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Syria: Intense shelling by government is reported in Aleppo

March 31, 2013|By Raja Abdulrahim and Lava Selo

BEIRUT – Residents of a Kurdish neighborhood in the Syrian city of Aleppo fled Sunday under intense government shelling estimated at three shells per minute, activists said.

The bombardment on the Sheikh Maqsood district came two days after opposition fighters said they seized the strategic neighborhood. Residents were told to leave as government troops fought to regain parts of the district, said Riyad Islam, an activist with the Aleppo Media Center.

The mostly Kurdish residents fled to the predominantly Kurdish town of Efrin, northwest of Aleppo, he said.

Aleppo, once Syria’s economic hub, has experienced intense fighting and aerial bombardment from government troops, interspersed with short periods of calm, since the rebels attempted to seize control of the city in the summer. Parts of Aleppo are under opposition control while others remain in government hands.

In the east of Syria, state media reported that “armed terrorist groups” set oil wells ablaze Sunday in the Deir Ezzor province after a dispute about sharing oil. The government refers to the opposition as terrorists.

The Syrian Arab News Agency reported that an official with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said the groups have been attacking the oil fields in order to sell the fuel. The official said that nine oil wells had been set on fire but six of the fires had been put out.

An opposition activist from Deir Ezzor province could not confirm the oil well fires but confirmed that rebel groups have been fighting over the oil since they began seizing the wells months ago. The activist, Abu Shahim, said that groups within the rebel Free Syrian Army have clashed over the control and sale of the oil and have turned guns and even tanks against each other at times.

Those rebels have been refining the oil and selling it to industrial customers at reduced prices for personal gain, he said.

“They are Free Syrian Army but criminals and highway robbers,” he said.

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Selo is a special correspondent.

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