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Syrian government and rebels say making progress in fight for Aleppo - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Smoke rises after a detonation of a building controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, according to rebel fighters, in the Sabaa Bahrat area in Aleppo April 27, 2014. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Smoke rises after the detonation of a building controlled by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, according to rebel fighters, in the Sabaa Bahrat area in Aleppo April 27, 2014. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Both the Syrian government and opposition forces claimed to be making progress in the fight for the country’s largest city, Aleppo, on Saturday and Sunday.

Syrian rebels claim they have taken control of the city’s main court complex, the Palace of Justice, next to the headquarters of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence, following three days of fighting.

The opposition Ahl Al-Sham operations room—which coordinates the operations of the Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic Front, and the Mujahidin Army—issued a statement which said: “Control of the Palace of Justice came within the battle of the Batr Al-Kafrin, which was launched by the operations room in the western areas of Aleppo, which are under the control of the government forces.”

It added that “the aim of this battle was to control the Air Force Intelligence HQ and advance in the western areas.”

However, Syrian opposition field commander Mundhir Sallal, told Asharq Al-Awsat that although the rebels had managed to seize positions close to the headquarters, it was unlikely to be captured soon.

He said: “The battle is hard in this area because of the size of the buildings and their robustness, which forced both parties—the opposition and the regime—to entrench themselves in places which cannot be easily breached.”

Experts say Syrian Air Force Intelligence is a key component of the government’s security forces, and the capture of its headquarters in Aleppo would therefore be a symbolic victory for the Syrian opposition.

The Ahl Al-Sham operations room released a video which it said showed bodies of detainees who had been killed in the facility and dumped in a building nearby. The opposition group said the organization had recently killed “dozens” more and dumped their bodies in streets in government-held territory.

Meanwhile, Aleppo remained without electricity for the ninth consecutive day on Saturday after rebel groups in control of the city’s electricity supply cut off the power in an attempt to force government forces to stop bombarding the opposition-controlled districts in the east of the city, according to activists.

Violent clashes also continued on Saturday between government forces and opposition fighters in the strategic area of Nawa, near Dera’a in southern Syria, resulting in at least 88 casualties on both sides.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said: “Sixteen Syrian government soldiers were killed in an attempt to regain control of the area of Tall Jabiyah which was taken by the opposition two days ago.”

A member of the opposition’s Free Syrian Army (FSA), Abu-Ahmad Al-Qasmi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that opposition forces had succeeded in breaking the siege on Nawa after taking control of Tall Jabiyah.

“The battles are still raging to control the town, which is the largest in the governorate, and holds great importance because it links Dera’a to Rif Dimashq, which allows opposition fighters to open the communication and supply routes,” he added.

Nawa is defended by two Syrian Army brigades, while the Syria Revolutionary Front Battalions, and the Fatihin and Gharabaa Horan operations rooms, are leading the attack on the town.

Clashes between Islamist brigades and government forces in Latakia have also erupted in recent days, according to opposition sources, who asked not to be identified.

They said: “Government forces tried to storm the town of Qasab [on the Turkish border] which was under opposition control from the Naba Chalma side, leading to a number of casualties in their ranks.”

The clashes coincided with a government missile attack on Qasab from the town of Qastal Maaf, while opposition fighters attacked government positions in Ras Al-Basit, Burj-45 and Qastal Maaf with mortars. Syrian government helicopters reportedly dropped two barrel bombs on the international highway near the town of Bashoura, while another barrel bomb hit the area of Baradon Dam, according to opposition sources.

Syrian government helicopters also reportedly attacked residential areas in opposition-controlled Lataminah in the northern suburbs of Hama with barrel bombs, killing 10 civilians, including children.

Heavy clashes also erupted west of the town of Qamhana in the Rif Hama area between opposition forces on one side, and government forces and pro-government civil defense forces on the other, in an attempt by the opposition to take control of the town and open the road towards the city of Hama, which remains under government control.