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Syrian rebels seize arms depot near Damascus

Groups reportedly capture anti-tank weapons and ground-to-ground missiles; UN: 400,000 people in imminent danger in Homs

Syrian rebels run during heavy clashes with soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad. (photo credit: AP/Aleppo Media Center AMC)
Syrian rebels run during heavy clashes with soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad. (photo credit: AP/Aleppo Media Center AMC)

Syrian rebels captured an arms depot near Damascus Saturday, seizing anti-tank weapons, ground-to-ground Grad missiles, and a variety of other ammunition, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted by AFP.

The monitoring watchdog said several groups, including the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, were behind the capture.

“Liwa al-Islam, Al-Nusra Front, Al-Tawhid battalion, the Maghaweer [rebel commando force] and the Qalamun Martyrs’ battalion… captured an ammunitions depot near the village of Qaldun in the Qalamun area” northeast of the capital, the Britain-based Observatory said.

On Thursday, rebels sent a wave of rockets slamming into regime strongholds in the central city of Homs on Thursday, triggering a succession of massive explosions in a weapons depot that killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens, an opposition group and residents said.

The attack — one of the most potent against pro-government districts in the area — overshadowed a rare trip by President Bashar Assad to a former opposition bastion outside the capital, Damascus, during which he defiantly vowed in front of troops to defeat the rebels fighting to topple him.

The huge explosion in the Homs district of Wadi Dahab delivered a jolt to Assad’s regime, which for weeks has been boasting of achievements against the rebels in the strategic Homs region and the suburbs of Damascus.

The UN on Saturday warned against a dire situation in Homs where “some 400,000 civilians [are] now displaced in the district of Al Waer, living in partially constructed buildings, schools and other public buildings. In recent days the situation in Al Waer has worsened, with reports of intense daily clashes, and rocket and mortar strikes causing many casualties.”

UNICEF Executive-Director Anthony Lake cautioned in a statement that the organization “has been aiding partners to distribute nutrition and basic hygiene supplies while striving to maintain sufficient water for the innocent people caught up in the fighting…but new checkpoints are preventing more supplies from entering the area. Water and electricity is still available for now but vegetables, milk and other essentials are in increasingly short supply.”

Lake said he feared that without safe access, the situation will deteriorate further.

The 28-month Syrian civil war has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, according to the latest UN figures.

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