Syrian dissidents set up ‘national council,’ as Assad’s army tightens grip near Turkish border


Syrian opposition activists have set up a “National Council” to bring down the brutal regime of President Bashar Al Assad.

A group of dissidents, including their spokesman Jamil Saib, said Sunday in a statement issued near the Turkish-Syrian border: “We announce the creation of a National Council to lead the Syrian revolution, comprising all communities and representatives of national political forces inside and outside Syria.”

Mr. Saib said council members included notably Abdallah Trad el Moulahim, one of the organizers of a Syrian opposition gathering in Turkey earlier this month, Haitham el-Maleh, Souhair al-Atassi and Aref Dalila, all three based in Syria, as well as Sheikh Khaled al-Khalaf and Mamoun el-Homsi.

Different opposition groups and representatives from the Syrian society had convened earlier in June at a conference in Antalya, Turkey to discuss changes in the regime and come up with a peaceful transition.

Opposition groups urged Mr. Assad’s immediate resignation, the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections within a year, and the immediate of atrocities against civilian protesters.

On Sunday, Syrian troops tightened their grip on a restive area near the Turkish border, setting fire to homes and a bakery that was supplying bread to thousands of displaced people, activists said.

The Turkish government, meanwhile, began providing food for the first time to Syrians across the border that fled the army campaign.

The Syrian military set up checkpoints and arrested dozens of people over the past two days in an attempt to staunch the flow of residents into Turkey as Syria’s three-month-old pro-democracy uprising raged on, several activists reported. They said Syrian authorities at the border were making it much more difficult for Syrians to cross.

Residents of Bdama said troops on tanks firing machine guns were combing the village in Syria’s northern Idlib province and surrounding areas, and several homes were set ablaze in what appeared to be revenge attacks, human rights activist Ammar Qurabi reported.

Bdama is next to Jisr al-Shughour, a town that was spinning out of government control before the military recaptured it a week ago. Activists had reported fighting in Jisr al-Shughour between loyalist troops and defectors who refused to take part in the continuing crackdown on protesters seeking Mr. Assad’s ouster.

(Mustapha Ajbaili, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at [email protected])