Syrian rebels say they have received anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles

Story highlights

  • The weapons are from "brotherly nations," a rebel spokesman says
  • Louay Almokdad of the Free Syrian Army says they represent "a turning point"
  • The issue of military assistance is expected to be raised Saturday in Doha, Qatar

Syrian rebels have received heavy weapons -- including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles -- from "brotherly nations that support the Syrian revolution," a rebel spokesman said Friday.

Free Syrian Army political and media coordinator Louay Almokdad told CNN during a phone call from Istanbul that Free Syrian Army leaders believe the weapons "will be a turning point" in the war against government forces "and will definitely change the rules of the war on the ground."

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The issue of providing military assistance to Syrian rebels is expected to be further addressed Saturday at a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Doha, Qatar, which will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The White House has not publicly specified what steps it would take to support members of Syria's opposition, though sources have told CNN that small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons would be part of the assistance package.

Syrian rebels have long sought anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, saying they are outgunned by President Bashar al-Assad's military.

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The White House announcement this month that it was increasing the "size and scope" of its material support to Syrian rebels came after months of political debate over the U.S. role in the conflict. Great Britain and France were strong backers of the May decision to end the European Union arms embargo on Syria, and all three countries have asserted that al-Assad's regime used chemical weapons.

    Al-Assad has denied the assertion.

    In recent weeks, the rebels have suffered a series of devastating setbacks, including the loss of the stronghold of Qusayr near the Lebanon border.