• Syria forces ready to launch Aleppo assault

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    DAMASCUS: Syrian troops buoyed by victory in Qusayr were preparing on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to launch a northern offensive, a security source said, as the conflict came to Beirut’s streets where a young demonstrator was killed.

    At a protest outside the Iranian embassy against the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah’s direct involvement in the Syrian conflict, a man was shot and fatally wounded in the first such shooting in Beirut linked to the 26-month war.

    A Syrian security force said that after government troops supported by Hezbollah fighters captured the strategic region of Qusayr on the Lebanese border, the regime’s next target was Aleppo province in the north.

    “It is likely the battle for Aleppo will start in the coming hours or days, and its aim is to reclaim the towns and villages in the province,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported the regime was deploying “thousands of soldiers” in Aleppo province, aiming to recapture rebel posts and sever supply routes from neighboring Turkey.

    On the international front, Britain said Syrian government gains on the ground had made organizing peace talks harder, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Syria’s conflict by telephone.

    The announcement of a potential new offensive comes five days after the army expelled rebels from Qusayr in central-west Syria.

    Syrians were shown on Sunday firing into the air and waving portraits of President Bashar al-Assad in Qusayr to celebrate the government’s victory, in footage broadcast by Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.

    Syrian daily Al-Watan said that, the army has “started to deploy at a large scale in Aleppo province, in preparation for a battle that will be fought in the city and its outskirts.”

    AFP

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