SOHR: Residents in crossfire as ISIS, SDF fighting enters sixth day • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR: Residents in crossfire as ISIS, SDF fighting enters sixth day

Thousands of people are living in dire conditions and makeshift dormitories after fleeing their homes in northeast Syria (Rojava) due to ongoing clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Islamic State (ISIS) as the terror group battles to retake control of a prison housing its members and affiliates in the Hasaka province for the sixth day on Tuesday.

Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes due to the armed conflict in Hasaka’s Ghweran neighborhood since Thursday, where hundreds of ISIS fighters broke into al-Sina’a prison in the area, attempting to free the terror group’s militants held in the detention center.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Sunday said that 45,000 people have been displaced from their homes because of the violence.

However, the SDF-affiliated Rojava Information Center questioned this figure on Monday, citing information released by the UN Humanitarian Needs Assessment Programme to suggest that the number of those displaced by the fighting in Hasaka was considerably lower, estimating a figure of 6,000.

Rudaw English reached out to the OCHA to clarify the number but has not yet received a response.

“Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS] entered our houses at five in the morning. They said “all of you go out.” We don’t want anything, we want safety,” one of the displaced residents, Shekha Miziyen, told Rudaw’s Barzan Farman from Hasaka on Monday.

Another displaced local described the situation as “really bad.”

More than two hundred ISIS fighters broke into al-Sina’a prison, known to locals as Ghweran prison, on Thursday night, while hundreds of fighters inside the detention facility staged a riot, smashing walls and burning oil storage facilities.

The militants infiltrated the prison from its surrounding areas and later fled to the nearby al-Zuhoor neighborhood where they hid in civilian houses. The SDF on Friday said that ISIS was using civilians in the surrounding area as “human shields.”

“There was a knock on the door,” Khalil Hassan, who fled his home, told Rudaw on Monday. “I said, “who is it?” and they said we can’t speak here, open the door.”

Upon opening the door, Hassan explained, he was faced with members of the terror group. “They told us we are your brothers from the Islamic State, we won’t hurt you, just let us in. The women went to another room and we sat down with them for like two hours.”

The ISIS militants later left after they received a phone call about a meeting in another house, he added.

ISIS controlled swathes of Syrian territories in 2014. The offensive on the Ghweran prison in Rojava is one of the most significant operations since the terror group’s so-called caliphate was defeated in Syria in 2019.

The death toll of the Ghweran prison break has reached 166, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Tuesday, noting that the monitor asserts the toll to be higher.

The SDF on Tuesday said that 550 ISIS fighters had surrendered themselves to the force, noting that they have also controlled a block of buildings inside the Ghweran prison.

Kurdish authorities in Rojava imposed a state of emergency in Hasaka on Sunday after seven civilians were killed in the crossfire.

ISIS has released a number of videos from inside the prison, including one that showed around two dozen men – mostly Arabs – detained inside the facility. Kurdish authorities have said that those shown were cooks working in the prison kitchen. There appears to have been a backlash against the jihadists amongst the Sunni Arab tribes from the Hasaka and Deir ez-Zor governorates, where many of the men detained come from.

ISIS operatives and supporters said on Monday that the battle inside the prison is intensifying. One member posted a photo on social media saying that “the lions of Baghouz will free their brethren in prison.” Baghouz is a reference to the final battle between the Kurdish-led SDF and ISIS in early 2019, where the jihadists were defeated. Most were either killed or captured.

Ghweran and al-Shaddadi prison in Hasaka hold an estimated number of 7,500 Syrian and foreign ISIS suspects, including children, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in 2020. Around 5,000 people are detained in Ghweran prison, which was formerly a school and is now controlled by the SDF.



Source: Rudaw