition fighters and activists have long since given up hope that diplomacy still has a role to play in Syria. Protests came out across the country calling for the world to arm the rebels with anti-aircraft weapons.

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--Times staff

Photo: A rebel fighter fires his weapon into the air as people gather Friday to mourn the death of Abu Abed, a fellow rebel fighter, in the town of Marea outside of Aleppo. He was killed during fighting in the Salahuddin district of Aleppo. Credit: Phil Moore / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images.

 
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