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Assad Pulls Troops from Israeli Border to Defend Damascus

Assad has pulled troops from the Israeli border to defend Damascus against rebels. Rebels claim they shot down a government helicopter.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 7/17/2012, 6:55 PM

Anti-government protesters pray in Damascus
Anti-government protesters pray in Damascus
Reuters

Syrian President Bashar Assad has pulled troops from the Israeli border to defend Damascus against rebels, the Israeli army intelligence chief said Tuesday.  

"The Syrian military is acting very brutally, which shows the regime is desperate. Its control of Damascus is getting weaker," Major-General Aviv Kochavi told a parliamentary committee, according to a Knesset spokesman whose remarks were reported by Reuters.

"Assad has moved many of his forces that were in the Golan Heights to the conflict areas," Kochavi said. "He's not afraid of Israel at this point, but primarily wants to bolster his forces around Damascus."

Reuters also reported that rebels said they have shot down a government helicopter over the capital, the first indication that the Free Syrian Army possesses advanced weapons that can challenge Assad’s air force.

As battles escalate in the heart of Syria and Assad’s days seems numbered, rebels fear that he will use chemical weapons as a last resort to save himself from the fate of Muammar Qaddafi or Hosni Mubarak.

”The White House warned the Syrian government on Tuesday it will be held accountable for the safe handling and storage of any chemical weapons it possesses,” according to Reuters.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be quietly shifting some chemical weapons from storage sites, Western and Israeli officials have said, but it is not clear whether the operation is merely a security precaution amid the chaos of the Syrian conflict, or something more."