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423 dead in Syria in the last 48 hours

Syrian anti-government fighters continued to close in on areas previously dominated by the forces of President Bashar Al Assad in the last 48 hours resulting in high numbers of casualties across the country.

According to activists from the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) who are tracking the war, 239 people were killed on Monday and 184 on Tuesday including 11 women and 43 children.

Yesterday’s tally included at least 30 students who died, “…when regime forces shelled a school in the Wafideen camp, according to the LCC.

Syrian state television however reported that the massacre occurred after a “mortar launched by terrorists,” hit the school.

Anti-government fighters are usually referred to as terrorists by the state media and other media houses sympathetic to the regime.

Fighting around the capital city Damascus has been intense, especially in the eastern Ghouta area where the anti-government fighters have been making slow progress and encroaching on Assad’s stronghold.

Turkey knows ‘where all Syria missiles located’

ANKARA — Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in remarks published Wednesday that Ankara knows the “exact location” of hundreds of ground missiles belonging to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

“Assad has about 700 missiles… Now we know the exact location of all of them, how they are stored and who holds them,” Davutoglu was quoted as saying by the Sabah newspaper.

The comments emerged the day after NATO ministers approved Turkey’s request for deployment of Patriot missiles along its volatile border with Syria, a move that has angered Damascus and its allies.

Davutoglu said the international community feared possible attacks from Damascus against countries such as Turkey which were pushing for the toppling of the regime, if it felt the end was near.

“We say to anyone who would want to attack Turkey — don’t even think about it,” NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in announcing the alliance’s decision on the Patriots, a US-made ground to air system.

The number of missile batteries and their precise location have yet to be decided and will be determined after a site survey in Turkey and consultations within NATO.

Syria reportedly has several types of ballistic missiles, including Russian-made Scuds.

Turkey requested the Patriots out of concern for “possible action by uncontrolled groups in Syria,” Davutoglu said without elaborating.

Turkey has said the missiles would be for “purely defensive purposes” after several cross-border shelling attacks from Syria, where the 21-month old conflict killed more than 41,000 people according to rights groups.

Turkey, a NATO member hostile to Assad and hosting thousands of refugees, says it needs the air defense batteries to shoot down any missiles that might be fired across its border. The German, Dutch and US troops would take weeks to deploy.

NATO ministers meeting in Brussels also unanimously expressed “grave concern” about US intelligence reports suggesting Syria might use chemical weapons as a last resort to protect Assad, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen and officials from a number of Western countries have warned this week that any use of chemical weapons by Syria would prompt an international response. Syria says it would never use chemical weapons on its own people.

Warplanes on Wednesday pounded suburbs of Damascus as regime forces fought to reclaim rebel-held areas of the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog, which uses a countrywide network of activists and doctors to compile its tolls, said at least 123 people were killed on Tuesday, including some 30 in and around Damascus.

Damascus has now become the focus of clashes.

Gunmen loyal to opposite sides battled on Wednesday in the streets of a northern Lebanese city where two days of fighting killed at least five people and wounded 45, officials said.

The Lebanese army fanned out in the city of Tripoli to calm the fighting, with soldiers patrolling the streets in armored personnel carriers and manning checkpoints. Authorities closed major roads because of sniper fire.

The fighting comes at a time of deep uncertainty in Syria, with rebels closing in on President Bashar Assad’s seat of power in Damascus.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged Syria’s regime against using its stockpile of chemical weapons, warning of “huge consequences” if Assad resorts to such weapons of mass destruction.

“I again urge in the strongest possible terms that they must not consider using this kind of deadly weapons of mass destruction,” Ban told The Associated Press, speaking on the sidelines of a climate conference in Qatar.

Syria has been careful not to confirm that it has chemical weapons, but the regime insists it would never use them against the Syrian people.

Ban also suggested that he would not favor an asylum deal for the Syrian leader as a way to end the country’s civil war and cautioned that the United Nations doesn’t allow anyone “impunity.” Assad has vowed to “live and die” in Syria, but as the violence grinds on there is speculation that he might seek asylum. — Agencies

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