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Rebel fighters, many with only light weapons, advanced slowly, moving building by building. The heavier weapons, such as rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, were sent to the front lines to prevent the regime from retaking areas seized by rebels in the past two months.

Wednesday’s attacks were the latest turn in the deadly — and increasingly chaotic — fight for control of Aleppo, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.

Long free of the violence that has engulfed much of the rest of the country in the first year of the uprising, Aleppo was struck by two suicide car bombings at security compounds in February, killing 28 people. Such attacks targeting security agencies and soldiers have become common in Syria, particularly in the capital, Damascus.

In the past two months, Aleppo has become a key battleground. The opposition launched an offensive on the city in July, and large swaths have been shattered.

Rebels last week announced a new push to capture Aleppo, which would be a major strategic prize and give the victor new momentum. It also would provide the opposition with a base and easy logistical supply lines with Turkey to the north that would allow them to carry out their fight against the regime in the rest of the country.

Aleppo-based activist Mohammad Saeed said Wednesday’s blasts went off minutes apart and appeared to be car bombs and were followed by clashes and heavy gunfire.

Syrian state TV said three suicide bombers detonated cars packed with explosives in Saadallah al-Jabri Square, near an officers’ club. The square holds symbolic importance for residents because it is named after a Syrian independence fighter who resisted French occupation.

Activists and Syrian state media said a fourth car bomb went off a few hundred meters (yards) away in the Bab Jnein area near the Old City. It was not immediately clear how many casualties there were from that blast.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said mortars also targeted the nearby political security department around the same time of the bombings.

Syria‘s Interior Ministry vowed to “track down the perpetrators anywhere.” The speaker of the Syrian parliament, Mohammad Jihad al-Lahham, told the assembly that he condemns “the countries that conspire against Syria and stand behind the terrorists.”

Torchia reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey; Zeina Karam in Beirut; Manu Brabo in Aleppo, Syria; Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria; Don Melvin in Brussels; and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.