BEIRUT — Intense clashes broke out Tuesday in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo after militants attacked a government-held neighborhood there, capturing several buildings, activists said.
The Local Coordination Committees and the Aleppo Media Center said the fighting was concentrated in the western Zahra neighborhood.
A former industrial and commercial hub, Aleppo has been carved up between government and rebel-held neighborhoods since July 2012. With Syria's largest city devastated by three years of fighting, many of its residents have long fled.
Opposition fighters and Islamic militants have launched a series of attacks in Aleppo since last week, capturing the city's Scientific Research Center that was used as a military base. Activists said Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen have been trying to retake the base with no luck so far.
The LCC and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on Zahra started on Monday night with a large explosion that killed government troops and pro-government gunmen.
The Observatory said it was a suicide attack carried out by a member of al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front. It said the blast killed 25 troops and pro-government gunmen. The Observatory also said that 19 militants have been killed since Monday night.
The fighting is part of a new coordinated offensive in Aleppo by a newly-formed coalition between the Nusra Front and other factions, including the ultra-conservative Ahrar al-Sham group. The coalition, which calls itself Ansar al-Sharia, has said it seeks to "liberate" Aleppo.