The Syrian military stepped up its campaign to drive rebel fighters out of Aleppo, but rebels said they were still holding firm in the country's biggest city, which they have vowed to turn into the "grave of the regime.”
Opposition activists denied a government declaration that its forces had recaptured the Salaheddine district, in southwest Aleppo, straddling the most obvious route for Syrian troop reinforcements coming from the south.
Hospitals and makeshift clinics in rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods were filling up with casualties from a week of fighting in the city, a commercial hub that had previously stayed out of a 16-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
"Some days we get around 30, 40 people, not including the bodies," said a young medic in one clinic. "A few days ago we got 30 injured and maybe 20 corpses, but half of those bodies were ripped to pieces. We can't figure out who they are."
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 40 people, 30 of them civilians, were killed in Syria on Monday. Two rebel fighters died in Salaheddine.
Outgunned rebel fighters, patrolling in flat-bed trucks flying green-white-and-black "independence" flags, said they were holding out in Salaheddine despite a battering by the army's heavy weapons and helicopter gunships.
A fighter jet flew overhead, a reminder of the overwhelming military advantage still enjoyed by government forces 16 months into the uprising. (Reuters)