At least 21 die as troops shell town near Damascus
THE SYRIAN army yesterday continued its offensive against rebels in Darayya and other areas on the southern outskirts of the capital as Paris proposed limited air intervention and Damascus warned against foreign involvement.
At least 21 died during shelling of the Sunni working-class town of Darayya, bringing the total to 70 over three days, opposition sources said. Multiple rocket launchers and artillery were said to have been deployed by the army defending the nearby military airport and Talet Qawqaba base which had come under rebel attack.
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country is prepared to help impose a partial no-fly zone over Syria but said that shutting down Syria’s entire airspace would mean “going to war” and would require a coalition of the willing that, at present, does not exist. The US is considering this option.
Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi stated, “Coming to Syria is not a picnic . . . Syria does not want a war with anyone.”
Fighting also continued in Aleppo where regime opponents have been tweeting about the situation. Fadi Salem, an Aleppo native now resident in Dubai, tweeted that one activist said the rebel Free Syrian Army is “losing support in Aleppo fast. They are a bunch of anarchists. They have no plan. We want a better state.”
A second said a Saudi fighter had taken over his house in the contested Salahuddin district.
Others have castigated the rebels for attacking the 13th-century citadel, a world heritage site, other monuments, and empty public buildings. “They have no regards whatsoever for civilian life. They hide among them, leave them when shelling starts.”
One activist used the word “liberated” when speaking of areas recaptured by the army.
Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Catholic priest expelled from Syria after becoming involved with the rebels, declared that Christians must strive to avoid the destruction of Syria’s religious pluralism. After promoting interfaith dialogue for 30 years, he accused the international community of “irresponsibility” for not countering the rise of Sunni fundamentalist groups in Syria.
A US freelance journalist and former marine Austin Tice has been missing in Syria for more than a week. When he last communicated with his family, he was with the rebels who had smuggled him into Syria.
Bashar Fahmi, a Jordanian correspondent for US al-Hurra channel, and his Turkish cameraman Cuneyt Unal, have reportedly been arrested by government forces in Aleppo after entering Syria illegally. According to Reporters without Borders, at least 10 professional journalists and 10 Syrian opposition “citizen journalists” have been killed in Syria over the past 17 months.
UN High Commission for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards reported 202,512 Syrian refugees were in neighbouring countries.