Kurdish militia falls out with Free Syria Army

The People’s Protection Committees (YPG), armed wing of Syria’s main Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), joined forces with Syrian rebels last month, helping them overrun the strategic Sheikh Maksud neighborhood on a hilltop north of Aleppo. “We have the same goal as the rebel fighters,” YPG commander Engizek told AFP last week. “It is to seek the ouster of Assad.” But days later, militiamen of PYD—considered to be the Syrian offshoot of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—clashed with Free Syrian Army forces in the Kurdish neighborhood. The internecine fighting started after FSA rebels accused YPG forces of attacking a rebel convoy and otherwise secretly collaborating with the government. “The YPG have been on the government side from the beginning,” said Khalid Alhayani, an FSA brigade commander. “When we entered [the area], we asked YPG if we could use their territory to hit government check points. They would agree but then report to the government our plans.” (Global Post, April 26; Japan Times, April 23)

Fighting meanwhile rages between Syrian insurgents and loyalists in the northern suburbs of Damascus, northern Idlib governate and areas near Syria’s southern and eastern borders. Activist groups in eastern Syria also reported a mysterious air-strike on the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, carried out by a warplane that had flown across the border with Iraq. Some accused Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, whose Shi’ite-dominated government is locked in a deepening conflict with Sunni militants, of ordering the strike. Others said the plane was a Syrian Air Force MiG that had crossed into Iraqi airspace before turning back into Syria for its raid. The United Nations refugee agency announced that the number of Syrian refugees in surrounding countries now exceeds 1.4 million, far more than had been projected months ago. (NYT, April 26)