Foes of al-Assad step up pressure
DAMASCUS / BEIRUT
Syrian soldiers who defected to join the Free Syrian Army (FSA) set up and ‘a hotline’ to cooperate with SNC. REUTERS photoPolitical and military opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced Jan. 16 they had set up a hotline to coordinate their actions, as foreign and internal pressure mounted on the al-Assad regime, AFP reported.
The opposition Syrian National Council said in a statement the decision was made in talks on the night of Jan. 14 with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), formed by military deserters. A liaison office was set up and “a hotline to follow internal political developments on the ground,” it said. The statement said further meetings would be held involving military experts “to strengthen the capacity of the SFA against regime forces and to protect civilian regions which the regime wants to raid or pillage.”
The talks also focused on efforts to “restructure FSA units and create a modern and flexible structure ... to allow for rapid deployment” and cope with the daily inflow of deserting officers and soldiers.
Meanwhile, Syrian National Council Executive Committee member Mahmud Osman denied the news that Gen. Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheikh, the most senior commander to defect from the Syrian Army, will be ruling the FSA. “Col. Riad al-Asaad, who defected from the Syrian Army in July , is still the leader of the Free Syrian Army on the ground,” Osman told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “However, there will be a reorganization of the Free Syrian Army, and a new high military council will be formed in order to make plans in the Free Syrian Army,” Osman said.
The FSA claims to have gathered 40,000 fighters under its command since an anti-regime revolt broke out in Syria in mid-March. A government crackdown on dissent has since cost more than 5,000 lives, according to a U.N. estimate. Dozens of people have died in FSA attacks on the regular Army.
Syrian parliamentarian joins the opposition forces
A member of Syria’s Parliament has left the country to join the opposition against al-Assad’s regime, saying the Syrian people were suffering sweeping human rights violations, the Associated Press reported.
Imad Ghalioun, who represents the central city of Homs, told Al-Arabiya TV that the city, which has been one of the most restive in the uprising against al-Assad’s rule since March 2011, was a disaster after months of being a focus of the regime’s fierce crackdown.
“The Syrian people are living their worst period,” Ghalioun said late Jan. 15 from Egypt. “The people of Homs are under siege, and the city is disaster-stricken,” he said. “There is no electricity, piles of garbage fill the streets ... The sounds of shelling all night terrify children.” He added there were many legislators who supported the uprising but have not said so publicly.
A rights group, meanwhile, said security forces killed at least five civilians in the flashpoint central region of Homs and carried out nighttime arrests of students at Aleppo University in the north of the country. The U.N. says about 400 people have been killed in the last three weeks, on top of an earlier estimate of more than 5,000 killed since March last year.
İpek Yezdani contributed to this report from HDN Istanbul Bureau.