June 11, 2014 - Rebels attack Regime HQ in Azeeza with heavy weaponry in Aleppo countryside
April 3, 2014 by Sara Elizabeth Williams
“I do not want to mention my name,” said a 20-year-old Free Syrian Army fighter, “because the camp we practiced in was highly classified.”
So classified, in fact, that the CIA—which is rumored to be running the camp (but declined to comment for this article)—still won’t acknowledge it exists.
For nearly a year, rumors have swirled about a covert, US-run training camp for FSA fighters in the vast Jordanian desert. (Jordanian intelligence also did not respond to requests for comment on this article.) And last week it was reported that the Obama administration appears to be expanding “its covert program of training and assistance for the Syrian opposition.” However, despite all this speculation, little is known about how this supposed Jordanian camp works, who trains there, and what tactics they learn.
I recently tracked down a fighter who said he’d completed the course and was willing to talk.
"Fighter A" is from Daraa, just a stone’s throw from the Jordanian border in southern Syria. He was in high school when the revolution twisted into civil war, and his plans to study law were set aside for a Kalashnikov; he joined the FSA at just 18 years old.
One day last May, when Fighter A was 19, he was taken aside and given some good news. “I was selected by the brigade commander to go to training camp,” he said. “I was told we would be trained on heavy weapons and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.” But he didn’t know exactly what to expect. “I had heard of military camps taking place, but I didn’t know where and when.”
The next morning, Fighter A and 39 other young men like him headed south into Jordan, their journey jointly choreographed by Daraa’s FSA military council and, allegedly, Jordanian intelligence. Mobile phones were confiscated, to be returned at the end of camp. No questions were asked. These men were going off the grid.
When the group finally arrived at a high-security military facility deep in the Jordanian desert, Fighter A found the last thing he expected: Americans.
“I was surprised when I saw foreign trainers,” he said. “The Americans who taught us wore military uniforms I did not recognize. We called them by their first names, and they spoke English to us.”
And so began a 40-day program of fitness, fighting tactics, and weapons training, all—according to Fighter A—barked out by US military instructors with interpreters at their sides, translating every order into Arabic. Recruits exercised in the morning and at night, knocking out set after set of crunches and push-ups and going for long runs. “The exercises were tiring, but I became fitter,” said Fighter A.
He was also well fed. “They served us the best types of food at the camp, grilled meat, mansaf (a Jordanian lamb dish), Kentucky Fried Chicken, soup, rice, Mexican chicken, and many other foods. Each person got American food or Arab food at his request.”
Accommodations on site were in pre-fabricated housing, and days were spent preparing for combat. “We were trained in urban warfare and street fighting: how to break into buildings as a team, how to blow up houses held by the enemy, and how to free captives.”
Weapons instruction was at the heart of the program. Recruits were trained on Kalashnikovs, light machine guns, cannon mortars, anti-tank mines, and Red Arrow SPG-9 unguided anti-tank missiles. This teaching beefed up Fighter A’s light- and medium-arms skills and introduced him to heavy weapons he hadn’t previously used. “Before the camp I used a Kalashnikov and light machine guns, and at the camp I was trained to shoot faster and more accurately. Mortar cannons and anti-tank missiles like the Red Arrow SPG-9 were new to me.”
The much-anticipated anti-aircraft missiles known as “MANPADS,” which Barack Obama was reportedly planning to send to Syrian rebels, never materialized.
I asked Fighter A about a graduation ceremony: How had the recruits and their instructors marked the end of the program?
“There was no graduation ceremony, but we did a graduation project at the end. It was a complete fighting project that included everything we had been trained on. For me, this was the best part of the camp.”
And then camp was over.
Fighter A and his fellow recruits were each given $400 and sent back to Syria. It took a day to reach Daraa, where phones were returned and lives re-connected. He went to see his family first, then reported to brigade headquarters for his next orders.
