BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian rebels advanced on the northern town of Khan al-Assal on Saturday, activists said, and appeared close to seizing one of the last towns in western part of Aleppo province still held by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The army has been attempting a slow build-up of troops around the province in order to retake Aleppo city, once Syria’s biggest commercial hub. So far Assad’s push has been dogged by rebel counter-attacks, although a string of government victories elsewhere in Syria has shifted the battlefield tide in his favor after more than two years of bloodshed.
BEIRUT/ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – A Syrian Kurdish group said on Friday it aims to set up an independent council to run Kurdish regions until Syria’s civil war has ended, a move likely to alarm Syrian rebels and neighboring Turkey, both wary of a possible Kurdish state.
Kurdish militias have seized control of districts in northern Syria in the past year since President Bashar al-Assad’s forces focused elsewhere, and are now seeking to consolidate those gains despite deep divisions in their ranks.
BEIRUT/ANKARA (Reuters) – Kurdish fighters have seized control of a Syrian town on the border with Turkey and are battling Islamist rebel groups linked to al Qaeda for control of oilfields in the northeast of the country.
The fighting is further evidence that the conflict between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces that has engulfed Syria since early 2011 has splintered into turf wars that have little to do with ousting him.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A convoy carrying members of the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah was hit by a roadside bomb near the Syrian border on Tuesday that killed one official and wounded two, security sources said.
The victims were Hezbollah security officials travelling in a convoy of two vehicles heading towards Syria. A barrage of gunfire hit the convoy after the blast, security sources said.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian rebels poured reinforcements into a key Damascus suburb on Tuesday in an attempt to push back government troops who have renewed their campaign to secure the capital and build on battlefield gains elsewhere in the country.
Fighting centered on Qaboun, a rebel-held district where Syrian troops backed by tanks and artillery had made inroads on Monday as part of efforts to consolidate control over Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad’s power base.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shot dead at least six mediators sent to try to reconcile warring sectarian groups in the province of Homs, where people on opposing sides in Syria’s war had until now been able to coexist, residents said on Tuesday.
The negotiators were from the National Reconciliation Committee, which the government set up to foster talks in a two-year conflict that has taken more than 100,000 lives.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian rebels have intensified their blockade of government-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, where residents now face severe food shortages, opposition activists said on Tuesday.
Many activists condemn the tactic, aimed at weakening the supply routes of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, arguing that it indiscriminately punishes more than 2 million people living in the western part of the city still held by the army.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s Islamist rebels say the downfall of Egypt’s popularly elected Muslim Brotherhood president has proven that Western nations pushing for democracy will never accept them, and reinforced the view of radicals that a violent power grab is their only resort.
Radical Islamist groups, some of them linked to al Qaeda, have lately been in the ascendancy in Syria’s two-year conflict as the death toll rises above 100,000.
ISTANBUL/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s fractious opposition elected a new leader on Saturday but rebel groups were reported to be fighting among themselves in a sign of growing divisions on the ground between factions trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian National Coalition chose Ahmad Jarba as its president after a close runoff vote that reinforced the influence of Saudi Arabia over a perpetually divided opposition movement that has struggled to convince its Western and Arab allies that its fighters are ready to be given sophisticated foreign weaponry.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Rebels clashed with an opposition unit linked to al Qaeda in northern Syria, activists said on Saturday, in a deadly battle that signals growing divisions among rebel groups and rising tensions between locals and more radical Islamist factions.
The rebel infighting comes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have made gains on the battlefield and drawn comfort from the downfall this week of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which under ousted President Mohamed Mursi had thrown its weight behind the Syrian opposition.