* Eleven dead, 40 wounded in Damascus bombing
* Second petrol station hit this week
* U.S. missile teams start to arrive in Turkey
* Lebanon says will register all Syrian refugees
By Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT, Jan 4 Syria said on Friday a car bomb at
a crowded petrol station in Damascus was set off by
"terrorists", a term it uses for rebels seeking to topple
President Bashar al-Assad.
The blast on Thursday night killed 11 people and wounded 40
at a station packed with Syrians queuing for fuel, which has
become scarce in the 21-month insurgency against Assad, in the
second petrol station attack in the capital this week,
opposition activists said.
"Terrorists ... blew up an explosive device at Qassioun
Petrol Station near Hamish Hospital in Barzeh, Damascus,
martyring several civilians," state news agency SANA said.
The United Nations says more than 60,000 people have been
killed in the civil war, the longest, bloodiest conflict born
from uprisings across the Arab world in the past two years.
Dozens of people were incinerated in an air strike as they
waited for fuel at another Damascus petrol station on Wednesday,
according to opposition sources.
The semi-official al-Ikhbariya television station aired its
own footage from Barzeh, indicating the attack struck a
government-held area. Barzeh's residents include members of the
Sunni Muslim majority and religious and ethnic minorities.
The rebels hold a crescent of suburbs on the southern and
eastern edges of Damascus, which have come under bombardment by
government forces. Rebel forces also seized territory in Syria's
north and east during advances in the second half of 2012.
The war pits rebels, mainly from the Sunni Muslim majority,
against a government supported by members of Assad's
Shi'ite-derived Alawite sect and some members of other
minorities who fear revenge if he falls. Assad's family has
ruled for 42 years since his father seized power in a coup.
U.S. soldiers who will man Patriot anti-missile batteries to
protect Turkey from the spillover of the Syrian conflict began
arriving in the NATO ally on Friday, the U.S. military said, but
the missiles themselves are due later.
Turkey formally asked NATO for the missiles in November to
bolster security along its 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria.
Turkey repeatedly has scrambled fighter jets along the
frontier and responded in kind when Syrian shells came down
inside its borders, fanning fears that the civil war could
spread to destablise the region.
About 400 U.S. personnel and equipment from the 3rd
Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery, based at Fort Sill,
Oklahoma, will arrive over the next several days by U.S.
military airlift, the U.S. European Command said on its website.
No U.S. Patriot missiles arrived on Friday, however,
according to a military source, and it will be several weeks
before the missiles, supplied by Germany and the Netherlands,
get to Turkey.
The U.S. troops, who began arriving at Incirlik air base in
Turkey, will man two U.S. Patriot batteries out of a total of
six batteries that have been promised by NATO allies.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokeswoman said the first U.S.
military personnel belonging to the Patriot unit began arriving
in Turkey on Friday and more will arrive over the coming days.
The equipment would start arriving a few days later, with
the aim of having the U.S. Patriot batteries in place by
mid-January, she said.
LEBANON TO REGISTER REFUGEES
Fighting has forced 560,000 Syrians to flee to neighbouring
countries, according to the United Nations, causing a growing
humanitarian problem in the region.
Lebanon, a country which has so far tried to distance itself
from the conflict for fear it will inflame sectarian tensions,
approved a plan to start registering 170,000 Syrian refugees and
ask international donors for $180 million in aid.
"The Lebanese state will register the refugees...and
guarantee aid and protection for the actual refugees in
Lebanon," Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said after a
cabinet session on Thursday night.
Most Sunni-ruled Arab states, as well as the West and Turkey
have called for Assad to step down. He is supported by Russia
and Shi'ite Iran.
A Lebanese citizen who crossed into Syria through a
mountainous frontier region said the army appeared to have
withdrawn from several border posts and villages in the area.
Rebels controlled a line of border towns and villages north
of the capital Damascus, stretching about 40 km (25 miles) from
Yabroud south to Rankus, said the man, who did not want to be
named and visited Syria on Wednesday and Thursday.
Rebels in the area reported that some of Assad's forces have
pulled back to defend the main north-south highway linking
Syria's main cities of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo, while
others were sent to reinforce the northern approach to Damascus.
"The border is controlled by the Free Syrian Army rebels,"
he said on Friday, adding he had crossed through mountainous
terrain, covered in parts by more than a metre of snow.