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Terrorism & Security

In Aleppo, rebels brace for full force of Syria's Assad regime

With Syrian Army forces withdrawing from locations across the country and heading toward Aleppo, rebels there are preparing for a fierce battle for the strategic city that few expect them to win.

By Staff writer / July 26, 2012

In this Tuesday, July 24, photo, Free Syrian Army soldiers are seen at the border town of Azaz, some 20 miles north of Aleppo, Syria.

Turkpix/AP

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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Thousands of residents are leaving the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as fears of a major battle there grow. Until this week, the commercial capital remained largely immune to the violence engulfing the rest of the country, but is now facing its sixth day of fighting in several neighborhoods. Rebel fighters are preparing for a regime offensive, stockpiling medical supplies and weapons as Syrian Army forces focus their efforts on what has been considered a stronghold of support for President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. Assad’s forces have stepped up their use of firepower, with reports of helicopters and fighter jets attacking opposition targets on the ground in the city of 3 million, according to The Associated Press.  This follows reports that the government dispatched reinforcement troops, as well as tanks, toward Aleppo yesterday from Idlib Province, near the Turkish border.

"Regime forces have been randomly shelling neighborhoods and the civilians are terrified," local activist Mohammed Saeed told AP.

In the past week, Syria's civil war has roiled the country's two biggest cities, Aleppo and Damascus. Damascus saw increased fighting today as well, with explosions reported in several neighborhoods, according to opposition groups.

As civilians flee, foreign fighters are reportedly entering the region to lend their support to the rebels' fight, according to CNN. Correspondent Ivan Watson and his crew met a Libyan fighter dressed in full camouflage and carrying a Kalashnikov rifle who said others would be joining him. Mr. Watson said that earlier this week the crew met at least one fighter from Turkey, as well as others they believed came from North Africa. The support may be helpful as fighting rages on in Syria for the 17th month, but some rebels fear an Islamist political agenda could usurp their fight.

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