SHAFAQNA-- The minaret of one of Syria's most famous mosques has been destroyed during clashes in the northern city of Aleppo.
The state news agency Sana accused rebels of blowing up the 11th-Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque.
However, activists say the minaret was hit by Syrian army tank fire.
The mosque, which is a Unesco world heritage site, has been in rebel hands since earlier this year but the area around it is still contested.
Last October Unesco appealed for the protection of the site, which it described as "one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world".
Images posted on the internet showed the minaret reduced to a pile of rubble in the mosque's tiled courtyard.
Other parts of the mosque complex - which dates mostly from the 12th Century - have been badly damaged by gunfire and shell hits.
A report by Sana said fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group had destroyed the once famous landmark.
It quoted an official source saying that "terrorists... placed explosive materials in the minaret and the mosque's southern door and set them off".
However, Aleppo-based activist Mohammed al-Khatib, quoted by AP news agency, said a tank shell had "totally destroyed" the 45m (148ft) minaret.
The mosque has suffered extensive damage during months of fighting, with antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades affected.
Reports say some ancient artefacts have also been looted, including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Muhammad's hair.
However, rebels said they had salvaged ancient handwritten Koranic manuscripts and hidden them.
Earlier, rebels and government forces reportedly clashed near Aleppo as they fought for control of a military airbase.
Rebels took a key military position outside the Minnigh airport on Tuesday and launched another raid on Wednesday, according to opposition activists with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"The rebels, who have laid siege to the airport for months now, entered it for the first time around dawn," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based activist group, told AFP news agency.
Heavy fighting was taking place in the grounds, he added.
Analysts say losing control of the airport would be a strategic blow for the government.
The Free Syrian Army has been trying to seize a number of airbases in the area to disrupt regime supply routes.
In another development on Wednesday, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister told the BBC that his country was fighting a war against terrorism.
Faisal Mekdad said the international community should be supporting President Assad and his government.
Asked if he thought the Syrian government could still defeat the rebels, he said: "We shall defend our sovereignty and independence to the last drop. We have a strong army, we have a lot of our people who are supporting the government, who are uniting their ranks to defend the country. And in such a situation they will never defeat Syria."
According to the UN, at least 70,000 people have been killed in the civil war and more than a million are now living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Syrian rebels have used captured tanks to launch a fresh offensive on a government complex housing a police academy near Aleppo, sparking clashes with government troops over the strategic facility.
The military on Sunday responded with air strikes against the opposition forces.
Rebels have made a string of strategic victories over the past few weeks, especially in and around northern Syria, where Aleppo is located.
Capturing the complex near Aleppo would be another blow to the regime that has in recent weeks lost control key infrastructure in the northeast including a hydroelectric dam, a major oil field and two army bases along the road linking Aleppo with the airport to its east.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said rebels have been trying for months to storm the complex west of Aleppo in the suburb of Khan al-Asal.
Rebels have also been trying for weeks to capture Aleppo's International Airport.
A senior Syrian opposition leader said on Sunday that the Syrian National Coalition, his political umbrella group, has suspended participation in meetings with its Western backers and their Arab allies because of their indifference over the regime's attacks on the Syrian people in Aleppo and in other cities.
"Assad has reached the stage of real genocide amid Arab silence and we renounce that,'' said George Sabra, vice president of the Syrian National Coalition. He spoke to reporters in Cairo after meeting the Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
A statement posted on the Facebook page of Sabra's opposition group on Friday said its leaders would not travel to Washington or Moscow for any talks to protest the international community's "silence over crimes committed by
The statement also said that the opposition leaders would boycott a meeting next month in Rome of the Friends of Syria, which includes the United States and its European allies.
On Friday, Syrian government forces launched fresh rockets at residential areas in eastern Aleppo, killing at least 37 people and destroying scores of homes.
The attacks, which were called "Scud-type" by activists due to the scale of destruction, has been the latest in a series of strikes that appear to be conducted with the ground-to-ground Russian-made ballistic missile.
"The number of victims is more than 30 people and more than 50 houses are destroyed in this area alone," the Reuters news agency has quoted a Syrian opposition source as saying.
"And behind these houses there are more than 25 destroyed houses. And in this house we hold out things for a girl lost her family," he said.
"Six from her family were killed and she is alone she is three years old and thank God she survived. And now the
young ones are taking things out [from the house] and taking them to her uncle. This girl's life has been destroyed by Bashar al-Assad, by Iran, by Russia. And we have only our god."
On Tuesday, activists said at least 33 people were killed when a large missile of the same type as the Scud missile hit the district of Jabal Badro.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –A rocket attack on a rebel-held district in the city of Aleppo killed at least 20 people and left another 25 missing, opposition activists said on Tuesday.
