Jarba urges Syrian opposition ‘friends’ for arms

Head of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Jarba says the battle against Assad regime won’t be long and rebels will win

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The head of main opposition group the Syrian National Coalition urged allies on Saturday to supply rebel forces with weapons to beat President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, on the day of the Syrian uprising’s third anniversary.

“We are renewing our call to our friends for an immediate supply of arms, which they cut before Geneva,” Ahmed Jarba told reporters during a televised press conference.

Syrian opposition groups and Assad regime officials met in Switzerland earlier this year for the “Geneva II” peace talks in efforts to end the three-year conflict that has so far killed more than 146,000 people.

But the Geneva peace talks failed to result in any positive political resolution, with opposition members accusing the regime of imprisoning their relatives while the conference took place.

“We entered Geneva and we exited it after showing the phony face of the regime,” he said.

Although observers have described the ongoing Syrian crisis as a civil war - after it started with peaceful protests against Assad but soon escalated into violent conflict - Jarba said: “Oh Syrian people, we are not in a civil war like what others wish.”

He added: “We are facing a barbaric invasion under the pretext to defend minorities. People around the world are starting to realize the lies of the regime.”

Jarba also said he will open political channels to speak with the “silent” dissidents.

While the Syrian government has long dubbed the rebels and opposition groups as “terrorists” and “hardline Islamists” – in what some have called a bid to gain support from the country’s religious minorities - Jarba warned against infiltration from militant Islamist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is fighting extremist gangs. We are cleaning our home from terrorists such as ISIS, who infiltrated the rebels to backstab them for the regime’s interests,” he said.

“FSA and peaceful protests have stood strongly against radicals just like when they did against the regime,” he added.

Jarba, who reiterated his accusations that Iran, Iraq and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah were providing ground-based support for the Syrian regime, said: “We are here in memory of our family and people who were killed and injured by the regime’s forces. And not forget those who were displaced by the regime, inside and outside the country.”

To listen to Jarba’s full speech, please click link.

Vowing that his side would be “victorious” in the conflict, the opposition head said “we have made a promise to God to continue the battle even if we are alone.”

The conflict has led to around 2.5 million Syrians fleeing the country, according the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).

The UNHCR also said that about 6.5 million are internally displaced within Syria.

U.N. Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in a statement on Saturday: “We estimate that more than 9 million people need aid and protection inside Syria.”

“The humanitarian consequences of the fighting are staggering and despite our best efforts, aid workers are struggling to reach everyone who needs help,” she added.

She said there about 3.5 million people who are living in “hard-to-reach” areas and have received very little aid.

U.N. aid agencies had not been able to help some 220,000 people who have been besieged for months -including 175,000 living in areas controlled by the government and 45,000 in areas controlled by opposition groups, she said.

“The international community needs to show the courage and determination to do all that is necessary to reach a political solution. Without that, we will see years more of destruction and continued brutality meted out to the people of Syria.”

Meanwhile, heavy clashes were underway Saturday inside the Syrian rebel bastion of Yabrud near the border with Lebanon, a Syrian military source said, a day after government troops entered the town.

Yabrud sits near key rebel supply lines stretching into Lebanon, and its fall would deal a major blow to the rebels as the war enters its fourth year.

“Fierce clashes are taking place inside the eastern neighbourhoods of Yabrud,” the source told Agence France-Presse, adding that “the 13 rebel chiefs leading operations are dead.”

The source said there had been “very many deaths among the insurgents” in the fighting.

During his speech, Jarba expressed defiance when he said the regime should “dig its grave in Yabrud.”

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