INTERNATIONAL momentum for limited military intervention in Syria gathered pace yesterday amid opposition reports that 4000 people have been killed this month, the deadliest since the uprising began.
France signalled it would be willing to participate in a limited no-fly zone and suggested for the first time that such an operation could be mounted without reference to the UN Security Council, where Russia and China wield a veto.
The United States and Turkey have already discussed the possibility although Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has said ”greater in-depth analysis” was needed.
Mr Le Drian ruled out a no-fly zone over the whole of the country, saying such a step would be tantamount to war.
Instead, a coalition of Western states, Turkey and Arab powers could close Syrian airspace between Aleppo and the Turkish border, he told France 24 television.
With international observers withdrawing last week after the collapse of a UN-backed peace initiative, Western powers are coming under mounting pressure to take action amid scenes of unprecedented bloodletting in Syria’s biggest cities.
More than 200 civilians and combatants are being killed every day, according to opposition groups, with the death toll in Aleppo rising sharply after the regime ordered air strikes on the city for the first time this month.
In scenes reminiscent of Iraq at its most violent, grisly footage filmed last week in the Damascus district of Qaboun showed dozens of bloodied corpses with their throats slit.
And there were reports on Friday that a Syrian government fighter jet bombed an apartment building in eastern Syria, killing at least 21 people as rebels took control of a major checkpoint.
The air raid on Mayadin, a city in Deir el-Zour province near the Iraqi border, occurred as rebels gained control of a key checkpoint on a bridge over the Euphrates River.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 21 people, including a child, were killed in the air strike.
The soaring death toll has sharply escalated the civilian exodus from Syria, with more than 30,000 people fleeing the country in the past week alone. The UN said more than 200,000 refugees have now crossed into neighbouring states since the uprising began, exceeding its projection of 185,000 by the end of the year.
In neighbouring Lebanon, fresh clashes broke out on Friday in the northern city of Tripoli between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, killing two people and wounding 17 others, Lebanese security officials said.
Gunmen from the Alawite neighbourhood of Jabal Mohsen fought armed elements from the neighbouring district of Bab Tabbaneh, populated by Sunnis. The Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, comes from his country’s Alawite minority, while rebels are mostly Sunnis. Among those wounded by sniper fire was a technician working with journalists.
Meanwhile, the wife of a journalist for a US-funded television network who was reported missing in Syria said on Friday he is believed to be in the custody of pro-government forces. Alhurra TV correspondent Bashar Fahmi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, and his Turkish cameraman, Cuneyt Unal, are said to have been captured in Aleppo after entering Syria on Monday.