Syrian forces hunker down for looming US strikes

"There is a strategic stockpile of goods, and the bakeries continue to work around the clock to meet the citizens' needs,'' in the case of an military attack, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi told the new agency Thursday. 

Al-Halqi made the comments a day after Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad abandoned positions in the capital of Damascus, retreating to underground bunkers and military compounds north of the city. 

Artillery batteries based in Damascus, used to fire on rebel positions around the city, along with the Syrian military's central headquarters and command and control locations were hastily moved from Damascus to fortified compounds in the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, Reuters reported Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, U.S. forces are poised to begin targeted strikes against military positions in the country. 

The Pentagon and White House have reportedly complied a list of nearly 50 targets across the country where Assad's forces are stationed, according to The New York Times

The proposed attacks are in retaliation for alleged chemical weapons attacks by Assad's troops against anti-government rebels in the country. 

Military planners at the Pentagon and White House reportedly avoided targeting suspected chemical weapons stockpiles, fearing that strikes would release their deadly contents into nearby towns and villages.

Critics warn that proposed U.S. military strikes, if unsuccessful in thwarting Assad's use of chemical weapons, could suck Washington and its allies into a fight similar to the one American forces faced in Iraq. 

Al-Halqi's comments Thursday indicate that if that scenario plays out, Assad loyalists preparing for a fight. 

The U.S. "threat will make [Syrians] even more determined and ready for confrontation," according to al-Halqi. 

While anti-government rebels have established strongholds in the northern and eastern parts of the country, Assad still enjoys fierce support in western part of the country. 

Western Syria is the traditional power base for the country's ruling Alawite Muslim population, which the Assad family helped bring to power. 

Opponents of U.S. action in Syria argue that if military strikes lead to American escalation in the country, the remnants of Assad's forces could use the Alawite section of the country as a base for a Syrian insurgency.