At least 136 people were killed across Syrian on Friday — 73 civilians, 38 soldiers and 25 rebel fighters – the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
Fighting for control of a fortress-like position in Aleppo raged on Saturday, as Russia tried to revive a divisive accord on ending the bloodshed that calls for a government of unity in Syria.
As peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi prepared to visit Damascus in a new bid to end the bloodshed, the violence persisted across Syria with the army claiming a victory against rebels in the northern city of Aleppo.
Troops backed by tanks and helicopters pushed back rebels from the base in Aleppo’s Hanano district after a 20-hour battle with opposition forces who had managed to seize part of the compound on Friday, sources said.
“There are a lot of victims on both sides,” a witness told AFP.
A military official said soldiers destroyed six armoured vehicles the rebels were using to transport arms seized from the barracks — a compound that serves mainly as a weapons depot and as a recruitment centre.
“The rebels had thrown themselves whole-heartedly into this offensive because they desperately need weapons,” the official told AFP.
Badly outgunned members of the Free Syrian Army had taken part in the offensive, a rebel commander who identified himself as Abu Omar told AFP on Friday.
The goal was to liberate Hanano, cut off strategic supply lines and put a stop to shelling that has caused high civilian casualties in Aleppo.
FSA media coordinator Abdullah Yasser said the assault aimed to take down one of three main positions the army uses to shell rebels concentrated in the city’s east.
“Hanano is one of the main places from which they are shooting, so taking it over could be a turning point for us,” he told AFP.
On Friday alone at least 18 soldiers and four rebels were killed in the battle for control of Hanano base, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In all at least 136 people were killed across Syrian on Friday — 73 civilians, 38 soldiers and 25 rebel fighters — the Britain-based watchdog said.
It also reported shelling on areas of Damascus, in the southern province of Daraa in the south, and clashes around a military airport in Albu Kamal in the east.
The fighting also spilled over the border into Iraq early on Saturday, when mortars crashed into the border town of Al-Qaim which lies across from Albu Kamal.
Iraqi army Captain Ali Juwayir said two of the rounds hit two homes in the town killing a four-year-old girl and wounding four people.
On the political front Russia said Saturday it would ask the UN Security Council to endorse a plan to end the raging violence in Syria, but the United States insisted any resolution had to carry teeth.
Russia has been the main diplomatic and military supporter of Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad and has angered Western nations by vetoing along with China three attempts at the Security Council to exert more pressure.
“There is a plan to hold a special meeting of the UN Security Council with the participation of ministers on the Syrian issue,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Vladivostok.
“We stressed in a meeting with the US Secretary of State that Russia will push for the Security Council’s approval of the Geneva communique.”
But Clinton said she was open to another attempt at the Security Council based on the Geneva plan but insisted on a resolution to carry consequences if Assad did not comply, a senior US official said.
She told Lavrov that “in the context of the escalating violence, we have got to do more, if we can, in the Security Council to send a strong message”, the official quoted her as saying.
On June 30, world powers agreed on a plan calling for all sides in Syria to implement a ceasefire and then to form a transitional government and review the constitution.
But the plan did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit — a demand championned by the United States, Britain, France and Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Brahimi, who heads to Cairo for talks with Arab League leaders on Sunday, has said it is up to the Syrians to decide the future — echoing the position of his predecessor Kofi Annan.
Brahimi is working on “the final details of a plan to visit Damascus,” soon, his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told AFP.
According to UN diplomats, Brahimi has been seeking guarantees that he will get a proper meeting with Assad before going.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers meeting in Cyprus agreed on a “consensus” to beef up sanctions against the Syrian regime, Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said on Saturday.
On Friday, Brussels announced an extra 50 million euros ($63 million) for civilians trapped in the conflict, while the United Nations almost doubled its humanitarian appeal for Syria to $347 million.
The UN says about 20,000 people have died in the conflict which erupted in mid-March 2011. The Observatory says more than 26,000 have been killed — the vast majority civilians.