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Assad’s army says it repelled opposition attack

Syrian rebels and insurgents announced earlier they had pushed into the military college, where artillery men trained

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President Bashar al-Assad’s regime army said on Friday that it had repelled an opposition attack in Aleppo and killed hundreds of insurgents, dismissing an announcement by the Syrian rebels saying they had stormed an artillery base in the northern city.

Assad regime’s army said it had foiled the attack on an artillery base and two major barracks and that hundreds of insurgents had been killed and much of their equipment and tanks destroyed. The army said it was the biggest assault by rebels against government-held areas in the last year.

A state television reporter also said the army had foiled several suicide attacks by Islamist insurgents who approached the main fortress-like artillery academy in the Ramousah quarter in the southwest of Aleppo.

Previously, the Syrian rebels and insurgents announced they had pushed into the military college, where artillery men trained in peace-time.

The artillery base, one of the largest in Syria, is almost two kilometers from the besieged regime-held area.

A fighter of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, rides in an armoured vehicle in the 1070 Apartment Project area in southwestern Aleppo, Syria August 5, 2016. (reuters)
A fighter of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, rides in an armoured vehicle in the 1070 Apartment Project area in southwestern Aleppo, Syria August 5, 2016. (reuters)

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also confirmed earlier that a part of the facility was captured. The activist group said fierce clashes had erupted around the college, with casualties on both sides.

Fighters from a coalition of rebel groups called “Jaish al Fateh” that includes: Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and other smaller groups, said they took part of the academy in Ramousah.

“There are two suicide bombers who have driven into regime posts inside the artillery base,” said Abu al-Walid, a fighter with Ahrar al Sham, who said fighting was going on inside the base.

The rebels are also trying to break through a strip of government-controlled territory to reconnect their encircled sector of eastern Aleppo with a swathe of insurgent territory in the west of Syria, effectively breaking the siege.

Rebels said jets flying at high altitude, believed to be Russian, intensified their strikes on the area but were unable to hold back rebel advances because of the terrain.

The rebels on Friday also shelled a nearby, government-controlled neighborhood of Aleppo, killing at least three civilians, according to the Observatory. Syrian state media said five civilians, including three children, were killed.

US, Russia’s fight against extremists

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday that the fight against extremist groups in Syria must be stepped up because they are using poison gas on civilians.

Lavrov and Kerry discussed the Syria conflict in a phone call, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The two men spoke a day after Moscow sharply criticized US behavior in Syria, accusing Washington of backing rebels who use poison gas against civilians and of killing hundreds in air strikes.

Denmark attacks ISIS

Also on Friday, Denmark’s armed forces announced their aircraft have for the first time dropped bombs in Syria’s Raqqa province, where ISIS has its self-declared capital.

Defense Command Denmark said the F-16 raid happened “in the past week” but did not give further details. The supreme military command said the Danish fighter jets also participated in operations over Iraqi provinces targeting ISIS command and control facilities, weapons stocks and fighters.

The Scandinavian country joined the international coalition fighting ISIS in October 2014. Danish warplanes have previously participated in airstrikes on ISIS forces in Iraq, but not Syria. Those planes were brought back for repairs last year.

Denmark’s present contribution to the anti-ISIS effort includes seven F-16 fighter jets, among others, with a mandate to bomb in Syria.

(With Reuters and AP)