ALEPPO, Syria — Syrian dissidents trying to fight off an army offensive in Aleppo said yesterday they were running low on bullets as President Bashar al Assad’s forces encircled their stronghold at the southern entrance to the country’s biggest city.
“We don’t have enough ammunition to send to the front line,” said Abu Jamil, a dissident fighter.
Gaping holes in buildings and rubble-strewn streets in Salaheddine, a main theatre for the fighting, were clear signs of the intensified government offensive that has drawn on air power and heavy artillery.
Where dissidents casually had sipped tea under shop awnings last week, they sought shelter in the doorways of abandoned homes and ran to dodge bullets yesterday.
Some fighters hastily packed cars with rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs, wires poking out of them, apparently getting ready to move on.
The dissidents are fighting to defend positions including Salaheddine from government forces trying to advance along the main highway leading into the city from the southwest. Parts of the ancient city have not seen any fighting at all.
“Every day the attacks from the Syrian army are getting more vicious,” said Shaikh Tawfiq, a dissident commander, speaking at an abandoned home serving as a temporary outpost for him and his men, who were using ammunition boxes as makeshift chairs.
Around them were reminders that this was until recently someone’s home: a television, a computer and a carpet rolled up for the summer months and stored in the corner. Many of Aleppo’s residents have fled.
“The government believes that it will be a great embarrassment if it is unable to break through Salaheddine... This is the gateway to Aleppo, if it can enter from this area then all the liberated police stations, checkpoints and others inside Aleppo will be under their control,” he said.
A Reuters journalist saw two men screaming in pain and bleeding heavily from wounds inflicted by a tank shell.
Abu Ali, another dissident commander, said that poor communications and heavy shelling were making it harder to send reinforcements to the frontline.
Dissident fighters said Syrian forces had started to erect their own checkpoints in parts of Aleppo. — Reuters