Forces loyal to President Assad had been asking him for four months to use chemical weapons against the rebels, but they received no approval from the Syrian leader.
Therefore, the August 21 attack “might not have been sanctioned by Assad,” the report said.
The newspaper also said, citing German intelligence, that President Assad is likely to remain in power for a long time, even if the United States does conduct military strikes on Syria.
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) could not be reached for comment, Reuters news agency said.
Bild said radio traffic was intercepted by a German naval reconnaissance vessel, the Oker, sailing close to the Syrian coast.
Last week the head of the BND, Gerhard Schindler, gave confidential briefings to the German parliament’s defence and foreign affairs committees. Bild said Schindler told the defence committee that Syria’s civil war could continue for years.
The chief of staff of Germany’s armed forces, General Volker Wieker, also told lawmakers that the influence of al-Qaida linked forces within the rebels was becoming stronger and stronger.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated in an interview with Bild am Sonntag that Germany would not take part in any military intervention.
Germans are overwhelmingly opposed to military action in Syria.
US President Barack Obama recently asked the US Congress to support a limited military intervention in Syria because of the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, which the US claims killed over a thousand civilians in one attack on August 21.
The unrest in Syria began in March 2011 and later escalated into a civil war.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far, according to UN estimates.
Assad denies ordering chemical attack in Syria – CBS
Syrian President Basar al-Assad has denied in an interview with CBS television that he was behind a chemical attack in a Damascus suburb last month, the US network said Sunday. Also, Assad could not confirm or deny that his government used chemical weapons.
“He denied that he had anything to do with the attack, notwithstanding what has been said and notwithstanding the videotape. He said there’s not enough evidence to make a conclusive judgment” CBS veteran correspondent Charlie Rose said, speaking earlier after interviewing Assad in Syria.
“The most important thing, as he says, is that ‘there’s no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people’,” Rose said.
Assad’s rare interview with an American network is to be aired on CBS on Monday.
The United States has led the charge that Assad ordered a chemical attack against the residents of a Damascus suburb on August 21, which Washington says killed some 1,400 people including about 400 children. Graphic videos released on Saturday showed dozens of people, including children, writhing on the ground with convulsions, some apparently foaming at the mouth and vomiting as rescuers sought to help them.
But Assad challenged the US administration of President Barack Obama to provide the evidence as it seeks to build domestic and international support for military strikes against the Syrian regime for breaking international conventions with its alleged use of chemical weapons.
“He said that he did not necessarily know whether there was going to be a military strike. He said that they were obviously as prepared as they could be for a strike,” Rose added, citing his interview with Assad.
The long-time Syrian leader also “had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts,” Rose said. “The results had not been good and they should not get involved and that they should communicate to their Congress and to their leadership in Washington not to authorize a strike.”
Congress is due to begin full debate this week on whether to approve Obama’s plans for limited military strikes on Syria aimed at degrading its chemical weapons ability when it returns from its summer break on Monday.But there is a deep skepticism among a war-weary American public over a new American military engagement in the Middle East.
Turkey scrambles warplanes after blast on Syria border
Several Turkish F-16 warplanes took off from a base in southeastern Diyarbakir after a large explosion close to the Syrian border, local media reported on Sunday.
Turkey’s Sabah newspaper reported that the warplanes were headed toward the Syrian border, according to the Bloomberg news agency.
Meanwhile, the state hospital in the border town of Reyhanli, was on alert to receive possible casualties from Syria following the explosion, Milliyet newspaper reported, adding that a missile allegedly landed near the Syrian village of Sarmade.
Earlier this week, Turkey beefed up a military presence along its southern border with Syria in anticipation of US-led strikes on the regime in Damascus, AFP news agency reported, citing local media.
A 20-vehicle convoy with a tank contingent was deployed to the border area of Yayladagi in Hatay province on Wednesday and was followed by 15 more vehicles Thursday, Turkish news agency Dogan reported.
Syria’s northwestern border with Turkey is one of the few areas on the frontier still in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the agency.
