Syrian rebels have received heavy weapons — including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles — from “brotherly nations that support the Syrian revolution,” a rebel spokesman said Friday.
Free Syrian Army political and media coordinator Louay Almokdad told CNN during a phone call from Istanbul that Free Syrian Army leaders believe the weapons “will be a turning point” in the war against government forces “and will definitely change the rules of the war on the ground.”
The issue of providing military assistance to Syrian rebels is expected to be further addressed Saturday at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Doha, Qatar, which will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The White House has not publicly specified what steps it would take to support members of Syria’s opposition, though sources have told CNN that small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons would be part of the assistance package.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) became the highest ranking member of the U.S. government to cross the borders of Syria since the beginning of the bloody civil war more than two years ago, the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reports:
McCain, one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration’s Syria policy made the unannounced visit across the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. He stayed in the country for several hours before returning to Turkey.
Questions are increasingly being asked about weapons and money being supplied to Islamist rebel groups in Syria by sympathetic Arab states, because of growing fears that they are falling into the hands of jihadists and other extremists.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are among a handful of countries whose support for the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime has won plaudits from many in the region, where few dispute that the Syrian president has forfeited any right to power.
But signs that arms and cash may be filtering through to groups such as the al-Nusra Brigade, which has openly declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, are alarming Western observers.
As the West has hesitated over sending its own military assistance, non-sectarian elements of the rebel Free Syrian Army are being outflanked and out-gunned by better-funded and armed Islamist fighters, including foreign jihadists.
Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said recently: “As there is no clear international opinion to end the crisis in Syria… we are supporting the opposition with whatever it needs, even if it takes up arms for self-defence.”
But by focusing support on Islamist groups, both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are seen by many to be playing with fire.
“The fear is that both the Saudis and the Qataris are competing for influence in Syria by pouring in support to rival groups of jihadist fighters, and that Syria is descending into the depths of hell as a result,”
New YouTube video from the Syrian battlefield shows rebels firing the same high-powered sniper rifle favored by U.S. Navy SEALs, leaving some experts wondering who the ragtag army of insurgents might train the guns on in the future.
The British-made AS-50, accurate from a distance of 20 football fields, is made for British Special Forces and Navy SEALs. Video showing Syrian rebels, who are aligned with Al Qaeda, firing the guns and shouting “Alahu akbar,” has also raised questions about who is supplying such devastating hardware.
“The video, showing jihadist rebels of the ‘Descendents of the Prophet Brigade’ firing one of the world’s most effective sniper rifles, should be cause for alarm,” said David Reaboi, of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy. “We don’t know who has been supplying this group (or the myriad others) with these weapons but, given the jihadist ideology of these groups, it’s only a matter of time until they’re turned on Americans or our allies and interests.”
The gun set a world record when a member of the British Household Cavalry in Afghanistan’s Helmand province killed two members of the Taliban with successive bullets over a recorded distance of more than 1.5 miles.
The Free Syrian Army has been receiving weapons from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey - all close allies of the U.S. But the U.S. has repeatedly stated that it has sent no weapons to the opposition forces.
Fragmentation and disorganization have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011 and began forming rebel groups under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations.
Since the summer of 2012, rebel commanders on the ground in Syria have begun to coordinate tactically in order to plan operations and combine resources. This cooperation has facilitated many important offensives and rebels have taken control of the majority of the eastern portion of the country, overrunning their first provincial capital in March 2013 with the capture of al-Raqqa city. However, rebels have been unable to capitalize on these successes, and fighting has largely stalemated along current battle fronts particularly in the key areas of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.
In order to overcome the current military stalemate, the opposition needs to develop an operational level headquarters that can designate campaign priorities, task units to support priority missions, and resource these units with the proper equipment to execute their missions. Recently, the opposition has established a new national military structure that may grow to serve this purpose.
On December 7, 2012, rebel leaders from across Syria announced the election of a new 30-member unified command structure called the Supreme Joint Military Command Council, known as the Supreme Military Command (SMC). The Supreme Military Command improves upon previous attempts at armed opposition unification through higher integration of disparate rebel groups and enhanced communication, which suggest that it could prove to be an enduring security institution.
More: The Free Syrian Army
Terrorists fighting other terrorists. Gotta love it.
Syrian rebels said they attacked and destroyed a convoy carrying Hezbollah operatives and officers of the regime’s army near the Lebanese border on Tuesday.
Trucks carrying the fighters, including a high-ranking Syrian officer, were blown up by landmines planted on the Beirut-Damascus highway after the rebels were informed of the convoy’s route, a statement by the Free Syrian Army said. According to the statement, all of the passengers were killed in the explosion.
