Nightly News   |  December 07, 2012

Damascus fighting intensifies

Rebels in the streets are gaining ground, and capturing Syrian tanks – even shooting down helicopters – but they worry the increasingly desperate dictator Bashar al-Assad will resort to chemical weapons. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> now we turn to the crisis in syria, the big story we broke earlier this week that the assad regime may be preparing chemical weapons against the rebels who want assad out and are gaining momentum in their fight. it is a frightening prospect that the whole world is now watching. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is live tonight from the syrian border, good evening, richard.

>> reporter: good evening, brian, there are reports tonight of widescale arrests in damascus as the government is employing more forces on the streets, apparently trying to seal off the city. the fighting in damascus is intense. rebels in the streets gaining ground, a car bombing in the capital. a military barracks nearby, the rebels claim, is every run, and the city's main international link cut off. this war, 21 dead, activists say, it is now moving fast. as rebels advance they are capturing syrian tanks and seizing new weapons able to shoot down helicopters, even fighter jets challenging the regime's air capabilities. where there was a strong hold, more in aleppo, although assad has the upper hand, rebels worry that the increasingly desperate dictator would use the chemical weapons . that would not be tolerated. chemical gas could drift across borders. neighboring turkey asked for patriot missiles to be able to shoot down incoming rockets or aircraft. the assad regime says that using chemical weapons would be suicide. the fear is that assad may soon have nothing to lose. and tonight, rebels concerned about chemical weapons are appealing to the united states and others for training and medical supplies in case of an attack, brian.

>> richard engel on the syria-turkey border for us tonight. thank you, richard.