Two days of bloodshed in Qamishli as Kurds battle regime forces

AMMAN: A battle between Syrian regime forces and the Kurdish-led Self Administration’s Asayish in Qamishli city intensified on Thursday, with one activist telling Syria Direct the same day that “life has ground to a halt.”

“Nobody is leaving their house unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Qamishli-based activist Ivan Abu Zeid told Syria Direct, describing “large explosions occurring in quick succession” on Thursday. “Life has ground to a halt in the city.”

Qamishli, in northeastern Al-Hasakah province, is the de facto capital of the Kurdish-controlled territories in northern Syria known as Rojava, or western Kurdistan.

The Kurdish-led Self Administration rules most of Qamishli, while Syrian army forces and allied militias control a number of neighborhoods and an airport immediately south. Tensions between the two sides have previously led to clashes, but activists in the city say that the current fighting is some of the worst it has been.

 Asayish and YPG fighters at Qamishli’s Allaya prison after the reported surrender of regime forces inside on Thursday. Photo courtesy of H. Asayîş Rojava.

On Wednesday morning, an altercation between a patrol of the Kurdish Asayish security forces and the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF) militia at the latter’s checkpoint escalated into armed violence.

The following day saw Asayish forces supported by Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) battle the NDF in the regime-held security quarter in the heart of Qamishli, take control of a bread oven, and encircle regime forces in the Allaya prison on the eastern edge of the city. As violence continued into the following day, the YPG posted a video to social media on Thursday allegedly showing the surrender of 45 members of regime forces in Allaya prison.

Both sides have reported multiple casualties since Wednesday morning, but “there is still a lack of clarity about the number,” activist Abu Zeid told Syria Direct. Several civilians have also reportedly been injured and killed.

Syrian state media has not commented on the events in Qamishli.

The battles are making normal life impossible in Syria’s largest Kurdish-majority city, residents say.

 Asayish members reportedly destroyed a poster of embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad amidst fighting in Qamishli on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Rewan Egîd.

“The fighting, which began around 11AM on Wednesday, trapped some people in a market and they couldn’t get out until 6AM today,” a Qamishli resident told Syria Direct on Thursday, requesting anonymity. Video from the city posted online Wednesday shows civilians fleeing amidst the sound of gunfire.

With reports of shelling, snipers and heavy weaponry, most Qamishli civilians stayed home on Thursday, said activist Abu Zeid. “The markets are closed and the streets are empty.”

Also on Thursday, the Islamic State-affiliated al-Amaq news agency claimed that one of their fighters had carried out a suicide attack against Kurdish forces at a traffic circle in Qamishli, “killing and injuring 15,” a claim that Syria Direct could not verify. 

Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim

Mohammad is from Amouda in Hasakah province. He moved to Jordan in 2004. Mohammad started work with the Syrian Revolution LCC in Amman by doing reporting and coordinating protests. After that he did volunteer work for refugees in Amman. Follow Mohammad on Twitter: @mohamma59717689.

Bassam al-Dairi

Bassam is from Deir e-Zor city. He studied law in Damascus University. He also worked with many international organizations in Jordan. He wants to improve his journalism skills to one day become a professional reporter.

Mateo Nelson

Mateo Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. Mateo holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.