President Bashar al-Assad’s military has fired more Scud-type missiles inside Syria, NATO officials said on Friday, more than a week after the Western alliance first detected such arms being used on rebel targets.
“I can confirm that we have detected the launch of Scud-type missiles. We strongly regret that act,” NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, calling the launches “acts of a desperate regime approaching collapse.”
A NATO told Reuters that there had been multiple launches of Scud-type missiles inside Syria on Thursday morning.
Rasmussen used the Scud launches to justify NATO’s decision to dispatch Patriot anti-missile systems to NATO ally Turkey – a deployment criticized by Syria, Iran and Russia.
“The fact that such missiles are used in Syria emphasizes the need for effective defence protection of our ally Turkey,” he told reporters after talks at NATO headquarters with Djibouti Prime Minister Dileita Mohamed Dileita.
“The recent launch of missiles has not hit Turkish territory but of course there is a potential threat and this is exactly the reason why NATO allies decided to deploy Patriot missiles in Turkey, for a defensive purpose only,” he said.
Palestinian refugees return
Meanwhile, in Damascus, Palestinian refugees streamed back to the Yarmuk camp after a reported deal to keep it out of the conflict, following fierce clashes earlier this week and briefly on Friday.
An AFP correspondent heard sporadic shooting, and a main road was blocked with boulders to keep out cars, although a van full of passengers still entered through a side street.
The fighting forced about 100,000 of Yarmuk’s 150,000-strong population to flee, with many taking refuge in Damascus parks and squares, said the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
Hours after they returned on Friday, fighting again flared in the camp for about an hour and a half, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The fighting pitted anti-regime Syrian and Palestinian rebels against members of the pro-regime popular committees,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
The clashes were between fighters who had not withdrawn from Yarmuk despite a reported agreement after talks that began on Wednesday aimed at removing both rebel and government fighters from the camp.
Newspapers in neighboring Lebanon said an agreement had been reached under the auspices of Mokhtar Lamani, the representative of U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
The U.N.’s World Food Program said it was to start providing food to 125,000 “vulnerable Palestinians and displaced Syrians” in and around Yarmuk.
Elsewhere, violence raged in flashpoints across Syria, with the Britain-based monitor saying at least 82 people were killed.
And a rebel attack on an electricity pylon caused a power outage in several areas of Damascus, state television said.
Despite the violence, protesters took to the streets in several anti-regime areas, renewing calls for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow does not want “chaos” in Syria — 21 months into an anti-regime revolt that monitors say has claimed more than 44,000 lives — and that it looked forward to seeing a democratic regime there.
(english.alarabiya.net / 21.12.2012)