Syrian rebels form council as civilians' plight worsens


OPPOSITION FORCES proclaimed the formation of a “Revolutionary Transitional Council” in Aleppo province as rebels mounted an offensive against army bases in the north.

One of the groups involved in the operation was said to have been the “Brigade of Free Syrians” comprised mainly of defectors from artillery and tank units.

According to a brigade spokesman, rebels attacked four security facilities around Aleppo city, Syria’s largest, using tanks and rocket launchers.

MajorAnas Ibrahim Abu Zaid of the Fatah Brigade, also taking part, said it had 1,300 fighters in Aleppo city and another 500 in the province. The plan was to hold on until the regime lost “on the international, regional and local fronts” and the position of the rebels improved.

The state news agency Sana said troops had rebuffed the attacks, killing several rebels.

The new council, reported to include civilians, politicians and military men, aims to facilitate the formation of a national transitional council for Syria’s provinces.

In response to the escalating violence, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the “situation is currently edging towards irreversible deterioration” and called for urgent aid for civilians.

It said many had lost jobs and breadwinners, and tens of thousands had been displaced and were dependent on aid. People could not obtain necessities, because items were not available or violence made them unreachable. Those wounded died because of a lack of mediation and because they were unable to reach treatment centres.

Syrians “fear for their lives every minute of the day”, said Marianne Glasser, head of the Red Cross programme in Syria. Armed confrontations have curtailed Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent missions outside Damascus.

While normal services have deteriorated in contested areas, elsewhere locally grown fruit and vegetables are still available, the government pays the salaries of civil servants, and water and electricity are supplied.

After the UN Security Council failed to commit to the creation of “safe zones” for Syrians within their country, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said Paris and Ankara planned to channel aid to rebel-held areas in order to stem the flow of refugees into neighbouring countries. It is unclear, however, how aid could reach these areas or whether they could be protected.

Some 30 shells fired by the Syrian army landed in five villages on the Lebanese side of the border, wounding a soldier. Clashes along the border when rebels attempt to exit or enter Syria have prompted Beirut to protest repeatedly.

The Lebanese authorities ordered Syrian refugees living in schools to leave as the school year is about to begin. The UN High Commission for Refugees reported that 2,200 Syrians had arrived over the past week, twice the previous average.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged Damascus to free US freelance journalist Austin Tice, reportedly captured by the army during fighting with rebels in the town of Darayya, south of the capital.

Abu Dhabi’s airline Etihad has suspended flights to Damascus because of the “deteriorating security situation”.