Dozens of Syrian rebels and Kurds killed in clashes

Reuters reports: A surge of clashes in Syria’s oil-producing northeast has killed dozens of rebels and Kurdish fighters in the past two days, activists said on Thursday, in fighting that highlights a struggle for territory and resources.

Fighters from Syria’s ethnic Kurdish minority – roughly 10 percent of the 23-million-strong population – have carved out an increasingly autonomous region near the frontiers with Iraq and Turkey.

Syrian Kurdish militants, particularly the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), have repeatedly clashed with opposition fighters led by al Qaeda-linked units in the region as government forces retreated over the past year.

The fighting has underlined the growing complexity of Syria’s conflict which started with largely peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad and degenerated into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

Divisions in Syria along ethnic and sectarian lines – as well as the rise of radical Islamist units that have come to dominate the rebel movement – have made Western powers including the United States more hesitant to get directly involved in the 2-1/2-year-old uprising.

The Kurdish PYD’s military wing blamed al Qaeda-linked groups for the latest violence, saying fighters from the Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked a string of Kurdish villages in Hasaka province.

Heavy artillery and tanks were used, it said. [Continue reading…]

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