SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS
“I so appreciate your Pulitzer-class reporting on the Kobane and Syrian conflicts and look forward to your updates. This is so much better than the superficial coverage that the major TV networks are providing.” JM.
SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS
BRIEF ROJAVA UPDATE 238: SDF NOW IN CONTROL OF MOST OF WESTERN MANBIJ AND BREAKING INTO CITY CENTRE.
TIMELINE – 22nd JULY 2016 9.05 GMT:
The Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) has now taken control of 90% of western Manbij including the National Hospital, captured earlier this week, which was being used by the Islamic State (IS) as a command post and logistics centre.
Heavy fighting is still going on around pockets of resistance, in particular at Tetbekat Prison where IS are still holding out.
Currently SDF are moving into the centre of the city and attacking the main Post Office and a cultural Centre and the whole of Al-Hazawani district is now under SDF control.
Yesterday, Thursday, the SDF gave IS 48 hours to leave Manbij entirely to avoid further civilian bloodshed and the complete destruction of the city. Approximately 25,000 civilians are still thought to be trapped in Manbij. The IS fighters would be allowed to leave the city unmolested with light weapons if they agree to the SDF demands.
6 SDF were reported killed by IS suicide attacks on the Manbij frontlines on Wednesday, but IS losses are far higher.
The SDF also captured 3 x IS men dressed as women who were trying to escape, here:
It has been claimed that Coalition airstrikes near Manbij killed and injured as many as 160 people on Monday and early on Tuesday, when jets struck a school housing displaced Syrians from neighbouring villages. US Central Command is investigating.
There are so many dead bodies in the centre of Manbij, mainly dead IS Jihadists, that no-one has got time to bury them in parks and many remain on the streets decaying in the heat.
On the northern and southern fronts, progress is slow, but the SDF are holding their ground.
IS launched counter-attacks from the Sajur River area to the north of the city last weekend, but it resulted in the death of 111 x IS Jihadists and the capture of good stocks of weapons and ammunition by the SDF.
Another 12 x IS fighters have been killed this morning, Friday, on the south side of the city as the SDF break into the Al-Banawi district just to the east of Al-Hazwani.
EDITOR: MY REPORTS WILL BE MORE INTERMITTENT AND SHORTER FOR A WHILE OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, AS I HAVE TO ATTEND TO SOME IMPORTANT MATTERS IN MY LIFE, BUT I WILL ENDEAVOUR TO KEEP YOU UPDATED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
NEXT REPORT IN A FEW DAYS …..
ROJAVA UPDATE 237: SDF KILL ANOTHER 40 ISLAMIC STATE JIHADISTS AS THEY TAKE ROUNDABOUTS AND KEY BUILDINGS IN MANBIJ:
TIMELINE – 16th JULY 2016 13.33 GMT:
In fighting in Manbij, the Syria Democratic Force (SDF) continue to make progress, capturing the Bahrat roundabout earlier in the week, the Al-Sabe roundabout more recently and almost all of the Shariat district in the west of the city.
The SDF also took control of 2 Sharia schools in the Shariat district on Monday, where young boys were believed to have been trained in extreme beliefs and as potential Jihadist fighters.
Video footage shows the captured area, here:
Also in the Shariat area, the SDF destroyed a building used to make explosives and found and destroyed an incomplete tunnel system that the Islamic State (IS) were using to come and go into the area, here:
Heavy fighting is now reported around the Della roundabout to the north-west of Manbij and the SDF are attacking the National Hospital from both the west and the east and may by now have taken it. In addition, Coalition aircraft have destroyed a number of east-west bridges in the city, impeding IS reinforcements.
15 x IS Jihadists were killed in clashes near the National Hospital on Wednesday and another 25 in the remaining part of Hazawani neighbourhood still held by IS.
2 journalists, Kendal Judi an ANHA reporter, and Mustafa Muhammad a Ronahi TV reporter were wounded Wednesday in a mine explosion as they tried to report on the liberation by the SDF of Saba’ Bahrat Square.
2 x IS truck bombs sent against SDF units fighting near the National Hospital were destroyed before impact.
By Tuesday this week in the south of Manbij, IS had been forced out of the southern end of the Al-Adiyat neighbourhood.
To the north of city clashes broke out again on Tuesday near Zangol, 3 kilometres north-west of Dadat, one IS fighter killed.
As well as the areas detailed above, the SDF are reported to have reached the Industrial Institute and Plantation Park, while heavy clashes are still reported around a cement facility to the south-east of Manbij.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 11 airstrikes in Syria on Thursday and 7 in Iraq. The Syrian strikes hit 6 separate IS tactical units, destroyed 18 x IS fighting positions and damaged another IS-used bridge.
