The Islamic State radicals group launched a major assault on Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria overnight, with “dozens” of fighters killed on both sides, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
About 1,000 Islamic State fighters moved on Kurdish positions near the town of Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The radicals took the village of Tel Khanzir from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and were clashing with them in al-Manajir, Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman told dpa.
Al-Manajir lies between Ras al-Ain and the mainly Assyrian town of Tel Tamr, a focus of recent fighting after an Islamic State offensive during which over 200 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by the radicals.
Activists in the provincial capital, al-Hassakeh, said 40 fighters from both sides were killed in the clashes.
YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said their forces were engaged in a “fierce fight” at the outskirts of al-Manajeer.
The assault came a day after the US-led coalition against the Islamic State hailed Kurdish advances in the region and said they were “postured to retake additional territory from ISIL in the region.”
The statement said that a two-week offensive around Tel Hamis, east of al-Hassakeh, had cut Islamic State’s main supply routes from Syria to its Iraqi strongholds of Mosul and Tel Afar.
The YPG and its allies – referred to in the statement as “anti-ISIL [Islamic State] forces” – had also seized key terrain locally, with coalition air support, the statement added.
“This operation demonstrated the ability of anti-ISIL forces to further degrade Daesh influence in this region,” Combined Joint Task Force commander Lieutenant General James Terry said in a statement.
The YPG captured Tal Hamis on February 27 with the help of allied Arab fighters.
The dominant Kurdish political party has declared the north-eastern region an autonomous canton, called Cezire – although government forces remain in the main cities of al-Hassakeh and Qamishlo. SAPA