Rebels launch offensive in Aleppo

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels launched a broad offensive for Aleppo Friday as the Russian, Syrian, and Iranian foreign ministers vowed to intensify their fight against terrorism in the country.

The battlefield allies met in Moscow as the Syrian government is looking to cement its authority over the divided northern city and the contested suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

Fighting for Aleppo appeared to have calmed by the afternoon after rebels assaulted the city’s government-controlled western side with three vehicle bombs and at least 150 rockets in the morning. The Syrian military said the rockets were Russian-made Grad missiles.

At least 15 civilians were killed in the volley, according to pro-government TV stations. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also said 15 civilians were killed, and over 100 injured.

A reporter inside the city for the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel had reported attacks on “all sides” of the city, “from the furthest points north to the furthest south.”

Sounds of heavy gunfire, mortar fire, and explosions were heard in the background of his broadcast, as dark smoke was seen rising above the city on the overcast morning. Presumed government or Russian jets also were heard flying overhead.

An afternoon broadcast from the city on Lebanon-based Al-Manar TV depicted a quieter scene, though sporadic gunfire and missile attacks were heard in the background.

Rebels said they seized a factory and pushed into government-held neighborhoods in southwestern Aleppo, but the Syrian military said through SANA that it had repelled the offensive from all fronts, with support from allied militias.

“The Syrian army and its allies are in control on the ground and armed groups were not able to change the map,” the military statement said. “Fighting is still ongoing but the intensity has dropped.”

This is the second attempt by rebels to break the government’s siege of Aleppo’s opposition-held eastern districts.