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Kurds advance against Islamic State in Syrian prison | Syria: the spiral of war

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More than a hundred jihadists inside and outside the prison took part in a coordinated assault on Ghwayran prison – overseen by the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration – which began on January 20 in Hassaké, in the north-eastern east of Syria.

Dominated by the Kurds, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with the support of the international coalition led by Washington, have since been working to regain full control of the area.

They continue Wednesday the raking in the dormitories of the prison and its surroundings, according to the OSDH, to the vast network of sources in Syria.

Fighting also takes place intermittently at night around the prison, specified this NGO for which it is the larger and more violent IS attack since announcing its defeat in March 2019.

In total, the clashes since January 20 have left 181 dead, including 124 jihadists, 50 Kurdish soldiers and 7 civilians, according to the latest report established by the OSDH.

At least 1000 terrorists were forced to surrender since the start of the offensive, the SDF said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that it was still trying to retake the entire prison.

They called on IS members to surrender safelywhile rejecting the term talkssaid Farhad Shami, spokesman for the SDF.

The prison houses at least 3,500 suspected IS members, including Westerners, according to the OSDH.

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According to the UN and human rights organizations, hundreds of minors are detained in this former school converted into a detention center.

On Twitter, Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler quoted three Western detainees – including a minor – describing their harsh living conditions since the assault.

They say they are afraid of being shot if they try to get out. They beg for food, water and medicine and ask the United Nations or any international body to negotiate a safe exit for themshe wrote.

Families crowd into a building.

These Syrians fleeing the fighting near the prison have found refuge in a local mosque, where they live crowded together.

Photo: Getty Images/AFP

Towards a negotiated solution?

A Syrian leader of the IS is negotiating with the Kurds for an end to the clashes in exchange for medical treatment for the wounded jihadists, told AFP the director of the OSDH, Rami Abdel Rahman.

Foreign IS fighters would oppose the strategy, he said.

The OSDH claims that Kurdish forces have released 32 employees of the penitentiary center since Monday.

Militarily, the case is almost settledassured on condition of anonymity a senior Kurdish official, before specifying that the Kurdish forces had to to postpone (their attack on the prison) because of the presence of minors and to avoid a maximum of human losses.

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Nicholas Heras, a researcher at the Newlines Institute, sees no other way out thana total defeat of the jihadists in prison.

The disaster scenario for the SDF and the Washington-led coalition would be a long-term confrontation that would kill hundreds, including many imprisoned children.

A man in uniform points a gun outside a building.

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter engaged in the struggle for control of the prison.

Photo: Reuters/North Press Agency Digital

A problem that we can’t settle alone

On Wednesday, the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration renewed its appeal to the international community for help, fearing that the IS would strengthen itself by recruiting new fighters.

This is an international problem that we cannot solve aloneAbdel Karim Omar, a senior local official, told AFP.

Despite repeated exhortations from the Kurds, most Western countries refuse to repatriate their citizens who are in prisons and camps, contenting themselves with repatriations in dribs and drabs.

We defeated ISIS territorially, without eliminating terrorist ideologysaid Mr. Omar.

Experts see the attack on the prison as another step in the resurgence of IS, which retreated to the Syrian desert after losing its caliphate.

Unless the international community provides sufficient aid, including economic […] a new control of the EI on this zone is not to be excludedhe warned.

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