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Syria army 'pushes IS back from Hasakeh'

AFP logoAFP 07-06-2015

Syrian government forces have pushed Islamic State group fighters back after a bid by the jihadists to enter the city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, a monitor said on Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "fierce combat" had allowed government forces to push IS fighters away from the southern edge of Hasakeh, the capital of the province of the same name.

"IS, which has been at the southern entrance of the city since Thursday, was forced to pull back two kilometres after fierce combat with regime forces," the Britain-based monitor said.

Jihadist fighters from the Al-Nusra Front drive towards the frontline near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on May 26, 2015 © Provided by AFP Jihadist fighters from the Al-Nusra Front drive towards the frontline near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on May 26, 2015

Syria's official SANA news agency also reported the fighting, saying the army had retaken several positions captured by IS in recent days, including an electricity station and a prison being used as a military base.

The Observatory said fighting was now continuing in the area near the prison.

IS began an assault on Hasakeh on May 30, advancing to the southern entrance to the city last week.

Control of Hasakeh city is shared between government forces and Kurdish fighters, who did not initially enter into combat against IS.

But the Observatory said Kurdish forces began fighting IS on the outskirts of the areas under their control in the west of the city on Saturday night.

"The Kurdish involvement comes after criticism from figures in the town" about their lack of participation, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"There were several meetings at which the Kurds were urged to participate in the defence of the city, and they agreed after a decision that they would be recognised as a primary combat force in the city," he added.

Syria's Kurds have walked a careful line in the country's conflict, declining to join the uprising directly, but also not fighting alongside the regime.

A Syrian soldier fires artillery shells towards Islamic State jihadists during clashes near the northeastern city of Palmyra, on May 17, 2015 © Provided by AFP A Syrian soldier fires artillery shells towards Islamic State jihadists during clashes near the northeastern city of Palmyra, on May 17, 2015

In Hasakeh, they share control of the city's security with regime forces, but the arrangement has been tense at times with skirmishes breaking out occasionally.

The IS assault on Hasakeh that began on May 30 has so far left at least 119 dead, among them 71 regime forces and 48 IS fighters, including 11 suicide bombers.

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