June 14, 2013 in Nation/World

Observers think army troops are preparing to retake Aleppo

Associated Press photo

This citizen journalism image provided Thursday shows buildings in Aleppo, Syria, damaged during battles between the rebels and Syrian government forces.
(Full-size photo)

AMMAN, Jordan – Diplomatic observers in Jordan say they believe Syria is preparing to launch a military offensive to recapture the city of Aleppo, perhaps by as soon as this weekend.

The observers said the Syrian army has made steady advances in both the country’s north and south, and it appeared to be setting the stage for what one Western diplomat formerly based in Syria called Operation Northern Storm to seize Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once the country’s economic center.

“The last players are getting into place as we speak. In another few days the stage will be set for them to retake the city,” the diplomat said.

A half-dozen other officials and experts interviewed by McClatchy made similar predictions, saying forces loyal to President Bashar Assad stood a good chance of recapturing at least major parts of the portions of the city that rebels now hold.

“It won’t be an easy fight and the rebel groups in Aleppo will fight every street. Assad, however, has the support he needs and the weapons he needs to smoke them out,” said the diplomat. “If he takes the countryside around Aleppo, it is only a matter of time.”

The rebels currently control roughly half the city of Aleppo and much of the countryside to the north, toward the border with Turkey. The rebels first launched an offensive into Aleppo in July 2012 and fought pro-Assad troops street by street, gaining steadily until September, when the battle became a stalemate.


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