Satellite images of suspect sites in Syria 370 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters / Handout)
Western intelligence officials have noticed new worrying signs of activity at chemical weapons sites in Syria, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
Syrian regime is "doing some things that suggest they intend to use the
weapons," one American intelligence official told the Times, adding, "It's not just moving stuff around. These are different kind of activities."
officials were unsure of Syria's intentions regarding the work at the
chemical sites, but said it is possible Damascus is preparing to use
chemical weapons as a last-ditched effort to defeat rebels, according to
But the Syrians have yet to take the most crucial
steps toward using their chemical weapons, or preparing them for firing
in any way, the Times reported.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel would weigh military action if it suspects Syria's chemical weapons could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization.
“We will do everything that is needed” to ensure Syria’s WMD stockpiles are not transferred, Netanyahu said at a meeting with EU ambassadors stationed in Israel in October.
Jets bomb Damascus, rebels open to peacekeepers
Syrian jets bombed rebel-held areas of Damascus on
Saturday, residents said, as the opposition indicated it could accept an
international peacekeeping force if President Bashar Assad is forced from
At least 73 people were killed Saturday across Syria, including 23
in Damascus, and 20 more in Aleppo, CNN quoted the Syrian opposition and
activists as saying.
According to the Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights, at least eight people died when a car bomb exploded in the
northern city of Reqqah, CNN reported.
Warplanes attacked the Damascus suburbs of Kafar Souseh and
Darraya, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an
opposition-linked group. The air strikes follow intensified rebel activity in
the capital, Assad's seat of power, as well as stormings of government military
bases in recent weeks.
"Syrian regular forces are trying to control the
areas surrounding the capital," the Observatory said. Bombings targeted a
continuous arc of rebel presence in the capital's outer districts from the
northeast to the southwest.
Opposition activists reported clashes and air
strikes in the provinces of Homs, Deir al-Zor, Idlib and in Aleppo, where they
said 14 rebel fighters were killed during an assault on an army base in the town
of Khanasser early on Saturday.
It is difficult to verify such reports
due to government restrictions on media access to Syria.
connections began working again on Saturday after a two-day blackout, the worst
communications outage in the 20-month-old uprising against Assad in which 40,000
people have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee the
Opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Coalition might
allow an international peacekeeping force into Syria if Assad and his allies
leave power, coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni said on Saturday.
opposition members have argued against international troops, saying their
arrival could serve as a rallying call for Assad loyalists in an area near the
Mediterranean where many of his minority Alawite sect live.
family has ruled autocratically for four decades, draws much of his support from
the sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Most of the rebels are Sunni
Bunni said the coalition was open to any proposal if Assad and
his allies, including top officers in the military and security apparatus, were
"If this is the first condition then we can start discussing
everything. There will be no political process until the ruling family and all
those who underpin the regime leave," he said.
Bunni, a physician who
spent most of the period after Assad inherited power from his father in 2000 in
jail as a political prisoner, was speaking at a news conference marking the
conclusion of the first full meeting of the opposition coalition in
Cairo.Airport reopens, Internet returns
Syrian state television quoted an information ministry statement
saying Damascus international airport was open on Saturday and that the road
leading to it was safe.
Since Thursday, clashes have been reported near
the Aqraba and Babilla districts on the southeastern outskirts of Damascus which
lead to the airport, effectively closing the road and leading EgyptAir and
Emirates to suspend flights.
US web tracking firm Renesys said in a
blog post that it could confirm "a largely complete restoration of the Syrian
Rights groups said the communications blackout was a precursor
to a wider offensive by government forces in the capital. Syrian security
sources and diplomats say the government intends to seal off central Damascus
from the restive suburbs.
Authorities had attributed the Internet outage
to a "terrorist" attack or a technical fault. On Saturday, state news agency
SANA gave a third reason for the outage: "Maintenance work." Residents contacted
by Reuters in the capital, the central city of Homs, and northern Aleppo said
they had connectivity.