Syrian Army Uses Artillery, Aircraft in City Battle with Rebels

The Syrian regime is reportedly using jet fighters, artillery and tanks in its fight with rebels in the city of Aleppo, as what appears to be a major battle in the 17-month uprising rages. Despite the intensity of the onslaught, the US disagreed with the belief the rebels are struggling.

US spokesman Patrick Ventrell was quoted by the State Department as saying of the rebels, “We do believe that they’ve gained strength; we do believe they’ve made some major advances. There’s no doubt, however, that this regime is willing to go to great lengths to stay in power, and it includes some very vicious tactics. But we think they continue to be ever more united and increasingly effective.”

The American spokesman cited reports of jets firing missiles into civilian locations and ticked off the variety of military means being wielded against the rebels in Syria.

“We just think that it’s unconscionable that the government would use fighter jets, artillery, tanks, and helicopters to bombard towns and cities under the rubric of protecting them,” said Ventrell. “Nor do we see how they possibly can justify closing hospitals and hindering humanitarian access, which is what the regime is clearly doing now.”

Al Jazeera quoted an opposition activist in Aleppo as calling the battle “the worst” in the major Syrian city since protesters first turned on President Bashar al-Assad almost a year-and-a-half ago.

The death toll is surging as well. Ventrell said 162 were reportedly killed on Wednesday. Al Arabiya, citing the Syrian Network for Human Rights, said more than 100 people were killed by security forces on Thursday.

Despite the situation in Aleppo, the US spokesman defied reporter’s doubts by expressing American encouragement regarding the rebels. “I would say about the broader issue though of momentum is that despite this onslaught, we think that the army is increasingly overstretched. We think that the economy is under increasing strain.

“And we think the rebels are getting stronger,” said Ventrell. “So they may tactically retreat from neighborhoods here or there, but the broader trend line is that the opposition continues to gain strength as they hold large swaths of territory in the north.”

The protest movement-turned armed rebellion against Assad has persisted despite reports of military attacks and torture by the regime. The US, a vocal opponent of Assad’s brutality, has remained confident that the Syrian government is on its way out. However, it has remained unclear when or if that will occur.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, August 9, 2012)