BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels expect to receive new types of heavy weapons from their foreign backers in response to the collapse of a truce and a Russian-backed government offensive, but nothing amounting to a major shift in support, a rebel leader said on Saturday.
Colonel Fares al-Bayoush, head of the Northern Division group, told Reuters he expected rebels to get new types of Russian-made rocket launchers and artillery, but there was no sign of foreign states agreeing to the rebels’ long-held demand for anti-aircraft missiles. Any increase would be “slight”.
While Bayoush indicated rebel capabilities could be enhanced to a degree, he said a more significant shift would be in their tactics, though he gave no details.
The collapse of a ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia this week has been followed by a major new government offensive against rebel-held areas of Aleppo.
States opposed to Assad, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States, have been channeling military support to some rebels fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army for several years. In some cases this has included U.S.-made anti-tank, or TOW, missiles.
The rebels have long complained however that foreign support has been inadequate to effectively confront Damascus, which has received strong military backing from Iran and Russia.
Speaking to Reuters from Syria, Bayoush said “there are indications and promises” of more weapons, though he only expected “a slight increase”. He expected the delivery of more “heavy weapons, such as rocket launchers and artillery”.
“I expect new types of Russian-made weapons, in addition to more of the previously (supplied) types,” he added via an internet-based messaging system.
“What is expected is an increase in the pace of the battles, so that they are organized in a different way - a change in tactics,” he said.
writing by Tom Perry; editing by Peter Graff
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