Kurdish troops have been locked in fierce fighting with pro-Assad militiamen in the border city.
BEIRUT – The Syrian regime has allegedly deployed troops from its elite Republican Guard division to Qamishli, where Kurdish forces have been battling pro-Assad fighters in the worst fighting to rock the border city since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
A pro-Damascus online outlet claimed Thursday that Damascus dispatched “4000 fighters from the Republican Guard” to Qamishli and the nearby town of Hasakeh, the government’s last armed bastions in the de-facto autonomous Kurdish Cezire canton.
“The military force is tasked with the defending the integrity of Syrian territory… [and preventing] the imposition of any separatist scenario,” Shaam Times cited sources as saying.
The deadly fighting in Qamishli between the Kurdish Asayesh security forces and National Defense Force militiamen prompted the intervention of Syrian army troops which launched a deadly mortar barrage on Kurdish controlled areas, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kurdish outlets.
Al-Akhbar newspaper—which has an editorial line supportive of Damascus—touted Friday that the Syrian army “entered the line of fighting between Asayesh and NDF.”
The Syrian army maintains control over Qamishli International Airport—allowing it to resupply its forces there—as well as other areas south of the city. In the city itself, pro-regime forces and Kurds have maintained an uneasy power-sharing agreement since 2012.
Despite the modus vivendi in the city, intermittent clashes have erupted in the past year between Kurds and the Assyrian Gozarto Protection Force as well as National Defense Force militiamen. While previous firefights were quickly contained, the latest round of fighting that began on Wednesday has escalated and left at least 20 pro-Assad militiamen, 5 Kurdish security personnel and a number of civilians dead.
At the onset of the clashes, Asayesh personnel surrounded the regime’s security zone in central Qamishli wedged between two large of territory controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
A hastily arranged ceasefire on Wednesday failed to hold, and the following day Kurdish security stormed the Alaya prison, taking at least 50 pro-Assad militiamen prisoner. Kurdish forces also seized a number of other points manned by regime gunmen.
Following a day of heavy fighting, a tense calm settled over the city at midnight Thursday, according to the Observatory.
NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated the Arabic-language source material.