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13 killed in two days of Syria rebel clashes: monitor

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Thirteen people, mostly fighters, have been killed in two days of ongoing clashes between two pro-Turkish Syrian rebel groups competing for power in northwest Syria, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday, citing a war monitor.

Fighting between the rebel groups began in the town of Al-Bab in northern Aleppo province before spreading to other areas and drawing in other factions, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group headed by ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise, has also weighed in, it added in a statement.

HTS mostly controls Syria’s main rebel-held northwestern region of Idlib, but other rebel groups are also active, with varying degrees of backing from Turkey.

Dozens of factions are competing for influence in northern Syria, leading to the current “chaos”, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

“Even if clashes began with a dispute between two groups, other factions took advantage of the opportunity to fight their opponents,” he added.

The death toll includes three civilians, the Observatory said, with AFP correspondents reporting that schools and markets had closed in Al-Bab, and dozens had fled the Afrin countryside further west.

HTS was able to control the town of Jindires near Afrin Wednesday and a number of other villages in its vicinity, the monitor said.

Syria’s war has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.

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