x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Syria's Kurdish militia calls on Kurds to fight jihadists

Syria's main Kurdish militia yesterday issued a call to arms to all Kurds to fight jihadists in the country, after the assassination of a Kurdish leader, watchdog says.

Black smoke rises from the district of Khaldiyeh in the Syrian city of Homs during fighting between rebel forces and pro-government troops.
Black smoke rises from the district of Khaldiyeh in the Syrian city of Homs during fighting between rebel forces and pro-government troops.

DAMASCUS // Syria's main Kurdish militia yesterday issued a call to arms to all Kurds to fight jihadists in the country, after the assassination of a Kurdish leader, a watchdog said.

The statement follows weeks of confrontations between rebel forces and Kurdish groups in Syria's north, and could set the stage for further clashes.

Kurds argue they support the revolt against president Bashar Al Assad but rebels accuse them of making deals with the government to ensure their security and autonomy during the conflict.

"The Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People called on all those fit to carry weapons to join their ranks, to protect areas under their control from attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters, Al Nusra Front and other battalions," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Prominent Syrian Kurdish politician Issa Hisso was assassinated early yesterday outside his home near the Turkish border when a bomb planted in his car exploded.

Mr Hisso was an opponent of Mr Assad's regime, but he also was speaking against radical Islamic groups, including the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which have gained influence in the opposition movement after leading several battles against the regime.

Meanwhile yesterday, 17 people died in mortar attacks and air raids in two major cities across Syria, according to activists and government officials.

Fighting continued around the central city of Homs, which has been an opposition stronghold since the beginning of the two-year conflict and is now the target of a withering offensive by Mr Assad's forces. Three mortars slammed into a government-held district of Dablan before dawn killing 10 people and wounding 26 others, a government official said. He said many living in the neighbourhood fled there to escape fighting elsewhere in Homs. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations for civil servants.

In northern Syria, regime warplanes hit the town of Andan, killing seven people, including five children, the Observatory said.

Much territory in the north and the north-east along the borders with Turkey and Iraq has been under rebel control since last summer, but in the past months, Assad's troops regrouped and have been battling rebels on multiple fronts, capturing strategic towns near the border with Lebanon and steadily regaining control of territory they previously lost to the opposition, including around the capital, Damascus, the seat of Assad's power.

The Turkey-Syria border has also seen a surge of violence since last week when the Kurdish PYD seized control of the border town of Ras Al Ain. PYD has said it aims to set up an independent council to run Kurdish regions until Syria's civil war ends. Such a move would alarm the Syrian rebels and neighbouring Turkey, both wary of a possible Kurdish state.

*Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France Presse