Syrian jets pound rebel-held areas of Damascus

Rebels beg for arms; US to move F-16s to Jordan-Syria border.

June 15, 2013 20:04
1 minute read.
Soviet Union-made Mig 29 fighter jets are used by the Syrian Airforce.

Soviet made mig 29s used by syria 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

BEIRUT - Syrian artillery and warplanes pounded rebel areas in Damascus on Saturday as President Bashar Assad's foes pleaded for advanced weapons from the United States, which has promised them unspecified military aid.

Western powers have been reluctant in the past to arm Syrian insurgents, let alone give them sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles that might fall into the hands of Sunni Islamist insurgents in rebel ranks who have pledged loyalty to al-Qaida.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Salim Idriss said on Friday that rebels, pushed back by Assad's forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies in recent weeks, urgently needed anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, as well as a protective no-fly zone.

The use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces and the involvement of Hezbollah fighters show President Bashar Assad's lack of commitment to negotiations and threaten to "put a political settlement out of reach," the US State Department said on Saturday, citing comments by Secretary of State John Kerry.

"The secretary reaffirmed that the United States continues to work aggressively for a political solution with the goal of a second Geneva meeting, but that the use of chemical weapons and increasing involvement of Hezbollah demonstrates the regime's lack of commitment to negotiations and threatens to put a political settlement out of reach," the department said.

A US official said on Thursday that President Barack Obama had authorized sending U.S. weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time.

The United States will keep Patriot missile batteries and F-16 fighter jets in Jordan after the completion of joint military exercises this month amid the crisis in neighboring Syria, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "has approved a request from the Kingdom of Jordan for a detachment of F-16s and Patriot Missiles to remain in Jordan following the conclusion of the Eager Lion Exercise next week," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

"All other US personnel assigned to Jordan for Eager Lion will depart at the conclusion of the exercise. The United States enjoys a longstanding partnership with Jordan and is committed to its defense," Little added.

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