147 Dead across Syria as Bombs Tear into Heart of Aleppoإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Car bombs tore Wednesday through Syria's second city Aleppo, leaving dozens dead, as violence across the country killed 147 people, monitors said.
Two blasts went off in quick succession near a military officers' club around Aleppo's Saadallah al-Jabiri Square, ripping off a hotel's facade and flattening a two-story cafe, an Agence France Presse correspondent reported.
A third exploded soon after at an entrance to the Old City in Bab Jnein, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a military official said.
A man whose family owns a coffee shop overlooking the square described the sound of the blasts as "terrifying".
"I ran to my parents' room and found their faces covered in blood," said the man, identifying himself only as Omar. "Most of the people rescued from under the rubble of the hotel were soldiers."
The Observatory said at least 48 people were killed and almost 100 wounded, adding "most of them were regime troops". An official said 37 people died.
"We heard two enormous explosions, as though the gates of hell were opening," Hassan, an employee of a nearby hotel, told AFP.
"I saw thick smoke, and I helped a woman on the pavement whose arms and legs were completely dislocated," said Hassan.
The owner of a shop a block away from the club said: "I pulled out from the rubble a child less than 10 years old who has lost a leg."
After destroying two tanks overnight, rebels attacked a political intelligence branch in Aleppo as well as a market where a large number of troops were posted, said the Observatory.
"The rebels are now attacking regime troops in the heart of the city," its director Abdel Rahman told AFP.
"This is part of the decisive battle, and the regime can no longer claim to control the city," he added.
Aleppo, with a population of 1.7 million people, has been one of the focal points of the conflict since mid-July, when the army promised the "mother of all battles" to clear the city of rebels.
Since Thursday, the fighting has become more intense, spreading at the weekend into the centuries-old, UNESCO-listed souk in the historic heart of Aleppo and sparking a fire that damaged hundreds of shops.
Bombings have increasingly become part of the unrest ravaging Syria, which began in March 2011 as peaceful protests for reform but has since escalated into an armed insurgency, with more than 31,000 people killed, according to activists.
On July 18, rebels carried out a massive bombing on a complex in Damascus, killing four security chiefs, including President Assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister.
Troops have since pushed the rebels to the outskirts of the capital, but they have lost control of several border crossings and are battling to retake Aleppo.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, rebels killed at least 15 troops when they attacked and destroyed three army posts in the village of Bdama, near Jisr al-Shughour, said Abdel Rahman.
Army shelling and helicopter gunfire killed at least 16 people including three children in Sahn, a village in the central province of Hama where rebels have a strong presence, he added.
U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due back in the region this week to try to revive talks aimed at ending the bloodshed, although the U.N. says it is still unclear if he will be able to enter Syria.