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Aleppo fighting continues to rage in Syrian civil war

Syria sends government troops to challenge rebels in Aleppo.

Aleppo pounded syrian forces rebels claim advances july 31 2012 0Enlarge
Syrian boys inspect a destroyed army tank in the northern town of Atareb, 25 kms east of Syria's second largest city Aleppo, on July 31, 2012. While fighting raged in Syria's commercial capital Aleppo for a fourth straight day, clashes between the Syrian army and rebels also erupted in Damascus and other parts of the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian government troops marched on Aleppo today, setting the stage for what could be another bloody showdown with rebels, CNN reported.

While rebels claim to control large sections of Aleppo, the regime appears anxious to challenge their resolve.

Two columns are headed to Syria's most populous city, one from the Mediterranean coast and one from the capital of Damascus, the network said.

The Free Syrian Army has battled President Bashar al-Assad's regime at Aleppo for two weeks, and fighting is fierce enough to warrant warnings to the world from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The "ancient and storied" city "is now "the epicenter of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it," the secretary-general said Friday, CNN reported.

Aleppo was a city of 2.5 million before the fighting forced many to flee.

It is considered vital to rebels in their quest to overthrow the authoritarian Assad regime, for both symbolic and strategic reasons.

It has historic buildings alongside those used by Assad, his security and military to stifle dissent.

Rebels told The New York Times that they want to use Aleppo as a headquarters, and it could become capital of a liberated Syria.

About 6,000 rebels face twice that many government and loyalist Sahbiha militia, The Guardian said.

"We are saving the tank shells we have for when we get access to the Air Force intelligence headquarters," rebel leader Mohammed Karim told The Guardian. "We will free the prisoners first, then destroy the building."

Fighting also flared in Damascus, especially in a Palestinian neighborhood where rebels find assistance, The Times said.

Assad is using heavy artillery and aircraft against the rebels in Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the newspaper.

The Free Syrian Army countered, the rights group said, by destroying four armored vehicles.

Rebels are now waiting for reinforcements to bring mortar shells.

On Thursday, shelling killed 20 in Yarmouk, the Palestinian neighborhood.

That has swayed some Palestinians to help the rebels.

“They’re working undercover,” rebel leader Abu Omar told The Times. “They’re helping the brigades find safe locations.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120804/aleppo-fighting-continues-rage-syrian-civil-war