ALEPPO  - Syria’s armed forces pounded the rebel-held Salaheddin district of the northern city of Aleppo from the air and ground on Saturday, a rebel commander told AFP.
“It was the most violent shelling of Salaheddin since the outbreak of fighting in Aleppo” on July 20, said Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, the Free Syrian Army’s military chief for the country’s commercial capital.
“It is not the first time the army has tried to storm Salaheddin,” Oqaidi said.
Violence also raged in the Shaar and Sukkari districts of Aleppo, an AFP correspondent in the embattled city said, adding the army had used fighter jets and artillery to strike the neighbourhoods.
Later on Saturday, regime forces also shelled the Seif al-Dawla district, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The shelling came as 78 people were killed across Syria, including at least eight in the province of Aleppo, the Observatory said. Of those killed on Saturday, 45 were civilians, 26 were regime troops and seven rebels.
In Damascus, regime forces retook Tadamun on Saturday, the last remaining rebel bastion, after heavy shelling.
A brigadier-general told AFP on condition of anonymity that regime forces retook the southern district at 2:00 pm (1100 GMT).
Violence also broke out in the Jobar area of the Syrian capital, the Observatory said, adding that violence killed at least six people in Damascus province on Saturday.
Elsewhere, 20 people were killed as regime forces shelled Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, the monitoring group said.
“It is unclear exactly how many of them were rebels and how many civilians, but what is clear is that the regime shelled indiscriminately,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. About 650 Syrians, including a defecting brigadier general, have fled to Turkey in the past 24 hours amid the escalating violence in Syria, a Turkish official said on Saturday. The latest group brought the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to 46,000, said the official, who requested anonymity.
On Friday, a day after UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan resigned in frustration over the failure of an April peace plan to take hold, Ban warned world powers they must overcome their rivalries to put an end to a “proxy war” in Syria.
And the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the Security Council for its failure to act and it condemned the Syrian regime for using heavy weapons.
After the General Assembly vote, US Ambassador Susan Rice said that, “despite the continued opposition of an increasingly isolated minority, the overwhelming majority of UN members clearly stands resolutely with the Syrian people.”
That was an allusion to Russia and China, who voted against the resolution and who had already vetoed three Security Council resolutions on Syria. But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the assembly gave “blatant” support to Syrian rebels and that its backers were the countries providing “mercenaries and arms” to the opposition.
On Saturday, senior foreign ministry official Wang Kejian accused countries that oppose its position of pursuing their own geopolitical interests and “trying to hinder or even undermine the political settlement process.”
In other developments on Saturday, Qatar said Arab states will not accept a replacement for Annan unless the nominee’s mandate is to clearly negotiate a transfer of power in Syria.
And 48 Iranian pilgrims were kidnapped in Damascus, Tehran’s consul said, while an official in Ankara said another Syrian general had defected to Turkey.