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Continued: Former Syrian political prisoner with Saudi ties becomes head of main opposition group

  • Article by: BASSEM MROUE , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 6, 2013 - 4:45 PM

"We feel like they are shaking the sky," Badrakhan told The Associated Press.

Another activist said eight rebels were killed in the fighting. He requested anonymity because rebels have accused him in the past of damaging their morale by reporting their casualties. He could not confirm that government forces had entered Khaldiyeh but said the report was consistent with the fighting he was following there. State-run media said government forces had seized buildings in the nearby Bab Houd area.

Fighting also continued Saturday in the northern city of Aleppo, a crucial stronghold for the rebels, as well as the Damascus suburb of Qaboun.

The Syrian conflict, which began with months of peaceful protests against the Assad regime more than two years ago, deteriorated into an all-out civil war after a violent government crackdown.

Government forces, sometimes backed by fighters of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, have recently launched a major countrywide offensive to reclaim territory lost to rebels, who operate in chaotic groups with ideologies ranging from secular to hard-line Islamic extremists. Hard-line Sunni Muslims from other countries have also joined the fighting.

The fighting in Syria has increasingly taken on sectarian undertones as Assad enjoys support from many in his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while the rebels are mainly Sunnis.

Activists, who consider Homs "the capital of the revolution," say the regime wants to capture the entire city to include it in a future Alawite state stretching to the coast, where many believe Assad would take refuge in a last resort.

In the vote in Turkey, the SNC also elected three vice presidents, including Mohammed Farouk Taifour, a senior official with Syria's Muslim Brotherhood. The other two vice presidents are Salem al-Muslit and prominent opposition figure Suhair Atassi. Badr Jamous was voted in as the SNC's secretary general.

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