Syrian rebels say
they plan to seize Damascus International Airport, declaring it a
legitimate target in their fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
A rebel commander said Friday attacks on the airport are justified
because it is being used as a military zone. He said civilians should
avoid the area. It was unclear just how close to the airport the battles
Fighting has intensified in the past week in the southern districts of
the Syrian capital and its suburbs.
Earlier Friday, Syrian activists said the army had bombed two Damascus
suburbs and increased reinforcements in an effort to try to reclaim
territory controlled by rebels.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army fired rockets at
the rebel-held Daraya and Moadamiah suburbs southwest of the capital.
The group said it feared that troops massing on the suburbs' outskirts
could be the prelude to an imminent ground assault.
Also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said American and
Russian officials will meet in the next few days to find ways to work
together to end the violence in Syria.
Clinton said there was no "breakthrough" during talks Thursday in
Ireland with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and special United
Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhtar Brahimi. But she said they did
agree to form lower-level teams to work with Brahimi on possible ways to
end the violence.
Russia and the United States have been on opposite sides of the more
than year-long conflict.
Clinton stressed that it is important for any country with influence in
the Middle East to explore all possible solutions, because developments
in Syria are "increasingly dangerous not only to Syrians, but to their
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said intelligence shows Assad may be
considering using chemical weapons, as rebel successes in the civil war
put increasing pressure on his government.
The White House has warned Assad that using chemical gas against his own
people would be a "red line" for the United States and bring serious
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday using such
weapons would be an "outrageous crime."
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad has told Lebanese TV that
if Syria had chemical weapons, it would not use them against the Syrian
people. He said the West is using the threat of chemical weapons as an
excuse to intervene.