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The main battle, however, has now moved to Syria’s largest city of Aleppo, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) north of Damascus where rebels seized several neighborhoods two weeks ago and have proved difficult to dislodge.
On Saturday, hundreds of rebels attacked the strategic television broadcast building and were only driven off after a three-hour battle in which the government resorted to jet fighters and helicopter gunships.
Clashes were also reported around the medieval citadel, a symbol of the city that dominates its ancient center, suggesting the rebels are trying to expand their hold.
Aleppo is Syria’s commercial hub and it’s close to the Turkish border where the rebels have their rear bases. If the opposition were to gain control, it would be a major blow to the regime and a possible opposition base of operations.
More heavily armed government troops, however, have been steadily shelling the rebel-controlled parts of the city, particularly Salaheddine neighborhood, suggesting Aleppo will not fall to the rebels anytime soon.
On Saturday, China said the West should be blamed for obstructing diplomatic and political efforts to restore order and peace in Syria. Wang Kejian, a deputy director of north African and west Asian affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a news conference that Western countries had hindered and sabotaged the political process by advocating regime change.
Wang reiterated China’s stance that the solution to the Syria crisis should be a political one and that it is opposed to any military intervention.
Turkey also reported the defection of another Syrian general, along with five colonels who came over the border with a group of refugees. The general would be the 29th to defect since the start of the uprising. Despite the defections, however, the Syrian army has largely remained intact.
Associated Press writers Elizabeth Kennedy in Beirut, Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.
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