Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Since the announcement last week that the commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Colonel Riad al-Asaad, had entered Syrian territory and formed a provisional military council, there has been a clear increase in daily military operations carried out by FSA battalions, in addition to the growing number of defections from the regime’s army. However, despite al-Asaad now returning to Turkey where the headquarters of the FSA are located, it seems that these ongoing operations are still defensive in nature, with accompanying offensive operations confined to the war on the streets. This is according to Major Maher al-Naimi, spokesman for the provisional military council, who told Asharq al-Awsat that “FSA operations are still in the stage of defense. Conditions will remain as such between the regime’s army and the FSA until the establishment of a buffer zone and a no-fly area. This is in addition to the fact that we so far do not have any weapons except those smuggled in by army dissidents, or ones which we are able to buy, which cannot fire further than 400 meters”. He added “with regards to offensive operations targeting the security command headquarters and security branches, this is the only way to respond to the regime’s army storming our cities and attacking our citizens with its tanks and weaponry. This is what it has resorted to in recent times, and thus it has become a legitimate target for us”.
On the other hand, al-Naimi confirmed information reporting the arrival of armed groups from Iraq, loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, in order to fight alongside the Syrian regime’s army in Homs, with Maher al-Assad’s fourth division. He said “there are armed groups coming to Syria to support the regime’s army. This was confirmed to us by Syrian citizens, whose homes were stormed, and they could identify them from their non-Syrian accents”. He added “however, up until now, we have been unable to capture any of them, because the regime’s army is trying as much as possible to hide their bodies as quickly as possible, whilst leaving the wounded bodies and corpses of [ordinary] Syrians lying on the ground for many hours”. Al-Naimi elaborated, stating “two civilian aircraft landed three days ago at Hama military airport, transporting a large number of fighters loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr. At the same time, Maher al-Assad’s Regiment 555 was mobilized, along with other specialized forces known as the “mobile infantry”, in order to undertake raids targeting rural Hama, and they have also reached the outskirts of Jisr ash-Shugur”.
With regards to the bombings that targeted the Baath party headquarters the day before yesterday, which the FSA has denied responsibility for, al-Naimi said “we now have 100 percent verified information indicating that the regime’s army launched hand and stun grenades towards the back of the building, i.e. in a northeast direction, which is located opposite the Russian embassy. This was a few hours before the deadline given to the regime by the Arab League to respond to its requests. [The regime] is accusing the FSA of implementing the attack, in an attempt to prove the accusations which it lodges daily about the existence of armed gangs. However, it knows that the entry of individuals other than the regime’s men into this region, specifically where the headquarters are located, is almost impossible given the fortifications that surround it. We must stress, despite the inequality between the two armies, that if we undertake any operation we will declare our responsibility, but at the same time we emphasize that targeting these buildings is not our priority, because we consider them to be the property of the people who will reclaim them after the fall of the regime”.