Aid group: Thousands flee fighting in Syria's Hassakeh
Jun. 29, 2015
BEIRUT (AP) — Fighting between the Islamic State group and the Syrian army in the mainly Kurdish city of Hassakeh has displaced at least 30,000 people, separated families and left some children unaccompanied, a member of an international aid group said Monday.
Sam Duerden, an Iraq-based International Rescue Committee official, said people in the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh need food, water, shelter and medical assistance.
The IS group attacked several government-held southern neighborhoods of Hassakeh on Thursday. The fighting has continued since then, leaving dozens dead, according to activists. Until last week, Hassakeh was split between government forces and Kurdish fighters.
Earlier Monday, state news agency SANA said government air strikes killed "large numbers" of IS fighters in Hassakeh. A military official in the city said by telephone that Syrian troops have been making progress. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency released a video on Monday showing extremists fighting street battles in Hassakeh. The agency also showed a sports complex captured by IS fighters.
Duerden said via Skype that many people are fleeing to nearby villages and towns, adding that there are at least 10,000 who are staying in schools or community centers.
"It's a big movement. People have talked about the city basically emptying out," said Duerden.
He said those fleeing Hassakeh are mainly women and children, and include people already displaced from other warzones. "We've also been seeing families split up, separated families, unaccompanied children, since many people had to leave quickly on foot."
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS detonated three car bombs in the city over the past two days, killing 12 troops and pro-government gunmen.
Syria's civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced nearly half the country's pre-war population of 23 million, including some 7.6 million who have fled to other parts of Syria.
Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.