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Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad fought with rebels in the commercial hub of Aleppo in a deadly battle that set fire to an ancient marketplace that was once a tourist attraction.
Fighting in the country’s largest city continued for the third day in what insurgents said would be a “decisive battle” to control Aleppo. Rebels captured four neighborhoods, Al Jazeera reported, citing an interview with a local activist. Syrian government troops killed 126 people yesterday across the country, including 64 in or around the capital Damascus, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement.
International efforts to end the 18-month conflict have failed to stop the violence as rebels continue the fight, which began in March 2011, to overthrow Assad. The conflict has killed 30,000 people, according to estimates by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group.
Fighting has been deadlocked in Aleppo since rebels pushed into the city in July. Government forces have resorted to heavy weaponry, including attack aircraft, helicopter gunships and artillery, to dislodge rebels from their positions.
Combatants from both sides suffered losses during a battle for Jandoul Square in Aleppo, the Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook page. In Deir Ezzor, four rebels died when they attacked a check point in Siyasiya near a security branch, while four government troops died in clashes at a check point outside the city near the village of Salhiya, the group said on the Facebook page.
Hundreds of shops were burned in Aleppo’s historic market, the Souk al-Madina, Al Jazeera reported. Videos showed black smoke hanging over the city and a wall of flames in what appeared to be one of the market’s passageways, the New York Times reported. The medieval souk, with vaulted stone alleyways, carved wooden doors and shops filled with silk, spices and other luxury goods, is part of Aleppo’s Old City, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The two sides have blamed each other for damage in Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the Times reported. Activists told Al Jazeera that army snipers were making it difficult to approach the marketplace and they blamed heavy shelling and gunfire for causing the blaze.
Rebels said they had taken control of Bab Antakya, a stone gateway to the Old City, while other activists said fighting was continuing, Al Jazeera reported.
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