Syria: Fears for Aleppo as Hezbollah fighters bolster Assad’s forces

 

Syrian rebels fought back against forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on Sunday after losing territory to government forces in recent days. Having been driven out of the key town of Qusayr two weeks ago, rebel fighters have been flocking to Aleppo to shore up one of the few remaining opposition strongholds.

Renewed fighting suggest that the city has become the latest target for regime loyalists emboldened by the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters that have swelled their ranks. Rebel leaders and their backers in the West and other Arab countries fear that the strident support of Hezbollah has tipped the two-year conflict in Assad’s favour; a development that has led the West – especially the UK, US and France – to openly contemplate arming the rebels for the first time.

Regime forces have not yet launched a fully-fledged assault on Aleppo, but reports in newspapers loyal to President Assad have suggested that the army sees the city as its next target. Capturing Aleppo would also allow the army to cut off major supply lines from Turkey to rebel strongholds in the north.

Activists in the region have told the Reuters news agency that opposition forces, including growing numbers of radicalised Islamists, have been mounting counter-attacks on Hezbollah-backed troops and militiamen recruited from Shia enclaves near Aleppo, a mostly Sunni city some 20 miles from the border with Turkey. The violence is also spilling over into Lebanon, where four Shia men were yesterday killed in an ambush in the Bekaa Valley, a region where families loyal to President Assad live side-by-side with those who support the opposition.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said last week she feared that the bloodshed in Qusayr would be repeated in Aleppo and undermine international efforts to push for an end to more than two years of civil war. The UN reported last week that some 93,000 people have now been killed in the conflict while more than a million have been displaced.

The feeling that the pro-Assad forces may be gaining the upper hand has led to a flurry of diplomatic activity in the West and the Arab world, focused on arming the rebels. Jordan’s King Abdullah told graduating military cadets in Amman yesterday that they must be ready to fend off any threats from Syria. More than half a million refugees have already crossed the Syrian border into Jordan.

For the West, Jordan is becoming an increasingly important fulcrum in the regional response to the Syrian conflict. It is hosting a large-scale military exercise involving thousands of US troops, and media reports yesterday suggested that British soldiers could also be sent to Jordan.

The US has also agreed to install Patriot missile batteries along Jordan’s 235-mile border with Syria and is allowing a squadron of up to 24 F-16 fighter jets to remain after the exercises. Hours earlier Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi announced that Cairo would cut all diplomatic ties with Syria and withdraw its diplomats in Damascus.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
football
Sport
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
News
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine