Aleppo danger remains despite slight easing: FSA leader in Turkey
HATAY – Anadolu Agency
Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Jamal Marouf. AA PhotoFree Syrian Army (FSA) commander Jamal Marouf, who has confirmed his presence in Turkey, has said the danger of losing the northwestern Syrian province of Aleppo has eased slightly, but warned that risks remain in the city that is deemed crucial by Turkey.
“Currently, the distress in Aleppo has slightly settled, however the risk of danger continues,” the commander told state-run Anadolu Agency on Nov. 20.
Confirming that he is currently in Turkey, Marouf said he entered the country via legal routes, using his passport.
Turkish state sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Hürriyet Daily News that Marouf had fled to Turkey at some point in the past two weeks and is being hosted and protected by the Turkish government.
Citing the same sources, the Hürriyet Daily News reported on Nov. 18 that the FSA had withdrawn its militia and ceased resistance in Aleppo.
However, without elaborating on the situation in the city, the rebel commander said the FSA is continuing to fight al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with “11,000 soldiers under my command.”
“They are trying to weaken the FSA, but they won’t succeed,” he said, vowing to fight until toppling the al-Assad regime.
Marouf also thanked Turkey for lending its support to opposition rebels since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
Turkey, which has called for the ousting of al-Assad as the sole viable solution to the Syrian conflict, is a strong supporter of the FSA, an umbrella term for dozens of armed groups fighting against both al-Assad and ISIL.
However, when asked by reporters during a press briefing on Nov. 19, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said he did not have any knowledge of Marouf being in Turkey.
He also ruled out claims that the FSA had abandoned Aleppo, saying “reports claiming that the FSA have fled Aleppo are false.”
Bilgiç reiterated Turkish concerns over a potential influx of refugees should Aleppo be seized by al-Assad regime forces.
Both Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had warned that Turkey could face an influx of an additional 2-3 million Syrian refugees if al-Assad’s forces or ISIL insurgents advance around the key Syrian city.
A no-fly zone and safe havens are very important to Turkey in this respect, Bilgiç stressed.