Syrian rebels and Kurdish militiamen clash in Aleppo

Saturday 27 October 2012 – GUARDIAN UK  – Eid truce broken again with at least 22 thought dead after alleged incursion by Syrian rebels into neutral Kurdish districts

At least 22 people were killed in clashes between Syrian rebels and Kurdish militia men in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The fighting broke out despite a truce brokered in honour of the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha, which was also broken in other areas of Syria with sporadic bombings and clashes. The clashes occurred after rebels pushed into largely Kurdish and Christian areas that have remained relatively quiet during the three-month battle for the city. Kurds say the rebels had pledged to stay out of their districts. Kurdish groups have for the most part tried to steer a middle course in the conflict between the rebels and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Some figures have allied with the rebels, others with Assad, while others have remained neutral. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 19 rebels and three Kurdish gunmen were killed in the clash that lasted several hours, the group said. A Kurdish official put the death toll at 10 Kurds, but had no figures for the rebels.

Mohieddine Sheik Ali, head of the Kurdish Yekiti party, told the Associated Press that the clashes broke out after rebels entered Ashrafieh, violating “a gentlemen’s agreement” not to go into Kurdish areas in Aleppo. He said there are 100,000 Kurds in Ashrafieh and many in the nearby Sheik Maksoud area. Sheik Ali said tens of thousands of Arabs have also fled to these districts from the violence across Aleppo.

“Disagreements between our brothers in the [rebel] Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Popular Defence Units” led to the clashes, he said. In other violence, the Observatory and the Local Co-ordination Committees reported shelling and shooting on Saturday, mostly in Aleppo, the eastern region of Deir el-Zour, Daraa to the south and suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, mediated a four-day ceasefire that began on Friday to mark the Eid festival. “The ceasefire collapsed nearly three hours after it went into effect,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the observatory. “The only difference is that the fighting is less widespread and the regime has not been using its air force since the ceasefire began.” State-run Syrian TV also reported on Saturday that rebels violated the ceasefire by detonating a car bomb outside an Assyrian Christian church in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, near the border with Iraq. The violence came a day after car bombs and clashes left more than 100 dead.