Despite ceasefire between Assad regime and Kurds, civilians fear renewed fighting in Qamishlo

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Kurdish fighters are seen in central Qamishli in Hasakah governorate after clashes with pro-Assad forces. File photo: ARA News

ARA News 

QAMISHLO – After three days of fierce clashes between the Kurdish forces and pro-Assad troops in the northeastern city of Qamishlo (Qamishli), the conflicting parties have reached a ceasefire agreement. However, Kurdish civilians fear that the clashes could erupt again in the city of Qamislo after the Syrian regime bombed Kurdish neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo. 

Near the municipality office in Qamislo bullets and the impact of an RPG rocket or mortar can be seen. Broken glass is spread all over the neighbourhood in the city cenre.

“Today there is a ceasefire, we are all prepared to fight against the regime,” Heval Resho (43), a member of the Kurdish security police, told ARA News. “Some people came back, but a lot of them are afraid,” he added.

However, he said he doesn’t know if the conflict will continue again. “I want the war to continue, and want the regime to leave. It has been enough. 60 to 70 years they controlled us, hopefully we kick them out,” he said.

Speaking to ARA News, Heval Dilgesh (27), another Kurdish fighter, said: “We protect the people so they can go back to work. If something happens we are ready.”

“There used to be fighting here, but today there is no fighting. We are not sure if this truce could last for long,” he said. “We want to kick out the regime because the people of Qamishlo are unhappy after we had martyrs. We have had enough of suppression,” he added.

The central market near the regime’s security points in the city centre is relatively calm after the Kurdish local authorities decided to keep the shops closed to protect civilians. “The comrades made the decision for shops not to open, we don’t know if the war will start again or not, but if it does, it will be necessary for civilians not to be here. They are waiting for permission to return to work,” said Soresh Bagok (24), a Kurdish civilian.

Civilians are still afraid the clashes could restart again. “Today it is quiet, but there is fear. Half of Qamislo people fled,” said Mohammed Noor (25), who sells vegetables. “I had to throw all my vegetables away,” he added.

“There is no fighting today, but there is fear. We are afraid the war starts again,” he told ARA News.

The clashes could re-erupt again after the regime started bombing the Kurdish controlled-neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo with barrel bombs on Saturday afternoon.

The Kurdish security forces are still on high alert and positioned on strategic points in the streets of Qamishlo city, while curtains cover the regime positions.

A member of the Kurdish Special Forces known as HAT warned me for snipers in a street close to the regime. “Watch out in this street, there could still be snipers,” he said.

Ceasefire reached between Kurds and Assad regime following heavy clashes in Qamislo

A ceasefire was reached on Friday between the Syrian government and Kurdish forces after three days of heavy fighting in the northeastern city of Qamishlo (Qamishli), the Kurdish security police officially announced.

The General Command of the Kurdish Security Police –also known as Asayish in Kurdish– announced on Friday that the Syrian government and the Kurdish forces have reached an agreement on the request of Arab tribal leaders for a ceasefire. 

The Kurdish security police said in a public statement that at least 31 regime fighters were killed and 102 captured. Moreover, in total 13 fighters on the Kurdish side were killed in the fight with the Syrian government. The Kurdish leadership added that the Islamic State (ISIS) carried out suicide attacks in the al-Wusta neighborhood in Qamishlo. 

The casualty numbers could not be confirmed from the regime side.

“For nearly four years Qamishlo enjoyed relative calmness and peace, and they [pro-regime forces] wanted to destroy this, while people were living peacefully in the city of Qamislo,” said Moaz Abdulkarim (34), the co-president of the city council of Qamishli, who was carrying a gun. 

“They fired randomly with heavy weapons, and the civilians suffered from this, and paid the bill” he told ARA News. 

“Their [government] plan did not succeed,” Abdulkarim added. 

Speaking to ARA News in Qamishlo, YPG fighter Ciwan (33) said that on Frida morning there was already a ceasefire. “There is a ceasefire until now, and no fighting. They have snipers ready to shoot, but the market is empty of civilians,” he added. 

Close to the Allaya regime prison that was captured by Kurdish forces on Thursday, the sound of gunfire could still be heard, especially in Arab villages near Qamislo city. 

“There is still gunfire coming from Khirbat Amo [Arab village],” said Heval Redur, the leading Asayish officer for the captured regime prison. “It’s in the hand of civilian Arabs, but the regime entered the area, and told them to evacuate the area,” he told ARA News.

“But we have kicked them out from this area [prison] and pushed them forward from Allaya,” he added.

“I don’t know if the fighting will continue, but I want it to end soon. I have a child who is sick,” said Majid Mahmoud (40), a civilian who was trying to bring his family to safety in a village close to the city. 

“I am not going to the border, I am going to a nearby village. Once the war ends, I will return home with my family,” he added.

Analysts previously told ARA News the ceasefire would be expected. 

“PYD [Kurdish part] told me they believe the regime had begun to push its weight around, and were not respecting the informal arrangements which exist in the city,” Michael Stephens, head of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Qatar told ARA News.

“As a result the YPG and Asayish were told to push back and force the regime to understand it had no ability to escalate and that it should not use its strengthened position to try and get advantage in Kurdish controlled area,” he added. 

“My view is that both sides will want to calm this down quickly, it would be extremely difficult for the regime to open a new front in Qamishlo against the Kurds,” he suggested 

“At the same time, for PYD there would be a lot to lose; the airport would shut down and they would lose their last link to the outside world. They are under a lot of pressure from KRG [government of Iraqi Kurdistan], and resources are tighter than normal. I expect there will be some sort of deal fairly quickly, with prisoner swaps,” Stephens added. 

So far, it is not clear if the two sides will also withdraw from certain areas, after the Kurds took the regime-prison in Allaya, positions in the al-Wusta neighbourhood and the regime bakery.

Reporting: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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