The rebel Free Syrian Army has set up a military council to coordinate operations around Damascus, as it brings the year-old conflict to the capital, it announced in an online video on Thursday.
"I, Colonel Khaled Mohammed al-Hammoud, announce the creation of the military council for Damascus and the region that will be in charge of FSA operations in this region," an army deserter said in the video.
He invited other "noble officers still in the ranks of Bashar's army" to join the rebel force, referring to President Bashar Assad.
Ahmed al-Khatib, calling himself rebel spokesman for the Damascus area, said the council "represents a unified leadership for deserters from the army to reassure those supporting the FSA."
Monitors say more than 9,100 people have been killed in a revolt against Assad that started with peaceful protests before turning into an armed revolt, in the face of a brutal crackdown costing dozens of lives each day.
Rebel fighters, lightly armed, have been on the retreat from cities since the start of March in the face of the far superior firepower of government forces.
Rebels have been turning to swift hit-and-run raids, with Damascus, which has been largely spared the worst of the bloodshed, becoming a prime target over the past week.
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