Approach airport ‘at your own risk’

Approach airport ‘at your own risk’

Approach airport ‘at your own risk’

Many people wounded by car explosion in Hama. Activists feared a new ground assault on Damascus suburbs, where military reinforcements poured in. AA photo

Rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared Damascus International Airport a battle zone on Dec. 7, warning civilians and airlines they would approach it “at their own risk.”

“The rebel brigades who have been putting the airport under siege decided yesterday [Dec. 6] that the airport is a military zone,” said Nabil al-Amir, a spokesman for the rebels’ Damascus Military Council. “The airport is now full of armored vehicles and soldiers,” Reuters quoted him as saying. Cutting access to the airport 20 kilometers from the city center would be a symbolic blow.

“Civilians who approach it now do so at their own risk,” al-Amir said. Fighters had “waited two weeks for the airport to be emptied of most civilians and airlines” before declaring it a target, he added.

He did not say what they would do if aircraft tried to land. A rebel spokesman said fighters would not “storm the airport but we will blockade it.” Foreign airlines have suspended all flights to Damascus since fighting approached the airport in the past week, although some Syrian Air flights have used the airport in recent days.

Fear of ground assault
On the ground, activists feared a new ground assault on Damascus suburbs where military reinforcements poured in, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The army bombed orchards surrounding Daraya where military reinforcements are heading,” said the Observatory, according to Agence France-Presse. Troops also bombarded the southern districts of Damascus. The outskirts of Damascus are at the heart of the fighting where the regime has launched an operation to reclaim territory within eight kilometers of the city.

Amid unrelenting violence nationwide, protesters took to the streets for weekly Friday protests in several towns and cities, notably in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, Aleppo in the north, and Hasakeh in the northeast.