Syrian troops have stormed the last rebel stronghold in the capital Damascus, activists say, as the country’s largest city, Aleppo, was pounded by artillery and helicopters.
Activists said most of the capital’s Tadamon district was under the control of government forces by early Friday evening, after “thousands of soldiers” entered the neighbourhood with tanks and armoured vehicles.
“Thousands of soldiers have entered the neighbourhood, they are conducting house-to-house raids,” a resident, who did not want to be identified for security reasons, said by telephone.
By Al Arabiya with Agencies
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied on Friday that it plans to send naval vessels to the Syrian port of Tartus, the state-owned RIA news agency said, as Moscow called for Kofi Annan to be urgently replaced as envoy for Syria.
It dismissed reports, attributed by Russian news agencies to a source in the general staff, that Moscow was sending three large landing ships with marines aboard, according to Reuters.
Earlier Friday, Russian news agencies, quoting an unnamed defense source, said Moscow was planning in the coming days to send three assault ships with hundreds of marines aboard to the Syrian port of Tartus to pick up water and food supplies.
Syria is Moscow’s firmest foothold in the Middle East and bought $1 billion worth of weapons from Russia last year, or about 8 percent of total Russian arms exports.