WASHINGTON - Clashes between two Turkish-backed rebel groups in the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin have left at least two fighters dead and about a dozen wounded, according to reports Sunday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor group that has researchers across Syria, reported that fierce fighting between the al-Majd Legion and al-Sham Legion in Afrin erupted Saturday night following a disagreement over property.
“Our sources have confirmed that the infighting erupted after a dispute over the ownership of a house just outside of Afrin,” Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory, told VOA.
Local news said the disputed house belonged to a Kurdish civilian that armed groups reportedly had seized months ago.
Armed confrontations among Syrian rebel factions have reportedly increased since Turkish military and allied Syrian rebels took control of Afrin after a two-month-long military campaign that ousted the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) from the region in March 2018, rights groups said.
“This is not the first time that such clashes take place over property and revenue-sharing among rebel groups,” the Syrian Observatory added.
Infighting among rebel groups has become a common issue in the region.
“There is almost one occurrence like this one on a daily basis,” said Mohammed Billo, a journalist from Afrin.
“Usually when fighting gets out of control, Turkish military interferes to stop it,” he told VOA.
Some rights groups have also voiced concerns about growing violations against civilians in recent months in Afrin.
“Local sources in Afrin reported at least 110 abuses that appear to amount to instances of arbitrary detention, torture and abductions of civilians by pro-Turkey armed groups,” Amnesty International said in a report released in May.
Since their ouster from Afrin in March 2018, Kurdish fighters affiliated with the YPG have occasionally carried out attacks against Turkish military and Syrian rebel forces in the Kurdish-majority region.
Last week, YPG fighters claimed responsibility for an attack on a Turkish military outpost in Afrin that killed two Turkish soldiers and wounded another.
Ankara views the YPG as part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a three-decade war with Turkish armed forces for greater Kurdish rights in Turkey. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to invade other YPG-held areas in northern Syria, despite a recent agreement with the United States to establish a safe zone along Syria’s border with Turkey.
The two countries have begun joint patrols along parts of the border, but Turkish officials continue their objection over Washington’s support for the YPG, which has been a key U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State terror group in Syria.