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Kurds and Islamists clash in eastern Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Kurdish fighters from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) are pictured in Aleppo's Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood, June 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman.)

Kurdish fighters from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) are pictured in Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood on June 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman.)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Clashes between Kurdish militants and Islamist rebels killed 29 people in the eastern city of Ras Al-Ayn in Syria, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) announced on Thursday.

It has been reported that Kurdish militants affiliated with the Democratic Union Party, the PKK’s franchise in Syria, pushed Islamist elements of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the Al-Nusra Front out of the oil-rich city on Wednesday.

Tensions grew as the the mainly Kurdish residents of the city complained about Islamist militants imposing the Islamic Shari’a law by punishing those not observing the holy month of Ramadan and harassing women for not wearing the hijab (headscarf), Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

The fact that Ras Al-Ayn lies along the borders with Turkey has rung alarm bells in Ankara which saw in the PYD’s step a prelude to the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish state near its territories.

Several Kurdish fighters were reportedly targeted by Turkish troops along the borders, Reuters said.

In a joint statement, the Syrian Coalition and the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) denounced the clashes and urged both warring factions to avoid being “dragged into side battles that will definitely hinder the Syrian people from achieving their legitimate goals of obtaining freedom and building a new Syria for all Syrians.”

In separate news, Syrian regime jets bombarded a school used as a refugee camp in the Dablan area in Homs, an FSA spokesman said.

In what activists described as a “an act of revenge against the Syrian opposition,” Syrian jet fighters launched airstrikes at Al-Andalus school in the wrecked city of Homs, killing several civilians who were using the school as a shelter, Qassim Saad Eddin, an FSA spokesman, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The FSA is careful not to fight in areas populated by civilians in order not to give the regime a pretext for killing children,” Saad Eddin said, adding that “this comes as a plan to intimidate residents and refugees by indicating to them that there are not any safe areas in Syria and they have to relocate again.”

The FSA spokesman warned the regime against tampering with the diverse demographic structure of the city of Homs, weeks after it had set the city’s land registry ablaze.