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Kurdish commander: Idlib rebels next target after IS

The YPG makes up the bulk of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 March, 2017

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Kurdish fighters could attack Syrian rebels after they recapture the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group, a Kurdish commander has warned.

Kurdish fighters could attack Syrian rebels after they recapture the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group, a Kurdish commander has warned.

General Commander Sipan Hemo of the Kurdish People's Protection Units [YPG] said on Wednesday that his forces could head to rebel-held Idlib "to fight against the terrorists".

"We are committed to eradicating the terrorist threat in every part of Syria," Hemo told the Netherlands-based Kom News.

"If need be, we are prepared to go to Idlib to support the fight against the terrorists in the city," he added, referring to anti-Assad rebels.

Idlib - the largest remaining rebel bastion - is controlled by an increasingly tense alliance of rebels and Islamist factions, including hardline ones.

Idlib city became the second provincial capital to fall from government control when it was captured in March 2015 by the Army of Conquest, an alliance led by former al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, later known as Fateh al-Sham.

The commander's comments come after the head of the Syrian opposition's delegation in the Geneva peace talks, Assad al-Zubi, said this week that the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] were a terrorist organisation.

"The SDF is a terrorist group similar to the Assad regime because it has killed innocent people in Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish villages," Zubi told Press 23.

The rebel leader said that Kurdish demands for an autonomous federal state were "Israeli demands", adding that the idea of dividing Syria was "impossible".

The YPG makes up the bulk of the SDF, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, which is waging an offensive in northern Syria to encircle IS' Syrian bastion of Raqqa.

The SDF receives equipment, weapons and air support from the US-led coalition, and it is backed by several hundred Western special operations forces in an advisory role.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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