BEIRUT, (AFP) – Kurdish residents backed by militia have taken control of two towns in northeastern Syria near the border with Turkey after convincing pro-government forces to leave, a watchdog said on Saturday.
The region’s Hasakeh province has seen heavy fighting in recent days between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels, with 46 combatants killed in two days as the opposition seized the border town of Ras al-Ain on Friday.
The Kurds took control of the towns of Derbassiye and Tall Tamr late on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
They were backed by militia from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has links with Turkey’s rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), it said.
The residents and militiamen surrounded government and security offices in both towns and convinced pro-government forces to abandon their posts, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and residents on the ground.
It said the residents had feared the same kind of violence that saw 9,000 Syrians flee to Turkey in 24 hours in the face of the fighting in Ras al-Ain.
Derbassiye, northeast of Ras al-Ain, sits on the border with Turkey and is home to a small border crossing.
Tall Tamr is located at a strategic crossroads. The road from provincial capital Hasakeh to Ras al-Ain meets the region’s main east-west highway at the town.
Government forces now control just two major cities in the province, Hasakeh itself and the far northeastern border town of Qamishli, the Observatory said.