By NBC News staff and wire services
Syrian fighter jets fired on rebel positions in the commercial capital of Aleppo on Wednesday, U.N. observers told The Associated Press, a development that could signal a significant escalation in the battle for control of the key city.
In a briefing on Wednesday, U.N. mission spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh also said the United Nations had confirmation that the rebels now have heavy weapons of their own, including tanks.
On Tuesday, NBC News’ Richard Engel reported from northern Syria that the rebels were now equipped with powerful shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, which could narrow the gap between opposition fighters and the well-equipped forces of
The U.N.’s Ghosheh expressed concern over the situation in the northern city of Aleppo, where rebels have been battling government forces for the past 12 days.
Residents face shortages as Syrian army hits Aleppo
She described "heavy use of heavy weapons, including tanks, helicopters, heavy machine guns, as well as artillery."
Earlier, Reuters reported that government combat aircraft and artillery pounded Aleppo late into the night as the army battled for control for the fifth day, where rebel fighters said troops loyal to Assad had been forced to retreat.
The battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has become a crucial test for both sides in the 16-month-old rebellion against the Assad family’s four-decade-long grip on power. Neither Assad’s forces nor the rag-tag rebels can afford to lose if they hope to prevail in the wider struggle for Syria.
Rebels arrest a man who they claim to be a traitor at an old military base in Sicco village, near Aleppo, Syria, on Tuesday.
Forces opposing the government estimate that about 20,000 people have died during the rebellion.
Assad cites ‘internal agents’
Assad also said Wednesday that foreign enemies were using "internal agents" to undermine the country’s stability.