Battle of Ras al-Ayn
|Battle of Ras al-Ayn|
|Part of the Kurdistan conflict of the Syrian Civil War|
Ra's al-'Ayn Main Roundabout
|Free Syrian Army|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Nawaf Ragheb al-Bashir|
|400 militiamen (November 2012)||Unknown||
Al-Nusra Front: 200 fighters
|Casualties and losses|
|40+ killed||38 killed||122-148 killed|
The Battle of Ras al-Ayn was a battle for control of the town of Ras al-Ayn (Kurdish: Serêkanî), mainly between Kurdish separatists and armed groups of the Syrian opposition, with the occasional involvement of the Syrian Armed Forces.
On 8 November, the FSA attacked Syrian army positions in Ras al-Ayn and later released video showed FSA fighters in control of the town. Al-Kurdiya News correspondent on the ground also said that local Kurds aided the FSA in the attack. According to Turkish journalist Mehmet Aksakal two Turks have been injured in the border town of Ceylanpınar. He also suggested that clashes may be result of growing dissatisfaction between KNC and PYD. However, another Kurdish activist claimed that even though PYD had their armed wing in the city, it was controlled fully by the government and PYD did not participate in clashes. Around 10-26 rebels and 20 Syrian soldiers were killed in the fighting, while about 8,000 residents fled to Ceylanpınar as fighting raged.
On 10 November, YPG militiamen aided by local Kurds stormed the last government security and administrative stations in the towns of Al-Darbasiyah (Kurdish: Dirbêsî) and Tel Tamer. This attack was prompted by violence in Ras al-Ayn where the FSA stormed the town because of the presence of government security units. It also left only 2 major towns in hands of government in Al-Hasakah Governorate - Al-Hasakah and Qamishli. The following day, an airstrike conducted on Ras al-Ayn by the Syrian Air Force killed at least 16 individuals in the town.
On 13 November, YPG militia forced out remaining security units from the town of Al-Malikiyah (Kurdish: Dêrika Hemko), in order to prevent FSA from having an excuse to launch an attack like in Ras al-Ayn. On 14 November, FSA fighters took control of an army post near Ras al-Ayn, reportedly killing 18 soldiers based there. On 15 November, FSA announced that they had taken full control of Ras al-Ayn capturing or killing the last remaining Syrian Army soldiers stationed there. There were also no government airstrikes in the town for the first time in the past 3 days as Government forces appeared to have given up in trying to retake the city.
On 19 November, the FSA launched an assault on a PYD checkpoint in Ras al-Ayn that initially left six rebels dead. The rebels also assassinated Abed Khalil, the president of the local Kurdish PYD council, when a sniper shot him dead. The next day it was reported by SOHR that the death toll in the rebel-PYD fighting in the town had reached 34. 29 of the dead were members of the rebel Islamist Al-Nusra Front and the Gharba al-Sham battalion. The other five included four Kurdish fighters and the Kurdish official. The four Kurdish fighters were reportedly executed after being captured by the rebels. The opposition activist group the LCC put the number of dead at 46: 25 Kurdish and 20 FSA fighters and the official. 35 Kurds and 11 FSA fighters were captured by both sides.
As a result of the fighting, there has been a buildup in the number of forces deployed by both sides in Ras al-Ayn. By 22 November, Kurdish forces had strengthened their numbers to around 400 militiamen, who faced 200 fighters from the al-Nusra Front and 100 fighters from Ghuraba al-Sham, supported by 3 captured Syrian Army tanks.
On 19 November, members of the al-Nusra Front and Ghuraba al-Sham opened fire on a YPG checkpoint, sparking clashes that killed dozens of people, including at least three rebel leaders. A Kurdish activist stated that the presence of hostile Islamist fighters had alienated Kurdish locals. Both the Kurdish National Council and top FSA commander General Riad al-Asaad condemned the clashes, with the KNC calling the presence of rebel fighters in the town "pointless and unjustifiable", and al-Asaad attributing the violence to "some groups trying to exploit the situation in order to blow up relations between Kurds and Arabs" while expressly denying any FSA affiliation with Ghuraba al-Sham.
On 22 November, SOHR reported that eight members of the al-Nusra Front and one PYD fighter were killed in fighting for Ras al-Ayn. The fighting had claimed an estimated 54 lives to date. The next day, however, a tenuous two-day ceasefire was announced between Kurdish fighters and Islamist militants of the al-Nusra Front and Ghuraba al Sham in order to determine terms of a possible permanent agreement between the two sides. Prior to this announcement, the PYD claimed that its forces had killed 25 rebels, wounded 20 more, and destroyed three vehicles. Negotiations on 24 December resulted in a fragile truce that lasted only until 6 December, when clashes broke out once again.
