SYRIAN rebels attacked a sprawling military air base in the country’s north-west yesterday, while opposition forces assaulted army checkpoints and positions in the south, activists said.
The raids follow nearly two weeks of advances by Syrian troops, mostly in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, and in areas near the Lebanese border in the central province of Homs.
In Moscow, Syria’s information minister Omran al-Zoubi denied recent charges that Syrian troops used chemical weapons against the rebels, saying that Washington had levelled the accusation as a result of the latest victories by the army.
“The American hysteria about the use of chemical weapons was caused by the success of the Syrian Arab Army in striking terrorists,” al-Zoubi was quoted by state television as saying. The government refers to rebels as “terrorists”.
The Obama administration said on Thursday that intelligence indicates that government forces used the nerve gas sarin in two attacks. It held back from saying Damascus had crossed what President Barack Obama has said would be a “red line”, prompting tougher action in Syria.
The rebels accuse regime forces of firing chemical agents on at least four occasions since December, killing 31 people in the worst of the attacks.
In yesterday’s fighting at the Abu Zuhour air base in north-western Idlib province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were casualties on both sides.
The base has been under siege from the rebels for months.