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Fierce clashes kill dozens of rebels in Aleppo

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By The Associated Press
Monday, May 5, 2014, 6:03 p.m.

Fighting in Syria's contested northern province of Aleppo killed at least 21 rebels on Monday as rockets slammed into a government-held district in the provincial capital, killing nine people.

The clashes, which erupted about midnight on Sunday and continued through the day, ended with at least 30 soldiers dead or wounded, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Syrian government does not publicize its casualties in the war.

President Bashar Assad's forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militants and pro-government militias, have been trying to wrest as much territory as possible from the opposition in Aleppo and elsewhere before the June 3 presidential elections.

The fighting in the province, pitting troops loyal to Assad against several rebel groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, was concentrated around two rebel-held villages in the province, said the human rights group, which has documented the 3-year-old conflict based on reports from a network of activists on the ground.

In the city of Aleppo, Syria's largest and its former commercial hub, government forces have been relentlessly shelling opposition districts with aircraft and artillery in recent months.

Government aircraft bombed three rebel-held districts in the city, including Masaken Hanano, where at least two people died, the group said. The activist group reported heavy fighting in Mleiha, east of Damascus, and airstrikes on the capital's district of Jobar on the edge of the city.

Aleppo has been divided between government- and opposition-held areas since rebels began an offensive there in mid-2012, capturing neighborhoods and large sections of territory outside the city and along the border with Turkey.

The rebels have been striking back, firing mortars and makeshift rockets into cities and towns under control of Assad's forces.

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