Clashes erupt between Turkey-backed rebels in Syria’s Afrin province

AFP published photos from Afrin city center that shows Turkey-backed FSA militants looting houses. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also confirmed widespread looting in the city.

Renewed clashes erupted between Turkish-backed rebel factions on Monday in Syria’s Kurdish enclave of Afrin, killing an unknown number of people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

According to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg for Kurdistan 24 on Monday, the clashes broke out between rebels of the al-Jabha al-Shamiyya and al-Mu’tasim division, which resulted in casualties among both parties’ ranks.

“This is not the first time the two rebel factions [have clashed]. On June 27, the two groups fought in the center of Afrin over a military checkpoint near the Kawa roundabout in [the] al-Ashrafieh area inside Afrin city,” said the report. According to SOHR, the clash killed at least one fighter and injured 10 others.

According to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released last week, the security situation in regions under Turkish-backed rebel control remains volatile, with internal fighting among Turkish-backed groups.

“In areas such as Afrin, al-Bab, Azaz, and Jarablus, the security situation remains volatile, with de facto authorities currently unable or failing to act to ensure public order and safety – a situation exacerbated by fighting between various armed groups made worse by the arrival of additional fighters from armed groups from other areas of Syria, including Eastern Ghouta,” the report noted.

Furthermore, the OHCHR report added that the infighting between various armed groups has been exacerbated by the arrival, with the approval of Turkey, of additional fighters from groups such as Failaq ar-Rahman and Jaish al-Islam and their civilian family members from other areas of Syria following “reconciliation agreements” in areas such as Eastern Ghouta or after fleeing a hostile reception by the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib Governorate.

“During the formation of these Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army factions, it was clear that they will not be used to fight the regime, since Turkey abandoned the goal of toppling Assad in 2016,” Elizabeth Tsurkov, a research fellow at Israeli think tank the Forum for Regional Thinking who specializes in Syria, told Kurdistan 24.

“Therefore, these groups attracted people desperate for money or people interested in having power over others. At the same time, due to lack of combat on the fronts, the fighters have too much free time on their hands, and they lack any sense of purpose. They also know that due to Turkish protection, infighting among them cannot be exploited by the regime to make advances and take over their territories,” she concluded.

Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels began a military campaign on Jan. 20 against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), then in control of Afrin, located in Syria’s northwestern region. After months of bombardment that killed hundreds of civilians and displaced tens of thousands more, the enclave was eventually overrun by the Turkish army and FSA forces on March 18. Since then, the Turkish army and the FSA rebel groups have been in charge of the security of the area.

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