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Syrian rebels launch major offensive in Aleppo

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A rebel unit of army defectors launched a major offensive against security facilities in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and anti-regime forces targeted air bases to try to reduce the military threat from the skies, activists said Friday.

The coordinated attacks by the Brigade of Free Syrians pointed to a higher-than-usual degree of planning by the rebels, suggesting that President Bashar Assad's opponents are becoming more brazen as the civil war deepens.

The Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that monitors violence and rights abuses in Syria, said rebels shot down a helicopter in Sarmeen, in the northeastern province of Idlib. One helicopter was downed in Damascus on Monday.

The three coordinated attacks in Aleppo began before midnight Thursday and ended Friday morning — two days after Assad conceded his forces have been unable to quell the rebellion. His military is bogged down in Aleppo and unable to crush the rebels in Damascus and its suburbs.

The rebel offensive in Aleppo targeted an artillery training school, a compound of the air force intelligence, and an army checkpoint, according to Mohammed Saeed, an activist in the city.

The three simultaneous attacks left an unspecified number of troops dead or wounded and badly damaged the top floor of the air force intelligence compound, Saeed said via Skype.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said rebels killed regime forces at an air force compound in Aleppo's Zahraa neighborhood, but had no details on the other two attacks reported by Saeed.

Rebels in northern Syria said they are fighting for control of an air base in Idlib province, the second such facility to come under attack this week. Activists say a third air base, also in the north, came under attack Friday.

Syrian rebels launch major offensive in Aleppo 08/31/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 10:05pm]

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