Syria's Arab-led rebels take swathe of
east but clash with Kurd militia
November 23, 2012
DAMASCUS,— Syria's Arab-led rebels seized new
territory in the eastern Euphrates valley from
government forces on Thursday but ran into
resistance from Kurdish militia on the Turkish
border in a potential new security concern for the
key NATO member.
Rebel fighters captured the Euphrates town of
Mayadeen in a drive up the strategic valley from the
Iraqi border, bringing the largest single swathe of
territory in the country under their control, the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
But farther north, in the battlefield town of Ras
al-Ain on the Turkish border, mainly
jihadist rebel forces were in a
standoff with Kurdish militia with links to Ankara's
longtime foe, Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the
largest such confrontation so far in the 20-month
In the face of the growing turmoil on its southern
border, Turkey has asked its NATO allies to deploy
surface-to-air Patriot missiles to protect its
frontiers, but Russia spoke out strongly on Thursday
against any such move.
Syrian government troops withdrew west towards the
provincial capital and oil hub of Deir Ezzor as the
rebels moved into the strategic town of Mayadeen,
the Syrian Observatory said.
"The area east of the city of Deir Ezzor, on the
Iraqi border, is now the largest area in the entire
country that is out of army control," said the
Observatory's director, Rami Abdel Rahman.
Despite its losses on the battlefield, the
government of President Bashar al-Assad remains in
control of most of the province's oil and gas
fields, the Britain-based watchdog said.
On the Turkish border, hundreds of Kurdish
militiamen massed in the frontier town of Ras al-Ain
in a mounting standoff with mainly jihadist rebels
who had seized much of it from government forces,
the Observatory said.
It was the latest in a string of drives for control
of mainly Kurdish inhabited areas of the northeast
and northwest that neighbouring Turkey fears has
given succour to the rebel PKK it has been fighting
for nearly three decades.
The Turkey-backed rebels of the Free Syrian Army
accuse the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of having
links to the PKK, which has been fighting for
self-rule just across the border in southeastern
Turkey since 1984.
The PYD says its fighters are entirely Syrian but
Washington has backed Ankara in insisting that Syria
will not be allowed to become a rear base for the
PKK as central government control diminishes.
Some 200 fighters from the Al-Qaeda loyalist Al-Nusra
Front and 100 from the allied Ghuraba al-Sham
advanced on Ras al-Ain, backed by three tanks they
had captured from the Syrian army, the Observatory
"Most residents have fled, and the few who remain
are living in fear, in poor humanitarian
conditions," one of them, Abu Mohammed, told AFP.
The Ghuraba al-Sham called in a video posted on the
Internet for Islamist volunteers to flock to Ras
al-Ain for a drive on the provincial capital Hasakeh.
"We of the Ghuraba al-Sham battalion call on the
(mainstream rebel) Free Syrian Army and the
mujahedeen to advance towards Ras al-Ain," an
unidentified rebel commander said in the footage,www.ekurd.net
standing among some 50 fighters.
"And we warn all those who stand in the way of this
revolt... especially the PYD and the PKK, and any
other armed group, against taking any action that
contradicts with the path of the revolution," he
The Russian foreign ministry said that Turkey's
appeal to its NATO allies for Patriot missiles on
its southern border was a "worrying sign."
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday
that the alliance would consider the request for
Patriots "without delay.".
Analysts have expressed fears that Turkey is keen
not only to back the revolt, but also to use the
unrest in Syria to hit back against the PKK.
Thursday's violence across Syria killed at least 124
people -- 45 civilians, another 45 rebels and 34
soldiers -- according to the Observatory, taking the
overall toll since the uprising erupted in March
last year to more than 40,000.
The spread of Syria's civil war has made it
increasingly difficult for civilians to escape the
conflict, and many are afraid to seek medical care,
the head of the International Committee of the Red
"Through the spreading of the fighting, people
lose... escape routes out of the fights," Peter
Maurer told reporters.
Copyright ©, respective author or news agency,
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the
content of news information on this page