More rebel groups reject Syria opposition coalition

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Rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in southern Syria said Wednesday the main opposition National Coalition had “failed” and announced they no longer recognize the Western-backed group.

The video statement signed by nearly 70 groups comes after a group of key rebel groups in the north of the country announced their rejection of the National Coalition in late September.

“Having seen the failure of the political groups that claim to represent the opposition and the revolutionary groups... we leaders of the military and revolutionary groups in the southern provinces withdraw our recognition from any political group that claims to represent us,” a rebel spokesman said in the video.

The spokesman referred specifically to “the Coalition and its leadership”.

Nearly 70 rebel groups signed on to the statement, which comes after fighters in northern Syria said last month they also rejected the Coalition.

Filmed in an unnamed desert area, the video statement shows rebels dressed in army fatigues and holding up their weapons. Behind them is a banner with the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army logo.

Speaking to AFP, the FSA’s political and media coordinator Louay Muqdad stressed the statement was not a rejection of the mainstream rebel force headed by General Selim Idriss.

“We saw the statement, and we will be in contact with the leaders of these groups,” Muqdad said.

“As for our brothers in the Coalition, they need to listen carefully to the voice of the people inside Syria, to those who are paying with their blood in Syria, to the revolutionaries on the ground,” he said.

“The revolutionaries’ demands must not be taken lightly,” he added.

The fractured Coalition, representing the opposition abroad on the political front with Western backing, has gone through several crises over the course of Syria’s 31-month war.

Based outside Syria, its inability to secure weapons and much-needed humanitarian assistance for residents of the strife-torn country have raised the ire of opposition activists and rebels for many months.

The Idriss-led command council called in early October for unity among rebel ranks.

Rebels fighting Assad’s troops have made significant progress in recent months in southern Syria, particularly in Daraa province, strategically located on the border with Jordan and near Damascus province.

Muqdad said “the liberation of Daraa is the key to liberating Damascus. Everyone knows that, even Bashar al-Assad knows that”.

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