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Kurds say Hasakeh truce with Syria government not done deal

No agreement has been reached on cease-fire or return of positions to government, Kurds say
Syrian Kurdish civilians flee shelling in northeastern governorate of Hasakah, toward the city of Qameshli (AFP)

Syria's military said on Sunday a truce has been reached with the Kurds in the flashpoint city of Hasakeh, but a Kurdish source said it has yet to be finalised.

The northeastern city has been rocked by deadly clashes between US-backed Kurdish forces and fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since Wednesday.

In a bid to calm tensions, a delegation of Russian officials from the coastal Hmeimim military airport arrived in the nearby city of Qamishli on Saturday for talks with the two sides.

A Syrian military source told AFP the deal was struck between government forces and Kurdish fighters after two days of mediation by government ally Russia.

The three-point agreement calls for a "halt to all hostilities and the return to regime forces of any positions seized by Kurdish fighters" since Wednesday, the Syrian military source said.

It also stipulates that casualties would be transferred north to Qamishli.

The military source said additional negotiations would take place on Monday.

However, a Kurdish military source told AFP from Hasakeh that none of the three points had been agreed.

"No agreement has been reached on a cease-fire or the return of positions to the regime," said the source, who declined to be identified, stressing that more negotiations were to be held on Monday.

Earlier, a source from the Hasakeh governorate said a delegation of Russian officials and members of the pro-government militia National Defence Forces (NDF) had arrived at Qamishli airport for a meeting to take place on Monday.

Common enemy

A local journalist working with AFP toured seven army checkpoints that had been seized by Kurdish fighters and confirmed that government forces were back in control.

But Kurdish fighters still held three positions previously controlled by the NDF in al-Nashwa, a southern district of Hasakeh, the journalist said. 

The government and Kurdish forces share a common enemy in the Islamic State (IS) militant group, but there have been growing tensions between them in Hasakeh.

Clashes erupted last week after Kurds demanded the NDF be dismantled in Hasakeh and violence escalated on Thursday when government warplanes bombarded Kurdish-held positions in the city for the first time. 

Government aircraft overflew the city on Sunday morning but without carrying out attacks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said

The unprecedented government strikes prompted the US-led coalition to scramble aircraft to protect its special operations forces helping the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as they battle IS in northern Syria.

Since Wednesday, the fighting has left 43 people dead, including 27 civilians, among them 11 children, according to the Britain-based Observatory. 

Thousands of civilians have fled Hasakeh, where electricity has been cut and bakeries shut.

More than 290,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 and millions have been forced to flee their homes. 

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