The convoy was reportedly en route to Lebanon, where its members were slated to meet an unnamed security official.
…“An FSA brigade launched two consecutive attacks at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, the first of which targeted a group of Hezbollah fighters in the western Qusayr district in Syria, killing or wounding all of its members,” the statement read. The attack was carried out with machine guns and antitank rockets against two four-wheel-drive vehicles used by Hezbollah.
In the second attack, several FSA brigades attacked with mortar shells a Hezbollah artillery position in the Hosh al-Sayyed Ali area inside Lebanon and “achieved direct hits,” according to the statement.
Meanwhile there are reports that Hezbollah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah is very sick from cancer.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been flown to Tehran for emergency medical treatment with severe cancer-related complications, the Lebanese radio station the Voice of Lebanon reported on Monday.
A different report from Lebanon claimed that Nasrallah was flown to Iran after he was wounded in an attack by Syrian rebels during a meeting he was attending.
The reports are attributed to “senior Hezbollah officials,” but there were no official confirmation of the reports from any other source.
According to the reports, Nasrallah’s deputy, Naim Kassem, has assumed command of the terrorist organization.
Tunisian television station Delta TV interviewed a young Tunisian male who fought in Syria along the “Free Syrian Army”. The former, young, idealistic jihadist explains how he entered Syrian; the type of transportation used; the fact North Africans were used as cannon fodder and provided no medical aide.
Most important, the former young jihadist observed how wealthy and educated Muslims enabled the fight, while the poor Muslims did the actual fighting…many of them dying in a proxy war.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says Ankara has started to receive what he called “strong signals” that the 21-month old Syrian uprising is coming to an end in favor of Syrian opposition.
“This bloody, this despotic process that continues nearly two years is already nearing to end. A government that meets the demands of people in Syria - God willing - will come to power soon,” Erdoğan told a meeting in Şanlıurfa province on the Syrian border.
Noting that Syria is passing through a painful and bloody period, Erdoğan said this process has economically hurt Şanlıurfa. He added that militarily, Ankara has changed its engagement rules to meet the Syrian threat more effectively after a mortar shell killed five Turkish nationals in the province’s Akçakale district, just on the border with Syria.
Syrian rebels are fighting a 21-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad’s regime. Activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed in the crisis, which began with pro-democracy protests but has morphed into a civil war.
With steady opposition gains across the north, President Bashar Assad’s regime is having increasing difficulty sending supplies by land to Aleppo province, especially after opposition fighters cut a major thoroughfare from Damascus. It is just another sign that the opposition is consolidating its grip across large swathes of territory in northern Syria near the Turkish border.
Syria’s rebel fighters — who have long staked claim to the moral high ground for battling dictatorship — are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners.
The shift in mood presents more than just a public relations problem for the loosely knit militants of the Free Syrian Army, who rely on their supporters to survive the government’s superior firepower. A dampening of that support undermines the rebels’ ability to fight and win what has become a devastating war of attrition, perpetuating the violence that has left nearly 40,000 dead, hundreds of thousands in refugee camps and more than a million forced from their homes.
The rebel shortcomings have been compounded by changes in the opposition, from a force of civilians and defected soldiers who took up arms after the government used lethal force on peaceful protesters to one that is increasingly seeded with extremist jihadis. That radicalization has divided the fighters’ supporters and made Western nations more reluctant to give rebels the arms that might help break the intensifying deadlock. Instead, foreign leaders are struggling to find indirect ways to help oust Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
And now arrogance and missteps are draining enthusiasm from some of the fighters’ core supporters.
“They were supposed to be the people on whom we depend to build a civil society,” lamented a civilian activist in Saraqib, a northern town where rebels were videotaped executing a group of unarmed Syrian soldiers, an act the United Nations has declared a likely war crime.
Syrian fighter jets bombed rebel targets with added intensity Tuesday, including striking targets inside Damascus for the first time, an opposition rights group said.
In renewed violence following a four-day cease-fire that was largely ignored over the Eid al-Adha holiday, rebels also claimed to have assassinated an air force general in Damascus and fierce clashes broke out between rebels and troops backed by Palestinian supporters in the country’s largest Palestinian camp.
State television said “terrorists” killed the air force general, Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi, in the restive north Damascus district of Rukn al-Din, but gave no further details.
A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the general was shot dead Monday evening as he left a friend’s home.
In a statement posted on the Internet, the rebel Free Syrian Army said it had killed Khalidi, who it claimed was in charge of training, as part of “a series of special operations carried out by the battalion in reprisal of the Assad regime brutality.”