NICOSIA — A leading Syrian rebel commander has quit.
Al Okaidi, who deserted the Syrian Army in May 2012, said he could no longer work for a divided revolt against President Bashar Assad.
“Because of some people’s refusal to heed calls for unity, I announce my resignation from the leadership of the Revolutionary Military Council in Aleppo,” Al Okaidi said.
In a video statement on Nov. 3, Al Okaidi became the highest level commander to withdraw from the 31-month war against the the Assad regime. In
July 2012, Al Okaidi commanded the rebel invasion of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
But the rebels, under increasing domination of Al Qaida-aligned forces, have been bogged down in Aleppo. Al Okeida said his fighters were being
denied weapons and munitions by the international community as well as rebel infighting.
“Stop competing for power and your fiefdoms,” Al Okeida, addressing the rebel chiefs, said. “Return to how you were.”
The resignation came two days after the rebels were driven out of a key Aleppo stronghold on Nov. 1. The Syrian Army raided the longtime rebel
stronghold of Sfeira, southeast of Aleppo in what Al Okeida said marked a betrayal of the Sunni revolution by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.
“Sfeira did not fall because of a lack of ammunition,” Al Okaidi said. “The Sfeira front needed men to fight, but the Free Syrian Army and other
Opposition sources said the fall of Sfeira threatened the rebel presence throughout Aleppo. They said the Syrian Army, supported by the
Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias, were chipping away at rebel positions.
“This means that the road to Aleppo from the east is open,” Mohammed Wissam, an opposition activist, said.