DAMASCUS - Syrian troops backed by helicopter gunships clashed with rebels near a barracks in Aleppo on Friday as battles broke out around a military airport elsewhere in the northern province, monitors said.
In Aleppo’s Arkoub district, fighting erupted overnight near the Hanano army barracks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Several districts of the northern metropolis, including Sakhur in the northeast and Bustan al-Qasr in the centre, came under attack.
Military airfields have been a key rebel target because the regime is increasingly using air power to launch devastating strikes. Northwest of the capital, the Observatory reported a massive explosion believed to have been a car bomb. Heavy gunfire was heard afterwards but there were no immediate reports of casualties.But as the violence rages unabated, a top Nato general said in Brussels that the alliance does not believe that military intervention would bring any improvement in Syria’s security situation. Germany’s Manfred Lange, Chief of Staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, said the “political process has to be pushed forward, sanctions need to take effect.
At least 65 people, mostly civilians, were killed in violence on Friday, the Observatory said, a day after as many as 225 died, including at least 30 in a petrol station blast in Raqa in the north, blamed on a regime air raid.
Meanwhile, Syria’s information minister denied that Assad had granted an exclusive interview to Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram al-Arabi, which reported he hit out at Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, accusing them of arming Syrian rebels. Omran al-Zohbi said Assad had had an informal conversation with nine Egyptian journalists and that his comments had been taken out of context.
On the humanitarian front, Syria’s ally Russia flew in almost 80 tonnes of food aid, SANA reported. But Iraq denied permission for a N Korean aircraft to cross its airspace on its way to Syria over suspicions it was carrying arms and advisers, an official in Baghdad said.
US Vice President Joe Biden pressed Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in a telephone call on Friday to bar the passage of weapons shipments to Syria through Iraqi airspace, the White House said.