Syria: sectarian, ethnic fighting spreads
A rocket strike near an important Shi'ite shrine in the southern suburbs of Damascus killed one of its custodians July 19. The gold-domed Bibi Zainab shrine, said to hold the remains of the daughter of Shia founder Imam Ali and ground-daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, is now being protected by hundreds of volunteer Shi'ite fighters from Iraq and Hezbollah troops. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened "grave retribution" if any harm befalls the shrine. (Reuters, July 20) Shi'ites held mass rallies in Islamabad, Karachi and other Pakistani cities against the attack on the shrine. (GeoTV, INP, July 12)
Escalating clashes between Islamist rebel forces and Kurdish militias were reported in Syria's north over the weekend. The new round of fighting broke out in Tel Abyad, a border town near Turkey in rebel-held Raqqa province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes began after Kurdish militias in the area discovered Islamist fighters trying to rig one of their bases with explosives. The Kurds retaliated by abducting several fighters, including a leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (AKA Nusra Front), the local al-Qaeda-affiliate. (Reuters, July 20)
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