Kurds launch assault to oust Syrian regime from Hassakeh
US-backed Kurdish forces launched an assault early on Monday to take control of regime-controlled areas of the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh following reports that a truce deal had been reached.
The Kurdish People's Protection Units [YPG] began the offensive after midnight on the southern districts of the city and seized a post office in the al-Masakin district and parts of the Ghwairan district.
"Clashes broke out at midnight when the YPG attacked locations of the pro-regime National Defence Forces [NDF]," local activist Suhaib al-Hasakawi told The New Arab.
"Fighting is ongoing in the Ghwairan and al-Nashwa districts where the YGP is advancing. The NDF forces stationed in the Kawkab hills have shelled the Kurdish forces."
He added that regime warplanes flew over the flashpoint city but did not conduct air raids.
The northeastern city has been rocked by deadly clashes between Kurdish forces and fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since Wednesday in the most violent confrontation between the two sides in more than five years of civil war.
On Sunday, Syria's military said a truce deal had been reached with the Kurds, however, the YGP denied this.
The YPG on Sunday handed out leaflets and made loudspeaker calls across the city ordering regime forces to hand over their weapons or face death.
"This battle is over and we will not retreat," the leaflet read.
In a bid to calm tensions, a delegation of Russian officials from the coastal Hmeimim military airport arrived in the nearby city of Qamishli on Saturday for talks with both sides.
"The Russian delegation met with Kurdish officials and security forces whereas no officials from the NDF attended," Hasakawi said.
He added that all attempts to reach a truce have failed because the YPG have demanded that the NDF be dismantled in the city, while the pro-Damascus forces have in turn said that Kurdish militias should pull out.
The violence erupted on Thursday when regime warplanes bombarded Kurdish-held positions in the city for the first time.
The unprecedented regime strikes prompted the US-led coalition to scramble aircraft to protect its special operations forces helping the YPG as they battle the Islamic State group [IS] in northern Syria.