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FSA moves HQ from Turkey to Syria to prepare offensive against Assad

Published time: September 22, 2012 15:16
Edited time: October 12, 2012 16:42
Reuters / Zain Karam

Reuters / Zain Karam

Syria’s main rebel group has moved its command center from the Turkish border into central Syria to prepare for an offensive against President Bashar al-Assad’s troops in Damascus. The Free Syrian Army made the announcement via video message.

It’s the first video message to be recorded by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) from Syria since the group founded its command center in Turkey 19 months ago, Al Jazeera reports.

“To the Syrian people, its freedom fighters and all the armed factions, we are glad to let you know that the leadership of the FSA has moved into Syria following arrangements made with other brigades that included securing liberated areas with the hope of launching the offensive on Damascus,” FSA commander Riyad al-Assad said.

Brig. Gen. Mustafa al-Sheikh, who heads the FSA’s Military Council, said the move was made last week, but declined to give the exact location of the new headquarters, AP reports. He said the move was designed to unite all rebel groups within Syria.

As the FSA continues to fight to overthrow the Syrian president, Riyad al-Assad made it clear that the international community should not be become too involved in the country’s domestic affairs.

“Since we left our country we suffered all sorts of regional and international interference and political pressure, we were isolated. Their goal was to have the FSA replace Assad once he is gone, but we categorically made it clear that we would never betray our people, reiterating that only the Syrians should decide their future institutions,” he said.

Border battles

­As the 18-month conflict continues, Syrian National Council head Abdel Basset Sayda has warned that the fighting could trigger higher levels of extremism in neighboring states.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group says at least 38 people were killed by security force gunfire on Saturday, as the fighting inched closer toward Syria’s borders.

At least 11 soldiers and five fighters were killed in clashes in the Orm and Kaf Jum areas of the Aleppo province, near the Turkish border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

AFP reported that loud explosions from shelling could be heard across the city of Aleppo.

Rebel fighters also shot down a fighter jet as it flew over the northern town of Atarib in Idlib province, a witness told Reuters. However, officials dismissed the reports.

The witness said rebel fighters were attacking a military base near the town when the jet flew over, prompting the rebels to shoot it down with anti-aircraft guns.

On the Jordan-Syrian border, Jordanian border guards clashed with an armed group, leading to the arrests of the gunmen.

In Lebanon, insurgents attacked an army post in the Arsal region overnight, according to an official military statement.

“This was the second time in less than a week that the Free Syrian Army has entered Lebanese territory…the army leadership will not allow any party to use Lebanese territory to implicate Lebanon in events in neighboring countries, and reaffirms its determination to protect Lebanese territory,” the statement said.