Chemical arms moved to borders: Syria rebels
DAMASCUS, July 24: Rebels accused President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday of moving chemical weapons to Syria’s borders, a day after his regime said it would use its stockpiles if attacked.
Helicopter gunships strafed rebel neighbourhoods of second city Aleppo, as heavy fighting forced the closure of a third of the shopping malls of the commercial capital, pro-government media said.
The rebels’ Free Syrian Army said the chemical arsenal had been moved in a bid to pressure the world community, much of which has called for Assad to step aside in the face of the more than 16-month Syrians uprising against his rule.
“According to our information, the regime began moving its stocks of weapons of mass destruction several months ago… with the goal of putting pressure on the region and the international community,” a statement said.
Russia said it “would like to underline that Syria joined” a Geneva protocol on the non-use of such weapons and “presumes that the Syrian authorities will continue to rigorously abide by its assumed international obligations”.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, insisted that President Assad must hand over power.
“We do believe that it is not too late for the Assad regime to commence with planning for a transition to find a way that ends the violence,” she said.
The opposition Syrian National Council, meanwhile, insisted an opposition figure should lead a transition government if the regime falls.
An SNC statement also said the people’s uprising was “about to achieve victory against the murderous junta in power”. And Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of neighbouring Turkey, which hosts the rebel leadership, said he was confident it was close to victory.
Activists and regime sources say government forces have reclaimed most of Damascus after a week of heavy fighting with rebels, who remain in the city but are planning a guerrilla strategy.
Clashes continued on Tuesday, with the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting at least 80 people killed nationwide, including 49 civilians, 26 soldiers and five rebels.
“At least seven civilians, including six children, were killed by regime forces shelling of the besieged town of Herak,” south of Damascus, the watchdog said.
A video it distributed showed the bodies of dead children, including that of a girl in a pink and white dress.—AFP