On 3 December, air raids conducted by the Syrian Air Force on a police station and old post office in the Mahatta neighbourhood killed twelve and injured dozens more. Among the dead were six Kurds, three of them children. Ambulances from Turkey took at least 21 of the wounded to a hospital in the predominantly-Kurdish town of Ceylanpınar across the border. Turkey scrambled a number of F-16 fighter jets based at Diyarbakir in response to the strikes.
From 12 to 14 December, rebels conducted a series of rocket attacks on the town. It was reported that they had also tried and failed to expand fighting to the nearby towns and villages.
Negotiations between rebels and Kurds resumed on 15 December. An agreement was reached the next day, and on 17 December a ceasefire took effect between local Kurdish militias and Arab rebels. Under the terms of the ceasefire, both sides were to withdraw from the city, share checkpoints surrounding it, and transfer its administration to local civilian Kurds, Arabs, Chechens, and Christians. But though fighting had ended, fighters on both sides failed to withdraw, raising concerns about the strength of the truce.
Signs of improved relations between the PYD and the rebels emerged at the YPG's first plenary meeting in al-Malikiyah from 1 to 5 January 2013. In addition to organising their military command structure, the PYD members at the meeting stressed "the unity of the struggle of the Syrian people" and the importance of having good relations with the Arab opposition. Significantly, they raised the flag of the Free Syrian Army next to the PYD flag; prior to this, YPG units were known for kidnapping and intimidating individuals and groups who displayed the flag in their territory.
On 17 January 2013, it was reported that about 300 rebel fighters crossed into Ras al-Ayn at dawn from the Syrian/Turkish border and fierce clashes between rebel and Kurdish forces was underway. During the fighting, the Kurds captured one of three jihadist tanks that came in from the border. Three PYD and seven rebel fighters were killed in the clashes. Rebel leader Nawaf Ragheb al-Bashir accused the YPG of breaking the ceasefire by opening fire on and killing 15 of its fighters.
By 19 January, 33 people lost their lives in the fighting. 28 of them were rebel jihadists and five were Kurdish militiamen.
In more fighting on 21 January, a Kurdish commander and 20 rebels were killed, along with four civilians.
On 22 and 24 January, two more Kurdish commanders were killed, while on 25 January two rebels and one Kurdish fighter were killed. Kurdish refugees fleeing the fighting accused the rebels of having "no respect" for Kurdish civilians still living in the town. Also on 25 January, FSA members in Ras al-Ayn kidnapped four members of the Azadî Party, a Kurdish party politically opposed to the PYD, demanding the release of a prisoner held by the PYD.
On 28 January, rebels attacked the governorate building and the police building in the city, resulting in heavy clashes. By the next day, Kurdish forces had captured several buildings which were being used as strongpoints by the rebels. That evening, a large number of rebels reportedly crossed over from Turkey as clashes intensified; rebel numbers were allegedly dwindling prior to these reinforcements. Five rebels were seriously wounded in clashes, with one dying in a Turkish hospital soon after, and an additional three or four fell in combat with Kurdish groups. Their bodies were reportedly buried in Turkey. Two days later, it was reported that YPG forces captured an ambulance with French tags and carrying documents written in French. The YPG accused Turkey of using ambulances to shuttle arms and equipment to Arab rebels fighting against Kurds in the city.
By 30 January, the YPG had pushed rebels back from parts of the city, claiming the recapture of an Assyrian Christian church. On that day, FSA members kidnapped, tortured, and killed a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (commonly referred to as "el-Partî"), which is part of a bloc of Kurdish parties politically opposing the PYD. When relatives and el-Partî members sought to bring the body to a coroner's office in al-Darbasiyah, they were refused passage at a YPG checkpoint. The man was buried the following day in the village of Faqira.
Despite the breakdown of the first ceasefire, efforts continued to bring peace back to the town. On 23 January, Syrian opposition members formed an eight-member committee to serve as a mediator between the PYD/YPG and Arab rebels. One member of the Kurdish National Council, a bloc of opposition Kurdish parties largely sympathetic to the mainstream Arab opposition, was included on the committee. In early February, talks began to attempt to establish a second ceasefire between Arab rebels and Kurdish militia, temporarily halting fighting. Members of the Kurdish Supreme Council met with delegates from the Arab opposition to discuss the terms of the agreement, which was planned to be applicable to the entirety of Syrian Kurdistan and not just Ras al-Ayn. Nevertheless, some Kurdish activists were sceptical that both warring sides desired such an agreement, while the FSA-aligned Arab Revolutionary-Military Council in Hasakah Province refused any truce with Kurdish separatists, stating that it only would accept the domination of the mainstream Syrian opposition over the region.
