Syrian rebels in embattled Aleppo are trying to maintain morale by highlighting small gains in the midst of a withdrawal from the most contested area of the city, as government forces bombarded their positions.
On the second day of a ground offensive that could signal a decisive turn in the battle for Syria's second city, rebels said they continued to fight in new neighbourhoods and with new tactics, as the authorities bragged of heavy losses for foes of President Bashar al-Assad.
Bashar al-Assad also sought to project an appearance of political control and strength by appointing a new Prime Minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, to replace Riyad al-Hijab, who defected to Jordan last week.
The rebel group had been occupying an area known as street 15, which faced a regime force about 200 metres away. Both sides had traded small arms fire for the past fortnight, but neither had advanced beyond their positions.
The Free Syrian Army in Aleppo seemed to be united in a plea for an internationally enforced no-fly zone, which would ground the Syrian air force jets now playing an increasing role in the campaign.
'That's all we need,'' said one rebel calling himself Abu Hanifa. ''No guns, no armies, just the ability to get these things out of the sky. They are killing us.'' Another rebel leader, who had left Salaheddine, said: ''Even the bravest among us had to acknowledge that these jets are something that we cannot fight.
''It is one thing being outgunned by tanks, but planes are creating a very, very difficult situation.''
About 1.5 million people in Syria have been forced to flee their homes because of the conflict, according to Chaloka Beyani, a United Nations human-rights official.