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Syrian rebels say they struck presidential palace, Damascus airport

Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Damascus on September 26, 2012. (AFP)

 

Syrian rebels said on Monday they had fired mortar bombs at the presidential palace, the Damascus International Airport and security buildings to mark the second anniversary of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

A statement posted on an opposition Facebook page said rebels groups had fired “a number of 120 mm heavy caliber mortars... in a joint operation coordinated with battalions operating in Damascus.”

“The operation comes in conjunction with the second anniversary of the start of our revolution; the revolution of freedom and dignity against the despotic regime of the criminal Bashar al-Assad,” it said.

Reuters could not independently confirm reports due to reporting restrictions on journalists in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across the country, said several rockets fell in districts near the presidential palace. But it said it could not confirm if the building was actually hit, nor whether there were any casualties.

Meanwhile, the Syrian state news agency (SANA) said that five mortar shells fell in different areas in Damascus.

SANA added that the shells fell in Tishreen Park, which is close to the Presidential Palace. However, no injuries were reported.

Activists told Al Arabiya the President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are going full force in the Syrian capital, blocking off roads and not allowing people to move around.

The news comes only hours after the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) held a conference in Istanbul were it said it wants an interim government to administer the whole of Syria and not just the areas freed from regime forces.

The conference was held on the sidelines of the Syrian National Coalition’s meeting in Turkey to select an interim prime minister and government.

In the press conference, Syria’s rebel chief Salim Idriss said the fighting battalions would respect the government's authority.

“We hope that the European countries take the decision to give us weapons and ammunition... We give them all guarantees that these weapons will not fall into the wrong hands or into the hands of extremists,” Idriss said. “My message is very clear: we in Syria need weapons and ammunition to fight,” said the general.

Idriss added that the FSA has the ability to distribute weapons to be received on all fighting battalions and that opposition groups, like Ahrar al-Sham and others, will return these weapons “once the regime falls.” Idriss noted that the opposition Al-Nursa Front, known to include Islamist extremist fighters, does not coordinate with the FSA nor work with it.

“We would support this government and we would work under the umbrella of this government,” Idriss told reporters.

“With its limited weapons capacity, the Free Syrian Army can secure the liberated territories against all attacks by the army, except air and missile attacks," Idriss said, reiterating calls to the West to arm the insurgents.

“We demand an interim government for all Syrian territory, one that would be the only legitimate government in the country... Any institutions not following this government would be considered to be acting illegitimately and would be prosecuted,” Idriss told AFP.

“Assad's government is an occupation government that has lost its legitimacy,” he said.

Syria's conflict began with political protests in mid-March, 2011, and has since become a civil war, with hundreds of rebel groups fighting Assad's forces.

The U.N. says more than 70,000 people have been killed and millions have been pushed from their homes by the violence.

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Last Update: Monday, 18 March 2013 KSA 22:12 - GMT 19:12
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