Syrian rebel bomb maker Abu Moawiya sits next to bombs as he waits for other rebels to transfer them to another location, at their post in Maaret Misreen, near Idlib, Syria, on Dec. 14, 2012. The new Syrian rebel chief, a defected army general who spent months in exile, says he has begun operating inside Syria to unite autonomous anti-regime militias for what he hopes will be the final push against President Bashar Assad. / AP Photo
BEIRUTSyria launched a half-dozen Scud missiles over night from a base Damascus at a rebel held military base near Aleppo. It was an almost exact repeat of last week's Scud attack, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.
The new Syrian rebel chief Salim Idris is "very afraid" a cornered Assad might unleash chemical weapons on his fighters. He said old friends of his still in the regime have warned him that the military, which already fired several Scuds, is training even more ready-to-fire missiles on rebel strongholds in Syria's northwest.
Syrian officials have denied using Scud missiles, calling reports on the use of them nothing more than a conspiracy.
Because Scud missiles are mobile, it's hard to pinpoint from where they were fired. Depending on the model of the missile, Scuds can carry warheads weighing between 750 and 1,000 pounds, not that much more than a bomb. The missiles aren't very accurate.
Meanwhile, days of intense fighting in a Palestinian refugee camp subsided on Thursday and some of the more than 100,000 residents who fled the violence in the capital Damascus began to trickle back, activists and officials said.
In Moscow, Syria's most important international ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he is not preoccupied much with the fate of President Bashar Assad's regime and knows changes in the country are needed.
It was another blow to the regime from its most important international ally, coming just a week after Russia's top envoy for Syria was quoted as saying Assad's forces were losing control of the country. Although the Foreign Ministry backpedaled on that statement, analysts have suggested for months that the Kremlin is resigned to losing its longtime ally.
"We are not preoccupied that much with the fate of the Assad regime; we realize what's going on there and that the family has been in power for 40 years," Putin said. "Undoubtedly, there is a call for changes."
In Damascus, where rebels are posing an increasing challenge in Assad's seat of power, fighting has been raging for days in the Yarmouk refugee camp. It began when pro- and anti-regime elements within the camp began clashing a week ago.
More than two-thirds of the roughly 150,000 Palestinian residents have fled the camp since last week when the fighting flared up, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. They sought shelter in the outskirts of the camp, in other parts of Damascus or other cities, or headed to the Syrian-Lebanon border, it said.
Hundreds trickled back on Thursday. One of the first people to return was Zeina Abbas, 42, who fled to Damascus. She said by telephone that nearly 1,000 people return to their homes and added that that she saw rebels in the streets.
"I saw damage in Yarmouk street," said the woman referring to one of the main streets in the camp. Abbas added that she saw gunmen leaving parts of the camp after speaking on their cell phones.
Tens of thousands fled the camp over the past few days amid fears that government troops could launch a new offensive to cleanse the area of opposition fighters.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Yarmouk was quiet on Thursday and that "hundreds of people have returned."
Damascus-based Palestinian official Khaled Abdul-Majid told The Associated Press that Cairo-based Palestinian leaders were mediating to get the remaining rebels out of Yarmouk. The rebels entered Yarmouk over the past week to support anti-regime Palestinian residents fighting government loyalists.
Abdul-Majid said the exiled leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, and Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah are taking part in the mediation by phone from Cairo.
"There are no guarantees from the gunmen," said Abdul-Majid. He added the rebels should pull out to the southern Damascus neighborhoods of Hajar Aswad and Yalda, where they came from.