Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Syria rebel commanders reject leader shakeup

20 February 2014, 11:28

Beirut - The former leader of the Western-backed Syrian opposition's military wing on Wednesday rejected his recent dismissal, and along with more than a dozen senior insurgent commanders severed ties with the political opposition-in-exile, further fragmenting the notoriously divided rebel movement.

The statement from General Salim Idris comes two days after the opposition Syrian National Coalition announced that Idris had been sacked as head of the Supreme Military Council and replaced by Brigidier General Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir - an experienced, moderate field commander from southern Syria.

The move was widely seen as an attempt to restructure the military council and to persuade Western allies to boost their support for mainstream rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad.

Moderate opposition fighters have been eclipsed over the past year by ultraconservative Islamic groups and extremist factions that have emerged as the most powerful brigades on the rebel side.

But the move also holds the potential to further fracture rebel ranks and sap what little strength the military council currently has.


In a video posted online on Wednesday, Idris said that after consulting with forces inside Syria, he and the 15 other signatories of the statement were breaking ties with the council and the opposition's political leadership.

"We stress that all that emanates from them does not concern us in any way," he said, reading from the statement.

Sitting at the head of a table and flanked by men dressed in fatigues, Idris said he has been asked to overhaul the rebel military leadership, and called on all rebel forces on the ground to rally under his command.

He also accused some members of the political and military opposition of making decisions based on "individual and personal interests".

Most of the other men in the video could not be immediately identified, but among the statement's signatories were regional front commanders.

It was not clear what impact Idris' break with the council and the political opposition abroad would have, or whether the rift caused by the general's dismissal could be mended.

But the Coalition sought to head off any dispute over the council's leadership, issuing a statement late on Wednesday reaffirming al-Bashir's appointment. It also confirmed that al-Bashir was assuming his new duties immediately.

Still, Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, described Idris' move as a potentially significant development.

"He appears to enjoy the support of a wide range of senior commanders whose zones of command cross Syria," Lister said by email. "Until the dust settles, this essentially leaves Syria with two military opposition councils," - one under Idris and another al-Bashir.

And the longer the division continues, he said, "the more dangerous it could be for the long-term viability of the SMC".

Rise of al-Qaeda

Idris was named the head of the Supreme Military Council shortly after it was formed in late 2012. During his time in command, Idris, a secular-leaning moderate, was criticised by many in the opposition for being ineffective and lost the confidence of the US and its allies, particularly after Islamic extremists seized a weapons depot from moderate rebels.

Washington and its European allies have long tried to mold the Council's Free Syrian Army into an effective partner inside Syria. But the loose umbrella group was always seen as weak, with Western and Arab allies dithering over whether to give them powerful weapons.

The group eventually fell into disarray and in the past year has been overshadowed by more powerful Islamic groups and the rise of al-Qaeda-inspired extremist factions.

Inside Syria, meanwhile, an official with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said aid workers have evacuated 11 more people, mostly Christians, from besieged areas in the central city of Homs.

Khaled Erksoussi, head of operations for the Red Crescent, said the 11 left rebel-held districts in Old Homs that have been under government blockade for more than a year. Government and rebel fighters are battling for control of Homs, Syria's third largest city.

More than 1 000 people have been evacuated from Homs since a humanitarian truce went into effect on 7 February.

‘A non-starter’

At UN headquarters in New York, Security Council ambassadors negotiated behind closed doors into the early evening again on Wednesday on the text of a resolution aimed at getting immediate access to all areas of Syria to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to millions in need.

Britain's UN Mission tweeted afterward: "Draft UNSC resolution on increasing humanitarian reach in Syria finalised. Urge all Security Council members to support."

Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant and France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud said earlier they are aiming for a vote this week.

But diplomats said there are still major differences between Western and Arab nations, who back Syria's opposition, and Russia and China, who support the Assad government.

Western and Arab nations circulated the initial draft resolution which threatens sanctions if demands including immediate access to all areas of Syria aren't implemented within 15 days. Russia dismissed it as "a non-starter" and circulated a rival draft that didn't mention sanctions or any kind of enforcement.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...