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Islamic State ‘sleeper cells’ suggest imminent assault on Al-Hasakah

AMMAN: Residents of the a-Neshwa neighborhood in southwestern Al-Hasakah city […]

16 September 2015

AMMAN: Residents of the a-Neshwa neighborhood in southwestern Al-Hasakah city are fleeing Wednesday after receiving news from local Kurdish forces that the Islamic State is about to carry out a new assault on the city.

“We are afraid…that the same scenario will happen as it did during the previous IS attack [on Al-Hasakah in June], the same homelessness and sense of being lost,” Hamid al-Atiya, one of the residents fleeing a-Neshwa for the nearby neighborhood of al-Mahata, told Syria Direct by phone Wednesday.

As residents rush to escape, regime and Kurdish forces in Al-Hasakah city are mobilizing to stave off a potential attack, a journalist there with the pro-regime Ronahi satellite channel told Syria Direct Wednesday.

The National Defense Forces and YPG have sent reinforcements to a-Neshwa and “are searching for sleeper cells that slipped into the neighborhood,” said Malham al-Hamidi.

Al-Atiya left with his family after members of the Asayish (Kurdish police loyal to the PYD) entered a-Neshwa, informing him and other residents that 30 IS fighters had sneaked inside and that IS “is trying to enter the city.” Two other sources in Al-Hasakah confirmed to Syria Direct Wednesday that up to 30 IS fighters had infiltrated the neighborhood.

Neshwa residents flee the Islamic State in June. Photo courtesy of ARTA FM.

The Islamic State is likely to target a-Neshwa, as it has done in the past, because they control territory to the southwest of the city including the International School and, farther back, their base at Mount Abdul Aziz, Majed al-Majed, a citizen journalist in Al-Hasakah city, told Syria Direct Wednesday.

A potential incursion from the north or east would leave Islamic State fighters “surrounding themselves” with hostile forces and unable to bring in supplies, al-Majed said. For now, IS fighters “are close to a-Neshwa, and are able to reach it directly.”

IS launched an attack on southwestern neighborhoods of Al-Hasakah city in June, capturing a-Neshwa and nearby Ghweiran, before being expelled by regime and Kurdish forces the following month. The fighting left behind massive destruction in a-Neshwa.

“The stench of corpses is everywhere…my house is no longer there,” a-Neshwa resident Abu Majed told Syria Direct in July.

Now, only two months after returning to their homes, “entire families” are fleeing a-Neshwa once more, Ilaf Hussein, a correspondent with Kurdish Arta FM radio, told Syria Direct Wednesday.

The Islamic State has attempted to detonate at least eight car bombs in the city this week, including one targeting the YPG headquarters in the north and a school in the city’s center.

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