Another 1,300 civilians are reported to have safely left Manbij, but those reaching Afrin city are continuing to express concern for an estimated 1,200 people, mainly Kurds, who were arrested by IS and are still missing.
In Rojava, reports from Ain Issa say that an IS unit made an attack at 5.00am this morning, Saturday, on the villages of Al-Qaderya and Kardoshan to the south of the town. So far the attack has been repelled, but clashes are ongoing.
In Hasakah a fire broke out on Thursday night after 12.00am in a cotton factory in Sports City, an area controlled by Assad regime forces. The fire was still burning throughout Friday and the cause is currently unknown.
The UN entered Sheikh Maqsoud, the Kurdish district of Aleppo, for the third time on Friday with a 7 truck delivery of food items, including sugar, rice, vegetable oil and baby food.
Things got interesting in Turkey last night, Friday, when a section of the Army attempted a military coup to overthrow President Erdogan who was holidaying on the coast near Marmaris.
Tanks appeared on the streets and bridges of Ankara and Istanbul and the Presidential Palace, the HQ of the Intelligence Service and Parliament were bombed. 161 civilians were reported killed and 1,440 injured.
However, by early this morning, Saturday, the coup appeared to have failed, with 16 of the army coup plotters killed and 2,839, including high-ranking officers, in custody. Erdogan appeared on TV via his mobile phone to denounce the coup and to call his supporters to the streets.
All the opposition parties, including the Kurdish HDP, said they opposed the coup and called for adherence to democracy. Nevertheless, the events will deliver the shock to Erdogan that his autocratic ways have provoked.
IS, true to form, have executed and crucified the body of an Assad regime pilot whose plane crashed after taking off from an airfield in Hama province last Thursday. The plane crashed near Mount Tharda in Deir Ez-Zour province, reportedly from a technical fault.
Over in Iraq, the Iraqi Army said that it had killed more than 90 x IS Jihadists in an operation in Anbar province. In particular, with the help of Coalition and Iraqi air support, they managed to kill a leading IS commander and 11 of his followers in a strike on their headquarters in the Qayyarah district of the town of Marir.
EDITOR: Lastly, just after I returned from the south of France myself on Thursday, news broke of the horrific events in Nice when a man of Tunisian origin drove a truck into the crowds out on the seafront for the Bastille Day celebrations, killing 84, including 10 children, and injuring another 202, 52 of them critically, 25 of them left on life support. 10 of the dead were Moslems.
IS have claimed that “one of their supporters” carried out the attack, but this indiscriminate carnage has nothing to do with the Islamic State or religion or politics – it is merely sick individuals who are so full of anger and hatred over the mess of their personal lives that such attacks and the “approval” of IS, gives them a kind of “legitimacy” to express how they feel. Such sick, angry individuals is what makes up the Islamic State – and it is doomed to failure because of that.
EDITOR: MY REPORTS MAY BE MORE INTERMITTENT FOR A WHILE OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, AS I HAVE TO ATTEND TO SOME IMPORTANT MATTERS IN MY LIFE, BUT I WILL ENDEAVOUR TO KEEP YOU UPDATED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
NEXT REPORT SHORTLY…..
ROJAVA UPDATE 236: ISLAMIC STATE COMMANDERS WIPED OUT AS SDF REACH NATIONAL HOSPITAL AND KEY ROUNDABOUT:
TIMELINE – 11th JULY 2016 14.45 GMT:
Continued heavy fighting is reported in Manbij as the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) push into Manbij in the west, north and south-west.
In the western districts of the city, the SDF reached the National Hospital on Saturday and battles are ongoing around the hospital and the Bahrat roundabout to free the Sab’ Bahrat district.
Now in its 41st day the clashes with the Islamic State (IS) are heavy going, but gradually their forces and command structure are being destroyed.
In the southern Hazawani neighbourhood, now mainly under SDF control, the fighters reached an automated bakery and killed an IS commander, Safe Yahya Rajab, who was described as a “leading IS security official”.
In fighting near the National Hospital, the IS commander of the western Manbij sector, Abu Suheyl Marawi, was also said to have been killed yesterday, Sunday.
Another prominent IS Jihadi, described as an “emir”, Abu Khalid Al-Tunisi, was killed by an SDF shell while travelling in his car through Manbij. 4 x IS fighters accompanying him were also wiped out.
In the Hazawani district, 26 x IS fighters were said to have been killed in clashes between the 2 sides, 12 of them as they tried to escape in a transport vehicle.
