Christian Assyrian forces launched a counterattack against the Kurdish police Asayish in northern Syria’s Qamishli.
The attack came after several Assyrian fighters were reportedly arrested by the Asayish force.
Hours before the battle between the Assyrians and the Kurds, the Kurds and the pro-Bashar al-Assad militia group, the National Defense Forces (NDF), had begun to fight inside Qamishli.
“Intense clashes are still ongoing between the pro-government forces and the Asayish in Qamishli; however, the battle is deadlocked, despite claims made by Kurdish activists regarding the alleged capture of the Qamishli Central Prison,” reports Al Masdar News.
“According to a military source in Qamishli, 5 NDF soldiers have been killed and over 30 others, including [Assyrian forces] Sootooro and Hamiya Al-Jazeerah, were reportedly wounded,” it adds.
The U.S.-backed Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) control large swaths of northern Syria.
Qamishli is primarily controlled by Syrian Kurds, but it also includes predominantly Assyrian districts, such as Al-Wusta.
Some Assyrians accuse the Kurds of trying to take their lands.
Kurds seek to establish an autonomous political federation in northern Syria despite objections from foreign governments, including the United States, which fears the disintegration of Syria.
In February, Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari, an expert on Assyrian issues in the Middle East, told Breitbart News that the region in northern Syria that the Kurds want to declare their own includes all Christian Assyrian villages in the country.
Clashes between the Assyrians and Kurds in northern Syria are not unprecedented.
In January, YPG fighters “conducted a surprise attack on Assyrian checkpoints in the Al-Wusta district of Qamishli, which is a predominantly Assyrian area,” reported the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).
“The checkpoints are manned by the Sootooro/GPF Assyrian security forces and were setup after three Assyrian restaurants were bombed on December 20, 2016 (AINA 2015-12-30), which killed 14 Assyrians,” continues the report, later adding, “Qamishli has a population of 185,000 Assyrians, Kurds, Arabs and Armenians, with nearly 50,000 Assyrians.”
AINA notes that the Assyrian Protection Forces (Sootooro) are affiliated with the pro-Assad National Defense Forces.
Meanwhile, members of the YPG forces and the PYD itself have been accused by their rival Turkey of being linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a group that has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.
The United States and the Syrian Kurds have denied those accusations.