Reports from BBC News
, Khaleej Times
and Reuters UK
indicate that the Syrian Navy are conducting live fire missile tests with ships and helicopters. State media states these exercises are to show Syria's ability to defend its "shores against any possible aggression."
Several high-ranking Syrian military officers oversaw these exercises. The country's Defence Minister General Dawoud Rajha has stated that "our Navy forces started to conduct an operational tactical maneuver with live ammunition, during which naval and coastal rockets were fired."
Many oppositional elements in Syria are calling for military intervention to directly back them militarily in their fight to overthrow the regime in Damascus. Mr. Assad has stated that the U.S. is "part of the conflict" since it is giving political support to "gangs" which Assad adds are attempting to "destablize Syria." U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated these oppositional elements are getting stronger and warned that if Assad doesn't end the violence soon his government may face a "catastrophic assault," at the hands of these groups. Assad continually insists the U.S. in cahoots with Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supporting "terrorists" (hence rebel oppositional elements) and in the process of doing so are directly undermining the viability of Kofi Annnan's peace plan.
These present military exercises come as tensions between Syria and its northern neighbour Turkey persist. Recent military developments in Turkey have seen to the deployment of anti-aircraft weaponry
along the tense border, along with the dispatch of F-16 fighters to regional air bases
where they standby ready to confront Syrian helicopter gunships operating close to the Turkish border. This is in case these military helicopters violate Turkish airspace, if they do so they will be quickly intercepted.
Tensions between Turkey and Syria remain high after Syria shot down a Turkish RF-4E Phantom jet two weeks ago. Both countries dispute the circumstances surrounding the controversial incident. Turkey insists the jet was above international waters when it was shot down and Syria claims it was violating its airspace.