The Syrian opposition is on the verge of its own civil war after clashes broke out Wednesday between Syrian rebels affiliated with al-Qaeda and others affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the north and east of the country.
The al-Qaeda group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overran
the northern border city of Azaz, which is 3 miles from a key official border crossing with Turkey.
Fighters from Liwa al-Tawhid — a powerful rebel group which is linked to the FSA but has good relations with al Qaeda — arrived from Aleppo to attempt to mediate the dispute. It sounds like negotiations failed.
Jenan Moussa, a reporter for Dubai-based Al Aan TV who is at the border, reports that fighting has started. Moussa and Al Jazeera reporter Anita McNaught report
that Liwa al-Tawhid, the largest rebel group in Aleppo, is now fighting ISIS on the side of the FSA.
If true that Liwa’ al-Tawhid is fighting with FSA battalions against ISIS that is quite significant.
— Aaron Y. Zelin (@azelin) September 19, 2013
Last month ISIS pushed the FSA’s Ahfad al-Rasoul brigades out of Raqqa with attacks including suicide car bombs. And last week ISIS began an operation called “The Repudiation of Malignity” around Syria’s largest city of Aleppo.
On Wednesday ISIS and FSA rebels battled in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. And it seems that after Azaz, the FSA and less-extreme rebel groups are pushing back.
“There’s been a real shift in focus [among Syrians in the north],” a Western official working with the opposition told The Wall Street Journal. “A sense of ‘We can’t get rid of the regime without getting rid of [ISIS] first.'”
This could escalate quickly. We’ll keep this post updated.
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