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TEL AVIV – At least 5,000 global jihadists are positioned near Syria’s borders with Turkey and Lebanon attempting to infiltrate Syria to aid the opposition fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a senior Syrian government official claimed to WND.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Syrian military hopes to quell the opposition entirely by the start of Ramadan, July 19.

Russian advisers in Syria seem to have a more realistic deadline of September to beat back the opposition, the official noted.

The Syrian plan is for Assad to remain in power and to hold an international conference with participation from Iran aimed at rebuilding Syria, the official said.

The official spoke as the U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, wrapped up talks with Assad by saying he held “very candid and constructive” discussions while admitting international efforts to stop the violence so far have failed.

Annan told reporters Assad “agreed [on] an approach” to end the violence. Annan said he would share the details with rebel groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

While Russia continues to arm Syria, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming and financing the opposition, with the U.S. saying it is providing “non-lethal” aid, including communications assistance. Reports have claimed the U.S. is coordinating arms shipments to the rebel forces.

Turkey has been at the forefront of the opposition targeting Assad’s regime, hosting the rebels and agitating for international military force to oust Assad.

The claim by global jihadists attempting to infiltrate Syria is just the latest report of al-Qaida-linked groups fighting alongside the U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army.

WND reported last month that Jordan for the first time publicly stated its security officials arrested two jihadists affiliated with al-Qaida on their way to Syria to fight against Assad’s regime.

In May, WND was first to report growing collaboration between the U.S.-supported Syrian opposition and al-Qaida as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq, according to an Egyptian security official.

The WND report named several al-Qaida branches aiding the opposition, including the group caught by Jordan.

WND also previously reported Syria presented the United Nations and the U.S. with information indicating it was a group affiliated with al-Qaida, armed by Turkey, that slaughtered more than 100 civilians in their homes in Houla in May, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

The international community had widely condemned Syria, pinning the blame for the Houla massacre on forces acting under the direction of Assad’s regime.

The information about al-Qaida among the opposition is significant. Reports have claimed the U.S. is helping to coordinate massive weapons shipments to the opposition. The Obama administration denied the arming claims, stating the U.S. is only sending nonlethal aid to the opposition.

Assad’s regime several times has claimed al-Qaida was behind a series of attacks blamed on Syrian forces.

Last month, Syria said it arrested 26 al-Qaida “foreign terrorists,” including one Jordanian.

Last month, Assad used a rare national address to blame “terrorists” and foreign elements for the Houla massacre.

In May, one Egyptian security official told WND there is growing collaboration between the Syrian opposition and al-Qaida as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq.

An Egyptian military attaché detailed the alleged collaboration between al-Qaida and the U.S.-aided opposition in Syria.

The purported cooperation extends to recent suicide attacks and bombings in Damascus and in the embattled Syrian city of Homs.

The military official told WND that Egypt has reports of collaboration between the Syrian opposition and three al-Qaida arms:

  • Jund al-Sham, made up of al-Qaida militants who are Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese;
  • Jund al-Islam, which in recent years merged with Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group of Suuni Iraqis operating under the al-Qaida banner;
  • Jund Ansar al-Allah, an al-Qaida group based in Gaza linked to Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria.

The Arab League, which has condemned Syria, has privately recognized an armed terrorist element is agitating against Assad’s regime.

A leaked Arab League dispatch, posted in February by the Anonymous group, said Arab League monitors on the ground in Syria several times witnessed an “armed entity” provoking Syrian forces and placing civilian lives in danger.

That section of the classified report read: “The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. … In some zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the Government to respond with further violence. In the end, innocent citizens pay the price for those actions with life and limb.”

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