No let-up in Aleppo battle as Syria vows to crush rebels

media captionThe BBC's Jim Muir reports on the battle raging for the Syrian city of Aleppo

Shelling and gunfire have again shaken Aleppo as Syrian government forces battle rebels for control of the country's largest city.

A BBC correspondent who is just outside Aleppo says heavy fighting is reported in the city centre near the old fort but this cannot be verified.

Syria's foreign minister said on Sunday that the rebels would be defeated.

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has called for foreign states to arm rebel fighters.

"We want weapons that would stop tanks and jet fighters. That is what we want," Abdulbaset Sayda was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying at a news conference in Abu Dhabi.

He urged Arab "brothers and friends to support the Free [Syrian] Army".

Wealthy Gulf states pledged in April to pay the salaries of rebel fighters, while the US state department has acknowledged sending non-lethal aid (such as communications equipment) to the opposition.

Food shortages

Shelling has again been reported in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood, in the south west of Aleppo.

image captionThe town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, was badly damaged by fighting

The BBC's Ian Pannell, who was inside Aleppo on Saturday, says government troops are trying to push into rebel-held neighbourhoods.

Vehicles carrying civilians have been steadily streaming out of the city.

Civilians who remain in Aleppo face power cuts and food shortages.

Our correspondent saw a bakery open for the first time in 24 hours which was quickly surrounded by people clamouring for bread and saying they had nothing else to eat.

The rebels claim to have repelled the government offensive which began in earnest on Saturday, but our correspondent says this cannot be verified.

Syria would defeat the rebels in Aleppo and the conspiracy against it, Foreign Minister Walid Moualem said.

He was speaking on a visit to Iran, Syria's closest ally in the region.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 29 people were killed in Aleppo on Saturday - among 168 to die across the country throughout the day. The figures cannot be verified.

The total number of people killed since the Syrian anti-government uprising began in March 2011 now stands at more than 20,000, the Observatory says.


image captionThe BBC's Lyse Doucet sent this image of the tents which will shelter Syrian refugees at Zaatari

Meanwhile, Jordan is opening its first official refugee camp for Syrians fleeing the fighting.

The camp at Zaatari, about 11km (seven miles) from the border with Syria, will have room for 10,000 refugees to start with but could grow to 100,000 if needed.

Jordan says 2,000 refugees are crossing the border from Syria each day - the UN says the total figure now stands at 150,000.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet, at Zaatari, says the new camp will ease pressure on existing transit camps where overcrowding has been causing tension between refugees and with local communities.