Helicopter gunships strafe Aleppo
BEIRUT: Troops fired from helicopter gunships on several neighborhoods of Syria's second city Aleppo on Friday, as the army faced off against rebel fighters, activists told AFP.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army was using helicopter gunships in the southwest of the city, in the Salaheddin, Bustan Al-Qasr, Sukari, Al-Mashhad and Al-Azamiya neighborhoods. Troops also clashed with rebels in the central Jamiliya district, adjacent to Aleppo's historic old quarter, as well as in Mahatat Baghdad and in Saadallah Al-Jabiri Square.

The Observatory reported four people killed in the city on Friday morning -- three killed in shelling of the southern Fardoss district and one shot dead in the Maysaloon neighborhood.

In Salaheddin, the scene of fierce fighting in recent days, hundreds of rebels were bracing for a threatened offensive by loyalist troops in Syria's commercial capital, which has been engulfed in violence since July 20. An AFP photographer saw improvised barriers made up of sandbags and even a bus thrown up across the the streets and makeshift clinics set up inside schools and mosques.

A rebel fighter in the neighborhood, reached by telephone, told AFP that residents were fleeing the districts and confirmed helicopter gunships had been firing on the area since 6:00 a.m. (0300 GMT). He said troops were on the outskirts of the neighborhood but had not yet tried to enter.

In nearby Idlib province, the Observatory reported clashes in the town of Maaret Al-Numan, saying shelling was ongoing and there were deaths and injuries among government troops, as well as three injuries among the rebels.

On Thursday, violence nationwide killed 164 people -- 84 civilians, 43 soldiers and seven rebel fighters, according to the Observatory's figures.
Posted by: Steve White 2012-07-28