A Free Syrian Army fighter helps a family after a jet missile hit the al-Myassar neighbourhood of Aleppo. REUTERS photo
Syria’s government has fired more than 40 Scud-type ballistic missiles at rebel positions in the country’s north in the last two months, according to intelligence Turkey has gathered from the region.
Damascus began to use Scuds at the end of December after it lost control of its northern provinces amid high numbers of casualties to its security forces.
The Syrian army especially targeted Aleppo and Idlib, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that no missile has yet fallen close to the frontier with Turkey.
“Aleppo and Idlib are also close to our border. But missiles have not targeted regions that we can feel closely,” the official said.
The government has been forced to use the Scuds because it has lost control of the cities, the official said, adding that it previously used warplanes until opposition militants acquired the ability to respond with anti-aircraft weapons.
Fourteen children and five women were among at least 33 people killed in an apparent surface-to-surface missile strike on a residential area of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Feb. 19.
The Syrian army does not want to engage in close combat with rebels in order to avoid more casualties, retired Gen. Armağan Kuloğlu told the Daily News yesterday.
Syrian soldiers used to fight militants from a close range, but the strategy was abandoned as the rebels grew stronger and acquired better weapons, including air-defense systems, Kuloğlu said.
The Syrian government then began launching remote attacks, Kuloğlu said, adding that Damascus’ casualties had grown in recent days amid gun battles.
A security source in Damascus told Agence France-Presse late last year that such missiles were a Syrian-made version of the Scud and that NATO
has since reported ballistic missiles being used in Syria.
A missile struck the command center of the main Syrian rebel force, the Liwa al-Islam Brigade, near Damascus yesterday, wounding its leader, activists told Reuters, while a football player was killed when a mortar bomb hit a stadium in the center of the capital.