KURDS V. NDF: Militiamen fire truck-mounted machine guns during clashes between Kurdish militias and pro-Assad National Defense Forces (NDF) on Tuesday, in a rare bout of Kurdish-NDF fighting that continued through Wednesday afternoon in the northeastern Syrian city of al-Hasaka.
The fighting has killed four Kurds and eight pro-Assad fighters from the NDF, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A pro-Assad journalist based in al-Hasaka told Syria Direct that the clashes broke out after Kurdish militias, including the People’s Protection Units (YPG), opened fire on the NDF. Members of the pro-regime militia were preparing to install a tent advertising “the constitutional worthiness of the Syrian presidency” near a water management center in the eastern Hasaka neighborhood of al-Aziziya, said Attiyeh al-Attiyeh.
Kurdish fighters believed the NDF was preparing to erect a security checkpoint, said al-Attiyeh. The Kurds “opened fire on [the NDF], and the NDF responded to the gunshots,” he said. The Observatory reported that Kurdish fighters had taken control of the water management center on Tuesday, forcing the NDF to withdraw.
Syria’s Kurds, who are generally estimated at roughly 10-15 percent of the country’s population, have achieved some autonomy in areas under their control in northern Syria, particularly in the Kurdish majority al-Hasaka province.
Fighting between the Kurds and pro-Assad forces has been rare despite the Kurds’ growing military profile, giving rise to speculation in opposition circles that Kurdish nationalists had at least reached a non-aggression agreement with Damascus.
Opposition figures, including the Syrian National Coalition, have suggested that the two sides are working together to undermine the revolution.