Syria: 10 killed in mortar attack on school

Clashes hit Damascus amid chemical weapons fears

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In July, Syria threatened to unleash its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack. The statement was Syria’s first-ever acknowledgement that the country possesses weapons of mass destruction.

But the regime quickly tried to clarify its comments, saying “all of these types of weapons — IF ANY — are in storage and under security.” That appeared to be an attempt to return to the regime’s position of neither confirming nor denying whether it possessed non-conventional weapons.

NATO foreign ministers are expected Tuesday to approve member Turkey’s request for Patriot anti-missile systems to bolster its defense against strikes from neighboring Syria.

Ankara, which has firmly backed the Syrian opposition, wants the Patriots to defend against possible retaliatory attacks by Syrian missiles carrying chemical warheads.

Syria is reported to have an array of artillery rockets, as well as short- and medium-range missiles in its arsenal — some capable of carrying chemical warheads.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs foreign policy magazine, said Assad will never leave without a fight because he has so few options.

Assad realizes that there is no way back for him,” said Lukyanov, a leading Russian foreign policy expert with high-level Foreign Ministry connections. “If he tries to jump the boat, his own supporters will not forgive him for doing that. And if he loses, no one will give him any guarantees.”

In the Damascus area, the Britain-based opposition activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday’s clashes between rebels and troops loyal to Assad were taking place in Beit Saham, Akraba and Yalda suburbs as well as near the international airport.

The Observatory relies on reports from activists on the ground.

The Damascus suburbs, which have been opposition strongholds since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, have been the scene of heavy fighting since last week following the start of an army offensive to regain lost territory around the capital. Assad’s forces have so far repelled major rebel advances on the capital, though their hold may be slipping.

SANA reported that a journalist for the state-run Tishrin newspaper was killed near his home in al-Tadhamon suburb of Damascus. Naji Assaad was “assassinated by an armed terrorist group” Tuesday morning on his way to work, SANA said. The regime refers to rebels fighting to topple Assad as terrorists.

The Syrian uprising began with peaceful protests in March 2011, but has since morphed into a civil war that activists say has killed more than 40,000 people.

Reports emerged Tuesday of at least three killings of at least a dozen people each a day earlier.

A regime shell attack on the Aleppo neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr killed 12 men, the Observatory said. Amateur videos posted online showed bloody and dismembered bodies lying on a sidewalk in front of destroyed shops as people struggled to lift the wounded into vans and pick-up trucks.

Nearby, dozens of men stood in what the unnamed cameraman said was a bread line.

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