This video footage from last Friday shows ongoing exchanges of fire in the Hazawani neighbourhood, here:
On the southern side of the city, the SDF liberated the Adiyat School and while suffering from continued Coalition airstrikes IS tried to cover their activities by setting fires and producing vast clouds of smoke, here:
SDF attacks from the south are also shown, (Arabic only) here:
North of Manbij, IS tried another attack on SDF liberated villages west of Dadat along the frontline formed by the Sajur River but were repelled. In the clash an IS vehicle fitted with a 23mm heavy machine gun was destroyed, plus another cannon, the occupants of the vehicle fleeing.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 12 strikes in Syria on Sunday and 14 in Iraq. Near and on Manbij, 10 strikes hit 8 separate IS tactical units and destroyed 9 x IS fighting positions, an IS used bridge, an IS HQ and an IS artillery piece.
Near Abu Kamal one strike destroyed 5 IS oil well heads and another near Mar’a produced inconclusive results.
Elsewhere in Rojava, the YPG has sent reinforcements of 100 fighters, 2 tanks, 6 military and vehicles and artillery to deal with persistent IS attacks near Ain Issa in Raqqah province.
In Afrin Canton they have taken in a further 1,000 people of all ethnic and religious groups fleeing from the latest fighting in Aleppo province.
Also in north-west Aleppo province today, Monday, Opposition fighters have shelled YPG-held Tel Rifat, just as the YPG were going to allow local people to return to their homes.
EDITOR: MY REPORTS MAY BE MORE INTERMITTENT FOR A WHILE OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, AS I HAVE TO ATTEND TO SOME IMPORTANT MATTERS IN MY LIFE, BUT I WILL ENDEAVOUR TO KEEP YOU UPDATED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
NEXT REPORT ON FRIDAY 16th JULY.
ROJAVA UPDATE 235: SDF NOW HOLD 85% OF SOUTH-WEST NEIGHBOURHOOD IN MANBIJ AS SDF FIGHTERS REUNITED WITH THEIR ESCAPING FAMILIES:
TIMELINE – 9th JULY 2016 10.48 GMT:
Despite heavy resistance, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) continues to make progress into the heart of Manbij against the Islamic State (IS).
Currently, the SDF are estimated to control between 30 – 40% of the whole city and about 85% of the Hazawani neighbourhood in the south-west according to this morning’s reports. The SDF are now advancing towards the Bahrat roundabout and clearing IEDs as they go.
In Hazawani, this puts the SDF less than 800 metres from the Post Office and the city centre of Manbij.
Coalition aircraft also struck at a mosque in the south of the city where IS snipers were using the high points to fire at the advancing SDF.
Fighting continues in southern, western and eastern districts house by house, street by street.
North of Manbij, IS sent 3 vehicle bombs from the village of Aoun Dadat to hit SDF positions yesterday, Friday, but all 3 very destroyed before impact and 12 x IS fighters were killed.
Approximately 14,000 civilians have now fled the city, often shot at by IS fighters as they try to escape. One man said IS surrounded his house with 15 mines to prevent them leaving and all of his family were injured when one exploded as they fled.
As yet there are no camps to accommodate the civilians displaced from Manbij and although most are safe in liberated villages, a humanitarian crisis could be looming. Many SDF fighters from Manbij are meeting with their relatives for the first time in years.
One SDF fighter, previously with Shaml Al-Shamal, was reunited with his wife and children, after 2 years of separation, as they fled the city and led them to safety. Dozens of women shed the IS imposed black veils and robes as they escaped and left them lying on the roads.
In this video clip, liberated villagers express their feelings about IS, here:
This footage shows fighting in Manbij from earlier in the week, here:
And the SDF pushing in from the southern edges of the city, (caution – some dead bodies) here:
Death tolls on both sides are thought to have been heavy but those of IS have escalated over the last week following several failed counter attacks.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reports a substantial number of civilian deaths from Coalition airstrikes on Manbij, despite efforts to pinpoint IS military targets accurately.
Little detailed information at present from US Central Command, other than they made 14 airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday and 15 in Iraq.
The US also claims to have cut IS income from oil in Syria and Iraq from $30 million a day to around $15 million after targeting 303 x IS oil and gas facilities since September 2014.
The SDF yesterday, Friday, reinforced their attacking units at Manbij with a squad of trained snipers, here:
The IS suicide bomb attack on a bakery queue on Tuesday in the Salhiyyeh district of Hasakah, has now killed 26 according to latest reports. Civilians were waiting to collect bread on the last day of Ramadan.
