Syrian opposition says Assad regime prepping chemical attacks

A Syrian opposition spokesman in Istanbul claimed Tuesday they have intelligence that the Assad regime is preparing for chemical weapons attacks.

Two convoys transporting chemical weapons warheads were moved sometime in the last 24 hours, and have reached their destinations, said Khaled al-Saleh, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, one of the most widely recognized Syrian opposition organizations, which is based in Turkey.

Al-Saleh said this information has come to his group from sympathetic officers in the Syrian military in the last 24 hours, reports CBS News correspondent Holly Williams. They said three convoys carrying chemical warheads left the place where they are normally based -- in Qutaifah, close to the border with Lebanon -- and that two have reached their destinations: Dumair airport near Damascus and Izra near Darah.

The opposition spokesman said they cannot be specific about the number of chemical warheads as it would compromise their sources.

CBS News has no independent confirmation of al-Saleh's assertions.

Al-Saleh's claims come in the middle of a heated debate on Capitol Hill about whether or not the U.S. should get directly involved in Syria's two-year-old civil war, which has claimed at least 100,000 lives and displaced millions, according to estimates.

After Mr. Obama announced his intent to seek congressional approval for strikes on the Assad regime, the opposition released a statement calling on Congress to not just approve the strikes, but to allow the better-arming of rebel fighters. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports direct American involvement in the war is something the Syrian opposition clearly wants to happen because they see it as being to their advantage.

Members of the Obama administration have said they know the Assad regime used chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack on a rebel-controlled Damascus neighborhood that may have left as many as 1,400 people dead. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied involvement.

For President Obama, the use of chemical weapons in the conflict has been cited as a "red line" that would necessitate a harsh response. However the numerous questions around the Aug. 21 attack -- from what weapons were used to who was responsible -- have contributed to a lack of broad support both in the U.S. and internationally for foreign intervention.

Still, Obama administration officials and their allies have been claiming certainty about Assad's guilt in the Aug. 21 attack, often citing their belief that he is the only one in the conflict who even possesses chemical weapons.

The Syrian opposition also claimed Tuesday that a forensic medicine expert from Aleppo who has been investigating an alleged deadly chemical weapons attack in Khan Assal on March 19 has defected to their side, and he is going to release evidence the Assad regime was behind that attack as well. Al-Saleh said the expert, Dr. Adbel Tawab Shahrour, will speak to the public soon, but can't at the moment due to security concerns.

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