SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
IRAQ NEWS: ISLAMIC STATE TAKE A BEATING IN N.E. AS KURDS/IRAQI FORCES RECAPTURE 2 TOWNS AND REPEL IS ATTACK ON MOSUL DAM:
TIMELINE – 26th NOVEMBER 2014 13.55 GMT – UPDATED 18.14 GMT:
Heavy fighting between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army on one side and the Islamic State on the other continues in northern Iraq.
On Sunday, the combined force got a foothold in the towns of Jalawla and Saadiyah in the eastern province of Diyala, around 120 kilometres north-east of Baghdad, and on Monday retook them completely. The Islamic State captured the towns in August and although they have now been driven out, skirmishes on the edges and surrounding countryside continue.
17 Peshmerga, including an officer, were killed in the fighting and 40 injured.
IS casualties are not known, but thought to be heavy as the Jihadists retreated toward the Sirwan River and the Qaraj mountains.
A Kurdish official said it would take at least 2 weeks to remove IS booby-traps from inside houses and roadside IEDs to make it safe enough for residents to return.
There is video footage of the Peshmerga retaking Jalawla, (with rather over-excited music!) HERE:
According to Iraqi sources, the Iranian para-military veteran and former Iranian special forces Quds commander, Qasem Suleimani, gave advice to the Peshmerga in how to retake the towns.
Some tension remains though as ethnically the towns are a Kurdish and Arabic mixture and constitutionally disputed, so for the time being joint Kurd/Iraqi Shia military patrols will continue
In another clash in the Ba’shiqah Mountains, 14 km north-east of Mosul, early on Monday, Peshmerga forces claimed to have killed 20 x IS Jihadists in a 4 hour gun battle. The fight started with an IS attack on a Kurdish position, but the Jihadists were later hit with a Coalition airstrike.
According to reports emanating from IS-held Mosul, one of the IS leaders killed in other recent clashes at Tel Afar, is Mostafa Qerbash, nicknamed Abu Hosam. Qerbash was apparently responsible for “selling Yezidi women to the other members of the Islamic State”. (EDITOR: No great loss to the world then!)
Late last night, Tuesday, the Islamic State are also reported to have attacked the villages of Jasa and Sahlij which are near the Peshmerga-held Mosul Dam. Around 10.40pm, 2 x IS suicide bombers attempted to explode devices near Peshmerga positions but were shot before they did so. The subsequent IS attack was repelled and a number of Jihadists killed, followed by Coalition air attacks 30 minutes later.
Around the city of Hit in Anbar province, the Iraqi Army is currently conducting an offensive from 4 directions to try and regain it. According to reports a number of IS militants and their vehicles have been destroyed.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 15 airstrikes in Iraq between 21st and 24th November, 5 of them near Mosul. The other strikes were near Al-Asad, Tel Afar, Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah and Hit, destroying numerous IS fighting positions, heavy weapons, vehicles and active Islamic State fighter units.
One recent airstrike is reported to have killed Senan Mateeb, an IS “Emir” for Anbar province, along with a further 24 x IS fighters.
In Mosul itself, reports suggest that the Islamic State is continuing its reign of terror and destruction.
In their bigoted ignorance they blew up St. George’s Church and monastery in the north of the city on Monday evening and executed 2 female former Iraqi parliamentary candidates.
The women, Ibtisam Ali Jarjis and Miran Ghazi from different political parties, had “repented” in a Mosul mosque 3 months before after being “convicted” in order to save their lives, but were re-arrested 3 weeks ago after a Sharia “judge” overruled their “repentance” as invalid.
IS have also imposed their terrifying stupidity on medical staff in the hospitals in Mosul, driving many away, executing others, threatening more to return, preventing men and women working together and handicapping women doctors in their work with scarves, gloves and veils. You can read more in Washington Post Iraq news.
In another move, IS is also reported to have “arrested” as many as 78 members of the extended family of Iraq’s Defence Minister, Khalid Al-Obeidi, all of whom lived in the Mosul areas of Dindan and Bitarii.
Some of those taken are brothers and cousins of the Minister, who was only appointed to his post last month by the new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi.
Like the Islamic State loyalists, Al-Obeidi and his family are Sunni but in the twisted world of IS that makes no difference as the Minister is co-operating with a predominately Shia Government and Army. The families’ homes have also been taken and their fate is currently unknown.
According to UN estimates the Islamic State has received between $35 – $45 million in ransom payments in the last year alone.
YEZIDI REPEL ANOTHER IS ATTACK ON THEIR SHRINE ON MOUNT SINJAR AND KURDS PREPARE A NEW SINJAR OFFENSIVE:
On Tuesday morning, yesterday, the Islamic State launched another attack on the top of Mount Sinjar (Shingal) in an attempt to overrun the Yezidi shrine at Sherfedin.
On this occasion the IS Jihadists managed to get within a few metres of Sherfedin and the attack was only halted after the Yezidi fighters of HPS and the Kurdish YPG supporting them, fired rocket launchers against the invading IS armoured vehicles, destroying 2 x IS Humvees and their occupants.
The total number of IS fighters killed is at the moment not clear, but an IS commander known as Abu Helel was reported as dead in the fighting. There is some video footage filmed during the attack, HERE:
The Iraqi Air Force followed up with air attacks on the Islamic State assembly points north of Sherfadin at the village of Borik.
150 – 200 Kurdish Peshmerga are reported in position on the very highest point of Mount Sinjar around the TV tower there and there are additionally around 1,500 Yezidi volunteers on the mountain plus the YPG.
The Yezidi have received both light weapons and training from the Kurds.
Plans to break the Islamic State siege of Sinjar mountain and restore Kurdish pride in the region are apparently being drawn up, personally led by the Kurdistan President, Masoud Barzani.
When the Islamic State attacked the Sinjar region in August, thousands of Yezidi fled up Mount Sinjar but hundreds were also executed by the Jihadists and the Kurds were unable to hold back the Islamic State flood.
Since then the Kurds estimate they have regained 65% of their lost territory but Sinjar (Shingal) mountain and the IS-held town of Sinjar to the west of Kurdish territory still remain a difficult problem.
The main strategy will be to cut off the IS supply road that runs along the foot of the mountain between Mosul and Syria and recapture Sinjar town and the villages to the north of the mountain.
Re-taking Mount Sinjar and the area around it will put the Peshmerga on 3 sides of Mosul, the prime target for them and Iraqi and Coalition forces, ever since the IS leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi preached at a mosque there.
On Mount Sinjar itself politics remains in play. While the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was nominally in charge of security on Mount Sinjar, it was the rival Kurdish group, the Syrian YPG that came to the rescue of the stranded Yezidi civilians, getting thousands of them off the mountain in appalling conditions into Syria and then back into Iraq onto Kurdish-held territory.
The fight against the horrendous Islamic State goes on. IS see the Yezidi as “devil worshippers”. The Yezidi believe that “Every religion is part of the Truth” – EDITOR: I know which philosophy I prefer!
KOBANE UPDATE 22: YPG COMING OUT ON TOP, ADVANCING IN EAST AND NORTH-EAST DISTRICTS OF CITY:
TIMELINE – 24th NOVEMBER 2014 16.15 GMT – UPDATED 21.50 GMT:
On the 70th day of Kurdish resistance in Kobane, hundreds of Kurds and other supporters formed a human chain on the Turkish side of the border to celebrate the historic and enduring defence of the city.
Fighting over the weekend has been heavy with more than 34 mortar shells fired by the Islamic State (IS) into the city on Friday and Saturday and the Kurdish Peshmerga returning artillery fire on IS positions.
On the ground, most of the direct clashes occurred in the Souq Al-Hal area, with the Kurdish YPG advancing on both the eastern and north-eastern fronts last night, Sunday, killing at least 18 x IS Jihadists.
Some more recent reports are putting the IS deaths as high as 42 but this has not been confirmed.
Gains including parts of the municipal administration district, territory east of Azidi (Freedom) Square, the cultural centre and part of 24th street.
The advance was supported by a reported 5 Coalition airstrikes on the eastern part of the city. Sometimes the airstrikes are very close to the mutual frontlines as these Peshmerga fighters found out last week, HERE:
Further south, between Kobane and Aleppo, the YPG targeted 2 x IS motorcycles and a car in Tal Hejab village and another vehicle between Helnej and Sheikh Joban, in each case killing a number of IS fighters.
The YPG also continued guerilla attacks on IS-held villages to the west of Kobane. There are also unconfirmed reports of internal fights between foreign IS fighters and local IS Jihadists both in the Kobane area and other parts of Syria.
One Kurdish source is reporting that the Peshmerga force may be relieved by a second deployment very soon, allowing the original troops to return to Kurdistan territory in Iraq.
One Kurdish father had been fighting for the YPG in Kobane for months and his daughter for the YPJ but they had not met until now:
OPPOSITION LAUNCH PUSH AGAINST ALAWITE ENCLAVES OF ZAHRAA AND NUBBOL, WHILE IS COMES UNDER ATTACK FROM 3 DIRECTIONS:
Elsewhere in Syria, a further 22 Islamic State (IS) fighters were reported killed in an IED attack and airstrikes in Deir Ez-Zour province.
The IED device, possibly set by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), exploded a car at Al-Bukamel on the Syrian/Iraq border containing 6 foreign IS Jihadists, including one from Tunisia and another 2 from Saudi Arabia.
13 x IS fighters were killed in Assad regime airstrikes on the town of Hweja Saker on the outskirts of Deir Ez-Zour city and another 3 x IS Jihadists were annihilated in a Coalition airstrike on the Al-Sekka checkpoint near the Al-Bukamal border crossing. Fierce fighting is reported between the Syrian Army and the Islamic State around Hweja Saker.
East of Deir Ez-Zour last night, Coalition jets also targeted IS Jihadists in Ein Ali at Al-Quria. EDITOR: Not quite sure which attack this was, but suspect it was the Assad regime on the Jihadists at Hweja Saker – wait for spectacular explosions from 0.25 onwards, HERE:
Once again, unconfirmed reports of infighting in eastern Deir Ez-Zour province between foreign IS Jihadists and local IS fighters. There is additionally a report that IS have shot down another Assad warplane over Deir EZ-Zour, but currently no further details.
In Aleppo province, the Opposition, led by the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), have launched a major attack against the 2 Shiite/Alawite enclaves north-west of Aleppo city at Al-Zahraa and Nubbol, which they have had surrounded for some considerable time.
ANF are concentrating their primary attack on the Housing Association buildings and the factory area to the south-east of Al-Zahraa and are already reported to have made inroads into the housing complex. Both areas can be seen in this video, HERE:
Attacking Al-Zahraa from the south-east, where they already hold 3 villages, ANF have driven Alawite villagers towards the centre. 8 Opposition fighters and 1 civilian are reported dead so far in the fighting.
In clashes around the Sheikh Najjar industrial district once again, north-east of Aleppo city, Opposition fighters hit a regime tank howitzer, HERE: and a Shilka tank, HERE: with anti-tank missiles. And possibly from another angle, HERE:
Fighting around Aleppo city is also reported at Handarat, Maysalon and Hanano between the Opposition and Assad forces, another regime tank reported destroyed at Maysalon. On the northern outskirts of Aleppo, the Opposition fighters bombed an Assad HQ in Sayfat village, HERE:
Another senior Assad officer, Brigade General Mohammad Yousuf Bilal, has been reported killed on the Aleppo frontline as well.
North-west of Hama city, near Helfaia, Opposition fighters captured the Al-Zilaqiat barrier and near Damascus, they also killed between 16 and 25 pro-Assad fighters, depending on reports, in Zebdeen, east of the capital, after a combined ANF and Islamic Front ambush.
The Islamic Army, a conservative Opposition brigade are reporting that 2 of their most senior commanders were assassinated on Saturday in the Opposition-held Douma suburb of Damascus when their car was attacked by unknown gunmen.
Abul-Khattab Shaifouni was known as the “military mind” for the group, while Abu Mohammad Nabil Adas headed their “defection department” and was apparently responsible for the defection of “thousands” of Assad’s military, either returning them home or embedding them in Opposition groups.
In Daraa province, there are reports that Hezbollah has sent 300 men to Sanamein and Assad’s forces have launched an attack on the western parts of Bosra city in the very east of the province near Suweida.
Half way between Nawa and Damascus to the north, Opposition fighters destroyed another Assad Shilka tank on Tel Arad, HERE: and hit a barrier command post with a similar missile on the main road just below, HERE:
In the United States, potential presidential candidate for the 2016 election, Rand Paul, has called for a formal declaration of “war on the Islamic State”, with the duration limited to one year and restricted involvement of ground troops. The US Congress has not declared war since World War 2. In another development, Chuck Hagel, Obama’s Defence Secretary, has resigned his post, but will remain in position until a replacement is appointed.
Spare a thought for Syria’s men (and women) who wear the white helmets of the Civil Defence teams. With no political agenda, this group of 2,050 individuals have worked tirelessly digging trapped people out of collapsed buildings and bringing order to the chaos after barrel-bomb attacks.
