Syrian Kurds push deeper into IS militant group territory


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Tensions have flared in Qamishli, a northeastern city split between Kurdish and government forces. Kurdish forces seized several positions from government control there last week following clashes which Kurdish officials blamed the Syrian government for instigating to stir Arab-Kurdish conflict. AFP

Beirut .- Kurdish-led forces advanced on Monday deep into territory in Syria held by IS militant group, showing new momentum after they unexpectedly swiftly seized a border crossing from the militants last week.

The Kurds, aided by US-led air strikes and smaller Syrian rebel groups, have pushed to within 7km (4 miles) of Ain Issa, a town 50km (30 miles) north of IS's de facto capital Raqqa city, said Redur Xelil, spokesman for the Kurdish forces.

The rapid advance into Raqqa province has defied expectations of a protracted battle between the Kurdish YPG group and IS militants, who waged a four-month battle for the border town of Kobane, where the Kurds finally defeated the militants in January.

A spokesman for the Pentagon said last week IS militants had appeared to "crack" at the Turkish border town of Tel Abyad, which fell to the YPG in less than two days, cutting IS's supply route from Turkey.

The YPG-led forces were now battling IS militants on the outskirts of a military base to the southwest of Ain Issa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.

IS group has held the base, "Liwa 93", since capturing it from the Syrian military last year. If the Kurds take it, that would mean Ain Issa had effectively fallen, the observatory said. Thousands of people had fled from Ain Issa towards Raqqa city in the last two days, it added.

Some refugees from the Tel Abyad area had accused the YPG of driving Arabs and Turkmen from territory seized from IS. More than 23,000 people had fled northern Syria into Turkey this month, escaping the fighting.

With the fighting having moved on and a border crossing reopening, some of the refugees were returning to Tel Abyad on Monday.

Hundreds of Syrians, mostly women and children carrying bags of belongings, returned across the border from the Turkish town of Akcakale.

Kurdish officials deny forcing people out and say such accusations are being made to stir up ethnic strife. The Observatory says there has been no evidence of systematic abuses by the YPG, though there have been individual cases.

The Kurdish advance is alarming the Turkish government, which is worried the growing Kurdish sway in northern Syria could inflame ethnic unrest among its own Kurdish population.

Ankara has conveyed to Washington its concerns about signs of "a kind of ethnic cleansing" in areas captured by Kurds near Tel Abyad.

The Syrian Kurds say they do not want their own state, but see their example of regional autonomy as a model for how to settle the war in Syria and elsewhere in the region. Their cousins in Iraq also have self-rule in an autonomous region.

The Kurdish administration's growing strength has led to friction with the Damascus government, which has tended to avoid direct conflict with the Kurds during the four-year war while maintaining a foothold in areas where the Kurds hold sway.

Tensions have flared in Qamishli, a northeastern city split between Kurdish and government forces. Kurdish forces seized several positions from government control there last week following clashes which Kurdish officials blamed the Syrian government for instigating to stir Arab-Kurdish conflict.

Syrian government officials did not comment specifically on the Qamishli events but have said they suspect some Kurds of harbouring separatist aims.

"In general, (the Kurds) and us are friends, but there is no state of permanent harmony," a Syrian government official said by telephone on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 Syrian refugees who had fled into Turkey crossed back on Monday, security sources and witnesses said, as a gate reopened a few days after IS militants were ousted from the frontier town of Tel Abyad by Syrian Kurds.

Amid tight security on the Turkish side, hundreds of refugees -- mostly women and children carrying bags of belongings -- crossed the border from the Turkish town of Akcakale to Tel Abyad.

Security sources said that the border gate was subsequently kept closed for four days for security reasons.

More than 23,000 refugees fleeing fighting in northern Syria entered Turkey earlier this month, according to Turkish authorities cited by the UN refugee agency. Reuters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ونحن على إحدى الصحف التي تقوم بجمع أهم الأخبار التي تحدث في الشرق الأوسط، ولدينا كل هذه المعلومات للقراء في جميع أنحاء

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