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Social Media Buzz: Islamists Aim at Rebel Leaders, Gaza War Echoes

> The Syrian revolution has been televised, tweeted and blogged. Millions of Syrians are using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Skype to disseminate and discuss the conflict. Syria Deeply will highlight a few interesting conversations or videos in a weekly feature called Social Media Buzz.

Written by Syria Deeply Published on Read time Approx. 4 minutes

A week that began with euphoria over the unification of Syria’s fractured political opposition has quickly darkened, as war continues in Syria and deadly fire flies over Israel and  Gaza.

The election of the Muslim cleric Moaz Al-Khatib as the head of a new opposition coalition could moderate the role of the more extreme rebel groups who are fighting to topple the Assad regime and establish an Islamic state. The coalition received recognition from many fighters, but a social media bombshell from Aleppo on Sunday night  struck fear that this project might be stalled by Islamists. Fighters in Aleppo from Jabhat Al Nusra, Ahrar Alsham, Tawheed Brigade and other Islamist groups said in the video below that they reject the Syrian National Coalition and vowed  to establish an Islamic state, immune to  foreign interests and agendas.

The statement was uploaded from Tawheed’s YouTube channel, but the group’s commander Abdul Qader Saleh told prominent activist Ghassan Yasin that he wasn’t informed about it. Abdul Jabbar Ukaidi said that Aleppo’s largest military council, which he heads, has supported the new coalition because it unifies political parties in the battle to topple the Assad regime. He noted that not all the fighters are under control of the Free Syrian Army and the men in the video are independent of the FSA.

Debates on social media sites about this issue were lively and opinions differed widely.


Most countries in the Middle East and especially ones which took part in the Arab Spring such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, are experimenting with political Islam and no one knows what kind of governments will ultimately emerge. The fear in Syria is that the Islamists may force their views by the barrel of the gun rather than through a political process.

Fear of Islamists has dominated Western coverage on Syria for months (and regime coverage from the earliest protests in Daraa). But a new development inside Syria is the growing discontent with the government from pro-Assad social media outlets. In the post below, a news network from Aleppo criticized the pro-Assad popular committees, also known as Shabiha, for robbing homes in an upscale neighborhood in the city. Comments on the post expressed concerns of what the country will be like if regime thugs end up controlling the state.

For all the carnage in Syria, nothing moves the Arab street (and media) more than the Palestinian issue. Although the death toll and violence in Gaza is just a fraction of what’s happening in Syria, Israel’s aerial hunt for Hamas leadership has dominated conversations this week.

Just days after the Assad regime permanently shuttered Hamas offices in Syria, months after it was clear that the Islamist Palestinian organization wouldn’t support the Syrian regime’s efforts to crush its opposition, Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari was killed while travelling on a main street in Gaza. Israel released a video of the assassination. The Assad regime, which has long branded itself as a major component of the “resistance axis” to Israel, had its media outlets quickly shift gears to cover the war in Gaza and call Jabari a martyr.

But Assad supporters on social media weren’t as nimble in forgiving Hamas. Commentators on the pro-regime Addunya TV’s Facebook page called Jabari a traitor, and a dog that has expired.

Israel’s war on Gaza has rekindled the largely leftist supporters of the Palestinian cause who also oppose the Syrian struggle to end the Assad dictatorship. Robin Yassin-Kassab writes about this phenomenon on Qunfuz, his blog about the Middle East.

> “And many of those who are quite correctly calling for demonstrations today against Zionist terror have not stirred in the last two years as forty thousand Syrians have been slaughtered, except perhaps to explain that the victims are enacting a dastardly plot against a resistance regime. A recent Facebook status from Sharif Nashashibi serves as an excellent rejoinder: “Sadly, there are people who condemn the slaughter of Palestinians but defend the slaughter of Syrians, and vice versa. As a Palestinian and a Syrian, I totally reject these hypocrites’ so-called support. The suffering of Palestine is the suffering of Syria, and vice versa. We are one and the same.”” After more than 60 years of conflict and almost two years since the frailty of the Assad regime’s position on supporting Palestinians has been exposed, most of these arguments are well known and are vigorously debated across all media platforms – such as this recent Twitter conversation.

The quiet story that’s slipping through the cracks is how the “anti-imperialist” and “pro-Palestinian” media outlets and academics have inadvertently posted footage from other conflicts and displayed it as Israeli attacks on civilians, damaging their credibility. As’ad AbuKhalil, a professor in California and one of the loudest critics of the Syrian revolution who relentlessly questioned the authenticity of YouTube videos from Syria, posted a photo of a young girl who was killed by the Assad regime in Aleppo as an Israeli crime in Gaza. To his credit, he issued a correction. (Al Mayadeen TV, a recently launched station with suspected links to Iran and the Syrian regime, aired images of dead in children from Daraa and attributed it to Gaza).

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