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Rebels ask for Iraq-style strikes in Syria

Syrian opposition asks world to help it fight the Islamic State group and Syrian government after US strikes in Iraq.

Last updated: 16 Aug 2014 16:33
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Syria's opposition has called for international intervention targeting the Islamic State group, just days after the US began limited strikes against fighters from the same group in neighbouring Iraq.

Earlier, US officials had asked the Syrian opposition to call on the international community to hit the group and help rebels eliminate the self-declared jihadists, Al Jazeera learned from sources inside the opposition.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main political opposition bloc, and the leadership of the Free Syrian Army, who made the appeal at a press conference in Gaziantep, Turkey on Saturday, also called for help fighting the Syrian army.

"The entire world is invited to intervene in a quick and effective way in order to support the fighters of the Free Syrian Army, who are fighting the gangs of terrorism," said Hadi al-Bahra, the president of the SNC.

"I call on the UN, and all countries that believe in freedom, including the US, to deal with the situation in Syria the same way they have dealt with the situation in Kurdistan, Iraq," Bahra said.

"The reasons are the same, the enemy is the same," the head of the SNC added.

The plea came as the US was hitting Islamic State targets in Iraq, and a day after the UN Security Council unanimously  adopted a resolution that aims to weaken the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's Syria branch.

Commenting on the resolution, the Syrian Coalition's representative at the UN, Najib Ghadbian, said: "The Syrian Coalition calls for targeted air strikes in Syria. Strikes should be backed up by an intensive train and equip programme for the moderate Syrian opposition forces that have been effectively fighting ISIS [Islamic State] for over a year."

Another member of the coalition told Al Jazeera that the group was "getting different promises" from the US.


RELATED: Who can stop the Islamic State's advance?


The Islamic State, an al-Qaeda splinter group, has in recent months seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate.

In Syria, the group enforced its rule in the province of Raqqa and other eastern parts of the country through conducting public executions and imposing strict social codes that have many residents living in fear. Others have fled.

Opposition activists who stood up to the rule of the group have been met with a brutal crackdown. Many of those activists had been campaigning for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad since 2011. 

Opposition politicians in exile have expressed dismay as to why three years of bloodshed has not led to the same rapid response by the international community as the escalating crisis in Iraq.

The Islamic State's swift push to the borders of Iraq's autonomous ethnic Kurdish region and towards Baghdad prompted President Barack Obama to authorise airstrikes on the group's strongholds earlier this month.

Since then, US military aircraft have carried out several bombings and air-dropped food and water to help tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the fighters' advance.

On Saturday morning, the US launched more attacks on positions belonging to the Islamic State in northern Iraq, according to the Kurdish news agency Roodaw.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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