December 16, 2012

Syrian Islamist rebels take Aleppo infantry base

Forces fighting to topple President Bashar Assad advance on the country's largest city.

By BARBARA SURK/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover Saturday during heavy clashes with government forces at an infantry base besieged by the rebels north of Aleppo. Free Syrian Army fighters took control over the military academy after battling government forces for several hours.

The Associated Press

The Observatory relies on reports from activists on the ground.

The Palestinians are divided over the crisis in Syria. When the unrest began in March 2011, the half-million-strong community tried to stay on the sidelines. But in recent months, many Palestinians started supporting the uprising, although most insisted the opposition to the regime should be peaceful.

A few groups with longstanding ties to the regime are fighting on the government side, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

A Yarmouk resident told The Associated Press that the clashes between rebels and PFLP-GC gunmen flared up on Friday when rebels tried to take over the PFLP-GC's headquarters in Yarmouk.

He said the rebels have taken positions all over Yarmouk, a densely populated area in southern Damascus, shooting at government buildings and police outposts held by PFLP-GC gunmen.

The resident, who observed the fighting from the edge of the camp, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

"There is a lot of fire all over, after the bombs were dropped on Yarmouk," he told the AP. "People are fleeing in all directions to find safety."

An activist video posted online after the attack on Yarmouk shows scattered glass, debris and twisted metal on a narrow street. Gravely injured people are seen lying on the street in pools of blood.

The videos appear consistent with AP's reporting from the area.

In Ramallah, Palestinian officials blasted the Syrian government for the attack.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the crime of Assad's regime in Yarmouk refugee camp, and call on all international parties, including the states that still back this regime, to act immediately and stop these massacres against Syrians and Palestinians in Syria," PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo told the AP.

Anwar Rajja, a Damascus-based spokesman for the PFLP-GC told the AP that several civilians and the group's fighters were killed and injured in the Yarmouk fighting.

He said his group is fighting "terrorists," who have come to the camp from the front lines in the suburbs of Damascus. The areas have been opposition strongholds since the beginning of the uprising. The Syrian regime and state media refer to the rebels as terrorists.

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