Thursday, September 19, 2013

Extremists Take Syrian Town Near Turkey Border

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From: barry levine 
Date: Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 11:49 AM
Subject: re: Extremists Take Syrian Town Near Turkey Border
To: ""

To the Editor:
   Americans want desperately to believe that there are two sides to every story. Anyone paying attention to the war in Syria knows that in fact there are many more. To oppose al-Assad is not to back al-Nusra, to oppose al-Qaeda one need not endorse the use of chemical weapons.
   Millions of Syrians engaged in a year of carefully non-violent protests against al-Assad during the Arab Spring. We ignored them. Now that they're being exterminated by their own government they deserve our help no less. if we are too pure to save them from starvation and bombardment, we have little right to complain that they accept help from other quarters.
Barry Haskell Levine

Extremists Take Syrian Town Near Turkey Border

Muzaffar Salman/Reuters
Rebel fighters in Aleppo, Syria. Islamic extremists seized a town hear the Turkish border that is on the road to Aleppo.
Published: September 18, 2013
BEIRUT, Lebanon — An extremist group linked to Al Qaeda routed Syrian rebel fighters and seized control of a gateway town near Syria’s northern border with Turkey on Wednesday, posting snipers on rooftops, erecting checkpoints and imposing a curfew on the local population.
The takeover of the town, Azaz, by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, reflected the rising strength of extremist fighters in northern and eastern Syria and their rapidly deteriorating relations with more mainline rebels.
By early Thursday, Islamist rebel leaders had intervened to stop the fighting, although most of the town appeared firmly in the hands of the extremists, opposition activists said. The extremists had not seized the nearby Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Turkey. Azaz sits just south of the border crossing on the road to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and has served as an important artery for the rebellion in northern Syria, allowing arms, fighters and supplies to move in and refugees fleeing the violence to leave the country.
Its seizure is likely to alarm Syria’s neighbors. Turkey, which has vocally supported the fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and allowed fighters and arms to flow freely across its southern border, now faces a bold Qaeda affiliate.
Lebanon has sought information for more than a year about nine Lebanese Shiites held captive by rebels in Azaz. The town’s seizure by a group that considers Shiites heretics who deserve execution is sure to increase worries about their fate.
The takeover also signals a new low in relations between the rebels fighting a civil war against Mr. Assad’s forces and international jihadists who have flocked to rebel-controlled areas to lay the groundwork for an Islamic state.
For much of the 30-month-old conflict, the rebels welcomed jihadist fighters for the know-how and battlefield prowess they brought to the anti-Assad struggle. In recent months, however, jihadist groups have isolated local populations by imposing strict Islamic codes, carrying out public executions and clashing with rebel groups.
In the eastern city of Deir al-Zour on Wednesday, extremist fighters took dozens of rebels captive after a gunfight near a rebel base, activists said.
Reached by telephone, a rebel commander who gave only his first name, Khattab, said that Wednesday’s violence in Azaz began when ISIS fighters stormed the town and tried to detain German doctors who were visiting a hospital.
As local doctors tried to keep out the fighters, rebel brigades arrived and clashes erupted, Khattab said. At least three rebel fighters were killed, he said, as well as an opposition media activist, who was shot dead in the street by a sniper.
“He was left bleeding, and the ISIS fighters did not allow anyone to take his body,” he said.
Dr. Moayyad Qieto, also reached by phone, said the German doctors worked for a group that financed the Azaz hospital. They were evacuated, unharmed, to the nearby border with Turkey.
“The situation is so tense, like a volcano that might erupt at any time,” Dr. Qieto said.
Ben Hubbard reported from Beirut, and Karam Shoumali from Istanbul. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut

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