Fresh batches of weapons have recently been sent to Syria in a “renewed effort by outside powers” to arm the Free Syrian Army, officials told the Washington Post in a report on Sunday.
In recent weeks, anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, among other arms, have been sent across the Jordanian border into the Syrian province of Daraa, the newspaper stated, citing Arab and opposition officials.
The weapons influx reportedly serves the purpose of countering “the growing influence of Islamist extremist groups in the north of Syria by boosting more moderate groups fighting in the south,” the officials told the Post.
“The idea was to get heavier stuff, intensify supply and make sure it goes to the good guys,” an Arab official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post. “If you want to weaken al-Nusra, you do it not by withholding [weapons] but by boosting the other groups.”
Al-Nusra Front, which was unknown before the start of the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad but which now regularly issues statements claiming suicide attacks in Syria.
Another reason for the fresh arms supplies was also to “shift the focus of the war away from the north toward the south and the capital, Assad’s stronghold,” the Post added, quoting a coordinator for the Free Syrian Army, who also remained unnamed.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime has made strong military advances in the past week.
On Saturday, the United States strongly condemned a series of missile strikes that killed dozens of people in Syria’s second city Aleppo.
At least 37 people were killed and 150 wounded in missile strikes on the Tariq al-Bab district on Friday, according the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The United States Government condemns in the strongest possible terms the series of rocket attacks against Aleppo, most recently the attack using Scud missiles on an eastern district of the city,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
“The Assad regime has no legitimacy and remains in power only through brute force,” Nuland added.
Activists have reported the army’s use of surface-to-surface missiles on various targets in northern Syria since late 2012.
U.S. officials declined to comment to the Post on the new armaments, while the Obama administration continues to refuse to directly arm the rebels.
It has, however, “provided intelligence assistance to those who are involved in the supplies, and it also helps vet opposition forces,” the newspaper noted.