As brutal fighting continued for control of Syria's largest city, a furious Leon Panetta vowed that the regime's assault on Aleppo would be a "nail in the coffin" of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Some 200,000 residents have fled the besieged city as rebels battle to hold off government troops, reports the BBC. Several were huddling in schools and other public buildings in a bid to escape the violence, reports CNN. Many are fleeing to other towns, or over the Turkish border; Jordan has also opened an emergency refugee camp to house Syrians fleeing violence. The Syrian regime claimed late yesterday to have taken control of a district of the city of 2.5 million, but Reuters reports several communities in Aleppo were still dotted with rebel checkpoints.
If the government troops "continue this kind of tragic attack on their own people in Aleppo, I think it ultimately will be a nail in Assad's own coffin," Panetta told reporters at the start of the defense secretary's week-long trip to the Middle East and North Africa. "What Assad continues to do to his own people makes clear that his regime is coming to an end. It's lost all legitimacy. It's no longer a question of whether he's coming to an end, it's when." (Read more Syria stories.)