The battle between Syrian troops and rebels for the control of Aleppo, Syria’s second city, c continued on Thursday amid contradictory information circulating over the evolution of the fighting. The rebels were completely removed Thursday from the emblematic Salaheddin district after an unprecedented bombardment by the Syrian army.
“The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has made a tactical withdrawal Thursday from Salaheddine due to the violent bombing and destruction,” said Colonel Qassem Saad Eddine, a rebel leader. “This withdrawal does not mean that we leave Aleppo. We have our military plans to fight in the city but of course we will not reveal them,” he added.
Around 3:00 local time (0000 GMT), the districts of Hanano, Al Sakhour, Shaar and Seif Dawla (southwest) were intensely bombarded, reported opposition organizations.
The Local Coordinating Committees, which organize the protest on the ground, have confirmed the bombing of Al-Sakhour.
On Wednesday, the violence across the country left 167 dead, including 95 civilians, 54 soldiers and 18 rebels. In the city of Aleppo, 33 people were killed, including 24 civilians and nine rebels.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister Wael al-Halqi was appointed as the new Prime Minister following the defection of former prime minister Riad Hijab, said the Syrian television. “President Bashar al-Assad signed a decree appointing Mr. Wael al-Halqi as Prime Minister,” said television.
In another development, a “consultative meeting” on Syria was being held on Thursday in Tehran. The Iranian authorities said they expect a dozen countries to attend and offer “a realistic” solution about the crisis. Television showed pictures of some 30 representatives attending the conference, opened by the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi. Among them were diplomats from Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Neighboring Lebanon has already said it would not participate due to its observance of “neutrality” in the conflict. Kofi Annan, the UN and the Arab League mediator who has recently resigned, has also declined to attend.
Tehran accuses Western countries as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, of helping the Syrian rebels.