Underscoring the world community’s reluctance to arm the fighters — a loosely linked group of rebel forces and army defectors — Britain’s government said Friday it is giving an extra 5 million pounds (US$7.8 million) worth of aid to Syria’s opposition but no weapons.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the funds would pay for items including satellite phones, power generators and medical kits. He said diplomats would also intensify contacts with the political wing of the Free Syrian Army as concern grows over the country’s possible fate if President Bashar Assad’s regime is deposed.
Britain has previously given 1.4 million pounds (US$2.2 million) worth of nonlethal support to Syria’s opposition. The United States has earmarked a fund of $25 million to spend on nonlethal communications assistance.
Turkish officials said more than 1,500 Syrians arrived over the past 24 hours, increasing the number of refugees in Turkey to about 51,500.
The activists with the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees also reported shelling Friday of several areas just outside Damascus, where rebels also were active. Residents reported hearing loud blasts in Damascus from the shelling on the outer edges of the city, according to the activists.
Syrian troops say they have purged the rebels from the capital after intense, week-long battles last month. But opposition fighters continue to stage hit-and-run attacks and are active in the suburbs around the city.
• Associated Press writers David Stringer in London and Ron DePasquale in New York contributed to this report.