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Arab League recognizes new Syrian opposition coalition

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 13, 2012 -- Updated 0307 GMT (1107 HKT)
  • NEW: Algeria and Iraq didn't fully support the resolution recognizing new group
  • Syrian opposition groups officially agreed on Sunday to a united front to oppose al-Assad
  • President Shimon Peres says fire from Syria has "nothing to do with Israel"
  • After a mortar shell, Israel fires back and lodges a complaint with the United Nations

(CNN) -- The Arab League formally recognized the new National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution, state media in Qatar reported Monday. Various opposition groups agreed to form the new coalition Sunday.

State-run news agency QNA reported the 22-member body approved the resolution to recognize the group, which unites Syrian opposition factions.

Algeria and Iraq abstained from some of the provisions of the measure, said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the prime minister of Qatar.

Father: Syrian government denies holding missing journalist

Al-Thani disputed that there was any difference in the position of the Arab League's vote and that of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-member group.

"That claim is absolutely untrue, and the position of the two parties is identical" except for Algeria's and Iraq's reluctance to fully support the measure, QNA reported al-Thani as saying.

In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos Syrian civil war in photos
Gruesome videos show Syria atrocities

Opposition forces in Syria have not had a unified vision for the country or single military plan to oust President Bashar al-Assad during the nearly two years of civil war.

So the United States and Arab nations pressured the groups to get on the same page.

After U.S. election, new push on Syria

Syrian opposition factions formally agreed Sunday in Doha, Qatar, to unite as the new National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council told CNN.

First, the group agreed that they want al-Assad gone and that no one would talk with his regime. The only option, they concluded, is a totally new government, spokesman Mohammed Dugham said.

SNC member Ahmed Muaz al-Khatib was selected chairman of the coalition. He is a former Sunni imam of the historic Ummayad mosque in Damascus. He has been detained at least three times since March 2011, most recently in April, according to a Facebook page created to promote his release. After his latest release he left the country, the page said.

The new vice presidents are Riad Seif, a prominent dissident and businessman from Damascus who served in the Syrian parliament as an independent, and Suhair Atassi, who is from a prominent Syrian family and is well-known for being outspoken against the government. She has also been an advocate for women's rights, calling the civil war a revolution for equality.

Al-Assad has his own group called the Syrian Human Rights Network. It accuses those who met to hash out the agreement -- and the countries who supported the meeting -- of sponsoring terrorism.

Al-Assad has consistently refused to acknowledge the civil war in Syria, saying repeatedly his government is fighting foreign-backed "terrorists" bent on destabilizing the nation.

In other developments regarding Syria:

Peres: All moms want to sleep in peace

Israel: We cannot intervene

Israeli President Shimon Peres played down his nation's response to the mortars from Syria that hit the Golan Heights, territory Israel has occupied for nearly four decades.

"The bloodshed which I regret so much in Syria has nothing to do with Israel, nothing whatsoever," Peres said in an interview with CNN on Monday.

"As an Israeli watching what has happened in Syria, I can hardly stand to see babies being killed by tanks of their own government. But we cannot intervene."

Israel returned fire in the direction that the mortars came from, marking the first exchange of fire with Syria between Israel and the war-torn country since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

"We never took an initiative to fire," Peres said. "And we don't take any advantage of the civil war in Syria. We don't consider that we should or can intervene."

He added, however, that "if they want to have an additional war ... well, that's their choice."

The Israeli Defense Forces reported that there was no damage and no injuries, but the latest fire portends how what's happening in Syria could seriously rattle the entire region.

The Golan is regarded internationally as occupied territory despite Israeli governmental control. It is home to 41,000 residents, including Jews, Druze and Alawites. Israel seized the territory from Syria during the 1967 Israel-Arab war, and it was eventually annexed.

In addition to returning fire, Israel filed a complaint with the United Nations forces operating in the area.

Fire coming from Syria into Israel "will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity," the complaint said, according to Israeli military sources.

Israeli Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said she doesn't think the fire from Syria into Israel was intentional.

"We interpret it as ... leaks into Israel territory," she said. "It's totally internal conflict in Syria. We believe that Israel is not the target here. We are looking at either stray bullets or stray mortars."

Peres said he hopes Syria won't make the same mistake again. Syria "must understand their own limitations," he said. "But if it ever happens, we shall defend ourselves -- that's what I can say. I don't want to exaggerate and to make great declarations and bellicose interests."

Peres continued, "No, we are not interested. We understand that Syria has enough problems of their own. And it doesn't give us again any pleasure. But if they endanger our lives, we shall defend ourselves. That's what I can say in a certain manner. And I don't want to fire declarations because I don't like fire -- unnecessarily anyway."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reacted with a statement Sunday saying he "is deeply concerned by the potential for escalation."

"He calls for the utmost restraint and urges Syria and Israel to uphold the Disengagement Agreement, respect their mutual obligations, and halt firing of any kind across the cease-fire line," the U.N. statement said.

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, told CNN Sunday that "a greater possibility" from the exchange of fire "is the inundation of refugees -- Christian, Druze, Alawites."

"We'd give them refuge," Oren said. "These are populations with which we have good relations. It's not unprecedented. We've been prepared for it for a long time, but it hasn't happened."

Peres, asked whether Israel would accept refugees from Syria, said: "There are 24 Arab countries. There is one Jewish country. There are places. They speak Arabic. They are Muslims. Why should they come to Israel?"

He noted that there are Muslims in Israel, "and we respect the Muslims here. They are our citizens."

But, he said, "to add more doesn't make sense. There is a huge Arab world. Israel is ... of the space of the Middle East. ... They want to be Muslims. They want to be nations. Why create an artificial problem? What for?"

The solution, he said, is "to stop the war and not create more refugees."

Sunday's incident in the Golan Heights area is the fourth U.N. complaint Israel has filed. So far no one has been injured.

Syrian tanks entered the Golan Heights demilitarized zone last week and fired into Syria; bullets fired at the tanks in response struck an Israeli military vehicle in part of the Golan Heights that Israel claims as its own. Mortars also fell in part of the Golan that Israel considers its territory.

Attacks across Syria

At least 155 people were found dead across Syria Monday after 90 people were killed Sunday, the LCC reported.

More than 35,000 people are believed to have been killed in the fighting that began in March 2011, and more than 400,000 people have been displaced, according to opposition and U.N. estimates.

Israeli airstrikes hit targets in Gaza

CNN's Sara Sidner, Kareem Khadder and Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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