Archive for October 20th, 2013

Syrian rebels capture post near Jordan border

September 28, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels including members of an al-Qaida-linked group captured Saturday a military post on the border with Jordan after four days of fighting, an activist group said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 26 soldiers were killed in the battle as well as a number of rebels, including seven foreign fighters. The post served in the past as the customs office on the border with Jordan. It was turned into an army post years ago.

The post is on the outskirts of the southern city of Daraa where the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March 2011. The uprising later turned into a civil war that killed more than 100,000 people, according to the U.N.

Rebels control multiple areas along the borders with Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon as well as the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Also Saturday some U.N. inspectors left their hotel in Damascus in one vehicle to an unknown location, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.

The U.N. said Friday its team of weapons experts currently in Syria will investigate seven sites of alleged chemical attacks in the country, four more than previously known. The announcement came hours before the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

The team initially visited Syria last month to investigate three alleged chemical attacks this year. But just days into the visit, the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta was hit by a chemical strike, and the inspectors turned their attention to that case. The inquiry determined that the nerve agent sarin was used in the Aug. 21 attack, but it did not assess who was behind it.

The U.S. says more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack while activists gave a smaller number but still in the hundreds. The UN team of investigators expects to finalize its activities in the country by Monday, a U.N. statement said.

On Thursday, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog adopted a U.S.-Russian plan that lays out benchmarks and timelines for cataloging, quarantining and ultimately destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, their precursors and delivery systems.

The Security Council resolution enshrines the plan approved by Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, making it legally binding. The agreement allows the start of a mission to rid Syria’s regime of its estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal by mid-2014, significantly accelerating a destruction timetable that often takes years to complete.

A draft of the OPCW decision obtained by The Associated Press calls for the first inspectors to be in Syria by Tuesday.