"There are liberated areas now and it's better for the command to be with the rebels instead of being abroad," al-Sheikh said in a phone interview from Turkey. The general said he has been going back and forth to Syria.
In recent months, rebels have succeeded in taking the fight to Damascus, but the regime has reasserted control in many areas. In the summer, rebels also launched an offensive on Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and are holding several neighborhoods there, despite daily battles with regime forces.
Activists say nearly 30,000 people have been killed since Syria's crisis began in March 2011. The uprising began with largely peaceful protests against Assad's regime, but has since morphed into a civil war in the face of a brutal government crackdown.
The Syrian conflict has increasingly spilled into neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, with several hundred thousand Syrians seeking refuge there and battles occasionally being fought along Syria's borders.
On Saturday, the Turkish military deployed three howitzers and an anti-aircraft gun near Tal Abyad, a Turkish-Syrian border crossing captured by the rebels earlier in the week, the Turkish news agency Dogan reported. Dogan video showed at least three large military trucks towing the guns along a highway.
On Saturday, an Associated Press reporter heard at least six mortar shells fall in the area. The crossing was in the hands of rebels who held eight detainees there, including three Syrian border inspectors, but released them later.
Turkey also reinforced its border with anti-aircraft missiles after Syrian forces brought down a Turkish jet on June 22, and it threatened to target any approaching Syrian military elements. Turkey said its plane was in international airspace, countering Syrian claims that it was in Syrian airspace.
Also Saturday, Lebanon's army said Syrian rebels attacked one of its positions in the mountain town of Arsal and that its forces drove the rebels away without causing casualties.