Syria rebels, jihadists clash, killing 19

A woman mourns the death of a local official, who was assassinated in a Kurdish-held area during his funeral in Qamishli. (AFP pic)

BEIRUT: Clashes between jihadists and rebels in northern Syria have killed at least 19 people, a war monitor said Tuesday.

The fighting, pitting al-Qaeda-linked coalition Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) against an alliance of rebel groups, flared in western Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

HTS had on Monday accused rebel group Nureddine al-Zinki of killing five of its fighters, and launched an offensive against rebel positions close to the country’s last opposition bastion in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Observatory, said 12 HTS fighters and five from the Zinki group had been killed, along with two civilians. A further 35 people were wounded, he said.

Nureddine al-Zinki is a major player in the National Liberation Front (NLF), a Turkish-backed rebel alliance.

HTS and other jihadist groups dominate more than half of Idlib province, while the NLF holds most of the rest.

The two have regularly clashed over control of territory.

Syria’s conflict flared with anti-government protests in 2011 that were brutally repressed, sparking a complex multi-front civil war involving a myriad of jihadist groups and foreign powers.

It has left more than 360,000 people dead and displaced millions.