Reuters reports: Heavy fighting raged around the strategic Syrian border town of Qusair and the capital Damascus on Monday and further reports surfaced of chemical weapons attacks by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on rebel areas.
Intensified government offensives are widely seen as a bid to strengthen Assad’s position before a peace conference proposed by the United States and Russia for next month.
In Brussels, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was pushing his European Union colleagues to allow member states to arm the rebels, said the expiry of existing EU sanctions this week meant countries could now choose to send weapons to opposition fighters if they wanted to.
While Britain and France say such a move could strengthen the rebels ahead of the peace talks, other countries oppose sending arms and EU diplomats said there was an agreement not to send weapons for now.
The Telegraph reports: The Syrian government has been unleashing a barrage of chemical weapons against its own people, according to two French journalists who spent two months undercover in the country.
Embedded with anti-government forces on the outskirts of Syria’s capital Damascus, Jean-Philippe Remy and photographer Laurent van der Stockt from Le Monde witnessed a series of attacks.
“No odour, no smoke, not even a whistle to indicate the release of a toxic gas,” wrote Mr Remy, from the front line in the suburb of Jobar.
“And then the symptoms appear. The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate.”
Mr van der Stockt was beside the rebel fighters when they were targetted by the gas, leaving him suffering from blurred vision and respiratory difficulties for four days.