First Published: 2013-10-13

 

Inter-rebel Syria clashes: Jihadists consolidate presence in Aleppo

 

Clashes between jihadists and mainstream rebels in Syria's second city Aleppo kill nearly 50 people in three days.

 

Middle East Online

Nucleus of Islamic caliphate takes shape

DAMASCUS - Clashes between jihadists and mainstream rebels in Syria's second city Aleppo have killed nearly 50 people in three days, a watchdog said Saturday, adding that the jihadists made several gains.

A recent surge in fighting among Syria's rebels has cast further doubt on the already slim prospects for a negotiated settlement between the rebels and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The report of battles between groups that share the aim of ousting Assad came as mortar fire in Damascus claimed the lives of four civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group that relies on a network of activists across the war-torn country, said the inter-rebel fighting in Aleppo erupted on Thursday.

It pitted militants of the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against a battalion linked to the Arab- and Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

"At least 30 fighters from the (FSA's) Ababil Brigade and 14 from ISIL have been killed in combat, and that toll could rise further," the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman said.

He said the clashes rocked several districts of Syria's former commercial hub, and that ISIL, which expounds an extreme form of Islam, made gains in three sectors.

The ISIL militants have now consolidated their presence in Aleppo, which has been more or less split into a rebel-held east and pro-regime west since July last year.

Although both claim the ouster of Assad as a common aim, jihadists and the mainstream rebels have come to blows many times in recent months.

Across northern and eastern Syria, ISIL has set up checkpoints on roads to border crossings and opened new fronts to try to crush other groups fighting to oust the embattled president.

The Syrian civil war has drawn in fighters from across the Arab world and beyond since it flared in response to a bloody government crackdown on democracy protests in March 2011.

The Observatory estimates that at least 115,000 people have been killed since then, mostly civilians.

The United States and Russia hope to convene a peace conference next month, but their efforts have been complicated by growing rifts within the Syrian opposition.

The intensifying clashes among rebel groups on the ground come after 13 rebel brigades last month rejected the authority of the National Coalition, the opposition's most prominent political institution.

It said at least four civilians including a child were killed on Saturday when mortar rounds slammed into central Damascus and a suburb of the capital.

At least three people died when several rounds hit Jaramana, a mainly Christian suburb that is considered pro-regime.

And an eight-year-old girl was killed and 11 others were wounded in rebel mortar fire on the Abu Rummaneh district, state news agency SANA reported.

The Observatory said the girl was in a car when she was hit.

Rebels have increasingly targeted central districts of Damascus with mortar fire from rear bases on the outskirts of the city.

On Wednesday, two mortar rounds hit the central bank in Sabaa Bahrat Square, and a week earlier a mortar round hit the Iraqi consulate, killing a woman.

Elsewhere, government forces dropped "barrel bombs" on the strategic town of Sfeireh, near Aleppo, the Observatory said.

The town is largely controlled by jihadists and is near a military site believed to hold some of the regime's arsenal of chemical weapons.

"The regime wants to retake Sfeireh because it wants to take the inspectors to the site," Abdel Rahman said.

"At the moment, they can't, because the road and the area are very dangerous," he said, adding that an exodus of civilians was under way.

Two teams of inspectors are in Damascus verifying and destroying Syria's chemical weapons arsenal under the terms of a UN resolution, a dangerous task requiring them to operate in a war zone.

Underlining the dangers also faced by foreign journalists covering the conflict, a Russian photographer has been abducted by rebels who accuse him of being a spy, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Konstantin Zhuravlev, 32, was seized in Aleppo and was being held by the Islamist Liwa al-Tawhid group.

France this week identified two more journalists abducted in Syria, bringing to at least four the number of its nationals held in what has become the most dangerous place on the planet for media workers.

 

French Foreign Minister steps down with criticism of US role in Syria

UAE names women state ministers in major government shake-up

Turkey, US split deepens over support for Syria Kurds

Unstable dam affecting Mosul recapture

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince in India: String of trade, security deals expected

Egypt hires UK firm to review Sharm security

Tunisia makes $500 million from assets of ousted president

Turkey dismisses pressure to open borders as 'hypocritical'

Efforts to form Libya unity government stumble over defence portfolio

Iran blames failure of Syria peace talks on participation of ‘terrorists’

Syria opposition hopes for end of sieges

Germany hopes Syria talks in Munich will agree to provide aid

Syrian Kurdish separatists open Moscow representation

Jordan rejects France extradition request for 1982 terror attack suspects

Libya parliament extends deadline for formation of new unity government

Herzog wants Israel to begin separation from Palestinian areas

Khomeini grandson loses appeal against exclusion from Iran elections

EU tells members to accelerate refugee relocation

Syria regime's Aleppo offensive kills more than 500

Ex-Israeli PM’s prison sentence extended

Turkey summons US envoy over Syria Kurds row

Jihadist attacks bring Egypt's tourist industry to its knees

‘Hell’ falling on Aleppo

Enormous challenges emerge after full liberation of Ramadi

Hamas fighter dies in latest tunnel collapse

Aleppo siege spells trouble for the West

Egypt policeman jailed for beating vet to death

How many civilians are living under 'surrender or starve' sieges in Syria?

NATO to consider policing refugee crisis

Iran deal will delay bomb up to 15 years

Top spy warns homegrown extremists pose biggest danger to US

UN to Turkey: Open borders to stranded Syria refugees

From Muslim Chechnya to ISIS: Spies collect intelligence to help Russia

Kurdish leader accuses Ankara of 'massacre' over Cizre operation

Kremlin rebukes Merkel over criticism of Russia air strikes in Syria

Nine killed in Damascus car bomb attack

Approval of reformists raises potential for change in Iran

Saudi Patriot missile shoots down Scud fired from Yemen

Syria artists find inspiration in haunting ruins of Homs

Pentagon chief seeks anti-IS support in Europe

Border camps full as Syria families escape regime offensive

Iraq military advance reopens Ramadi-Baghdad road

IEA holds OPEC responsible for oil supply glut

Iraqi woman charged over US hostage death

Mubarak era ‘reappears’ five years after his ouster