Since his American training, Fighter A has become a trainer himself, teaching the men in his brigade to shoot faster and more accurately, to fire mortars and lay into the enemy with anti-tank mines and missiles. He still fights with a Kalashnikov and a light machine gun, and his brigade has added mortar cannons and 14.5 millimeter machine guns to its arsenal. Though he hasn’t received any more money or any weapons from the US or Jordan, “I benefited a lot from the camp,” he told me. “I gained a lot of new fighting skills.”
One thing he doesn’t keep up with is the exercise program. The lack of food in Daraa leaves a 20-year-old man hungry on a good day, so Fighter A figures there’s no sense burning the extra energy if he can’t replace it.
In recent months Fighter A has met other rebels who have been through the same training camp. Experts suggest that this isn’t the only Jordan-based program training moderate Syrians to fight the American way.
“There’s a dribble, a small trickle of fighters, maybe 150 soldiers a month,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “But there’s not enough of them to make a difference.”
Charles Lister, a visiting fellow with the Brookings Doha Center—and an expert on FSA activity in southern Syria—agreed. “So far, because this training effort has been on such a small scale, it doesn’t appear to have a qualitative impact on conflict dynamics inside the country.”
Beyond manpower, there’s also the issue of arms; the earthbound FSA is seriously outmatched by the Syrian Air Force. Rebels have been asking for anti-aircraft missiles for more than a year, and at the top of their wish list are shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, the “MANPADS,” that can shoot a plane out of the sky.
While Saudi is keen to provide these, Landis said, the US has so far refused to let it happen. “America has a very important national interest, which is to know who is getting what weapons.” As al Qaeda digs into the infrastructure of rebel-controlled Syria, the threat for US interests becomes untenable. “America cannot let MANPADS into Syria because they will be used against Israeli planes someday,” he said.
Lister sees America’s refusal to step up training numbers and allow rebels more sophisticated weapons systems—namely, the anti-aircraft missiles Fighter A was waiting for—as an indication that it’s just not that committed to changing conflict dynamics.
Landis admits that the US is playing a “rather mischievous role” by supporting the rebels with one hand and restraining them with the other. “The result is that we’re prolonging the rebellion, but we’re also making sure it can’t win.”
Back in Daraa, Fighter A is under no illusions that the American training, American food, and American dollars he enjoyed in Jordan are in any way indicative of an American desire to help the rebels win. “America is benefiting from the destruction and the killing in order to weaken both sides,” he said.
He does think the training is helping the rebels make gains in Syria and, for now, this is enough. He believes in his cause, and he is patient. “I didn’t know or expect revolutions [to be] filled with blood,” he said. “But I remember the saying: If you want to jump forward, you have to take two steps backward.”
Source: Vice Magazine
March 29, 2014 by AFP
JERUSALEM - Israeli troops on Friday shot what the military said were ‘infiltrators’ trying to breach a security fence from the Syrian-controlled side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
”Soldiers detected two armed suspects infiltrating into Israel and tampering with the infrastructure of the Israeli-Syrian border of the Golan Heights,” a military statement said.
”The Israeli army opened fire, hits were confirmed.”
There was no word on the identity of the suspects or the severity of their injuries.
Israel, which is technically at war with Syria, seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan Heights plateau during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
Last Wednesday Israeli aircraft struck inside Syria in the wake of a bomb attack on the heights which wounded four Israeli soldiers.
Since the Syrian civil conflict erupted in 2011, the plateau has been tense, with a growing number of stray projectiles hitting the Israeli side, prompting an occasional armed response.
March 23, 2014 by AFP
BEIRUT - Syrian forces and rebels battled Sunday for a third straight day for control of a key crossing on the northern border with Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"Fighters from [the Al-Qaeda-affiliated] Al-Nusra Front and other groups have attacked the crossing and forced out regime forces and national defense auxiliaries," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
However, he added that fierce fighting was still under way at the Kasab crossing, which was first attacked on Friday.
On Tuesday, Al-Nusra and Islamist groups Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham announced the launch of an offensive dubbed “Anfal” in Latakia province.
The province, which includes President Bashar al-Assad’s family village, is considered a regime stronghold, and many residents are from his Alawite minority.
”Significant military reinforcements have been sent to the government forces,” said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medical sources on the ground for its reports.
It said that nearly 80 fighters on both sides have been killed since Friday.
On Saturday, the fighting spread to other areas of Latakia province, mainly villages under the control of the regime, which responded with air raids and ambushes, killing at least 20 rebels and wounding 30.
The fighting at Kasab prompted Assad’s government to complain to the United Nations that Turkey was providing cover to rebels crossing the border from its territory.
Elsewhere on Saturday, in and around former commercial capital Aleppo in the north, rebels seized a strategic hill overlooking the regime-held west of the city, the Observatory said.
They also briefly cut the road to Aleppo airport.
The Observatory said that among those killed in Saturday’s clashes–which claimed the lives of at least 50 rebels and 26 loyalists–was the head of the Presidential Guard in Aleppo, Colonel Abbas Samii.
More than 146,000 people have died in Syria’s three-year war. Millions more have been displaced.
March 22, 2014 by AFP
BEIRUT - Fighting raged Saturday between rebels and loyalist forces in Syria’s northern Latakia province, a day after 34 people were killed as Islamists sought to seize a border crossing into Turkey, an NGO said.
The fighting has prompted President Bashar al-Assad’s government to complain to the United Nations that Turkey was providing cover to rebels crossing the border from its territory.
Latakia province, which includes Assad’s family village, is considered a regime stronghold, and many of its residents are from his Alawite minority.
Large parts of Latakia have remained relatively insulated from three years of fighting in Syria, but the province was shaken Friday as three Islamist groups battled to seize the Kasab border crossing.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Islamists included the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, who were also active in Saturday’s clashes against regular troops and pro-regime militia.
There were no immediate reports on casualties, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 34 people were killed on Friday, including 13 rebels and five civilians.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory, said fighting was under way in three government-controlled villages and another three that loyalists were trying to seize from rebels.
State news agency SANA said loyalists had “destroyed an ammunition and rocket depot, as well as vehicles transporting weapons…in numerous operations” in the north of the province.
And a security source said the army on Friday had retaken two police stations that had been captured by “rebels infiltrated from Turkey.”
The source said Damascus had sent a message to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Ankara of “providing cover” for the rebels and demanded that the Security Council “denounce this terrorist attack on Syrian territory.”
”Terrorist” is the common regime term for rebels.
Friday’s clashes came after Al-Nusra, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham announced the beginning of the “Anfal” campaign in the Latakia area.
More than 146,000 people have died in the three-year war, and millions more have been displaced.
Forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar al Assad are gaining ground in rebel-held areas close to Aleppo. Government troops are trying to get control of the city’s industrial district. Al Jazeera’s Mereana Hond reports.
February 23, 2014 by Associated Press
Two suicide bombers killed a senior al-Qaida operative on Sunday, blowing themselves up inside the militant leader’s compound in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, rebels and activists said.
Abu Khaled al-Suri was the representative of al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri in Syria, rebels said. He was also a co-founder of Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful, hard-line Syrian rebel group seeking the overthrow of President Bashar Assad.
The group, alongside other Syrian rebel brigades, has been embroiled in infighting against a breakaway al-Qaida group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
"Sheik Abu Khaled al-Suri was the biggest figure in global jihad," said Akram al-Halabi, spokesman for the Islamic Front, a loose coalition of Islamic-oriented rebel groups, including Ahrar al-Sham. "He was appointed by Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri to mediate," al-Halabi said, speaking to The Associated Press via Skype.
Al-Souri’s killing will further complicate efforts to resolve weeks of infighting between rebels and militants of the breakaway al-Qaida group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The fighting has killed thousands since January. It has also badly weakened rebel ranks, allowing Assad-loyal forces to advance into key-rebel areas, including around Aleppo.
Rebels believe the Islamic State was behind the bombing that killed al-Suri, al-Halabi said. Weeks ago, he wrote a letter criticizing the rouge al-Qaida group, al-Halabi added.
"The first fingers of blame point to The State," said al-Halabi. "Unfortunately this is going to make the infighting worse."
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two others were also killed in the attack, which it attributed to the Islamic State. The Observatory obtains its information from a network of activists on the ground.
