British troops could be sent into war-torn Syria

BRITISH troops could be sent into war-torn Syria in the event of a major humanitarian crisis, it was revealed yesterday.

The soldier in charge of UK’s armed forces, General Sir David Richards, said plans were being drawn
up in case conditions on the ground worsened in winter.

But the Chief of the Defence Staff indicated any intervention would be limited.

And it would need the support of Syrians in the areas where help was being provided.

Nevertheless, such a move would be seen as a potential step towards a full-scale military intervention, bringing British forces directly into conflict with the regime of president Bashar Assad.

General Richards said in a BBC television interview: “It would be a huge effort. We would be very cautious about it.”

“There is ultimately no military reason why one shouldn’t and I know that all these options are quite rightly being examined.

“But we are some way off.”

He expected the humanitarian situation to deteriorate over the winter, which could lead to calls to intervene “in a limited way”.

He added: “Obviously, we develop contingency plans to look at all these things. It is my job to make sure these options are continually brushed over to make sure that we can deliver them and they are credible.

“The main thing for now that we are all focusing on is to contain the crisis so that it doesn’t spill over into countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.”

He said that it was up to political leaders internationally to decide what the next steps should be.

The general’s revelation comes amid growing frustration in Downing Street at the inability of the international community to halt the fighting which has cost thousands of lives. Following a visit to the region by David Cameron, officials made it clear they were looking at all options, including supplying arms to the anti-Assad rebels.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed this was under active consideration.

He said: “At the moment, we don’t have a legal basis for delivering assistance to the rebels.

“But this is something the PM keeps asking us to test and we will continue to look at all options.”

Meanwhile, Israel was drawn into the fighting for the first time yesterday. Israeli soldiers fired a missile as a warning shot after a stray mortar from Syria hit a
military post in the Golan Heights.

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