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BASHAR AL-ASSAD is set to unleash chemical weapons on his people, three top Syrian generals claimed yesterday.

They fled to Turkey as Assad’s men desperately battled rebels pushing deep into the capital Damascus.

Fugitive general Mustafa Sheikh said chemical weapons will be fired in revenge for a bomb blast that killed Assad’s brother-in-law and three top regime officials this week.

He said: “The regime has started moving its chemical stockpile from warehouses and distributing it to prepare for use.

“It wants to burn Syria. The regime cannot fall without perpetrating a sea of blood.”

But other reports said that generals once in charge of the weapons had defected and were helping to locate the chemical stockpiles for the rebels.

Rebel general Adnan Silou said: “We have a group just to deal with chemical weapons.”

Last night, a White House spokesman said: “We remain very concerned about these weapons.”

The latest defections mean 24 generals have fled Assad since the 16-month uprising began.

He was nowhere to be seen yesterday, raising hope that his family’s 41-year grip on Syria was coming to an end.

Reports that he was wounded in Wednesday’s blast and flown out of Damascus in a private jet could not be confirmed.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 550 had died in the last two days – the bloodiest 48 hours since fighting began.

There was fighting in Aleppo, a bastion of support for Assad, as well as the capital. And Hama came under shelling from Assad’s forces.

Rebels also took over a third border crossing in another sign the regime’s tight grip on the country is wobbling.

Daily record

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