Syrian opposition, UN to cooperate in probe of chemical arms allegations

UNICEF warns of humanitarian crisis in Homs as gov't routs pockets of resistance in city; Turk killed by cross border fire.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
August 3, 2013 12:48
2 minute read.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Syrian refugees in Lebanon 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

The Syrian opposition has pledged to fully cooperate with UN inspectors who are due in the war-torn country to investigate claims that forces loyal to President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, Israel Radio reported on Saturday.

According to Israel Radio, the inspectors are scheduled to visit Syria in the coming days. They will reportedly visit three sites where rebel fighters battling the Assad regime claim there was use of chemical arms.

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Syrian opposition officials say dozens were killed and wounded in army offensives around the country, including in Damascus, Homs, and Ar-Raqqah.

Israel Radio reports that oppositionists claim fierce fighting with pro-government forces has also taken place in Aleppo.

UNICEF has warned that 400,000 residents of Homs, most of them women and children, are at risk due to gun battles between rebels and the military.

Agency officials say that the numerous checkpoints and roadblocks put up by Assad's military have complicated efforts to bring needed humanitarian assistance.

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UNICEF's executive director, Anthony Lake, said that while water and electricity are still available to the residents of Homs, there is a shortage of vegetables, milk, and other basic food supplies that is growing progressively worse. Lake called on all protagonists in the conflict to allow emergency supplies to reach Homs, Israel Radio reported.

In recent weeks, pro-Assad forces have escalated the conflict in Homs, the country's third largest city. This past week Assad's troops conquered one of the last remaining rebel strongholds in the city, the neighborhood of Khalediya.

Israel Radio reported that Syrian rebels have come into possession of a large weapons cache near Damascus. Oppositionists report that rebel troops from the Islamist al-Nusra movement managed to obtain anti-tank missiles as well as ground-to-ground Grad missiles.

Fighting between the military and opposition militias continues in southern Damascus, according to Israel Radio.

Turkish man killed by stray bullet

A Turkish man was killed on Saturday by a stray bullet fired across the border from Syria into the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, security sources said.

Ramazan Zeybel, 45, died in hospital. He was the fourth Turkish citizen to be killed by stray shells and bullets fired during clashes in the neighbouring Syrian town of Ras al-Ain.

With an ethnic mix of Arabs, Kurds and others, Ras al-Ain has been a focus of clashes for months, with Kurdish militias fighting for control against Arab rebel fighters from the al Qaeda-linked hardline Sunni Islamist al-Nusra Front.

Kurdish militias have sought to consolidate their grip in northern Syria, exploiting the chaos of the civil war over the past year by seizing control of districts as Assad's forces focused elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, fighters allied to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the strongest local Kurdish group with well-armed militias, captured Ras al-Ain from Nusra fighters.

Nusra fighters have regrouped in Tel Halaf, 4 km (2.5 miles) to the west, from where they have been shelling and firing in an attempt to recoup their losses. The Kurds appear to be holding their ground.

The Turkish military, which has been returning fire into Syria when stray bullets or mortars land inside Turkey, said it had fired several shots across the frontier at Ceylanpinar on Thursday night after a bullet from Syria hit the town.


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