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Syrian Army Masses For Aleppo Offensive

Syrian rebels man a checkpoint in Aleppo.
Syrian rebels man a checkpoint in Aleppo.
By RFE/RL
Syrian activists say government troops fired from helicopter gunships on several neighborhoods of Syria's second-largest city of Aleppo on July 27.

Army forces have reportedly been massing since July 26 on the city outskirts for an expected major offensive against rebels.

Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, told AFP via Skype, "The army's reinforcements have arrived in Aleppo." He added that the troops were backed by some 100 tanks.
      
"We expect a major offensive at any time, specifically on areas across the southern belt, from east to west," he said.

Some residents are reportedly fleeing Aleppo's southwest neighborhoods. Nationwide, nearly 30 people were reportedly killed in Syria on July 27.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has expressed concern over "unconfirmed reports of extrajudicial killings and shootings of civilians during fighting" in the suburbs of Damascus by regime forces.  

Pillay said "the increasing use of heavy weapons, tanks, attack helicopters, and reportedly even jet fighters in urban areas" were putting civilians at "grave risk.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on July 27 that he is "deeply" concerned about threats by Syria to use chemical weapons if attacked by foreign forces.

Speaking at a joint news conference in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, he also demanded Syrian authorities "categorically state that they will not use chemical or other weapons of mass destruction under any circumstances."

Both Hague and Ban expressed deep concern about the escalating violence in Aleppo.

Hague called the Syrian government's assault on the city of Aleppo an "utterly unacceptable escalation" of the conflict.

"I am deeply concerned by reports that the Syrian government is amassing its troops and tanks around Aleppo, and has already begun a vicious assault on the city and its civilian
population," Hague said.

"This utterly unacceptable escalation of the conflict could lead to a devastating loss of civilian life and a humanitarian disaster," he added.

In other news, Poland said it has closed its embassy in Syria and evacuated its diplomats because of the deteriorating security situation in Damascus.

The embassy had been representing U.S. interests in the country.
    
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said he took the decision out of concern for the security of the embassy's staff.        

With reporting by AFP and AP
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Comments
     
by: Jack from: US
July 27, 2012 02:26
Syrian people will quash US-armed peaceful Wahhabi Sunni thugs. Syrian people are armed with Russian weapons, while Sunni thugs are armed by US and Israel. That by itself guarantees victory for Syrian people. US government is already preparing to cry foul about pending "massacre" of its agents
In Response

by: DL from: Europe
July 27, 2012 12:37
What? that doesn't even make sense. And unfortunately, both sides in Syria will squash each other for a very long time unless Assad is able to quickly step aside from his pride for a moment and prevent the dark cloak of death being spread over such a beautiful country, as it is clear that no assistance (other than guns) will be sent by the rest of the world. Too bloody bad.
Salaam.
In Response

by: weshawehu from: unknown
July 27, 2012 17:21
The weapons that the rebels are using do not appear to be US manufactured or Israeli; they appear to be using the same fire arms and explosives that the Syrian army to have been using, some of which are older styles previously produced by Russia. Please ask both sides of the conflict to spare civilians not engaged in the conflict.

by: kafantaris from: USA
July 28, 2012 00:59
What we are seeing in Syria is a preview of the demise of the Iranian regime.
The regime sees it too -- though it looks the other way.
Nonetheless, the writing is on the wall.
And it was put there with the blood of the Iranians killed while peacefully protesting the Ahmadinejad election.
It is the shedding of innocent blood that started the Arab spring, and it will be the shedding of far more Iranian blood that will end it.
Such is the fate sealed by the brutality of that regime in 2009.

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