"The rocket brought down three adjacent buildings in Jabal Badro district. The bodies are being dug up gradually. Some, including children, have died in hospitals," Mohammad Nour said by phone from Aleppo.
He said testimony from survivors indicated that another 25 people were still under the rubble.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Opposition fighters in Syria have seized a military air base and captured warplanes in the north of the country, as part of an assault on strategic northern targets.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday's capture of the military airport at al-Jarah in Aleppo province. The London-based monitor said the fighters also seized for the first time a fleet of deployable warplanes including MiG fighter jets.
Speaking to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, a regime military source in Aleppo confirmed the capture "after 48 hours of fierce combat", but downplayed the importance of al-Jarrah.
"It is a very small airport, used for training purposes," he said. "There are only small amounts of unusable ammunition left there, and several planes that have long been out of action."
During their assault on the airport, the fighters killed, injured or imprisoned 40 troops, the Observatory said. The remaining troops pulled out, leaving behind ammunition and warplanes.
Soon afterwards, the air force used fighter jets to bombard the airport in hopes of dislodging the fighters, the Observatory said. Warplanes also carried out raids near the international airport which has come under a rebel assault.
Activists in Aleppo have told the AFP news agency that fighters in the north have shifted their focus from city battles to the capture of military airports and bases.
"They are important because they are an instant source of ammunition and supplies, and because their capture means putting out of action the warplanes used to bombard us," Abu Hisham, an Aleppo-based fighter, said via the Internet.
While fighters have seen victories in northern and eastern Syria, they have yet to take a major city in the war-ravaged country almost two years into the revolution.
The capture of al-Jarrah airport came just over a month after fighters overran Taftanaz airbase, the largest in northern Syria.
Amateur video shot by fighters overrunning al-Jarrah and distributed via the Internet showed a fleet of warplanes lining the airport's runways.
"Thank God, Ahrar al-Sham [an armed opposition group] have overrun the military airport" at al-Jarrah, said an unidentified cameraman who shot a video at the site.
"MiG warplanes are now in the hands of Ahrar al-Sham. And here is the ammunition," the cameraman added, filming two Russian-made fighter jets similar to those used by the army since last summer to bombard rebel targets.
The authenticity of the video could not be verified.
According to UN figures, more than 60,000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since protests against Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, began in March 2011
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- At least 65 bodies were found on the banks of the Quwaiq river in the western district of Bustan al-Qasr, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.
Most had their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the head.
Video footage of the gruesome discovery was posted by activists on YouTube.
It showed a large number of bodies strewn in and around the banks of the Quwaiq, which skirts the western side of Aleppo.
The bodies were caked in grey mud and showed signs of rigor mortis. There were also signs of blood having poured from many of the heads.
Rigor mortis, a stiffening of the limbs of a corpse, begins around three hours after death, peaks at around 12 hours and is completely dissipated some two days later.
A captain in the rebel Free Syrian Army said some of those who had been killed were just teenagers.
He told the AFP news agency that many bodies were still in the water and the death toll might rise to 100.
One volunteer helping to load bodies on to a lorry said there was no identification on the bodies.
People were gathering at the bank to see if they could find their missing relatives, AFP reported.
"My brother disappeared weeks ago when he was crossing [through] the regime-held zone, and we don't know where he is or what has become of him," said Mohammed Abdul Aziz.
Activists say the victims had been killed after being arrested by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
A Syrian government source said that many of the victims had been kidnapped but accused "terrorists" - the term officials use to describe the rebels - of carrying out the kidnappings and killings.
"They were kidnapped by terrorist groups... and executed last night in a park in Bustan al-Qasr under their control," the source told AFP.
"Now these terrorist groups are creating a media campaign, showing the bodies being recovered from the Quwaiq river in an area under their control."
The river's source is in Turkey, but it flows through both government- and rebel-held territory in Syria.
The district of Bustan al-Qasr has been hotly contested since fighting broke out in Aleppo last July, the BBC's Jim Muir reports from Beirut.
Aleppo had largely been spared the conflict until that point.
Since July, the city has been more or less divided equally between government and rebel forces, with neither side apparently able to push the other out, despite constant clashes, our correspondent adds.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A massive blast has hit a neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and caused several casualties, state television has said, blaming the rebels for the attack.
Syria TV said on Friday the explosion had been caused by a rocket fired by a "terrorist group" - a term it frequently uses to describe rebels in the 22-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Video broadcast on Syrian state TV showed several floors of the targeted building collapsed in a government-controlled area of the city, Syria's largest urban centre and main commercial hub.
A man was seen carrying a baby out of the damaged building and another man was seen clutching his head as blood ran down his forehead.
It was the second time in a week that the government accused rebels of firing rockets.
But opposition groups have said Assad's forces were behind the blast, which hit the Muhafaza Sakaniya neighbourhood in a western district of the city.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12 people were killed in the Aleppo attack and dozens were wounded. The group relies on reports from activists on the ground.
The state TV also reported that attacks had occurred near a mosque in southern city of Deraa, but gave no details regarding the casualty figures and the number of wounded.
The attack occurred when worshippers were leaving a mosque following Friday prayers in the southern city, the state TV said.
The attacks come amid a spike in violence in Syria and a particularly bloody week as the uprising gets worse.
On Tuesday, 87 people were killed in twin blasts at Aleppo University.
Each side blamed the other for that attack. The regime said rebels hit the university with rockets, while rebels said the deaths resulted from regime airstrikes.
Meanwhile, airstrikes have continued in several suburbs of the Syrian capital. The heaviest fighting is being reported in Daraya, where rebel fighters have been holed up for weeks.
Activists said at least 11 civilians were killed, including four children, from one strike and others are still trapped under the rubble.
Also on Friday, fighting between Syrian rebels and Assad's loyalists flared in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, killing 12 people and wounding at least 20 others, a UN refugee agency said.
Children were among the casualties, according to a statement issued by the UN Relief and Works Agency. The agency called on both sides to "pull back from civilian areas, including refugee camps".
The Palestinian camp called Yarmouk has been the scene of heavy clashes between rebels and regime loyalists since mid-December, when opposition fighters moved into the camp during an attempt to storm the capital.
About half of Yarmouk's 150,000 residents have fled since fighting erupted, according to UNRWA, which administers Palestinian camps in the Middle East.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- State TV said Aleppo University was hit by a "terrorist bombing", although activists say the cause is unclear.
Aleppo has been the scene of numerous bombings and air strikes, as government forces try to dislodge rebels there.
Rebel forces have made sweeping gains in northern Syria in recent months and Aleppo is largely under their control.
The university is located in an area under the control of government forces.
The state news agency, Sana, said the university was hit on the first day of student exams.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, reported two explosions and said dozens of people had been wounded.
Pictures on state television showed at least one body and several vehicles on fire.
Rebels have previously carried out bombings against government targets in Aleppo.
In October, at least 34 people were killed in a series of bombings in the city's main square.
The UN says at least 60,000 people have been killed since protests in March 2011 turned into an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Syrian opposition fighters have said they have captured more than 250 members of the government's armed forces in the province of Idlib.
The announcement on Saturday was accompanied by amateur video showing what the rebels claim are 256 captured Syrian soldiers who were displayed for the cameras.
"All we know is that these prisoners are from Az Zainiyeh," Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reported from Antakya.
"Az Zainiyeh was where the Syrian army forces had withdrawn after opposition fighters had driven them out of the villages in that part of Idlib."
The rebels took Az Zainiyeh three days ago and the the prisoners may have been captured during that fighting. Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the identity of the prisoners or where the video was filmed.
Also on Saturday, strong explosions were reported in the Syrian capital and the city of Aleppo, according to a Syrian opposition group.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LC) in Syria told Al Jazeera a large explosion struck near the Air Force Intelligence Branch in the neighborhood of Jamiah Al-Zahra'a in Aleppo on Saturday morning. Heavy gunfire and armed clashes were also reported in the area.
The LCC also reported a large blast in Damascus.
Opposition fighters told a correspondent for the AFP news agency in Aleppo that their forces had captured a government military site near the city early on Friday. Massive clouds of grey smoke could be seen rising from the site in Al-Taana.
The head of the university hospital in Aleppo, who was accused by the opposition of backing the regime and kidnapped in July, was murdered and his body found on Friday, a friend of the doctor told AFP.
Opposition fighters also attacked a large air force post on the highway connecting Aleppo to Raqa province, further to the east, near Kweris military airport, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Anti-government demonstrations were held across Syria after the weekly Muslim prayers.
Government forces fired on protesters in the Halab al-Jadida district, wounding a number of demonstrators, the Observatory said.
Syrian activists uploaded amateur video online on Friday of what appeared to be attacks by government forces over Syria's largest city, Aleppo.
In one video, an attack plane appears to be strafing areas near the city, while in another local residents run for cover amid smoke and dust in what appears to be the immediate aftermath of shelling.
Aleppo has been the scene of intense fighting, particularly since rebels launched a new offensive two weeks ago to try to dislodge regime troops.
The fighting has devastated large areas of the city of three million, Syria's former business capital.
According to the Observatory, the rebels took 256 soldiers prisoner in capturing the town of Khirbat al-Joz and nearby areas in Idlib province along the border with Turkey since last week.
After seizing a stretch of highway near Maaret al-Numan, the rebels were able to cut the route linking Damascus to embattled commercial hub Aleppo on Thursday, choking the flow of troops to the north, according to a reporter for AFP.
The United States denounced Russia's policy of aiding the Syrian government as "morally bankrupt" on Friday, as tensions between Damascus and Ankara escalate over cargo seized from a Syrian passenger plane.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Syrian Army soldiers have killed scores of foreign-backed insurgents fighting government forces in the flashpoint city of Aleppo.
The armed men were killed during intense clashes with Syrian troops in the al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo on Saturday, the SANA news agency reported.
Syrian troops also destroyed a weapons cache in the Sayyed Ali neighborhood of the violence-plagued city, which is located 355 kilometers (220 miles) north of Damascus, and killed all the insurgents at the site, the Syrian military announced.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Army inflicted heavy losses on foreign-sponsored insurgents in Aleppo’s Darat Izza district on Saturday and destroyed 10 pickup trucks equipped with Dushka machine guns.
Syrian soldiers also attacked insurgents who were driving down the al-Atareb-Oroum al-Soughra highway in dozens of vehicles equipped with Dushka machine guns, killing a large number of them.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011.
Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country and accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey of arming the opposition.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Armed forces carried out two qualitative operations against terrorists near al-Orouba and the Sports clubs in Bustan al-Basha Neighborhood in Aleppo.
The operations resulted in the killing of a number of terrorists.
The competent authorities confiscated 38,000 Liters of oil being prepared to be smuggled out near al-Barkoum Bridge in Aleppo.
Our armed forces direct painful blows to the armed terrorist groups in al-Hosn town in Homs countryside
The armed forces directed painful blows to the armed terrorist groups which were attacking the citizens and the law-enforcement forces in al-Hosn town and the adjacent villages in Homs countryside.
SANA reporter quoted a source in Homs province as saying that the armed forces killed and injured a large number of terrorists, among them a non-Syrian terrorist nicknamed “Abu Kassar”, the leader of one of the armed groups and terrorist Sameh Abdullah al-Daea who was injured.
Competent authorities also arrested terrorists Hlail Hamdan bin Shehadeh and Awad al-Bakri bin Khalaf while they were riding in a stolen car on al-Raqqa-Tal Abyad road.
Armed Forces Arrest Two Terrorists in Jaramana
A unit of the armed forces , in cooperation with the citizens, stormed a hideout for an armed terrorist group in Jaramana city, Damascus Countryside.
SANA reporter quoted an official source as saying that the armed forces arrested two terrorists and confiscated a counterfeit money machine and a sum of counterfeit foreign currencies with them.
Syrian forces air strikes targeted rebel-held police stations inside Aleppo city on Friday, ahead of talks between visiting peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and opposition groups in the 18-month conflict.
An AFP correspondent said three loud explosions were heard in Damascus, where Brahimi spent his first night ahead of meetings with the opposition groups tolerated by the government of President Bashar Al Assad.
Among those the UN and Arab League envoy is scheduled to meet is the opposition National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which brings together Arab nationalists, Kurds and socialists.
Hassan Abdel Azim, spokesman for the opposition bloc, said a delegation would meet Brahimi to inform him of their suggestions for a way out of crisis.
Brahimi, who was appointed earlier this month, said the conflict was getting worse, on arrival at Damascus airport on Thursday.
“We came to Syria to hold meetings with our Syrian brothers because there is a big crisis, and I think it is getting worse,” the Algerian veteran troubleshooter said, quoted by Syria’s Sana news agency.
Brahimimet Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday night. Muallem assured Brahimi of “Syria’s full cooperation” and stressed that any initiative must be based on “the interests of the Syrian people and their freedom of choice without foreign intervention”, Sana reported.
On the battlefront, Syrian forces on Friday used fighter jets and helicopter gunships to pound the city and province of Aleppo, where fierce clashes raged around a military airport, monitors said.
Warplanes bombarded the rebel-held towns of Al Bab and Marea near Aleppo city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that army forces and rebels fought around Minnigh military airport.
In the central Aleppo district of Midan, Syrian forces carried air strikes on two police stations which the rebels had taken over, according to Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
“Whenever the rebels take a police station, the government destroys them,” Abdel Rahman said by phone. “Now no one controls these posts,” he said, adding that “government forces have deployed throughout Midan to try and push out the rebels”.
In the Hanano district in the northeast of Aleppo city, air strikes destroyed another police station in the hands of the rebels, Abdel Rahman said.
Near the capital, at least 15 soldiers were killed or wounded in an attack on their vehicle in the restive town of Douma, where clashes broke out near the municipal building, the Observatory said.
In Damascus itself, three large explosions were heard in the late morning, according to an AFP reporter. The Observatory said that security forces swept its southern districts of Midan and Nahr Aisha.
The Observatory also reported “fierce clashes” inside the capital.
In Lebanon, Pope Benedict on Friday started a weekend visit with a call for an end to arms imports to Syria. “Arms imports must stop once and for all, because without arms imports, war cannot continue,” he told reporters on his plane.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Jafaria News