AMMAN/BEIRUT: A senior commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army was killed Monday during clashes with government troops near the southern city of Deraa on the border with Jordan, insurgents and state media said. Yasser al-Abboud, a former Syrian army officer who defected in the early days of the revolt, was leading an assault on army checkpoints in the town of Tafas, northwest of Deraa, they added.
“The commander Abboud was martyred as he was leading a group of rebels against regime forces,” said Abu Hamza from the rebel Falujat Hawran Brigade, which was involved in the clashes.
Abboud was a founding member of the Free Syrian Army’s military council in southern Syria, which groups moderate brigades and has said it is worried about the growing role of Islamist insurgents in the conflict.
Better known by his nom-de-guerre Abu Ammar, the commander “headed the operations room in Daraa province,” which borders Jordan.
State television also reported the commander’s death, describing him as a “criminal, treacherous ... deserter.”
An activist on the ground said Abu Ammar was “one of the most effective commanders on the ground, and one of the most honest of the [mainstream rebel] Free Syrian Army’s officers.”
Last month, pro-opposition activists circulated a YouTube video that showed Abboud during a meeting in Jordan, harshly criticizing representatives of the political opposition-in-exile to their faces.
In the six-minute video, Abboud offers blistering criticism of officials for failing to ask rebels about their needs, and receives no convincing answers as a few attempts are made, unsuccessfully, to stop him from speaking.
“Who among you has brought us water, or food, or even asked about us ... the least you can do is ask us, ‘What do you need?’” he says. “No one.”
Abboud becomes enraged when someone suggests he should let officials know, responding that it is the duty of political opposition members to take the initiative to ask rebels and others inside the country about their urgent needs.
During his tense remarks, Abboud acknowledges that there are “bad people, and opportunists” in the ranks of the FSA, but that the rebel army as a whole should be considered deserving of support.
Abboud describes begging for assistance to get wounded fighters into Jordan for treatment, and accuses political operatives of caring for only their supporters, but not ordinary fighters “with no agenda.”
“No one who’s based outside the country represents us,” Abboud says, highlighting the dilemma that has plagued Syria’s opposition.
Abboud confronts political opposition members in Jordan