Hezbollah's Al-Manar network cited a Syrian military source who said the military has launched a wide-scale operation titled North Storm on early morning Sunday to retake Aleppo from rebel control. According to him, military forces are advancing in several areas in the city.
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The Syrian state TV channel reported the rebels detonated a car bomb in a town in the Quneitra district, only a few kilometers from the Israeli border, injuring several citizens and destroying shops and businesses.
The report also alleged that an additional charge exploded in the town, causing some damage to property. A third charge was allegedly neutralized by Syrian military sappers.
Syrian rebels making explosives
According to several reports, it appears Assad has set his eyes on retaking Aleppo. The Al Arabiya network quoted opposition officials in the city who claimed the Syrian military launched several attacks in the Maara al-Atik and Hamra villages on the strategic city's suburbs, with Hezbollah support.
Al Arabiya reported that the Syrian military bombed the city in advance of the troops' ground attacks, firing as many as three shells a minute.
Nevertheless, opposition officials asserted that the Assad-Hezbollah joint forces suffered heavy losses in the battles, possibly amounting to dozens of casualties.
On Saturday, Syria Free Army Chief of Staff, General Salim Idris, warned that Hezbollah fighters have begun deploying in Aleppo's suburbs, in Dir a-Zur and in Damascus' suburbs after aiding the Syrian military occupy the town of Qusair.
The Austrian statement was followed by a statement by the Philippines, stating they were considering the withdrawal of their troops as well.
In light of the expected pullouts, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his country's readiness to replace the withdrawing troops with Russian military personnel, a suggestion that was rejected by the United Nations, as an agreement between Israel and Syria bars all permanent members of the Security Council from the UN observer mission there.
In the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to these latest developments: "Over the weekend I spoke with Russia's President Putin. We discussed matters related to Syria.
"The disintegration of the UN force in the Golan stresses the fact that Israel cannot charge its security with international forces."
Netanyahu promised to discuss the issue with US State Secretary John Kerry in his upcoming visit: "Together we'll try and promote the way to find an opening for talks with the Palestinians aiming for an agreement.
"These will focus on a demilitarized Palestinian state which recognizes a Jewish state and on firm security arrangements."
Noam (Dabul) Dvir contributed to this report
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