Syrian rebels announced ‘decisive attack’ in Aleppo on Thursday as Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of pursuing policies that had destabilized states in the Arab world and now risked creating chaos in Syria.
Several thousand Syrian rebels on Thursday afternoon launched what they said would be a decisive battle for control of the strategic northern city of Aleppo.
“Tonight, Aleppo will be ours or we will be defeated,” Abu Furat, a rebel commander, told AFP.
Separately, an AFP correspondent saw dozens of rebels grouping in schools in the city’s northern Izaa quarter and firing mortars.
Aleppo has been the scene of fierce fighting since July, when rebels launched an offensive to capture commercial capital.
After some early successes, the rebel campaign slowed because of a shortage of ammunition.
As many as 109 people have been killed on Thursday by the fire of Syrian forces across the country, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Meanwhile, news agencies quoted Putin as saying that “the most important thing is that our partners cannot stop themselves.” He made the comment at his local Moscow residence at a meeting with local residents of the Ryazan region in central Russia.
“They have already created a situation of chaos in many territories and are now continuing the same policy in other countries -- including Syria,” said Putin, according to Reuters.
Putin’s tough talk comes a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron told the U.N. General Assembly that nations like Russia and China who vetoed sanctions resolutions on Syria had left a “terrible stain” on the United Nations’ reputation.
Countering the accusations, Putin used apocalyptic language to warn that Syria risked seeing the kind of bloody chaos that followed the Roman Empire's invasion of Carthage and the great city’s fall in 146 BC.
He described this as the world's first example “of wide-scale ethnic cleansing.”
One fable said the Romans then salted corpses to make sure that nothing ever grew there -- a process Putin described in bloody detail and warned might be repeated again in Syria.
“The Roman empire not only seized and occupied Carthage, but even when it destroyed everything, it dismembered everyone and then poured salt over them to make sure that nothing grew back,” Putin said.
“We would really like not to see what happened in history many centuries ago repeated again today,” the strongman Russian leader stressed.
But he then argued that “something similar happens when strong countries try to force weak ones to follow their own rules of conduct and their moral codes.”
Putin has often used colorful and forceful language to make his point in disputes with the West over policies ranging from the conduct of war to his own human rights record.
Cameron had used the U.N. General Assembly podium to effectively accuse Russia of having the blood of Syrian children on its hands
“The blood of these young children is a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations,” Cameron said in reference to a death toll that the Observatory said has reached more than 30,000.
“And in particular, a stain on those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities and in some cases aided and abetted President (Bashar al-Assad's) reign of terror.”
Russia continues to sell arms to Syria and has repeatedly rejected sanctions against is last major Arab world all as an example of biased policy in a civil war.
Meanwhile, a militant group claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on the Syrian army headquarters in Damascus a day earlier, according to a statement posted on the Internet.
Al-Nusra Front said Wednesday’s assault was carried out in two stages, starting with a suicide bomber detonating a car near the building.
It said four suicide attackers posing as security guards entered the compound in a second vehicle, seized the first floor and engaged soldiers inside before detonating their car, setting the building on fire, according to Reuters.
The statement, which featured photos of the building on fire, said all five militants died in the attack.
The Free Syrian Army, the main rebel force in an 18-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, has also said it was behind the attack and that dozens of people were killed.
The Syrian army said four guards were killed and 14 wounded in what it described as suicide attacks, and that no senior officers were among the casualties.
Al-Nusra has claimed a number of major attacks in Syria in recent months, including a raid and bombing of a pro-government Syrian TV channel headquarters in July and twin bombings in Damascus that killed 55 people in May.