ISIS bombs Kurdish positions in Syria’s Hasakah, YPG responds by striking Margada

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YPG fighters observe an ISIS stronghold south Hasakah. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Hasakah – Militant fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Saturday launched an attack on positions of the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Governorate.

Military sources reported that ISIS hit headquarfters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near Shaddadi city in southern Hasakah with mortar shells.

“Daesh militants targeted the YPG-held town of Azzawi in the vicinity of Shaddadi. The group shelled YPG security checkpoints with mortar fire,” a YPG spokesman told ARA News, using another acronym for ISIS.

It was not immediately clear whether Saturday’s shelling caused any casualties.

“Our forces responded with heavy machine guns and artillery fire, targeting Daesh positions near Margada town,” the YPG spokesman said, adding that they hit direct ISIS targets and they were eventually able to repel the attack.

According to Firas Berko, a journalist embedded with the YPG in Shaddadi, Hasakah’s southern countryside has been scarred by the Islamic State’s frequent infiltration attempts.

“YPG fighters have repeatedly foiled such operations by ISIS militants,” Berko told ARA News. “However, Shaddadi remains at risk due to its location near the administrative border between the Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor Governorates, where ISIS has deployed many militants.”

In mid-February, the YPG and allied SDF forces concluded a protracted campaign by capturing Shaddadi city. In recent months ISIS has been trying to return to the area, launching mortar and car bomb attacks from bases in Deir ez-Zor Governorate.

Battle for Margada

On December 4, the Kurdish YPG forces launched a major offensive to liberate Margada town. Margada is the Islamic State’s last stronghold in Hasakah Governorate. It is located on the administrative border between Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor Governorates.

The YPG initiated the offensive by shelling the local ISIS headquarters with mortar batteries and heavy artillery. The Kurdish units intend to secure the town and thereby end the incessant jihadi attacks on their positions.

Payman Mirkham, a media activist, told ARA News that “earlier in the day, ISIS militants launched a mortar attack on the YPG security checkpoints in the [nearby] towns of Kashkash and Fadghami.”

“The Kurdish forces responded by bombing Margada in one of the fiercest offensives against ISIS,” Mirkham reported. Salah Osman, a Kurdish officer, told ARA News that ISIS “had suffered heavy losses in manpower and equipment.”

The People’s Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian militias, are reportedly pushing south along the Khabur River.

Entrenched Islamic State Jihadists

Islamic State militants have spent the preceding months fortifying Margada town but their earthworks are reportedly incomplete. The extremist group has also tried to impede the Syrian Democratic Forces’ advance by planting dozens of landmines along the town’s periphery.

“Islamic State members have dug a trench around the northern part of Margada,” Azzam Khallawi, a local media activist, told ARA News. “The project is expected to proceed and cover the town’s suburbs from all sides.”

“We are already aware of those tactics by this terrorist group,” an SDF spokesman told ARA News. “ISIS believes […] fortifications can prevent our forces from retaking Margada but we assure them that we’re prepared for any scenario.”

ISIS launched a similar project in November 2015, fortifying its headquarters and digging trenches near the town of al-Hawl. However, the project was ultimately unsuccessful as the jihadists were driven from the border town by US-backed SDF fighters.

The Long March to Deir ez-Zor

While the Islamic State controlled much of Hasakah Governorate in 2014, including Tal-Hamis and the Wadi Jarrah river valley, they have since been routed. The Syrian Democratic Forces have secured the Governorate’s capital and liberated more than 255 towns and villages.

In February, ISIS was driven out of Shaddadi city in southern Hasakah. The advance came after the SDF units cut off a main ISIS supply route through Syria’s northeastern border with Iraq.

Also in February, the US-backed SDF seized control of the Islamic State’s main financial resource in Hasakah Governorate, the Jibisa gas facility. This petrochemical plant used to feed massive power stations in Syria’s central governorates.

ISIS had been in control of the Jibisa gas facility for nearly two years, retrofitting it to produce portable gas cylinders which were then sold on the black market. Analysts told ARA News that at its peak, ISIS was producing 5,000 cylinders per day at Jibisa.

Talal Silo, an SDF spokesman, previously told ARA News that their “next target is Margada. Our operations will continue until we regain the entire region from ISIS.”

Reporting by: Ahmed Shiwesh | Source: ARA News

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