October 15, 2014
Located in the northeast corner of Syria, Al-Hasakah province has been home to a burgeoning independent Kurdish government run by the PYD – the dominant Kurdish group in the country – since it declared self-governance in late 2013.
The oil-rich province’s strategic location next to Iraq has meant that Kurdish forces are battling the Islamic State over control of oil fields and the Iraqi border.
In late September, PYD forces repelled an IS attempt to take the Al-Yarubiyeh border crossing, situated on the most direct route from Syria to Mosul – IS’s de facto capital in Iraq.
Recently, however, IS has turned its attention to Kobani, the Kurdish city in Aleppo province that sits on the Turkish border.
IS fighters in Al-Hasakah are now present only around the joint PYD-regime controlled eponymous provincial capital, says Raman Hassou, a Kurdish journalist who works for the Erbil-based Kurdish news channel Zagros TV.
While the US airstrikes have been popular with the Kurdish, they have only been somewhat successful so far, the Al-Hasakah-based journalist tells Syria Direct’s Mohammad al-Haj Ali.
Locals resist law conscripting Al-Hasakah youth into Kurdish military service. Photo courtesy of @xaenzman.
If the international community wants to eradicate IS, Hassou says, they must expand the range of the airstrikes and send in ground forces. Current air strikes are not enough, he says, because “IS is more aware – all of their fighters move carefully and plan ahead to avoid them.”
Q: Have IS forces been moving between Iraq and Syria through the border crossings in Al-Hasakah?
IS moves freely between the two countries with their weapons depending on their needs. There is no respect for the Iraqi-Syrian borders.
The strikes have not limited IS movement between the countries. If the international community wants to end IS, they must expand the range of the airstrikes and send forces on the ground.
Q: What are the changes that IS has had to face since the beginning of the strikes?
IS is now more aware. All of their fighters move carefully and plan ahead to avoid the international airstrikes. Lately they have been using motorcycles for movement, not cars like they used to.
Q: Have IS fighters moved from Al-Hasakah to Kobani to support the IS campaign?
We have information that IS received supplies from A-Raqqa province to support their battle against Kobani because of IS’s significant losses in the streets of Kobani. The Kurdish fighters know the city very well and it is their stronghold, causing IS losses in men and supplies.
Q: What is Kurdish opinion of the US airstrikes?
The Kurdish people support the US-led airstrikes, just like most Syrians do. We’ve wanted these airstrikes for more than four years. The US-led airstrikes are very important to weakening IS progress and have been somewhat successful thus far.
Q: What is Kurdish opinion of Turkey?
Turkey has proved its support for IS. Turkey has not helped Kobani nor the people trapped in Kobani who are defending their city.
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