Syrian refugee opposing Assad rule 390.
(photo credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
BEIRUT - The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) has moved its leadership from Turkey to parts of Syria that are now controlled by rebels, the FSA Commander-in-Chief said on Saturday.
The FSA has been based in Turkey for more than a year as fighters on the ground have struggled to battle forces loyal to Syrian President BasharAssad.
Although rebels are now in control of large swathes of the country, they face aerial and artillery attack from Assad's forces.
"The leadership of the FSA has entered the liberated areas (of Syria) after the success of the plan that the FSA has worked on with other battalions and units in order to safeguard the free areas," Colonel Riad al-Asaad said in a video statement.
The FSA is the most prominent of several armed groups fighting to overthrow Assad.
Meanwhile, rebel fighters trying to oust Assad on Saturday shot down a fighter jet as it flew over the northern Syrian town of Atarib in Idlib province, a witness said.
The witness, an independent journalist who asked to remain anonymous, said rebel fighters were attacking a military base near the town when the jet flew over and rebels shot it down with anti-aircraft guns.
Vastly outgunned, rebels say they need surface-to-air missiles to take down planes and helicopters used by the Syrian military to bombard opposition strongholds. Fighters use outdated anti-aircraft machine guns that are welded to pickup trucks but they are inaccurate and useless if the military aircraft fly above a certain altitude.
On Aug. 27 fighters shot down a helicopter on the outskirts of Damascus and three days later rebels said they had brought down a jet in Idlib, near the Turkish border.
Despite calling for Assad to step down, the West is wary of arming rebel groups. Western diplomats say they are looking for signs that the rebels have a clear chain of command within Syria.
Activists say more than 27,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the 18-month-old revolt in Syria, which began with peaceful street protests that provoked a military crackdown and mushroomed into civil war.