Syria rebels hope arms will flow to new fighter command

Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:47pm EST
 
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By Mariam Karouny

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels expect greater military help from Gulf Arab states after they announced a new command structure which aims finally to unite President Bashar al-Assad's armed opponents, rebel commanders said on Monday.

Rebel fighters have made gains across the country in the last month, seizing military bases and taking on Assad's better-armed forces on the fringes of his powerbase in Damascus.

Activists said fighting raged on Monday in southern Damascus near the international airport and reported clashes in the northern Damascus districts of Rukneddine and Salhiyeh - the heaviest there since the uprising began 20 months ago.

Despite using more effective battlefield tactics and acquiring more arms, the mainly Sunni Muslim fighters have so far lacked the firepower to deliver a decisive blow to Assad, from the Alawite minority linked to Shi'ite Islam.

Abu Moaz al-Agha, a leader and spokesman of the powerful Gathering of Ansar al Islam which includes many Islamist rebel brigades, said the new, Islamist-dominated military command elected in Turkey over the weekend could change that.

"What we need now is the heavy weapons and we expect to get them after the formation of this. The anti-armor and anti-aircraft weapons are what we are expecting," he told Reuters by Skype from Turkey before heading to the Gulf.

"The Qataris and the Saudis gave us positive promises. We will see what will happen," he said, adding that officials from Western countries, who also attended the meeting in Turkey, had not mentioned arming the rebels but talked about "sending aid".

At least 40,000 people have been killed in Syria's uprising, which started with street protests which were met with gunfire by Assad's security forces, and spiraled into the most enduring and destructive of the Arab uprisings.   Continued...

 
A man stands on the roof as he inspects a mosque damaged by an air strike in the Hamidiya neighborhood in Homs December 9, 2012. REUTERS/Yazan Homsy