Syrian Kurdish Fronts Exhaust Islamist Battalions

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An Iraqi-Kurdish man delivers mattresses as the Iraqi Red Crescent Society gathers aid supplies for Syrian refugees in the city of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on 19 August 2013. (Photo: AFP - Safin Hamed)

By: Youssef Sheikho

Published Thursday, August 22, 2013

Qamishli – Amidst the escalation in fighting between Islamist extremists and Kurds on more than one front, the Kurdish National Council in Syria pronounced several Kurdish cities disaster areas. This coincided with unprecedented Kurdish immigration into Iraqi Kurdistan, where it is estimated that around 30,000 refugees arrived only last week.

Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani considered it "a sensitive issue" and rejected emptying Kurdish areas "of their people and causing a demographic imbalance there."

However, Syrian Kurds maintain that Islamist brigades are threatening several areas. They point to several attempts by the Syrian opposition to empty the Kurdish areas under their control, such as in Tal Abyad and Tal Aran.

In related news, a Syrian army military aircraft bombed two locations in Dirik this week, killing one civilian and injuring around 14. The operation coincided with the arrival of a delegation from the preparatory committee of the Kurdish National Council to follow up on the situation of Kurdish areas and deal with "the massacres and attacks by armed groups belonging to al-Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army (FSA)."

Some believe the operation delivered a message to Iraqi Kurdistan in the wake of Barzani’s threats. "If it turns out that innocent Kurdish citizens, women, and children are under threat of murder, the Iraqi Kurdistan region will harness all its abilities to defend them," he announced recently.

YPG: We Do Not Need Military Support

Although the Iraqi Kurdistan Interior Ministry ruled out a military intervention, officials from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) maintain that Kurdish regions in Syria do not need additional military units. However, they welcome any other type of "aid or material and moral support that could strengthen their fighters."

The battles spread throughout the Hassakeh region as YPG units make significant progress on some fronts, while other areas witness sporadic clashes. Kurdish fighters took control of areas that were under the command of extremist Islamist brigades, such as in the town of Abu Rasein between al-Derbasiye and Ras al-Ayn.

Recently, YPG units announced the outcome of the clashes, explaining that they killed around 800 Islamist fighters in one month. They also announced the killing of 80 Kurdish fighters in the same period. The number of Kurdish civilians still missing "especially in the areas of Tal Hasel, Tal Aran and Aazaz, reached almost 700 citizens."

A military source told Al-Akhbar that the clashes in the Hassakeh district "has exhausted al-Qaeda's brigades and their allies." He indicated that some brigade commanders proposed "an agreement in which they keep the oil wells currently under their control." However, the Kurds rejected the offer, according to the source.

The source explained that most brigades in the areas of al-Shaddada and al-Hawl, the outskirts of the city of Hassakeh, and even in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, came to Tal Kawjar to support al-Qaeda's brigades. He expounds further saying, what is remarkable about the clashes is "the difficulty in communications between the brigades and the Turkish government providing direct support to brigades across the borders.” However, "the situation is different in Tal Kawjar [on the borders with Iraq], where Turkey's arm cannot reach."

Meanwhile, an agreement signed earlier between the Kurds and the FSA came into force in the western countryside of Kobani. According to Kurdish military officials, the armed brigades attacking Kurdish areas are allied to al-Qaeda. They are supported by brigades from the FSA, in addition to "Kurdish brigades" connected to Kurdish parties, the sources claimed.

In Aleppo's countryside, the armed brigades are moving toward Kurdish towns that used to be under the control of the Kurdish Front Brigade. There is information about an agreement between al-Qaeda brigades and the FSA in Aleppo, who are planning to form what was described as "a joint operations room to target positions controlled by the YPG and the Kurdish Front Brigade."

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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