27 killed in clashes as hardline rebels sweep across northern Syria



Hardline rebel fighters in northern Syria have clawed territory away from their Turkey-backed rivals this week in clashes that have left more than two dozen dead, the factions and a war monitor said on Sunday.

Tensions erupted earlier this month between a rebel group backed by Turkey and more hardline fighters, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, according to statements by the clashing groups.

HTS and its allies captured the town of Afrin, which Turkish-backed forces seized from Kurdish factions in 2018, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor.

The Observatory said HTS also seized a string of nearby villages and towns in the northern province of Aleppo this week from the Turkish-backed Third Corps. The resulting fighting killed 19 fighters and eight civilians, including children, according to the Observatory.

Hisham Iskef, a spokesperson for the Third Corps, said that negotiations to end the fighting had fallen apart and the clashes were intensifying.

Local officials in the town of Azaz called for residents to stand against HTS while a similar statement from the town of Al-Bab asked Turkey and top Syrian opposition figures to step in and keep the peace.

Syria has been mired in conflict since protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 were met with a crackdown, leading to war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in regional and global powers. The coun-try has since been carved up into various zones of influence, with government troops regaining most of the country with the help of their allies Iran and Russia.—Reuters


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