Syrian Kurds battle Assad on Saturday breaking a longstanding tacit agreement between the two sides to focus on other enemies in a complex civil war.
In Syria’s predominantly Kurdish northeast, Assad’s forces and Kurdish militia, mainly the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have for the most part coexisted without clashing, focusing their manpower against the Islamic State.
However, opposition sources said violence erupted when army soldiers and allied militiamen took control of buildings in an area that both sides had agreed would stay demilitarized.
According to the same opposition sources and YPG website, the PYD (the political wing of the YPG) arrested 10 soldiers and Baath party gunmen.
“There is now fighting in many areas of Hassakeh.”
The YPG and the government had previously divided Hassakeh into zones in a power sharing agreement.
The Syrian army shelled three Kurdish-majority areas on the edges of Hassakeh city, and fighters from YPG clashed with Syrian forces inside the city throughout the day, the YPG said on its website.
Syrian Kurds, who say they suffered years of oppression under Assad, had on occasion fought with his loyalists in territorial disputes, but never in sustained clashes.
Kurdish activists posted photos showing smoke rising from buildings and YPG fighters raising the Syrian Kurdistan flag in areas said to be taken from government forces.
Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment and state media did not mention the clashes.
Damascus has promoted its ties with the Kurds, saying that it provides military support to Kurdish forces to help them battle Islamic State, although the PYD denies that it cooperates with the central government.
During the three-year war in Syria, Kurds have asserted control in parts of the northeast where their community predominates. Islamic State and other hardline groups consider Kurds heretics and have fought to take areas they control.
There were smaller scale clashes in May between Assad loyalists and Kurds in Hassakeh that were contained.
All in all, this should not bode well for Assad for the Kurds to be battling his forces.