Kurdish Militia Launches Assault to Evict Syrian Army from Hasaka

تم نشره في Mon 22 August / Aug 2016. 12:00 AM
  • Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units carry their weapons as they take positions in the northeastern city of Hasaka, Syria. – (Reuters)

HASAKA, Syria — The Kurdish YPG militia launched a major assault on Monday to seize the last government-controlled parts of the north eastern Syrian city of Hasaka after calling on pro-government militias to surrender, Kurdish forces and residents said.

They said Kurdish forces began the offensive after midnight to take the southern district of East Nashwa, close to where a security compound is located, near the governor's office.

The fighting this week in Hasaka, divided into zones of Kurdish and Syrian government control, marks the most violent confrontation between the Kurdish YPG militia and Damascus in more than five years of civil war. It forms part of a broader battle for control of the long border area abutting Turkey.

After a morning lull in fighting, fierce clashes broke out again across the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The powerful YPG militia has captured almost all of east Ghwairan, the only major Arab neighbourhood still in government hands.

The YPG is at the heart of a US-led campaign against the ISIS militant group in Syria and controls swaths of the north, where Kurdish groups associated with the militia have set up their own government since the Syrian war began in 2011.

NATO member Turkey, facing a Kurdish insurgency of its own, is concerned about attempts to extend Syrian Kurdish control westward along its border. Turkey is currently allowing a rebel Syrian force under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to assemble on its soil for an attack on an ISIS-held town, seeking to deny control to the YPG.

The Syrian army deployed warplanes against the main armed Kurdish group for the first time during the war last week, prompting a US-led coalition to scramble aircraft to protect American special operations ground forces.

War planes were seen in the skies above Hasaka again on Monday, but did not drop bombs, the Observatory said.

Syrian state media accused the YPG-affiliated security force known as the Asayish of violating a ceasefire and said its members had torched government buildings in Hasaka.

It accused the Asayish of igniting the violence through escalating "provocations", including the bombing of army positions in Hasaka, and said the Asayish aimed to take control of the city.