Middle East

Syria Experiences More Bloody Weekend Fighting

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In the country's largest city Aleppo, large swaths of a historic market were burned to the ground as government troops battled rebels for control of the city. And a bomb struck a largely Kurdish city in the country's northeast.


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Day after day in Syria, people are being killed, but sometimes it takes a weekend like this past one to remind us just how horrifying the conflict is. Government troops were battling rebels were for control of Aleppo, Syria's largest such city. And as they fought, flames spred through a centuries-old market, burning huge sections to the ground.

In a moment, we'll hear a story about Syrian-American doctors working in rebel-held areas. We begin with NPR's Kelly McEvers, who has just returned from Syria.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: The covered markets of Aleppo that date back to the 14th century and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site were in flames yesterday. Each side blamed the other for setting the fires. Rebels say government troops set the blaze to punish rebels for moving into the area. The government says the fires were started by terrorists.

Rebel fighters entered Aleppo more than two months ago and claim to control about half of the city. Rebels launched an offensive to take more territory late last week, and intense fighting continued yesterday. But reporters inside the city say the rebels have gained little ground.

Government forces appear to be using a strategy of punishing any area that allows the rebels in. Hundreds, if not thousands of civilians have been killed in the fight for Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Syrian state TV says a car bomb has exploded in the predominantly Kurdish city of Qamishli. The explosion was near a compound that houses government security officers. State media says four people were killed, but a human rights group that documents fatalities in Syria says eight were killed.

Kurds are a minority in Syria and have largely stayed out of the fighting between pro and anti-government forces. Many analysts here in the region worry they'll be dragged into the fighting before long.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

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