Military clashes in recent days between the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and extremist Islamic State (IS) group in the northeastern city of Hassakeh led to the destruction and razing of homes and shops.
ISIS launched an attack on January 20 on the Al-Sinaa Prison in the Ghweiran neighbourhood in the southern part of Hassakeh city, where the SDF is holding thousands of ISIS prisoners. Subsequent fighting in and around the prison caused thousands of residents to flee the neighbourhood.
The battles hit Ghweiran as well as the nearby Al-Zuhour neighbourhood, the largest Arab-majority neighbourhood in Hassakeh. Helicopters and warplanes belonging to the international anti-ISIS coalition forces bombed houses where ISIS members were thought to be hiding. The SDF also combed the southern neighbourhoods of the city, where they destroyed and bulldozed a number of homes and businesses.
The SDF said in a press conference on January 31 that it had eradicated the last pockets of ISIS control in Al-Sinaa Prison. According to the SDF’s count, 121 SDF fighters, 374 ISIS fighters and seven civilians were killed in the fighting. Displaced residents were permitted to return to their neighbourhoods after the SDF finished its combing operations.
Most of the destroyed homes were an informally built residential neighbourhood near a cemetery and the Al-Sinaa Prison. Human rights sources told The Syria Report that more than 20 homes faced damage, some of them completely, in addition to a number of businesses, including a pharmacy.
One homeowner told The Syria Report that the SDF destroyed and then bulldozed his house and three surrounding homes on Al-Asfanj Street following suspicions that ISIS fighters who had escaped the prison were hiding in one of the homes as residents fled the area. The homeowner accused the SDF of destroying and razing homes as well as the surrounding area when it suspects ISIS members of hiding in them.
Another resident said that his house and the 12 houses surrounding it had been razed with heavy machinery after their owners had fled the neighbourhood. The resident said that there were no signs of bombing or ground fighting in the area where the houses had stood.
Ghweiran is among the largest and most densely populated neighbourhoods in Hassakeh, and sits to the city’s southeast. The neighbourhood is home to a number of vital government institutions and some faculties of Al-Furat University, as well as the Central Prison and Al-Sinaa Prison, which is a series of civilian buildings that the SDF converted into a prison for ISIS members.
Source: The Syria Report