Op­po­si­tion infighting in Syria’s Idlib kills 14

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Infighting be­tween two of the most pow­er­ful fac­tions in Syria’s op­po­si­tion-held Idlib prov­ince has killed at least 14 peo­ple in the past 24 hours, a mon­i­tor said yes­ter­day. The fight­ing in­volves the ji­hadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by a former Al-Qaeda af­fil­i­ate, against one­time ally Ahrar al-Sham, a pow­er­ful Is­lamist rebel group. The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said fight­ers from the two sides were en­gaged in clashes across the prov­ince in north­west Syria that killed 11 fight­ers and three civil­ians in the last 24 hours.

“These are the most vi­o­lent and wide­spread clashes that have taken place be­tween Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir alSham,” Ob­ser­va­tory di­rec­tor Rami Ab­del Rah­man said. “The clashes are on­go­ing across the en­tire prov­ince, with ter­ri­tory chang­ing hands... It’s an ex­is­ten­tial bat­tle,” he added. An AFP cor­re­spon­dent in the prov­ince also re­ported fight­ing in sev­eral ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly in the town of Sar­mada and around the towns of Saraqeb and AlDana. He said both sides had set up mul­ti­ple check­points in­side and around pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Idlib city.

The two groups have clashed be­fore, de­spite hav­ing pre­vi­ously formed the back­bone of the al­liance that cap­tured most of Idlib in early 2015. The lat­est con­flict arises partly out of a dis­pute over Ahrar al-Sham’s de­sire to fly the flag of the Syr­ian up­ris­ing in Idlib city, the Ob­ser­va­tory and AFP’s cor­re­spon­dent said. Idlib city was only the sec­ond pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal to fall from gov­ern­ment con­trol, and the prov­ince is one of the last re­main­ing strongholds of the rebels. —AFP

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