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SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

SYRIA NEWS UPDATE: OVERNIGHT, US FORCES, SUPPORTED BY 5 ARAB STATES, ATTACK ISLAMIC STATE TARGETS IN SYRIA

TIMELINE – 23rd SEPTEMBER 2014 08.45 GMT:

For the very 1st time, US forces, backed by Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), attacked Islamic State targets in Syria last night, around 8.30pm Eastern Time in the US, 1.30am (Tuesday) GMT.

The attack started with the launch of Tomahawk missiles from the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke positioned in the Red Sea, followed by F-18 aircraft flying off the USS George H. W. Bush in the Persian Gulf.

Alleged Picture of Damage Done in Raqqah Last Night in US Attack

Alleged Picture of Damage Done in Raqqah Last Night by US Attack

B-1 bombers, F-16s, F-18s and Predator drones where also used in the assault, some of them flown by Arab nations, though the full details are not yet available.

The first wave of attacks lasted 90 minutes with other attacks over the course of several hours. Confirmation of the attacks has come from sources in the Islamic State main base in Syria at Raqqah and several amateur mobile phone videos appeared on the web including this one:

Initial reports say that one target was the former Provincial Governor’s building and at least 20 Islamic State fighters were killed. Other sites were reportedly hit in Deir EZ-Zour and other locations.

Reports from the US say that there were 20 targets in the initial strike, but other unconfirmed sources suggest as many as 50 sites may have been targeted overall throughout the night. American military officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings that the Jihadists use for command and control.

There are also reports that for the first time the US may be using its F-22 Stealth Fighter Jets ($143 million each!) in combat. Neither the UK, France or any other European allies apparently took part in the Syria strikes. The BBC Syria news has an updated video report, HERE:

In Damascus, the response from the Assad regime is so far very muted. The SANA state broadcaster’s 6.00am TV news bulletin was delayed and the station just played martial music and displayed a fixed photograph.

The SANA website just acknowledges that Syria’s Ambassador to the UN was told of the attack last night: “Foreign and Expatriates Ministry: The United States informed Syria’s permanent envoy to the U.N. before launching airstrikes against ISIS terrorist organization in Raqqa”. (EDITOR: That’s it! Nothing else at the time of writing)

IS has issued a 2nd video using British hostage John Cantlie (scroll down – see earlier reports below), though it is not known exactly when it was first published.

In the 2nd video, appearing to be under duress, Cantlie says, “Everyone now is getting involved. Denmark and France have sent airpower, Britain is arming the Kurds, Iran is sending troops and contractors are being sought in Iraq.

Even Bashar al Assad, until earlier this year the most hated and villainised tyrant in the Arab world, is being approached for permission to go into Syria. It’s all quite a circus. Not since Vietnam have we witnessed a potential mess in the making.” (EDITOR: He is very right there!)

In addition, following on from Sunday’s “commandment” by the Islamic State spokesman (scroll down – see below) to their followers to attack US and European citizens worldwide, a French tourist has been captured in Algeria.

In a video showing the kidnapped Frenchman, 55 year old Herve Gourde, a group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or the “Caliphate Soldiers”, threatens to kill their hostage unless France desists from attacking IS targets in Iraq.

At the same time as all this news, Israel apparently downed a Syrian Sukhoi 24 fighter jet that infiltrated its territory this morning, Tuesday, after it flew 800 metres into Israeli territory from Syria’s Quneitra province.  The two pilots are reported to have used their ejector seats.  This is the first time Israel has brought down a Syrian jet since the 1980’s Lebanon War.

EDITOR: No doubt more information on this emerging situation will be released during the course of today. I will post further detail tomorrow, Wednesday.

170,000 + NOW REPORTED TO HAVE FLED FROM NORTHERN SYRIA INTO TURKEY IN FACE OF ISLAMIC STATE ADVANCE NEAR KOBANE:

TIMELINE – 22nd SEPTEMBER 2014 13.08 GMT – UPDATED 17.15 GMT:

Latest reports from Kobane (Ayn Al-Arab) in the northern part of Aleppo province in Syria suggest that the Islamic State (IS) has taken control of as many as 130, mostly abandoned, villages and that 170,000 people, predominately Kurds, have fled across the Turkish border in the last 4 days.

The Kurdish militia, the YPG, is claiming that they have “halted” the IS advance to the eastern side of Kobane city as of last night, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since last Tuesday.

Hundreds of Kurds Waiting to Cross the Border into Turkey

Hundreds of Kurds Waiting to Cross the Border into Turkey

However, IS are still closing in on Kobane and all the villages surrounding it from both the west and the south, as well as the east, though sources say that another 250 villages still remain in Kurdish hands as well as Kobane city itself.

Today, Monday, IS are reported to have captured a hill overlooking Kobane city.

Other reports vary, but IS are still thought to be about 15 – 20 kilometres away from Kobane city but they do have formidable long-range fire power looted from Iraq.

This IS video shows them pounding the Kurdish villages with heavy artillery, tank-fire and mortars, HERE:

Opposition sources say that IS have executed at least 16 people in the Kobane region, but another 900 are still reported missing. IS deaths are given as just 7.

In an attempt to help the Kurds, one of the Syrian Opposition brigades, Nahrwan Al-Sham, has announced that they will open 3 new battle fronts against IS around Azaz in order to try and reduce the pressure on Kobane.

The pressure on the Turkish authorities however, who are already hosting around 1 million Syrian refugees, is enormous, leading to clashes on the border between Kurdish youths wanting to take relief aid to their brethren in Syria or to cross the border in order to join the fight against the Jihadists.

Stones were thrown and tear gas and water cannon fired and the border closed for a while.

This AFP report shows the scale of the flood across the Turkish frontier, HERE:

The BBC Syria news also has a video report, HERE:

A map, courtesy of @deSyracuse, shows the situation around Kobane, though the area held by the Kurds has almost certainly shrunk since it was published on Friday. The map also illustrates how quickly the Islamic State has advanced, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Around Kobane 19.09.14

SYRIA NEWS: OPPOSITION CLOSING IN ON ALEPPO CITADEL AS THEY SEEK TO CUT ITS SUPPLY ROUTE TO THE WESTERN, ASSAD-HELD AREA OF THE CITY:

Elsewhere in Aleppo province, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has condemned the Assad regime’s barrel-bomb attack on a bakery in Al-Bab last Friday, even though the town is held by the Islamic State. Latest numbers from the attack say that 51 are dead, including 16 children, and 80 wounded.

An interesting situation is developing in Aleppo around the Old City area where Opposition fighters now surround Syrian Government troops holed up in the ancient Citadel on three sides. Currently heavy fighting is going on in Suweiqa in an attempt by the Opposition to cut the Citadel supply route and isolate it completely from the western, Assad-held areas of the city. Map courtesy of @archicivilians, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Map of Aleppo Old City September 2014

In Homs province the Syrian Army and Air Force have fired artillery shells and dropped 4 barrel-bombs on Al-Rastan, putting local children into shock and terror, HERE:

And in Latakia province, the Opposition still keep up their hit and run attacks, here firing mortar shells once again onto Observatory Hill 45, HERE:

In Hama heavy fighting continues in the north of the province but despite the Assad regime sending in reinforcements to regain ground, they are reported to have suffered heavy losses over the weekend. Opposition activists claim that 120 of Assad’s troops have been killed in the province this week alone.

