Members of the Free Syrian Army chant slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Azzaz, Aleppo
Members of the Free Syrian Army chant slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Azzaz, Aleppo province July 17, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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Opposition forces claimed Saturday morning that they had increased their control over the city of Aleppo, and that 60% of the city was in their hands, according to a report in Al-Arabiya.

According to the report, the Free Syria Army took over government-run radio and television stations in the northern part of the largest city in Syria. The rebels ended up retreating for tactical reasons, and the stations suspended their broadcasts.

According to the government-owned SANA news agency, groups of rebels “attacked civilians in buildings while military forces defended the civilians.”

Other reports stated that the rebels had retreated from the television station building due to military shelling. The ongoing battles are taking place near strategic points in the city, including government buildings.

Rebel officer Hussam Abu Mohammad told Al-Arabiya that the rebels had to retreat due to lack of weapons that would stand against planes and helicopters.

Another officer told Al-Arabiya that thousands of Iranian soldiers have arrived in Syria over the last several days in order to assist the regime. It must be pointed out that such a claim is not new, and that rebels have continually stated that Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters have been aiding President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Rebels and government forces have been battling in Aleppo for a week now, with neither side making significant gains. The battle could decide the course of the 17-month conflict in Syria.

Elsewhere in Syria, Assad's forces have regained most of the district of al-Tadamon in southern Damascus after heavy fighting with rebels, said activists.

Haytham al-Abdullah, an activist, told DPA that Assad's forces had executed several people after entering the district and that at least 12 were killed in the offensive. The claim could not be verified independently.

Government forces have been carrying out house-to-house raids in Damascus since July 18 when a bomb attack killed four top security officials from Assad's inner circle, dealing a severe blow to his regime.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in Syria since a pro-democracy revolt erupted in March last year, according to the opposition.