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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Rebels Continue Attacks on Syrian Military Airport

January 03, 2013

by VOA News
Opposition activists say Syrian rebels have launched another attack near the Taftanaz military airport, an apparent bid to weaken the government's air power.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels fought soldiers near the base in northern Idlib province on Thursday.

The state-run SANA news agency says security forces 'strongly confronted' an attempted attack by 'terrorists' near the military base on Wednesday.

A similar attack, on Tuesday, prompted officials to close the airport in Aleppo.

​​Sami Moubayed, a Syrian journalist who is now a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, says the rebels are trying to diminish the government's air power.

'I think that the main objective is not to take over these airports,' he said. 'It's to incapacitate them. To make them unfit for military use.'

Opposition activists also say the government carried out air strikes and shelling in suburbs of Damascus on Thursday.

The United Nations estimates 60,000 people have died in Syria's civil war, a figure that surpasses Syrian opposition estimates by about one-third.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said death reports from seven separate sources were cross-referenced by experts to arrive at the new toll.

Journalist Moubayed says the estimate of 60,000 deaths is probably low.

'I think that the number of missing people is not taken into account. I think that there are much more casualties in terms of civilians and in terms of army personnel,' he said. 'Syrian TV, state-run media, has actually stopped reporting the number of deaths since July because the number of deaths in the armed force is so high and because reporting them would actually demoralize troops currently engaged in combat. I think that the death toll is much higher on both the government forces and the rebel forces.'

Opposition activists say dozens of people waiting for fuel were killed Wednesday when a government warplane attacked a gasoline station near Damascus.

The strike in the eastern suburb of Mleiha, an area partly under rebel control, ignited a huge fire that sent black smoke billowing into the air.

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