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In Aleppo, rebels brace for full force of Syria's Assad regime

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(Read caption) In this Tuesday, July 24, photo, Free Syrian Army soldiers are seen at the border town of Azaz, some 20 miles north of Aleppo, Syria.

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Thousands of residents are leaving the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as fears of a major battle there grow. Until this week, the commercial capital remained largely immune to the violence engulfing the rest of the country, but is now facing its sixth day of fighting in several neighborhoods. Rebel fighters are preparing for a regime offensive, stockpiling medical supplies and weapons as Syrian Army forces focus their efforts on what has been considered a stronghold of support for President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. Assad’s forces have stepped up their use of firepower, with reports of helicopters and fighter jets attacking opposition targets on the ground in the city of 3 million, according to The Associated Press.  This follows reports that the government dispatched reinforcement troops, as well as tanks, toward Aleppo yesterday from Idlib Province, near the Turkish border.

"Regime forces have been randomly shelling neighborhoods and the civilians are terrified," local activist Mohammed Saeed told AP.

In the past week, Syria's civil war has roiled the country's two biggest cities, Aleppo and Damascus. Damascus saw increased fighting today as well, with explosions reported in several neighborhoods, according to opposition groups.


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