2 members of the YPG were also injured yesterday, Friday, when their vehicle hit an IED between Qamişlo and Amûdê, possibly set by an IS sleeper cell.
In the Sheikh Maqsoud Kurdish district of Aleppo, more deaths were caused on Wednesday by Assad regime bombing with artillery and Katyusha rockets.
What happens next in Aleppo may be interesting as Assad’s forces took control of a section of the nearby Castello Road this morning, Saturday, thereby cutting the only remaining Opposition supply route into eastern Aleppo city.
43 civilians, including 12 children, have been killed in both sides of the city in the last 2 days as fighting and bombardment intensifies. The UN has expressed concern for the welfare of approximately 300,000 civilians trapped the city.
North of Raqqah, the SDF attacked an HQ of the Islamic State south of Suluk. killing 18 x IS fighters and seizing light weapons and stocks of ammunition as they drove IS out from the village of Shakrak.
IS responded by bombing the SDF town of Ain Issa on Friday around midnight, severely injuring 4 members of the YPG.
In an earlier clash on Thursday, IS attacked the villages of Hebsawî, Qedriye and Indîbat, 20 kilometres south of Ain Issa, but were repelled by the SDF with the help of Coalition aircraft. 15 x IS Jihadists were reported killed in the clashes.
Elsewhere in Syria, interesting report emanating from the US that the New Syrian Army, nominally supported by the US, were abandoned with air support midway throught their attack on Abu Kamal on the Syrian/Iraq border, because the jets were called away to attack the IS convoy escaping from Fallujah (scroll down – see below). You can read more, HERE:
And lastly, the Turks do something right for once, deciding to keep 200 critically endangered northern bald ibis birds in cages to prevent them from migrating to Syria, from where they have failed to return in recent years. There is more on this from the BBC.
ROJAVA UPDATE 234: LAST 600 ISLAMIC STATE JIHADISTS IN MANBIJ NOW COMPLETELY SURROUNDED, DESPITE 2 x IS ATTEMPTS TO RESCUE THEM:
TIMELINE – 5th JULY 2016 13.48 GMT:
Heavy fighting and airstrikes are reported all across Manbij as the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), with Coalition support, presses home to take the entire city.
Although substantial progress has been made, recent advances have been relatively slow as the SDF tries to find a way to defeat the Islamic State (IS) without hurting the large numbers of civilians still thought to be within the city.
The SDF have already made a decision not to use heavy weapons as they push into Manbij in order to avoid hitting civilians, though in such a confined space where street fighting is taking place some civilian casualties are inevitable.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that 125 civilians have been killed in the 35 days of the Manbij campaign, with 825 deaths overall, most of them IS fighters. According to SDF estimates there are just 600 x IS Jihadists defending the city, but armed with booby-traps, explosives, IED’s and vehicle bombs.
As many as 13,000 civilians are now reported to have fled Manbij, mainly through safe corridors created by the SDF. Where they can, however, IS have tried to prevent people escaping, the latest reports saying that IS have slaughtered 40 civilians trying to get away from the village of Um al-Housh in the northern countryside of Aleppo province.
On Saturday another 70 civilians were reported killed by IS as they tried to escape Manbij city from the bazaar area, though the SDF are now said to be just 400 metres from the market.
In some villages that have been liberated from IS, grateful villagers have told the SDF that freedom from IS in the greatest Eid (which marks the end of Ramadan) gift they could have, with pictures appearing of streets littered with discarded black clothing formerly imposed on the inhabitants under Islamic State control.
In their campaign of terror, IS are also said to have kidnapped another 7 men from the village of Burj, killing another as he tried to escape.
IS are thought to have kidnapped more than 1,000 people from Aleppo province in the last few weeks, most of them Kurds and also
to have captured the brother of Abu Leyla, the famous YPG commander from Manbij who was recently killed.
This video footage, released today, Tuesday, shows the battle for Manbij, with a burning building in the background, here:
Over the weekend, IS made a second co-ordinated attack on the SDF, coming from the north, west and south. SDF held the northern and western fronts but initially lost some ground and villages to the south, though these have now been recovered.
On the northern front, IS fighters from Jarablous attacked the village of Rafee’a from 3 axes, but were eventually repelled with IS losing 61 Jihadists. Some reports suggest that 169 x IS fighters from Jarablous have died in their atttempts to free an escape route for their men now completely surrounded in Manbij.
The SDf also destroyed 3 vehicle bombs which were driven towards them near the Sajur River on the northern front, one of them packed with explosives being a US Hummer armoured vehicle.
