Syria rebels battle army in landmark Aleppo mosque
[Al Ahram] Syrian rebels launched an attack on troops in second city Aleppo
...For centuries, Aleppo was Greater Syria's largest city and the Ottoman Empire's third, after Constantinople and Cairo. Although relatively close to Damascus in distance, Aleppans regard Damascenes as country cousins...
's landmark Umayyad Mosque on Wednesday sparking festivities inside the 13th century place of worship, a military source told AFP.
An AFP correspondent witnessed the tail end of the fighting, which the military source said lasted some four hours.
"The rebels broke through the wall of the mosque using RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and tried to push inside," the source told AFP.
Fighting raged inside and outside the mosque before the troops repulsed the assault, the source added.
The AFP correspondent said troops had retained control of the mosque itself but that rebel snipers were continuing to shoot at army positions around it.
The military source said that the army had been unable to reinforce the mosque because the rebels had launched simultaneous mortar attacks on army positions elsewhere in the Old City from the adjacent rebel-held Bustan al-Basha district.
"The men at those checkpoints were unable to help us defend the mosque as the mortar rounds denied us any freedom of movement," he said.
Elsewhere in Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital, two mortar rounds struck in front of the central bank building as it was crowded with early morning customers, killing three people outside, a bank clerk told AFP.
"There were around 150 people in the bank when the first mortar struck, many of them farmers getting their government cheques for produce. The windows shattered and everyone was panicking," said Ahmed, 35, who gave no second name.
"We took the people inside and closed the doors, and right afterwards the second mortar struck directly in front of the bank. It hit a small truck and killed the three people inside," he said.
Posted by: Fred