Beirut: At least two dozen people have reportedly died in Aleppo on Saturday even as various instances of clashes between Syrian government forces despite an agreement to a ceasefire during Muslim holiday, activists said, as per a report.
Despite a ceasefire being proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and endorsed by the UN Security Council, incidents of violence were reported on Friday when rebels were trying to storm the Army base, which is less than half a mile from the main north-south highway linking Damascus to Aleppo.
The fighting in Aleppo's predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Ashrafieh late Friday occurred a day after rebels pushed into largely Kurds and Christian areas that have been relatively quiet during the three-month battle for the city.
Kurds say the rebels had pledged to stay out of their neighborhoods. Kurdish groups have for the most part tried to steer a middle course in the conflict between the rebels and the regime of President Bashar Assad. Some figures have allied with the rebels, others with Assad, and others have remained neutral.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 19 rebels and three Kurdish gunmen were killed in the clash that lasted several hours, the group said. A Kurdish official put the death toll at 10 Kurds, but had no figures for the rebels.
Mohieddine Sheik Ali, head of the Kurdish Yekiti party, told The Associated Press that the clashes broke out after rebels entered Ashrafieh, violating "a gentlemen's agreement" not to go into Kurdish areas in Aleppo.
He said there are 100,000 Kurds in Ashrafieh and many in the nearby Sheik Maksoud area. Sheik Ali said tens of thousands of Arabs have also fled to these areas from the violence in other parts of Aleppo.
"Disagreements between our brothers in the (rebel) Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Popular Defense Units" led the clashes, he said.
The Observatory said the clashes led to a wave of kidnappings between the two groups, but did not provide further details. Pro-government news websites also reported the clashes.
Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria and make up around 10 to 15 percent of the country's 23 million people. Most of them live in the northeaster Hasakeh province near the border with Turkey, but large neighborhoods in Aleppo as well as the capital Damascus are Kurdish-dominated.
After the anti-government uprising began in March last year, both the Syrian government and opposition forces began reaching out to the long-marginalized minority whose support could tip the balance in the conflict.
Kurds have long complained of neglect and discrimination. Assad's government for years argued they are not Syrians, but Kurds who fled from Iraq or neighboring Turkey. But the Kurds are also leery of how they would fare in a Syria dominated by the large Sunni Arab rebel movement.
(With Agency Inputs)
First Published: Saturday, October 27, 2012, 16:31