Syr­ian Rebel Attack on Kur­dish City Points End of Peace Pact

QAMISHLI, Syria — Rebels bat­tled Syr­ian troops in the east­ern bor­der city of Qamishli on Fri­day, a mon­i­tor­ing group opposed to Pres­i­dent Bashar al-​Assad said, end­ing a de facto truce in the mainly Chris­t­ian and Kur­dish area.

Qamishli, on the bor­der with Turkey and close to Iraq, has remained peace­ful dur­ing a two-​year upris­ing against Assad because local Kurds agreed with mostly Arab rebels to avoid clashes within city lim­its, said the British-​based Syr­ian Obser­va­tory for Human Rights.

 

Videos posted on the Inter­net on Fri­day showed pickup trucks and dozens of rebels prepar­ing an attack on Qamishli’s domes­tic air­port and smoke ris­ing from the air­port grounds.

The city of around 200,000 is also home to thou­sands of Syr­i­ans who have fled other parts of the coun­try, the Obser­va­tory said. Inhab­i­tants must now wait and see whether Assad retal­i­ates for rebel attacks by using war planes, as he has done in other major cities.

The Obser­va­tory said the advance includes rebels of the Free Syr­ian Army and the hard-​line Islamist Nusra Front, who have clashed in the past with Chris­tians and Kurds the oppo­si­tion has tried to per­suade to aban­don Assad.

“We are not sure why they are attack­ing today,” said Obser­va­tory head Rami Abdel­rah­man. “Maybe the agree­ment broke down,” he said, adding that the gov­ern­ment and Kur­dish mili­tia con­trol dif­fer­ent areas of Qamishli.

In Jan­u­ary, Kur­dish mil­i­tants and rebels fought bat­tles with each other for weeks after Assad’s forces retreated from Ras al-​Ain, a north­ern bor­der post with Turkey, embar­rass­ing an oppo­si­tion move­ment that said it speaks for all Syrians.

More than 70,000 peo­ple have been killed in Syria’s war, accord­ing to the United Nations. March was the conflict’s blood­i­est month yet, with more than 6,000 peo­ple killed, a third of them civil­ians, accord­ing to the Observatory.

Protests against the Assad family’s four-​decade rule broke out in Qamishli in April 2011, Kur­dish activists said at the time. Kurds, around 10 per­cent of Syria’s pop­u­la­tion, faced dis­crim­i­na­tion and harass­ment under Assad and his father, Hafez.

But after a crack­down by Assad’s forces on peace­ful demon­stra­tions and the sub­se­quent arm­ing of the oppo­si­tion, many of Syria’s Kurds dis­trust the rebels and there have been sec­tar­ian clashes over the past few months across the country.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment has given Kur­dish mili­tia auton­omy over some areas on the con­di­tion rebels are kept out.

 

Source: Reuters

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