Syria's state-run news agency says troops have captured and cleared the neighborhood of Midan in the embattled northern city of Aleppo.

SANA's announcement came as activists reported heavy bombardment Sunday of rebel-held areas throughout the country.

SANA says troops also killed dozens of rebels in other parts of Aleppo, the country's largest city and commercial center.

The fight for Aleppo, a city of 3 million that was once a bastion of support for President Bashar Assad, is critical for both the regime and the opposition.

Its fall would give the opposition a major strategic victory with a stronghold in the north near the Turkish border. A rebel defeat, at the very least, would buy Assad more time.

The latest violence comes as millions of Syrian students began their school year.