Saturday, June 30, 2012

At Syria's border, after months of waiting, the weapons arrive

A village four kilometres from Turkey has become the key hub of arms shipments and defectors joining the Free Syria Army

Martin Chulov in northern Syria, Friday 29 June 2012

"....Weapons are not the only new arrivals. The rebels acknowledged that three days ago an American man, believed to be a government employee, passed through. He had first been shown around a nearby refugee camp and was brought into Syria by rebels who are not from here; his destination unknown.

The rebels, however, disavow any knowledge though of other foreigners, particularly Arab nationals who are reputed to be entering Syria in increasing numbers as the war grinds on. Early on Friday morning, the Guardian witnessed three Libyan men and two Gulf state nationals arrive in the southern Turkish province of Hatay on a flight from Istanbul.

Two of the new arrivals were carrying backpacks and provisions, but it was not clear if they were planning to join an insurgency across the border.

"It is possible that they could be fighters wanting to help us," said Hallak. "But al-Qaida is not welcome here and everybody knows it. Their ideology is not accepted and their help will be refused. But I swear by God that nobody like that has dared pass through here."

As the men prepare for the next shipment of guns and ammunition – which is widely believed to be organised, by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which it is understood sent the first two – they rattle off a shopping list.

One walks to another room to fetch an automatic weapon that was delivered in May. "Can this stop a tank?" Hallak asked rhetorically. "No way."

He added: "Can an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)? Maybe. But we need anti-tank rockets. We need heavier weapons. Hopefully they will be delivered. They will really make a difference.""

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