The Main Stream

Jul 25, 2012 12:43 AM

Warplanes circle and helicopters strike as battle for Syria's Aleppo intensifies

BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Syrian government appears to have routed rebels from Damascus.

Activists say there have been sporadic clashes between troops and rebels, but they say most fighters have withdrawn.

Residents and activists also describe an escalating the battle for control of Syria's commercial capital and largest city. Syrian warplanes circled over the city of Aleppo Tuesday, as attack helicopters pounded rebel-held neighborhoods.

After months of government offensives against opposition-dominated towns, rebels have taken the fight to regime forces in Syria's two main cities. Last week, an attack in Damascus left three top government officials, including the defense minister dead.

In the wake of those attacks, President Bashar Assad has reshuffled his top intelligence post.

But his regime has suffered another defection. This time it's a top military commander considered a close friend of Assad. Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass is also the son of a former defense minister. He appeared in a video broadcast on Al-Arabiya TV calling on Syrians to work together to build a new, democratic country.

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