International

Syria fighting continues amid disarmament program

Rebels and Assad forces remain embroiled in battle for control over country's second-largest city, Aleppo

Opposition fighters prepare themselves for an attack on military post at the frontline in Maaret al-Numan.
AP Photo

Syrian government warplanes bombed rebel positions near a strategic northern town Tuesday, as international inspectors continued to tour production and storage facilities of the country's chemical-weapons arsenal, activists said. The warfare is a reminder that the agreement to destroy the Assad regime's unconventional weapons doesn't address an ongoing civil war that has seen more than 100,000 killed with conventional arms.

Fighting in Maaret al-Numan has flared in recent days, as government forces and opposition fighters remain locked in a block-by-block fight for Syria's largest city, Aleppo. The town lies on a major supply route linking the capital, Damascus, with the contested Idlib region and Allepo.

Anti-government rebel fighters captured the town one year ago after systematically seizing army's outposts in the area. From there, they launched an ongoing assault for control of Aleppo.

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Despite repeated assaults on the nearby military installation of Hamidiyeh, in the Wadi Deif area east of the town, the rebels have failed to break through the heavily fortified base. At least 10 government soldiers and one rebel fighter were killed there Monday, reported the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The observatory said that government fighter jets twice hit opposition-held areas near Maaret al-Numan on Tuesday and that there were casualties, but gave no specifics.

The fight for the base is part of the ongoing, broader struggle for control of northern Syria, where the opposition controls large swathes of territory captured from President Bashar al-Assad.

Most of the northern countryside is in the hands of rebel fighters, while the government is holding out in isolated military bases and inside major cities.

Disarming chemical weapons

Meanwhile, at The Hague on Tuesday, Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, briefed member states on the progress made in seizing and destroying Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile.

On Sunday, the U.N. began the long process of securing and destroying Syria's estimated 1,000-ton stockpile of chemical weapons. Syrian personnel, under the supervision of international disarmament inspectors, are working under a Nov. 1 deadline set by the U.N. to destroy the Assad government's capability to produce and use the weapons.

The operation was suggested by Russia as a viable alternative to a U.S.-led proposal to launch limited, punitive strikes against the Assad regime for its alleged role in Aug. 21 chemical attacks near Damascus that the U.S. said killed more than 1,400 civilians, including hundreds of children.

The United States and its allies blamed the incident on Assad's forces, which have been embroiled in a bloody civil war with opposition fighters for more than two years.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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