Thousands flee jihadist clashes in Syria

A member of the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra fires during clashes with Syrian forces in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus April 8, 2014. (Reuters)

Fierce clashes between rival jihadist groups have forced more than 100,000 civilians to flee the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, Agence France-Presse reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying on Saturday.

The clashes come after fighting between al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front and the rival Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had killed 230 militants in the last 10 days, the British-based monitoring group said.

Of those killed, 146 were members of al-Nusra and other Islamist brigades, including some who were executed by ISIS.

The clashes between the two groups in the oil-rich province began at the end of April and come after a wider backlash against ISIS that started in January.

ISIS, which grew from al-Qaeda’s Iraq branch, has been the target of a joint campaign by moderate and Islamist rebels as well as al-Nusra since early January.

The campaign has pushed it out of much of Aleppo and Idlib provinces, though it has strengthened its presence in the provincial capital of Raqa province.

ISIS was initially welcomed by some of the Syrian opposition, but its abuses of civilians and rebel forces sparked the backlash that begin this year.

In February, ISIS withdrew from most of Deir Ezzor under pressure, but in recent weeks it has advanced once again, the Observatory said, regaining territory in the west of the province.

Jihadists cut water supplies

Meanwhile, residents of Syria’s second city Aleppo have been without water for a week because jihadists have cut supplies into rebel and regime-held areas, the monitoring group said Sunday.

The Observatory said al-Nusra Front had cut water supplies from a pump distributing to both the rebel-held east and government-held west of Aleppo.

Last month, opposition forces cut the electricity supply to regime-controlled areas of Aleppo and the surrounding countryside.

But Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the groups were unable to cut off water supplies to regime areas without also affecting rebel-held neighborhoods, calling the move “a crime.”

Once home to some five million residents and considered Syria’s economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been divided between government and opposition control since shortly after fighting there began in mid-2012.

Around three million people have been displaced from the city since then by fighting and relentless regime aerial bombardments of rebel areas.

Opposition forces also regularly shell regime-held parts of the city in the west.

The Observatory said the week of water cuts had forced residents to queue in front of wells to collect water, and the Britain-based group warned that some people were drinking unclean water risking a spread of disease.

 

(With AFP)

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Last Update: 06:43 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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