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Explosions rock Aleppo, army steps up operations

Explosions rock Aleppo, army steps up operations
Three powerful explosions rocked the main square in a government-controlled central district of Aleppo today, the Syrian state-run TV said.

Activists reported multiple casualties and heavy material damage.

There were no immediate details on the nature of the blasts, which activists said were likely caused by car bombs.

The northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub and largest city, has seen intensified fighting between regime forces and rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad, especially after the fighters launched a new offensive last week.

Syrian TV reported the triple bombings at the Saadallah al-Jabri square, describing them as the work of “terrorists.” Authorities refer to rebels fighting to topple Assad as terrorists and armed gangs.

The TV did not provide further details.

Aleppo-based activist Mohammad Saeed said the explosions went off minutes apart at one of the city’s main squares. He said the blasts appear to have been caused by car bombs and were followed by clashes and heavy gunfire.

The area is controlled by government forces and there is a military club nearby which activists said may have been the target.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, reported dozens of casualties from the blasts, most of them members of the regime forces.

In a statement, it said the explosions went off following a clash between guards at the military club and gunmen, suggesting the attacks may have been suicide bombings.

Suicide and car bombings targeting security agencies and soldiers have become common in Syria, particularly in the capital, Damascus, during the course of the 18-month-uprising against Assad.

But such bombings have been rare in Aleppo, which was spared the mayhem that struck other Syrian cities during the first year of the revolt.

Then, in February, two suicide car bombers hit security compounds in Aleppo’s industrial centre, killing 28 people.

Meanwhile, Syria’s army rained shells on rebel bastions in and around Damascus and sent extra troops to second city Aleppo, as a watchdog said the death toll from 18 months of violence now topped 31,000. The fresh offensive on Tuesday came hours after UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Damascus to show compassion to its people and the UN’s Syria envoy prepared to return to the region to try to revive mediation efforts.


The US does not plan to use military force in Syria, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. Asked by reporters what the department’s reaction would be to Russia having ‘warned the West from intervening in Syria or creating a buffer zone or no-fly zone,’ Nuland said: ‘I think we’ve made clear what we’re looking at in terms of US support for the opposition. We’re talking about non-lethal support. We’re talking about training. We’re talking about trying to help those in Syria who are trying to manage and provide for people in parts of Syria that have now been liberated from regime dominance,’ she said. The Russian foreign ministry earlier called on Western countries to avoid military intervention in Syria. Recently, the emir of Qatar had called for Arab military intervention in Syria. The Syrian conflict has claimed up to 20,000 lives, according to estimates by various groups. The UN estimates the toll at over 18,000 people. The Syrian authorities say 8,000 have died.


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