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Syria: government forces pounding Aleppo -- activists

State media: Fight for Aleppo to be the "mother of all battles."

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A fighter from the Syrian opposition aims fire during clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, in the center of Syria's restive northern city of Aleppo on July 25, 2012. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian forces today launched a fresh assault on the country's largest city of Aleppo, with activists describing military helicopters pounding the city amid growing concern of a possible massacre there, reported the Associated Press

More from GlobalPost: Inside Syria: The Battle for Aleppo

Syrian troops are reportedly targeting rebel-held Aleppo neighborhoods in a bid to retake control of the large industrial city, which AP said serves as "a key pillar of support" for the country's embattled President Bashar al-Assad, who is desperately trying to maintain power amid a 17-month-long uprising against his rule. 

GlobalPost correspondents today report dozens of burned out tanks and military vehicles scattered along the road into Aleppo from the country's north, evidence of early skirmishes between the rebels and regime forces as they fought their way toward the strategic city. 

At least 17,000 people have died in the conflict in Syria, which has reached a new level of violence in recent weeks amid escalated rebel attempts to completely overthrow of the regime.

The Syrian government has pushed back hard in recent days, however, using tanks and aircraft weaponry to stave off rebel advances.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Aleppo, with state media warning that the fight there will be the "mother of all battles," according to Agence-France Press

"Aleppo will be the last battle waged by the Syrian army to crush the terrorists and, after that, Syria will emerge from the crisis," the local Al-Watan newspaper reportedly said today. 

World leaders in recent days have been warning Assad not to attack Aleppo after the White House said they feared a possible massacre there, with United Nations head Ban Ki-moon said he was "seriously concerned by the escalating violence in Aleppo," and called on both sides to end the violence, reported AFP

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120728/syria-government-forces-pound-aleppo-activists