WASHINGTON, 14 JUNE: US military proposals for arming Syrian rebels include a limited no-fly zone over rebel training camps, a media report said today.
This zone would stretch up to 25 miles into Syria, and would be enforced by warplanes flying inside Jordan and armed with long-distance air-to-air missiles, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed US officials.
Military experts have long warned that a no-fly zone would require Western jets to destroy the regime’s relatively good air defences.
But US planners believe this no-fly zone could be imposed in about a month without having to destroy the Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. It could also be imposed without a UN Security Council resolution because US warplanes would not regularly enter Syrian airspace, and the US military would not be holding Syrian territory. A no-fly zone is necessary to set up a camp to train rebels, officials said.
“Unless you have a good buffer zone inside Syria, you risk too much,” an unnamed US official briefed on the military proposal told the Journal.
This limited no-fly zone would cost about $50 million a day, far less than a Syria-wide no-fly zone. US officials hope that Washington’s allies could help cover the cost.
The US planes would fly from Jordan ~ where US Patriot missiles and F-16 jet fighters have already been deployed ~ and from Navy ships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, the Journal reported.
In Washington, Republican Senator John McCain has led the charge in Congress for a no-fly zone, saying Syria’s rebels will never have a chance against Bashar al-Assad’s forces unless his jets are neutralised. “We can establish a no-fly zone without sending a single manned airplane over Syria … and we can change this equation on the battlefield,” Mr McCain said yesterday. afp

Heavy fighting in Aleppo
BEIRUT, 14 JUNE: Activists are reporting the heaviest fighting in months in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the clashes concentrated in the eastern neighbourhood of Sakhour. The Opposition’s Aleppo Media Center said troops failed to advance in the battle that continued until the early hours of today. The fighting follows three US officials saying yesterday that President Barack Obama has authorised sending weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time. The attack on rebel-held Sakhour comes a week after Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters captured the town of Qusair near the Lebanon border. ap