Heavy fighting has continued for a 4th day in Hasakah in Northeast Syria between regime forces and Kurdish fighters.
By Michael Cruickshank, @MJ_Cruickshank
While relations between the Kurds and the Assad Regime have been tense in recent years and months, fighting has been limited. Despite limited clashes over territory in the divided cities of Hasakah and Qamishli, the status quo of uneasy cooperation had continued until now.
This drastically changed however this week. Clashes broke out in the city of Hasakah in Northeast Syria on Wednesday, between the regime-loyal National Defense Forces (NDF) and the Kurdish police force known as the Asayish. In the past such clashes burnt out after a few hours, however this time they continued to intensify. Each side, blamed their counterpart for starting the violence and began to up the ante, eventually deploying heavy weapons.
The situation continued to deteriorate over the coming days with Syrian Air Force jets conducting their first ever airstrikes against Kurdish positions. These unprecedented strikes targeted (among other things) the Asayish HQ in Hasakah, and caused significant civilian casualties. Following these strikes, the Kurdish YPG released a statement condemning the “Baathist regime” and called for retaliation.
During this period the US also released threatening statements. After one regime airstrike targeted a position close to US Special Forces in the city, the country scrambled jets to the airspace over Hasakah. Following this, a US Department of Defense spokesperson warned that the Syrian regime’s jets could be shot down, and that they would be “well advised not to interfere”.
Today clashes appeared to calm, as rumors spread that high-level talks to stop the fighting were underway in Qamishli. However by nightfall, gunshots and explosions could once again be heard in Hasakah, confirming reports that fighting had resumed.
Should these continued clashes devolve into outright conflict between the Kurds and the regime, it would open up yet another front in the wider Syrian Civil War, and create yet more civilian displacement from previously ‘safe’ areas. Furthermore, the surrounded regime positions, unless reinforced, could be quickly overrun in both Hasakah and Qamishli, something which would be a severe blow to Assad’s claim of control in every corner of the country.