More SDF street fighting, here:
SDF officers are saying that they are killing an average of 50 x IS Jihadists a day.
More footage from Manbij, here ( EDITOR: Though take the claim that the “SDF control 70% of Manbij” with a pinch of salt – not yet, but soon!), (English and Arabic sub-titles) here:
US Central Command (Centcom) report that on Sunday 3rd July they made 18 strikes in Syria and 11 in Iraq.
14 of the Syrian strikes were near Manbij, hitting 12 separate IS tactical units and destroying 18 x IS fighting positions, 4 x IS tactical vehicles, an IS vehicle bomb (VBIED) facility, another vehicle bomb and 6 x IS vehicles.
Unconfirmed reports that heavy Coalition attacks on Sunday killed several top IS commanders in Manbij.
In this Centcom released footage from June 22nd, the Coalition destroy a “technical”, a heavy machine gun mounted on the back of a pick-up, here:
Over in Hasakah city, fighting broke out again on Sunday between the Asayish, Kurdish Security Police, and members of Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF).
One pro-Assad fighter was reported killed and 2 female members of the Asayish injured. A woman civilian was also wounded by a stray bullet embedding itself in her leg.The fighting started when members of the NDF tried to infiltrate a Asayish checkpoint.
The other major town in Hasakah province, Qamishli, has been declared as the new capital of the proposed new federal system for Rojava and Northern Syria. The draft social contract for the region, to meet the needs of all ethnic groups, has now been presented and once approved, elections to the federal council will take place in 3 months.
On Sunday, another 400 men living in Rojava graduated from the 45 day military training programme set up by the YPG.
As always there are terrible casualties of war. This family from Kobane have ended up sorting through the rubbish tipped on the municipal dump outside Erbil in Kurdish Iraq, in order to scrape a living, here:
And over on the Syrian border with Jordan, where the border has been closed following a deadly IS attack on frontier police patrols, as many as 30,000 Syrian women and children have been left starving and thirsty in the desert. Al Jazeera reports.
ROJAVA UPDATE 233: SDF MAKE FURTHER ADVANCES INTO MANBIJ CAPTURING A MORTAR SHELL FACTORY AND RELEASING MORE CIVILIANS:
TIMELINE – 1st JULY 2016 14.33 GMT:
The Syrian Democratic force (SDF) continue to make gains inside Manbij and are now in control of the whole of the Al-Asadya neighbourhood on the southern side of the city.
This still puts them about one kilometre away from the central market. Al-Asadya was the district where the recently killed YPG commander Abu Layla had his home in Manbij.
Current heavy fighting between the SDF and the Islamic State is in the Hazawani district, which is just to the south-west of the city centre.
As the SDF advance, hundreds more civilians have managed to escape, many of them in tears and hugging and kissing the SDF liberators.
As well as capturing the transportation building, reported earlier in the week, the SDF have found 2 tunnels running towards the grain silos in the southern sector, both of which are approximately 800 metres long.
The SDF have also discovered an IS factory making mortar shells and captured 10,000 documents, memory sticks, cellphones and computers, data from which will provide them with information on the structure and strategy of the Islamic State.
The SDF cordon all the way around Manbij is now at least 5 kilometres thick and the Coalition have carried out more than 270 airstrikes on IS positions in and around the city.
The Pentagon, which saw Manbij as a major hub for IS foreign fighters, given its position near Turkey, estimates that the number of foreign recruits to IS into Syria and Iraq has dropped from a high of 2,000 a month last year to 200 a month in 2016.
IS continues to fight back of course, launching another unsuccessful attack on the SDF south of Jarablous, yesterday.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 7 airstrikes on IS in Syria on Wednesday and 19 in Iraq.
6 of the Syrian strikes were near Manbij, hitting 5 separate tactical units and destroying 2 x IS fighting positions, an IS mortar system and an IS vehicle bomb.
Another strike near Abu Kamal on the Iraq/Syria border hit an IS tactical unit and destroyed 3 x IS vehicles, an IS tactical vehicle and an IS mortar system.
In this footage you can see one of the YPG fighters specifically trained to get information from SDF fighters and direct Coalition aircraft onto IS targets, here:
Also meet Deniz Sipan, a Kurd who teaches foreign volunteers to the YPG some basic Kurdish and how to handle an AK-47, here:
SDF sources are also saying that one of the IS attackers at the Ankara airport massacre (scroll down – see below) was from or had been in Manbij.
Turkish security is reported to have opened fire and killed a 23 year old Syrian-Kurdish man as he tried to cross the border yesterday, Thursday, near Kobane.
In Aleppo, random Islamist Opposition attacks on the Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud resulted in the deaths of another 12 civilians, 4 of them children.
Elsewhere in Syria, Opposition group Jaish Al-Islam has reportedly shot down an Assad regime Sukhoi SU-22 (earlier described as a MIG-23) near Jayrud in Damascus province and captured the pilot. Jaish Al-Islam also claim to have downed a regime helicopter and a MIG-29 in the last week as well.
The fighters, after 2 years work, have broken the codes and restored 5 x captured 9K33 OSA Russian made mobile surface-to-air missile systems. You can read more, HERE:
And in Latakia, Opposition fighters have captured up to 6 Assad regime tanks and BMP armoured vehicles, plus a rocket launcher at Kinsabba in the mountains, HERE:
Over in Iraq on Wednesday, the Coalition and the Iraqi Air Force had a spectacular day destroying a convoy of 200 IS vehicles fleeing an area west of Fallujah in the desert. Using Coalition jets, Mi-28 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, the convoy, apparently heading for Syria, was decimated, including many Jihadists who then tried to escape on foot, here:
ROJAVA UPDATE 232: SDF NOW IN CONTROL OF AROUND 20% OF MANBIJ AND DISMANTLING HUNDREDS OF IEDS:
TIMELINE – 29th JUNE 2016 14.55 GMT:
Coming from 4 directions into Manbij, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) are reported to have liberated around 20% of the urban area of the city.
Yesterday, Tuesday, on the western approaches to Manbij, SDF fighters battled the Islamic State (IS) all day for control of the Department of Transportation building on the Manbij-Aleppo highway, completing the operation at midnight last night. The SDF also took the Al- Madfaa roundabout.
A large part of the south-western district, Hazawni, is now held by the SDF, though a significant strip to the south and south west is still held by IS.
To the north of the city, the SDF in their latest advance have taken the Haram roundabout on the Jarablous road, though an IS vehicle bomb was detonated in the area this morning, Wednesday.
Yesterday at around 5.00am, IS coming 19 kilometres from Jarablous north of the Sajour River, attempted to infiltrate SDF positions just south of Qirat village. In the ensuing fire-fight, the SDF destroyed a vehicle equipped with a heavy machine gun and captured stocks of weapons and ammunition.
On the northern front, the SDF are reported to have captured the Qaran school to the west of the industrial area and have made further gains in the Hawatima district.
On the southern side of Manbij, after taking the grain silos, heavy street fighting is now taking place to the north of this position.
The fighting is complicated by the 600 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) found in or around the grain silos by the SDF, plus a tunnel which linked the silos underground to the Al-Ajlani gas-station further north.
The brave de-mining experts of the SDF show what they are up against, (Kurdish only) here:
Latest situation map courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer on Twitter, here:
Currently the SDF on the southern front are battling IS around the Al-Matahin crossroads, about one kilometre north of the grain silos, and have freed dozens of civilians, (Arabic only) here:
And heavy fighting here:
In the Assadiat neighbourhood to the south-east of Manbij, an IS unit appears to be holding out but is completely surrounded, and sporadic fighting continues to take place near the grain silos.
This footage shows a generally clean and well-equipped hospital captured from IS in western Manbij last weekend, here:
And also a house formerly occupied by an IS emir of Russian origin, here:
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 15 airstrikes on Syria yesterday, Tuesday, and 17 in Iraq. 6 of the strikes in Syria near Manbij hit 5 separate IS tactical units and destroyed 2 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle, and an IS anti-aircraft gun.
8 other strikes in Syiia supported an Opposition New Syria Army attack at Abu Kamal, hitting 2 x IS tactical units, an ISIL intelligence training center, 2 x IS-used bridges, an IS HQ, an IS training camp, and an ISIL bed down location plus destroying an IS vehicle.
A further strike in Syria at Ma’ra destroyed an IS vehicle bomb (VBIED).
In Raqqah province, IS are reported to have re-captured an area held by the SDF near Ain Issa. Awaiting more detail.
While in Tal Abyad (GirêSpî) this morning, Wednesday, a car bomb exploded infront of the People’s Council building killing 10 at the latest count, including 2 members of the YPG.
35 kilometres east of Tal Abyad, the Turkish Army is reported once again to have shelled Kurdish villages, wounding 6 including women and children.
Lahur Talabani, who is responsible for Intelligence with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and recently visited Kobane, has arranged for the delivery of 17 -25 tons (reports vary) of aid and food to the city. Talabani was also instrumental in getting the border between and Rojava and Iraq re-opened a couple of weeks ago.
