Syrian government, opposition shell Aleppo's Kurdish neighborhood

Syria’s main foes, the government and opposition, attacked the mainly Kurdish residential district in the northern city of Aleppo after a ceasefire was declared in northeastern Qamishlo between Kurdish forces and pro-Syrian government troops.
author_image Hisham Arafat

ALEPPO, Syria (Kurdistan24) – On Saturday, Syria’s main foes, the government and opposition, attacked the mainly Kurdish residential district in the northern city of Aleppo after a ceasefire was declared in northeastern Qamishlo between Kurdish forces and pro-Syrian government troops.

Syrian regime military air crafts bombed Aleppo’s Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood at about 5:00 p.m. local time with barrel bombs. The attack left several civilian casualties including women and children, a Syrian Kurdish journalist and activist in Aleppo, Nidal Hannan, told Kurdistan24.

“Many houses were destroyed in the raid where six civilians were injured, including three children and a woman, and there are still many people under the rubble,” Hannan said.

In a statement, the Syrian Kurdish forces of People’s Protection Units (YPG) confirmed the reported casualty toll after the Syrian regime raid on Sheikh Maqsoud district. “The injured civilians were transferred to the Kurdish Red Crescent clinic in Sheikh Maqsoud for treatment, and many other civilians are still missing and suspected to be buried deep under the rubble,” the YPG statement said.

 

KURDS-ASSAD CLASHES IN QAMISHLO

Syria’s government bombardment of Sheikh Maqsoud came after clashes in the northeastern Kurdish city of Qamishlo on Wednesday between President Bashar al-Assad's government and regional Kurdish forces. The fighting in Qamishlo has since been halted by a truce held on Friday night.

During the clashes – which are considered the biggest outbreak of fighting between Assad's government and Kurdish regional forces since Syria's civil war began in 2011 – Asayish (security) forces seized control of several government-controlled positions in the city of Qamishlo as well as its main prison.

 

On the reasons behind the Syrian regime’s raids on Sheikh Maqsoud, Tamar Hussein Ibrahim, a Syrian-Kurdish journalist living in Erbil, told Kurdistan24, “The bombardment of Sheikh Maqsoud can be seen as a reaction and message by the Syrian government that Kurds can be suppressed by the regime easily as they were in the past.”

“However, the Kurdish forces’ advancements in Qamishlo, and their strong position in imposing their conditions in the truce show the government in a weak position with the Kurds for the first time,” Ibrahim said.

Additionally, Ibrahim pointed out that the Syrian government’s acceptance of the Kurdish terms means that the government cannot use aerial bombing. “Recently, we see many videos and reports talking about US troops working on the ground with Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State,” he explained.

“It is clear that Kurds can face the Syrian regime with more military power unlike what happened in 2004 when they were repressed within days,” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim noted that the Qamishlo clashes and Sheikh Maqsoud bombardment represent a turning point in the relation between the Kurds and Syrian regime. He believes that the Kurds are now able to impose their conditions. 

"I can see now that Assad's dictatorship has been shaken, and the Syrian flag has been torn as Kurds are growing stronger," Ibrahim concluded.

In Aleppo, YPG fighters have been battling the insurgents for months on a heavily contested frontline that includes the district and northern countryside of the city.  

Many insurgents and Syrian opposition coalition view the YPG as allies of the Syrian government, a charge the Kurds deny. The YPG is a key ally of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

 

Reporting by Hisham Arafat

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

 

A bird flies near a torn Syrian national flag in the city of Qamishlo, Syria April 21, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)