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Fighting in Aleppo, Damascus continues

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Fighting in Aleppo, Damascus continues
Members of the Free Syrian Army chant slogans against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in, Aleppo as they celebrate one day after the Syrian defense minister was killed in an attack in Damascus. in Aleppo in Syria, July 19, 2012. UPI/Khaled Tallawy | License Photo

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 22 (UPI) -- Fierce fighting erupted between rebel groups and Syrian government forces in Aleppo and Damascus amid a rising death toll, officials said Sunday.

Brig. Gen. Abdel Jabbar al-Obeidi, head of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, posted a video saying rebel forces intend "to liberate the city of Aleppo from the rule of the (President Bashar) Assad thugs whose hands were blood stained by heinous crimes against our people," CNN reported.

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Israeli officials again stressed the transfer of advanced weaponry or chemical weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon are unacceptable.

"We are monitoring closely what occurs there and are prepared for all developments," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday.

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"We are monitoring events in Syria ... the disintegration of Assad's family ... more than that I cannot reveal how, if or when we will respond, but the transfer of advanced weapons is unacceptable," Israel Radio quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying.

Al-Obeidi urged government soldiers to defect or step aside and called on Aleppo residents to remain in their homes. He vowed to secure the city and protect all minorities and sects, CNN said. Syrian opposition officials told CNN an entire building collapsed in the Assad stronghold and most populated city in the country after it was shelled by a military tank.

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The Local Coordination Committee said at least seven people died Sunday morning in clashes across the country, CNN said.

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In Damascus, Assad's forces backed by helicopters launched an assault in the suburb of Barzeh and Mezzeh, the BBC said. The Local Coordination Committee of Syria said a mosque caught fire, trapping families inside, CNN said. Syria's state television, however, denied the report saying the "the situation in Damascus is very normal, and life as usual but in a limited number of neighborhoods."

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 19,106 people have been killed in the country since March 2011.

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