March 3, 2013 / 1:34 PM / 6 years ago

Syrian opposition leader visits rebel-held territory

Syrian National Coalition head Moaz al-Khatib (L) waves as he arrives for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (not pictured) at Villa Madama in Rome February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib visited rebel-held areas in northern Syria on Sunday, in a trip intended to strengthen ties between the main opposition coalition and rebels inside the country, an aide said.

Alkhatib, who fled Syria last year after being imprisoned several times during the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, entered northern Syria from Turkey and toured the towns of Jarablus and Minbij, the source told Reuters.

“As leader of the revolution, Sheikh Moaz went into Syria to strengthen the links with the inside,” the aide said.

Video footage taken from a passing car showed Alkhatib walking in the main street of Minbij, apparently with a local notable. A crowd builds up around him as he as becomes recognized and then he starts greeting and kissing passersby.

Assad’s firepower, including increased use of Scuds and other missiles, has kept the opposition’s grip on areas it has captured tenuous and made it difficult for figures such as Alkhatib to visit. But the opposition has recently began to receive more international funding, making it easier to forge links with those inside, opposition sources say.

Alkhatib earlier attended a meeting of over 220 rebel commanders and opposition activists from Aleppo to elect a local administration for what the opposition describes as the mostly liberated province, whose population comprise around 30 percent of the country’s total.

Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Jason Webb

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