News / Middle East

Syrian Islamists Reportedly Seize Western-Backed Rebel Bases

FILE - Free Syrian Army fighters carry the body of a fellow fighter who was killed during what FSA rebels say were clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad near Aleppo International airport.
FILE - Free Syrian Army fighters carry the body of a fellow fighter who was killed during what FSA rebels say were clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad near Aleppo International airport.
Reuters
Syrian rebels from an Islamist alliance formed last month have occupied bases and warehouses belonging to a Western-backed rebel group on the Turkish border, rebels and activists said on Saturday.
 
Fighters from the Islamic Front, a union of six major rebel groups, took control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) bases at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the northwestern border with Turkey late on Friday night, the opposition sources said.
 
Louay Meqdad, an FSA spokesman, said the Islamic Front fighters had entered the bases after saying they wanted to help to secure them. They then asked officers and employees to leave and replaced an FSA flag with one of their own, he said.
 
“We believe that those brigades are our brothers, that they know that we are not the enemy,” Meqdad said.
 
Infighting among Syria's rebel groups has undermined their fight against President Bashar al-Assad in the 2-1/2-year-old civil war and made Western governments hesitant to back them.
 
The rise of hardline Islamist groups among the rebels, including some linked to al-Qaida, has also unsettled powers such as the United States, who fear that if the militants came to power, they would eventually turn their weapons on Western targets.
 
On Tuesday the Islamic Front said it had withdrawn from the military command of the FSA, notionally charged with coordinating the war, and criticized its leadership.
 
While the Islamic Front does not include either of Syria's two al-Qaida-affiliated units - the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - it does include radical Islamists who have coordinated with them.

Difficulty of uniting rebels
 
On Friday, the opposition Syrian National Coalition published statements by an FSA official playing down the Islamic Front's withdrawal and denying that the groups were in disagreement.
 
But the events in Bab al-Hawa, confirmed by activists in the area, underscored the size of the task facing the Western powers as they try to unite rebel groups under FSA command and sideline more hardline groups.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said five rebel fighters had been killed in clashes in Bab al-Hawa, but it was not clear which side they were on.
 
It is difficult for Reuters to independently verify reports from inside Syria because of media restrictions.
 
The Observatory, which has a network of sources across Syria, said fighting also broke out between ISIL and the Nusra Front on Friday in the northeastern city of Raqqa, the largest city to fall under rebel control so far.
 
The fighting started after a unit loyal to the Nusra Front killed a Saudi Arabian ISIL fighter who did not stop at one of the unit's checkpoints, the Observatory said, quoting its sources in the area. There were no reports of casualties.
 
Separately, an air raid killed at least 20 people, including eight children and nine women, in parts of Bezaa in the northern Aleppo province, the Observatory said.
 
Syria's conflict has killed more than 100,000 people since it started in 2011 as a peaceful uprising against four decades of Assad family rule.
 
The weekly death toll often climbs above 1,000, and world powers remain deadlocked over how to resolve the crisis.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid