* Turkey wants missiles deployed along Syria border
* Britain to talk directly to rebels - UK foreign secretary
* Opposition groups to form new civilian group
* Fighting near Palestinian camp flares again
By Jonathon Burch
ANKARA, Nov 7 Turkey will imminently lodge an
official request with NATO asking the military alliance to
deploy Patriot missiles along its border with Syria to guard
against violence spilling over, a senior Turkish foreign
ministry official said on Wednesday.
If approved, the deployment would represent a further
deterioration in relations between Turkey and Syria - once close
allies - and see more military hardware poured into a region
where tensions are already high.
Britain also appeared to harden its stance on Syria on
Wednesday when Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had
ordered UK diplomats to talk directly to Syrian rebels.
Britain's previous stance had been to engage only with political
representatives of the opposition.
Syria's war, in which the opposition estimates 38,000 people
have been killed, raises the spectre of wider Middle East
turbulence and poses one of the greatest foreign policy
challenges for U.S. President Barack Obama as he starts his
Analysts said Obama had been unable to make bold moves on
Syria during the election period because of the risk that doing
so would hurt his popularity. Britain and Turkey have joined
U.S. calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Syrian rebels fired mortars at Assad's palace in Damascus on
Wednesday but missed, an attack underlining the growing boldness
of those fighting to end his family's 42-year rule and the rebel
strategy of launching high-profile attacks against symbols of
A July bomb that killed four of Assad's top lieutenants was
swiftly followed up with an advance into Damascus by rebels but
they were then partially beaten back by Assad's forces.
Damascus residents told Reuters heavy-calibre shells
apparently aimed at the palace had hit the nearby residential
Mezze 86 district that is home to members of Assad's Alawite
sect. State-run media said at least three people had been killed
and seven wounded in what it described as a terrorist attack.
The violence has highlighted the sectarian dimension of a
civil war that is deepening the rift between Sunni and Shi'ite
Muslims in the region - Assad's Alawite sect is an offshoot of
Allegations of Syrian soldiers looting foreign aid surfaced
on Wednesday after a medical aid group said troops had been
seizing the supplies and reselling them or channelling them
towards government loyalists, putting millions of lives at risk.
"When the regime attacks one of our medical facilities,
whether it's a hospital or something else, they load up
everything they can carry, and they burn the rest," said Tawfik
Chamaa, a Geneva-based doctor and spokesman for the Union of
Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM).
DIRECT CONTACT WITH REBELS
"(The armed opposition) are playing an increasingly
influential role within Syria as the conflict worsens," Hague
said in a statement.
"I have therefore now authorised my officials to have direct
contact with an even wider range of representatives including
military figures in the armed opposition."
He said Britain would continue to only supply non-lethal
support to the unarmed opposition, in compliance with a European
Union arms embargo and British export licensing laws.
British officials would stress the importance of human
rights and the rejection of "extremism and terrorism", and
contact with the rebels would be limited to political dialogue,
On a visit to a Jordanian refugee camp, British Prime
Minister David Cameron said that efforts to halt the bloodshed
so far had been fruitless.
"I am standing with the Syrian border just behind me and
every night 500 refugees are fleeing the most appalling
persecution and bloodshed to come to safety and frankly what we
have done so far is not working," he said in Zaatari, a camp
housing about 30,000 Syrian refugees in northern Jordan.
International and regional rivalries have complicated
efforts to mediate a resolution to the conflict - Russia and
China have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions that
would have put Assad under pressure.
The conflict has also started to suck in neighbouring
countries. Turkey has been responding in kind to mortar shells
hitting its territory as a result of fighting between Syrian
rebels and Syrian government forces.
A senior Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters on
Wednesday that the government would make an "imminent" request
to NATO to protect its 910-km (560-mile) border with Syria with
Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
The official said there was a potential missile threat to
Turkey from Syria and Turkey had a right to take steps to
counter such a threat. He gave no further details.
The United States and other Western powers say a resolution
to the conflict has also been frustrated by divisions and
in-fighting between Syrian opposition groups.
Syrian opposition groups will meet on Thursday to form a new
50-member civilian group that will later choose a temporary
government for Syria and coordinate with the revolt's military
Highlighting how Palestinian refugees have been drawn into
the conflict, rebels killed 10 members of the Popular Front for
the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), which is
loyal to Assad, in fighting near the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk
in Damascus, opposition sources said.
Syrian rebels and pro-opposition Palestinians announced the
formation of a new brigade last week to battle the PFLP-GC.
The Syrian foreign ministry said Syria would stand "with
full determination against any attempt to drag the Palestinians
into what is happening in Syria", the state news agency SANA
reported, quoting a ministry official.
Air strikes and artillery barrages unleashed by the Syrian
military in the last few weeks have wrecked whole districts of
the capital, as well as parts of towns and cities elsewhere.
Yet, for all their firepower, Assad's forces seem no closer
to crushing their lightly armed opponents, who in turn have so
far proved unable to topple the Syrian leader.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based
opposition watchdog, says it had the names of at least 38,000
people confirmed dead by friends and family. The death toll is
going up every day, with a thousand or more killed in some