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Syria Rebels Launch Offensive in Aleppo

BEIRUT - Fierce fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels were reported Friday in the northern city of Aleppo, as the rebels said they had adopted new military tactics against President Bashar al-Assad's troops.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the areas of Hanano, Bustan al-Qasr and Salaheddin were shelled hours after the rebels attacked a security building in Aleppo's al-Zahraa neighbourhood.

Activist Bassam al-Halabi said the shells were aimed at civilian areas and makeshift hospitals.

Abu Omar, a Free Syrian Army commander, told dpa from Aleppo: "We are now adopting new military tactics, which proved very successful on Thursday and we managed to down planes of the regime forces."

As al-Assad's forces have relied on aerial strikes against opposition strongholds using helicopters and jets, Abu Omar said the rebels "decided on a new military operation, called the Volcano of the North, to destroy each plane firing at us and our people."

He said the rebels in Aleppo had gained ground since Thursday, and that government soldiers had retreated from an area near Salaheddin.

Abu Omar's comments come amid unverified reports that the rebels have recently received advanced weapons such as ground-to-air missiles. This month alone they managed to shoot down two Soviet-made MiG fighter jets and one helicopter.

Meanwhile, Germany, which will chair the UN Security Council next month, said it would seek to further isolate Syria.

The United Nations said on Thursday that the humanitarian situation in Syria was worsening and that there were 229,000 Syrians registered as refugees in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

Sweden said on Friday it had given the UN refugee agency 3.7 million dollars to assist Syrian refugees.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also warned on Friday that the situation in many parts of Syria was "edging towards irreversible deterioration."

"People fear for their lives every minute of the day," said Marianne Gasser, the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria.

"Humanitarian needs have risen sharply as civilians face ever more difficulty obtaining basic necessities, either because the items are not available in some parts of the country, or because the violence prevents people from going to get them," she added.

Since the uprising began in March 2011, al-Assad's regime has banned international humanitarian aid groups from operating in Syria, except for the ICRC, whose movements are constrained by the violence.

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