Martin Chulov and Ian Black
London Guardian 
Aug 10, 2012
Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad have withdrawn all their main fighting units  from their stronghold in the Salahedin area of Aleppo, after heavy shelling by government forces.
The pullout from the northern city was ordered just after sunrise on Thursday after a night of intensive attacks by planes and tanks on all three rebel frontlines.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders claimed the withdrawal was tactical and said a small force had stayed behind to oppose any advance by government forces. But the move seemed to mark a significant moment in the fight for control of southern Aleppo, which had raged for more than two weeks, claiming several hundred casualties.
In Damascus, meanwhile, the FSA announced the defection of Muheddine Musalmani, President Assad’s protocol chief. But a state TV channel said he would issue a statement denying the claim.