Dominique Soguel, AFP
Last updated: 29 August, 2012

Syria’s Aleppo bears scars of five-week battle

The blast of a tank shell smashing into a mosque sends Abu Fadi running for cover into a building used by fighters bent on taking over Aleppo in their campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Bashar is willing to waste 1,000 shells just to hit one person,” said the shaken resident of Seif al-Dawla, Abu Fadi, an elderly man who had picked out a corner near the mosque in the belief that it was beyond the line of fire.

The shell that scared Abu Fadi hit the Al-Nasar mosque and raised a massive cloud of dust, correspondents at the scene said.

Tank and mortar fire unleashed by Assad’s army on Wednesday also rocked the adjacent neighbourhood of Salaheddin.

Mosques and buildings across Aleppo carry the scars of five weeks of bombing and shelling.

The offensive has shown no mercy to the historic city in northern Syria that once drew thousands of tourists to its commanding Citadel and lively souks.

The commander of the Rasul Allah brigade in Aleppo, who gave his name as Abu Abdullah, said his men had “taken out one tank” which Assad’s soldiers then hastily retrieved using a bulldozer.

At least six rebels were wounded in Wednesday’s shelling, according to an AFP tally based on reports from activists and rebel commanders in the city.

Medics at two separate hospitals refused to share records of opposition fighter casualties but one volunteer indicated they were low compared to the civilian toll.

Doctors at Al-Shifa hospital said two women and a child were killed in Wednesday’s shelling and that they treated more than 32 wounded people.

The hospital also received the corpses of four men.

Three were identified as rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who had rope burns ringing their wrists. Blood encrusted the face of a man who had an eye socket blown open.

All four bodies were dumped on a street with notes indicating their respective names and neighbourhoods, a nurse said.

“Their names and addresses were written on a sheet of paper,” she told AFP.

Meanwhile, scenes of almost normal daily life unfolded in other areas.

In neighbourhoods where the FSA flag flew over checkpoints — including Fardoss, Al-Shaar, Qadi Askar and Sakhur — commerce and traffic had partially resumed with families flocking to bakeries and fruit stalls.

The battle for Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has been raging since July 20, with the army unable to dislodge the rebels. But civilians have been the hardest hit by the fighting.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 74 people were killed in violence countrywide, including 50 civilians.

Fierce fighting on Wednesday also pitted the Syrian army against rebels in and around Taftanaz military airport, which lies between Aleppo and Idlib in northwest Syria, it added.

Syrian rebels said they destroyed five helicopters, while state television said an attack was repelled with no damage to the facility.