UN: 200,000 Syrians Flee Aleppo as Rebels, Troops Clash

Posted July 29th, 2012 at 5:35 pm (UTC-5)
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United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos says fighting between Syrian troops and rebels in the city of Aleppo has forced 200,000 people to flee the country's commercial hub and surrounding area over the past two days.

In a statement issued Sunday, Amos said many of the Aleppo refugees have sought shelter in schools and other public buildings in safer areas. She said the fighting is making it hard for humanitarian agencies to provide displaced residents with urgently needed food, mattresses, blankets, hygiene supplies and drinking water.

Syrian activists said security forces fired tank shells and artillery against rebel positions in Aleppo Sunday, while the rebels held on to areas they captured in recent days, including the southwest district of Salaheddine.

Syrian state media said troops ousted rebels from Salaheddine, but there was no independent confirmation of either claim.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said the battles in Aleppo amount to “war crimes.” In a statement published by Egyptian state news agency MENA, Elaraby also warned that the perpetrators of such crimes eventually will be punished.

Syrian opposition leader Abdulbaset Sieda of the Syrian National Council urged Western and Arab powers that support the uprising to send heavy weapons to the rebels.

The struggle for control of Aleppo is crucial for the Syrian government and for rebels leading a 16-month uprising against the autocratic rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem vowed the rebels will be defeated in Aleppo. He made the comment on a visit to Iran, Syria's strongest regional ally.

A coalition of Western and Arab powers has called for Mr. Assad to step down and enable a peaceful transition to a representative government.

At a joint news conference with Moallem, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi dismissed any hopes of a peaceful transition in a post-Assad Syria, calling them an “illusion.”

Also Sunday, Jordan opened its first official tent camp for refugees from neighboring Syria. Foreign Minister Nasser Judah said Jordan has taken in 142,000 Syrians, with up to 2,000 more arriving each day.

Turkey has been sheltering more than 44,000 Syrians.

The United Nations has said more than 17,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March of last year.