Syrian Rebel Commanders Killed in Clashes with Kurdish Fighters

20/11/2012 RUDAW – By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG and ADIB ABDULMAJID – ERBIL, Kurdistan region — Violent clashes broke out on Monday between Syrian rebels and the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG), in Sere Kanie killing dozens.

According to activists, the clashes erupted when rebels of the Jabhat al-Nusra and Ghuraba al-Sham attacked a checkpoint manned by YPG forces. One of the victims of Monday’s clashes was Abid Khalil, 39, a member of the YPG and a graduate of Damascus University’s journalism school. Mesud Perik, a member of the Centre for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria, told Rudaw that those responsible for the attack were extremist Islamist fighters who have infiltrated the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

“All the Syrians should repudiate these fundamentalists and condemn their wrongful and terrible practices towards our people and our uprising,” Perik said.

This the second time clashes occur between Kurdish forces and Syrian revolutionary groups since Arab rebels entered the Kurdish city earlier this month and brought in immediate retaliation from the Syrian air force.The pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency (ANF) reported that Ghurba’ al-Sham and Jahbat al-Nusra opened fire on a YPG checkpoint after they refused entry of Kurdish demonstrators demanding the armed groups to leave Sere Kaniye.

A report by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, “rebel fighters assassinated Abed Khalil, the president of the local Kurdish popular council in the city of Ras al-Ein, a grassroots organization trying to run public services. He died from wounds of sniper shots that targeted him.”

Perik maintained that Monday’s attack was the most violent. He said that the Islamic fighters have alienated local residents by “insulting the Kurds in their areas, attacking churches, and even shops selling alcohol are barbarically targeted by the so-called ‘FSA rebels’”.

“This means they are declaring a war against the Kurds, Christians, Druses, and everyone who doesn’t belong to them and their extremist mentality,” Perik added to Rudaw. reported that Majed Abdullah (Abu Asad) and Waek Haj Rahim—two Syrian Arab rebel leaders—were killed in the clashes. Meanwhile, the Ahrar Brigade, a pro-FSA group posted on Facebook the YPG had killed commander Ali Aksoud from Ghuraba al-Sham. According to the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union, 12 Syrian fighters were killed and 16 wounded and that talks are underway to reach a ceasefire.

The Union claimed that the YPG had shot Majid Abdullah (Abu Asad) who was heading an unarmed delegation to broker a peace deal with the Democratic Union Party (PYD). This was not confirmed by other sources. Dr. Alan Semo, PYD’s foreign representative told Rudaw that in a separate incident, FSA rebels had killed four YPG members in Tal Abayd and beheaded two of them. “These armed groups get support from Deir al-Zour and the armed group of [tribal Sheikh Nawaf] Bashir. While the people of Sere Kaniye get support from the people of Qamishli.” Semo said.

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) –a coalition of 11 political parties –issued a statement regarding Monday’s ‘dangerous’ developments in Sere Kaniye, and condemning the clashes. “We have constantly insisted the importance of preserving the peacefulness of the revolutionary movement in the Kurdish areas, and we still adhere to this position,” the statement read. “The presence of the FSA fighters in Sere Kaniye is pointless and unjustifiable, because its only outcome was the displacement of thousands of residents and a massive destruction of civilian houses and buildings.”

Riad al-Asaad, head of the FSA, told Welati that these clashes only benefit the regime and that “there are some groups trying to exploit the situation in order to blow up relations between Kurds and Arabs.” Al-Asaad denied that the FSA had any links with the Ghurba’ al-Sham rebel group.