The Islamic militants and the Kurdish factions have added to the complexity of Syria’s conflict.
When government forces withdrew from Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria in July, they were quickly replaced by Kurdish fighters from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, who would then battle rebels when they attacked predominantly Kurdish areas. The Kurdish group is affiliated with the PKK, rebels fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast region of Turkey.
The Islamic militants, who are fighting on the side of the rebels, have played a bigger role in the Syrian conflict in recent months and many openly say they want to set up an Islamic state. The opposition is split, with some groups strongly opposed to extremism.
Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with an uprising against Assad’s regime, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts, but quickly morphed into a civil war that has since killed more than 40,000 people, according to activists.
When the unrest began, the country’s half-million Palestinians struggled to stay on the sidelines. But in recent months, many have started supporting the uprising although they insisted the opposition to the regime should be peaceful. Others, like the FPLP-GC, stood by Assad. Earlier this month, FPLP-GC clashed with anti-government Palestinian gunmen in Yarmouk.
In other reports, the Observatory said the body of Syrian novelist Mohammed Rashid Roweily was found late Thursday in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, nearly two months after he was kidnapped. State-TV said Roweily was “liquidated by terrorists” — a term the government uses for the rebels.
Ruwiely, 65, was once the representative of Arab Writers’ Union in Deir el-Zour and had written several novels. The Observatory said his decomposed body was found along with four other bodies, including that of a retired army officer. All were kidnapped around the same time.
Syrian authorities deny there is an uprising in the country and say the rebels are backed by foreign powers that seek to destroy the country.
Journalist Bassil Toufic Youssef, who worked for state TV, was shot dead outside his house in the capital on Thursday, said the state SANA news agency.
In other developments, Qatar, which has backed Syria’s rebels in the conflict, invited the newly formed opposition coalition to appoint its ambassador to the Gulf state, the Qatari news agency reported.
The broad coalition — called the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces — was formed Nov. 11 in Qatar under pressure from the United States for a stronger, more united opposition body to serve as a counterweight to the more extremist forces fighting Assad’s regime.
The six-national oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union’s 27 foreign ministers recognized the Syrian coalition. Last week, France became the first Western nation to officially recognize the council. President Barack Obama said the U.S. isn’t ready to recognize the group as a “government in exile” or to arm it.