Syrian opposition groups unite, form panel to fight Assad
DAMASCUS SYRIAN opposition groups meeting in Turkey on Sunday formed a “historic” united common front against President Bashar al Assad’s regime as his crackdown on dissent showed no sign of easing.
“The Syrian National Council reunites the forces of the opposition and the peaceful revolution,” Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun told reporters in Istanbul, announcing the new umbrella movement which he called “historic.” “It represents the Syrian revolution both inside and outside the country,” he said.
“It works to mobilise all categories of people in Syria and give the necessary support for the revolution to progress and realise the aspirations of our people for the overthrow of the regime, its symbols and its head,” he said.
Ghalioun said the council was “open to all Syrians. It is an independent group personifying the sovereignty of the Syrian people in their struggle for liberty.” “The council rejects any outside interference that undermines the sovereignty of the Syrian people,” he added.
The SNC unites opposition movements across the political spectrum, and includes the Local Coordination Committees which groups activists on the ground, liberals, and the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood as well as Kurds and Assyrians.
Ghalioun said with the new group, the Syrian opposition would have “a united direction to face up to the daily massacres of civilians by the regime, especially in Rastan.” Syrian troops have retaken control of the central city after sending in 250 tanks to quell clashes between the army and deserters, human rights activists said on Sunday.
“The Syrian army has taken complete control of Rastan, and 50 tanks left on Sunday,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said of the town in Homs province, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Damascus.
“Many houses have been destroyed there and the humanitarian situation is very bad,” the Britain-based rights watchdog said.
“We have information that dozens of civilians were killed and buried in the gardens of houses as the army shelled the town,” it added.
Officers who had deserted announced their “retreat from Rastan” in a statement on Friday night.
“Because of major reinforcements and the weapons used in Rastan by Assad’s gangs..
we have decided to withdraw in order to better wage the struggle for liberty,” the statement said.
Three people were reported killed in clashes in Rastan on Saturday between the army and deserters as the Assad regime pursued its deadly crackdown on dissent.
The Syrian Observatory on Sunday reported the arrest in Homs the previous day of Mansur Atassi, 63, a leader of a coalition of opposition groups, saying he was detained in his office by security agents.
It also said the bodies of three civilians detained since Thursday were returned to their families in Khan Sheikhun near the border with Turkey in Idlib province in the northwest.