Syria rebels: Assad regime moved chemical weapons near border
Opposition members:'We have confirmed information that the weapons were moved to airports located at the borders of Syria,'; Erdogan: Rebels are 'closer than ever to victory'; Amos Gilad: Syria in full control of army stockpiles.
Syrian rebels said Tuesday that government forces have moved chemical weapons to airports near the country's borders - a day after the regime warned it could use them if Syria is attacked by an external force.
In response to the comments of the rebels, Israeli Defense official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio on Tuesday that the Syrian government is still in full control of chemical weapons stockpiles.
"At the moment, the entire non-conventional weapons system is under the full control of the regime," he said.
On Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdisi, warned that Syria will "not use any chemical or other unconventional weapons against its civilians, and will only use them in case of external aggression."
Syria's comments sparked wide-scale international condemnation and prompted US President Barack Obama to warn Syria not to make the "tragic mistake" of using such weapons.
"We have confirmed information that the weapons were moved to airports located at the borders of Syria," Brigadier Kassem Saeddine, of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) said Tuesday.
"Most of us in the Free Syrian Army command know very well where these weapons are located and now we have solid information that (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad has transferred some of these weapons with the equipment for mixing chemical components to airports near the border," he told the Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera.
The FSA said that the weapons had been moved in a bid to pressure the international community.
Damascus also said it would not use its weapons against neighboring Israel, which has expressed concern over the issue of the chemical weapons, over the course of the 17-month uprising in Syria.
Syrian television Tuesday played down what Makdisi's previous comments, and quoted him in a new statement as saying that Syria would "never use chemical and biological weapons... and that such weapons, if they exist, it is natural for them to be stored and secured."
Meanwhile, activists reported Tuesday that rebels took control over several districts of the northern city of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that mutiny took place inside the city's central prison, and that seven prisoners were killed and 16 wounded.
The FSA described the mutiny as "the first step towards the liberation of the second largest city in Syria."
On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad is "closer than ever to victory" and warned that Turkey will respond firmly to any hostility from Syria.
"We believe that the Syrian people are closer than ever to victory," state-run Anatolian news agency quoted Erdogan as saying at a dinner for ambassadors in Ankara on Monday evening.
The Turkish prime minister also criticized the faltering peace plan drawn up by international envoy Kofi Annan after the UN Security Council voted on Friday to extend for 30 days the mandate of the UN monitoring mission in Syria.
"The Annan plan, which the international community including Turkey has supported in good faith, has become a vehicle for exploitation by the Assad regime in its current form. The international community must take more responsibility when faced with the unfolding developments," he said.
Erdogan also issued a new warning to Syria, calling on it to heed Turkey's firm response to the shooting down of the Turkish military reconnaissance aircraft on June 22 off the coast of Syria.
"If the Syrian regime does not learn the lesson of these developments and continues its hostile behavior, Turkey will not hesitate to give as good as it gets," Erdogan said.