BEIRUT (AP) — As deadly clashes raged on the edge of Damascus, international inspectors left their hotel on Wednesday to start work on the task of destroying Syria's chemical arsenal under the tightest of deadlines in the midst of a civil war.
The inspectors' mission — endorsed by a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last week — is to scrap Syria's capacity to manufacture chemical weapons by Nov. 1 and eliminate the country's entire 1,000-ton stockpile by mid-2014.
A convoy of SUVs with U.N. markings could be seen departing the central Damascus hotel where the team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was staying.
Their work comes against a backdrop of relentless fighting.
On the northern edge of the city, fierce clashes between Syrian troops and al-Qaida-linked fighters left at least 12 soldiers and pro-government militiamen dead on Tuesday, anti-regime activists said, as the army pressed on with a campaign to dislodge opposition fighters from the capital.
The fighting in the contested district of Barzeh had flared up on Monday, when the army stepped up attacks against opposition forces who have been trying to capture the area for months, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.