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A view of a building damaged in fighting in Baidah near Homs yesterday.
BEIRUT: Syria’s divided rebels have agreed to set up a joint leadership to oversee their battle to overthrow President Bashar Al Assad, two insurgent sources said yesterday as fighting raged in cities across the country.
Rebels hope the decision, taken after increasing pressure from foreign supporters on them to unite, will help convince those backers that they are a credible and coordinated fighting force deserving to be supplied with more powerful weapons.
“The agreement has been reached, they only need to sign it now,” one rebel source said. Foreign supporters “are telling us: ‘Sort yourselves out and unite, we need a clear and credible side to provide it with quality weapons’.” He said Qatar and Turkey were the main drivers behind the agreement, which might be formally announced this month.
It is the latest attempt to bring together Assad’s disparate armed opponents, most of whom have fought nominally under the banner of the rebel Free Syrian Army but who in practice have operated independently, often weakened by deep rivalries.
The new leadership will include FSA leaders Riad Al Asaad and Mustafa Sheikh - criticised by many rebels because they are based in Turkey - and recently defected General Mohammad Haj Ali, as well as heads of rebel provincial military councils inside Syria like Qassem Saadeddine, based in Homs province. The Syrian National Council has set November 4 as the date for an opposition unity conference in Qatar, organisers said.
The 19-month-old revolt against Assad, which started as peaceful demonstrations, has mushroomed into a civil war with sectarian dimensions. The British Observatory for Human Rights said 80 people had been killed in Syria yesterday. Heavy clashes broke out in Hama, and fighting continued in Aleppo and the northern province of Idlib.