Syrian fighters elect unified command

Updated 07 December 2012
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Syrian fighters elect unified command

AMMAN: Syrian fighter groups’ meeting in Turkey elected a 30-member unified command yesterday at talks attended by security officials from international powers, delegates said.
“The command has been organized into several fronts. We are now in the process of electing a military leader and a political liaison office for each region,” said one of the delegates who did not want to be named.
Meanwhile, Clashes between Assad’s troops and fighters raged south of Damascus yesterday.
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog asked Syria to sign up to a convention banning their use, as an opposition leader called on the international community to stop Assad’s regime unleashing a chemical arms “disaster.”
Inside Syria, activists feared a new ground assault on Damascus suburbs where military poured in, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The army bombed orchards surrounding Daraya where military reinforcements are heading,” it said, citing activists on the ground.
“Moadamiyet Al-Sham was also violently pounded and large reinforcements were deployed apparently to attack the town,” added the Britain-based watchdog which gathers information from a network of activists and medics across Syria.
The outskirts of Damascus are at the heart of the fighting where the regime has launched an operation to reclaim territory within eight kilometers (five miles) of the city.
Analysts say the Assad regime wants to ensure its hold on the capital so it can be in a position to negotiate a solution to the nearly 21-month conflict.
Meanwhile Clinton called on all parties with influence in Syria to make a “concerted push” together to halt the conflict.
She said there had been no “great breakthrough” during talks in Dublin on Thursday with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi”, but said there would be further meetings between officials.
“No one should have any illusions about how hard this remains,” Clinton said.
Recent developments in Syria were “increasingly dangerous, not only to Syrians but to their neighbors,” she said.
Clinton’s statements came as a key Syrian opposition leader urged the world to act to avert a chemical weapons disaster that would impact not only the embattled country’s neighbors but also security worldwide.
“We ask the countries of the world to act before disaster hits, not after,” Syrian National Council chief George Sabra told reporters.
“The danger does not only threaten just Syria and its neighbors, but will also have a negative impact on global security.”


Syrian army gains ground in rebel south: monitor

Updated 21 min 45 sec ago
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Syrian army gains ground in rebel south: monitor

  • Syrian regime forces on Saturday made their first gains on the ground against rebel fighters in the southern province of Daraa after several days of intensified bombardment.
  • Since Tuesday, regime troops have been ramping up shelling on opposition-held areas in Daraa's eastern countryside ahead of an apparent military offensive against rebels there.

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces on Saturday made their first gains on the ground against rebel fighters in the southern province of Daraa after several days of intensified bombardment, a monitor said.
Since Tuesday, regime troops have been ramping up shelling on opposition-held areas in Daraa's eastern countryside ahead of an apparent military offensive against rebels there.
"Regime troops made their first advance in the area since the military escalation on Tuesday, seizing the villages of Al-Bustan and Al-Shumariya in the eastern part of Daraa province," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The shelling and clashes are currently focused on a wedge of rebel territory between Daraa's eastern countryside and the western part of the neighbouring province of Sweida.
The army seems to want to split that wedge into a northern and southern section, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, "to facilitate their operations and increase the pressure on rebel factions, allowing it to advance more quickly."
Syrian state news agency SANA also reported the advance, saying army units edged forwards against rebels in Daraa's east.
After securing the capital Damascus, Syrian troops have turned to the country's south, where rebels still hold a majority of the provinces of Daraa and Sweida.
Southern Syria is a particularly strategic zone: it borders both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and also lies close to Damascus.
Military reinforcements have been streaming into the south, despite it being designated a de-escalation zone last year where violence is supposed to be reduced.
The Observatory has noted an "ongoing escalation of shelling and clashes in eastern and northeastern parts of Daraa province."
The regime has used air strikes and artillery and has even resumed dropping notorious barrel bombs on Daraa province.
Barrel bombs slammed into the town of Al-Herak on Friday in the first use of the weapon on Daraa in nearly a year, according to the Observatory.
The escalation has left at least 17 civilians dead since Tuesday across rebel areas, according to the Britain-based monitor.
Some 12,000 people have been displaced from Daraa province in recent days, the Observatory said.
The United Nations has also warned that increasing violence is putting the lives of 750,000 people in rebel parts of the south at risk.
Even as the regime hints at a looming assault, talks between international brokers may see a negotiated settlement for Syria's south.