News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(ANF) Fighting between the Islamic State or Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda affiliate, and local opposition groups in the north of Syria is growing – say two articles (here and here) posted on the ANF website today. According to reports, at least 247 people have been killed since clashes broke out on Friday. The fighting comes just weeks before the Geneva-II peace talks, scheduled for January 22nd.
The fighting began when a group of fighters identifying themselves only as ‘rebels’ attacked the ISIS in Cebel Cewiya on Friday, killing 34 ISIS fighters. Following the outbreak of clashes, the ISIS is reported to have executed around 50 civilian prisoners – including four news reporters from Shaza el-Hurriye Television, as well as number aid workers, some of whom were women. The ISIS had earlier threatened to kill over 100 civilian prisoners in their custody.
In Aleppo, the ISIS is reported to have captured the headquarters of Syrian Opposition’s 46th Brigade. Haci Bekir, an influential ISIS commander, is said to have been killed in the fighting.
The newly formed Islamic Front – which includes the Mujahid Army and the Front of Revolutionaries – have been taken the lead in the fight against the ISIS. The Islamic Front has largely taken the place of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army in the aftermath of the latter’s gradual collapse over the past year.
ISIS attacks Kurdish neighborhood in Rakka
Units of the ISIS are also reported to have launched an assault on a Kurdish neighborhood in the Tegba district of Rakka. According to local sources ISIS fighters killed and kidnapped a number of Kurdish civilians. Following the attack fighting broke out between local Kurds and al-Qaeda fighters. The fighting is reported to be on-going.
The al-Nusra Front calls for a cease-fire
Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani, the leader of the al-Nusra Front, has called for a cease-fire between the ISIS and the Syrian opposition. Al-Jawlani is reported to have the called the fighting “an emergency” on his Twitter page, and called for a “committee based on Sharia and formed from all the important brigades to provide for a cease-fire, an exchange of prisoners and to put the fight against the regime first.”
According to the Human Rights Observatory, at least 274 people have been killed over the past five days of fighting. Of these 129 were members of the opposition, 99 members of al-Qaeda, and 46 civilians.
Al-Jawlani blamed the fighting, at least in part, on the policies of the ISIS. Although both al-Nusra and the ISIS swear loyalty to al-Qaeda, their leadership is frequently at odds and there have been moments of tension in the past. The ISIS was formed in Iraq in 2006 in the aftermath of the US invasion. The al-Nusra front was formed in 2012 after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War.
The al-Nusra leader went on to warn that “if the fighting is not solved, there is a great risk that the jihadist front formed from foreign and local fighters would lose. The regime, which is close to collapse, would be able to take a new breath and the West and the Rafidin (Shias and Alawites) would win a great victory.”