Michel Kilo, a Christian member of the Syrian opposition, presided over much of the negotiations. Bitter disagreements were reported during the negotiation process, which seemed close to failure on several occasions. The FSA-affiliated Revolutionary Military Council in Hasakah Province demanded that the town and border crossing be handed over to the sole political control of the SNC, that FSA-affiliated fighters be the only force exercising military control in the town, that the PYD submit to the SNC as the sole legitimate governing force in the region, and that the display of Kurdish flags in Hasakah Province be prohibited. Kurdish parties flatly rejected these conditions, proposing instead that fighters from both parties leave the city, transferring its administration to a joint council composed by political representatives from both sides.
On 19 February, a new agreement was announced between Arab rebels and YPG fighters in Ras al-Ayn following a weeklong truce. The terms of the agreement stipulated the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from the town, the establishment of joint FSA-YPG checkpoints which will allow for greater freedom of movement in and out of the town, the creation of a democratic local council tasked with the administration of the town and its border crossing, the planned future establishment of a cooperative Arab-Kurdish police force in the town, and—most significantly—the cooperation between the YPG and FSA to fight together against government forces in the region. In its signing the agreement, the FSA acted on behalf of all Arab rebel groups in the area except for Jabhat al-Nusra and Ghuraba al-Sham, who agreed separately to abide by the agreement. Michel Kilo stated that most of the fighters from both sides withdrew in a timely fashion. Nevertheless, some activists remained dismissive of the strength of the agreement, expressing doubts over the willingness of Islamists—particularly Ghuraba al-Sham—to respect Kurdish rights in the region. One Kurdish activist stated, "Either side can break the agreement at any moment ... The FSA military council is not strong in the area, and its leadership has made contradicting statements in the past. From my point of view, this accord is empty."
Three days after the agreement was signed, FSA commander-in-chief Salim Idris rejected it, citing the PYD's connections to the PKK and Iraqi and Iranian Kurdish groups in his decision. Analysts believed that the repudiation was designed to placate Turkey, who had been actively supporting Arab rebels fighting the Kurds in Ras al-Ayn.
On 17 July, Kurdish fighters expelled the jihadists from the town of Ras al-Ain after a night of fighting and soon after took control of the border crossing with Turkey. 11 people were killed during the fighting, including nine jihadist and two Kurdish fighters.
According to PYD leader Salih Muslim Muhammad, Arab rebel control of Ras al-Ayn would have two effects. First, it would isolate Kurdish separatist pockets in Aleppo Province from the main area in Hasakah Province, giving the FSA and its affiliates more leverage over the PYD/YPG. Second, it would secure a vital supply line from Turkey that could potentially enable Arab rebels to seize control over greater parts of Syria's east, including the city of Hasakah itself. Rebel leader Nawaf Ragheb al-Bashir, a prominent Arab tribal figure from Hasakah Province who has engaged in disputes with Kurds in the past, stated that his forces "will not allow the separatists to control [Hasakah] province because it is the richest part of Syria in terms of oil and agriculture".
The PYD routinely accuses Turkey of supporting Arab rebels fighting against their YPG units in Ras al-Ayn. Arab rebel leaders have publicly confirmed this support.
- AFP (18 January 2013). "Raging clashes pit Syrian Kurds against jihadists". NOW. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- "In Syria, Two Opponents Of The Regime Fight Each Other". NPR. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- "Jihadists expelled from flashpoint Kurdish Syrian town, NGO says". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "CHATTING ABOUT 'GAME OF THRONES' WITH SYRIA'S MOST FEARED ISLAMIC MILITANTS". VICE. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Syrie: les Kurdes infligent une cuisante défaite aux jihadistes". L'Orient-Le Jour. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- Azizi, Bradost (6 February 2013). "Islamists Fighting Kurds in Syria Admit to Turkish Military Support". Rudaw. Retrieved 10 February 2013.[dead link]
- AFP/Reuters (22 November 2012). "Jihadist rebels in standoff with Syria Kurds: NGO". Al Arabiya. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- Wrase, Michael (4 April 2013). "Die arabische Revolution hat den Kurden Freiheit gebracht" (in German). Badische Zeitung. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
- 20 killed (9 November), 18 killed (14 November), total of 38 reported killed
- 26 killed (9–11 November), 3 killed (14 November), 20 -29  killed (19 November), 8-25 killed (21–22 November), 28 killed (17–19 January), 20 killed (21 January), 2 killed (25 January), 6 killed (28 January), 9 killed (16 July), total of 122-148 reported killed
