The sad image of child aged SEVEN
PUBLISHED: 19:09 EST, 27 March 2013
A shocking photo of a small boy smoking a cigarette and clutching a high-powered rifle has emerged from the violence in war-torn Syria.
In the captivating images taken on Wednesday, 7-year-old Ahmed – the son of a rebel fighter – takes a drag from the cigarette and exhales a cloud of smoke like he’s been doing it for years.
With his right hand, he holds the back of his weapon.
Little warrior: Ahmed, the 7 year old son of a FSA fighter, stands in front of a barricade were he assists his Free Syria Army comrades in the neighborhood of Salahadeen
Children of war: The photo was taken in front of a barricade in the neighborhood of Salahadeen, Aleppo – the front lines of the bloody Syrian civil war
The photo comes as international powers rejected a request to provide Patriot missile support for rebel-held areas of northern Syria.
The refusal by NATO sends a message to President Bashar al-Assad to ‘do what you want,’ Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Moaz Alkhatib said on Wednesday.
Strong words: NATO’s refusal to provide Patriot missiles for Syrian rebels tells President Bashar al-Assad to ‘do what you want,’ says opposition leader Ahmed Moaz Alkhatib, pictured
Alkhatib, a popular figure in the opposition, also said he would not rescind his resignation as leader of the main anti-Assad alliance but he would still perform leadership duties for the time being.
NATO said on Tuesday it had no intention of intervening militarily in Syria after Alkhatib said he had asked the United States to use Patriot missiles to protect rebel-held areas from Assad’s air power.
‘Yesterday I was really surprised by the comment issued from the White House that it was not possible to increase the range of the Patriot missiles to protect the Syrian people,’ Alkhatib told Reuters.
‘I’m scared that this will be a message to the Syrian regime telling it “Do what you want.”‘
Asked about his resignation on Sunday as leader of the rebel coalition – which he has said was motivated mainly by frustration at Western reluctance to increase support for the opposition – he said: ‘I have given my resignation and I have not withdrawn it. But I have to continue my duties until the general committee meets.’
Alkhatib took Syria’s vacant seat at an Arab League summit in Qatar on Tuesday, deepening the Assad government’s diplomatic isolation two years into a conflict that has cost an estimated 70,000 lives.
The 22-nation League lent its support to giving military aid to the Syrian rebels and a summit communique also offered some of its sternest language yet against Assad, affirming member states had a right to offer help.
But Tuesday’s proceedings offered no clarity on Alkhatib’s position in the leadership, a question central to Arab and Western efforts to shore up the political credibility of the opposition and heighten pressure on Assad and his inner circle.
Conflict: A Syrian opposition fighter runs for cover from Syrian army snipers during clashes in the northern city of Aleppo
Fighting back: Free Syrian Army fighters take their positions as they observe the Syrian army forces base of Wadi al-Deif, at the front line of Maaret al-Numan town, in the Idlib province
In his remarks to Reuters, Alkhatib sought to portray himself as a conciliatory figure, declining to be drawn on his next political moves.
Asked whether he would withdraw his resignation, he replied: ‘This is the situation as it stands.’
He said that until the coalition meets, he would focus on ‘narrowing differences and building a bridge between the factions in the opposition.’
Opposition rifts are many.
They include rivalry between liberals and various sorts of Islamists, between exiles and groups that operate within Syria, and between those seeking a political settlement and those who insist an armed campaign is the only solution.
Those divisions are reflected among Arab states, which agree on little other than their professed abhorrence of the bloodshed caused by an increasingly sectarian conflict.