Report: FSA brigades attack Serê Kaniyê
A two week long battle has been raging in Rojava, Syria for control of the Kurdish city of Serê Kaniyê, right on the Turkish-Syrian border. Two Islamist brigades, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ghuraba al-Sham, affiliated with the Free Syrian Army have attempted to lay siege to Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ayn in Arabic) for over a week. They are being met by fierce resistance by the Kurdish Popular Protection Force, the YPG, with many Kurdish youth stepping up to defend the city. Kurdish civilians and the YPG have reported a wide range of abuses by the FSA-affiliated brigades. There are reports of the brigades expelling civilians from their homes, targeting unarmed civilian neighborhoods, and threatening infrastructure such as bridges and public buildings in Kurdish towns. Under the pretense of controlling regime targets, the FSA-affiliated militants have attacked government and police buildings. On 28 January Kurdish forces were able to recapture several militant strongholds.
According to a timeline published on supportkurds.org, tensions have been high between Kurds and Arab militants since previous clashes in November. The Turkish government has kept its borders completely porous to the movement of FSA fighters and weapons, and have brought back injured FSA fighters to be treated in Turkish hospitals. Turkey’s actions clearly betray its true intentions of fueling a Kurdish-Arab conflict in Syria rather than simply supporting the Syrian revolution against the Assad regime.
As of 29 January, there have been reports that some FSA fighters have begun to surrender to YPG forces, giving up their weapons, although no formal truce has been declared. However, on the evening of 28 January, there were also reports that the fighting had intensified, with militants attacking Serê Kaniyê from the Turkish border.
The recent battle has taken a heavy toll, mainly on the FSA affiliated militants, but also from YPG forces and from civilians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported three civilians killed on 21 January, including two children. There are also reports of two sisters, Helin and Berivan Şêxmûs, who were killed after an FSA strike on a Kurdish neighborhood on 27 January. SOHR also reported 28 casualties from the FSA and 5 casualties from the YPG, but exact numbers are difficult to obtain.
No formal Syrian opposition group has explicitly condemned the attack, which the Alliance for Kurdish Rights urges them to do.