A second delivery of UN aid has also reached Sheikh Maqsoud, the Kurdish district of Aleppo city which is still under siege from Opposition Islamist groups.
In other news it appears the Opposition New Syria Army has attempted a US supported airborne attack on IS-held Abu Kamal on the Syria/Iraq border, though at this stage it is not clear whether this has been effective or a completed failure. Latest reports suggest the Coalition has had to bomb and destroy US equipment captured by IS.
Turkey is also reeling once again from a terrorist attack yesterday on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. 3 suicide bombers, believed to be IS supporters, opened fire in the terminal building and then blew themselves up at the security check facility.
The death toll today, Wednesday, has risen to 41 dead, including 13 foreigners and 239 injured. The BBC has video coverage.
In an unconnected event, 19 x IS Jihadists are reported killed in a joint Turkish and Coalition attack on Monday, hitting 35 Islamic State positions in northern Aleppo province near the Turkish border. IS weapon emplacements, Katyusha rockets and mortar launch positions, which had been firing into Turkey for weeks, were targeted.
Lastly, an exhibition of large photographs about the battle for Kobane has been put up on the remains of the German Berlin Wall, which formerly divided the city into east and west.
ROJAVA UPDATE 231: SDF PUSHING INTO MANBIJ FROM SEVERAL DIRECTIONS – ISLAMIC STATE DEFENCES IN DANGER OF BEING CUT IN HALF:
TIMELINE – 27 th JUNE 2016 14.39 GMT:
The Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) have over the weekend advanced from the north, south and east into Manbij and today, Monday, are just one kilometre from the central bazaar/market.
This morning’s significant advance is from the south-west into the Al-Hazawinat district near the Sheikh Abdeen road, an area occupied by both Arabs and Kurds before the war.
Due south of the city centre, the SDF are now one kilometre north of the grain silos which they now totally control, and have taken half of a cemetery in the central area near the Al-Ajlani gas-station. The latest clashes occurred at 2.00 am on Sunday night with at least 16 x IS fighters killed.
North of the city heavy fighting with the Islamic State (IS) is reported around the Al Haram roundabout and outside the city boundary at Al Daifa village there was a huge explosion as an IS vehicle bomb was detonated.
Omar Bin Khattab Mosque in the northern district was additionally reported surrounded by SDF fighters with reputedly 30 x IS jihadists trapped inside and 26 x IS Jihadists killed in fighting on Sunday. Further afield intense clashes are reported 14 kilometres to the north-west of Manbij.
On the eastern side of the city, with the aid of Coalition air support, the SDF have also progressed and are now within a few hundred metres of another grain storage complex. Many IS Jihadists were flushed from or killed in tunnels.
To the west of Manbij, heavy fighting also continues, with reports that an IS reinforcement expedition coming from Al-Bab was completely destroyed and many IS fighters killed.
As things stand at the moment, there is a good chance that the SDF will split IS defences in Manbij in half or even into smaller pockets which will then be completely surrounded. At least 4 attacking vehicle bombs have been destroyed in the last 24 hours.
Coalition air support is crucial to this operation and on Sunday US Central Command (Centcom) reports that they made 7 strikes in Syria, all of them on Manbij. The airstrikes hit 5 separate IS tactical units and destroyed 2 x IS tunnels as well as damaging an IS fighting position and denying IS access to terrain.
On Saturday there were a further 8 strikes on Manbij hitting 7 x IS tactical units and destroying 2 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle, an IS vehicle bomb (VBIED, an IS improvised explosive device (IED) plus again denying IS access to territory.
Over the 2 days there were also 41 strikes against IS in Iraq.
Concern is growing further for the now estimated 1,000 Kurds that have been rounded up by the Islamic State from villages in the northern part of Aleppo province and there are fears over the many Kurds living in IS-controlled Qabasin, Al-Bab and Ahras. Both men and woman have been seen in cages on the back of lorries being transported to Al-Bab.
Latest statement this afternoon from the SDF puts the total number of IS Jihadists killed in the Manbij operation at 1,300, though there is no way of confirming that.
Turkey continues to be unhelpful, shelling a YPG headquarters in the village of Kor Eli west of Kobane city today, Monday, and bombing the villages of Boban, Zilara and Ashme in the countryside near Kobane on Sunday. A number of Kurds, including women and children, have been injured.
In Sheikh Maqsoud, the Kurdish district of Aleppo city, 13 UN aid trucks reached the neighbourhood today, Monday, to distribute supplies for the first time since the war started in 2011.
An estimated 35 – 40,000 civilians still live in the district, where both water and electricity are often restricted. This has not stopped Opposition Islamist groups from attacking the area, a new bout of fierce fighting between them and the YPG breaking out this afternoon.
