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.

 

Egypt renews calls for creation of joint military force at Arab summit

Torturous Iran talks move into top gear in battle of wills

Qaeda seizes 'majority' of Syria northwestern city of Idlib

Saudi ambassador to return to Sweden after diplomatic spat

Oil prices fall after Yemen-inspired gains

Libya forces ‘withdraw’ from frontline bases near oil ports

UN Security Council keeps Libya arms embargo in place

Saudi-led airstrikes target arms depots in Yemen capital

Death toll from hotel attack rises as fighting continues in Somalia

Turkish parliament passes security bill after long debate

Turkey army chief of staff visits historic tomb inside Syria

Saudi-led coalition keeps up raids against Yemen rebels

Assad says open to dialogue with US

US backs Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

Heavy Saudi raids force Sanaa residents to flee

Israeli Arab MP walks for Bedouins

Gulf stocks regain ground after early losses over Yemen

Kerry presses Iran on nuclear deal before deadline

Somali pirates seize Iranian fishing vessel

Borse Dubai sells big stake in London Stock Exchange

Can Arabs form joint military force?

Libya rivals discuss UN-backed peace proposals

French President to join 'anti-terror' march in Tunis

Sisi underscores Egypt’s rights to tap Nile water

US-led coalition aircraft bomb Tikrit

Saudi warplanes strike Yemen rebels in Sanaa

Netanyahu to form Israel new government after shock victory

Turkey military responds to Kurdish attacks in southeast

Leaders see horror of air crash as investigators step up probe

Fistfight in Iraqi Kurdish parliament

Syria rebels seize ancient town of Busra Sham

UN reveals plethora of abuses against activists in Libya

IS attack kills 5 militia fighters in Libya city of Sirte

Yemen President ‘in safety’ as rebel forces advance

US considering launching air strikes on Tikrit

Yemen Huthis seizes key airbase near Aden

'Feminist' policy costing dear to Sweden

Obama says row with Netanyahu ‘substantive’

Tunisia honours victims of deadly attack on national museum

Roadside bomb kills two Egypt soldiers in restive Sinai

‘Islamic State’ woos Syria children with money: More than 400 recruited in 2015 alone

Huthi-led militia push on southern Yemen

US envoy to Libya leaves Twitter after barrage of online abuse

US provides 'eye in the sky' to support Iraq Tikrit operation

Turkey prosecutors launch probe as ruling party rift grows