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IS launch major assault on Hasakeh city in north-east Syria

Control of the city has previously been shared by both the Syrian government and YPG militias
IS fighters in Hasakeh province in 2014 (AFP)

The Islamic State (IS) have launched a major assault on Hasakeh city in northeast Syria, currently split between the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian army.

"IS fighters started an assault on Hasakeh city and reached the city's southern periphery, where they are clashing with pro-regime forces," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman. 

The Assyrian Network for Human Rights activist also announced that IS were involved in "a new attempt at seizing control of the city" and had taken a checkpoint on Hasakeh's southwest periphery.

"Hasakeh has been hit by mortar rounds since Saturday morning," and a local church had been damaged, the Network said. 

Abdel Rahman said that the pro-government National Defence Forces had blocked the IS advance, while the Syriac Human Rights Network claimed on Saturday that IS had shot down a government plane.

On Friday the YPG executed at least 20 civilians Friday, including two children.

According to one incident reported by the SOHR, an Assyrian Christian apparently beheaded a captured IS fighter.

"He took him prisoner and when he found out he was a member of IS, the Assyrian fighter beheaded him in revenge for abuses committed by the group in the region," Abdel Rahman said.

YPG forces have been responsible driving IS out of more than a dozen Assyrian villages in Hasakeh province in the last month.

According to the SOHR, the YPG now controls no less than 4000 square kilometres of Hasakeh province. The seizure of al-Mabrouka in the southern western countryside of the city of Ras al-Ein has been seen as particularly important as it opens up a potential route for the YPG into Raqqa province, the IS 'capital'.

The SOHR also claimed they had burned and destroyed houses belonging to people it suspected of supporting IS near the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Tamr.

The YPG, IS and government forces have tussled for control over the north of Syria since the beginning of uprisings against the Assad government in 2011. The region is also refered to as Rojava by the Kurds and Syrian Kurdistan by others, as it often touted as part of the territory of a future Kurdish state.

Since the Syrian government's loss of power in the region, the YPG and their political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) have reportedly been involved in creating a decentralised power structure based on cantons and local authorities.

Though the government and YPG share control over Hasakeh, clashes did break out in January, leading to casualties on both sides and the YPG taking control of a government army base.