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Syria rebels claim capture of ISIL headquarters in Aleppo
The Al-Qaeda-linked ISIL has threatened to 'crush' Western-backed rebel groups as infighting rumbles on in Syria
January 8, 201412:30PM ET
Syrian rebels on Wednesday seized control of a hospital in the northern city of Aleppo that was used as a base for the area by their Al-Qaeda-linked rivals, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), activists said.
The capture of the hospital was a boost for the rebels, who on Tuesday saw 20 of their fighters killed in an ISIL suicide car bombing in the northern city of Darkoush, according to the anti-Assad, British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It also underscores the intensity of the infighting that has raged between Syrian rebels and their onetime allies in the broader context of the Syrian civil war, where at least 300 people have been killed since Friday, the Observatory said.
But an audio statement from ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani indicated that the extremist group remains undaunted in its mission to fight rival rebel organizations, even after the homegrown Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra — ostensibly merged with ISIL but more cooperative with the mainstream rebel groups — called for a cease-fire.
"Crush them completely and kill the conspiracy in its cradle," al-Adnani said, according to a statement that was widely cited in online Islamist social networks but that could not be independently verified. "Kill them wherever you find them and without dignity."
The recording specifically mentioned the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the Western-backed political opposition that is loosely affiliated with the Western-armed Free Syrian Army.
"They launched this war against us and started it," al-Adnani continued. "Therefore anyone who is a member of this entity is a legitimate target for us wherever he may be, unless he declares his innocence from this sect in public and renounces his fight against the mujahedeen."
The SNC's already fragile legitimacy was previously eroded when the group indicated it might attend the upcoming peace talks in Geneva, which have been condemned by every other armed rebel faction.
The main rebel camps in Syria fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's troops — a disjointed array of Western-backed and Islamist brigades and Al-Qaeda-linked extremist fighters — turned their guns on each other last Friday in the most serious rebel infighting since the uprising against Assad began nearly three years ago.
Tensions, which had simmered since last summer, erupted after reports that ISIL fighters had tortured and killed a popular Syrian doctor.
Fighting has since spread from the northern province of Aleppo to nearby Idlib and the rebel-held province of Raqqa.
The clashes add another layer of complexity to the Syrian conflict, less than three weeks ahead of the planned international peace conference that aims to resolve the civil war, which has killed more than 130,000 people. No rebel faction has of yet agreed to attend.
Meanwhile, the greater war to unseat Assad rages on. In besieged Aleppo, the Observatory said a series of government airstrikes in two rebel-held suburbs late on Tuesday night killed 19 people.
In Douma, a town close to the capital, Damascus, three adults and a child were killed and several were wounded after a government airstrike targeted a house on Tuesday, activists and the Observatory reported.