BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian forces battled rebels near the airport in war-battered Aleppo, Syria’s state media said today, in the first official acknowledgment that fighting has reached the doorstep of the strategic site in the country’s largest city.

In Damascus, activists reported heavy shelling and clashes in many areas, including western districts believed to have rebel pockets. Damascus based activist Moaz al- Shami described the shelling as “nonstop” and said gunners were firing from the Qasioun mountains overlooking the city.

The fighting in Syria’s two main cities showed the intensity of the civil war and the regime’s inability to suppress the rebels despite their overwhelming firepower.

Rebel footholds in Aleppo have been the target of weeks of Syrian shelling and air attacks as part of wider offensives by President Bashar Assad’s regime. Rebels have been driven from some areas, but the report of clashes near the airport suggests the battles could be shifting to new fronts.

Syria’s official SANA news agency said “armed terrorist groups” — the regime’s phrase for rebels — had been pushed out from areas on both sides of the airport, which is located about nine miles southeast of Aleppo’s historical center. The report did not make it clear whether the fighting was closer to the international airport or the adjacent military airfield.

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