BEIRUT (AP) — Al-Qaida-linked militants attacked an army position in northwest Syria on Friday, killing at least nine government soldiers and wounding others, opposition activists said. There was no immediate word from the government.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said nine soldiers died as well as one of the attackers, who belong to the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, the strongest insurgent group in northwest Syria. It said 12 soldiers and one HTS member were wounded in the attack.
Taher al-Omar, an opposition activist who closely follows HTS, said the attack in the northwestern province of Latakia killed 18 soldiers and several others.
A truce reached between Russia and Turkey in March 2020 that ended a Russian-backed government offensive on Idlib province has been repeatedly violated, resulting in scores of people getting killed and wounded.
In another part of north Syria, Turkey-backed opposition gunmen briefly captured the village of Mahsanli, which is controlled by Kurdish fighters. The Kurdish forces regained control of the village in a counteroffensive hours later, the Syrian Observatory said.
The Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council, part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, said the situation in Mahsanli was again under control after several Turkey-backed gunmen were killed. Opposition activists reported a Russian airstrike on the village after it fell into the hands of opposition fighters.
In eastern Syria, fighting intensified in some areas between the SDF and local tribesmen. The clashes erupted on Monday, a day after a local commander was detained and later sacked by the SDF over alleged corruption.
SDF spokesman Farhad Shami told The Associated Press that two days after the U.S.-backed forces started their operation, fighters loyal to the government crossed to the east bank of the Euphrates river and “started causing trouble.” He added that SDF fighters are now going after “regime elements” in three villages east of the Euphrates river denying that the battles are with local tribesmen.
Shami added that sleeper cells of the Islamic State group are also taking part in the fighting against the SDF. Shami said talks are ongoing with local tribal leaders to try reach a cease-fire to end the fighting that has left 45 people dead and dozens wounded since Monday.
Elham Ahmad, the leader of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the SDF, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the latest clashes in east Syria are not “isolated occurrences.” She added that the disturbances are driven by Iranian-backed militias and the Syrian government, who want to create unrest and instability throughout the region.
“Iran and Assad regime wants to depict this unrest as a result of an ethnic conflict between Arabs and Kurds and to distract the Syrians from the protest movements in south of Syria,” she wrote referring to ongoing anti-government protests in the country’s south over deteriorating economic conditions. Iran-backed fighters have a presence in eastern Syria.
She said that Iran and the Syrian government are trying to drive the nearly 900 U.S. troops based in eastern Syria out of the country.
Syria’s 12-year conflict, which started with anti-government protests and morphed into a civil war, has killed half a million people and displaced half the country’s prewar population of 23 million. More than 5 million Syrians are now refugees, most in neighboring countries.
Russia has been a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad and joined the war in September 2015, helping tip the balance of power in his favor. Turkey is a main backer of the armed opposition.