As leaders of Syria’s largest political opposition group The Syrian National Council (SNC) met in Qatar, in an attempt to broaden their appeal and join with other groups to form a unified opposition capable of forming a government in exile, further evidence emerged of conflict between different rebel groups.
Rebel fighters on the ground in Syria are mainly composed of small brigades of fighters who cooperate with each other, but largely retain autonomy. Attempts to create a centralised command and control structure have had limited success, and political groups such as the SNC cannot legitimately lay claim to widespread popular support amongst rebel brigades. This is an important issue, because even if the rebels were to succeed in ousting the government of Bashar al Assad, civil war could continue to ravage the country if the disparate rebel groups failed to come together behind a replacement government.
Rebel Infighting Over Syria-Turkey Border Crossing
The last few days have provided plenty of evidence showing just how hard it will be to unify the rebel brigades. This Sunday rival rebel groups fought for control of the Bab al-Salameh border crossing between Syria and Turkey, which has been under rebel control since July. Fighting between the Northern Storm Brigade and the Amr bin al-Aas brigade, which is thought to be comprised of Islamist militants, has been confirmed by a Turkish official in the town of Kilis across the border.
In northern Syria, an opposition figure said rival rebel groups clashed Sunday for control of the Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Turkey. The crossing has been in the hands of rebels since July. The opposition figure spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation.
He said the fighting was between the Northern Storm Brigade and the Amr bin al-Aas brigade, which has a large number of Islamic radicals.
There are dozens of opposition groups and rebel brigades fighting in the civil war. Rivalries are common, although violent clashes are unusual.
A Turkish government official based in the border town of Kilis confirmed two Syrian rebel groups were “engaged in a power struggle,” fighting each other for control of the Bab el-Salameh border crossing. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said Turkish officials were still trying to determine who the two groups were.