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- Insurgents & Protesters Rally v. Islamic State of Iraq
In an unexpected and potentially important turn in Syria’s conflict, insurgents and protesters rallied on Friday against the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham.
The ISIS started the chain of events on Thursday when it tried to take control of Atareb in Aleppo Province, shelling the town and challenging insurgent factions.
Those factions hit back, however. Video indicated that they seized ISIS fighters and a commander in Atareb, and they detained ISIS members in other towns and in Aleppo city.
Video from Atareb:
In some locations, such as Maarat al-Nu’man in Idlib Province, the ISIS fighters did not resist. In others, however, there were serious clashes. In Aleppo city, sources indicated that at least 10 fighters on each side were killed.
Meanwhile, protesters across Syria, on a Friday dedicated to a doctor tortured and slain by ISIS, called for a halt to kidnapping, abuses, and killings by the group. On at least one occasion, captured on video, ISIS fighters fired on the demonstrators.
A demonstration in Massaknat in Aleppo Province:
Salaheddin in Aleppo city:
See other videos and pictures on Syrian Freedom Forever site
The Islamic Front, the leading insurgent bloc, issued a statement calling for ISIS to withdraw immediately from Atareb:
[ISIS must] end the killing of the fighters based on false excuses and return all unfairly confiscated properties of weapons and bases to their rightful owners and they must accept the rule of God by agreeing to the judgments of the independent religious courts to resolve the conflicts that arise between them and the other factions.
Hassan Aboud, the head of Ahrar al-Sham — a key group in the Islamic Front — told Al Jazeera:
ISIS denies reality, refusing to recognize that it is simply another group. It refuses to go to independent courts; it attacked many other groups, stole their weapons, occupied their headquarters, and arbitrarily apprehended numerous activists, journalists and rebels. It has been torturing its prisoners. These transgressions accumulated, and people got fed up with ISIS. Some of those people have attacked ISIS’s positions, but ISIS was first to attack in other places, bringing this on itself.
But does this now mean a showdown between insurgency factions, supported by many civilians, and ISIS?
An EA analyst evaluates:
I don’t believe this was a coordinated operation against ISIS. It was a response to their actions in past days and the motto of this Friday’s protests.
The clashes escalated, and that’s absolutely unwanted by the Islamic Front due to the military situation facing the regime in the north.
The Islamic Front will try to calm down things as long as possible, although they won’t allow ISIS to attack them.
However, the timing of the move against ISIS is suitable, given that many of its fighters were moved to Anbar and Fallujah recently [to fight for control of Iraq’s western areas].
Some Free Syrian Army factions might have made their plans in advance, though — they have to please their Western donors.
Overall, Syrians lost patience as ISIS overstepped.
Ahrar al-Sham’s Abboud offered a way back from confrontation in the Al Jazeera interview:
We would like these [ISIS] brothers to join their brethren in the Syrian revolution. We see them as nothing but another group….
[Islamist faction Jabhat al-] Nusra doesn’t differ in ideology and authority from ISIS, but they have been able to work hand in glove with the other militias because they have followed the rule that no objective has a higher priority then pushing back the enemy. So we call on ISIS to follow Nusra’s lead.
Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham Claims Beirut Bomb
Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham has claimed Thursday’s suicide car bomb in a Beirut suburb that killed four people and wounded 77.
ISIS said in an online statement that it had penetrated the “security system of the Party of Satan (Hezbollah)…and crush its strongholds…in a first small payment from the heavy account that is awaiting those wicked criminals”.
Hezbollah’s forces have fought alongside the Syrian military, particularly since May.
The bombing was in the Haret Hreik district, a southern suburb with strong support for Hezbollah.
Key Opposition Group Repeats: We Will Not Go to “Peace” Talks
The Syrian National Council, the leading group within the opposition Syrian National Coalition, reaffirmed Friday that it will not attend “peace” talks scheduled for January 22 in Switzerland.
“After meetings with many international delegations in recent weeks… the Syrian National Council confirms it sees no reason to attend the Geneva conference,” Council member Samir Nashar said.
Nashar also forecast that the Coalition, which has still not taken a definitive decision, will not participate.
The opposition has demanded that President Assad commit to stepping down from power if the talks are held.
In October, Council President George Sabra said that the group had taken a “firm decision” not to attend the talks. He said the Council would withdraw from the Coalition if the latter decided to go.