Since Tuesday, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, both al Qaeda affiliates, have been battling along the border with Turkey against the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (referred to as the YPG), which is a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has the details of the recent fighting. Note: The mention of “ISIS” below refers to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights uses that acronym to refer to the ISIL, which it calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, or Syria:
19 YPG fighters and 35 fighters from the al-Nusra front, the ISIS and some rebel factions have been killed so far by clashes between both sides since Tuesday. Clashes broke out at first when fighters from the al-Nusra front and the ISIS attacked a YPG patrol and kidnapped 1 YPG fighter. Clashes remained until wednesday noon until the YPG tool hold of the Ras al-A’in city. Clashes broke out afterwards in the villages surrounding the Jal Agha (al-Joudiya) suburb and in the areas of Sabiya (al-Qahtaniya) and Karki Laki (M’abda). Clashes reoccured at night of Friday between both sides in t he perimeter of the villages of Tal A’lo, Karhouk and A’li Agha and ended earlier this morning after YPG fighters took hold of the Matehanet Hawarat checkpoint.
The Observatory didn’t detail who the other “rebel factions” were, but a report from Hurriyet indicated that the Free Syrian Army was also fighting the YPG:
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said the parties to the clash were the “separatist terrorist organization” and “opponents.” There are also some reports claiming that the PYD is fighting the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the armed wing of the Syrian opposition.
Reuters reported last week that the fighting between the YPG and the al Qaeda affiliates has spread to the Rumeilan oil field.
A couple of quick observations on the fighting:
The Turkish military has no love for the YPG; note that it described the YPG as a “separatist terrorist organization.” Turkish forces are also reported to have attacked the YPG after it took control of the checkpoint.
While tensions certainly exist between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Al Nusrah Front after the emir of the Islamic State of Iraq made a power grab and attempted to subsume Al Nusrah into the ISIL, the two groups appear to have closed ranks to fight the YPG. See LWJ report, Islamic State of Iraq leader defies Zawahiri in alleged audio message, for more information on the rift between the ISIL and Al Nusrah.
If it is confirmed that elements of the Free Syrian Army are fighting alongside the ISIL and the Al Nusrah Front, it is yet more evidence that the FSA isn’t all that interested in making a break from the al Qaeda factions despite the fact that a top FSA commander was murdered by the ISIL just a week ago.