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Syrian Capital, Aleppo Teetering Between Loyalists, Rebels

Fighting is raging in Damascus and Aleppo as Syrian opposition forces battle troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad for final control.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 7/22/2012, 2:32 PM

Damaged tank in Damascus
Damaged tank in Damascus
Reuters

Fighting is raging in Damascus and Aleppo as Syrian opposition forces battle troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

There were clashes near the main intelligence base in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday. Battles also raged in other parts of Syrian's main commercial and industrial hub as well.

Syrian Intelligence Chief Hisham Bekhtyar died Friday from wounds suffered Wednesday in an attack on Damascus by rebel forces, according to Al-Manar TV, associated with Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon. Three high-ranking Syrian officials were killed on the spot.

Helicopter gunships bombarded a number of districts Sunday in Damascus, meanwhile, trying to drive out opposition forces from the capital. Assad's forces appeared to regain some ground as they drove rebel fighters from the Mezze district, residents and opposition activists reported.

Elite Fourth Division troops besieged the northern Damascus neighborhood of Barzeh in an effort to overcome opposition fighters. 

Elsewhere in the country, government forces hammered the major eastern city of Deir al-Zor with artillery and mortar fire. Helicopters fired rockets in the residential districts in an attempt to prevent opposition forces from taking over the city, witnesses said.

A former artillery officer told the Reuters news agency by telephone that he counted around 200 shells hitting the Ordi and Old Airport districts of the city, located some 270 miles (430 kilometers) northeast of Damascus.

It was the heaviest reported bombardment since the army stormed Deir al-Zor one year ago, to crush street protests against President Bashar al-Assad, who disappeared last week and whose whereabouts are currently unknown.