Aleppo quiet after rebels withdraw
Published Friday, August 10, 2012
The Syrian city of Aleppo was relatively calm on Friday but clashes continued in a few neighborhoods, Syrian state media and opposition groups said.
Armed rebels were pushed back on Thursday by government forces seeking to reestablish control over Syria's largest city and its economic hub.
Syrian troops said they had forced rebels from the city after intense battles but rebels continue to stage hit-and-run attacks and are active in the suburbs around the city.
State media confirmed there were still clashes in the areas of Al-Izaa and Saif Al-Dawla, but the Saleheddine region, which had been a rebel stronghold, appeared to be under government control.
Syrian state television posted pictures of Aleppo which showed the city returning to normality after the rebels took control of many parts of the city.
A rebel leader on Friday said they were preparing a new attack in the coming days.
"I have about 60 men positioned strategically at the frontline and we are preparing a new attack today," said Abu Jamil, a rebel commander in Aleppo, near Saleheddine in the south of the city.
"One of my men is dead and inside Salaheddine. It's been two days and I haven't been able to get his body out because the sniper fire is so heavy," Abu Jamil said.
An archeological group claimed that the government assault had left Aleppo's historic citadel, part of a world heritage site in the heart of the commercial capital, damaged.
The group, Archeological Heritage in Syria in Danger, posted a video appearing to show destruction inside the citadel.
Aleppo's old city has been listed by the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as a World Heritage Site since 1986.
It was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim of damage to the citadel.
Elsewhere at the UN the search for a replacement to Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria appeared to be coming to an end, with former Algerian foreign affairs minister and longtime UN official Lakhdar Brahimi tipped for the role.
Diplomats who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly said other contenders are ex-Spanish foreign affairs minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Spain's Javier Solana, a former NATO chief and European Union foreign policy head
Annan, a former UN secretary-General, announced his resignation last week as joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, ending a frustrating six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire as the country descended into civil war. He leaves at the end of the month.
Brahimi, 78, served as Algeria's foreign minister from 1991-93 and brought his diplomatic skills and reputation as a tough negotiator to the United Nations in 1994, where he served in a variety of high-profile posts, including as an envoy in Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq, until he retired in 2005.
He is a member of the Elders, a group of world leaders working for global peace that includes Nelson Mandela.
As an Arab League envoy, Brahimi helped negotiate the end of the civil war in Lebanon, while as UN special representative in South Africa, he helped oversee democratic elections that brought Mandela to power.
Brahimi served as a special advisory to Annan on conflict prevention and resolution until his retirement.
A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An announcement could come as soon as next week, diplomats said.
Also on Friday Britain announced fresh financial backing for Syrian rebels, pledging a further 5 million pounds ($7.82 million) for what it called non-lethal aid, including communications equipment and medical supplies.
"This week, on my instructions, my ambassador-level representative to the Syrian opposition has contacted and is meeting political elements of the Free Syria Army," Foreign Minister William Hague said.
"This is not taking sides in a civil war. The risk of total disorder and a power vacuum is so great that we must build relationships now with those who may govern Syria in the future," he said.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, AP, Reuters)