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Syrian Army pushes to break rebel frontlines in battle for Aleppo

The Syrian Army deployed planes and a helicopter gunship as it targeted rebel positions in Aleppo, a key city in Syria's civil war. Fighting also intensified in Damascus Saturday.

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Rebel fighters man a checkpoint in Aleppo on July 28, the start of what has become a week-long offensive by the Syrian Army in the city.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images

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Syrian artillery, planes and a helicopter gunship pounded rebel positions in Aleppo on Saturday, witnesses said, as President Bashar al-Assad's forces tried to break through the insurgents' frontline in Syria's largest city.

Syrian forces clashed with rebels around Aleppo's television and radio station, activists said, and a local rebel commander said his fighters were preparing for a "strong offensive" by government forces on the city.

In the capital Damascus, troops backed by armor stormed the last opposition bastion on Friday in a drive to crush a rebel offensive that coincided with a bombing that killed four of Assad's senior security officials. The onslaught continued on Saturday as jets bombarded the city, a resident said.

Syrian forces battered Aleppo's Salaheddine district, seen as a gateway for the Army into the city of 2.5 million people. The fate of the district could determine the outcome of a conflict that has already claimed some 18,000 lives.

"There is one helicopter and we're hearing two explosions every minute," a Reuters witness said.

The civil war has intensified in the past few weeks, with fighting engulfing Damascus and Aleppo for the first time in the 17-month-old uprising against Assad family rule.

The two cities are crucial prizes for both sides in a conflict that has eluded all attempts at a diplomatic solution and risks igniting a wider conflagration.

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