The battle for Aleppo has been going on for more than two weeks now, and the fighting spread to new parts of Syria's biggest city today. Government troops have been shelling the parts of the city the rebels control, but the opposition continues to attempt to expand its hold, the AP reports. And it appears the rebels have been successful, with new clashes reported in the districts of Bab Jnein and Sabee Bahrat. They have also gotten bolder, staging a daylight attack on a group of 48 Iranians over the weekend. Iran today said it expects the US to intervene and ensure the Iranians' safety, but Syrian rebels claim three of the captives were already killed during government shelling yesterday.
The AP also has more on the story of Riad Hijab, the highest-ranking Syrian official to defect so far. Hijab, long loyal to Bashar Assad, began shifting toward the opposition right around the time he was elected as prime minister in June, and had been planning his escape since then. "The criminal Assad pressed him to become a prime minister and left him no choice but to accept the position," Hijab's spokesperson says. "He had told him: 'You either accept the position or get killed.'" One Mideast analyst points out that since Hijab was reportedly planning his defection for months, he may very well have been in communication with the opposition before becoming prime minister—a fact that could "point to a serious breakdown in inner-regime security." (Read more Riad Hijab stories.)