Syrian rebels arm Palestinians against Assad

Reuters reports: Syrian rebels said on Wednesday they had begun arming sympathetic Palestinians to fight a pro-Assad faction in a Palestinian enclave in Damascus – a move which could fuel spiraling intra-Palestinian violence.

Two rebel commanders told Reuters they expected their Palestinian allies to fight the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) which dominates the Yarmouk enclave – a one-time refugee camp turned sprawl of apartment blocks which is run by the Palestinians themselves.

“We’ve been arming Palestinians who are willing to fight…We have formed the Liwa al-Asifah (the Storm Brigade)which is made up of Palestinian fighters only,” a rebel commander from the Suqour al-Golan (Golan Falcons) brigade said.

“Its task is to be in charge of the Yarmouk camp. We all support it and back it,” he told Reuters.

Earlier, AFP reported: Fierce clashes broke out before dawn Tuesday in a major Palestinian refugee camp south of Syria’s capital, pitting rebels against troops backed by pro-regime Palestinian fighters, activists and a watchdog said.

The fresh violence came after the feast of Eid al-Adha came to a close on Monday, with 560 people, including 235 civilians, reported killed during a failed ceasefire attempt over the four-day Muslim holiday.

“Clashes broke out overnight in al-Hajar al-Aswad district between rebels and the army, spreading into the adjacent Yarmuk Palestinian camp. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command joined on the side of the army,” the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, Rami Abdul Rahman, told AFP.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports: After a week of clashes between anti-government rebels and Kurdish militants in Syria’s Aleppo province, the two sides are observing a tenuous truce.

It is a war within a war which neither side wants.

“We want to fight the regime and instead we are fighting a new front that we don’t need or have time for,” said a fighter of the rebel Free Syria Army, warming himself over a fire on a on a mountain overlooking olive groves and stone villages.

“We should be in Aleppo fighting, instead we are camping.”

The situation exemplifies the tangle of alliances, loyalties and rivalries – local and international – complicating the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The FSA counts on the backing of Turkey, which gives it sanctuary over its border and is in the forefront of the diplomatic campaign against Assad.

The Syrian Kurdish militants are allied to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which is locked in a long struggle against the Turkish army to carve out an autonomous Kurdish region in southeast Turkey.

The Syrian Kurds have maintained their own unaligned militias and administer Kurdish areas in Aleppo province – scene of heavy fighting in the civil war. They are believed to be cutting deals with both the government and the opposition in order to maintain their autonomy.

The side conflict risks weakening the mostly-Arab rebels fighting Assad’s better-armed forces.

Dozens of rebels and Kurdish fighters of the separatist Democratic Union Party (PYD) were killed in the past week in clashes that began in Aleppo city and have now spread to the countryside, just a few kilometers away from Turkey.

On the mountain dividing rebel-held areas from Kurdish towns to the northwest of Aleppo city, heavy clashes raged for days.

“We are not against all Kurdish groups, but these PKK-linked groups are helping the regime by attacking us, we had no choice but to act,” says Mohammed Hamadeh, head of a rebel unit on the mountain.

The Associated Press reports: China on Thursday called for a phased-in cease-fire and negotiations on a gradual political transition to end the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.

A four-point proposal issued by the Foreign Ministry stopped short of calling for the ouster of President Bashar Assad and omitted mention of any measures to compel compliance. Alongside Russia, China has steadfastly blocked any outside intervention that could force Assad from power, much to the consternation of the U.S. and other countries seeking a swift end to the 19-month-old conflict, which has killed more than 35,000 people.

The proposal called on the international community to support the work of the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and other mediation efforts. Assistance should be provided to refugees, but humanitarian work should not be politicized or militarized, it said.

The ministry’s proposal was an elaboration of remarks made Wednesday by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to Brahimi during a meeting in Beijing, and echoed China’s position since the start of the conflict, ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.

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