Over in Damascus, President Assad is reported to have made his first visit to speak directly to troops yesterday, Sunday, since New Year’s Eve 2014.
He apparently visited troops in the Marj Al-Sultan area north-east of the capital where the regime have made some gains into Eastern Ghouta. Assad shared the Iftar evening meal eaten during Ramadan with the troops, though after 5 years of fighting they did not look exactly overjoyed to see him.The visit was not announced until after his return.
Just as well, as Opposition forces claimed that they had struck one of 2 helicopters with a missile on Sunday evening near Marj Al-Sultan, though it apparently made it back to base.
In Deir Ez Zour province, both regime and Russian planes have attacked the IS-held town of Al-Qurayyah, reportedly killing 47 people, 31 of them civilians and including 25 children.
And reports this afternoon say that President Erdogan of Turkey has written to President Putin of Russia “expressing regret” over the downing of the Russian jet on the Turkish border in November 2015.
Over in Iraq, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, visited Fallujah yesterday, Sunday, and officially declared it fully liberated. Iraqi troops are now on the road to Mosul, making progress towards Shirqat, north of Baji.
However, Mosul will be a difficult battle with an estimated 7,000 x IS fighters in the centre of the city and another 5,000 positioned in the suburbs.
ROJAVA UPDATE 230: SDF CAPTURE GRAIN SILOS AND MOVE INTO SUBURBS OF MANBIJ FROM 3 DIRECTIONS:
TIMELINE – 25th JUNE 2016 14.12 GMT:
The Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) took complete control of the grain silos south of Manbij yesterday afternoon, Friday, just 2 kilometres from the city centre after heavy fighting and continue to make advances in other parts of the city.
Control of the silos gives the SDF excellent oversight of Manbij and has allowed them to move further north towards a roundabout nearer the city centre.The SDF have also liberated the Akhdar farms area to the south of city.
Video footage of the battle for the silos has just been released, (Arabic only) here:
West of Manbij the SDF have today, Saturday, pushed the Islamic State (IS) state away from the Sharia roundabout and crossing and captured a Sharia School where young Jihadists were apparently trained in warfare.
This advance follows the liberation of the village of Qanat Sheikh Tabash, one kilometre south of the Sharia roundabout on the Manbij-Aleppo road on Wednesday night. At least 15 x IS Jihadists were killed in the assault and 7 Ak-47s seized as well as 500 bullets, an RPG rocket grenade launcher, a mortar, 6 hand grenades and other equipment and weapons.
A hospital south of the Kitab roundabout, captured earlier in the week from IS, was found to be full of drugs obtained from Turkey, much to no-one’s surprise.
This morning, Saturday, on the 25th day of the campaign, one kilometre to the east of Manbij, the SDF also captured the village of Al-Khataf.
In an attempt to bolster the plummeting spirits of their fighters, IS have flown an enormous black flag from a pole in the centre of the city, though it is not likely to be there for long, here:
Additionally, west of Manbij, the SDF on Thursday took control of an electronics workshop full of equipment and documents in Haj Aabdeen, which is believed to be critical to their military activity, especially with IEDs and wireless/explosive devices, (Arabic only) here:
Another house taken was full of weapons, explosive belts and ammunition, here:
Further afield, the SDF extending their territory on Wednesday also liberated the villages of Hemdi Sêx, Xirbê, Efarim, Aveys, Hamudiye and 2 hamlets south-east of the Tishreen Dam.
IS, coming from Jarablous in the north-east of Aleppo province have however not ceased their attacks on Kobane Canton, a group of Jihadists trying to infiltrate the eastern bank of the Euphrates on Friday morning near Sheikler in the south-western part of the Canton. After being confronted by the SDF they retreated back to the west bank.
Concerning is increasing for the 900 Kurds arrested by IS from villages still under their control in the northern part of Aleppo province, especially after the execution of 20 of them was widely reported. 200 other Kurds in vulnerable villages fled to Afrin Canton for safety.
US Central Command (Centcom) says it made 12 airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, 8 of them near Manbij hitting 7 x IS tactical units and destroying 6 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles. 4 other strikes hit oil well heads near Deir Ez Zour and tactical units and fighting positions near Ma’ra.
This brings the total of Coalition strikes in the Manbij campaign since 1st June to more than 233. IS deaths are put at 458 and those of SDF fighters at 63.
Over in Kobane city today, Saturday, thousands of Kurds have commemorated the 251 victims of the surprise IS attack on the city on the 25th June 2015.