Syrians clash around 12th century Aleppo mosque as rebels get boost from U.S.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian rebels clashed with regime troops in the narrow stone alleyways around a historic 12th century mosque inside the walled Old City of Aleppo on Thursday, while a government airstrike north of the city killed at least seven people, activists said.

The rebels, who have been slowly chipping away at the regime's hold on Aleppo, received a boost Thursday from the United States in their fight to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. Washington pledged an additional $60 million in assistance to the opposition and — in a significant policy shift — for the first time will provide nonlethal aid like food and medical supplies directly to rebel forces on the ground.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the decision on the sidelines of an international conference on Syria in Rome, where European nations were also expected to signal their intention to provide fresh assistance to the opposition, possibly including defensive military hardware.

The rebels have made strategic gains in northern Syria in recent weeks, including the capture of a hydroelectric dam and some military bases. They also have been regularly hitting the heart of Damascus with mortar rounds, puncturing the aura of normalcy that the regime has tried to cultivate in the capital.

In Aleppo, a key battleground in the civil war, clashes raged around the landmark Umayyad Mosque in the walled Old City, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The rebels control one part of the mosque, and government troops hold the other.

Syrians clash around 12th century Aleppo mosque as rebels get boost from U.S. 02/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 11:14pm]

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