- van Wilgenburg, Wladimir (5 December 2012). "12 Killed, Dozens Wounded In Serekaniye Air Raid". Rudaw. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- "Hasakah province". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- نحو 120 سوريا سقطوا امس الخميس (in Arabic). Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Preliminary death toll for 23/1/2013: Approximately 70 Syrians killed so far today.". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "مراسل الكردية نيوز: مقاتلون كرد يحاربون إلى جانب الجيش الحر في مدينة "سري كانيه"". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- Matthew Weaver. "Assad vows to 'live and die' in Syria - Thursday 8 November 2012". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Thousands Flee Syria as Fighting Continues". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Kurds seize two towns in Syria's northeast, watchdog says". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Kurdish militia seizes key Syrian city". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "18 SAA killed near Ras Al-'Ayn as FSA takes army post". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Community news from Biloxi and Gulfport, MS - Sun Herald". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Syria rebels clash with armed Kurds". Al Jazeera English. 19 November 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- "Final death toll for Monday 19/11/2012: Approximately 134 Syrians were killed". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Syria troops besiege town near Damascus". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Preliminary death toll for Tuesday 20/11/2012: Approximately 60 Syrians have been killed so far today.". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- Ivan Watson and Ammar Cheikh Omar, CNN (20 November 2012). "Dozens dead after clashes in Syrian border town". CNN. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Dozens die as Kurds, rebels clash in northern Syria: NGO". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- van Wilgenburg, Wladimir; Adib Abdulmajid (20 November 2012). "Syrian Rebel Commanders Killed in Clashes with Kurdish Fighters". Rudaw. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- van Wilgenburg, Wladimir (24 November 2012). "Kurdish Fighters and Syrian Rebels Announce Fragile Ceasefire". Rudaw. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- "Raʾs al-ʿAyn: Ceasefire between PYD and FSA is fragile". KurdWatch. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
- "Raʾs al-ʿAyn: No easing of tensions despite agreement between PYD and Free Syrian Army". KurdWatch. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
- "Cessez-le-feu à Rass al-Ain" (in French). ActuKurde. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Al-Malikiyah: YPG seeks rapprochement with Free Syrian Army". KurdWatch. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
- "Fighting continues across Syria". Syria Live Blog (Al Jazeera English). 18 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Kurd-jihadist firefights rage in northern Syria". France 24. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Final death toll for Thursday 17/1/2013". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Facebook. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Preliminary death toll for 19/1/2013: More than 120 Syrians killed so far today". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Facebook. 19 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Final death toll for 22/1/2013: More than 140 Syrians killed yesterday". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (Facebook). 23 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- نحو 140 سوري سقطوا الجمعة في حصيلة غيرنهائية (in Arabic). Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Kurds increasingly entangled in Syrian war". Al Jazeera English. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
- "Raʾs al-ʿAyn: FSA kidnaps Azadî members". KurdWatch. 3 February 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Hasakah province". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Facebook. 29 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Another night of clashes in Serêkaniyê". Firat News. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- "YPG seizes French ambulance in Serêkaniyê". Firat News. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- ANF (30 January 2013). "Sere Kaniye: YPG befreit assyrische Kirche von bewaffneten Banden". DieKurden. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- "Raʾs al-ʿAyn: FSA kills member of el‑Partî following torture". KurdWatch. 16 February 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- "Raʾs al-ʿAyn: Opposition wants to mediate conflict". KurdWatch. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Abdulmajid, Adib (9 February 2013). "Syrian Kurds-Arab Opposition Discuss Ceasefire In Serekaniye". Rudaw. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Haidar, Ziad (as-Safir) (7 February 2013). "Negotiations Fail Between Kurds And Syrian Opposition" (in English and translated from the Arabic by Sahar Ghoussoub). Al Monitor. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- AFP (19 February 2013). "Islamists and Kurds end hostilities, to fight Syria regime". NOW. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- ANF (18 February 2013). "Agreement in Serêkaniyê". Firat News. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- AFP (20 February 2013). "Syria Islamist-Kurd warring ends as dissident mediates". NOW. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Fehim, Taştekin (Radikal) (22 February 2013). "Syria: Difficult to Read New Kurdish-FSA Alliance" (in English and translated from the Turkish by Timur Göksel). Al-Monitor. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
- Donna Abu-Nasr. "Syrian Kurds Expel Radical Islamists From Town, Activist Says". Businessweek.com. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- Khoshnaw, Hemin (3 February 2013). "Arabs, Turkey Want to Control Serekaniye for Strategic Advantage, Kurdish Leader Says". Rudaw. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Hassan, Hassan (The National) (31 January 2013). "An Unnecessary Fight Against Kurds Betrays Syrian Struggle". Assyrian International News Agency. Retrieved 20 February 2013.