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.

 

Iraq Kurds start voting in historic independence referendum

Erdogan threatens Iraqi Kurds with border closure, oil block

US-led strikes killed 84 civilians near Syria's Raqa

Iran shuts border with Iraqi Kurdistan

Dubai set to become first city with flying taxis

UAE announces plans for region’s first nuclear reactor

Putin to visit Erdogan this week for Syria, Iraq talks

Sudan vows to step up efforts to improve US ties

Turkey to launch intervention into Syria — and maybe into Iraq

Egyptian ‘world’s heaviest woman’ dies in Abu Dhabi

Palestinian unity government remains unlikely

Emirati man fights his employer to serve in country’s army

Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week

Saudi advisory body to tackle female driving ban

Turkey denies closing Iraqi border in response to Kurdish vote

US air strikes kill 17 Islamic State militants in Libya

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US

Kurds ready for contentious vote in Iraq

A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia?

Saudi intercepts missile fired from Yemen

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Iran defies US, tests missile

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq