News / Middle East

Syrian Rebels Attack Damascus Military Base, Form Council

Syrians wave national flags as they rally in central Damascus in support of President Bashar al-Assad's, Nov. 16, 2011.
Syrians wave national flags as they rally in central Damascus in support of President Bashar al-Assad's, Nov. 16, 2011.

Syrian opposition activists say army defectors have attacked a government base near the capital, Damascus, as Turkish officials and Arab League members met to discuss ending bloodshed of an eight-month uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The activists say rebels of the Free Syrian Army fired rockets and machine guns at an air force intelligence complex in the Damascus suburb of Harasta early Wednesday.

A Germany-based spokesman for Syria's Local Coordination Committees said the Free Syrian Army has established a temporary military council whose goal is to weaken Syrian security forces. The Free Syrian Army previously had no announced central command.

A group of men claiming to be Syrian army defectors also released a video statement Wednesday declaring their desertion from the pro-Assad military.

A rights group says violence killed at least 11 people on Wednesday, including at least 4 in Homs province. There was no independent confirmation of the rebel attack or of the casualties.

Wednesday's escalations came as foreign ministers from Turkey and Arab League countries met in Morocco to consider additional sanctions against Syria for refusing to end the crackdown. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the gathering the Syrian government "will pay a high price." Syria boycotted the talks.

The league voted Saturday to suspend Syria's membership, accusing Damascus of failing to implement a deal with the regional bloc to stop the violent crackdown on dissent. The suspension was due to take effect Wednesday.

In Europe Wednesday, France announced it is recalling its ambassador to Syria and closing its consular offices amid new violence.

France's foreign minister says the country is working with the Arab League at the U.N. General Assembly on a new draft resolution on Syria.

Government loyalists also have staged mass rallies in recent weeks. Syrian state television showed thousands of Assad supporters rallying in the port of Latakia Wednesday, holding up his picture and denouncing the Arab League.

The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have been killed in connection with the Syrian revolt since March. Syria blames much of the violence on foreign-backed terrorists and religious extremists.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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