Al-Souri’s activities in Syria were a chief reason why the U.S. and other Western allies held back on providing heavy weapons to rebels seeking Assad’s overthrow, said analyst Charles Lister.
His presence in Ahrar al-Sham nearly led the U.S. to declare it a terrorist group.
"He is essentially a core al-Qaida veteran who almost certainly…had extensive, close relations with (Osama) bin Laden," and other senior leaders, Lister said. "The fact that he had such a high position in Ahrar al-Sham, and confirmed it himself, his al-Qaida history — it made elements in the U.S. administration potentially consider Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist organization."
In 2002, Spanish officials described al-Suri, whose real name is Mohamed Bahaiah, as bin Laden’s courier between Afghanistan and Europe.
Also Sunday, a car bomb exploded near a charity field hospital close to the Turkish border, wounding mostly medics and patients who had fled violence elsewhere in the country, activists and Turkish media said.
Turkish ambulance crews evacuated at least 11 of the wounded, including a five-month-old baby, to Turkey, said Syrian activists of the Idlib News group.
Zidane Zenglow, a journalist working for the pan-Arab al-Arabiya network, said at least one person was killed in the blast — a young girl, his cousin.
A video uploaded to YouTube showed what the narrators said was the burnt corpse of a small boy. Another showed people standing around a large smoldering vehicle as an ambulance wailed in the background. The videos were consistent with The Associated Press’ reporting of the event.
February 23, 2014 by AFP
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Salman (Agencies)
DUBAI - Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to Syrian rebels to try to tip the balance in the war to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a Saudi source said Sunday.
The United States has long opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists, but Syrian opposition figures say the failure of Geneva peace talks seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.
Pakistan makes its own version of Chinese shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, known as Anza, and anti-tank rockets — both of which Riyadh is trying to get for the rebels, said the source, who is close to Saudi decision-makers, requesting anonymity.
The source pointed to a visit to Riyadh earlier this month by Pakistan’s army chief of staff, General Raheel Sharif, who met Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
Prince Salman himself last week led a large delegation to Pakistan, shortly after Saudi’s chief diplomat Prince Saud al-Faisal visited the kingdom’s key ally.
Jordan will be providing facilities to store the weapons before they are delivered to rebels within Syria, the same source said.
AFP could not obtain confirmation from officials in Saudi, Pakistan or Jordan.
The head of the Syrian opposition, Ahmad Jarba, promised during a flying visit to northern Syria last week that “powerful arms will be arriving soon.”
Rebels have long said that anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets would help tip the balance in the battle against Assad’s forces, which enjoy air superiority.
The nearly-three-year conflict in Syria has torn the country apart, killing more than 140,000 people, including some 50,000 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
February 8, 2014 by AFP
BEIRUT - New aerial bombardment from explosives-packed barrel bombs in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed at least 20 people on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The raids came as in the oil-rich east, the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and allied Islamist rebel groups launched a new offensive against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).
The Observatory said 20 people including two children were killed in separate barrel bomb attacks on Aleppo’s eastern rebel-held neighborhoods.
Hundreds of people have been killed in several waves of barrel bomb assaults, each lasting several days, since December 15, the Britain-based group says.
Thousands of people have fled the areas being targeted.
The raids come as government forces press an advance into the east and north of Aleppo city, large swathes of which fell to the opposition after a massive rebel offensive in July 2012.
Rights groups have condemned the regime’s use of barrel bombs as indiscriminate.
On Saturday, helicopters also dropped barrel bombs on Daraya, a rebel bastion southwest of Damascus, which has been under siege for more than a year.
In a separate development, Al-Nusra Front and rebel brigades including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham launched a new offensive in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor against their erstwhile ally ISIS, the Observatory said.
While ISIS was once welcomed by rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad, abuses by the group turned much of the opposition against them.
Saturday’s offensive comes just over a month after three massive rebel alliances declared war against ISIS in much of the north.
Both Al-Nusra and ISIS grew out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but have split in Syria.
