Clashes between Kurdish forces and regime fighters in the divided northeastern city of Qamishli killed 18 combatants Saturday, the Kurdish forces said.
The rare flare-up in the Kurdish-majority city near the Turkish border saw 11 regime fighters killed and two wounded and seven members of the Asayish Internal Security Forces killed and one wounded, the Asayish General Command said in a statement on Saturday, September 8.
Kurdish forces control most of Qamishli, but Syrian government forces and allied militias hold a small enclave in the city as well as its airport.
A regime patrol consisting of three vehicles entered areas controlled by the Asayish and “targeted our forces with light and medium weapons and our forces responded to this attack,” the statement said.
An AFP correspondent at the scene saw empty camouflaged pick-up trucks in the street. Some bore bullet holes, while traces of blood were visible on the tarmac, he said.
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Deadly clashes last broke out between Kurdish forces and pro-regime fighters in Qamishli in April 2016, but ended days later with a truce.
That fighting began with a scuffle at a checkpoint and, according to Kurdish security forces, killed 17 civilians, 10 Kurdish fighters and 31 regime troops and militia.
With U.S.-led support, Syria’s Kurds played a prominent role in the war against Islamic State as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces. They seized large swathes of northern and northeastern Syria – including Raqqa, the capital of ISIS’ self-declared “caliphate” – and set up autonomous institutions, leading to the later declaration of the multi-ethnic Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
The Syrian government has vowed to reintegrate the Kurdish-held areas, by force if necessary.
In late July, it opened talks with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on a negotiated settlement.
With reporting from AFP