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A house damaged by a mortar attack in Al Midan residential district of Damascus, Syria, yesterday.
DAMASCUS: A defiant Presi-dent Bashar Al Assad yesterday rejected calls that he seek a safe exit, vowing he will “live in Syria and die in Syria” and warning that the world cannot afford the cost of a foreign intervention.
“I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country,” Assad said in English in an interview with Russian state-backed Russia Today (RT) television. “I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” he said, according to transcripts posted on RT’s website.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron floated the idea of granting Assad safe passage from the country, saying it “could be arranged,” although he wanted him to face international justice.
Assad also warned against a foreign intervention in Syria’s escalating conflict, saying such a move would have global consequences and shake regional stability. “We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region... it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” the transcript said. Assad added: “The price of this invasion, if it happens, is going to be big, more than the whole world can afford.”
Many in Syria’s opposition, have urged the international community to intervene to stop escalating bloodshed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 86 people were killed yesterday, including 38 soldiers. AFP
DAMASCUS: At least 16 Syrian soldiers and 10 rebels were killed yesterday in heavy clashes in the northeastern town of Ras Al Ain near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions stormed the majority Kurdish town after launching a two-pronged attack from across the border and the nearby Syrian village of Tal Half, the Britain-based watchdog said.
A local resident, Saad, said that rebels overran the border post before dawn from the Turkish side and then launched attacks on security posts in Ras Al Ain.
Turkish media reported that five Turks were lightly wounded by stray bullets from Ras Al Ain, whose nearby border post is one of the last on the Syrian-Turkish border not under rebel control.
There were conflicting reports on whether fighters from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, fought alongside the rebels. Syrian rebels attacked army roadblocks in Midan district in the heart of Damascus yesterday to relieve pressure on outlying rebel strongholds being pounded by air strikes and artillery, opposition activists said.
President Bashar Al Assad’s forces responded by bombarding the densely populated commercial and residential district, situated just outside the Old City walls, killing a woman pedestrian and a worker in a car wash, they said.
State television said “terrorists” had fired a mortar into the district, killing a woman and wounding three people. It was the first serious clash in Midan since Assad’s forces overran the area in July, in an armoured offensive that dislodged rebels from footholds in central Damascus.
An opposition activist in the capital, who declined to be named for fear of retribution, said rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles at roadblocks and other army and security positions surrounding the district.
Turkey ordered a Syria-bound Armenian plane to land and searched its cargo on Thursday, airport officials said, in the second such action in a month to prevent the use of Turkish airspace to supply the Syrian military.
The cargo aircraft was searched in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum in a previously agreed step, as in mid-October when another Armenian plane was allowed to continue its journey after confirmation it was carrying humanitarian aid as stated.
Officials at Erzurum airport said Turkey had allowed the plane to leave after a search of around four hours and that none of the Air Armenia plane’s cargo had been seized. Turkey has become increasingly assertive in challenging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid growing tensions along the border. It banned Syrian aircraft from its airspace in October after saying it had found Russian munitions believed to be destined for Syria’s armed forces on board a Syrian plane.
Damascus fired back yesterday at Arab League head Nabil Al Arabi, accusing him of supporting a “terrorist project to destroy Syria” after he said Bashar Al Assad’s regime would not last much longer.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdisi, quoted by the official news agency Sana, described Arabi’s spearheading of a Syrian opposition meeting in Qatar as a “criminal plan to shed the blood of the Syrian people.”
Makdisi called the pan-Arab bloc’s secretary general a “partner, sponsor and tool of a terrorist project to destroy Syria.”
Since the Syrian revolt began in March 2011, initially as a peaceful uprising and later an armed insurgency, Damascus has equated activists and rebels alike as foreign-funded “terrorists” supported by the West and some Gulf nations. The spokesman said he was “not surprised that Nabil Al Arabi repeats his fantasy about regime change in Syria, a founding member of the organisation that employs him,” referring to the Arab League which suspended Syria a year ago.
Arabi participated yesterday in a conference in Doha to unify the Syrian opposition. Before travelling to Doha on Wednesday, Arabi said that “it is important to unify the opposition’s visions, especially because everyone knows that the regime in Syria will not remain for long.”Agencies