The prospect of a new battlefront in Syria grew on Thursday, with a surge in fighting between Kurdish units and pro-Assad forces in Qamishli in the northeast.In the second day of clashes, Kurdish police took the Alaya prison. About 50 members of the pro-Assad National Defense Forces militias surrendered, and video showed 18 detainees being transferred to a Kurdish police station.
A Kurdish official said at least 21 NDF militiamen were killed in the fighting at the prison and elsewhere in the city, He said five officers of the Kurdish police, the Asayish, died.There were conflicting claims about the state of the fighting after the Kurdish victory at the prison. Pro-Assad accounts asserted that the NDF had taken over positions in the city, which has been controlled by both Kurdish and regime forces since 2012. Pro-Kurdish outlets said the Asayish were closing on the regime-held airport.There was no confirmation that the Kurdish militia YPG or the Syrian army have joined the battles.
The Kurdish Hawar News said a woman was killed and 20 people were injured in regime shelling. Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at 11.
A local activist spoke on Thursday of “large explosions occurring in quick succession and said, “Nobody is leaving their house unless it’s absolutely necessary….Life has ground to a halt in the city.”
A map of the area of fighting:
Syria’s Kurds consider Qamishli, located near the Turkish and Iraqi borders, as the capital of one of their three cantons in northern Syria. There have been periodic clashes between Kurdish police and the NDF, but this week’s fighting is the most intense in Syria’s five-year conflict.
The battles started on Wednesday. Kurdish accounts said that Asayish officers were arrested or killed by the NDF, and that the Asayish responded with their own detentions, leading to the outbreak of fighting. Another version said a Kurdish activist was prevented from filming in the regime-controlled areas of Qamishli.
Regime supporters said Kurds had started the battle by attacking militia positions.
However, State news agency SANA completely ignores the fighting.