Syrian rebels trying to fight off an army offensive in Aleppo said today they were running low on ammunition as President Bashar al-Assad's forces encircled their stronghold at the southern entrance to the country's biggest city.
Assad, dealt another political blow yesterday with the defection of his prime minister, has reinforced his troops in preparation for an assault to recapture rebel-held districts of Aleppo after repelling fighters from most of Damascus.
"The Syrian army is trying to encircle us from two sides of Salaheddine," said Sheikh Tawfiq, one of the rebel commanders, referring to the southwestern neighbourhood which has seen heavy fighting over the last week.
Mortar fire and tank shells exploded across the district early on Tuesday, forcing rebel fighters to take cover in crumbling buildings and rubble-strewn alleyways.
Tanks have entered parts of Salaheddine and army snipers, using the cover of heavy bombardment, deployed on rooftops, hindering rebel movements.
Another rebel commander, Abu Ali, said snipers at the main Saleheddine roundabout were preventing the rebels from bringing in reinforcements and supplies. He said five of his fighters were killed yesterday and 20 wounded.
But rebels said they were still holding the main streets of Salaheddine which have been the frontline of their clashes with Assad's forces.
A fighter jet pounded targets in the eastern districts of Aleppo and artillery shelling could be heard in the early morning, an activist in Aleppo said.
"Two families, about 14 people in total, were believed killed when a shell hit their home and it collapsed this morning," the activist said. The house was one street away from a school being used by rebels, he said.