Heavy fighting in Aleppo as Syrian rebel offensive rolls
It should be obvious that President Bashar Assad cannot win his war against his own people. The rebels are only getting stronger, better equipped, and more able to defeat his military in open combat.
In Syria's second largest city Aleppo, "unprecedented" fighting is going on as the rebels launch a final offensive to take the city.
Rebels unleashed an unprecedented barrage of mortar fire against troops in Aleppo on Friday after announcing a "decisive" battle for Syria's second city, residents and a watchdog said.
Shells crashed down at a steady rate and clashes were widespread, leaving layers of dust and smoke over Aleppo, according to the residents of the northern city and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"The fighting is unprecedented and has not stopped since Thursday. The clashes used to be limited to one or two blocks of a district, but now the fighting is on several fronts," the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Residents in neighborhoods previously spared the worst of the two-month-old battle for Aleppo also told AFP the violence was "unprecedented".
"The sound from the fighting... has been non-stop," said a resident of the central district of Sulimaniyeh, who only identified himself as Ziad. "Everyone is terrified. I have never heard anything like this before."
The fighting had decreased in intensity by the afternoon, the Observatory and an AFP reporter said.
"Clashes are continuing at a steady pace in some areas and subsiding in others," said Abdel Rahman.
"It seems the rebels have brought in reinforcements and ammunition from all areas of Syria," he said.
But he noted the battles were not yielding major gains for either side: "Neither the regime nor the rebels are able to gain a decisive advantage."
In Damascus, Assad's soldiers launched their own offensive - against civilians:
In northern Damascus, meanwhile, Assad's forces attacked several rebel areas on Friday, said the Observatory.
"Regime forces stormed the neighborhoods of Barzeh, Jubar and Qaboon in Damascus, cutting off streets and breaking into and raiding houses. They arrested a large number of residents," it said.
The Local Coordination Committees activist network said "a large number of soldiers and tanks have deployed throughout" Barzeh district and that "the sound of gunfire can be heard, and families in the neighborhood are in panic."
And so it goes, on and on, with no end in sight.