Russia Is Targeting Civilians, 'Occupying Syria,' Rebels Allege

by Reuters /  / Updated 

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

BEIRUT — More than 40 Syrian insurgent groups have called on regional states to forge an alliance against Russia and Iran in Syria, accusing Moscow of occupying the country and targeting civilians.

The insurgents, including the powerful Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham and rebel groups under the umbrella of the Free Syria Army, said such regional cooperation was needed to counter "the Russian-Iranian alliance occupying Syria."

Russian jets based in western Syria last week launched airstrikes against targets Moscow has identified as bases of ISIS, but which President Bashar Assad's opponents say disproportionately hit rival, foreign-backed insurgents.

The joint rebel statement criticized what it described as the "Russian military aggression in Syria and the blatant occupation of the country" as well as the targeting of civilians with airstrikes in the Homs countryside in western Syria.

"Civilians have been directly targeted in a manner that reminds us of the scorched earth policy pursued by Russia in its past wars," the statement said, without specifying.

The statement was sent to Reuters by Ahrar al-Sham. It did not name which regional states it was addressing but Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed the insurgency against Assad.

The 41 groups which signed the statement did not include ISIS or the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

Insurgents have renewed calls for their Arab backers to supply them with more powerful weapons such as anti-aircraft systems in light of the Russian intervention in the war but Monday's statement appeared to be the most concerted rebel call for action against Russia's move.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news