GAZIANTEP, Turkey – Syrian rebels attacked and counterattacked across the Turkish border near the north Syrian town of Azaz over the past week, in growing internecine conflict among the groups seeking to oust President Bashar Assad.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known inside Syria by its acronym, ISIS, is an al-Qaida-linked jihad organization. It announced this month a campaign of “cleansing evil” directed at moderate pro-Western opposition groups.

It appears from conflicting reports that ISIS tried to expel a German-Syrian doctor from Azaz al-Ahli hospital who works for Doctors without Borders. The moderate Northern Storm Brigade blocked the ISIS action and violent clashes ensued. It is unclear what happened to the physician.

Ali, a Syrian refugee who studied in Aleppo – a major trade and industrial city 35 km. south of Azaz – told The Jerusalem Post that the journey to Aleppo from Turkey is dangerous because of the “al- Qaida” presence in the area.

The Syrian refugee crisis has spilled over into Gaziantep, a thriving metropolis of 1.5 million that has experienced an economic boom over the past decade.

Hussein, a waiter in Gaziantep, told the Post that the influx of refugees has caused landlords to double the rent for Syrian families.

Refugees rent apartments in Gaziantep and then work to bring additional family members over the border to live in cramped quarters.

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, told Deutschlandfunk radio on Sunday that 170 German Islamists had departed for Syria.

Maassen, who has served as the head of the federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution for 13 months, said he sees the main threat from the Islamic area in terms of Islamic extremism and terrorism.

“We have a high potential of persons who are Islamists in Germany, 42,000 people,” he said.

He added that the 170 Germans had traveled to Syria or in the direction of Syria to participate in jihad. Maassen said that is a significant growth of German jihadists “when compared with a few months ago, in which we were dealing with 120 people.”

Maassen told the radio program that Germany is worried about the return of the German Islamists who have obtained combat experience and may have terrorist missions to carry out in the Federal Republic.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s air force honored on Sunday its pilots who shot down a Syrian military helicopter last week, AFP reported. Turkey said the Syrian helicopter violated its airspace.

The air force issued a statement, saying its commander Gen. Akin Ozturk has “honored the personnel who applied rules of engagement toward a Syrian helicopter which refused to leave the airspace last week despite warnings.”

The violations of Turkish airspace prompted Ankara to invoke the NATO Charter, calling on its allies for defense assistance. NATO troops operate Patriot antimissile defense batteries in Gaziantep and in surrounding cities. The Americans are based in Gaziantep and the Germans about an hour away in Kahramanmaras. The Dutch are located in the city of Adana, a two-hour drive from Gazientep.

Benjamin Weinthal covers European affairs for the Post and is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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