Scud missiles: Reuters reports that Assad's soldiers are removing Scud missiles from a base north of the capital, to avoid being targeted by Western military forces.
President Bashar al-Assad's forces have removed several Scud missiles and dozens of launchers from a base north of Damascus, possibly to protect the weapons from a Western attack, opposition sources told Reuters on Thursday.
The move from the position in the foothills of the Qalamoun mountains, one of Syria's most heavily militarised districts, appears part of a precautionary but limited redeployment of armaments in areas of central Syria still held by Assad's forces, diplomats based in the Middle East told Reuters.
They said rebel raids and fighting near key roads had blocked a wider evacuation of the hundreds of security and army bases that dot the country of 22 million, where Assad's late father imposed his autocratic dynasty four decades ago.
With US air strikes looming in response to poison gas attacks last week on rebel-held Damascus suburbs, some of the formations on the move are accused by Assad's opponents of firing the chemical weapons. The Syrian government blames rebels for releasing gas but Western powers hold Assad responsible.
At the headquarters of the army's 155th Brigade, a missile unit whose base sprawls along the western edge of Syria's main highway running north from the capital to Homs, rebel scouts saw dozens mobile Scud launchers pulling out early on Thursday.
Rebel military sources said spotters saw missiles draped in tarpaulins on the launchers, as well as trailer trucks carrying other rockets and equipment. More than two dozen Scuds – 35-foot long ballistic missiles with ranges of over 200 miles – were fired from the base in the Qalamoun area this year, some of which hit even Aleppo in the far north.