Border wth Syria
Photo: AFP

Jordan air force pilot joins Syrian rebels

Flyer defects to join al-Qaeda affiliate fighting Assad; US official denounces Hezbollah involvement, says places Lebanon at risk

Relatives of a Jordanian air force pilot say he has joined al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, which is fighting in Syria to oust President Bashar Assad.


More than 300 Jordanians, some linked to domestic militant groups, have joined Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow Assad. But it is the first time a Jordanian with military rank defects to the rebels.


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The two relatives said Monday that Ahmad Majali, 29, abandoned his post in central Jordan last Wednesday and took a commercial flight to Turkey Friday. From there, he entered Syria overland and joined the Nusra Front, they added.


The Royal Jordanian Air Force declined comment, but confirmed that Majali is a pilot with the rank of captain.


The two relatives insisted on anonymity for fear of Jordanian police retribution.


Also on Monday, a senior American official denounced Hezbollah for its involvement in Syria's civil war and said the Lebanese militant group's actions place the future of Lebanon at risk.


The comments from Deputy Secretary of State William Burns were the first by a high-ranking visiting US official since Hezbollah helped propel President Bashar Assad's troops to victory in the strategic Syrian town of Qusair near the Lebanese border last month.


Syrian troops have been building on the victory to move against rebel-held areas elsewhere in the central province of Homs and in the country's north.


"Despite its membership in the Lebanese government, Hezbollah has decided to put its own interests and those of its foreign backers above those of the Lebanese people," Burns told reporters as he wrapped up a two-day visit to Lebanon.


He added that the US condemned "in the strongest terms" Hezbollah's actions in Syria and said they "place the future of Lebanon at risk."


Fighters from the powerful Iranian-backed Shiite Lebanese party have joined Assad's forces in their battle to crush the anti-Assad rebellion, which is dominated by Sunnis.


The group was instrumental in helping Assad's troops capture Qusair, and activists say Hezbollah members are fighting in several locations in Syria. Assad, however, refuted those reports, saying in a recent interview that Hezbollah's involvement was restricted to Qusair because of its proximity to Lebanon.


The group's open participation in the war has helped fan sectarian hatreds in Lebanon and across the region.



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פרסום ראשון: 07.01.13, 19:05
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