Beirut • Western-backed opposition fighters and a faction of al-Qaida-linked rebels turned their guns on each other Saturday in Syria's largest city, battling for control of a key checkpoint in the latest eruption of infighting among the forces trying to topple President Bashar Assad's regime, activists said.
The clashes between rebels affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant underscored the growing phenomenon of rebel-on-rebel violence that has sapped strength from the broader anti-Assad movement. It also underscores the rebels' inability even more than two years into the conflict to unite around a unified command, as well as the deepening rift between more secular opposition fighters and Islamic extremists in the rebel ranks.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday's clashes were focused on the strategic checkpoint in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district that serves as the sole gateway between rebel-held eastern districts and the government-controlled areas in the west. Earlier this week, al-Qaida-linked militants seized the checkpoint and closed it for several days, cutting the flow of food supplies to the government-held quarters of the city. That spurred protests by residents suffering from food shortages at the start of the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan.