Syrian forces used helicopters and heavy weapons as they tried to push rebels from Aleppo and Damascus a day after United Nations monitors completed their withdrawal from the country.
Government forces attacked rebel positions in Aleppo, the country’s largest city, with helicopter gunships, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook Inc. page today. Clashes also took place between Syrian forces and rebels around Damascus and in Daraa, the U.K.-based group said. Syrian forces killed 44 people today, it said in a e-mailed statement.
International efforts have failed to halt a 17-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has claimed more than 23,000 lives. UN military monitors completed their departure on Aug. 24 after the two warring sides failed to observe an April cease-fire. The UN envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, resigned this month.
The fighting has started to spill into Lebanon. A Sunni Muslim sheikh was killed yesterday by a sniper in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government have flared up this month. The death of Sheikh Khaled al-Baradei sparked fresh clashes between anti-Syrian Sunni Muslims and Alawites who support Assad, Lebanon’s official National News Agency said yesterday.
Assad and most of his top officials come from the Alawite sect, affiliated with Shiite Islam. The majority of Syria’s population and many leaders of the armed uprising are Sunni.
Rebel forces are fighting to seize control of al-Bukmal city in the Deir Ezzor province in Syria’s oil-rich east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Facebook. The city lies across from the Iraqi border town of al-Qaim. Rebels seized control of the border post outside of Bukmal in July.