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News, October 2013
While Syrian Civil War Continues, Dozens of Rebel Groups Break Ties with Syrian National Coalition
October 17, 2013
Dozens of Syrian fighting groups break ties with main opposition, says rebel commander
By Associated Press, Published: October 16, 2013
Several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria have broken with the main political opposition group in exile, a local commander said in a video posted Wednesday, dealing a potential new setback to Western efforts to unify moderates battling President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, has long struggled to win respect and recognition from the fighters. It is widely seen as cut off from events on the ground and ineffective in funneling aid and weapons to the rebels.
FSA spokesman Louay Mikdad told The Associated Press that the video is authentic and identified the man speaking as a captain in one of the rebel groups, Anwar al-Sunna, which posted the video.
The rebel in the video said political opposition leaders have failed to represent those trying to bring down Assad.
“We announce that we withdraw our recognition from any political group that claims to represents us, first among them the Coalition and its leadership which have relinquished the principles of the homeland and the revolution,” he said.
He named 66 groups that he said support his statement. The man suggested rebel groups would reorganize, saying that “we are unifying the forces of the revolution militarily and politically,” but did not explain further.
It could not be confirmed independently if all the groups named in the video support the statement. Noah Bonsey, an expert on Syrian rebels at the International Crisis Group think tank, said one of the larger groups named in the video did not post the statement on its Facebook page.
Nevertheless, Louay Mikdad, an FSA spokesman, said the video should serve as a wakeup call to the Coalition.
“We respect what they (the rebels) are saying,” he said. “We think our brothers in the Coalition ... should listen to the people inside and they should open a direct dialogue with them.”
He said the FSA commander, Gen. Salim Idris, would try to speak to some of the groups named in the video.
Coalition spokesman Khaled Saleh did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Hundreds of groups of fighters operate in Syria, often with considerable local autonomy, and shifting alliances are common in a chaotic battlefield. Last month, nearly a dozen of Syria’s more powerful rebel factions broke with the Coalition and called for Islamic law in the country, cementing the rift between rival camps.
Rebel groups with a strong Islamic orientation, from moderates to hardliners, “appear to be aligning themselves politically, much more closely than they have previously,” said Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center.
The groups named Wednesday appear largely local and less influential than those which broke away from the Coalition in September, Lister said.
Mikdad said they include rebel groups from the southern Daraa provinces and the rural areas around the capital, Damascus.
Dozens of Syrian fighting groups break ties with main opposition, says rebel commander - The Washington Post
Southern Syria has been considered a stronghold of the moderate opposition, while Islamic extremists, including those linked to al-Qaida, seem to be spreading their influence in the north and east.
The latest apparent setback for the Coalition comes at a time when it’s trying to decide whether to attend negotiations with the regime on a political transition.
Dozens of Syrian fighting groups break ties with main opposition, says rebel commander - The Washington Post
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that the U.N., the U.S. and Russia are “intensifying efforts” to start such talks in Geneva in mid-November.
The main faction in the Coalition has said it has no faith in such talks and won’t attend, though a final decision isn’t expected until next week.
Syrian opposition leaders are particularly upset about the international community’s decision to treat the Assad regime as a partner in dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
The disarmament mission grew out of deadly Aug. 21 attacks with chemical weapons on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus. The West holds the regime responsible, while the Assad regime blames the rebels.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Wednesday that its inspectors have so far visited 11 of more than 20 sites linked to the chemical weapons program.
The team destroyed “critical equipment” at six sites as well as unloaded chemical weapons munitions, said the OPCW.
A joint OPCW-U.N. mission is to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, precursor chemicals and production facilities by mid-2014.
Ban on Wednesday named a chief for the mission, appointing Sigrid Kaag, a Mideast expert and Arabic speaker from the Netherlands.
The team began operating in Syria at the beginning of October, and by last week, had visited two sites. Wednesday’s update signaled significant progress in the team’s work.
The inspectors are being asked to complete a first round of site visits by the end of October, including verifying inventory and rendering production, mixing and filling facilities unusable. The next phase, eliminating chemical agents, would begin after Nov. 1.
Experts say it’s a tight timetable, particularly with inspectors operating in the midst of a civil war. The head of the OPCW has said one site is in rebel-held territory and that routes to others run near areas of fighting.
Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011, as a largely peaceful uprising against Assad that escalated into a civil war. The fighting has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced some 7 million people.
Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in the West Bank, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Mike Corder at The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.
Syria fighting rages despite major Muslim holiday
By KARIN LAUB | Associated Press –
Tue, Oct 15, 2013
BEIRUT (AP) —
Syrian warplanes bombed several rebel-held areas Tuesday and opposition fighters fired mortar rounds and homemade rockets at Damascus on the first day of a major Muslim holiday, activists said.
The fighting during Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, showed how entrenched both sides have become in Syria's civil war, now in its third year. Previously, combatants occasionally attempted to observe holiday cease-fires.
The Syrian conflict, which began as a largely peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions of Syrians. The land is now a patchwork of rebel- and regime-controlled areas, with front-lines crisscrossing the country.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Syrian regime and the exile-based political opposition must try to meet a mid-November target date for launching talks on a political transition.
