Dozens of ISIS Fighters Killed in Syria Battle

U.S.-backed Kurdish forces battle militants in northeastern; senior UN official to launch 'urgent mission' to address humanitarian crisis in Yarmouk.

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A fighter of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Tel Tawil village, Syria, February 25, 2015.
A fighter of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Tel Tawil village, Syria, February 25, 2015.Credit: Reuters

At least two dozen Islamic State fighters have been killed in northeastern Syria in a battle with Kurdish forces supported by U.S.-led air strikes, a Kurdish official and a group monitoring the war said on Saturday.

The violence came as the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees planned to undertake an "urgent mission" to Damascus later Saturday amid concerns over the situation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, most of which has been captured by the Islamic State group.

Ten members of the Kurdish YPG militia were also killed in the fighting in Hasaka province, a strategically important region that borders Turkey and Iraq and where Islamic State has recently lost ground, said Nasir Haj Mahmoud, a Kurdish official, speaking by phone.

"Daesh is trying to open new front," Mahmoud said, using an Arabic term for Islamic State. He said the death toll among Islamic State fighters was as high as 41, and the dead included foreign fighters.

The latest battle between the enemies began when Islamic State fighters launched an attack between the towns of Tel Tamr and Tel Hamis, which the Kurdish militia seized from Islamic State in February, Mahmoud said.

Islamic State is still holding some 200 Assyrian Christians abducted from villages near Tel Tamr in February. There has been no word on their fate.

Also on Saturday, Syrian rebels bombarded a government-held part of Syria's second city Aleppo overnight, killing at least eight people, Syrian state media reported.

Concerns over safety of civilians in Yarmouk

Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, was meanwhile set to meet with Syrian and UN officials in Damascus about the humanitarian situation in Yarmouk camp, agency spokesman Chris Gunness said.

Gunness said in a statement that there are deepening concerns over the safety of some 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children, who remain in the camp.

Islamic State fighters overran much of Yarmouk last week, establishing a foothold in the Syrian capital for the first time. The incursion is the latest trial for Yarmouk's residents, who have already suffered through a devastating two-year government siege, starvation and disease.

Residents say there is barely enough food and water, and hospitals have long run out of drugs and supplies.

The Syrian government has said it will launch a military operation in Yarmouk to evict militants, which could cause even more devastation.

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