Middle East

Syrian army retakes parts of Hassakeh from ISIS: activists

Smoke rises in the Syrian town of Kobani as seen from the Turkish border town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 25, 2015.REUTERS/Ali Sahin

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces took back several parts of a neighborhood in the northeastern city of Hassakeh from ISIS Monday, but heavy clashes continued, an activist group monitoring the war said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group, said regime forces had seized parts of Al-Nashwa district in southern Hassakeh, which ISIS fighters entered last Thursday.

But it said clashes were continuing around the neighborhood with "shelling by both sides and air raids on the area where fighting is taking place."

A security source in Damascus confirmed that fighting was still ongoing in the district.

"In Hassakeh, combat is continuing today, and the army is pursuing Daesh wherever they find them," he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

"Daesh is present mostly in parts of the Al-Nashwa district. They have tried to take other areas, but the army has pushed them back," he added.

He said "martyrs are still falling" in Hassakeh but gave no specific toll.

ISIS launched a new bid to take Hassakeh city, a provincial capital, last week, entering from the south and seizing two neighborhoods.

The city is divided between the control of regime forces and Kurdish fighters, who have largely kept out of the latest round of fighting.

They have restricted their activity to defending the mostly northern neighborhoods under their control.

The Observatory said Monday that ISIS forces had shelled several Kurdish-controlled districts in the city, but there were no initial reports of casualties.

According to the United Nations, 60,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Hassakeh, which had a pre-war population of 300,000.

On Sunday, three ISIS car bombs killed 12 Syrian troops and militiamen in the city, the Observatory said.

Nine ISIS fighters were also killed in Sunday clashes with the regime, it added.

The army has brought in reinforcements in an attempt to expel the jihadis, as it has done during previous attacks.

ISIS has repeatedly sought to enter Hassakeh, including last month when it advanced to the southern outskirts before being pushed back in heavy fighting.

ISIS has captured around 50 percent of Syria's territory since it emerged in the country in 2013.

Elsewhere in Syria, Islamist militants from the Jund al-Aqsa group "executed" three judges in the northwestern city of Idlib last week , said the Observatory.

Militants from Jund al-Aqsa, which is part of a coalition led by Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, murdered the judges after accusing them of serving the regime, the group said.





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