However, there is no clear path toward such negotiations, and the main Western-backed opposition group hasn't decided whether to attend.
In Tuesday's fighting, rebels fired mortar rounds and homemade rockets at three Damascus neighborhoods, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from activists.
An amateur video distributed by the group shows three rockets being fired, trailed by smoke.
Syria's state news agency SANA said a mortar shell smashed into a house in the city's al-Qanawat neighborhood, igniting a fire and wounding four people.
Rebels routinely fire mortar shells at government-held areas of the Syrian capital.
In the village of Yabroud, several dozen miles north of the capital, assailants detonated explosives on the roofs of Our Lady's Church and the Church of Helena and Constantine, SANA reported.
The explosions damaged the crosses, SANA said. It said attempts to detonate more bombs outside the two churches were foiled.
The Observatory confirmed that several explosions went off, damaging the churches.
There was no claim of responsibility, though SANA blamed "terrorists," the regime's term for rebels. Assad has drawn support from Syria's ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians. Many rebels are Sunni Muslims, a majority in Syria.
In regime attacks, warplanes bombed targets in the village of Latamneh in the northern Hama province, the Observatory said. Three children were killed and several people were wounded, the group said.
The regime also bombed areas of the Eastern Ghouta district, near Damascus, and the southern city of Daraa, the Observatory said.
As the fighting continued, Assad attended holiday prayers in a Damascus mosque. Syrian state TV showed him sitting cross-legged on the floor, in the front row of worshippers.
Assad continues to appear in public, apparently to send a message of "business as usual" even as large parts of Syria lie in ruins.
Kerry reiterated Monday that Assad "has lost the legitimacy to be able to be a cohesive force that could bring people together." However, the Syrian leader, with strong backing from Russia, has rejected repeated calls to step aside.
Meanwhile, Syrian refugees marked a subdued holiday in the Zaatari tent camp in Jordan. The camp is home to more than 120,000 refugees and has turned into Jordan's fifth-largest city.
A few children bought toys from shops in the camp, as is customary during the holiday, and men attended special Eid prayers, though the refugees said there's no joy in the holiday.
"We feel bad, we feel bad because everyone here has lost his home and family members and his money," said Ibrahim Oweis, a refugee from Damascus.
Osama al-Madi, a refugee from the southern city of Daraa, said he opposes transition talks with the regime, as proposed by the U.S.
"In each tent here, you will find people who have lost a martyr or have people in prisons, we have missing people in Assad's prisons," he said. "How can we negotiate with a killer regime?"
Associated Press writers Maamoun Yousef in Cairo and Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.
والإئتلاف السوري المعارض يتهم النظام
نشر بتاريخ: الثلاثاء 15-10-2013 12:34 صباحا
سقط نحو 150 شخصا اليوم بين قتيل وجريح جراء تفجير سيارة ملغمة بمدينة دركوش، بريف إدلب على الحدود السورية التركية. وتخضع المدينة لسيطرة الجيش الحر، وإتهم الإئتلاف الوطني لقوى الثورة والمعارضة النظام الحاكم بالوقوف خلف التفجير.
وذكرت شبكة أخبار إدلب أن سيارة ملغمة إنفجرت في سوق تجاري مزدحم قبل يوم من عيد الأضحى، وأعقبت الإنفجار غارتان صاروخيتان من مروحيات تابعة للنظام، ثم إطلاق نار عشوائي من رشاشات ثقيلة.
وذكر ناشطون أن حالات الجرحى سيئة لوجود مستشفى ميداني صغير بالبلدة وسيارة إسعاف واحدة، مشيرين إلى أن المدينة الصغيرة الواقعة على مسافة كيلومترين من الحدود كانت تشهد هدوءا نسبيا لذلك كانت تعج بآلاف النازحين من مناطق القصف المختلفة.
وقال الناشط الإعلامي محمد الإدلبي إنه لم يتم التعرف على عدد قتلى التفجير والذين تفحمت جثثهم، مشيرا إلى أنه تم نقل نحو ثلاثين جريحا إصاباتهم بالغة إلى الجانب التركي، في حين قال المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان إنه تم تحديد هوية 12 من القتلى، كما عثر على ثماني جثث متفحمة بشدة. وأضاف أن من بين القتلى ثلاثة أطفال على الأقل.
وبث ناشطون أشرطة قصيرة مصورة على موقع يوتيوب الإلكتروني، تظهر اللحظات الأولى التي تلت التفجير الذي تسبب بدمار كبير وإحتراق عدد من السيارات والمحلات التجارية.
وقد إتهم الإئتلاف الوطني لقوى الثورة والمعارضة النظام الحاكم بالوقوف خلف تفجير دركوش، وموضحا أن النظام "يحاول خلق البلبلة والفوضى وإفتعال التوترات بين صفوف الثوار إضافة لسعيه إلى الإنتقام من المدنيين جراء هزائم جيشه المتلاحقة".
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