Close call between Syrian and American forcesin north-eastern Syria after two Syrian Arab Army fighter jets dropped bombs on Kurdish positions in Hasakah, where US Special Forces were also present. In response, U.S. planes were scrambled in the area, making it one of the most critical US-Syria episodes since the War broke out[1]. Hasakah is in the Kurdish proclaimed Roajava federation which incorporates most of the northern Syrian lands, and has the YPG-led, US backed SDF as its officially army.

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Location of Halsakah on the Syria War situation map

Washington-Damascus close call

The airstrikes were preceded by a couple of days of clashes on the ground that involved artillery. “It troubles us when we see …regime airstrikes in Hasakah in an area where it’s well known by everybody, to include the [Bashar al-Assad] regime, that the coalition is actively engaged in operations against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” Defense Department spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said[2].

The Syrian Su24 airstrikes hit a training camp for the Kurdish units in Tal Baidar, in addition to outposts for the Asayish forces in Al-Mahlaj, Al-Kallasah and Al-Nasirah neighborhoods[3]. No US operator has wounded or killed in this raid, but ground assets were pulled out of northern Syria[4]. The two US F22 scrambled attempted to contact the Syrian jets but received no answer.

“If the U.S.-led coalition think for once that by allowing them into Syrian airspace they can do whatever they wish inside, they are mistaken,” said a post on a Syrian Arab Army Facebook page. The Syrian Arab Army is the land element of Assad’s forces.

US Special Forces are in Syria for months in training and advising missions with the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) and key Kurdish groups. But this is the first time when Damascus takes action against the YPG, military wing of the Kurdish PYD.

A senior defense official told CNN, “If the Syrians try this again, they are at great risk of losing an aircraft[5].” The Pentagon will also strengthen it’s air cover in the area.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhosfUHBvIs

The new Kurdish-Syrian skirmish

The Syrian Government, after peacefully cooperating with the Kurds for the most time of the war, are now calling them ”separatists”. Those exact factions have taken arms against Opposition forces as FSA, synchronized with Syrian Arab Army operations and benefited from Russian air strikes. Now, The Syrian authorities have also called on the Arabs living in the predominantly-Kurdish city to arm themselves and fight the Kurdish separatists who adopt “a relocation project”. Russia is also expected to stop “flirting” with the Kurds, now that it has Turkey back as a friend.

While the Rojava Federation in Kurdish-held northern Syria is a bid  strongly opposed by the Turkish authorities, Damascus is now also joining the party. The same Al-Assad, President of Syria, has hosted and supported the PKK in its war against Turkey even risking a war between the two countries. Damascus has even named the situation in Hasakah as being a PKK provocation, in its press conference. But after recent foreign policy shifts at Ankara, could it be that Turkey is indeed aligning with the Moscow-Damascus-Teheran axis, and furthermore, are the mentioned actors also aligning with Turkey’s interest in return?

 

Ricochet in Aleppo?

But the Regime attacks in Hasakah against Kurdish forces has opened the Pandora Box in Aleppo, where the two camps were in an non-agression pact, fighting off the trapped FSA in eastern Aleppo, and the southern-front advancing Anhar al-Sham, Jabhat Fatah ash-Sham and other jihadi Salafist groups.

Now the Kurds could turn their arms against the Regim and fight alongside the FSA and even cut the Regime’s last supply line with forces outside Aleppo. The supply corridor was provided by the alliance with the Kurds.  

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Kurds (yellow) could allign with FSA (green) in Aleppo and cut the Regime’s (red) only supply line with forces outside the city.

 

[1] “DoD: Syrian Regime Airstrikes Near Hasakah Put Coalition Forces at Ris.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE. Accessed August 20, 2016. http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/920365/dod-syrian-regime-airstrikes-near-hasakah-put-coalition-forces-at-risk.

[2] ibidem

[3] Adra, Zen. “Syrian Airforce Strikes Kurds in Hasakah amid Intensifying Clashes [Report + Video].” AMN – Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز, August 18, 2016. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-airforce-strikes-kurds-hasakah-amid-intensifying-clashes-report-video/.

[4] CNN, Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne. “Aerial Close Encounter between US, Syrian Jets.” CNN. Accessed August 20, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/19/politics/syria-bombing-us-forces/index.html.

[5] ibidem

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