With nearly 500 people reported killed in a week of rebel infighting, many Syrians barricaded themselves in their homes Friday, while others emerged from mosques angrily accusing an al-Qaida-linked group of hijacking their revolution.
The rebel-on-rebel clashes have overshadowed the battle against President Bashar Assad and underscore the perils for civilians caught in the crossfire of two parallel wars.
The violence, which pits fighters from a variety of Islamic groups and mainstream factions against the feared al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have spread across four provinces in opposition-held parts of northern Syria.
The infighting is helping Assad, whose forces have clawed back some of the ground lost to the rebels in recent months as they bombard the north and other opposition regions with warplanes, heavy artillery and crude explosive-filled barrels dropped over rebel neighborhoods.
“The revolution has been derailed,” said Abdullah Hasan, a self-described secular activist in the northern town of Maskaneh, where fighters from the al-Qaida-linked group swept in last month. “None of the groups fighting in Syria represent me now,” he said, adding that he was nonetheless hopeful that the infighting would help purge extremists from the ranks of the rebels.