You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Syrian troops, rebels clash in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city

Syria

REUTERS/Jalal al-Halabi/Shaam News Network/Handout via Reuters

Civilians and Syrian opposition fighters carried flags and chanted slogans as they walked through Aleppo.

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops and rebels fought the heaviest battles in months Friday Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, a day after U.S. officials said Washington has authorized sending weapons to opposition fighters for the first time.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes concentrated in the eastern rebel-held neighborhood of Sakhour, calling the fighting ‘‘the most violent in months.’’ It said troops attacked the neighborhood from two directions but failed to advance, suffering casualties.

Continue reading below

Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub before the civil war, is near the Turkish border.

The opposition’s Aleppo Media Center said troops bombarded Sakhour with tank shells and rockets before sending in troops. The fighting lasted about four hours, and then warplanes raided rebel positions in Sakhour.

The intensified fighting coincided with President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize sending weapons to Syrian rebels, marking a deepening of U.S. involvement in Syria’s two-year civil war.

Continue reading it below

U.S. officials said the administration could provide the rebels with a range of weapons, including small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other missiles. However, no final decisions have been made on the type of weaponry or when it would reach the rebels, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss internal administration discussions with reporters.

The United States also announced Thursday it had conclusive evidence that President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against opposition forces. The White House said multiple chemical attacks last year killed up to 150 people.

Obama has said the use of chemical weapons cross a ‘‘red line’’ triggering greater U.S involvement in the crisis.

Rami Abdul-Rahman who heads the Observatory says troops were trying to capture a major intersection in Sakhour that links several major roads in Aleppo including one leading to the city’s airport and another to the north.

‘‘It is a strategic area,’’ said Abdul-Rahman. He said large numbers of rebels took part in the fighting.

The attack on Sakhour comes a week after Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters captured the town of Qusair near the Lebanon border.

Regime forces now appear set on securing control of the central provinces of Homs and Hama, a linchpin area linking Damascus with regime strongholds on the Mediterranean coast, and Aleppo to the north.

The fight for Aleppo, a city of 3 million that was once a bastion of support for Assad, is critical for both the regime and the opposition. Its fall would give the opposition a major strategic victory with a stronghold in the north near the Turkish border. A rebel defeat would buy Assad more time, at the very least. It could also turn the tide of the civil war against the rebels.

Opposition fighters have managed to seize control of several neighborhoods in Aleppo since storming the city last summer.

The conflict started with largely peaceful protests against Assad’s regime in March 2011 but turned into a civil war. About 93,000 people have been killed in the war, according to the United Nations.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.