Syrian rebel leader says any American strike on regime targets should be ‘powerful’

BEIRUT — The chief of the rebel Free Syrian Army said Wednesday that he hoped any U.S. attack against Syria would be “powerful and effective” enough not only to prevent further chemical weapons attacks but also to end the Syrian airstrikes and ballistic missile raids that continue to target areas under rebel control.

The comments by the rebel leader signaled uneasiness with President Obama’s pledge that a U.S. attack on Syria would be limited and narrow in scope. Gen. Salim Idriss, the Syrian army defector who heads the loose umbrella group of moderate rebels that the United States has promised to support, said that the Obama administration should instead use any military intervention to even out the rebels’ battlefield disadvantages.

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Idriss, speaking by telephone from southern Turkey, said the Obama administration has not sought advice from the Free Syrian Army about possible targets or consulted with the rebel movement on its plans. But, he added, “the targets are not a secret.”

The locations of the headquarters and bases of Syrian military army units involved in the airstrikes, shelling and missile attacks responsible for many of the deaths in Syria on a daily basis are well known to the Obama administration, Idriss said, as well as to other foreign governments such as France, the only possible U.S. partner in a military strike.

The continuing Syrian airstrikes and missile raids, particularly in areas around the city of Aleppo, have helped to maintain the Syrian government’s military advantage despite rebels’ success in controlling swaths of territory.

Idriss spoke as rebels were reported to be launching an assault against the Christian mountain village of Maaloula, north of Damascus, which has remained loyal to the regime since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in 2011.

In the attack on Maaloula, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel and nearby caves and shelled the community below, a nun told the Associated Press by telephone. She spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

 
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