Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the northern city of Aleppo have abandoned at least one position in a battered district where fighting has raged for days.
“We have retreated. Get out of here,” a lone rebel fighter yelled at Reuters journalists as they arrived on Wednesday in the Salaheddine district. Nearby checkpoints that had been manned by rebel fighters for the last week had disappeared.
A Syrian government security source told Lebanon’s Al-Manar television that its forces were now in control of the district but an opposition watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said clashes were still occurring there.
Abu Firas, a member of the rebel Free Syrian Army, said the insurgents had left only one building in Salaheddine. “We did not withdraw; our guys are still there and the situation is in our favour. We just left a building that we had in one of the streets but it s not like we are retreating.”
Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by Iranian media on Wednesday as saying some of the 48 Iranians kidnapped by Syrian rebels on August 4 are retired soldier or members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Some of these beloved ones were on IRGC and military pensions ... and others were from other different departments,” Salehi said, according to student news agency ISNA. He denied they now had any military connection and said they were in Damascus for a religious pilgrimage to a Shi’ite shrine. Iran has remained a staunch ally of Assad throughout the 17-month-old uprising.