Syr­ian in­sur­gent groups vow to at­tack Rus­sia forces

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY BASSEM MROUE, SARAH EL DEEB AND SUZAN FRASER

More than 40 Syr­ian in­sur­gent groups vowed to at­tack Rus­sian forces in re­tal­i­a­tion for Moscow’s air cam­paign in a show of unity among the usu­ally frag­mented rebels against what they called the “oc­cu­piers” of Syria.

The 41 groups, which in­cluded pow­er­ful fac­tions such as Ahrar al- Sham, Is­lam Army and the Le­vant Front, said Rus­sia joined the war in Syria af­ter Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s forces were on the verge “of a crush­ing de­feat.”

Rus­sia launched its air cam­paign on Wed­nes­day and claims it’s tar­get­ing the Is­lamic State group and al-Qaida’s Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate, the Nusra Front. But many of the strikes ap­pear to have hit Western-backed rebel fac­tions.

The Rus­sian at­tacks have largely fo­cused on the north­west­ern and cen­tral prov­inces — the gate­ways to the heart­land of As­sad’s power­base in the cap­i­tal, Damascus, and on the Mediter­ranean coast.

The Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion was widely crit­i­cized by Syr­ian op­po­si­tion groups and ac­tivists es­pe­cially since Moscow once played the role of a me­di­a­tor host­ing rounds of talks be­tween the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment and its op­po­nents.

“This new re­al­ity re­quires the re­gion’s coun­tries and the al­lies in spe­cific to has­ten in form­ing a re­gional al­liance to face the Rus­sianIra­nian al­liance that oc­cu­pies Syria,” the 41 fac­tions said in a state­ment re­leased by Ahrar alSham. It was ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to back­ers of the op­po­si­tion such as Tur­key and Saudi Ara­bia.

A Syr­ian mil­i­tary of­fi­cial was quoted by state media as say­ing that Rus­sian airstrikes on Mon­day hit in the cen­tral province of Homs and Idlib in the north­west.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man rights said war­planes be­lieved to be Rus­sian have tar­geted the north­ern town of Al-Bab that is a strong­hold of the Is­lamic State group. It said the airstrike left “a large num­ber” of ca­su­al­ties.

A Face­book page used by IS posted photos of wounded peo­ple be­ing treated in a clinic and another of what ap­peared to be a burned body be­ing pulled out of a charred car. The Face­book page said dozens of peo­ple were killed or wounded in the airstrikes.

The Syr­ian mil­i­tant and rebel fac­tions, in­clud­ing the U.S.-backed Di­vi­sion 101 and Ta­jammu Alezza, said “the Rus­sian mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion on Syria is con­sid­ered a bla­tant oc­cu­pa­tion of the coun­try even if some claim it was done with the of­fi­cial re­quest of the As­sad regime. Those who lost le­git­i­macy can’t of­fer it.”

“All Syr­ian armed rev­o­lu­tion­ary fac­tions must re­al­ize we are in a war to push an ag­gres­sor, a war that makes uni­fy­ing ranks and word a duty on all broth­ers,” the fac­tions said in the two-page state­ment posted online. “Any oc­cu­pa­tion force to our beloved coun­try is a le­git­i­mate tar­get.”

Ear­lier in the day mil­i­tant web­sites re­port that Syria’s Mus­lim Brother­hood de­clared that ji­had against the “sheer Rus­sian oc­cu­pa­tion of Syria” is a le­git­i­mate duty for ev­ery­one ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing weapons.

The Brother­hood’s media chief Omar Mushawah was quoted as say­ing that “we as Mus­lim Brother­hood group con­firm that we are wit­ness­ing a sheer and clear Rus­sian oc­cu­pa­tion” and that “re­sist­ing the oc­cu­pier is a le­git­i­mate duty.”

Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu vowed Mon­day to take all nec­es­sary mea­sures to pro­tect Tur­key’s borders from vi­o­la­tion af­ter a Rus­sian fighter jet en­tered its airspace over the week­end, prompt­ing Tur­key to scram­ble jets and sum­mon the Rus­sian am­bas­sador in protest.

Rus­sia ad­mit­ted the plane had en­tered Tur­key “by mis­take” and as­sured Ankara it would not hap­pen again, he said. But a se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion does not be­lieve the in­cur­sion was an ac­ci­dent, and of­fi­cials are in ur­gent talks with al­lies about what to do.

Mean­while, Syria’s for­eign min­is­ter says Rus­sian airstrikes and its new mil­i­tary “steps” in Syria took months of prepa­ra­tions.

AP

A Rus­sian Navy ship named “Cae­sar Ku­nikov” passes through the Dar­danelles strait in Tur­key en route to the Mediter­ranean Sea, Sun­day, Oct. 4. The me­mo­rial on the moun­tain com­mem­o­rates the WWI Gal­lipoli cam­paign, and the sign from a poem reads in Turk­ish: “Stop pas­sen­ger.”

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