Rebel chief: Only armed force can help Syria

A REPRESENTATIVE of the Syrian opposition has said only direct military action and street protests can bring an end to the turmoil, despite diplomatic pressure to persuade president Bashar al-Assad to return troops to barracks and begin serious political reform.

Speaking to The Scotsman in Beirut, Omar Idlibi, spokesman for the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) of Syria – an opposition body – said armed resistance and protest would bring an end to Mr Assad’s rule.

“It is the combination of the Syrian Free Army and popular protests that will bring down the regime,” he said.

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The Free Syrian Army (FSA), composed largely of defectors from the military, is emerging as the primary armed group in opposition to Mr Assad. It staged a dawn attack this Wednesday on a key intelligence complex near Damascus.

Calling for an increased role for armed rebels, Mr Idlibi said the FSA should co-ordinate with umbrella opposition grouping the Syrian National Council “to have a coherent strategy”.

“I am confident the regime will not stop killing, even with the presence of the foreign observers,” he said speaking of the three-day Arab League ultimatum given on Wednesday to the regime for it to stop shooting protesters and allow independent observers into the country.

“Syrian people don’t trust foreign observers would be capable of stopping the violence,” he added.

His words came as Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov compared the situation in Syria to “real civil war”, and urged “all states” to demand the government and opposition halt the violence and begin talks.

Daily reports of the increasing death toll are accompanied with a growing sense of chaos.

“Every other day people in Homs wake up to find bodies dumped on the streets in opposition areas. They are protesters who were captured, often tortured and then killed. The security forces are using ambulances and taxis to kidnap civilians connected to the protests,” said Mr Idlibi.

“The FSA are everywhere in Homs, in the city and in the villages,” he added.

He also admitted there was an increasing sectarian element to the battles in Homs. “Recently women were kidnapped by civilian groups supporting the regime. This drove the revolutionaries into doing actions that were not thought through,” he said, cryptically.

Those supporting the regime are mostly drawn from the Alawite Shia Muslim minority to which the Assad clan belong. The opposition come from Syria’s majority Sunni population.

“People would wake up to find Alawite bodies in Alawite neighbourhoods, and dead Sunnis in Sunni neighbourhoods. They had their hands in handcuffs. This is a mark of the security forces. People did not react to this for the last eight months, but now the killings have escalated so much that it is too much,” said Mr Idlibi.

Germany, Britain and France are pressing for a UN resolution condemning Syria’s human rights violations following Syria’s suspension by the Arab League. Turkey’s premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the world must urgently “hear screams” from Syria and act to stop the bloodshed. He said the uprising in Libya got far more attention because Libya has more oil.

The lack of reaction to massacres in Syria “was causing irreparable wounds in the conscience of humanity”, he said.