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Syrian opposition defends eastern Ghouta situation

In an interview, Jaish al-Islam spokesman Capt. Islam Alloush told Al-Monitor that the group is confident its goals will be achieved in besieged eastern Ghouta as it is transforming its "militia into a real army."
Smoke rises from what activists said was due to shelling by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad on the outskirts of Damascus city in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta May 21, 2015.  REUTERS/Diaa Al-Din  - RTX1DYKI

ISTANBUL — Difficult access to its main area of operations has long made the Syrian opposition group Jaish al-Islam (JAI) a relative mystery to the outside world. A video released on April 29 showing a 1,700-strong military parade of its new "graduates" in the Damascus outskirts has drawn greater attention to it, along with a shift from calling for an Islamic state to its leader saying the people should choose the sort of state they want.

JAI spokesman Capt. Islam Alloush agreed to be interviewed by Al-Monitor in mid-May, in a gated complex housing mainly foreigners in Istanbul’s outlying suburbs. With a reddish-brown Islamist-style beard, wide-set eyes and a polite demeanor, Alloush claims no family relation to the group’s leader, Zahran Alloush.

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