√. UK says Syria now obliged to comply with peace plan
√. Free Syrian Army withdraws from Damascus district
√. Thousands of Iraqis evacuated from Syria
√. Assassinated ministers buried and a fourth confirmed dead
In a video posted online Sunday, the head of the rebel Free Syrian Army in Aleppo announced an operation "to liberate the city of Aleppo from the rule of the Assad thugs whose hands were blood stained by heinous crimes against our people.
Brig. Gen. Abdel Jabbar Al-Obeidi urged regime soldiers to defect or step aside and not fight against his men, with the promise that no one would be harmed.
He vowed to secure Aleppo and protect all minorities and sects, including the members of Alawite sect that the president belongs to.
Aleppo and the capital city of Damascus have been al-Assad strongholds. But heavy clashes in Damascus over the past week, along with recent bombing that killed four members of al-Assad's inner circle and government, suggest cracks in the regime's armor.
Fierce clashes broke out Sunday morning between regime and rebel forces in Aleppo, opposition activists said.
An entire building collapsed in Seif al-Dawla neighborhood after a regime tank ... targeted it with four shells, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
If rebels gain control of Aleppo, the commercial hub of Syria, it would mark a pivotal point in the Syrian crisis and deal a heavy blow to al-Assad's financial ties.
In May, a violent crackdown on a peaceful demonstration at Aleppo University was one of the turning points of the uprising, with anti-regime students and civilians shot in the streets.
After 16 months of daily bloodshed, the Syrian crisis now zeroes in on Aleppo, the country's most populated city and a critical one for both President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebels.