SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3 “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

ROJAVA UPDATE 241: MANBIJ NOW FREE & UNDER SDF CONTROL AS LAST ISLAMIC STATE JIHADISTS ARE ALLOWED TO FLEE NORTHWARDS:

TIMELINE – 14th AUGUST 2016 13.35 GMT:

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YPJ Fighter Comforts Rescued Civilian in Manbij

In an abrupt victory, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took complete control of all of Manbij on Friday evening after the remaining Islamic State (IS) fighters fled north-eastwards towards Jarablous.

After freeing around 2,000 residents held by IS in the last few days in the Al Sarb district, SDF closed in on the neighbourhood on Friday afternoon and in an unpublicised deal the last remaining IS Jihadists, around 100, and their families were allowed to escape through a protected corridor out through the north of the city in a convoy of vehicles.

Although at first publicised as “human shields”, the people who left with the IS fighters are thought now to either be family members or IS sympathisers afraid of reprisals if they stayed, around 600 people in all.

The escaping IS Jihadists and those accompanying them went to the town of Al Ghandarah, which is now under attack from the SDF.syria-and-iraq-news

In Manbij itself, other residents came out on the streets to thank the SDF and joyously celebrate their liberation from the Islamic State, some men cutting their beards with scissors and women burning the black robes they had been forced to wear.

However, SDF fighters are carefully scouring the city for hidden IS fighter cells remaining and examining streets, house by house for booby-traps and IED’s. One SDF fighter was killed when he picked up a shoe on top of a copy of the Koran which was connected to an explosive device.

Adnan Abu Amjad, the SDF commander in the city said that there was no formal deal to allow IS to leave but that they permitted it to happen in order to save civilian lives. He also thanked the Coalition for their part in helping to bring about the liberation of the city, here:

The Coalition said in a statement that it had made 680 air strikes destroying more than 600 ISIL fighting positions and 150 ISIL vehicles and heavy weapons during the Manbij campaign.

Channel 4 carries video shot after the liberation was complete, here:

The 73 day campaign to take Manbij did not come without a heavy cost. An estimated 1,744 died in the fighting, including 438 civilians of which 105 were children and 55 women.

299 members of the SDF are thought to have been killed in the campaign and 1,019 members of the Islamic State, 230 of them in a failed counter-attack in the last few days.

More footage from the city can be seen (English sub-titles) here:

And freshly escaped residents from IS-held territory on Friday, crying with relief, here:

A civilian City Council has already been organised for Manbij and it is hoped that this will take over almost immediately while the SDF continue to provide protection from IS attacks. Shops in Manbij began to reopen almost as soon as IS retreated on Friday evening at around 17.00 hours.

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YPJ Fighter Leads Civilians to Safety in Manbij

There were celebrations over the victory in Afrin city, Kobane, Qamisli and Hasakah over the weekend.

Where next for the SDF is probably the new question? Speculation vies between an attack on Al Bab to the west, Jarablous to the north-east or one on the IS Syrian capital of Raqqah.

Interestingly, the pro-Erdogan press in Turkey and the Assad regime media, both mentioned that IS had released hostages, but put out nothing about the role of the SDF in freeing the city or rescuing civilians.

Last map update on Manbij by @ChuckPfarrer on Friday, just before IS abandoned their last positions in the city, here:syria-and-iraq-news

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 …..

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ROJAVA UPDATE 240: ISLAMIC STATE, MAINLY SNIPERS, REDUCED TO SMALL CLUSTER OF STREETS IN CENTRE OF MANBIJ – FALL OF CITY NEAR:

TIMELINE – 10th AUGUST 2016 17.25 GMT – Updated 18.15 GMT:

As predicted in the previous report, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) managed to divide Islamic State (IS) positions across the centre of Manbij and split IS into 2 remaining surrounded pockets in the centre and the east of the city.

In the last few days the eastern pocket has been entirely eliminated with the SDF capturing the Manbij market area, including the headquarters of the Hisba, IS morality police, the reserve bakery and the industrial centre. Tatberat Prison in the south-west has also completely fallen to SDF control.

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Manbij Military Council (SDF) Raise Their Flag on Ring Road in Eastern Manbij

IS snipers are still reported in the area of the Agricultural School and the city centre. On Monday the SDF liberated the Teba neighbourhood and the central ring road. SDF fighters can seen in liberated areas near the inner ring road, here:

Latest estimates suggest that the SDF now control 90% of the city and that there are only around 100 x IS fighters, mainly snipers, and their families left in the central district but they are holding 1 – 2,000 civilians as hostages.

For the third time, the SDF on Monday offered to let the IS Jihadists leave the city unharmed if they allowed civilians to go free but so far no response, as with previous offers. Most of the civilian hostages come from the Al- Sarb district, just south of the centre and reports say they have been moved further north.

If the IS Jihadists make a break for it, it is likely to be northwards towards Jarablous. The SDF meanwhile have continued to rescue thousands of civilians, though many have been injured by IS mines and IEDs as they escaped. Where possible the SDF destroy the mines with controlled explosions.

