Fierce infighting among Turkish-backed Syrian rebels in Sari Kani
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Two Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups have reportedly engaged in “fierce” clashes in the northeast Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain, also known by the Kurdish name Sari Kani.
The infighting occurred between Suqour al-Shamal and the 20th Division, a group associated with al-Hamza Division, according to the UK-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Both are components of the Turkish-based Syrian National Army, the largest coalition of Syrian rebel groups opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“All [of the clashes] are part of ongoing campaigns against undisciplined groups in the area,” General Yousif Mohammed Abu Khalid of the Syrian National Army told Rudaw English.
The clashes reportedly took place between tribal militiamen of the factions, involving rockets and heavy machine gun fire, and causing “panic” among people there, the SOHR reported.
Sari Kani has been controlled by Turkish-backed factions since October of last year following Operation Peace Spring, a military offensive launched by Ankara to clear the area of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The town now lies in a ‘buffer zone’ under the control of Turkish-backed militias, stretching from Sari Kani to the town of Tel Abyad, which is also known by the Kurdish name Gire Spi.
The new clashes come amid sporadic infighting among the Turkish backed Syrian rebel groups since they seized control of the region from the SDF in October.
It has been reported that Syrian opposition factions often squabble over control of territory, and the spoils of war.
Looting, as well as the seizure or destruction of civilian property have been reported since militias took over the area, particularly targeting minority groups, most notably Yezidis. The area is inhabited predominantly by Arabs and Kurds.
The SOHR reported “violent clashes” with heavy weaponry late last month between Ahrar al-Sharqiya and the al-Mutasim Brigade in several neighbourhoods on Monday evening, resulting in the death of two Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters.
Ahrar al-Sharqiya is known most notably for its suspected involvement in the murder of Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf in northeastern Syria in October 2019.