First Published: 2013-01-05

 

Will Patriot missiles prevent spillover of Syria conflict?

 

Syrian conflict worsens as Assad orders warplanes, heavy artillery to blast rebels who hold great swathes of Syria's countryside.

 

Middle East Online

Alone in face of death machine

DAMASCUS - US troops began arriving in Turkey on Friday to man Patriot missile batteries against threats from neighbouring Syria, where the 21-month conflict between the regime and rebels has escalated.

Syrian air and ground forces were pounding insurgents dug in outside Damascus in a ferocious offensive a day after a car bomb in the north of the city killed at least 11 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The arrival of the US personnel specialised in the six Patriot systems to be deployed on the Turkey-Syria border under a NATO agreement has highlighted fears that Syria's civil war could suck in other nations in the region.

Cross-border fire has already erupted several times in recent months from combatants in Syria into Turkey, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The United States last month also expressed concerns that there were signs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be preparing to use chemical agents in missiles or aerial bombs as a last-ditch measure against insurgents.

The US military's European Command (EUCOM) said on Friday that the troops being sent to Turkey's Incirlik air base would swell to 400 within days to support the two US Patriot batteries being supplied by America.

Germany and the Netherlands will supply the four other Patriot batteries under the NATO agreement struck at Turkey's request and described as purely defensive.

"The forces will augment Turkey’s air defence capabilities and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance's border," the EUCOM said.

Syria's chief ally Iran, however, has called the Patriot deployment "provocative," seeing it as a blunting of its own offensive capabilities.

Ankara has responded by telling Tehran to use its clout with Assad to resolve the civil war in his country.

That conflict has worsened in the past six months as Assad has ordered warplanes and heavy artillery to blast rebels who hold great swathes of Syria's countryside, especially in the north.

The United Nations this week said 60,000 people have died since the rebellion began in March 2011. Its figures showed average daily fatalities have multiplied since mid-2012, correlating with the increased use of regime air power.

On Friday, fighter-bombers hit Duma, northeast of Damascus, and artillery was shelling the southwestern Daraya neighbourhood which the rebels have held for weeks, the Observatory said.

Troop reinforcements were being sent to Daraya, the British-based group added.

The offensive was being waged a day after a car bombing in the Damascus district of Massaken Barzeh, mostly inhabited by members of Assad's Alawite minority, killed at least 11 people, the watchdog said.

They were among at least 191 people killed on Thursday, including 99 civilians, it said, adding that fighting in Damascus and its outskirts accounted for 87 deaths.

Nationwide on Friday at least 115 people died, among them 66 civilians, according to the Observatory.

It also said rebels killed a relative of political security chief Rustom Ghazali, a key regime figure, wounded another and kidnapped a third in the southern province of Daraa.

State television also reported the attack, without identifying the victims.

A pro-regime journalist working for Dunya TV was also shot dead in Aleppo while reporting there, the channel announced.

People demonstrated across Syria in solidarity with the central city of Homs, where conditions are dire in areas besieged by regime forces.

Meanwhile, Damascus slammed as "biased" a UN report released on December 20 that called the conflict "overtly sectarian in nature."

The foreign ministry accused the UN of a "lack of professionalism" in producing its report, and said any sectarian dimensions to the conflict were because of foreign support for "armed groups," state news agency SANA said.

 

US discusses IS militant threat with arch-foe Iran

Rival Yemen groups sign UN-brokered deal

Turkey's PKK urges fellow Kurds to fight IS jihadists in Syria

Palestinians intensive diplomatic campaign on three fronts

Islamisation of education system prompts alarm in secular Turkey

Iraq loses communication with soldiers near Fallujah

UN warns over 'forcible transfer' of Palestinian Bedouin

Syria denies use of chlorine chemicals

Court verdict paves way for release of activist Mahienour el-Massry

IS fighters lay siege to Syria Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab

Huthi seditious plans come out in open: Capture of government HQ in Sanaa

Israel steps up cyber-defense with new national body

Egypt military aircraft crashes after technical failure

Erdogan confesses: Turkey held ‘diplomatic negotiations’ with Islamic State

Pope denounces Islamic State: Religion cannot be used to justify violence!

Solution according to Huthis: Deal in Saada and battles in Sanaa

Bloody attack strikes outside Egypt Foreign Ministry in Cairo

Mediators denounce ‘senseless fighting’ in South Sudan

Tunisia jihadist group offers backing to Islamic State

US Secretary of State sees role for Iran in war against Islamic State

Kurds cross from Turkey to fight Islamic State in Syria

Yemen suspends flights for second day as truce talks collapse

Turkey loses only excuse for appeasement with Islamic State

Marzouki seeks to stay as Tunisia President

Neighbourhood in Iraq’s Dhuluiyah stands against jihadists

British photographer Cantlie twice held hostage by IS

Turkey opens border to desperate Syrian Kurds

Jihadists to change tactics to avoid air strikes

Iran, six powers return to negotiating table

Saudi Arabia to restore Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque

Airlines suspend flights to Sanaa for 24 hours

US accuses Assad of breaking pact on chemical weapons

‘Concerned’ US urges Iran to cooperate in UN nuclear probe

Syrian children given anaesthesia not measles vaccination

France ready to provide ‘aerial support’ in Iraq

Tunisia denies existence of plot to assassinate Beji Caid Essebsi

Majority of Americans believe Obama mishandled terror threats

‘Islamic State’ releases video of captive British journalist

Libya cannot take more than 10 ministers

France approves bill to crack down on jihadists

Assassination of Libya ex-air force chief in Benghazi

14 Bahraini Shiites sentenced to life in prison for bombing

IS jihadists close in on Syria third largest Kurdish town

Yemen rebels clash with Sunni Islamists

New Turkish safety law costs 5,000 coal miners jobs