Last Updated: Fri Sep 21, 2012 22:00 pm (KSA) 19:00 pm (GMT)

Clashes reported near Aleppo barracks; NATO rules out Syria military intervention

An image grab, taken from a video uploaded on YouTube, showing Syrian government forces torturing Syrian civilians at a checkpoint between the cities of Hama and Salamiyah. (AFP PHOTO/YOUTUBE)
An image grab, taken from a video uploaded on YouTube, showing Syrian government forces torturing Syrian civilians at a checkpoint between the cities of Hama and Salamiyah. (AFP PHOTO/YOUTUBE)

Syrian troops backed by helicopter gunships clashed with rebels near a barracks in Aleppo as battles broke out around a military airport elsewhere in the northern province on Friday, monitors said, as NATO ruled out any military intervention in Syria.

As many as 100 people have been killed by the fire of Syrian forces across the country, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the local Coordination Committees.

In Damascus, state news agency SANA said the army unearthed the bodies of 25 people shot execution-style in the Qadam district and blamed “armed terrorist groups,” the regime’s term for rebels.

In other developments, a masked gunman on a motorbike gunned down prominent Kurdish activist Mahmoud Wali on Thursday in northeastern Syria, fellow activists said.

And a tolerated opposition group said three of its members -- Abdul Aziz Khayer, Iyas Ayash and Maher Tahhan -- had gone missing on their way home from Damascus airport after a trip to China for talks on an end to the violence.

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change groups Arab nationalists, Kurds and socialists.

In the Arkoub district of Aleppo, fighting erupted overnight near the Hanano army barracks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Several districts of the northern metropolis, including Sakhur in the northeast and Bustan al-Qasr in the center, came under overnight attack, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Elsewhere in the province, fighting broke out between troops and rebels near the Meng military airport, it said.

Military airfields have been a key rebel target because the regime is increasingly using air power to launch devastating strikes.

Northwest of the capital Damascus, the Observatory reported a massive explosion, believed to be a car bomb. Heavy gunfire was heard afterwards but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

In the central province of Homs, a civilian was killed in dawn shelling of Rastan, while the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and the town of Daal in the southern province of Deraa also came under bombardment.

Protesters took to the streets after the main weekly Muslim prayers, as on every Friday since the revolt broke out in March 2011, in Aleppo and the northwestern province of Idlib, activists said.

This week’s slogan for the protests was “the beloved of the Prophet in Syria are being massacred,” reflecting demonstrations in several Muslim states on Friday over a U.S.-produced film mocking the Prophet Mohammed, according to AFP.

According to the Observatory, at least 29,000 people have been killed in the 18-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

On the humanitarian front, Syria’s ally Russia flew in almost 80 tons of food aid, SANA reported.

Iraqi denial

Iraq, meanwhile, on Friday denied permission for a North Korean aircraft to cross its airspace on its way to Syria over suspicions it was carrying arms and advisers, an official in Baghdad said.

The allegation, reported by Reuters on Wednesday, said arms transfers were organized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“Continuing the Iraqi government policy to investigate the passing of weapons to Syria through Iraqi land and air space, the Iraqi authorities prevented a North Korean plane from going to Syria, after they suspected that the plane was shipping weapons,” Ali al-Mossawi, media advisor to the Iraq’s prime minister, told Reuters.

Moussawi said the scheduled plane’s itinerary, from North Korea to Syria, was what had aroused suspicions but that there had been no contact between the Iraqi government and North Korea on the issue.

Mossawi said that despite repeated requests from the Iraqi side, the United States had not presented any evidence that Iranian civilian aircraft were shipping arms to Syria via Iraq.

No military intervention

Meanwhile, NATO does not believe that military intervention in Syria would bring any improvement in the security situation there, a senior alliance official said Friday.

Germany’s Manfred Lange, Chief of Staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), said the military was telling leaders that there was no good case for military action and the political process had to be pursued.

“The military advice is (that) there are not sufficient visible signs at the moment that a military intervention could lead to an improvement of the security situation,” Lange said, according to AFP.

“The political process has to be pushed forward, sanctions need to take effect. At the moment, this situation cannot be solved by the military in a responsible way,” he told a briefing.

He added that with little prospect of action at the United Nations “it is clear that the Alliance doesn't have any military plans on Syria.”

NATO concluded a seven-month air campaign in Libya last year which helped rebels oust veteran leader Muammar Qaddafi and there has been speculation such an operation could be repeated in Syria if U.N. approval was obtained.

Permanent U.N. Security Council members Russia and China oppose any such intervention even as the death toll mounts steadily in Syria where rebels are trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

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