Syria's rebel leaders make the big move

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Syria rebels
Syria's rebels may have struck a blow against President Assad with the move Photo: PA

The rebels have finally done it. Their foot soldiers have been fighting in Syria for a year. But the leaders have stayed out of harm's way in Turkey.

They've been criticised for being out of the country and out of touch. Now, in a significant but hardly surprising move, they've crossed the border. Or they say they have.

The Free Syrian Army leader Riad Al Assad has announced in 'Communique Number One from Inside' that his command centre has moved to Syria.

He promises a 'final offensive' on Damascus and says the capital 'will be liberated soon'.

This will boost the rebels' morale. They clearly feel confident enough of holding the territory they've gained in northern Syria to move their top brass there, and well armed enough to defend a command centre.

On the other hand, those leaders are much more vulnerable to attack from Syrian jets now they are in the country.

One slip-up in a country where the government is expert at surveillance, and at tracking mobile and satellite phones, could mean the death of the rebel leadership.

Syria rebels
Syrian rebel forces said they downed an army fighter jet on Saturday Credit: PA

The rebels claim today to have shot down a Syrian Mig fighter jet. They've done it before, a few weeks ago. And they've downed attack helicopters.

This is significant because President Assad's increasing use of fighter jets might have been a game changer. But the rebels now seem capable of bringing down planes that fly too low. It will dent the confidence - and the planes - of pilots who, up to now, may have thought themselves immune.

With these rebel moves, the war has moved up a notch.