Kurdish-Arab Tensions Complicate Anti-Islamic State Fight in Syria

Clashes in Aleppo Arabic YouTube

Fighting has erupted between allegedly allied anti-Islamic State groups in Aleppo, Syria, killing over 20 people in the past two days.

The clashes occurred between the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is “a coalition of the Free Syrian Army (FSA),” along with Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front.

YPG lost eight members while the Islamic rebels lost 15. Nusra Front militants allegedly beheaded two men they “accused of working with Jaish al-Thuwwar.”

It all began on Thursday when the Nusra Front fighters and their allies “attacked posts belonging to Jaish al-Thuwwar, an Arab rebel group allied with Kurdish forces.” Opposition activist Bahaa al-Halaby stated the fighting started “when DFS launched an offensive and captured several village before being pushed back by militants.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the fighting mainly took place in Azaz, a strategically important border town near Turkey captured by terrorists in September 2013. That is significant because Turkey “vocally supported the fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and allowed weapons to cross into Syria on its southern border.” The capture of Azaz allowed easier access to the jihadists. Two months later, CNN revealed in a report Turkey’s secret jihadi route to Syria.

Fighting between the groups appears to have reached near-constant levels in Sheikh Maqsud, which houses mostly Kurds. Liwa Ahrar Suriya, a rebel group based in Aleppo, said the village is a “military zone” and referred to the YPG as the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) based in Turkey. From Middle East Eye:

“The PKK is cooperating with Russia against rebels, trying to cut the supply line to Aleppo,” read the statement, referring to the YPG’s support for Russian airstrikes against “jihadist” groups.

Yasser Abdul Raheem, a leader of Fatah Halab, also claimed that forces from Jaish al-Thuwwar – an FSA faction of the SDF – had killed 20 civilians in Tanab on Saturday.

However, the Kurdish Hawar news agency claimed instead that the killings had been carried out by Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

The Turkish government wants to create a safe zone along the border “to protect civilians and moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.” The YPG believes the “safe zone” is actually to stop them from “advancing along the border.” The Turkish government, the U.S., EU, and NATO all consider the PKK a terrorist organization. When Turkey finally joined the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), evidence shows the government used their resources to bomb the PKK in Iraq, hundreds of miles away from their stated target in Syria.


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