Intense fighting rages in Syria's city of Aleppo

Associated Press
Syrians look for the bodies two girls thought to be under the rubble of a building hit by a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012 (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
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BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces on Monday marked the second day of a major Muslim holiday with heavy shelling of the cities of Aleppo and Daraa and a suburb of the capital Damascus, killing up to 30 people, rights groups and activists said.

Monday's is the second day of the Eid Al-Fitr, a three-day holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from food, water and other worldly pleasures from dawn to dusk.

During Al-Eid, Muslims the world over celebrate by wearing new clothes, feasting on sumptuous food and visiting the graves of loved ones. Monday's fighting, however, shows the regime is not letting up on its drive to quell the nation's 18-month-old uprising out of respect for the occasion.

Activists reported no signs of jubilation across the battered nation, with smaller-than-usual turnout for the traditional Al-Eid prayer on the first day and an air of gloom descending on major cities.

Anti-regime activists say some 20,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011.

The fighting comes a day after the U.N.'s new envoy to Syria acknowledged that he had no concrete ideas to end the conflict and that his mission would be difficult without a unified position by the U.N. Security Council.

"The problem is not what I can do differently, it is how others are going to behave differently," Lakhdar Brahimi told The Associated Press at his Paris home on Sunday.

"If they spoke in one voice and were clearly supportive of what I will be doing on their behalf, that is what I need," Brahimi said of what he seeks from the Security Council. "Without a unified voice from the Security Council, I think it will be difficult," the former Algerian foreign minister added.

The rights groups and activists said shelling on Monday by tanks and warplanes caused two houses to collapse in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, killing at least 14 people. The buildings were in the Al-Sakhour and Qadi Askar neighborhoods, said activist Mohammed Saeed, reached by Skype inside the city.

Aleppo has been the scene of daily battles for several weeks now, with forces loyal to President Bashar Assad trying to wrest control from the rebels but without making much headway.

Saeed also said that fighting raged inside the city with rebel forces making advances in the districts of Al-Jadidah and Maadi Telal.

The reports from the activists and groups — the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees — could not be independently verified.

In the southern city of Daraa, birthplace of the anti-regime uprising in March, 2011, intense fighting between government troops and rebels killed six people, including two children and two women, the groups said.

An activist in the Damascus area, El-Said Mohammed, said seven people were killed and at least 70 wounded when government forces shelled the town of Moadamiyeh with tanks and mortars. He said the defection on Sunday to the rebels' side of some 30 troops along with a tank from army forces in the area may have been behind Monday's shelling.

Mohammed spoke by Skype from the greater Damascus area. His information could not be verified, but the Observatory said the shelling in Moadamiyeh killed at least 10 civilians and three rebels.

Brahimi, the new U.N. envoy, was named Friday to replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria. He served as a U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the end of Lebanon's civil war as an Arab League envoy.

He said Annan's mission failed "because the international community was not as supportive as he needed them to be."

Russia and China have used their veto power at the Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against the regime of Syria's Assad.

Brahimi was travelling to New York Sunday. Later he will go to Cairo for meetings with the Arab League.

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