BEIRUT – Syrian authorities were sending reinforcements to strife-torn Aleppo, opposition activists said Wednesday, as outgunned rebels in the northern city tried to deliver a potentially decisive blow to the government of President Bashar Assad.
Street battles were ongoing in several neighborhoods, including districts close to the gates of the old city, with government forces shelling rebel-occupied quarters with artillery and helicopter gunships, the activists said. Many residents had fled or remained indoors in the city of 2 million, they said.
Parts of Aleppo are “a ghost city,” said one opposition activist in Aleppo reached via Skype. “The people are scared of going out in the streets,” noted the activist, who asked not to be named for security reasons.
Residents reportedly have shuttered shops, and gasoline and bread are in short supply.
Video by a BBC crew in Aleppo shows rebels setting up sniper positions in battered buildings, firing on helicopters with a machine gun mounted on a captured tank, and rounding up men, presumably suspected regime collaborators.
The Syrian government said its forces in Aleppo had killed scores of “terrorists,” the official term for the armed opposition. The state news service accused insurgents of assaulting citizens and attacking property in the al-Sakhour neighborhood, which also was reportedly under rebel control.
There was no definitive word on casualties. Rebel medics were treating wounded in makeshift clinics, which have sprung up in battle zones across Syria during the uprising.
Insurgents called the attack on Aleppo an all-out offensive that has galvanized rebels from throughout northern Syria.