Kurdish forces open new front against Assad

Fighting broke out between Kurdish forces and Syrian government troops in the northeastern city of Hassakeh, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Jan. 18. The clashes reportedly began after Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG) detained around 10 regime loyalists they accused of seizing part of a demilitarized zone. Under a deal made last year, YPG forces control around 30% of the city, with regime forces controlling most of the city's Arab-majority neighborhoods, and a buffer zone off-limits to both sides. The deal was arranged as both sides fought to keep ISIS out of Hassakeh, a provincial capital of some 200,000 people. The new fighting is being portrayed as opening a Kurdish front against the regime. (Daily Star, Lebanon, Today's Zaman, Turkey, Jan. 18)

Meanwhile in northern Iraq, rival Kurdish forces have fallen out over control of the Mount Sinjar area, which was liberated from ISIS by a coalition of Peshmerga units loyal to Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and fighters form the YPG and aligned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The KRG's Council of Ministers on Jan. 17 issued a statement expressing gratitude for the PKK's aid in liberating the area, but protesting the PKK's establishment of a "canton" in the district of Sinjar (also rendered Shingal), calling the step an "illegal action" that "contradicts the constitution and laws of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq." The PKK plans to run a "democratic auto-administration" in Sinjar. (ARA News, Jan. 18)

  1. Anti-Arab reprisals in battle for Sinjar

    As Kurdish forces and allied Yazidi militias advance on ISIS-held Sinjar, mass graves of Yazidis evidently massacred by ISIS are being discovered—prompting Yazidi militants to carry out reprisals against Arab residients they accuse of having collaborated with the jihadists. In the past week, the remains of more than 40 Yazidis were discovered in two pits in the area. More than a dozen Sunni Arab residents told Reuters that armed of Yazidis raided four of their villages in Sinjar two weeks ago, killing at least 21 people. A further 17 went missing. (Reuters, Feb. 10)