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March 27, 2023

Clashes amid prison revolts in Syria

U.S president warns Assad over use of chemical weapons.

Syrian troops have clashed with rebels in the capital, Damascus, and the second city, Aleppo, as they try to retake areas out of their control, the BBC reports. In Aleppo and Homs, there have been revolts and attempted breakouts by prisoners. Nine inmates died during the Aleppo jail rebellion, activists say. Activists say security forces are threatening to storm the Homs prison.The renewed fighting comes amid strong international concern over Syria’s threat to use chemical weapons. Damascus said on Monday that such weapons would not be deployed inside Syria but would be against foreign attack. On Monday, Damascus implicitly acknowledgement for the first time that it has a chemical weapons stockpile and would consider using it in the case of foreign action. US President Barack Obama said such a move would be a “tragic mistake”, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it would be “reprehensible”. Israel and the US are concerned the weapons could fall into the hands of Lebanon’s Shia Islamist group Hezbollah, allied to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and be used to threaten Israel.The Syrian regime on Tuesday sought to clarify recent comments about the country’s weapons of mass destruction, which the Foreign Ministry had said would only be used in the event of “external aggression,” CNN reports.“The Foreign Ministry’s statement was only a response to false allegations on WMD & explanation of guidelines of defensive policy,” ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi tweeted on Tuesday. During a press conference Monday, Makdissi specifically addressed Western media with the following comments in English:“Any stocks of WMD or any unconventional weapon that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses would never be used against civilians or against the Syrian people during this crisis at any circumstances, no matter how the crisis would evolve,” Makdissi said. “All the stocks of these weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses are monitored and guarded by the Syrian army. These weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”But on Tuesday, the regime accused some media outlets of taking Makdissi’s comments out of context and “portraying it as a declaration of possessing non-traditional weapons.”At least 14 people were reported to have been killed on Tuesday, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It listed the dead as four civilians and a rebel fighter in Aleppo, four civilians in Damascus and one rebel fighter in Deir Ezzor. Four Syrian soldiers were also killed in Idlib province, it said. The group says more 116 people were killed on Monday, and that more than 1,260 civilians, rebels and government soldiers have died since the fighting in Damascus and elsewhere intensified on 15 July.

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