On Monday IS attempted a three-pronged counter-attack from the north, south and west but ended up with 27 dead, although losses were also reported on the SDF side.

Yesterday, Tuesday, IS launched another counter-attack on SDF positions to the north and north-east of Manbij using at least 2 car bombs but the SDF held their ground and more than 40 x IS bodies were retrieved at the end of the fighting.

Video report from Wladimir van Wilgenburg of ARA News on Monday from inside Manbij; here:

Civilians, (one family complete with parrot!), can be seen escaping IS-held areas, here:

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Coalition air strikes against IS continue, 14 in Syria yesterday, Tuesday, and 11 in Iraq. Near Manbij 11 strikes struck 11 separate IS tactical units and destroyed 5 x IS fighting positions and 3 x IS vehicles.

The other strikes in Syria were near Deir Ez Zour and Abu Kamal hitting a total of 4 crude oil collection points and one strike near Ain Issa destroying an IS fighting position.

Increasingly it looks as though the siege of Manbij could be over within the next few days.

The Coalition has just released video footage of the destruction of an IS fighting position in the centre of Manbij on the 19th July, here:

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Recent Manbij situation update map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:syria-and-iraq-news

Problems for displaced people and others continue in other parts of Rojava. In some districts of Hasakah city such as Nashwa there is a water shortage and with temperatures sometimes as high as 40C, people have to walk long distances to get water to wash and drink.

Recent reports from Hasakah say that tension is high again between the YPG and the Assad regime’s militia after a number of Kurds were said to have been kidnapped.

Meetings have also been held in Al-Hawl in southern Hasakah province to discuss with Arabic tribal leaders the merits of a social contract to bind the people of northern Syria into a democratic multi-ethnic and secular federal system.

Meanwhile, in Aleppo heavy fighting continues in and around the city. The Assad regime has blocked the Syrian Opposition’s supply route into eastern Aleppo from the north-west along Castello Road and the Opposition Islamist groups continue to blame the Kurds in their adjacent district of Sheikh Maqsoud, still shelling them when they can.

However, the Syrian Opposition, led by the rebranded Al Nusra Front under the name Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, broke the week old siege of eastern Aleppo by breaking through regime lines in the south-west of Aleppo last weekend after sending reinforcements of around 3,000 men from Idlib. So far they have created and held a 2 kilometre strip into the eastern Opposition-held districts, despite massive regime and Russian bombing.

You can watch a video report from Al Jazeera.

The Opposition fighters took control of a bakery, the Ramouseh garages and industrial area and a regime military school, capturing significant pieces of hardware. The final push came from fighters already in eastern Aleppo.

Some of the fighting in the south-west can be seen, here:

The Assad regime and their allies Hezbollah are said to have taken heavy losses, 72 members of the Syrian Army killed including 5 generals, a colonel, 4 majors, 4 captains, and 5 lieutenants. Hezbollah are said to have lost another 11 men.

The Opposition has now vowed to “take the rest of Aleppo”, but the Assad regime is reported to be sending thousands of reinforcements also and Hezbollah its crack Radwan special operations forces. Watch this space for further developments.

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 …..

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ROJAVA UPDATE 239: SDF ADVANCING INTO MANBIJ ON 3 FRONTS AND REMAINING ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS CONCENTRATED IN THE CITY CENTRE:

TIMELINE – 2nd AUGUST 2016 13.20 GMT:

Over the last week, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) have made significant advances into Manbij, pushing the Islamic State (IS) fighters into last stand positions in the old part of the city and in the north-east.

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SDF Fighters Advance in Manbij

SDF now control all of the west of Manbij except Tetbekat Prison which is still held by IS.

In the south-eastern part of Manbij SDF have captured the whole of the Al-Kajli neighbourhood and footage of the liberated area can be seen, here:

Latest reports also suggest the SDF liberated the Al-Naimi district yesterday, Monday, immediately to the north of Al-Kajli.

Coming from the northern side, SDF have been fighting hard to capture the Jazeera Road and roundabout to the north of Al-Naimi. Linking the 2 sides of the city would completely isolate those Jihadists remaining in the eastern side of the city where SDF have also advanced, capturing a school, a clinic and another roundabout in recent days.

SDF advances have been supported by Coalition airstrikes hitting a mechanised bakery held by IS in the south-west, IS fighter concentrations in the south-east and an attempted IS counter-attack near a gas station on the M4 Highway to the south of Manbij.

The Military Council of Manbij, fighting as part of the SDF, yesterday also liberated the village of Jib Nashama to the south of Manbij city near Im Rous, footage of SDF vehicle and troop movements, here:

Since last week around 6,000 civilians have escaped from the city. Reports today, Tuesday, that “40-50,000 civilians have now been freed and the SDF now controls 80% of the city” do not as yet square with published maps and may well be over-optimistic at this stage, though the capture of the entire city should not take too much longer.

