Syrian Scuds
Photo: AP
Photo: AP

US to send Patriots to Turkey following Syria Scud fire

Assad's use of mid-range missiles against rebel forces near Damascus prompts deployment of US, NATO batteries in bordering county

The six Scud missiles fired by the Syrian Army at rebel bases earlier this week were fired from a base north of Damascus, the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported Friday.


The report quoted top US officials as saying that the Scuds were carrying conventional warheads.


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Syrian President Bashar Assad is believed to be in possession of 400 Scud missiles.


The cording to the report, "This is a sensitive weapon, so Assad only entrusts it to people he deems close, people he trusts. The fact that Assad is using Scuds, which can be armed with chemical weapons, means the situation is escalating."


Also on Friday, the Pentagon announced it will send missiles and troops to Turkey, as tension between Damascus and Ankara grow.


The US said it will send two batteries of Patriot missiles and 400 troops to Turkey as part of a NATO force meant to protect Turkish territory from potential Syrian missile attack.


Germany and the Netherlands have already agreed to provide two batteries of the US-built defense systems and send up to 400 German and 360 Dutch troops to man them, bringing the total number of Patriot batteries slated for Turkey to six.


NATO foreign ministers endorsed Turkey's request for the Patriots on November 30.


During a brief stop at Incirlik Air Base, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

told US troops that Turkey might need the Patriots, which are capable of shooting down shorter-range ballistic missiles as well as aircraft.


He said he approved the deployment "so that we can help Turkey have the kind of missile defense it may very well need to deal with the threats coming out of Syria."


Asked by another Air Force member whether he thought Syria would "react negatively" to the Patriot deployments, Panetta said, "I don't think they have the damn time to worry" about the Patriots since the regime's leaders are struggling to stay in power.


He indicated that Syria's reaction to the Patriots was not a major concern.


In a statement issued Friday NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said: "The deployment will be defensive only.


"It will not support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation. Its aim is to deter any threats to Turkey, to defend Turkey's population and territory and to de-escalate the crisis on NATO's south-eastern border."


Separately, NATO will deploy its Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, or AWACS, to Turkey on a training exercise this month.



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פרסום ראשון: 12.14.12, 16:05
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