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Rebel forces said Sunday that they had begun a co-ordinated offensive to “liberate” Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, while government troops backed by helicopters fought back in Damascus to regain control of rebel-held neighbourhoods.

The attack on Aleppo, Syria’s commercial centre that has been a bastion of support for President Bashar Assad, was a sign of a growing confidence among rebel troops. The surge in confidence comes days after a bombing killed four members of Assad’s inner circle in Damascus.

Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem al-Ahmad of the rebel Free Syrian Army said during a meeting in Turkey that Assad and his...

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