The Free Syrian Army Tuesday called on their “Kurdish brothers” to join rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while promising an end to injustices against Kurds in a future democratic Syria as fighting erupted between Syrian forces and the armed opposition.
“The Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army ... appeals to our Kurdish brothers, soldiers and civilians, and invites them to join the ranks of the FSA inside the country,” the group’s spokesman Colonel Kassem Saadeddine said in an online video.
“Let us work together to transform the FSA into an alternative national military institution to the army of the ruling gang,” Saadeddine added.
The Syrian opposition, particularly its political wing in exile, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has been criticized for the predominance of Islamists in key posts and for not being representative of Syria’s diverse religious and ethnic groups.
Kurdish activist Abdel Basset Sayda was named on June 10 to lead the SNC, partly in a bid to gain the confidence of Syria’s minorities. Kurds represent around nine percent of Syria’s 23 million population.
The FSA, the country’s main armed resistance force, is increasingly gaining ground, stepping up its attacks on government troops and expanding areas in Syria under its control.
Their statement on Tuesday also emphasized that Kurds have, and will always be, “partners” working “hand-in-hand to build the country’s future and end discrimination for all Syrians, whatever their ethnic or religious background.”
The FSA’s appeal comes as Syrian Kurds of all persuasions, from soldiers who do not want to kill their countrymen to those seeking to escape the violence, are seeking refuge across the border in Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan region.
The statement from the FSA came as Syrian troops reportedly pounded and raided several rebel bastions across the country and clashes erupted in Homs early on Tuesday, as two pipelines were attacked in the country’s east and north, a watchdog said.
Syrian forces clashed with armed rebels before dawn Tuesday in Homs where a soldier was killed amid “intermittent shelling” of several neighborhoods of the central city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Clashes took place this morning between regime forces and rebels in the vicinity of the Baba Amro neighborhood which has been under regime control since last March,” the Observatory said.
“Columns of black smoke were seen rising from the area,” the Britain-based monitoring group said.
The Local Coordination Committees, made up of anti-regime activists on the ground, reported that regime troops bombarded the Homs province town of Rastan with “fierce and continuous shelling since dawn.”
Rastan residents are facing food shortages and electricity is “completely cut off,” the LCC said.
Meanwhile, in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, regime forces killed three civilians during raids in the Al-Jura neighborhood, the watchdog reported.
Elsewhere in the Deir Ezzor province, the oil hub of Syria, a pipeline was bombed, the watchdog said. An oil pipeline in Homs province was also attacked, it said but gave no further information.
In the northern city of Aleppo, one civilian was shot dead during the night as he participated in a demonstration, the Observatory said. Regime forces also carried out raids and arrests in Syria’s second city.
And in the northwest province of Idlib, violent clashes broke out between regime forces and rebels in a village on the Syrian-Turkish border. Local activists said government troops used artillery in the fighting.
The latest violence comes after dozens were killed on Monday, while according to the Observatory more than 14,400 people have died since the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March 2011.
The Observatory says most of the dead are civilians, but it counts rebel fighters who are not deserters from the army as civilians.