Clashes in Aleppo as fire engulfs souk

Clashes in Aleppo as fire engulfs souk

Clashes in Aleppo as fire engulfs souk

Clashes intensify in Aleppo as fires clash thorugh a centuries-old market. AP Photo

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled rebel-held areas across Syria yesterday, as fierce clashes were reported in second city Aleppo where a fire tore through a medieval souk.

The fighting in Aleppo was accompanied by intense overnight shelling that continued into the morning, destroying houses and killing at least five people including two civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, whose latest toll for yesterday was 31 dead, 21 troops, five civilians and five rebels. The country’s commercial capital and largest city has been hit by fierce fighting since rebels launched an offensive there in July.

On Sept. 29, a fire sparked by battles between al-Assad’s troops and rebels tore through Aleppo’s centuries-old covered market, one of the best-preserved bazaars in the Middle East. It was the worst blow yet to the city’s historic center, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The heightened violence in Aleppo drew criticism from the city’s industrialists of “insufficient” government protection provided to factories and other businesses in the area. UNESCO believes five of Syria’s six heritage sites, which also include the ancient desert city of Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers crusader fortress and parts of old Damascus, have been affected.

Bomb kills 4 in Qamishli

Elsewhere in the country, a suicide car bombing in Qamishli, a predominantly Kurdish city in northern Syria, killed at least four people yesterday, state television reported, but the Observatory said that eight members of security forces died and 15 were injured in the blast. This was the first time since the outbreak of an anti-regime revolt that Qamishli has witnessed such a violent attack. In Damascus rebels killed nine soldiers when they attacked a military checkpoint on the road linking the capital with Qatana to the southwest, the Britain-based group reported.

That came after soldiers backed by aerial firepower stormed the rebel stronghold of Harasta, as regime forces also carried out arrest raids in the town of Zabadani, the Observatory said. Separately, troops trying to dislodge rebels fired heavy artillery into areas of the southern province of Daraa, the central region of Hama, and Idlib in the country’s northwest, the watchdog said. In the northeastern province of Hasakeh, the army fired on houses, injuring several people, as security forces conducted arrest operations in the coastal city of Banias.

Violence across Syria killed a total of 118 people on Sept. 29 - 48 civilians, 41 soldiers and 29 rebels, the Observatory said.