The United States has suspended all nonlethal assistance into northern Syria after Islamic Front forces seized headquarters and warehouses belonging to the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council (SMC), according to a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Ankara, Turkey.
Fighters from the Islamic Front, a union of six major rebel groups, took control of the Free Syrian Army's bases at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on Syria's northwestern border with Turkey on Friday, prompting the U.S. announcement.
The U.K. on Wednesday also announced a suspension of its nonlethal aid deliveries to Syria until safe delivery of equipment can be ensured.
Nonlethal aid, according to Title 10 of the code that defines the role of the U.S. armed forces, could consist of communications equipment, medical supplies, intelligence assistance or body armor.
The SMC is the leadership body for all Free Syrian Army battalions, but has struggled to coordinate among them as the two-and-a-half-year war rumbles on and the Western-backed rebel groups begin to suffer defections to better-funded factions like the recently formed Islamic Front.
Turkey has also shut its side of the border crossing, in Hatay province, due to a reported increase in clashes on the Syrian side, customs sources told Reuters, although there was no immediate confirmation from Turkish officials.
Infighting among Syrian rebels has weakened their efforts to bring down President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict, which began as peaceful protests against his rule in March 2011 and has descended into civil war. Clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and their supposed allies are becoming more frequent, despite repeated assurances from the Islamic Front that it intends to work alongside the group.
It was unclear why the Islamic Front had seized the SMC premises, and it was not known if any stock was missing.
"As a result of this situation, the United States has suspended all further deliveries of nonlethal assistance into northern Syria," the spokesman said, adding that humanitarian assistance was not curtailed because it is distributed through international and nongovernmental organizations.
Free Syrian Army representatives could not be reached for comment. The U.S. Embassy spokesman said the situation was being investigated "to inventory the status of U.S. equipment and supplies provided to the SMC."