More than 1,800 people, mostly fighters, died in January fighting between rebels and ISIS in northern Syria.
Saturday’s clashes come a day after ISIS took over several rival rebel bases in Hasakeh province north of Deir Ezzor.
Both Deir Ezzor and Hasakeh are strategic because they lie on Syria’s border with Iraq.
Deir Ezzor is a key conduit for ISIS to send weapons and fighters from Iraq into Syria.
January 25, 2013 by AFP
GENEVA - Syria’s warring sides met briefly together in the same room on Saturday for the first time since peace talks started in Geneva, the UN said.
UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi’s spokesperson confirmed Saturday morning that he and the two sides were meeting in the same room.
The meeting, during which Brahimi spoke while the two delegations had listened, wrapped up in under half an hour, a source inside the room told AFP.
The delegations had been due to sit down early Friday at UN headquarters in Geneva for their first direct talks, but Brahimi was unable to get them into the same room after the opposition insisted the regime must be prepared to discuss Assad leaving power.
Following the brief meeting Saturday morning, the two sides were believed to have moved to separate offices, with Brahimi shuttling between them.
The UN mediator was expected to try to coax the two parties back into the same room for an afternoon session seen focusing on humanitarian issues, especially the situation in the besieged central city of Homs.
With neither side appearing ready for serious concessions, mediators will be focusing on short-term deals to keep the process moving forward, including on localized ceasefires, freer humanitarian access and prisoner exchanges.
Opposition Coalition official Ahmad Ramadan told AFP weekend talks would focus on Homs, where hundreds of families are living under siege with near-daily shelling and the barest of supplies.
”We will talk exclusively about… how to put an end to the siege of Homs, ensuring humanitarian corridors to besieged areas and stopping the regime’s bombing and killing,” Ramadan said Friday.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad denied that the talks would focus on Homs.
January 12, 2014 by AFP
BEIRUT - Jihadists battling Syrian rebels have staged 16 suicide attacks in the past week, mostly car bombings, killing dozens of opposition fighters and civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO said Sunday.
The attacks took place during a nine-day battle pitting the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant against other rebel groups.
An ISIS commander had warned rival opposition fighters earlier this week of car bomb attacks if they pressed their offensive against the jihadists.
”Sixteen suicide attackers have detonated themselves in the past week, most of them in car bomb attacks, some using explosive belts,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
”Dozens of people in Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and Raqqa provinces have been killed in such attacks,” Abdel Rahman told AFP.
On Saturday alone, 39 rebels were killed in the attacks in Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa provinces, the Observatory said.
According to a rebel fighting with Ahrar al-Sham, which is leading battles against ISIS in several areas, “they use suicide attacks to terrorise society as a whole into submission, not just the fighters.”
Speaking to AFP via the Internet on condition of anonymity, the rebel said “it is one of their most deadly weapons… which they use partly for a lack of other means.”
Fighting between the two sides raged in parts of Raqqa on Sunday after ISIS managed to seize much of the city, which is the only provincial capital to have fallen out of President Bashar al-Assad’s control.
The eastern city of Raqqa has been an ISIS stronghold for months and the group is believed to be holding hundreds of rebels from other groups, activists and journalists, including Westerners, in the province.
In Aleppo and Idlib, where most car bomb attacks have taken place, the jihadists were on the defensive on Sunday.
Hundreds of ISIS fighters were holed up in their base in Saraqeb in Idlib, a day after rebels captured most of the town.
In Aleppo province, Assad’s army is trying to take advantage of fighting between ISIS and opposition groups and on Sunday, government aircraft dropped explosive-packed barrels on the towns of Al-Bab and Hreitan.
The Britain-based Observatory also said on Sunday rebels had launched a counter-offensive in the town of Naqarin, northeast of Aleppo, the day after activists said regime forces had taken the area.
Meanwhile in the battered central city of Homs, the toll from the army’s shelling of Waar district on Saturday rose to 21, the monitoring group said.
More than 130,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions more displaced since March 2011.
On Saturday alone, 232 people were killed across Syria, most of them rebels, jihadists and regime loyalists.
Two people in Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus died as a result of malnutrition, the Observatory said. The group had reported on Friday that 41 Palestinians died in the besieged camp as a result of food and medical shortages.
January 4, 2014 by AFP
Battles have raged for two days across northern Syria since the newly formed Army of Mujahideen declared war on the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
BEIRUT - Syrian rebels and activists have launched a second “revolution” nearly three years into the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, this time against a powerful Al-Qaeda affiliate accused of brutal abuses.
Battles have raged for two days across northern Syria since the newly formed Army of Mujahideen declared war on the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), with two massive rebel alliances joining the battle against the extremist group.
”The revolution has returned to its true path, and the rays of the sun have started to shine on Syria,” Ibrahim al-Idelbi, an activist from the war-torn country’s northwest with close ties to the rebels, wrote on his Facebook page.
”January 3, 2014: The revolution against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant begins,” wrote coastal Latakia’s Ammar, also on Facebook.
Activists and rebels have long accused ISIS of imposing a reign of terror on areas under its control, including public executions and the kidnapping, torture and assassination of rival rebels and civilians.
Some have gone so far as to accuse the group of colluding with the Assad regime to tarnish the image of the initially peaceful uprising and deter Western nations from intervening more forcefully on the rebels’ behalf.
The latest fighting appeared to have been ignited by the torture and murder this week of Dr Hussein al-Sleiman, known as Abu Rayyan, a popular medic.
’People have had enough’
An activist in Idlib who goes by the name Abu Leyla said ISIS “only benefits the Assad regime,” which has long insisted that all its opponents — peaceful activists and rebels alike — are “terrorists.”
”They have taken over roads from local fighters and then withdrawn, opening the way to the army. They take over border crossings to control arms shipments for the rebels. People have had enough,” Abu Leyla said.
Aron Lund, an expert on Syria’s insurgency, said ISIS’s vision of itself, not as a mere rebel group but as a nascent Islamic state governed by a harsh interpretation of sharia law, has alienated other rebel groups, including less radical Islamists.
”We see what the other groups say — that they’ve given ISIS one chance after another, but that they keep burning their bridges,” said Lund, editor of the Syria in Crisis website of the Carnegie Endowment.
The recently formed Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, two broad alliances that bring together tens of thousands of opposition fighters, both condemned ISIS on Friday.
”We call on ISIS to withdraw immediately from Atareb [in northern Syria]… and remind them that those who freed Atareb [from Assad’s regime] are those you are fighting today,” said the Islamic Front, Syria’s largest rebel alliance.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group that relies on a network of sources inside Syria, said at least 36 ISIS members and supporters have been killed and another 100 have been captured by rebels.
However, the group’s setbacks in Syria came as it advanced in neighboring Iraq, seizing the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in the volatile Anbar province.
Syrian protesters took to the streets on Friday in demonstrations against ISIS that recalled the early days of protest against Assad. In Aleppo they cried: “Free Syrian Army forever! Crush ISIS and Assad!”
The main opposition Syrian National Coalition on Saturday endorsed the fight against “the authoritarian repression” and “Al-Qaeda extremism” of ISIS.
ISIS supporters meanwhile accused the other rebels of betraying the group, with one supporter calling the activists “mercenaries” on Twitter and another saying: “To those of you who stay silent in the face of injustices against ISIS, you’re next.”
’Syria and extremism don’t mix’
Assad has insisted from the start of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising that he is fighting against foreign terrorists, but dissidents say his regime has largely ignored ISIS while going after peaceful activists and more moderate rebels.
They often point to ISIS’s main headquarters in the eastern city of Raqa, which has been spared by the regime’s air force despite heavy bombing campaigns in other areas.
Salman Shaikh, a scholar at the Brookings Doha Centre, said the recent fighting made it clear that “Syria and extremism don’t mix” but that rebels opposed to both ISIS and Assad will need more international support to prevail.
To date, the West has done little to arm the rebels for fear that weapons may end up in the hands of jihadists.
”Many Syrians have given up on the outside world, and have felt the need, despite the risks, to recover their own revolution, alone,” Shaikh said.