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NOW

Damascus rebel group
beset by internal rift

Top Faylaq al-Rahman commanders have reportedly called for the resignation of the rebel faction's leader.

Abd al-Nasr Shmeir. (image via syrian-reporter.net)

BEIRUT – Faylaq al-Rahman, one of the most powerful rebel factions operating around the Syrian capital, has reportedly been hit by an internal dispute in which top commanders called for the leader of the group to step down.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday that a recent meeting of top members of Faylaq al-Rahman held in the eastern Ghouta town of Zamalka deteriorated into “heated quarrels” between the group’s military commander and its leader Abd al-Nasr Shmeir, who a number of commanders blamed for recent opposition setbacks against the regime.

 

The Syrian army backed by Hezbollah and other loyalist militias on May 19 stormed into a swathe of territory in the southeast of the besieged eastern Ghouta region following weeks of rebel fighting in the opposition-controlled pocket of territory outside Damascus.

 

The regime offensive took advantage of the internecine battles that pitted Faylaq al-Rahman and the Islamist Jaysh al-Fustat coalition led by Nusra Front one side against Jaysh al-Islam, the largest opposition rebel faction in the area and an ostensible ally of Shmeir’s group.

 

Over 300 rebels were killed in the fighting, which enraged local residents who held a number of protests as still-born ceasefires failed to quell the fighting until an agreement reached on May 24 put an end to the fighting between Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam, the two most powerful opposition fighting forces near Damascus.

 

Sources told the SOHR that Faylaq al-Rahman commanders accused Shmeir of ordering the withdrawal of the faction’s fighters from Ghouta’s southeastern sector, a key agricultural area that serves as one of the main breadbaskets for the encircled opposition.

 

“The military commanders demanded Shmeir to step down from the leadership of Faylaq al-Rahman and deliver it to the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta,” the sources added.

 

According to the NGO tracking developments in the war-torn country, the verbal arguments escalated, with Shmeir’s bodyguards brandishing their weapons at the dissenting Faylaq al-Rahman leaders.

 

The pro-opposition Syrian Reporter first reported the purported incident on Thursday, which also said that weapons were brandished during a heated dispute in which Shmeir was asked to resign.

 

The outlet claimed that Shmeir accused a number of the commanders of “cooperating directly with Jaysh al-Islam,” but did not go into much further details on the dispute, which remains shrouded in mystery.

 

Faylaq al-Rahman has yet to issue a statement denying the recent media reports circulating social media and pro-rebel outlets.

 

The Institute for the Study of War classifies Faylaq al-Rahman as one of the only twelve “powerbroker” groups or factions powerful enough to determine “the success of military operations against either the Syrian regime or ISIS.” Jaysh al-Islam is the only other rebel faction in eastern Ghouta listed by the ISW as a “powerbroker.”

 

Faylaq al-Rahman was formed in November 2013, bringing together a number of Free Syrian Army-affiliated units under the command of Shmeir, a defected Syrian army officer who is now one of the top rebel leaders in eastern Ghouta.

 

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated the Arabic-language source material.

Faylaq al-Rahman leader Abd al-Nasr Shmeir. (image via syrian-reporter.net)

The military commanders demanded Shmeir to step down from the leadership of Faylaq al-Rahman and deliver it to the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta.