DAMASCUS - Calls from Salafi Muslim scholars in Lebanon for jihad in Syria against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad are being greeted with rejection from the Syrian opposition.
"We reject any presence of foreign fighters, regardless of where they are from, Louay Muqdad, political and media coordinator for the Free Syrian Army, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, April 24.
We have said that what we are missing in Syria is weapons, not men.
Two Salafi scholars in Lebanon have called for Muslims to join the Syrian opposition to fight against Assad's regime.
"There is a religious duty on every Muslim who is able to do so... to enter into Syria in order to defend its people, its mosques and religious shrines, especially in Qusayr and Homs, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir told followers.
He also announced the establishment of free resistance battalions in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon to help the Syrian opposition.
The scholar attributed his call for the participation of the Shiite group Hizbullah in the Syrian civil war on the side of Assad.
"Nasrallah and his shabiha (pro-Assad militia) have taken the decision to enter into these areas in order to massacre the oppressed people there, he said, in reference to the Hizbullah leader.
Sheikh Salem alRifai in Tripoli also called for Jihad in Syria, which drew rejection from the Syrian opposition.
"Our official position as the Supreme Military Command of the Free Syrian Army... is that we thank them but we reject any calls for jihad in Syria.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in more than two years of fighting between Assad's security forces and opposition forces.
The fighting has forced more than one million Syrians to flee their home to neighboring countries in addition to the displacement of two millions others inside the country.
Thousands of foreign fighters are believed to have joined the fighting in Syria against Assad's regime.
On the ground, regime forces seized a strategic town east of Damascus on Wednesday, breaking a critical weapons supply route for the opposition.
"The disaster has struck, the army entered Otaiba. The regime has managed to turn off the weapons tap," a fighter from the town told Reuters via Skype.
"The price of a bullet will go from 50 Syrian pounds to 1,000 Syrian pounds ($10) now, but we must pay and retake it. It's the main if not the only route."
Opposition fighters have held several suburbs ringing the southern and eastern parts Damascus for months, but they have been struggling to maintain their positions against a ground offensive backed by fierce army shelling and air strikes in recent weeks.
Opposition fighters said they pulled out of Otaiba, a gateway to the eastern rural suburbs of Damascus known as al-Ghouta, in the early hours after more than 37 days of fighting in which they accused the government of using chemical weapons against them twice.
The government has denied using chemical weapons and accused rebels in turn of firing them in Aleppo.
Opposition fighters used Otaiba for eight months as their main supply route to Damascus for weapons brought in from the Jordanian border, where Saudi Arabia and other private donors are believed to be sending in arms.
Government forces pushed in with tanks and soldiers.
"Now all the villages will start falling one after another, the battle in Eastern Ghouta will be a war of attrition," another fighter in the area said, speaking by Skype.
More than two years into their struggle to end four decades of Assad family rule, the opposition remain divided by struggles over ideology and fighting for power
Fighters fighting in Otaiba said they sent a distress call to brigades in other parts of Ghouta but it went unanswered by other units with whom they compete for influence and weapons.
"To all mujahedeen (holy warriors): If Otaiba falls, the whole of Eastern Ghouta will fall ... come and help ," part of the message sent to fighters said.
There is no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, which has divided world powers.
Russia and Shiite Iran support Assad, while the United States, along with some European and Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab nations back a fractured opposition.Damascus and some of its opponents have said they will consider peace talks, but no meetings have been arranged.