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Wednesday, July 23, 2014  

Syrian troops push rebels back from Damascus
BRUSSELS/DAMASCUS The Syrian army has managed to push rebel fighters back 9km from the capital on Wednesday, a government source said, even as the rebels claimed they had surrounded Aqraba air base near Damascus.

The rebels didn’t confirm or deny the governrment claim, but said their goal was not yet to enter the city.  

“It is very clear that the government wants to cut off the capital, the city was built that way with it’s air bases all around it. Right now we are concerning ourselves with certain strategic points that we want to take before we try to enter the city,” said the spokesman Abu Nidal, speaking by Skype.  

Separately, the rebel fighters said they had surrounded the Aqraba air base, 4km outside the capital.  

“We still do not control the air base but the fighters are choking it off. We hope within the coming hours we can take it,” said Abu Nidal, a spokesman for the rebel Habib Al Mustafa brigade. He said rebels captured a unit of air defence soldiers nearby, killing and imprisoning dozens while others escaped.   

Fighting also continued for a seventh day around the Damascus International Airport.  

Separately, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Ankara  knows the “exact location” of hundreds of ground missiles belonging to the 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.

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.

In Brussels, Nato has decided to send Patriot missiles to Turkey. 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.  

Separately, Damascus has agreed to repatriate the bodies of a group of Muslims killed by the army after they crossed into Syria to fight alongside rebels, a diplomatic source said.

In Paris, the UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said UN forces based inside Syria to monitor a longtime ceasefire between Syria and Israel will bring in armour to reinforce their security because of a threat posed by an influx of Syrian rebels.  

In Occupied Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is closely tracking developments relating to chemical weapons in Syria, which has been warned against
using them in the country’s uprising.                

Agencies
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