HASAKEH, Syria — Syrian government warplanes were in the air again Saturday over the flashpoint northeastern city of Hasakeh, despite a US warning against new strikes that might endanger its military advisers.
In another escalation of the five-year war, regime planes this week bombarded positions held by US-backed Kurdish forces in the city fighting the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
The unprecedented strikes prompted the US-led coalition to scramble aircraft to protect its special operations forces helping the Kurdish fighters, warning the regime not to put the advisers on the ground at risk.
It was apparently the first time the coalition scrambled jets in response to regime action, and possibly the closest call yet in terms of Syrian forces wounding American or coalition advisers.
Throughout the night and into Saturday morning, regime warplanes took to the skies above Hasakeh again, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.
It was not immediately clear whether the aircraft had carried out any bombing runs as there were heavy artillery exchanges on the ground.
Deadly clashes erupted between pro-government militia and the US-backed Kurdish forces on Wednesday.
The Observatory said there had been no let-up in the fighting, which has left 41 people dead, 25 of them civilians, including ten children.
“There were heavy clashes, artillery fire and rocket attacks throughout the night and ongoing in the morning,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Around two-thirds of Hasakeh is controlled by Kurdish forces, while the rest is held by pro-government militia.
The regime and Kurdish forces share a common enemy in IS, which controls most of the Euphrates valley to the south, but there have been tensions between them in Hasakeh that have sometimes led to clashes.