The clashes started slowly following the twin bombings in Aleppo city on 10 February 2012, which were conducted by the jihadist anti-government organisation, the Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant. Over the next five months, major clashes left large parts of the rural countryside under rebel control, with the capital of the province, Aleppo city, still being firmly under government control. On 19 July, rebel forces stormed the city and a battle for control of Syria's largest city and economic hub had begun.
There were anti-government protests in Aleppo, reported since 13 April 2011. However, the city itself was mostly peaceful and spared the violence of the war, unlike the rest of the country, being a government stronghold for the better part of the first year of the conflict.
Anti-government activists called for a huge turnout on 30 June, although two small protests were held that day with only 1,000 demonstrators showing up. On 12 August, Syrian security forces fired at protesters in the Sakhur neighborhood, killing four people. On 17 August, "thousands" protested in the central square (Saadallah al-Jabiri square) of Aleppo and in other parts of the city. Opposition activists claimed that the security forces again opened fire at the protesters. On 6 September, there were reportedly huge crowds (20,000–40,000) protesting against the government after the killing of the Syrian Sunni Sheikh Ibrahim Salqini. On 27 September, the government stormed Aleppo with tanks. On 21 December, video seemed to show the Syrian Army raiding Aleppo University, where they then beat and arrested university students for protesting against the government. Four protests were reportedly held at the university, where a student at the Faculty of Science was reportedly killed by government forces.
On 6 January 2012, the head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria warned that the government was plotting a bombing in the city, "just to terrorize the people". Ammar Qurabi told Al Arabiya that he had learned about the alleged plot from Syrian security officials. This came after bombings in Damascus in December 2011 and in January 2012. Qurabi and other opposition groups accused the government of staging those attacks to justify its crackdown on the uprising.
On 10 February, twin bomb attacks targeted the military intelligence building in Aleppo and killed 24 members of the security forces.
On 14 February, five army soldiers, including two officers, were killed in fighting on the outskirts of Aleppo.
During March, the northern city of Azaz in the reigon of Aleppo experienced heavy fighting, with three soldiers being killed on 23 March. Activists posted a video showing what appears to be a helicopter engaged in a firefight over the town. A rebel or civilian was also reported killed during the heavy fighting in Azaz.
According to state media, two colonels were killed in Aleppo in late March.
A general of the air force intelligence was killed in Aleppo on his way to work, according to the Syrian government.
An army intelligence base and air force base were attacked in northern Aleppo province, killing three soldiers including an officer.
On 21 April, heavy clashes occurred in the early morning between opposition fighters and the Syrian army in Aleppo province. At least 14 Syrian army soldiers and one opposition officer were said to have been killed in the fighting. A Syrian army weapons cache and two cannons were said to have been destroyed by the opposition fighters, another cannon was seized from the army. They also said to have destroyed two armoured vehicles at a Syrian army checkpoint and attacked a Syrian helicopter.
On 22 April, 26 members of the pro-government militia called the shabibha, accused of the worst massacres during the conflict, were killed, and video footage showing their bodies was posted online by the rebel Free Syrian army.
On 24 April, 16 soldiers were killed in many different clashes around Aleppo. On the same day, rebels reported that they captured a military base near the rebel-controlled town of Daret Azzeh. 16 government soldiers reportedly died during the attack after which rebels looted large amounts of ammunition, including hundreds of artillery shells. The Army retaliated by intense strikes from military gunships on the local area. On April 28, three security force members were killed and two others injured in the Aleppo countryside.
On 29 April, it was reported that four soldiers died in a blast in a military centre in Aleppo province.
On 2 May, 15 soldiers were killed in Northern Aleppo, including two colonels. Two rebels also died in the attack near Al-Rai village, after the military forces had "scaled up military operations" there in the days since the truce took effect on April 12, said the S.O.H.R group In Syria.
