Syria Showdown: Regime Descends on Aleppo, Damascus Syrian forces pulling out of country to retake biggest 2 cities By Mark Russell, Newser Staff Posted Jul 26, 2012 7:38 AM CDT 0 comments Comments In this image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed Monday, July 23, 2012, a Free Syrian Army soldier reacts during clashes with Syrian government troops in Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video) (Newser) – Heavy shelling was reported today in Aleppo and Damascus, as government forces and rebels both gear up for a major showdown, reports Reuters. The Syrian military is sending convoys of tanks, troop carriers, and other hardware to the vital central cities, leaving rebels in control of much of the countryside. Activists claimed that rebels controlled about half of Aleppo, and, outgunned by the military, they doubt rebels can hold the city, reported the New York Times. Other developments: Rebels are rushing to stockpile munitions in Aleppo, reports the BBC, and setting up checkpoints and snipers even as thousands of residents flee the city. One resident in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus reported heavy shelling in the south of the city, beginning around 7am and continuing for three hours. As government forces pull out of the Kurdish parts of Syria to prepare for the large offensive against the rebels in Aleppo and Damascus, Kurds are using the withdrawal to fly the Kurdish flag, asserting their independence, reports the Guardian.