Syria: 10 killed in mortar attack on school

Clashes hit Damascus amid chemical weapons fears

  • An injured Syrian student lies at a hospital bed after he was wounded when a mortar hit the al-Batiha school in al-Wafideen camp, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Damascus, Syria, on Dec. 4, 2012. The mortar slammed into a ninth-grade classroom, killing 29 students and a teacher, according to state media, as the civil war closed in on President Bashar Assad's seat of power. (Associated Press/SANA)An injured Syrian student lies at a hospital bed after he was wounded when a mortar hit the al-Batiha school in al-Wafideen camp, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Damascus, Syria, on Dec. 4, 2012. The mortar slammed into a ninth-grade classroom, killing 29 students and a teacher, according to state media, as the civil war closed in on President Bashar Assad's seat of power. (Associated Press/SANA)
  • Syrians and Jordanians carry the body of Moath al-Rawashdy, 30, who was killed by Syrian forces shelling, during his funeral procession in Ramtha City, north of Amman, Jordan, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. Al-Rawashdy was killed in Tafas village, in the Syrian city of Daraa, on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)Syrians and Jordanians carry the body of Moath al-Rawashdy, 30, who was killed by Syrian forces shelling, during his funeral procession in Ramtha City, north of Amman, Jordan, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. Al-Rawashdy was killed in Tafas village, in the Syrian city of Daraa, on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
  • In this citizen journalist image, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, anti-Syrian-regime mourners carry the coffins of Syrian civilians who were killed by the shelling of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in Homs, Syria, on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Lens Yong Homsi) In this citizen journalist image, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, anti-Syrian-regime mourners carry the coffins of Syrian civilians who were killed by the shelling of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in Homs, Syria, on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Lens Yong Homsi)
  • President Obama speaks at  the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) symposium at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)President Obama speaks at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) symposium at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • A boy injured by shrapnel receives treatment in a makeshift clinic during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras) A boy injured by shrapnel receives treatment in a makeshift clinic during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon during clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon during clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
  • Residents walk past buildings damaged during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)Residents walk past buildings damaged during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
  • Smoke rises from buildings during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras) Smoke rises from buildings during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
  • A Syrian rebel fighter fires his weapon during clashes with Syrian army forces on the outskirts of Idlib, Syria, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)A Syrian rebel fighter fires his weapon during clashes with Syrian army forces on the outskirts of Idlib, Syria, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
  • Syrian rebel fighters stand on a tank they took after storming a military base in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)Syrian rebel fighters stand on a tank they took after storming a military base in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • A man collects his belongings after his home was damaged in heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)A man collects his belongings after his home was damaged in heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
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BEIRUT —A mortar slammed into a ninth-grade classroom in the Damascus suburbs on Tuesday, killing nine students and a teacher, according to state media, as the civil war closed in on President Bashar Assad’s seat of power.

The state-run news agency SANA reported earlier that 30 people had been killed, but later revised its report with the lower death toll. It blamed the attack on terrorists, the term the regime uses for rebels who are fighting to topple the government.

The mortar hit the al-Batiha school in al-Wafideen camp, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Damascus, according to SANA. The camp houses 25,000 people displaced from the Golan Heights since the 1967 war between Syria and Israel.

“It’s a terrorist attack on educational institutions and on students,” Hassan Mohsen, the director of Quneitra Education Department, told The Associated Press.

Further details were not immediately released.

The violence comes as Syrian forces fired artillery at rebel targets in and around the capital and the international community grew increasingly alarmed about the regime’s chemical weapons stocks.

Syrian rebels have made gains in recent weeks, overrunning military bases and bringing the fight to Damascus. Since Thursday, the capital has seen some of the heaviest fighting in more than four months, killing scores of people, forcing international flights to turn back or cancel flights and prompting the United Nations to withdraw most of its international staff.

“The push to take Damascus is a real one, and intense pressure to take control of the city is part of a major strategic shift by the rebel commanders’ strategy,” said Mustafa Alani, a Middle East analyst from the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center. “They have realized that without bringing the fight to Damascus, the regime will not collapse.”

U.S. intelligence has detected signs the regime was moving chemical weapons components around within several sites in recent days, according to a senior U.S. defense official and two U.S. officials. The activities involved movement within the sites, rather than the transfer of components in or out of various sites, two of the officials said.

But this type of activity had not been detected before and one of the U.S. officials said it bears further scrutiny.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Tuesday that “if anybody uses chemical weapons, I would expect an immediate reaction from the international community.”

His comments echoed a warning on Monday from President Barack Obama that there would be consequences if Assad made the “tragic mistake” of deploying chemical weapons.

“Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons are a matter of great concern,” Fogh Rasmussen said as he arrived in Brussels.

Syria is believed to have hundreds, if not thousands, of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, a blistering agent, and the more lethal nerve agents sarin and VX, experts say.

Syria is party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning chemical weapons in war.

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