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Syria's civil war appears to have spread north to Aleppo, the country's second city that has so far largely escaped the fighting, as a senior military defector claimed President Bashar al Assad's forces are set to use chemical weapons. Opposition activists in Aleppo said hundreds of families fled after the military swept into the Saladin district, which had been in rebel hands for two days. Clashes were also reported in the densely-populated, poor neighbourhood of al-Sakhour. Until now, Aleppo had escaped any serious violence, but the Free Syrian Army is inside the city and Mr Assad's troops are fighting back. Activists claim up to 7000 people have left the city.