First Published: 2013-01-18

 

Fierce clashes pit Syrian Kurds against jihadists

 

Kurdish fighters are fighting to stop fiercest rebel assault ever since insurgents first arrived in Ras al-Ain.

 

Middle East Online

ALEPPO, Syria - Fierce clashes raged late on Thursday in the majority Kurdish northern Syrian city of Ras al-Ain, on the Turkish border, pitting jihadists against Kurdish fighters, residents and an activist said.

The fighting comes six months after troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from majority Kurdish areas, leaving residents to fend for themselves.

Jihadists have since staged several assaults on the strategic city, and most of its residents have fled.

Syria's Kurds are divided over the revolt against Assad. Some support the regime, others back the revolt, and still others seek to remain neutral.

On Thursday, "the fighting became more intense in the evening after Kurdish fighters received reinforcements to try to stop the fiercest rebel assault ever since insurgents first arrived in the city" in November, a resident identifying himself only as Mohammed said.

The rebels are loyal to the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, which is listed by the United States as a "terrorist" organisation, as well as Islamist groups Ghuraba al-Sham and Ahfad al-Rasul, said Mohammed.

While earlier reports said no jihadists were involved in the fighting, an activist from Ras al-Ain -- a Kurdish opponent of Assad -- confirmed Mohammed's account.

"Armed groups loyal to Al-Nusra Front crossed the Turkish border with three tanks into the city of Ras al-Ain," the activist, who identified himself as Havidar, told AFP in Beirut via the Internet.

While Turkey supports the revolt against Assad, it is also home to a sizeable Kurdish minority that has suffered much persecution and suppression.

Activists say they fear Turkey may be using jihadists in Syria to fight its own battle against the Kurds.

"The advancing rebels did not use the tanks to fight the regime. Instead, they used them to shell Ras al-Ain," said Havidar.

Analysts and activists have voiced fears over the potential consequences should fighting between Kurdish militia and jihadists continue.

"We are concerned about continued clashes in Ras al-Ain between Kurdish militia and rebel fighters from Al-Nusra Front and Ghuraba al-Sham," said prominent Kurdish activist and journalist Massoud Akko.

"Should the fight morph into a struggle between Kurds and Arabs... Syria and the revolt (against Assad) are both in real danger," said Akko.

"We the Kurds have no problem with the (mainstream rebel) Free Syrian Army, so long as it is fighting the regime, but we see no justification for the assault on Ras al-Ain."

 

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison