ALEPPO - Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad assaulted rebel strongholds in Aleppo on Wednesday in one of their biggest ground attacks since rebels seized chunks of Syria’s biggest city three weeks ago.Aleppo, at the heart of Syria’s failing economy, has taken a fearful pounding since the 17-month-old uprising against Assad finally took hold in a city that had stayed mostly aloof.“We have retreated, get out of here,” a lone rebel fighter yelled at Reuters journalists as they arrived in Aleppo’s Salaheddine district. Nearby checkpoints that had been manned by rebel fighters for the last week had disappeared.Syrian state television said government forces had pushed into Salaheddine, killing most of the rebels there, and had entered other parts of the city in a new offensive.It said dozens of “terrorists” were killed in the central district of Bab al-Hadeed, close to Aleppo’s ancient citadel, and Bab al-Nayrab in the southeast.The intensity of the conflict in Aleppo and elsewhere suggests that Assad remains determined to cling to power, with support from Iran and Russia, despite setbacks such as this week’s defection of his newly installed prime minister.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition watchdog, said more than 60 people had been killed across Syria so far on Wednesday, including 15 civilians in Aleppo. It put Tuesday’s death toll at more than 240 nationwide.Satellite images released by Amnesty International, obtained from July 23 to Aug 1, showed more than 600 craters, probably from artillery shelling, dotting Aleppo and its environs.Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi acknowledged that some of the men were retired soldiers or Revolutionary Guards, but said they were religious pilgrims, not on active service.Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country had warned Iran “in a frank and friendly manner” against blaming Ankara for bloodshed in Syria. “Such statements have the potential to harm Iran as well,” he said a day after holding talks with Salehi, his Iranian counterpart.Turks were incensed by comments this week by Iran’s top general Hassan Firouzabadi, in which he blamed Turkey for the bloodshed in Syria and accused Ankara, alongside Saudi Arabia and Qatar, of helping the “war-raging goals of America”.Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for a political solution in Syria. “Every day in which military clashes continue in this country, the situation becomes more complex and the future darkens,” state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.A dozen countries are to attend a hastily called meeting in Tehran on Thursday to discuss ways to end the violence, Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi said, without saying who was coming.“The consultative meeting on Syria will be held tomorrow in Tehran with 12 to 13 countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America” represented, Salehi said. “Our main argument is an end to the violence and the holding of national dialogue in Syria. Iran’s efforts are aimed at ending the violence in Syria as soon as possible,” he said.