Reports this morning say that Opposition fighters have shot down another regime jet near Kafr Zita and they also stormed a barrier at Hamamiyat just to the west over the weekend, grabbing all the weapons and ammunition they could find and then retreating after 2 hours, as well as destroying 2 tanks.  Opposition fighters destroyed another regime tank at Al-Zilaquiat with a TOW missile launcher, HERE:

Even further west, the Opposition are now said to be in sections of Kernaz town and to have taken the Zalin checkpoint at Helfaia to the south-east.

In Idlib province the Assad regime massacred another 42 civilians over the weekend with airstrikes on Saraqib and Ehsim, in Ehsim managing to kill 17 people all from one family.

On the eastern side of the capital, Damascus, fierce fighting is reported once again this morning at Dukhaniyya, HERE:  while to the north-east of the city the regime has made another attempt to recapture Adra.

9 airstrikes have hit Adra in the last 24 hours and the regime tactic seems to be to lure Opposition forces away from more central areas of the capital, but so far not working. Opposition fighters are said to have captured a gas plant in the Adra area.

The Opposition have also announced that they will give “1 million Syrian pounds” for the capture of any of 17 Islamic State commanders whom they believe are hiding out in Eastern Ghouta.

This map, courtesy of @archicivilians, shows the situation on the ground north, south and east of Damascus, here:

Situation Map for the Area Around Damascus

Situation Map for the Area Around Damascus

A leaked regime video shows the Syrian Army launching massive Scud missiles against Opposition areas, HERE:

In Raqqah province an unknown force, but probably the Assad regime, partly destroyed another Euphrates bridge at Qarah Qawzaq between Manbij and Raqqah cutting a major Islamic State supply line.

Two secret reports from Raqqah city itself show how uncomfortable and suppressive life is there. The first one is from the Wall Street Journal Syria news with material from brave activists inside the city, here:

The second one was secretly filmed by a French woman living in the city, with English sub-titles. At an “Internet Club”, a tearful mother pleads via Skype with her daughter to come home, here:

IRAQ NEWS: ISLAMIC STATE SPOKESMAN TELLS INTERNATIONAL FOLLOWERS TO KILL USA & EU CITIZENS FROM ANY NATION THAT BOMBS THEM:

In Iraq, 49 Turkish hostages held by the Islamic State, the Turkish Consul his staff and their families, were finally released unharmed early on Saturday after more than 3 months in captivity.

The Turkish Government says that “it paid no ransom” but so far has been extremely reluctant to endorse of support US and French military action against the Jihadists.

In a chilling message released online in several languages, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, a “spokesman” for the Islamic State has called for their members and supporters to kill foreigners, especially Americans and the French from those nations launching attacks against them.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

IS Jihadist at Tabqa Airbase in Syria

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European”, says Adnani, “especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever… including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him”.

This maniac then even went on to give “tips” on how to kill foreigners “without military equipment”.

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

“If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops. If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face.”

Adnani described the US-led coalition as the “final campaign of the crusaders”.

(EDITOR: Clearly a man of great “spirituality, compassion and humanity”. Please God/Allah protect us all from their “enlightenment”.)

As a result of these threats, the EU has raised the security levels at its headquarters in Brussels.

Australia’s Defence Minister, David Johnston, after a meeting in Baghdad with the newly elected Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, said that Australian jets would be taking part in airstrikes against the Islamic State as soon as technical preparations were complete.

8 Super-Hornet jets, based in the UAE, would be supported by an E-7 Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft and an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft, as well as special forces who would act as military advisers.

The latest US airstrike against the Jihadists is said to have killed 30 of them at a IS headquarters building in Duloaiya, near the old airport in Salah al-Din province.

However, near Fallujah, the Iraqi Army says it has lost contact with a group of its men under siege by the Islamic State on Sunday, while IS itself has released a video of gold ingots and 100s of thousands of US dollars found at the former home of the Speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Usama an-Nudschaifi, in Niveneh province, (Arabic only) HERE:

An Inventive Syrian Farms in a Bomb Crater

An Inventive Syrian Farms in a Bomb Crater

***************************

SYRIA NEWS: ANOTHER GENOCIDE LOOMS AS THOUSANDS FLEE TO TURKEY AHEAD OF ISLAMIC STATE ADVANCE IN NORTHERN SYRIA:

TIMELINE – 19th SEPTEMBER 2014 13.45 GMT – UPDATED 20.27 GMT:

Another potential genocide threat is looming in the northern part of Aleppo province on the Syrian side of the Turkish border as the Islamic State push towards Kobane (also known as Ayn Al-Arab).

In the last 48 hours the Islamic State have used their tanks, Humvees and heavy weaponry, plus thousands of fighters to capture 24 villages at the last count, in a pincer move from the west, south and east around the border town of Kobane.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Thousands of Syrian Kurds Flee to Turkish Border

Kobane and the surrounding villages are home to a majority Kurdish population, thousands of whom are now fleeing towards the Turkish border.

Turkish troops, under orders, have kept the refugees on the Syria side of the barbed wire for 3 days, with reports of the Turkish Police using tear gas and water cannon on Turkish Kurds at the village of Dikmetas who were protesting at the frontier closure.

Relenting today, Friday, the Turkish Government let through some 5,000 Syrians but the numbers could run into tens of thousands unless action is taken to halt the Islamic State advance.

Turkey, which already houses 847,000 Syrian refugees in camps is afraid of being overwhelmed.

As well as Kurds, Kobane normally houses a community of Turkmen, Arabs and Armenians in a total population of around 45,000 and since 2012 has been under the control of the Kurdish militia, the YPG.

Unlike their Kurdish Peshmerga compatriots in Iraq, the YPG without any air or other military support.

In recent days the YPG has put out a call for young recruits to join them from the Kurdish community in Turkey.  There are estimated to be about 380 villages around Kobane, with a third already abandoned by their indigenous populations, turning into battlefields. 900 Kurds are also being reported missing this afternoon in the Kobane area.

Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader in Iraq,  called today for international intervention to protect Kobane. “I call on the international community to use every means as soon as possible to protect Kobani,” he said in a statement. “IS terrorists… must be hit and destroyed wherever they are”.

Elsewhere in Aleppo province, the Islamic State is coming under heavy attack itself from the Assad regime who dropped a barrel-bomb on the IS-held town of Al-Bab, hitting a bakery with reports of as many as 51 killed.

The Syrian Government continues its barrel-bomb campaign on Opposition-held areas of Aleppo, but despite daily attacks Syrian children have returned to school for a new term, HERE:

In the Sheikh Said district in the south of Aleppo city, Opposition fighters have shelled a regime barrier with some heavy-weight home-made weaponry, HERE:

In Idlib province, the latest on the measles vaccine disaster suggests that the additive mixed with the vaccine may be Atracurium, a muscle relaxant.

Atracurium is used as an anaesthetic for surgery and works according to weight. The 15 children who died (less than previously advised) were all under the age of 2, while older and larger ones survived after suffering vomiting, diarrhoea and anaphylactic shock.

Measles Vaccine Deaths May Be Human Error

Measles Vaccine Deaths May Be Human Error

The Atracurium was kept at a regional health hub used by the vaccination team in the same refrigerator as a solvent dilutant mixed with the vaccine powder shortly before it is used.

The Atracurium got shipped with the vaccine powder instead of the correct dilutant without checking, and nor was it checked again before being mixed, which activates the vaccine for around 6 hours.

The UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) are still investigating to work out if this was accidental human error or deliberate, which is still not clear.

At the same time the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has said that it will not be able to continue feeding 6 million Syrian refugees unless donor countries deliver promised financial aid.

UN agency’s regional emergency coordinator for the Syrian crisis, Muhannad Hadi said, “Unless we manage to secure significant funding in the next few days, I am afraid we will have no choice but to scale back our operation.”

WFP said it needs $352 million for its operations inside and outside Syria until the end of the year and that inside Syria, existing funds are sufficient to provide only a reduced food parcel in October, which will then have to be further cut in November. There are no funds at all for food parcels in December.

In Deir Ez-Zour Islamic State fighters repelled a Assad regime attempt to recapture the military checkpoint of Jamia, 4 Government troops dying in the assault.

SYRIA NEWS: OPPOSITION MAKE SIGNIFICANT GAIN IN NORTH OF DARAA PROVINCE – NOW ON EDGE OF ASSAD’S DAMASCUS DEFENSIVE BELT:

Opposition fighters have taken control of Deir Addas a significant town in the very northern part of Daraa province bordering the province of Damascus and the roads to the capital.

This puts them in close proximity to a ring of Assad Army bases south of Damascus city and is a clear step towards the Opposition desire to link Daraa and the Western Ghouta region of Damascus provinces, along with Quneitra province where they are now reported to control 85% of the towns and villages.

In the battle for Deir Addas a moving BMP armoured vehicle was destroyed with a TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:  and other video online, too awful to show here, shows dozens of dead Syrian Army soldiers.

Opposition Becoming Skilled With Anti Tank Missiles

Opposition Becoming Skilled With Anti Tank Missiles

The Opposition also seized a significant and useful number of 9M133 Kornet anti-tank missile launchers in the attack, HERE:

This video shows a drive through the newly taken town with not a Government soldier in sight, HERE:

North-east of Damascus, the Opposition have also regained the Al-Dukhaniya neighbourhood, or what’s left of it after regime bombing, HERE:

16 of Assad’s soldiers are reported killed in the latest fighting for the district, including a regime colonel, and 4 airstrikes to dislodge Opposition fighters were made today, Friday.

In the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, which is still held by Opposition fighters and where thousands still live, the regime appears to engineering a drought in addition to shortages of food and medicine.

Up to September 8th water was only available for around 2 hours a day. Since then the water supply has been cut off completely.

Activists say that 172 people have died as a result of the 14 month siege of the camp and they now fear that typhoid may break out as residents turn to old, dilapidated wells to try and get water.

On the other side of the coin there is also an unconfirmed report that 25 Hezbollah fighters based in the Damascus district of Qalamoun have been poisoned. Fatally or not is unknown.

In Hasakah to the north-east of Syria, the Syrian Army claims it is “consolidating” its capture of the Qweiran section of the city from the Islamic State, while in central Hama province fighting between the moderate Opposition and Assad’s forces continues to go backwards and forwards as villages and towns in the western part of the province repeatedly change hands.

North-west of Hama city near Helfaia, Opposition fighters have re-taken the Al-Zilaqiat barrier just hours after losing it, HERE: In the same area activists claimed that an airstrike on Az-Zakah used chlorine content in the bombs.

Well informed sources in the Opposition say that their fighters have arrested a Russian Intelligence Officer called Muzojek Mezdi and have displayed his identity card and photographs of him in Russian uniform online. The Opposition hope to exchange him for the release of a number of detained fighters from their own side.

An article on Reuters website suggests that while Assad’s Army is still functional it is extremely stretched and now unable to mount major campaigns like it did previously in Homs. The recent attempt to encircle the Opposition area in Aleppo came to nothing in the end.

According to estimates from analysts, Assad’s forces, which numbered around 300,000 at the beginning of the conflict, now only number between 30% – 50% of that after defections, desertions and deaths. Now Assad has to concentrate his efforts on securing the Damascus, Homs, Latakia corridor and may just have to let the rest go. You can read more, HERE:

For the 4th day in a row this week, deaths in Syria reached over 100 on Thursday, making it by far the current worst conflict zone in the world. This moving video, “In Reverse”, also says it is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child right now, here:

In the US, the upper house in Congress, the Senate, also confirmed Obama’s plans to attack the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq and to arm and train Syria’s moderate Opposition.

Meanwhile, Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, took another side-swipe at Assad saying that his regime had broken the agreement signed on the Chemical Weapons Convention in using chlorine illegally as a weapon of war and was therefore in breach of the convention.

Also an article from Reuters explaining how the Islamic State is making an estimated $2 million a day in revenues from selling oil cheaply from captured oil fields, particularly in Deir Ez-Zour province, to middlemen and others who sell in on in Turkey or even back to the Assad regime, HERE:

FRANCE JOINS THE US IN AIRSTRIKES AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ, WHILE IS USES ANOTHER BRITISH CAPTIVE IN NEW PR TACTIC:

In Iraq, France joined in with the US and made it’s first airstrikes today, Friday, against the Islamic State sending 2 Rafale jets to attack and destroy a “Islamic State depot” in north-east Iraq near Mosul, though President Hollande made it clear they would not attack in Syria.

IRAQ and Syria NEWS

View of First French Strike Before and After Near Mosul

US Central Command meanwhile reports that American jets conducted 7 strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, 1 strike destroying an armed IS vehicle northwest of the Haditha Dam, two airstrikes destroying 2 IS armed vehicles north-west of Erbil, and a further 4 airstrikes south-west of Baghdad.

On Wednesday and Thursday 2 more US airstrikes hit an IS training camp south-east of Mosul destroying an IS armed vehicle, 2 x IS occupied buildings and a large IS ground unit and another airstrike south-east of Baghdad damaged an IS ammunition stockpile. Total number of US strikes as of yesterday has now reached 176.

IS reacted by sending a strong message of defiance setting off multiple simultaneous car bomb attacks in Baghdad last night and also in Erbil and Kirkuk causing numerous deaths and injuries.

IS is also reported to have established a “police force” in the north-west Nineveh province of Iraq to “implement the orders of the religious judiciary”.

Photographs on the Jihadists’ website showed armed men in black clothing with “Islamic Police Nineveh State” printed on their arms. The police were in freshly painted police cars and one photo showed militiamen on a river boat.

In a new tactic, the Islamic State also issued a video with another British captive, John Cantlie, on Thursday but this time with no “beheading in the desert” images. This video was shot inside with a black background and has Cantlie speaking in the style of a regular news reporter.

In it, Cantlie, who has actually been captured twice in Syria by Jihadists and is a well-known and respected photo-journalist, says in the video called “Lend Me Your Ears,” that he plans to reveal “the truth behind the systems and motivation of the Islamic State” in a series of broadcasts.

Although there appears to be no immediate threat to his life, Cantlie is seen in the video in the regular “orange jump suit” type robe but sitting behind a desk.

John Cantlie Talking on IS Video

John Cantlie Talking on IS Video

Talking directly to the camera he says, “Over the next few programmes I am going to show you the truth as the western media tries to drag the public back to the abyss of another war with the Islamic State.

After two disastrous and hugely unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, why is it our governments appear so keen to get involved in yet another unwinnable conflict?

I’m going to show you the truth behind the systems and motivation of the Islamic State and how the western media…can twist and manipulate that truth for the public back home. There are two sides to every story. Think you’re getting the whole picture?

He ends by saying: “Join me for the next few programmes and I think you may be surprised by what you learn.”

Cantlie, who used to work for the UK papers the Sunday Times, the Sun and the Telegraph, as well as numerous magazines, looks a lot more drawn than the healthy pictures of him before his capture.

You can watch the entire video, HERE: 

BBC Syria news has a profile of John Cantlie.

Activist View of Syria and Iraq Inequalities

Activist View of Syria and Iraq Inequalities

************************

US CONGRESS CLEARS OBAMA TO TAKE MORE DIRECT AIR ACTION AGAINST JIHADISTS BUT KURDISH FORCES SAY THEY STILL NEED FOREIGN TROOPS:

TIMELINE – 17th SEPTEMBER 2014 – UPDATED 21.22 GMT:

Following on from the declaration by President Obama to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, the US Air Force struck against them on Monday and Tuesday near Sinjar in the north and for the first time south-west of Baghdad.

Previous US strikes in Iraq were used to protect US interests and personnel, to assist Iraqi refugees and secure critical infrastructure near Erbil. This time the strikes were in direct support of Iraqi forces fighting the Jihadists.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Islamic State Fighters Before US Jets Struck

Of the 5 strikes, 2 in the north-west of Iraq destroyed an IS armed truck and an IS fighting position and the other 3 near Sadr al-Yusufiyah, 25 kilometres from Baghdad, damaged an IS truck, destroyed an IS anti-aircraft artillery emplacement, a small IS ground unit and two small boats on the Euphrates River that were re-supplying IS forces in the area.

Meanwhile, officials at the US White House made it clear that if they undertook strikes against IS in Syria and the Assad regime targeted their aircraft, then they would take defensive measures including destroying the Syrian regime’s missile defence systems.

At Congress last night, Tuesday, in the House of Representatives, a bill was passed giving Obama authority to up training of moderate Opposition fighters in Syria and to provide them with lethal weapons to fight both the Islamic State (IS) and Assad. The bill requires Senate approval later this week before it becomes law.

Chuck Hagel, the US Defence Secretary, told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the US strikes both in Syria and Iraq against IS will target “the group’s sanctuaries, command centres and logistic networks”. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the same meeting said  US military advisers could “provide close-combat advising” but this was quickly played down as not meaning “troops on the ground”.

Today, Wednesday, Obama is due to meet with his generals at US Central Command in Florida to discuss their plans to increase attacks against the Jihadists in both Iraq and Syria. Obama has also announced that he is sending 3,000 troops and medical personnel to West Africa to combat the Ebola outbreak. (EDITOR: Considerably more troops than are being sent to deal with Assad and the Islamic State!)

Obama is also planning a meeting at the UN to firm up the Coalition formed to attack IS. Interestingly, Turkey, a NATO member, has been reluctant to sign up to the Coalition, though it attended the conference in Paris earlier this week.

Turkey says airstrikes will not be enough to defeat the Jihadists, but in reality its perceived reluctance may be more to protect the lives of 45 members and their families of its consular staff who were kidnapped by the Islamic State in Mosul.

At the same time both US and Iraqi Government officials are reaching out to the leaders of Iraq’s Sunni tribes, trying once again to get them on side to oppose the Islamic State (also Sunni). Grievances against the former Shia-led Government in Iraq are one of the main causes of the Islamic State’s rapid success – they were allowed into Sunni held areas without resistance.

Talks are now taking place in more neutral Amman, Jordan and Erbil, Kurdistan to get the Sunni tribal leaders on side with promises of power and more local control in the future.

On the ground in Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga forces cleared the Islamic State from 4 villages, Hassan al-Sham, Syudan, Bahra and Jisr al-Khadhr, west of the Kurdish capital Erbil and near to the towns of Bartalla and Qaraqosh. The area was inhabited by a Chaldean Christian majority before they were driven out in the IS advance.

However, the Peshmerga admit they are struggling and one general in this AL Jazeera report says they need equipment, faster air strikes and foreign troops, here:

East of Haditha, the Iraqi Army and Police, supported by local Sunni tribal fighters have also driven IS from the villages of Albu Hayat and Al-Kasirat, killing 9 IS fighters and destroying 7 of their vehicles. At Garma near Fallujah the Iraqi Army also claimed to have killed 17 IS fighters.

The Islamic State is accused of using “chlorine shells” at Dhulaiya, due north of Baghdad, on Monday suffocating 18. Yesterday, Tuesday, a further 20 – 30 IS mortar rounds on the town killed 3 and injured 12.

There are also unconfirmed reports of a major Islamic State attack on an Iraqi Army convoy in the southern part of the country near Al-Janoub resulting in the destruction of tanks and Humvees.

Posthumously, rather than when she was alive, the Iraqi State has awarded the title of “Sheikh” or “Sheikha” (Tribal Leader) to Oumaya Naji al-Jabara, a brave woman who led the fight in her area, Al-Alam east of the city of Tikrit, against the Islamic State. She was killed on June 22nd by sniper fire in a battle against IS in the western province of Salah Al-Din.

A lawyer by profession, Jabara (which means “mighty”), is the first woman in Iraq’s history to be awarded this honour. You can read more, HERE:

However, sexual violence against women in war, particularly in Syria and Iraq, where it is often used as a weapon, has been played down both in the West and the East and hidden and ignored. Foreign Policy magazine has an interesting article exploring the facts, HERE:

CNN also has a video report on an interview with Yosef Abobaker, the English speaking “fixer” who guided Steven Sotloff, the IS executed journalist, from Turkey to Syria and was captured with him, HERE:

The latest illustrative report for Iraq from the Institute for the Study of War is here:

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWSSYRIA NEWS: SUGGESTIONS OF “DELIBERATELY POISONED” VACCINE AS CHILDREN IN OPPOSITION AREA DIE FROM ROUTINE MEASLES INJECTIONS:

As if Syria did not have enough problems, as many as 36 children in the Idlib province of Syria have died after receiving a routine measles vaccine injection and many others are seriously ill.

The vaccinations were being administered in Opposition areas by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) under a UN and World Health Organisation programme (WHO). 60,000 other injections have been made from the same supplier and same batch without incident and it is not due for expiry until 2016.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Measles Vaccine Deliberately Poisoned?

Symptoms in the children affected are a gradual slowdown in the heart rate as the infants turn blue and stopped breathing. Each bottle containing the vaccine has 40 doses and two bottles are under suspicion.

Some doctors have suggested that the two bottles have been deliberately spiked with something as deadly as cyanide, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Doctors in the towns of in the towns of Jirjanaz and Ma’aret Al-Nouman where the symptoms first appeared halted the vaccinations as soon as children fell ill. The whole programme has now been suspended while the UN carries out an investigation.

WHO launched the vaccination programme to ensure that 1.6 million children were granted protection from measles this summer.

Elsewhere in Idlib province, north-east of Idlib city, Opposition forces launched a shelling campaign against the Alawite enclave of Al Fu’ah, HERE:

Throughout the north-west of Hama province, the Assad regime, mainly through its proxies, Hezbollah and other militia, has, in the last week been staging a counter-attack to try and stem a major Opposition advance, capturing a number of villages.

Now this has been reversed with Opposition fighters regaining Al-Zilaqiat, Tremseh, Jalama, Tal Malah, some of which the Syrian Government held for only a few hours. As many as 50 pro-Assad fighters are reported killed in the assaults. The Al-Nusra Front, who led the attacks, are also reported to have ambushed Assad’s Brigadier General Ismail Heydar on the nearby Ghab Plain.

Appallingly, unconfirmed reports say that Assad’s Shabiha (armed militia) have executed a dozen children with knives in the village of Dima on the North Hama Plain, also north-west of Hama city, for unknown reasons.

In Damascus province Assad’s forces have been shelling Muqaylibah, the garrison town of Al-Kiswah, with anti-aircraft guns, HERE:, while within the capital itself a suicide bomb attack targeted the notorious Palestine Military Intelligence building, where many Opposition activists have been tortured.

10 Government airstrikes hit Dukaniya in Ghouta east of the capital this morning in an attempt to drive out Opposition fighters but the Ajnad al Sham Brigade has fired at least 11 missiles into the heart of the capital hitting up market areas such as Al-Malki where President Assad is said to live.

In Latakia province 6 children and a woman were killed in a barrel-bomb attack on Rihaniya while in Aleppo the Opposition detonated another huge tunnel-bomb under a Syrian Government HQ in Ameria to the south-west of the city, HERE:

Opposition fighters also destroyed a Syrian Army cannon on the eastern side of the city at Sheikh Najjar, HERE:

Further north in the province, the Islamic State is trying to capture the mainly Kurdish city of Ayn Al-Arab, already taking control of 7 villages in the area known in Kurdish as Kobane.

In the northern part of the province, the Opposition try to defend Darat Azzah against jet attacks with anti-aircraft fire, HERE:

In Hasakah to the north-east of Syria the Kurdish YPG militia is reported to have defeated the Islamic State in the Ghuwayran district in their attempt to take over the city and repeat their success in Raqqah.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Remains of Assad Jet Shot Down By Islamic State

In Raqqah city itself, the Islamic State have shot down a Syrian Government jet on Tuesday, the first time they have done so.

The warplane however, crashed into a house and killed 8 residents. Oddly, images of the plane wreckage show markings and panel wording in English, HERE:

Residents in Raqqah say that since President Obama indicated that he could extend air attacks in Iraq to Syria, the Islamic State has gone largely “underground”.

IS activists who answered questions on the Internet have been off-line, offices previously used by the group have been vacated, fighters and their families have been moved out of the city and heavy weaponry has been re-deployed.

The group has also so far failed to issue a response to President Obama’s latest statements but has issued a very short, but smart video trailer appealing for new recruits called “Flames of War”, with little talking but lots of action.

It is in sharp contrast to the wordy video put out last week by Al-Qaeda announcing the formation of a branch in India, but fronted by an elderly man wearing thick glasses.

Opposition activists estimate that IS has recruited another 162 members to its training camps in Aleppo province since Obama said he would attack the Islamic State in Syria on September 10th.

4 of the new recruits are said to be Australian and 15 non-Syrian Arabs crossing from Turkey. The rest were said to be former members of the Al-Nusra Front which remains allied to Al-Qaeda.

SYRIA NEWS: ALMOST 50 KILLED IN ASSAD BOMBING IN HOMS PROVINCE, WHILE ASSAD OWNS UP TO 3 MORE UNDECLARED CHEMICAL WEAPON SITES:

Syrian Government bombing over the last 2 days on Opposition-held Talbiseh in Homs province is reported to have killed around 50 people and critically injured many others including children. The Assad regime said it had targeted a meeting of “terrorists” and Opposition sources reported that 15 Opposition fighters and commanders were indeed killed in the strike.

Talbiseh in 10 kilometres north of Homs on the main road north to Latakia and Aleppo. This video dramatically shows 1 young boy rescued unscathed from such an attack by one of the Opposition’s extraordinary civil defence teams, here:

President Assad, in a meeting with Iraq’s National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayadh, somewhat naively and repetitively said Tuesday that “The battle against terrorism starts with pressure on the countries that support and finance terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and pretend that they want to fight against terrorism,” referring as usual to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States.

At the same time it has been disclosed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that the Assad regime has revealed the location of 3 previously undeclared chemical weapons research and development facilities, including a laboratory which was investigating the production of the deadly poison Ricin.

Syria was supposed to have already destroyed all production, filling and storage facilities but still has 12 cement hangars and underground bunkers. The new disclosures came as part of an investigation of “discrepancies” in Syria’s original OPCW declaration.

Since signing the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention last year, Syria is prohibited from developing, storing or using any chemicals as weapons and must declare any stocks of toxins to the OPCW.

“That information is having to be extracted, piece by piece, demonstrating that he (Assad) didn’t properly come clean when he joined the convention,” one diplomatic source said. (EDITOR: Surprise, surprise!)

An article in the Telegraph Syria news, suggests that support from Iran and Hezbollah for Assad may be waning as they realise that he cannot “win” this conflict and that he should be dropped for a wider based political settlements in the region.

In a recent spate of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Islamic State, members of Assad’s Alawite community are reacting against the escalating death toll and Hezbollah, also losing numerous fighters, are in conflict with many of the Sunni members of Assad’s Army. You can read more, HERE:

Lastly, an interesting piece, called “From Mr Bean to Jihadi John”, about the naivety of some of the foreign recruits who are attracted to join the Islamic State, HERE:

Islamic State - Not Actually Much to do with Islam

Islamic State – Not Actually Much to do with Islam

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BEHEADING OF WESTERNERS AND POTENTIAL FOR ISLAM/WEST CONFLICT APPARENTLY “TURNING-ON” SOME JIHADISTS IN NORTH AFRICA:

TIMELINE – 15th SEPTEMBER 2014 14.38 GMT – UPDATED 21.04 GMT:

As representatives of 30 nations gathered in Paris this morning, Monday, to discuss the Jihadist threat in Iraq, the world was digesting the aftermath of yet another horrific beheading video by the Islamic State.

The video, published late on Saturday, showed the murder of British aid worker David Haines, just 44. David Haines’ only “crime” was to go to Syria to work for a French humanitarian organisation, Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), who were planning to restructure the only refugee camp on Syrian soil at Atmeh in northern Aleppo province, very near to the Turkish border.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

David Haines, Murdered by the Islamic State – R.I.P.

David Haines had a 17 year old daughter with his first wife and a 4 year old daughter by his second wife with whom he lived in Croatia.

Prior to doing aid work in Syria, Haines had done similar work in Libya, the former Yugoslavia and South Sudan. Haines had also spent 12 years in the Royal Air Force (RAF).

David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, described the killing as “an act of pure evil” and vowed that Britain would do everything in its power to hunt down the murderers and “bring them to justice, however long it takes”.

President Obama issued a statement saying, “The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of UK citizen David Haines by the terrorist group ISIL ….. The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve”.

The murderer in the video, once again swathed in black, has the same British accent as in the previous killings.

Fronting a video entitled “A Message to the Allies of America”, the British Jihadist says, addressing Cameron, “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State ….. This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga [Kurds] against the Islamic State. Ironically, he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force that is responsible for delivering those arms …. Your evil alliance with America which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq and most recently bombed the Haditha dam will only accelerate your destruction”.

Before he was executed, David Haines was forced to read out a statement telling David Cameron that he was “entirely responsible for my execution” for entering into a coalition with the United States. You can read a fuller profile of David Haines, HERE:

The video ends with the threatened execution of yet another British aid worker, Alan Henning, a taxi driver from northern England who was captured on his 2nd volunteer trip with a UK aid convoy bringing humanitarian supplies to those in need in Syria. You can see a video about Alan Henning, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Alan Henning – Islamic State’s Next Victim?

While President Obama has apparently authorised strikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, Cameron has yet to do so, cautious after a humiliating defeat in Parliament last year when he sort permission to do so. France however, has this morning joined UK aircraft in surveillance work on IS positions in Iraq.

Germany has announced that it is about to send 60 military personnel to Erbil in Iraq to help with the training of Kurdish forces and Australia has said that it is send 600 military personnel and 6 Super-Hornet jet fighters to be based in the UAE in the Arabian Gulf ready for active service in Iraq or Syria.

Sickeningly, according to some sources, the videos of the beheadings are “turning-on” some potential Jihadists, especially in Tunisia and Libya where many individuals are said to be “excited” by the thought of a conflict between Islam and the West, where as before they had little interest in a Shia/Sunni battle between Moslems. You can read more in the Guardian Syria and Iraq news.

The United State has now made it clear that it now sees itself “at war” with the Islamic State, is the same way it is “at war” with Al Qaeda across the globe.

However, the US Government has once again reiterated that it will not work with the Assad regime and Assad’s allies, Iran and China, have been excluded from the conference in Paris today, though the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, did attend.

In this video, Faisal Mekdad, Assad’s Deputy Foreign Minister, bleating about the US coalition excluding the Syrian Government from the fight against the Islamic State, says that the accusation that Assad has blood on his hands is a “as a big lie” and if Syria is ignored “it will be disastrous”, HERE:

In a statement from the Paris conference this afternoon, Monday, a lot of fine words have emerged plus a commitment to support “the new Iraqi government in its fight … by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance, in line with the needs expressed by the Iraqi authorities, in accordance with international law and without jeopardizing civilian security”.

(EDITOR: Whatever that actually means in reality? Sounds like one of those UN international aid conferences where countries pledge billions of dollars of aid money – and then forget to send it!)

France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, added that many countries participating spoke of the need to sever the Islamic State’s funding and said that a conference on this subject would be organised soon by Bahrain.

The sheer sad and desperate brutality of conflict in both Iraq and Syria is illustrated by the story of a 24 year old woman in Baghdad who got engaged one Thursday and was buried the next Thursday in her wedding dress after a bomb blast, HERE:

In some better news from Iraq the new Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi, said on Saturday that he had ordered a halt to the bombing of populated areas in a bid to minimize civilian casualties. “I have ordered the Iraqi Air Force to halt [the] shelling of civilian areas, even in those towns controlled by the Islamic State,” he said,”But the government will not relent in its efforts to hunt down IS members wherever they are.”

His predecessor Nuri al-Maliki had authorised air raids and barrel-bombing attacks on densely populated areas as part of operations to oust IS from regions it had conquered.

OPPOSITION NOW CONTROL 80% OF THE TOWNS AND VILLAGES IN QUNEITRA PROVINCE AND STILL ADVANCING:

In Syria’s Quneitra province, Opposition fighters have made further advances, taking control of Al Hamidiayah, north-east of Quneitra city on Friday.

The fall of yet another Assad position in Quneitra is significant, leaving the Opposition in control of 80% of the provinces towns and villages in the province.

Opposition fighters can be seen storming the town, HERE: and gaining yet more useful military supplies, HERE:

Currently there are continuing clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army in the areas known at Tel Nouria and Tel Chrome.

On the Golan Heights, the UN Peacekeeping force, UNDOF, following heavy fighting in the area and the kidnapping of its soldiers, has, temporarily at least, abandoned its positions and withdrawn into Israel.

In northern Aleppo, the more moderate Opposition is fighting off the Islamic State, HERE:  ,while in the western neighbourhoods of the city at Salah Al-Dina and Rashedin, the same brigade is battling Assad’s troops, HERE: 

There is also a video report (Arabic only) from Opposition positions very, very near the Aleppo Citadel, HERE:

Additionally, a new video about media activists in Aleppo has been brought to my attention, (click on cc for English sub-titles), HERE:

In Deir Ez-Zour over the weekend, heavy fighting was reported between the Syrian Army and the Islamic State on the boundary of Deir Ez-Zour military airport, while early this morning, Monday, a raid by Assad’s special forces destroyed a strategic bridge across the Euphrates River.

The bridge was key to the Islamic State in getting supplies from the east of the province into city areas it controls. The only alternative is to bring in all supplies by boat.

A Government airstrike on an IS training camp in Deir-Ez-Zour province on Saturday is also reported to have killed 17 Jihadists and a child.

In a remote mountainous area of Latakia province at Slenfeh, east-north-east of Latakia city, Opposition fighters have been bombarding Syrian Army positions with Grad rockets, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Iraq’s President, Fouad Massoum, Arrives in Paris to Co-Chair Anti IS Conference

In central Hama province over the weekend there have been heavy clashes as Assad’s troops with Hezbollah and militia support try to regain ground lost to the Opposition. 20 Syrian Army personnel are reported killed in an IED explosion at Khattab and a military vehicle was destroyed by another IED near Hama Military Airport.

In the eastern part of Hama province, south-east of Hama city, government forces have been battling the Islamic State who are attempting to storm Barri Ash Sharqi barrier and village.

Unconfirmed reports say that the Syrian Air Force has again attacked Opposition positions at Morek with barrel-bombs primed with chlorine gas.

In Homs province out in the desert there have been several days of heavy fighting between the Islamic State and Assad’s troops around Sukhnah as IS try to move on the important city of Palmyra.

In Homs city itself there are also rumours of a revolt inside the Central Prison, with the district containing it cut off and the sound of gunfire.

In Idlib province there has been a steady drip-feed of barrel-bombs falling on Opposition-held Khan Sheikhoun over the last few days, with jets relentlessly attacking other towns and villages.

Some ladies in the province who support the Opposition also produced the “world’s longest flag”, HERE:

KURDISH MILITIA,YPG, WITH ASSAD AIR SUPPORT TAKES BACK CONTROL OF 14 VILLAGES FROM THE ISLAMIC STATE IN HASAKAH PROVINCE:

In north-eastern Hasakah province, in heavy fighting since Saturday, the Kurdish militia, the YPG, has taken no less than 14 villages away from Islamic State control around the town of Tal Hamis, south-east of the city of Qamishli.

However, there are some concerns that the YPG are working with the Assad regime who backed their advance with airstrikes and even some unconfirmed reports that 45 people in one village were executed, including women and children and another 51 killed in aerial bombardment.

Though IS are far from defeated yet. Al Jazeera has a video report on a militant group in the Philippines pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, HERE:

In Daraa province 17 regime soldiers are reported to have defected to the Opposition at Al-Hara.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurdish YPG Militia in Efrin in August 2014

In Damascus province, Opposition brigades have denied any truth in the reports that they have signed a “non-aggression pact” with the Islamic State, saying that in fact it was just a temporary truce so both side could recover the bodies of fighters who had fallen in combat.

In fighting in Eastern Ghouta, 30 of Assad’s troops were reported killed and 10 captured as Opposition fighters took control of Htaita, and in a southern suburb of Dariya other fighters detonated a tunnel drilled by regime forces under the Sakineh shrine.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) also targeted a Syrian Army and militia base in Dariya, HERE: , while a number of Assad’s soldiers and Hezbollah militia were killed in the Qalamoun region of Damascus province.

On Saturday another chlorine gas attack was reported on the Damascus suburb of Jobar with as many as 30 people seriously affected.

Lastly, commenting on today’s international conference on Iraq in Paris, Hadi el-Bahra, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi that “the international community should support our effort.”

Bahra went on to say that the SNC was “100 percent” capable of fighting the Islamic State “with a proper plan which we have put in place and which we ask the international community to support.” The SNC through its military wing would launch two offensives at the same time, “one against the regime and one against IS,” Bahra said. (EDITOR: Currently, after endless infighting, he has more confidence in the ability of the SNC than I do!)

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ASSAD AND HIS ALLIES LEFT OUT IN THE COLD AS US FORMS COALITION TO ANNIHILATE THE ISLAMIC STATE:

TIMELINE – 12th SEPTEMBER 2014 13.15 GMT – UPDATED 17.40 GMT:

As the United States completed its 156th strike against Islamic State targets in Iraq, the world was digesting President Obama’s address to the US nation on Wednesday night, the eve of the grim anniversary of 9/11.

Yesterday’s US airstrikes destroyed 2 Islamic State (IS) machine gun emplacements and a bunker. President Obama meanwhile committed to continue the strikes on IS in Iraq and to extend them to IS targets in Syria. Obama made it clear however that there would be no cooperation with the Assad regime.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Formidable US Weaponry Being Lined Up Against the Islamic State

Obama also committed to more training for the Syrian Opposition and to supply them with more weapons, though urged Congress to pass a bill already stalled before them, giving him $500 million to allow that to happen.

To keep faith with the American public he also said there would be no troops on the ground other than specialist training and intelligence teams to assist the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces and said all US efforts would be backed by a like-minded international task force.

You can read the full text of Obama’s speech and watch the video, HERE:

Al Jazeera has a shorter summary, HERE:

At the same time, his Secretary of State John Kerry has had a meeting in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, signing up 10 Arab nations, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states plus Sunni idealogical rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to a supportive task force supplying military and humanitarian aid as well as trying to stop the flow of fighters and funds to the Jihadists.

In Europe support for the new anti-IS “coalition of the willing” was more patchy, with France saying it would attack IS “if required” in Iraq, but in Syria is was a different proposition.

Germany’s Foreign Minister said they would not take part in airstrikes against IS at all, while the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, got his “wrist slapped” after saying much the same and then Prime Minister David Cameron hastily issuing a statement saying that as yet “nothing had been ruled out”.

Frances Prime Minister, Francois Hollande, arrived in Baghdad this morning, Friday, to meet with the new Iraqi Government, afterwards flying on to Erbil in Kurdistan to deliver 15 tons of humanitarian aid and to consult with Kurdish leaders.

The Opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) broadly welcomed President Obama’s statement to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State but urged him to help eliminate the Assad regime as well.

Predictably, both the Assad regime and Russia objected to Obama’s statements that he will not hestitate to strike in Syria as well as Iraq and his assertion that “we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost”.

Both the Syrian Government and Russia took that to mean that he will not consult them before sending US planes against IS targets within Syria. An adviser to President Assad, Buthaina Shaaban, lamely said, “Terrorism didn’t start in Syria today, it started four years ago,” when the uprising against Assad began and insisted that Syria should be included in any anti-IS coalition.

Alexander Lukashevich, speaking for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said such a move would need an “appropriate decision of the UN Security Council” and without it “such a step would become an act of aggression, a crude violation of the norms of international law”. Syria’s other allies, Iran and China are also being left out in the cold.

While US strikes on IS in Syria would be more tricky than in Iraq where they have Government permission, the US is of course more than capable of dealing with Syrian Government radar and defence systems, just as the Israelis do on a regular basis.

An assessment of the formidable weaponry and technology, including the new F-22 Raptor jets and various drones, available to US forces can be read, HERE:

Even so the task will not be easy. Latest US assessments puts the Islamic State strength at between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters.

Little other news from Iraq, other than Islamic State gunmen have kidnapped another 20 villagers in the northern part of the country because they were suspected of “organising a group of fighters against them”. Last week 50 people from another village were “arrested” for burning an Islamic State flag and fortified position, but were later released.

