News / Middle East

Syrian Rebel Alliance Battles al-Qaida-linked Fighters

Fighters of al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant carry their weapons during a parade at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey, Jan. 2, 2014.
Fighters of al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant carry their weapons during a parade at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey, Jan. 2, 2014.
An alliance of Islamist and other rebel factions battled fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) across north-western Syria on Saturday in apparently coordinated strikes against the powerful al-Qaida-linked group.
Activists said dozens of fighters had been killed in the clashes, which started on Friday and may have been provoked by increasing resentment against the radical ISIL fighters, many of them foreign jihadis.
One group of fighters battling the ISIL was the newly formed Mujahideen Army, an alliance of eight brigades who accused the al-Qaida affiliate of hijacking their struggle to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
It said ISIL fighters were “undermining stability and security in liberated areas” through theft, kidnapping and trying to impose their own brand of Islam, and vowed to fight them until ISIL was disbanded or driven out of Syria.
The infighting amongst Assad's opponents has strengthened his hand ahead of planned peace talks in Geneva on Jan. 22. Assad, backed by Shi'ite fighters from Iraq and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, has pushed back rebels around Damascus and in central Syria, and faces little pressure to make concessions.
Fighters from the Islamic Front, made up of several Islamist brigades which have been close with ISIL in the past, were engaged in heavy clashes with the group in northern Aleppo province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory, a monitoring group based in Britain, said at least 60 people had been killed in fighting which it described as a major challenge to ISIL's control in Aleppo and neighboring Idlib province.
The ISIL and another al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front, together with Islamist fighters from the Islamic Front, have eclipsed the Free Syrian Army which Western powers had hoped to build into a moderate force capable of toppling Assad.
That impotence was highlighted in November when the FSA's military command lost control of a military base and main weapons depot close to the Turkish border.
Battling Qaida 'oppression'
Assad's main political opponents in exile, the National Coalition, sought to portray Saturday's clashes as a counter assault by the FSA against ISIL's “authoritarian oppression”
“The Syrian people clearly have rejected al-Qaida's attempts to establish a presence in the liberated territories,” coalition member Monzer Akbik said. “The solution to fighting extremism in Syria is to strengthen the Free Syrian Army at this critical juncture”.
The coalition said the fighting erupted after ISIL gunmen fired into a crowd of civilians in the Aleppo village of Kafr Takharim who were commemorating the death in ISIL custody of a prominent Syrian doctor and rebel commander, Hussein Suleiman.
Suleiman's body was handed over by ISIL on Tuesday as part of a prisoner swap between rival rebel forces. Video footage of his corpse showed signs of beating and one ear was cut off.
Several demonstrations were held across Aleppo to mark Suleiman's death on Friday. Some brought together several hundred protesters, a dim echo of the many thousands who took to the streets for anti-Assad protests in the early months of the uprising, before it turned into armed insurgency and civil war.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in nearly three years of conflict. More than two million refugees have fled abroad and another 6.5 million are internally displaced within the country of 23 million, the United Nations says.
The war pits Sunni rebels against forces loyal to Assad, from the Alawite faith which is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, and has divided the Middle East along sectarian lines, with Sunni states such as Turkey and the Gulf monarchies backing the rebels, and Shi'ite Iran and Hezbollah supporting Assad.
Western reluctance to intervene militarily in the conflict - in contrast to the rapid NATO involvement in Libya in 2011 - has been heightened by concerns about the growth of al-Qaida-linked Sunni Muslim groups in rebel areas of north and eastern Syria.
Their spread inside Syria has been matched across the border in western Iraq, where ISIL has tightened its grip in the Sunni Muslim province of Anbar.

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Comment Sorting
by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
January 05, 2014 9:40 PM
The reason of non-interference in Syria by the Obama administration was that the US cannot identify who is al-Qaida and terrorists and who are the other freedom fighters. Now the al-Qaeda and the State in Islam and Lavent (ISIL) are fighting against Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Mujahideen Army. It is the division of the opposition to Bashar al Assad that the US was waiting for. But President Obama is still blind folded to the realities on the ground in Syria and could not distinquish the al Qaida and terrorists from the other freedom fighters in Syria to provide the military supplies to the freedom fighters. But Saudi Arabia and Qatar can distinguish whom to support against Bashar al Assad. President Obama should check with the Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply arms to the rightful freedom fighters against Bashar al Assad. If non-interference in the internal affairs of a state, is the foreign policy of the US, the US should have refrained from military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The pick and choose foreign policy of intervention of the US in the internal affairs of troubled countries makes the foreign policy of the US non existent.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
January 04, 2014 8:38 PM
US does not want to enter in the Syrian conflict and resorted to the technicality of the UN Security Council approval, even though it was a foregone conclusion that Russia and China will not approve the the UN resolutions. The EU and NATO froze into inaction without the US leadership, resulting in the death of more than 100,000 Syrian citizens, more than 2 million refugees and more than one fourth of the people in the country becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs). The military intervention by the US, EU and NATO might have been cheaper than taking care of all the refugees and IDPs indefinitely for years to come.
In Response

by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet - Africa
January 05, 2014 4:14 AM
Davis K. Thanjan, No military intervention would have been cheaper! No military intervention was ever cheaper in Iraq, Afghanistan nor Libya! The US, EU and NATO seek after their selfish interests neglecting the fact that the people revolting and rebeling in these Arab nations have a different agenda. They do not believe in so called Democracy. Democracy is considered a blasphemous system of government by these rebels. If military intervention is cheaper, why the US larmenting over the invasion made in Iraq... ? Seing the mess in Iraq, the US shamefully withdrew, Oooh! how the mighty US has fallen in Iraq and its weapons of warfare perished! Tell the US and its EU and NATO allies to learn their lessons and stop putting problems all over the world. What is Democracy and for whom is Democracy meant for?

by: ahmad hussein annan from: Syria
January 04, 2014 8:38 PM
In fact the Syrian rebels have been for months trying to reach an agreement with the so called ISiL but in vein. the attempt to work together and share same goals has totally failed.The USA , EU and the UN seem to have been pushing forward toward a global anti Terror war on Syrian Ground . The Price is however Syrian Blood . Two main streams are fighting : Islamist with ambiguous agenda and a so called free Army loyal to foreign powers singing a very strange song different from that the revolution originally aimed الثورة السروية تحولت عن مسارها وصار من مهامها خوض حرب دولية على الإرهاب على حساب الشعب السوري والثمن كالعادة دم الأطفال والشبان أمل الأمة في غد مشرق عقدت إسرائل العزم على قتله

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