Al-Qaida militants seized a town near the Turkish border Thursday after expelling Western-backed rebels from the area, demonstrating the growing power of jihadis as they seek to expand their influence across opposition-held Syrian territory.
The infighting — now engulfing many parts of northern Syria — threatened to further split opposition forces outgunned by President Bashar Assad’s troops and strengthen his hand as he engages with world powers on relinquishing his chemical weapons.
Opposition forces who had been hoping that U.S.-led military strikes would help tip the balance in the civil war are growing increasingly desperate after the Obama administration shelved those plans in favor of a diplomatic solution.
Many rebels blame jihadis in their ranks for the West’s reluctance to intervene militarily in Syria or give them the advanced weapons they need. There also is growing concern that the dominant role the extremists are playing is discrediting the rebellion.