Paris, July 28: World powers on Friday voiced fears over an imminent all-out assault by President Bashar Al-Assad's forces on Syria's second city Aleppo and called for "maximum pressure" to prevent a new massacre.
France echoed US concerns that Assad was preparing to carry out a slaughter of his own people, and Britain warned that the expected offensive could end in a humanitarian disaster.
Columns of tanks, helicopter gunships and warplanes have poured into Aleppo in the past two days, with troops firing on rebel neighbourhoods in the city's southwest on Friday in the battle for control of the city. Such an assault could be a potential watershed in the 16-month conflict that has already claimed over 19,000 lives according to opposition activists.
"With the build-up of heavy weapons around Aleppo , Assad is preparing to carry out a fresh slaughter of his own people," French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, reiterating a call on Assad to end the violence and step down.
British foreign secretary William Hague said he was "deeply concerned" about the reported buildup of troops and tanks around Aleppo, and that the regime "has already begun a vicious assault on the city and its civilian population" . "This utterly unacceptable escalation of the conflict could lead to a devastating loss of civilian life and a humanitarian disaster," he said.
"It will add to the misery being endured by the Syrian people, and plunge the country further into catastrophic civil war. The Assad regime must call off this assault."
Italy called for "maximum pressure" on Assad to prevent further killings. "We need everyone to raise the pressure to maximum on Assad to ward off a new massacre," foreign minister
Giulio Terzi said, expressing fears about the "distressing" situation in Aleppo. The UN human rights chief said she was also alarmed by reports of atrocities in Syria and warned that civilians were at "grave risk" in Aleppo. "I have been receiving as yet unconfirmed reports of atrocities, including extra-judicial killings and shootings of civilians by snipers , that took place during the recent fighting in various suburbs of Damascus," UN high commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. AFP
Poland closes Syria mission amid crisis
Poland has closed its embassy in Syria and evacuated its diplomats because of the deteriorating security situation in Damascus. The embassy had also been representing US interests in the country in recent months. Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski said he took the decision out of concern for the security of the embassy's staff. He said the embassy will reopen as soon as security conditions allow it. AP
100 troops captured by rebels: Activists
Syrian rebels say they have captured 100 regime soldiers and militia members during fighting in Aleppo, a video distributed by Syrian activists on Friday showd . The video, which shows dozens of men in civilian clothing seated in a courtyard, was filmed by a man who describes himself as a member of the rebel Free Syrian Army. The captured men tell the camera that they are members of the Syrian army and the 'shabiha' pro-regime militia.