ASSAD REGIME CONTINUES ITS LETHAL BOMBING CAMPAIGN AGAINST EVERYBODY, INCLUDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN:

In Syria, the Assad regime continued its own campaign against the Islamic State (IS), carrying out 6 airstrikes yesterday, Thursday, on the IS-held town of Al Bab in Aleppo province. As usual, it was civilians who took the brunt of it, rockets killing 11 and wounding 17 when the weapons struck a market.

In the struggle between the more moderate Opposition and IS at Marea, north of Aleppo city 4 Opposition fighters trying to hold the town were killed and 11 of the IS fighters trying to seize it.

Syira and IRAQ NEWS

Yet More Children Killed by Assad in Douma

At the IS-held village of Ihtaimlat in the northern part of the province, Opposition fighters have been attacking using mortars and heavy machine guns, HERE:

Opposition fighters also shot down a regime aircraft near Quwaires airbase near Aleppo and captured the pilot. He can be seen under interrogation, (Arabic only), HERE:

South of Aleppo city, the Opposition destroyed an armoured cannon on Mount Azzan, a missile defence base. Watch the Assad soldiers ducking into their armoured vehicle nearby as they see the missile coming, HERE:

And on the western side of Aleppo near Zahra, the Opposition have today very accurately taken out this T-72 tank with a B9 cannon, HERE:

In Idlib province on Tuesday, as many as 45 military and religious leaders from the hardline Opposition group Ahrar al-Sham were killed in an explosion at a meeting held in the basement of a building at Ram Hamdan, northeast of Idlib city. Many died of asphyxiation as a result a fire breaking out before they could escape.

The explosion killed the leader of Ahrar Al-Sham, Hassan Aboud, a member of the Islamic Front to which the group belonged.

No-one seems certain which group arranged the bombing, the Islamic State or the Assad regime, but the Abu Ammara Batalion announced yesterday that it had assassinated Assad’s Brigadier-General Haidar Obaida Naqqar in Aleppo yestreday “in retaliation”.

Whether it was the Islamic State or not, the Jihadist group seems to have promoted the impossible, forcing the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front to align with the Kurdish YPG militia in a new “Euphrates Volcano” campaign and joint operations room to fight IS across northern and eastern Syria and especially to drive them out of Manbij and Jarablus.

In the Damascus suburb of Douma, the death toll in a horrific Assad regime airstrike on Thursday has now risen to 42, including 7 children and 2 women. An unspecified number of Opposition fighters were also killed, while firefighters struggled to put out fires in several buildings. Latest unconfirmed reports are saying that after 4 days of bombs and shells, the total of dead today, Friday, in Douma has reached 100.

Violent clashes between Opposition fighters and Assad’s troops in the last 4 days near Dukhaniya on the outskirts of the capital in Eastern Ghouta, have resulted in the reported death of one of the Syrian Army’s operations commanders, Rida Makhlouf, distantly related to the President.

Opposition fighters captured the suburb earlier this week and attacked a number of barriers and checkpoints in the vicinity. Many pro-regime militia were killed in the fighting and up to 40 taken prisoner, including officers. The takeover has been followed by lots of Government shell and rocket fire, including the so-called “elephant rockets”.

Latest reports also suggest that Opposition fighters have captured a number of military points near the Tishreen district not far from the heart of the capital and have additionally blocked the road from Damascus to Quneitra province between Khan As-Shih and Sasa to the south-west of the city, HERE:

There is also a report today, Friday, that the Islamic State and more moderate Opposition brigades have agreed a “non-aggression pact” at Hajar Al-Aswad just south of Damascus. Under the ceasefire deal “the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri [Alawite/Assad] regime.”

ASSAD REGIME COUNTER-ATTACKS IN HAMA, DARAA & QUNEITRA, BUT JOY IN FIJI AFTER UN PEACEKEEPERS RELEASED:

In Hama province, where recently the Opposition were making significant advances, they suffered a reverse when the regime the regime this week, using Hezbollah, Iranian advisers and pro-Assad militias rather than regular troops, re-captured Khattab and Halfaya and parts of Morek and Kafr Zita.

Opposition fighters had moved within 2 to 3 kilometres of Hama Military Airbase and were successfully restricting its operation with mortar fire. Under pressure they have withdrawn and regrouped and are now counter-attacking.

SYRIA NEWS

Opposition View of Iran’s Relationship With Assad

Tel Al-Nasiriyah, a hilltop which the Opposition had taken before but which fell to the regime earlier this week, was retaken once again by Opposition fighters yesterday. This video is from the battlefield near Qmhana, also to the north-west of Hama city, HERE:

A major regime counter-attack seems to be underway in Daraa and Quneitra at the moment, 2 southern provinces where Assad has consistently lost ground in recent months (scroll down – see below).

Heavy fighting is going on in north-west Daraa province on the borders of Quneitra as an Assad convoy tries to regain control of Kafr Nasij and Deir Al-Adass, but so far reports suggest that Opposition fighters are holding their own and have already destroyed 2 tanks.

Sensibly, the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) in Quneitra province, after the intervention of the government of Qatar, decided to release all of their 45 Fijian UN peacekeeper hostages unharmed yesterday, much to the joy of Fiji’s 900,000 population far away in the Pacific who celebrated their freedom.

Al-Nusra dropped earlier demands for a prisoner release, aid to specific Opposition areas and a request that the UN drop ANF from their terrorist list. The release of the UN personnel can be seen from a distance, HERE:

In Latakia province, opposition fighters successfully destroyed another regime tank with a TOW anti-tank missile launcher, HERE: , while the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has confirmed that there is “compelling evidence” that chlorine gas was “systemically and repeatedly” used as a weapon against villages in northern Syria this year.

While the report stops short of actually naming the Assad regime, there is effectively no other contender for the attacks on Kafr Zita and surrounding villages in northern Syria earlier this year. You can read more, HERE:

While 96% of Syria’s declared chemical weapons have been destroyed, OPCW has yet to destroy 12 chemical weapons preparation areas and get the Syrian Government to explain a number of inconsistencies in their original declaration.

In Damascus yesterday, Thursday, 7 months after the breakdown of the UN led peace process and the resignation of the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, President Assad met his replacement Staffan de Mistura. Apparently Assad banged on to the new envoy about “defeating terrorism” and got him to repeat it to journalists afterwards without distinguishing between the Islamic State, for example, and genuine resistance to the Syrian Government’s suppressive killing machine.

In Lebanon, which until now has had no official camps for its over 1 million Syrian refugees (25% of their population), the Government has decided to build 2 near the Syrian border. The decision follows rioting and attacks on refugees and unofficial camps which many Lebanese belief house “Islamic State fighters”, who have been accused of beheading Lebanese Army soldiers.

Al Jazeera’s Syria news service has more, here:

The last word, as often before goes to the good citizens of Kanfranbel in Idlib province, who donning their “Grim Reaper” outfits and with great humour put out the commemorative banner below to remember 9/11. For their trouble they were bombed 3 times today, Friday, by Assad’s Air Force.

SYRIA NEWS and IRAQ NEWS

Kanfranbel Remembers 2 Tragic Anniversaries

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Come on! Feel Free to Say Something!

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