BEIRUT - Rebels battled Syrian troops in the eastern border city of Qamishli on Friday, a monitoring group opposed to President Bashar Assad said, ending a de facto truce in the mainly Christian and Kurdish area.
Qamishli, on the border with Turkey and close to Iraq, has remained peaceful during a two-year uprising against Assad because local Kurds agreed with mostly Arab rebels to avoid clashes within city limits, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Videos posted on the Internet on Friday showed pickup trucks and dozens of rebels preparing an attack on Qamishli's domestic airport and smoke rising from the airport grounds.
The city of around 200,000 is also home to thousands of Syrians who have fled other parts of the country, the Observatory said. Inhabitants must now wait and see whether Assad retaliates for rebel attacks by using war planes, as he has done in other major cities.
The Observatory said the advance includes rebels of the Free Syrian Army and the hard-line Islamist Nusra Front, who have clashed in the past with Christians and Kurds the opposition has tried to persuade to abandon Assad.
"We are not sure why they are attacking today," said Observatory head Rami Abdelrahman. "Maybe the agreement broke down," he said, adding that the government and Kurdish militia control different areas of Qamishli.