New front in brutal war: Jihadists kill 31 rebels in northern Syria
BEIRUT - Jihadists killed at least 31 rival rebels in northern Syria as clashes raged on a new front in the country's brutal war, a monitor said Sunday, citing insurgents and medics.
Fighting flared on Friday between rebels and forces loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Al-Qaeda affiliate that moved into Syria amid the armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in late spring last year.
It began when rebels, including Islamists, attacked checkpoints and bases manned by ISIL, which is accused of horrific abuses against other insurgents, activists and civilians in areas where they operate.
ISIL has also been accused of seeking hegemony by taking key roads and checkpoints from its rivals, and some Assad opponents have even accused it of serving regime interests.
Near Tal Rifaat, a village in the northern province of Aleppo, at least 10 rebels were killed Saturday when ISIL attacked their vehicles, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In nearby Hreitan, five rebels were killed Saturday in an ISIL car bombing, the Britain-based Observatory said, citing rebels and medical sources on the ground.
Liwa al-Tawhid, a brigade in the massive Islamic Front rebel alliance, said on its Facebook page that its members were the target of the car bomb attack.
Fighting has also raged in Aleppo city.
The Observatory also cited reports of ISIL fighters laying down their arms and withdrawing from some areas including Daret Izza, without giving further details.
In Atareb, also in Aleppo province, rebels raised the green, white, black and red flag of the opposition, and brought down the black and white flag flown by ISIL.
In Idlib in the northwest, where there has been major fighting between the rebels and ISIL, four rebels were killed in an ISIL ambush near Jabal al-Zawiya, and ISIL executed five others in the town of Harem.
Scores of jihadists have been killed or captured by rebels since Friday.
On Sunday, clashes erupted in new provinces, including the town of Tabqa in Raqa on the northern border with Turkey, where ISIL is extremely powerful.
In Kafr Zeita in central Hama, ISIL killed seven rebels after mainstream insurgents told the jihadists to hand over their weapons, the Observatory said.
The Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the nascent Army of Mujahideen -- rebel alliances -- are all battling ISIL forces.
"What's happening is that the ranks of the revolution are being cleaned up," said a member of the Islamic Front, a huge rebel alliance grouping thousands of fighters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
On Saturday, ISIL distributed an audio statement warning the rebels to stop pressuring the jihadists, or else they would withdraw from the front lines in Aleppo city and let in Assad's forces.
ISIL also accused its rivals of waging a "media war" against it, and of "stabbing (it) in the back."
In a separate development, 10 regime troops were shot dead by Al-Nusra Front, another jihadist group, days after they were captured in Al-Kindi hospital, which the army had turned into a base.
In a reflection of the complexities of Syria's war, Al-Nusra has also been involved in some of the fighting against ISIL, despite both groups having their roots in Al-Qaeda in Iraq.