First Published: 2012-11-14

 

Assad forces unleash tanks, warplanes against Syria rebels

 

Battles rage as France recognises newly united political opposition, raises prospect of arming its Syrian rebels.

 

Middle East Online

Scared regime ... Dangerous regime

DAMASCUS - Syria's regime unleashed tanks and warplanes against rebels as battles raged on Wednesday, after France recognised the newly united political opposition and raised the prospect of arming its fighters.

Tanks shelled two refugee camps in southern Damascus, where fighting has intensified since the army put down a rebel assault in the southern belt of the capital city where anti-regime sentiment runs strong, a watchdog said.

Fighter jets bombed Maaret al-Numan, a northwestern town rebels captured last month in a major blow to the regime's ability to reinforce troops under attack in second city Aleppo, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A day after France became the first Western nation to recognise the opposition National Coalition, the United States unveiled $30 million in extra humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict as it endorsed the newly formed bloc.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticised countries siding with the opposition and insisted Moscow was staying neutral.

"We don't support anybody in this conflict, neither President Assad nor the rebels... but unfortunately, the point of view of some states is more one-sided," Medvedev told Finnish broadsheet Helsingin Sanomat.

President Francois Hollande said Paris recognised the coalition as "the sole representative of the Syrian people and thus as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria, allowing an end to the Bashar al-Assad regime".

The question of arming the rebels would now "have to be necessarily reviewed not only in France but in all countries which will recognise this government," said Hollande.

National Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib has called on world powers to arm Assad's foes, saying they desperately needed "specialised weapons" in order to "cut short the suffering of the Syrians and their bloodshed".

The United States said on Tuesday that the coalition was "a legitimate representative" of the Syrian people, but stopped short of recognising it as the sole representative.

Britain said it wants to see more evidence the grouping has strong support inside Syria before formally recognising it.

Announcing the latest US aid package on a visit to Australia on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the coalition's formation was "a good beginning".

"We have long called for this kind of organisation," Clinton said, but added Washington wanted to see the momentum maintained from the hard-won unity agreement reached in Doha, Qatar.

"Specifically we urge them to finalise the organisational arrangements to support the commitments that they made in Doha and to begin influencing events on the ground in Syria."

The French move came 24 hours after the coalition was recognised by the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Arab League stopped short of granting the bloc full recognition, only saying it saw the alliance as "the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition".

The opposition agreed on Sunday to unify their fighting forces under a military council and to set up a judicial commission for rebel-held areas. They plan to form a provisional government.

On the ground, tanks moved on the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp and the neighbouring Damascus district of Tadamum following battles between the army and rebels in the area late on Tuesday.

Shells were fired into a second refugee camp east of Yarmuk on Wednesday morning, said the Observatory, though it did not specify whether they had been fired by the army or by rebels.

Elsewhere, fighter jets bombarded the rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan in the northwestern province of Idlib.

"The air force has carried out two air strikes on the town of Maaret al-Numan," said the Observatory.

Rebels seized Maaret al-Numan on October 9, and the army has since waged an unrelenting but unsuccessful offensive to take back the town strategically located on the highway linking Damascus and second city Aleppo.

The jihadist Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility, meanwhile, for a November 5 suicide car bomb attack on a military post in the central province of Hama that it said killed at least 200 pro-regime fighters.

At the time, the Britain-based Observatory put the toll from the blast at more than 50 dead.

The Observatory -- which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics -- said nationwide violence killed 189 people on Tuesday, including 90 civilians, 50 rebels and 49 soldiers.

 

5 killed in string of suicide bombings in Lebanon

Netanyahu lauds Israel’s deal with Turkey

Erdogan apologises to Putin over downing of Russia jet

One year on, Tunisia holds minute silence for beach massacre victims

Qatar uses high-tech solution to find perfect pitch

Deadly bombings target Yemen troops in ex-Qaeda bastion

NGOs press EU leaders on Africa migrant plan

Jordanian intelligence officials sold weapons for Syria rebels on black market

On British-Irish border, Brexit breeds worries for future

New lawyers of Gaddafi son urge ICC to drop case

Bahrain jails 5 people on charges linked to ‘terrorism’

Clashes continue at Al-Aqsa compound

Turkey allows German minister visit after air base row

UN chief tells Israelis, Palestinians 'stand firm against violence'

Brexit vote unlikely to curtail Gulf appetite for London property

Egypt cancels high school final exam after online leaks

Dozens killed as clashes intensify in Yemen

Sarraj says only united military can defeat ISIS in Libya

Jordan court charges 21 people with 'terrorism'

Iraq forces take ISIS last positions in Fallujah

Iran conceals heated military standoff in Kurdish region

Brexit vote lays bare depth of division across Britain

Young Britons vent anger at grey Brexit vote

Russia planes pound Aleppo as Syria regime forces closes in

Car bomb kills four civilians in Libya's Benghazi

US-backed Syria fighters edge further into ISIS border hub

Tunisia flaunts seaside security to bring back tourists

Britain and EU: A fraught divorce

Libya govt. forces repel ISIS counterattack in Sirte

Oil slides on British referendum result

Crashed EgyptAir black boxes to go to France for repairs

5,000 migrants rescued from rubber dinghies in Mediterranean

Britain votes to break away from EU, PM resigns

Turkey acquits British academic over 'terror propaganda' charges

24 jailed in Bahrain for forming IS cell

Iraq commander says forces control over 80% of Fallujah

Israel sentences 4 Palestinians to life

Turkey in new quest to patch up with regional foes

Defiant Bahrain moves to dissolve opposition bloc

Kurdish-Arab forces push into IS Syria bastion of Manbij

Yemen govt says rebels must withdraw before any transition

Turkey confirms new accession talks with EU

Saudi suspect found dead after gunfight in Shiite town

Suspended Kuwait sues IOC for damages

Erdogan lashes out at EU treatment of Turkey