Despite recent territorial losses, like losing Tel Abyad to the Kurds, ISIS is back on the offensive and once more in the headlines. In a two-pronged attack, the Islamic State is threatening Kurdish control of Kobani, as well as regime control of southern Hasakeh, the capital city of the Hasakeh province and one of the Assad regimes last strongholds in northeast Syria.Last year ISIS ran a fierce four month siege on Kobani that ended only after the arrival of American air support and Kurdish reinforcements from Iraq. Now ISIS has returned— with revenge on its mind. Reuters reports:
Islamic State fighters killed at least 145 civilians in an attack on the Syrian town of Kobani and a nearby village, in what a monitoring group described on Friday as the second worst massacre carried out by the hardline group in Syria.Fighting between the Kurdish YPG militia and Islamic State fighters who infiltrated the town at the Turkish border on Thursday continued into a second day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group and a Kurdish official said.Islamic State has a record of conducting large scale killings of civilians in territory it captures in both Iraq and Syria, where it has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims according to an ultra-hardline vision of Islam.
Meanwhile, the fight continues to rage on in southern Hasakeh between ISIS and regime forces. The city of Hasakeh, which is governed by Kurdish forces in the north of the city, and Assad pro-regime forces in the south of the city, has long been a target of the Islamic State. Preceded by an overnight infiltration of ISIS saboteurs who claim to have beheaded a Syrian general, the ISIS offensive has regime forces on the back foot. NOW captures the situation on the ground:
At daybreak Thursday, fighters from the militant group breached the regime’s defensive lines in the southwest of the city and seized two neighborhoods as thousands of civilians began to flee from their homes.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported in the morning that ISIS had taken control of the Nashweh and Al-Shariaa quarters of Hasakeh, where the Syrian maintains one of its last two military bastions in the northeastern Syrian province that has fallen increasingly under Kurdish control in past months.ISIS announced in a statement that it seized the two areas in a surprise operation that involved its fighters infiltrating into the southwest of the city overnight, adding that regime forces were forced to withdraw to the center of the city “in a state of shock of collapse.”
Though Kurdish YPG forces are fully occupied in Kobani, they are keeping a close eye on the battlefield balance between their two rivals in the south. As cited in the NOW story, an Erbil news outlet reports that YPG fighters “have been on alert since the dawn” and added that “YPG will participate in the clashes in the event they encroach on areas populated by Kurds.”A renewed offensive in Syria by ISIS appears to be an effort by the group to repudiate the narrative that Kurdish forces are rising in stature at the expense of the Islamic State. While the outcome of these latest engagements initiated by ISIS is uncertain, what is certain is the perilous journey of the Syrian refuge. This latest round of fighting in Hasakeh has already caused 60,000 people to flee the city, while the United Nations has warned that as many as 200,000 people may soon try to flee as well.