After the assassination of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Kamal Hamami on July 11 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), tensions between the two rebel factions have increased. Hamami, a leading rebel commander and member of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council, was assassinated at a checkpoint near Alatakia manned by fighters of the Al Qaida linked ISIL faction, after he had been meeting the Islamist to discuss battle plans.
Fighters of the FSA and ISIL turned weapons on each other in Syria’s northern city Aleppo. The fighting signifies a widening rift between moderate and Jihadist fighters, as well as the inability of the rebels to gather under a unified command. The ISIL said it considers the FSA heretic and will target its thirty member Supreme Military Council.
Increasing battles last week between the various factions have mainly focused on controlling border controls with Turkey and vital installations, such as bakeries, water wells, petrol stations, and checkpoints in the north. While FSA units sometimes fight alongside groups with different ideologies, rivalries have increased and al-Qaeda-linked groups have been blamed for assassinations of commanders of moderate rebel units.The fighting fuels fear that tensions will escalate, hampering rebel efforts to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Analysts say divisions between Syria's rebel groups are partly to blame for giving Assad's forces the chance to regain the upper hand in the conflict.
Leaders of the Western- and Arab-backed FSA said that they did not consider the ISIL an enemy, but that they would defend themselves. "They are welcome if they help us fight the regime, but if they want to cause strife, impose a new understanding of religion and make Syria another Afghanistan, we will take the necessary measures." " Colonel Abdel Rahman Suweis, a member of the FSA Supreme Military Council, said.
Krak de Chevalier
The recent outbursts of violence have not only left the rivaling factions undamaged. On July 13 a video emerged on Youtube (bron) allegedly showing a government airstrike on the Krak de Chevalier, one of the best preserved Crusader castles. The 12h century fortress has been hit before, but if the hit is confirmed it would mark the worst destruction so far.