Syria firing ‘Scud-style’ missilesComment on this story
Damascus - The regime has fired Scud-style missiles against rebels, NATO said on Friday, as Palestinians forced to flee their Damascus camp returned after a reported deal to keep out of the Syrian conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, raised the alarm over the risks of chaos in Syria, 21 months into an anti-regime revolt that monitors says has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The army's use of Scud-type missiles against rebel forces, according to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was an act of desperation.
“I can confirm that we have detected the launch of Scud-type missiles; we strongly regret that act,” Rasmussen said. “I consider it an act of a desperate regime approaching collapse.”
The latest launches were detected on Thursday, a source close to NATO said.
In Damascus, Palestinian refugees streamed back into their Yarmuk camp after a reported deal to keep it out of Syria's conflict, following fierce clashes earlier this week.
An AFP correspondent heard sporadic shooting early on Friday and a main road was blocked with rocks to keep out cars, although a van full of passengers still entered through a side street.
“We returned because we have had enough of being humiliated,” one of them said. “We lost our land (Palestine) but we don't want to lose our homes and live in tents like our parents.”
The fighting forced about 100,000 of Yarmuk's 150,000 to flee the camp, many taking refuge in the parks and squares of Damascus, said UNRWA, the relief agency for Palestinian refugees.
Residents were called to attend weekly Muslim prayers on Friday at the camp's Abdel Qader al-Husseini mosque, which has been cleaned up after a regime air strike last Sunday that killed eight people.
The exception was the bombed out headquarters of the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has been battling against anti-Assad rebels.
Talks began on Wednesday aimed at removing both rebel and pro-government fighters from Yarmuk in southern Damascus.
Newspapers in neighbouring Lebanon said an agreement had been reached under the auspices of Mokhtar Lamani, the representative of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
The UN's World Food Programme, meanwhile, said it was to start providing food to 125,000 “vulnerable Palestinians and displaced Syrians” caught up in and around Yarmuk.
In flashpoints across Syria, violence raged on Friday, a day after at least 134 people were killed, among them 56 civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
According to a preliminary count, at least 50 people were killed on Friday, said the Britain-based monitoring group.
Despite the violence, protesters took to the streets in several anti-regime areas, renewing calls for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the watchdog said.
At an EU-Russia summit in Brussels, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow does not want “chaos” in Syria and that it looked forward to seeing a democratic regime in the war-torn nation.
“We will try to pursue the public order in Syria and look forward to a democratic regime in Syria because this country is close to our borders,” he said at a news conference, according to an English translation of his words.
“We wouldn't like chaos in that country,” he added. “Everyone is interested in stopping the violence and the bloodshed.”
Putin for the second time in two days denied propping up Assad's regime and appeared to acknowledge the possibility of change, saying: “We do not advocate the government of Syria.”
He insisted however that a solution must be found between all parties at the negotiating table to take into account the views “of all the citizens.”
In Moscow the previous day, Putin said Russia was not concerned about Assad's fate but “we understand that the family has been in power for 40 years and there is a need for change.” - Sapa-AFP