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Syrian helicopters pound the country’s largest city, Aleppo

Aleppo, July 29 (): Syrian forces opened fire over the country’s largest city, Aleppo on Sunday to flush out rebel forces. Activists said it is one of the most important battles of the 17-month-old uprising as rebels and the government forces fight for the control of Syria’s second city.

Opposition activists stated these clashes in some rebel-held districts today morning could be announced as the start of a decisive phase in the fight for Aleppo, which is one of Syria’s biggest commercial hubs with a population of about 3 million. The city is the key pillar of support for President Bashar Assad’s regime.

On Saturday, the Syrian government launched an aggressive attack over the rebels, releasing artillery, helicopter gunships and tanks against the poorly armed opposition fighters.

The Britain-based observatory in Syria for Human Rights said severe fighting has erupted. The group cited its network of sources on the ground in Aleppo. Video footage released by the observatory showed smoke rising over apartment blocks in the city into a hazy sky on Saturday. The sound of sporadic gunfire could also be clearly heard.

Past two weeks has been difficult for the Syrian government with rebels attacking first on the capital, Damascus, and then on Aleppo. In another attack a high-profile defection and a bomb killed four top security officials.

Kofi Annan, the International peace envoy and other foreign leaders said the condition in Aleppo served to stress the want for a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Syria, now in its 17th month.

On Friday, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the U.N.’s outgoing chief observer in Syria said it is a matter of time before Assad’s regime disintegrates, but the violence caused due to the civil war could worsen if Syria uses the full force of its military.

The major-general, whose three-month long mission in the capital, Damascus ended last week, also said Syria’s situation is likely to remain unstable even if Assad’s government steps down.