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June 24, 2013

Syrian Rebels Welcome Arms Pledges

by Scott Bobb

Western and Arab Gulf countries have decided to increase military support for some Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But rebel fighters on the ground in Syria have their doubts.

Bab al-Salama camp near Syria's border with Turkey. Abdulhamid Assad arrived from Aleppo several months ago with his extended family of fighters with the Syrian rebels. They fled because they ran out of bullets.

Assad acknowledges that the rebels have suffered reversals on the battlefield lately. As a result, new arms are welcome.

“Of course the weapons will make a difference," said fighter Abdulhamid Assad. "We are just waiting for them. I have 70 fighters here just waiting to go and hundreds more are waiting in Aleppo.”

He asks why foreign governments were so slow to provide the aid, and why they still are reluctant to provide the anti-air and anti-tank weapons needed to counter the Syrian government's bombs and artillery.

“Of course it's late for these weapons. The whole world has been watching as these killings go on, thousands of people and the world just watches,” added Assad.

Assad already lost one son to the war. Another, 35-year-old Abdul, is still ready to fight. “I just want to get my family to safety in Turkey. They haven't let us in yet but if they do and we get the weapons, I will go back,” he said.

Hussein Ahmed was a lieutenant in the Syrian government's elite Republican Guards until he defected last year. He was seriously wounded in Aleppo and spent seven months in a hospital in Turkey. “In just a few days, as soon as I get the chance, I will go back. I'm just waiting for the ammunition and weapons,"  he said.

The fighters have heard of efforts by Russia and the United States to start peace negotiations on the Syrian conflict. “The head of the gang, Bashar al-Assad thinks he can advance on the ground to get a better negotiating position so he can keep the presidency," Abdul explained. 

These rebels say they will fight until Assad leaves power. And despite reports to the contrary, they believe this will happen soon.