Faruk al-Mashi, the co-chair of the newly appointed Manbij City Council, currently based in Abu Qalqal in the Manbij countryside, called on international assistance to support the swelling numbers of displaced civilians escaping Manbij city. Although, they were very grateful for limited food and medical supplies sent from Kobane, it was not enough for sustained relief. Injured civilians from Manbij are also being treated in Kobane city.

Macer Gifford, the British YPG volunteer who is now back in Syria organising medical support and training for the YPG, has made a similar call for international help and says that IS are deliberately clustering civilians in the centre of the city to prevent SDF and Coalition attacks.  You can hear more, here:

SDF troops also arrested a young teenage boy fighting for IS and have said that he will be rehabilitated and given a better future.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports that on July 31st the Coalition made 10 strikes in Syria and 10 in Iraq.

In Syria 8 separate strikes hit 8 x IS tactical units and destroyed 5 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle and IS engineering equipment. 2 further strikes near Mar’a hit 2 tactical units and destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions.

Yesterday, Monday, on August 1st, the Coalition made 7 airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq, hitting 6 separate IS tactical units in Manbij and destroying a further 6 x IS fighting positions there.

Centcom has also released aerial video footage form July 11th when they attacked 2 x IS fighting positions and destroyed a weapons store at the same time, here:

Commenting on requests from the Syrian Opposition to stop Coalition air attacks on Manbij after reports of civilian casualties, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said while continuing to investigate any reports of such incidents, they would do their best as always to avoid them and reiterated that air support for the SDF would continue.

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Manbij Situation Map 02.08.16 – Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer

Over in Aleppo, the Opposition Islamist brigades continue to bombard the Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud, 40 shells recently demolishing 20 Kurdish houses.

There have also been clashes between the YPG in Aleppo, defending Sheikh Maqsoud, and the Assad regime which is now in control of Castello Road.  The Assad Government has asked the YPG to give up territory in the Bani Zaid and Ashrafiye districts which it has captured from the Opposition Islamist brigades, but they have flatly refused leading to heightened tension between the 2 sides.

Having lost control of the Castello Road entrance into eastern Aleppo to Assad’s Army, the Syrian Opposition has made some significant progress on the south-western side of Aleppo in the last few days, coming within 1 kilometre of breaking the regime’s supply route into western Aleppo and linking again with Opposition eastern Aleppo, despite heavy Russian and regime bombing.

Following continued attacks by the Opposition Islamist Groups on villages in Afrin Canton, the YPG launched an attack at the end of last week on an HQ of the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement in the countryside of Idlib province. 8 Islamists were killed and 13 were wounded.  This follows the death and injury of 30 Kurds in Afrin Canton villages following Islamist mortar attacks last Tuesday.

Last Wednesday an IS truck bomb in Quamishli killed 50, mainly civilians, in a busy residential area of the city.  The bomb exploded near the HQ of the Asayish ( Kurdish Police Security), though most of the Asayish were away from the area at the time attending a meeting.

The aftermath of the massive blast can be seen, here:

An IS motorcycle bomb also hit SDF-held Shaddadi yesterday, Monday, killing 4 civilians and injuring 9 more.  The bomber detonated the bomb outside an Internet café.

The Syrian Opposition is reported to have shot down a Russian helicopter in the northern part of Idlib province yesterday, Monday, near Saraqib killing all 5 of the Russian crew onboard. This is the most serious loss to the Russian’s so far in the Syrian civil war.

Lastly, In what is seen as an attempt to avoid US and Russian airstrikes, Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Al Nusra Front, has announced that it is breaking away from Al Qaeda and has renamed itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. This is very unlikely to fool anybody and no significant change in their extreme Islamist philosophy is expected.

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Teenage IS Fighter Captured in Manbij by SDF

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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.

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A SDF Fighter in Southern Manbij.

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.

The BBC has an exclusive report from inside Manbij, and an earlier report from a captured IS building formally used as a prison, HERE:

syria-and-iraq-newsManbij Situation Map 21.07.16 Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer

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 …..

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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.

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More IS Weapons and Ammunition Recovered by SDF

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.

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Manbij Situation Map 15.07.16

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.

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Erdogan Supporters Come Out to Oppose Attempted Army Coup in Turkey

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.

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Hundreds of Tributes Left for Those Killed in Nice – RIP

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…..

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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.

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SDF Fighters Near the National Hospital in Western Manbij

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.

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Close-up of Western Manbij

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.

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Manbij Situation Update 10.07.16 – Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer on Twitter

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.

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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.

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After 2 Years SDF Fighter From Manbij Re-united With His Family

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.

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Manbij Situation Map 08.07.16 – Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer

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.

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YPJ Fighters Wear Abandoned IS Helmets Found in Liberated House in Manbij

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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.

syria-and-iraq-news

Building Burns As SDF Attack IS Positions in Manbij

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.

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IS Counter Attacks Fail 04.07.16 – Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer

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.

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