NATO SAYS ‘DESPERATE’ SYRIA FIRES MISSILES

The Wall Street Journal on December 21, 2012, reported that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has detected the Syrian military firing missiles, the group’s civilian chief said, but none of the rockets had fallen into Turkey, where the alliance is installing Patriot missile defense batteries.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary-general, said he strongly regretted the launches, which he called “acts of a desperate regime approaching collapse.”

He said the firing of the missiles emphasized the need for effective defenses for Turkey.

NATO foreign ministers this month agreed to deploy six Patriot batteries in Turkey, two each from Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S…Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, said this month he expected the Dutch batteries to be operational by the end of January.

Also December 21 Syrian rebels attacked a base protecting a military industrial compound in the country’s north as antigovernment forces pushed forward in efforts to capture wider areas near the border with Turkey, an activist group said, according to the Associated Press.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven rebels were killed in the attack on the air defense base in the town of al-Safira.

The town is home to a complex of military factories and lies just south of Syria’s largest city and commercial hub, Aleppo.

The attacks are part of a push by the rebels who have been capturing army bases in and around Aleppo over the past weeks as they gain wider areas near the border with Turkey.

Syria’s conflict started 21 months ago as an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled the country for four decades.

Also Friday, a prominent state-run Syrian TV news anchor told the pan-Arab network Al-Arabiya that he defected after being subjected to several sessions of interrogations by the country’s intelligence services, the AP said.

Ahmad Fakhouri said he and his colleagues used to read the news as it was given to them and “the anchor had no right to change one word.”

Mr. Fakhouri said he quit his job at the TV eight months ago and was able to flee the country with the help of rebels.

“I look forward for the day when Syria will be free and I can return to my country to practice my job,” he said from a secret location outside Syria.

On December 21 fighting continued in the Damascus neighborhoods of Hajar Aswad and Tadamon, just outside Yarmouk, the Observatory said, according to the AP. It had no immediate words on casualties.

Rebels also attacked army positions in the southern suburbs of the capital, including Mleiha and Chebaa, the group said. The areas are close to the Damascus International Airport and have witnessed heavy clashes over the past weeks.

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