Syrian opposition activists have reported widespread clashes Tuesday, including continued fighting in the country’s largest city, Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces were shelling several neighborhoods in Aleppo, and that soldiers were clashing with rebels in the city.
The battle for Aleppo – the nation’s commercial capital – has now pushed into an eleventh day.
The Observatory, whose reports from witnesses inside the country cannot be confirmed because of restrictions on foreign media, said President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were also shelling parts of Deraa province and carrying out raids there.
Activists said clashes also took place in several areas of the capital, Damascus, and in Idlib province and the city of Deir Ezzor.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that he is extremely concerned about the impact of shelling and heavy weapons use on Syrian civilians in Aleppo and other areas.
“I remind the parties to the conflict of their obligations under the international humanitarian law and human rights laws and urge them to exercise restraint and avoid any further bloodshed,” said Ban.
He also called on Assad to promise not to use chemical weapons under any circumstances.
The U.N. chief said the only solution to the conflict is a “Syrian-led transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also discussed the push for a political transition in Syria Monday, talking by phone to coordinate efforts to speed up the process.
The White House said the two leaders shared their growing concerns about the Assad government’s “ruthless” attacks against its own people, most recently in Aleppo. They also pledged to help the growing number of displaced Syrians, both within Syria and in neighboring countries such as Turkey.
Assad loses support
Also Monday, Britain’s Foreign Office said Syria’s chief diplomat in London defected, making him the latest high-ranking official to quit in protest of Syria’s bloody crackdown against the opposition.
The Foreign Office said Charge d’Affaires Khaled al-Ayoubi informed it that he would no longer represent President Assad’s government.
“His departure is another blow to the Assad regime,” he said. “It illustrates the revulsion and despair the regime’s actions are provoking amongst Syrians from all walks of life, inside the country and abroad.”
It has been 17 months since the uprising against Assad’s government began. Activists say more than 19,000 people have been killed in the conflict.