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Syria: FSA denies withdrawal from Latakia - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on August 8, 2013 shows Syrian army tanks parked on the side of a road during an alleged pursuit of opposition fighters in the Latakia province, western Syria. (AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA.)

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on August 8, 2013 shows Syrian army tanks parked on the side of a road during an alleged pursuit of opposition fighters in the Latakia province, western Syria. (AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA.)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian opposition activists accused members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) of urging the opposition military units to pull out of Latakia and of stopping arms supplies. However, senior FSA sources denied such claims and stressed that the battle to liberate the Syrian coast is underway, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, activist Omar Jablawi said: “Members of the FSA contacted commanders of the battalions fighting the regime in Latakia asking them to halt their advance by pulling out of the sites seized in the last few days.”

Jablawi was not allowed to disclose the identity of the members of the FSA that made the call. He explained that “arm supplies were halted during the last hours”, prompting those fighters who rejected the FSA’s request to “use the ammunition they seized from regime during the battles in the coastal villages”, he added.

The opposition activist denied that “the battalions affiliated with the FSA had withdrawn as a result of the battles taking place in the villages of Aramo and Bayt Al-Shakouhi,” adding, “Opposition [fighters] still in control of 10 pro-Assad villages.”

He also said that “Sheikh Badr Eddine Ghazal is detained by the Muhajireen Brigade rather than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” although “many Alawite prisoners are held by Islamist battalions.”

Opposition fighters have reportedly made a significant headway seizing 11 Alawite pro-Assad villages near Latakia last week as a part of the so-called “battle to liberate the Syrian coast.” With anti-Assad fighters moving on towards the strategic village of Al-Nabi Yunus to the north of Latakia, several opposition figures demanded that battles be halted and FSA battalions retreat.

For his part, spokesman for the FSA Luai Al-Mekdad denied that members of the FSA demanded an end of battles.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the battles were planned a long time ago in coordination with the military councils in the villages of Latakia,” and that “prisoners held during battles along the coast were detained because they fought along the regime rather for being Alawite.”

“The opposition represented by the battalions affiliated with the FSA will abide by international law when dealing with prisoners,” he added.

Regarding the issue of prisoners, Jablawi revealed that negotiations between the regime forces and several Islamist battalions are underway to swap Alawite prisoners with female anti-Assad activists.

Reports indicated that several Alawite opposition figures, including the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC), have expressed their concerns over potential sectarian violence that may result from battles along the Syrian coast.

The FSA vowed in a statement to “protect all civilians in the Syrian coast and all families seeking resort.” The statement continued: “FSA military operations are directed at security points, military observatories, Shabeeha militants’ barracks and battalions and military centers not villages and civilians.”

For its part, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) welcomed the statement which it considered as an “embodiment of the values and ideals of the Syrian rebels,” urging the FSA fighters to “abide by all the statement’s points.”

The SNC also called on regime fighters to drop their weapons immediately.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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