BEIRUT: The military chief of Syria’s mainstream rebel group the Free Syrian Army has warned that the country risks a “humanitarian disaster” if allies do not send more aid to help his forces halt the advance of Islamist militants.
Extremist fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) control a swath of land straddling Syria and neighboring Iraq, mostly running across the Euphrates River, where they claim to have established their self-styled “caliphate.” Most of the land was seized last month in a lightning push across Iraq.
In recent days, the group’s fighters have been pushing into rebel-held territory around the city of Aleppo, close to the Turkish border. They are also consolidating their rule along a corridor of land in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor that leads to neighboring Iraq.
“We call on urgent support for the FSA with weapons and ammunition, and to avoid a humanitarian disaster that threatens our people,” said Brig. Gen. Abdel-Ilah Bashir. “Time is not on our side. Time is a slashing sword,” he said.
His statement underscored the distress many of the country’s rebel fighters, whose battle to overthrow President Bashar Assad has been overshadowed by the advance of ISIS fighters.
In northern Syria, where the extremists have been pushing back rebels, Syrian government forces also seized a key industrial area, allowing them to choke off rebel-held parts of Aleppo, already brutalized by indiscriminate bombing.
Bashir called on rebel allies, chiefly the United States, but also neighboring Turkey and regional supporters Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to speedily send help. He said the militants from ISIS would not halt at Syria’s borders.
“If we do not receive support quickly, the disaster will not stop at the borders. We put the international community before its historic responsibility,” he said.