Syrian opposition chooses Ahmad Jarba its new leader

July 7, 2013 at 7:48 AM

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 7 (UPI) -- The Syrian opposition group Syrian National Coalition has elected a new leader amid reports the Syrian army was advancing on rebel strongholds in Homs.

Ahmad Jarba was elected SNC president by the group in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, the London newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Sunday. Jarba is a tribal figure from the eastern Syrian province of Hasaka and is said to have ties with Saudi Arabia.

The SNC also called on the United Nations and Friends of Syria to intervene and provide food and medicine to civilians in Homs, the newspaper said.

The Syrian army continued its offensive on rebel holdings in Homs, Israel Radio said, adding reports from the area suggested President Bashar Assad's regime forces used chemical weapons against the civilian population in the city. Assad's army began its military offensive on the country's third-largest city last week.

The Irish Independent reported Sunday that Western intelligence agencies were seeking to secure evidence that chemicals were used by Syrian regime forces in the city. The newspaper said people complained of breathing difficulties and were treated by rebel medics shortly after exposure to white smoke that rose from a mosque that had been shelled.

The Syrian Arab News Agency reported the army had destroyed terrorist hideouts in Homs, destroyed a number of missiles and had seized large amounts of dangerous chemicals found in a "terrorists den" in a farm in Banias.

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