BEIRUT: Syrian rebels have united to kill and capture dozens of jihadists in a new “revolution” against an al-Qaeda affiliate they accuse of worse abuses than the hated President Bashar al-Assad, activists said on Saturday.
Three powerful rebel alliances have taken on fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during two days of fierce combat in Aleppo and Idlib provinces that Syria’s main opposition National Coalition said it “fully supports.”
And in new signs the nearly three-year conflict is spreading, ISIL seized the city of Fallujah in neighboring Iraq, and claimed a suicide bomb attack in a Beirut stronghold of Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite movement fighting alongside Assad’s forces.
“At least 36 members and supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have been killed since Friday in Idlib and more than 100 have been captured by rebels” in Idlib and Aleppo, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The reports come a second day into clashes in opposition areas of the northern and northwestern provinces between ISIL and rebel alliances, which include the massive Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front.
Jihadists who flocked to Syria to join the rebels in their fight against Assad were at first welcomed by the armed opposition.
But relations grew bitter after ISIL fought other opposition groups for control and committed systematic abuses against activists and rival rebels, as well as ordinary citizens.
Assad’s regime has branded both rebels and peaceful activists as “terrorists” since the start of an uprising against him in March 2011.
But in the past 48 hours, anti-Assad activists have described the escalation against ISIL as a new “revolution” in Syria, given ISIL’s increasing number of kidnappings and beheadings and other abuses.
Rival rebels have “seized checkpoints, bases and weapons from ISIL” in Aleppo and Idlib, said the Observatory.
ISIL was reported to have kidnapped, beaten and executed dozens of rival rebels and activists since it appeared in Syria, establishing a reign of terror in areas it controls.
It has forced girls to wear the veil to school, and lashed and executed people—including children—on accusations of heresy.