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New Syria rebel chief tries to unite anti-regime militias for final push against Assad

Muhammed Muheisen / AP

Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria, Dec. 17, 2012.

Muhammed Muheisen / AP

Syrian rebel fighter Ibrahim Iaaa, 20, a former construction worker, poses for a picture after a training session in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria, Dec. 17.

By Karin Laub
Associated Press

MAARET MISREEN, Syria -- The new Syrian rebel chief said he's been moving between safe houses since taking up command, even changing quarters twice in one night when he feared regime spies.

Grappling with largely untrained and at times undisciplined fighters, Salim Idris said in an interview that he is trying to turn local militias into a united force of some 120,000 men for a final push against President Bashar Assad.

The challenges keep him awake at night, said Idris, a former general who defected from the Syrian army five months ago and was chosen as rebel chief of staff in a meeting of several hundred field commanders this month in Turkey.

Idris is "very afraid" a cornered Assad might unleash chemical weapons on the fighters. He said old friends of his still in the regime have warned him that the military, which already fired several Scuds, is training more ready-to-fire missiles on rebel strongholds in Syria's northwest. Full story…

EDITOR'S NOTE: All images made available to NBC News on Dec. 19.

Muhammed Muheisen / AP

Syrian rebels listen to their trainer on how to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria, Dec. 17.

Muhammed Muheisen / AP

A Syrian rebel prepares for a video interview at headquarters in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria, Dec. 12.

There is a growing sense of desperation at refugee camps along the Jordanian border. Refugees say in Syria you die from warfare, but in the camps it is a slow death caused by hunger and sickness. ITN's Emma Murphy reports.

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