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Syria bombs Kurdish stronghold of Hasaka for first time

STRINGER / AFP | A Syrian army jet takes off from Dmeir military airport, 50 km north-east of Damascus, on April 8, 2016.

Syrian government warplanes on Thursday bombed Kurdish-controlled areas of the city of Hasaka in northeastern Syria for the first time in the five-year-old civil war, the spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and a monitoring group said.


YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said the air strikes had hit Kurdish districts of the city, which is mostly controlled by Kurdish groups, and the positions of a Kurdish security force known as the Asayish.

"There are martyrs and wounded," he told Reuters.

The Syrian military could not immediately be reached for comment.

The YPG controls wide areas of northeastern Syria, where Kurdish groups have established an autonomous government since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. The Syrian government still has footholds in the cities of Qamishli and Hasaka.

Tensions erupted between pro-government forces and Kurdish groups in Hasaka on Tuesday, leading to the most significant violence between the sides since several days of fighting in Qamishli in April.

Xelil said government forces were bombarding Kurdish districts of Hasaka with artillery, and there were fierce clashes in the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war using a network of activists, said warplanes had targeted Kurdish security forces' positions in the northwest and northeast of the city.

Russia ready for ‘humanitarian pauses’

Aid convoys carrying desperately needed food and medicine have been blocked from entering besieged areas of Syria in the past month, due to restrictions imposed by Assad’s government.

Earlier on Thursday, UN special peace envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura suspended a weekly meeting of the humanitarian task force after eight minutes "as a sign of deep unhappiness" with the failure to restore calm and enable aid deliveries to besieged districts. He called for a 48-hour ceasefire in the northern city of Aleppo. The Syrian opposition, too, has said it wants to see a credible pause in violence there.

The Russian defence ministry responded soon after on Twitter.

Aleppo, Syria's second city and former economic hub, has emerged as a top concern for the UN and aid agencies with escalating violence causing Geneva peace talks overseen by De Mistura to break down.

Aid by air drop

Some 590,200 people are now living in besieged areas of Syria, according to UN figures.

Since aid convoys ground to a halt, the only supplies being delivered are by air drops to Deir al-Zor, the government-controlled city of 200,000 in the east under siege by Islamic State, de Mistura said.

Four besieged areas -- Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kafraya -- have not been reached by a convoy in 110 days, the UN envoy added.

More than 290,000 people have been killed and more than half the population has been displaced since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests that escalated into a brutal multi-front war.


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