Meanwhile, state-run news agency Anatolia said an already enlarged troop presence on the southern border would also be reinforced.
Syria rebels seize Christian town Maalula
Syrian rebels have taken control of the historic Christian town of Maalula, north of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog and residents said on Sunday.
“Overnight, Syrian regime troops moved into the village, but rebel forces sent reinforcements and were able to take control of the entire town,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the jihadist Al-Nusra Front was among the forces that had taken control of the town.
A Maalula resident, reached by phone, also confirmed that regime forces had withdrawn from the area and rebel forces were now in control.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the resident said the situation on the ground was quiet.
“The rebels are inside Maalula, all of Maalula. The government troops have pulled out of Maalula,” the resident said.
Abdel Rahman said “fierce fighting broke out between regime forces and rebel fighters overnight and the soldiers withdrew to the outskirts of the town”.
Maalula is considered a symbol of the Christian presence in Syria and many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ that only small, scattered communities around the world still use.
The battle for the town left at least 17 rebels dead and more than 100 wounded, the Observatory said, adding that dozens of regime forces and pro-militia members were also killed or wounded in the fighting.
The clashes erupted on Wednesday, when Al-Nusra Front fighters and other Islamist rebels attacked a regime checkpoint at one entrance to the town.
The advance raised fears of attacks against churches or Christians in the town and on Friday the opposition Syrian National Coalition said rebels had withdrawn from the area.
“Free Syrian Army (FSA) units on Wednesday destroyed posts at Maalula and Jabadine held by the army on the Damascus-Homs road after fierce clashes with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and auxiliaries,” the Observatory said in a statement on Friday.
“The FSA was stationed for several hours in the vicinity, but did not attack any church or convent,” it said.
On Saturday, the Observatory said rebel forces were fighting pro-regime militias in the west of the town and was also engaged in clashes with Syrian troops on the outskirts of Maalula.
US plans for 3 days of attacks on Syria
The Pentagon is readying more intense and longer attacks on Syria than originally planned, set to last three days, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
War planners now aim to unleash a heavy barrage of missile strikes to be followed swiftly by additional attacks on targets that may have been missed or remain standing after the initial launch, the Times cited officials as saying.
Two US officers told the newspaper that the White House has asked for an expanded target list to include “many more” than the initial list of around 50 targets.
The move is part of an effort to obtain additional firepower to damage Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s dispersed forces.
Pentagon planners are now considering using Air Force bombers, as well as five US missile destroyers currently patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea, to launch cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles from far out of range of Syrian air defenses, according to the report.
The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group with one cruiser and three destroyers positioned in the Red Sea can also launch cruise missiles at Syria.
“There will be several volleys and an assessment after each volley but all within 72 hours and a clear indication when we are done,” an officer familiar with the planning told the Times.
The intensified military planning comes as President Barack Obama prepares to personally make his case to the American people and further press reluctant lawmakers on the need for action after Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people last month.
Obama is scheduled to tape interviews Monday with anchors of the three major broadcast networks, as well as with PBS, CNN and Fox News.
The interviews, to air that night, will precede Obama’s address to the nation on Tuesday ahead of an expected full Senate vote.
The president favors a limited attack with only a limited number of warplanes to drop bombs over Syria, according to the Times.
Amid doubts that a limited US offensive would sufficiently hamper Assad’s military capabilities, one officer told the newspaper that the planned operation would amount to a “show of force” over several days that would not fundamentally change the situation on the ground.
The planned US strike “will not strategically impact the current situation in the war, which the Syrians have well in hand, though fighting could go on for another two years,” another US officer said.
US may attack Syria without UN sanction
At a press conference after his meeting with France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US does not rule out interfering in the Syrian conflict with force without waiting for the UN’s report on Syria.
UN experts are now investigating an incident that took place near Damascus on August 21 and was presumed to be a chemical attack.
Mr. Kerry said that President Obama is now viewing the possible variants of his future steps and hasn’t made a final decision yet.
(Source / 08.09.2013)