Troops loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, backed by Kurdish fighters, repelled an Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) offensive to capture the city of al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria, a monitor group reports.
This victory comes after it was reported that Assad appears ready to accept a “de-facto partition” of Syria, in part due to dwindling forces available to him.
The Assad regime has suffered a spate of military defeats at the hands of rebel groups, including ISIS.
According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the Syrian war, Assad government forces, amid “violent clashes,” pushed ISIS jihadists away from the southern edge of al-Hasakah, the capital city of a Syrian province of the same name.
“ISIS, which has been at the southern entrance of the city since Thursday, was forced to pull back two kilometers [about 1.2 miles] after fierce combat with regime forces,” noted the monitor group, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports.
Syria’s official SANA news agency also highlighted the battle, reporting that the Assad army had retaken territory seized by ISIS in recent days, including an electricity station and a detention center being used as a military base.
On Sunday, the Observatory mentioned that “the violent clashes between the regime forces and allied militiamen against IS [Islamic State] militants are still taking place near the electricity company and al-Ahdath Prison in south of al-Hasakah, amid advancement for the regime forces towards the southern countryside and the southern outskirts of the city of al- Hasakah.”
The monitor added that Syria regime “warplanes carried out more raids on IS-held places in al-Shaddadi area in south of al-Hasakah and on the road linking al-Shaddadi area with the city of al-Hasakah.”
Assad troops share control of al-Hasakah city with Kurdish fighters.
According to the Observatory, Kurdish fighters began combating ISIS on Saturday night near territory under their control in the southwestern part of the city.
“The Kurdish involvement comes after criticism from figures in the town” about their refusal to join the anti-ISIS fight, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the Observatory’s chief, AFP reports.
“There were several meetings at which the Kurds were urged to participate in the defense of the city, and they agreed after a decision that they would be recognized as a primary combat force in the city,” he added.
Kurds in Syria have refused to join the anti-Assad uprising, but have also declined to fight alongside the regime, notes AFP.
“In [al-Hasakah], they share control of the city’s security with regime forces, but the arrangement has been tense at times with skirmishes breaking out occasionally,” it reports.
U.S.-led coalition airstrikes backed the armed Kurdish forces in Syria, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in their battle against ISIS in the city of Ras al-Ayn, also in al-Hasakah province, the monitor group reports.
ISIS began its offensive in al-Hasakah on May 30.
So far, at least 119 people have died in violent clashes, “among them 71 regime forces and 48 ISIS fighters, including 11 suicide bombers,” notes AFP.
Assad has reportedly lost more than three-quarters of Syria to his opponents, which also inlcude al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al Nusra Front.