AMMAN (Reuters) - Four hundred tonnes of arms have been sent into Syria from Turkey to boost insurgent capabilities against Syrian government forces, opposition sources said, after a suspected chemical weapons strike on rebellious suburbs of Damascus.

The source said the Gulf-financed shipment, which crossed from the Turkish province of Hatay in the past 24 hours, was one of the single biggest to reach rebel brigades since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad turned violent two years ago.

"Twenty trailers crossed from Turkey and are being distributed to arms depots for several brigades across the north," Mohammad Salam, a rebel operative who witnessed the crossing from an undisclosed location in Hatay, told Reuters.

A senior officer in the Gulf and Western backed Supreme Military Council, an umbrella group for rebel units, confirmed the shipment, and said that weapons airlifts into Turkey have increased since rebel held Sunni Muslim neighborhood and suburbs of Damascus were gassed last week.

Syrian opposition accounts that between 500 and well over 1,000 civilians were killed this week by gas in munitions fired by pro-government forces, and video footage of victims' bodies, have increased calls abroad for military intervention after 2 1/2 years of international inaction on Syria's conflict.

Syrian authorities sought to avert blame on Saturday by saying its soldiers had found chemical weapons in suburban Damascus tunnels used by rebels. But Western powers have cited preliminary evidence indicating that Syrian government forces were behind the chemical attack, and the United States is repositioning naval forces in the Mediterranean to give President Barack Obama the option of a military strike.

Iran's foreign minister said the Syrian government had told Tehran it would allow U.N. inspectors to visit areas reportedly affected by chemical weapons, Iran's Press TV said on Sunday.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

 

Advertisement