November 21, 2012

Turkey has asked NATO to deploy Patriot missiles on its territory, the alliance said on Wednesday, to help it defend itself against any Syrian attacks.

“Such a deployment would augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities to defend the population and territory of Turkey,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement. “It would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO’s south-eastern border.”

Rasmussen said the alliance would discuss the request “without delay.”

Meanwhile, conflict in Syrian continues unabated.

Syrian warplanes bombed Damascus suburbs and rebel-held areas in the country’s north Wednesday as the government blasted the European Union for endorsing a newly formed opposition coalition.

The raids struck several eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital and the strategic northern city of Maaret al-Numan, a key supply route linking Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo, said two activist groups. Both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees also reported violence elsewhere in Syria.

The state-run news agency SANA said the army continued its pursuit of “terrorists” – a government term for rebel fighters – in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, inflicting casualties on the enemy. The report also said that attackers targeted a mosque in Daraya suburb.

Syria’s army also repelled a rebel attack Wednesday on a military base at Sheikh Suleiman, 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of the city of Aleppo, and killed at least 25 insurgents, a watchdog said.

Rebel fighters have besieged the base for several weeks, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They have now been forced to pull back as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad win back ground in northwest Syria.

At least 25 rebel fighters were killed, said the Britain-based monitoring group, citing rebels.

The area was mined and came under aerial bombardment, it said.

Rebels seized the strategically located Base 46 late last week, according to the monitoring group. The base is a large military complex perched on a hill, and is also located near Syria’s second city Aleppo.

Base 46 was one of the army’s last remaining bases in the area bordering Turkey, which supports the revolt against Assad.

Rebels had aimed to expel the army from Sheikh Suleiman, as they edge towards declaring the “liberation” from regime hands of northwestern Syria.

Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts. The crisis has since morphed into a civil war, with scores of rebel groups across the country fighting government troops. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the 20 months of unrest, according to activists.

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