Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil says the West is looking for an excuse for military intervention in his country, a move he says would be impossible.
Jamil said during a visit to Moscow Tuesday that sending Western forces into Syria would lead to a wider war in the Middle East. He dismissed U.S. President Barack Obama's warning about what would happen if Syria were to use chemical weapons, calling it election propaganda.
Obama Monday said a Syrian chemical weapons attack would be a "red line" that would significantly change the U.S. handling of the situation.
In Syria, a Japanese journalist traveling with the rebels was killed when she was caught in a gunfight between rebel and government forces in Aleppo. Two Alhurra TV journalists who were with her are missing.
Japan's Foreign Ministry says Mika Yamamoto worked for the Tokyo-based Japan Press.
VOA correspondent Scott Bobb spoke to the driver who brought the journalists into Syria Monday. The driver said the Japanese reporter was hit by a bullet at close range while a second Japanese journalist scrambled over a wall to safety. The driver says an Alhurra reporter was shot in the shoulder and was taken away by Syrian militiamen along with his cameraman.
Alhurra's parent organization, the Broadcasting Board of Governnors, which also oversees VOA, has urged the Syrian government to ensure the safety of the two journalists, correspondent Bashar Fahmi and cameraman Cuneyt Unal.
In an interview Tuesday with VOA, Reporters Without Borders spokeswoman Soazig Dollet said five foreign journalists have been killed since the start of the Syrian uprising. "Syria is now the most dangerous place for war reporter[s] in the world," he said.
Intense fighting continues across Syria in regions including Aleppo and Damascus, where President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched raids to oust rebels from their positions. Activists say Syrian troops stormed a neighborhood near the capital on Tuesday, and burned shops and homes. Opposition activists say more than 20 people were killed in violence across the country.
VOA reporter Bobb visited three towns in northern Syria - Tal Rifat, Aziz and Marea - all of which have been hit by Syrian aerial attacks.
More than 40 people died in an attack last week in the border town of Azaz. Bobb said people there fear Syrian warplanes may carry out more air raids. "Everyone keeps looking to the sky because what they greatly fear are the MIGs, which drop these 250-, some say 500-kilogram bombs that are mostly aimed at places where the government thinks the Free Syrian Army troops might be stationed or based, such as schools, hospitals or buildings they think could be headquarters. But often they miss and these hit residential areas, and this is what’s causing so much of the human tragedy in these towns," he said.
Bobb also stopped in Tal Rifat near the city of Aleppo, and in Marea between Aleppo and the Turkish border. He said about 40,000 people once lived in Tal Rifat, but only 2,000 are there now. He noted that many of them have fled to Azaz or Turkey.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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