On 3 May, days after four university students were killed by the pro-government milita shabibha in anti-government protests. It was reported that 15,000 students protested at the University on 17 may, in the prescense of U.N observers. After this incident, on 18 May 2012 the biggest anti-government demonstrations that had ever taken place in Aleppo were reported. Anti-government groups called it a real uprising in Aleppo. In two districts alone, there were reportedly over 10,000 protesters, among thousands of others in the other districts. Tear gas and live ammunition was used by security forces to disperse it. At least one protester died on 17 may, while an army officer was killed by an explosion in the city.
18 soldiers were killed near Atareb town in Aleppo province, the fighting destroyed tanks and armoured personnel carriers, according to the Syrian Observatory for human rights. This incident came a few days after a Free Syrian Army brigade announced control over the town after taking control of army checkpoints.
Army tanks were reportedly deployed for the first time in Aleppo, where 12 massive anti-government protests were held in one day. 2 soldiers were killed and 5 injured after an explosion on 3 May. Also, a man identified as "the brother of a Syrian MP" was shot dead, with SOHR quoting anti-government activists as saying "the man's family is very loyal to the government and has participated in the repression of protests".
Rural Aleppo towns and the outskirts of Aleppo city were bombarded by the army in early July. The State-controlled media agency, SANA, claimed that eight rebels were killed and 6 of their armed pick up trucks destroyed by the Syrian army on July 5.
On 9 July, 2 soldiers were killed by an IED in Aleppo. A further 4 soldiers were killed when trying to enter the opposition controlled town of Azaz.
On 12 July, 3 soldiers were killed in Aleppo.
On 16 July, 13 soldiers, including an officer, were killed when a government checkpoint was attacked by rebel fighters, and during clashes, in the area of Tel Selour, outside Aleppo.
On 19 July, the battle for Aleppo city started. Clashes began with an offensive by the Free Syrian Army against the city, primarily the Salaheddine district.
As the fighting in Aleppo city continued, near the rebel-held town of Atareb rebel fighters made a failed attack against a government-controlled police school. 12 rebels were killed, including a local brigade commander Ahmed el Faj.
On 21 July, fighting was still raging in the Salaheddine district, with the army trying to storm it with troops and armored vehicles. Meanwhile clashes started in the poorer, tribial district of al-Sakhour. Hundreds of families were forced to flee as commercial city has benn slowly turned into a war zone. On 23 July, it was confirmed that the FSA had finally taken control of Azaz. They said that 17 government tanks had been destroyed and one captured, a journalist in the area counted 7 destroyed tanks.
In the Aleppo countryside, the FSA rapidly gained ground in late July and captured members of the military intelligence. Footage showed rebels riding around the town of Al-Bab in a tank and howitzer artillery that they had captured from an army base. Captured soldiers said that 30 soldiers had been killed in Al-Bab in the past week and it was later reported that the last army base in the Aleppo countryside, on the outskirts of Al-Bab, was taken by the opposition.
On 15 August, Syrian fighter jets conducted two devastating bombing runs on the rebel-held town of Azaz, flattening a string of houses and killing at least 20 people including children with a little girl who had been killed in the stirke being brought to the hospital and at least 10 houses were flattened in the bombardment. "This was a civilian area. All these houses were packed with women and children sleeping during the fast," said witness Abu Omar, a civil engineer in his 50s, referring to the dawn-to-dusk fast Muslims observe during Ramadan. Witnesses and FSA forces who reinforced security around the town after the strike said the jet fired twice, targeting a makeshift media centre used by foreign reporters in the second, smaller strike. Dozens of people, many wailing and shouting, were climbing over the rubble, trying to pull out victims. Witnesses said the bomb must have weighed at least half a tonne and the impact shattered windows up to four blocks away. Residents insisted there was no rebel base where the bomb struck, but some said the families of FSA fighters lived there. "It was a massacre, an entire family like mine was exterminated," said one woman who refused to give her name. Four Lebanese hostages were reportedly killed. Another report put the death toll at 31 people.
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