Syrian rebels pushed out of the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus by the Russian and Iranian-backed forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad are “reorganizing and rearming” to fight regime troops and a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia, a Turkey-allied opposition group commander told Reuters this week.
“We will go back to our towns. We will liberate them and topple the terrorist tyrant,” Issam al-Buwaydani, the commander of the Jaish al-Islam, one the most prominent rebel groups in Syria, told Reuters.
He noted that Jaish al-Islam is recovering with the help of Turkey, which is providing financial assistance in the form of salaries.
In April, Assad regime troops forced Jaish al-Islam and other opposition groups from eastern Ghouta to start over far from home in the northern part of the country near their the Turkish border.
In their new home, Jaish al-Islam is reportedly operating under the “National Army” umbrella, described as an Ankara-backed campaign to bring numerous opposition factions together.
Turkey has been backing opposition forces throughout the Syrian civil war, which has been raging since 2011.
Buwaydani told Reuters his group is ready to fight the Assad regime and other enemies of Turkey, including the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls swathes of northern Syria.
Turkey considers the YPG an affiliate of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) group, but the United States continues to support the Kurdish fighters as part of the international campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Support from Iran and Russia has allowed the Syrian government forces to seize control of more territory than any other warring party in the war-devastated country.
According to the U.S. military, Assad has won the civil war in Syria.
Nevertheless, Buwaydani believes rebel groups can still topple the dictator.
“It is not impossible that Assad falls, especially given that the opposition forces are gathered today in one place,” he told Reuters. “This is a source of strength.”
Assad regime troops recaptured eastern Ghouta from rebel forces in April.
Reuters noted that the displaced opposition fighters are now “aiming to build hundreds of homes for displaced fighters and civilians on opposition-held land near the Turkish border.”
“The project near the city of al-Bab points to preparations for a long stay in northern Syria, though Jaish al-Islam insists that the people displaced from eastern Ghouta will return. It is part of a wider effort by the group to recover in the north,” the news outlet added.
Thousands of people opted to move to northwest Syria rather than live under Assad’s rule when eastern Ghouta fell to the Syrian government.
The move mirrors decisions taken by rebel groups elsewhere in the Middle Eastern nation, which have “left the northwest crammed with anti-Assad fighters and dissidents from all over Syria,” Reuters pointed out.