x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Bashar Al Assad visits Aleppo

Syria's president, Bashar Al Assad, visited Aleppo to take a first-hand look at the fighting between government forces and rebels and ordered 30,000 more troops into battle, a Lebanese newspaper said yesterday.

BEIRUT // Syria's president, Bashar Al Assad, visited Aleppo to take a first-hand look at the fighting between government forces and rebels and ordered 30,000 more troops into battle, a Lebanese newspaper said yesterday.

The Al-Diyar daily, which is known for its pro-Assad stance, said the president had flown by helicopter at dawn from the presidential palace in Damascus to Aleppo.

It did not specify what day the trip started but said that Mr Al Assad was still in the city. He decided to visit to verify reports that the situation there had become very serious.

Rebels mounted a new offensive last week to seize the city, which was until July firmly under Mr Al Assad's control. They claim to hold most of the Old City but are struggling to hang on to their positions in the face of heavy artillery fire.

In the capital yesterday, the Syrian army rained shells on rebel bastions. The fresh offensive in Damascus came hours after UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the regime to show compassion to its people.

A bombardment by the army of the rebel-held Harasta district in the capital killed at least 11 people, two of them women, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A Hizbollah commander and several other fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group have been killed in Syria, a Lebanese security official said yesterday.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Associated Press