Rebels unite their ranks establish new command

Rebels unite their ranks establish new command

Rebels unite their ranks establish new command

Damaged buildings are seen in Homs. Civil war across the Syria has claimed more than 40,000 lives. REUTERS photo

Rebel commanders from across Syria have joined forces under a united command they hope will increase coordination between diverse fighting groups and streamline the pathway for arms essential to their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad.

The new body hopes to form the basis of a united rebel front. Some 500 delegates elected the 30-person Supreme Military Council and a Chief of Staff on Dec. 7 and planned to meet soon with representatives from the opposition’s newly reorganized political leadership, participants said, according to The Associated Press.

Syria into five regions
The opposition’s political leadership reorganized last month, under Western pressure, into a new National Alliance that its backers hope will have broader representation and stronger links to rebel fighters.

It remains unclear how the new military command will relate to the National Alliance and whether foreign powers will back it. But two of Syria’s most extreme rebel groups were not included: Jabhat al-Nusra, which has claimed deadly suicide bombings and is believed to be linked to al-Qaeda, and Ahrar al-Sham, an Islamic fundamentalist brigade home to many foreign jihadist.

The rebel commander from near Damascus said the group had chosen Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss, who defected from al-Assad’s army, as its chief of staff. It also had divided Syria into five regions, each of which will be under one of Idriss’ assistants.