Syria’s rebels claim capture of missiles in Damascus

Updated 29 August 2012
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Syria’s rebels claim capture of missiles in Damascus

BEIRUT: Syria’s rebels on Tuesday claimed that they had seized from the regime’s arsenal 10 missiles in the eastern belt of Damascus province, amid a marked escalation of violence in the area.
“God is great! Ten missiles! Oh God!” said an unidentified cameraman filming missiles seized by rebel groups.
Activists say are operating under the name of the Gathering of Ansar Al-Islam (partisans of Islam) Battalions from the eastern Ghuta area of Damascus province.
The amateur video posted on YouTube showed a tank burning in a field, as well as several armed men.
It also showed a warehouse storing missiles which the rebels apparently seized from the hands of the army loyal to President Bashar Assad.
The eastern Ghuta area is home to some of the best organized rebel battalions in Syria, and has seen fierce fighting in recent days.
“The operation was staged by the Gathering of Ansar Al-Islam, which works closely with the Military Council,” according to Ahmed Al-Khatib, spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army’s Military Council for Damascus and its province.
“It is one of the largest (rebel) groups in the province, though it operates in other areas of the country too,” Khatib told AFP via Skype, who added that it comprised “several experts in missiles.”
Though it was not immediately possible to verify the type of missiles in question, Khatib quoted the rebels behind the operation as saying they were surface-to-surface missiles, and that four of them were ready for launching at the time of their seizure.
After a dramatic escalation of violence in the southwest of Damascus last week, which culminated in what the opposition described as a “massacre” of more than 300 people in Daraya during the weekend, the army shifted its focus to the east of the capital, aiming to destroy rebel supply lines into the capital.
On Monday, Syria’s rebels claimed the downing of an army helicopter in the east Damascus district of Qaboon.
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New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

Updated 28 min 10 sec ago
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New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

GAZA CITY: Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israel were pronounced dead Monday, a Gaza official said, bringing the toll from Israeli fire since March 30 to 40.
A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahba, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20.
Wahba, who was deaf, was shot in the head in a clash east of Khan Yunis on April 6, and Shamali died of “bullet wounds to his belly” sustained on Friday, said spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.
Most of the 40 Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or air strikes.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
Some protesters have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers.
Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed.
The Israeli army says its troops only opened fire in self-defense or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel.
More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said.
Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union.
Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Hamas since 2008.
Also on Monday, Hamas’s military wing said one of its men died in an explosion.
It said in a statement that Mohammed Al-Maqadma, 55, was killed by an “explosive projectile” fired by an unnamed group which it described as hostile to Hamas.
It did not elaborate further.
The Gaza health ministry said a child was wounded in the same blast, in the northern part of the strip.