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Still pounding key cities

Syrian rebels stationed in Aleppo prepare for battle.

BEIRUT — Damascus and Syria’s second biggest city, Aleppo, came under shell fire today as troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stepped up efforts to crush rebels threatening the government’s two main power centres.

One of the most senior figures to defect from Assad’s inner circle, Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, put himself forward as someone who could help unite the fragmented opposition inside and outside Syria on a blueprint for a transfer of power.

A bomb attack that killed four of Assad’s closest lieutenants last week prompted predictions among his enemies that the 46-year-old president’s time in power was drawing to a close.

But in the days that have followed that attack, Assad’s forces have noticeably toughened their response to the armed revolt, with fixed-wing combat aircraft seen in action over Aleppo and rebel fighters said by opposition sources to have been summarily executed on the streets of Damascus. (Reuters)

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