DOHA/AMMAN (Reuters) – An Arab Summit intended to showcase the unity of the Syrian opposition threatens to veer wildly off script and expose deepening factionalism, potentially hurting Western and Arab efforts to end the war.
Opposition ranks plunged into disarray on Sunday when one of their most popular figures, Moaz Alkhatib, resigned as head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, undermining its claim to provide a coherent alternative to President Bashar al-Assad.
AMMAN (Reuters) – The head of Syria’s main opposition group resigned on Sunday, weakening the moderate wing of the two-year revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and complicating Western efforts to back the rebels.
The resignation of Moaz Alkhatib, a former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus who had offered Assad a negotiated exit, could make the West more cautious in supporting the revolt. Alkhatib is seen as a moderate bulwark against the rising influence of al-Qaeda linked jihadist forces.
CAIRO/AMMAN (Reuters) – The head of Syria’s main opposition group resigned on Sunday, in a blow to a diminishing moderate wing of the two-year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
Moaz Alkhatib, a former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus who had offered Assad a negotiated exit, was picked to head the Western and Gulf-backed National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in November after leaving Syria following persecution and several stays in jail.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Opposition campaigners from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect will meet this weekend to support a democratic alternative to his rule and try to distance the community from wholesale association with the government’s attempts to crush a two-year uprising.
The two-day meeting in Cairo, the first by Alawites supportive of the revolt, will draft a declaration committing to a united Syria and inviting the mainstream opposition to cooperate on preventing sectarian bloodletting if Assad falls and agree on a transitional justice framework, organizers said.
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Nine people suspended their membership in the Syrian National Coalition, the main political grouping opposing President Bashar al-Assad, on Wednesday, one day after it named an Islamist-backed candidate as provisional prime minister.
The coalition was formed with Western and Gulf Arab backing in Qatar last year to bring together Assad’s disparate political foes and build an alternative government structure to replace his rule. But after a brief period of harmony, divisions have racked the group.
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Syrian opposition leaders chose Western-educated technocrat Ghassan Hitto as provisional prime minister in what they hope will be the first step to fill a power vacuum arising from a two-year-long revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
Hours after the appointment of Hitto, who has lived for decades in the West and is little known in Syria, Syria’s government and rebels accused each other of a deadly chemical attack near the northern city of Aleppo.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebels on Sunday seized a Syrian military intelligence compound in the southern Hauran Plain near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, stepping up attacks in the strategic region which stretches to the outskirts of the capital Damascus, rebel commanders said.
The frontier, quiet since Israel and Syria agreed on a U.S.-brokered ceasefire in 1974, has turned volatile in recent weeks, after opposition brigades stepped up attacks against army and intelligence compounds dotting the agricultural plain stretching from the border with Jordan to the Damascus outskirts.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Heavy fighting erupted in an area between Damascus and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday in what could be a new battlefront between Syrian troops and rebels, opposition sources said.
Rebel fighters attacked an army barracks manned by elite Republican Guards and the Fourth Mechanised Division, headed by President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher, in Khan Sheih, 6 km (4 miles) from the outskirts of Damascus, civilian activists and an opposition military source said.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebels broke through government lines to ease a siege of their positions in the strategic central city of Homs on Sunday despite coming under fierce aerial bombardment, opposition campaigners said.
The communally mixed city of Sunni Muslims and Alawites, the minority sect that has dominated Syria since the 1960s, has emerged as a major battleground in the two-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The bloodshed has claimed about 70,000 lives so far, according to the United Nations.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebels launched a counter-offensive against a government siege of their positions in the strategic city of Homs despite coming under ferocious aerial bombardment on Sunday, opposition campaigners said.
The mixed city, inhabited by Sunnis and Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam who have dominated Syria since the 1960s, has emerged as a major battleground in the two-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, which has claimed about 70,000 lives so far, according to the United Nations.