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Syria Rebels in Unity Bid

Rebels announced plans to overcome divisions and stem the proliferation of militias.
By AFP
First Publish: 9/5/2012, 10:24 PM

Syria rebels evacuate body.
Syria rebels evacuate body.
Reuters

Rebels fighting to oust Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday announced plans to reform and stem the proliferation of militias, as they came under artillery and aerial attack on multiple fronts.

Forces loyal to the embattled president again trained their heavy weapons on second city Aleppo, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 30 people, including seven children, were killed on Wednesday.

The Observatory said fighter jets bombed zones controlled by the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the northern city while ground troops simultaneously unleashed a barrage of shells.

Aleppo has been the target of a five-week-old government offensive aiming to dislodge the rebels who took over swathes of the commercial capital in July.

Relentless bombardments and food shortages have been reported in zones still held by the rebels, a rag-tag army of military defectors and civilians who have taken up weapons.

A rebel general said on Wednesday that the FSA would soon adopt changes aimed at overcoming divisions and addressing the growing number of militias fighting on its behalf.

Following talks due to end in around 10 days, the FSA would go by the name of the Syrian National Army, General Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the military council grouping rebel chiefs, told AFP.

"After a long period, we must restructure the army because we fear the proliferation of militias in Syria and want to preserve the country's future," he said.

Among those areas that needed restructuring was the control of funds that reach rebel fighters, in order to "prevent the creation of militias because that is very dangerous," said Sheikh.

He said reforms were key to winning the support of the international community which has so far been reluctant to arm the rebels "on the grounds that the [FSA] is not a real institution."

On the battle front, the insurgents attacked Hamdan military airport near Albu Kamal town in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Observatory said. Having failed to persuade the international community to impose a no-fly zone, the FSA has increasingly targeted airports used by regime attack helicopters and warplanes.