Clashes between Kurds and Syrian troops force scores to flee

"As we've said in the past, the Syrian regime would be well-advised not to interfere with coalition forces or our partners", Davis said.

The northeastern city has seen increasing ground clashes between the Kurdish YPG fighters and Syrian regime forces.

Thursday's government raids were the first time the regime had bombarded Kurdish positions from the air. Davis also confirmed that this is the closest US forces on the ground have come to an attack from the Syrian regime.

As the Central Intelligence Agency arms the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front in Aleppo against Assad's forces, the Pentagon is supporting the offensive of the YPG, which recently renamed itself the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after absorbing a few smaller, ethnic-Arab militias.

The spokesperson added that the Russian military said its aircraft did not participate in the strikes near Hasakah.

Separately, two Russian ships in the Mediterranean launched long-range cruise missiles against jihadist targets in Syria on Friday, the Russian defense ministry said.

In another escalation of the five-year war, regime planes this week bombarded positions held by USA -backed Kurdish forces in the city fighting the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

Clashes broke out anew later on Friday, a Kurdish official said.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and forces loyal to the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are now embroiled in a violent battle in the city of Hasakah, located in northeast Syria.

Washington regards the Kurdish People's Protection Units as the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and has provided them with air support as well as the military advisers.

The Syrian airstrikes targeted positions of Kurdish militant groups in the northern and northwestern part of the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It added that at least 25 people, including 10 children, were killed during the two-day escalation in Hasakah.

Pro-government forces, supported by overwhelming Russian air power, had managed to encircle rebels and some 300,000 civilians in the city's eastern quarters in July, leading the raise the concerns of catastrophic suffering if a protracted siege ensued.

"If the regime continues bombing in close proximity to USA forces, then simply I think the United States will shoot down the regime aircraft", he added.

Jwan Mohammed, a former Kurdish official, said there was intense fighting overnight.

Early Friday, "two Syrian SU-24 aircraft attempted to transit the area and were met by coalition fighter aircraft", which "encouraged" the Syrians to depart "without further incident", said the official, who spoke on a Pentagon-imposed condition of anonymity. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Khalid Ali, a member of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party, said Syrian Kurdish fighters, Syrian peshmerga, were considered a "threat" to the PYD.

Seth Jones, RAND Corp. said, "We've got aircraft flying in those areas, we've got forces on the ground including USA special operations forces, there certainly may well be United States intelligence folks on the ground".

As reported by ABC, a USA official said the presence of American F-22 aircraft "encouraged the Syrian aircraft to depart the airspace without further incident". Small groups have routinely been moving in and out of the country to conduct the training and advising mission. More Syrian airstrikes were reported on Friday, but American pilots apparently did not witness any of them.

A surge in violence in Syria's second city Aleppo has left 333 people dead since July 31, the Observatory said yesterday.

In April, they fought several days of lethal battles in Qamishli, north of Hasaka city and also mostly YPG-held.

  • Joey Payne