ISLAMIC State (IS) militants launched two major attacks in northern Syria storming government-held areas in the Kurdish city of Hassakeh and pushing into Kobani – the Syrian Kurdish border town they were expelled from early this year.
The attacks came after IS suffered several setbacks in northern Syria against Kurdish forces over the past week.
Attack them and shake the ground beneath themIS spokesman
In Kobani, which resisted a months-long assault by the Islamic militants before driving them out in January, an activist group said ten people died in fighting yesterday – the first time in six months IS had managed to enter the town along the Syria-Turkey border.
In the city of Hassakeh, Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, said IS militants attacked government-held neighbourhoods on the southern edge of the city, and captured some areas.
Hassakeh is divided between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Kurdish fighters.
Syrian state TV reported intense clashes inside Hassakeh’s southern neighbourhood of Nashawi.
According to the report, IS fighters killed several people they captured in the city, including the head of a military housing institution.
It said the militants sustained many casualties, including the commander of the group who is a foreign fighter.
IS tried to storm the city earlier this month and reached its southern outskirts before facing strong resistance from Syrian government troops who pushed them away. The attacks on Hassakeh and Kobani came just days after YPG fighters and their allies captured the IS stronghold of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey and the town of Ein Issa to the south.
Kurdish fighters have been advancing since January under the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coalition.
But in neighbouring Iraq, government forces and allied Shiite militiamen have been slow in retaking IS-held territory.
The Iraqis have also suffered occasional losses. Iraqi troops drove IS militants from Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in April, but lost Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad, last month.
In June last year, IS launched a blitz, capturing large parts of both Syria and Iraq and subsequently declared an Islamic caliphate on the territory it controls.
A major IS attack was widely expected during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last week.
In an audio message Tuesday, IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani urged Sunni Muslims to use the time of piety and dawn-to-dusk fasting during Ramadan to wage jihad and seek martyrdom.
“Attack them everywhere and shake the ground beneath them,” he said.