Rome, (IANS/AKI) Italy has urged the world community to intensify pressure on embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to prevent further carnage, as his regime began what local media termed “the mother of all battles” on rebels in the city of Aleppo.
“We all need to increase to the maximum degree the pressure on Assad, not least to avert the risk a fresh massacre,” Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in a statement Friday.
Terzi said he was “extremely worried” at the “distressing” reports of the assault on Aleppo, which pro-Assad forces have been pounding since July 20, in what analysts say is a bid to establish a bastion close to the rebel military headquarters in neighbouring Turkey.
Italy is considering sending more humanitarian aid to Syria, especially for children and other “vulnerable” sections of the population. Italian aid workers are already operating in the country, Terzi said.
Syrian pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported a news story with the headline “Aleppo, the mother of all battles”, and added that “the army continues to chase terrorists in the outskirts of Damascus and the province”.
The Syrian army has been sending waves of reinforcements towards the northern city, and troops stationed on the outskirts of Aleppo unleashed barrages of heavy-calibre mortar rounds on the western neighbourhoods of Saladin, al-Sukkari and al-Fardos.
while Russian MI-25 helicopter gunships struck al-Sakhour in the east with rockets, several opposition activists in the city told satellite TV network al-Arabiya.
Around 100 tanks and a large number of military vehicles have arrived in Aleppo, the country’s commercial hub, said a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Opposition fighters have also brought in reinforcements. A source estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 opposition fighters had arrived from outside Syria’s most populous city to reinforce some 2,000 already fighting inside Aleppo, al-Arabiya said.
At least 34 people were killed in Aleppo and surrounding areas Thursday, according to opposition activists keeping a tally of casualties in the northern city.
So far, most of the victims of the Syrian army bombardments have been civilians, they said.
International diplomacy has been so far been ineffective in ending he 16-month conflict between Assad and rebels seeking to end his rule. The opposition claims around 19,000 people have been killed.