Syrian jets attack rebel base

Mon, Nov 26, 2012, 00:00

Syrian war planes attacked a rebel headquarters near the Turkish border today but appeared to miss their target, opposition activists in the region said.

"The (Free Syrian Army) joint command is located in a school. It seems they have missed it. There were two jets - one of them looked like a reconnaissance aircraft. They had been flying over the area for an hour," activist Mohammad Abdallah said.

They said a Turkish fighter was scrambled to the area. There was no immediate comment from Turkish authorities about the incident, which occurred in Atima village in hilly farmland across the border from Turkey's Hatay province.

Rebels fired anti-aircraft guns at the jets but they were flying too high to be hit, they said.

Turkey has requested that Nato surface-to-air missiles be stationed on its side of the border, angering Syria, but said today they would only be used to protect Turkish territory and not to establish a no-fly zone.

Syrian jets have previously bombed rebel targets along the frontier but today's strike was one of the closest to the border, just two km (1.5 miles) from a Turkish gendarme compound and near a crossing point for Syrian refugees.

Another activist described how the planes were circling the area when they struck. The sound of what appeared to be rockets and explosions could be heard over the phone.

"They fired three rockets. It looks like that they hit nearby buildings. There are no reported casualties. It seems that the Free Syrian Army was expecting the air strike and had evacuated the area," he said.

Atima is the home village of Brigadier Mustafa al-Sheikh, a senior officer in the Free Syrian Army who moved operations there after staying at a camp on the Turkish side for months.

The attack comes just hours after the regime was accused of attacking a rebel-held village near Damascus killing 10 children as they
played outdoors. Video footage showed residents collecting young bodies torn by shrapnel.

The children went out after a lull in fighting in Deir al-Asafir, a village just east of Damascus, when fighter jets struck, activists and
residents said.

Video footage taken by activists showed the bodies of two young girls, one wearing purple, the other red, on the street in the village, with wounds
to their neck and head. A sobbing woman picked up one of the girls up and hugged her lifeless body.

Another two dead boys, hit in the head and face, were shown on the backseat of a car. Men picked up the bodies of two other children while a
larger body lay next to the front wheel of a vehicle.

"None of those killed were older than 15 years old. There are two women among 15 people wounded, mostly hit as they were inside the
courtyards of their houses," said Abu Kassem, an activist in the village told Reuters.

Most foreign governments are loath to impose a no-fly zone for fear of getting dragged into the 20-month-old conflict.

A joint Turkish-Nato team will start work tomorrow assessing where to station the Patriot missiles, how many would be needed and the number of foreign troops that would be sent to operate them, the statement said.

Within Nato, only the United States, the Netherlands and Germany possess Patriot missiles. The Netherlands has sent them to Turkey twice before during both Gulf wars in 1991 and 2003.

Turkey is reluctant to be drawn into the fighting, but the proximity of Syrian bombing raids to its border is straining its nerves. It has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets along the frontier and responded in kind to stray Syrian shells that have crossed into its territory.

Turkey - a major backer of Syria's opposition - is worried about its neighbour's chemical weapons, the refugee crisis on its border, and what it says is Syrian support for Kurdish militants on its own soil.

Reuters