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Middle East

Syrian troops shell Aleppo

Government troops and rebels are fighting for control of Syria's commercial hub, Aleppo. The government has said it will be victorious.

Helicopter gunships and tanks pummeled Aleppo on Sunday as the battle for Syria's largest city continued into its second day. Anti-government rebels said they had been successful at holding off troops loyal to President Bashar Assad.

"We are seeing some of the heaviest bombardment today, but the rebels are still holding up well," Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed told the Associated Press. "No ground troops have been able to enter. They are shelling from outside."

Rebels say they still control Aleppo

The shelling was focused on Salaheddin and other neighborhoods where rebels had established themselves. Activists said the fighting had begun to draw near the historic old town, where hand-to-hand combat was expected.

The government said it would "definitely" beat back the rebels.

"We believe that all the anti-Syrian forces have gathered in Aleppo to fight the government ... and they will definitely be defeated," said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem during a surprise visit to Iran on Sunday.

The situation for Aleppo's residents has become critical. The electricity and water supplies were reportedly cut off and food was becoming scarce. Activists said government shelling had killing numerous civilians, while the international community has been warning of a possible massacre.

Aleppo had not played a role in the 17-month uprising against the Syrian regime until rebels entered the city of three million a week ago.

"We liberated the rural parts of this province. We waited and waited for Aleppo to rise, and it didn't. We couldn't rely on them to do it for themselves so we had to bring the revolution to them," a rebel commander, who calls himself Abu Hashish, told Reuters in a village near Aleppo.

The rebels estimate that they control somewhere between half and two-thirds of Aleppo.

ncy/mz (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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