December 1, 2014

By Ammar Hamou and Dan Wilkofsky

AMMAN: Two competing rebel groups in East Ghouta are accusing the regime of undermining the local opposition's cohesiveness by perpetrating a string of assassinations against their commanders in recent weeks.

“The Syrian regime is trying to destroy the internal structure of the mujahideen and rebels in the liberated areas...by using guerrilla warfare tactics,” Abdul Rahman, Jaish al-Islam's spokesman and a captain in the rebel group, told Syria Direct Monday.

The assassinations have focused on leaders belonging to two of the largest rebel groups controlling East Ghouta: Jaish al-Islam and Jaish al-Umma.

Unknown militants shot dead Hasan a-Rahib, a leader in Jaish al-Umma, in the town of Harasta on Sunday, one day after masked gunmen killed Yusuf Abdul al-Wahab, a Jaish al-Islam leader, in A-Rihan.

On November 22, unknown gunmen killed both the aide to Jaish al-Islam's head of operations and the head of the Defected Soldiers’ Office in Hosh al-Dhawahara.

Harasta123 A destroyed building in Harasta in November. Photo courtesy of @lensdimashqi. 

Both rebel groups believe that the regime is behind the assassinations.

Although the identity of the assassins is still unknown, Jaish al-Islam spokesman Abdul Rahman said that “the Syrian regime is behind these dirty operations and cowardly acts.”

A Jaish al-Umma spokesman told Syria Direct Monday that “agents” of the Syrian regime were responsible for the recent assassination in Harasta.

“We have not directed accusations at any [revolutionary] party, but rather at the agents of the Syrian regime," said Mohammed Abu Udei.

It appears that the new wave of assassinations could prompt a degree of cooperation between Jaish al-Umma and Jaish al-Islam as they search for the culprits. The two groups have been at odds since the former declared its creation in September, reported al-Monitor on November 24.

“Cooperation is occurring with all [rebel] brigades to uncover whomever undertook these assassination operations,” said Abu Udei of Jaish al-Umma.

Jaish al-Islam spokesman Abdul Rahman said that future steps include “running wide and detailed investigations...to learn of the sleeper cells that are conducting these assassinations, in cooperation with the other military groups.”

Rebel commanders in East Ghouta have been subjected to repeated assasination attempts since May 2014.

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