Kurdish-Rebel Clashes Raise Specter of Interethnic War in Syria

Kurdish-Rebel Clashes Raise Specter of Interethnic War in Syria

RAS AL-AYN, Syria -- The fighting between Syrian Arab rebels and a Kurdish militia that broke out in November in the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn threatens to open up a chasm beneath a rebellion already charged with sectarian and ethnic overtones.

The violence in Ras al-Ayn started when two Islamist groups attacked Syrian government forces in this small town on the Turkish border. Quickly defeated, the regime responded with airstrikes that sent the town’s entire population fleeing into Turkey.

It is unclear who started the next phase of the battle, but in the following week dozens of militants died in clashes between the Islamists and armed members of the PYD, a Kurdish organization that controls the Kurdish-majority areas of northwestern and northeastern Syria. The fighting followed clashes between the rebels and Kurds in Aleppo in October.

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