BEIRUT — Kurdish militias battled al-Qaida-linked rebel groups in northeast Syria on Tuesday in the latest round of heavy fighting that has helped fuel a mass exodus of civilians from the region into neighboring Iraq, activists said.
Clashes between Kurdish fighters and Islamic extremist rebel groups have sharply escalated in Syria's northern provinces in recent months. The violence has left hundreds dead.
Tuesday's fighting, which pitted Kurdish militiamen against rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, was focused in three villages near the town of Ras al-Ayn in the predominantly Kurdish Hassakeh province, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. There was no immediate word on casualties.
About 30,000 Syrians, the vast majority of them Kurds, have fled the region over a five-day stretch and crossed the border to the self-ruled Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Another 4,000 made the trek across the frontier Tuesday, said Youssef Mahmoud, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Iraqi Kurdistan.