Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tanks have invaded Salahedin, but rebels still in control after tip-offs from defectors, Chulov reports.

Matthew Weaver and Brian Whitaker, Wednesday 8 August 2012

"Tanks have invaded Salahedin, but rebels remain in control of the district after being tipped off about the onslaught by officers who have just defected, Martin Chulov reports from Aleppo.

In telephone update he said:

It’s obvious that the regime is trying to push into the suburbs ... they did intensify efforts in the early hours of this morning. They [the government] are claiming that they have succeeded. We have spoken to rebel commanders on the ground ... and they say they are still in place.

They say regime tanks are moving up both sides of the district. It is a pitched battle for Salahedin, but at the moment the rebels say they are prevailing.

They say they have made a tactical withdrawal from a couple of streets ... but they say the regime hasn’t yet advanced into those areas, but they are expecting that advance very soon. They insist they hold the vast majority of the district, and that the withdrawal they have made is only a matter of 15 or so metres and is tactical.

Salahedin was always going to be ground zero for the battle for Aleppo, and the only way to dislodge rebels was going to be a ground invasion. It is being led by tanks, from what we understand there are not too many infantry. But they could follow later in the day. There are no ground forces in the rest of the city, but in Salahedin some kind of a push is under way.

Rebels claimed to have hit some tanks in Salahedin, Martin said. “The way this battle is going to play out is more of a war of attrition rather than a quick decisive battle,” he said.

A colonel and brigadier have been debriefing rebels about the invasion after defecting in Aleppo, Martin reports.

They did say that there would be jets bombing between 3am and 5am this morning, and that actually happened. They also said there would be some kind of a ground invasion this morning. That seems to be happening as well. The information that the defectors have provided is so far checking out and proving to be valuable.

The rebels still plan to attack an intelligence base to the west of the centre of Aleppo, Martin said. "The rebels don’t seem to be throwing everything they have into Salehedin. They seem to be able to mobilise into other areas," he added.

Rebels have been emboldened by defectors' reports of poor morale in the regular army......"

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