The team, which now includes 56 women, also fight fires, teach kids about the dangers of unexploded bombs and build and repair water and electricity services. You can read more about these extraordinary “fighters for peace”, HERE:
Lastly, young women at the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan have been taught about the physical and emotional dangers of enforced child marriage, an arrangement which some destitute families see as a “necessity to survive”. Some of the women produced images such as the one below. You can see more, HERE:
KOBANE UPDATE 21: BRAVE KURDS, FIGHTING FOR HUMAN DECENCY AND RIGHTS, MAKE SLOW BUT CONSISTENT PROGRESS ACROSS CITY:
TIMELINE – 21st NOVEMBER 2014 14.26 GMT – UPDATED 23.59 GMT:
The fight for Kobane continues on the 68th day, slowly and painfully, fighting street by street, alley by alley.
The Islamic State continue to fire mortar shells into civilian areas of Kobane but the YPG and YPJ units at the same time are making more and more forays into the municipal area of the city in eastern Kobane.
In the last 48 hours, the YPG have carried several operations into the Sukuhal area, the “security zone” and around Azadi (Freedom Square). 10 Jihadist fighters have been killed and 1 YPG fighter.
On the southern front, where the Islamic State still hold a small amount of territory in the south-west of the city, guerilla tactics were again deployed during night time operations and another 9 x IS fighters killed and an IS motorcycle destroyed.
According to unconfirmed reports, in the last 2 days, 30 x IS fighters have been killed following action by the YPG and its allies, plus Coaltion airstrikes, including 2 x senior IS commanders, one known as Saifullah and the other as Abu Hares.
Ahmed Gerdi, who commands the 150 Peshmerga sent to reinforce the YPG in Kobane, confirmed that advances are not easy. “Making advances isn’t that simple,” Gerdi said.
“This is not a village that can be controlled in a single attack. It is a slow street fight. We need to secure every alley that we take.”
Gerdi also confirmed that 10 Peshmerga soldiers had been injured so far since they had arrived in Kobane, but none of them critically. There are also unconfirmed reports that the Peshmerga brigade have received fresh supplies of ammunition into the city in the last couple of days.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) units are also well involved in the fight against IS, as can be seen from this footage, HERE:
Retired General John Allen, who is the US Government co-ordinator of the Coalition forces against IS in Iraq and Syria, said on a visit to Ankara for talks with the Turkish administration, that the Islamic State had “impaled itself” on Kobane.
Allen went on to say that the US estimated that Coalition airstrikes on Kobane had cost IS 600 fighters and commented, “Any time you mass to achieve the affect that they are trying to achieve with respect to Kobane, you create targets,” adding, “I think, the sense is, if they pull out, this is going to be a real indicator that the ‘march to victory’ of ISIL has finally hit its high water mark.”
Good article on the publicity battle surrounding this war from the New York Times Syria news.
Courtesy of @deSyracuse, here is a situation map for Kobane as of yesterday. Clearly there is still a long way to go, especially in the eastern part of the city, but note the now very small IS enclave in the south and often mentioned locations and sites in the east, here:
For a bigger version go HERE:
And perhaps a good reminder of what this battle is all about. The Kurdish Self-Administraton of Afrin, Jazira and Kobane, known as Rojava, in northern Syria has produced a Social Contract to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sect, sex or race.
Well worth a read in its entirety, the document pledges to protect the rights of all e.g.:
Article 6: All persons and communities are equal in the eyes of the law regarding rights and
Article 9: The official languages of the Canton of Jazirah are Kurdish, Arabic and Syriac. All
communities have the right to teach and be taught in their native language.
Article 21: The Charter incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other internationally recognized human rights conventions.
Article 24: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 25: Everyone has the right to liberty and personal security. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated humanely and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 26: Every human being has the inherent right to life. No one within the jurisdiction of the Democratic Self-administration shall be executed.
Article 27: Women have the inviolable right to participate in political, social, economic and cultural life.
Article 28: Men and women are equal in the eyes of the law. The Charter guarantees the effective realization of equality of women and mandates public institutions to work towards the elimination of gender discrimination.
Article 29: The Charter guarantees the rights of the child. In particular, children shall not suffer economic exploitation, child labour, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and shall not be married before attaining the age of majority.
EDITOR: This well thought out and prepared document with 96 Articles, strikes me as the basis for the government of the whole of Syria, many other countries (including those Gulf State that profess to be opposed to the Islamic State), and even some Western ones.
Bravo! for the Kurds of Rojava. A Charter for human decency and human rights. You are leading in more ways than one.
You can read the full document, HERE:
US Central Command (Centcom) is reporting today 7 airstrikes in Syria between 19th and 21st of November, 6 of them near Kobane and 1 near Raqqah. The 6 near Kobane destroyed 4 x IS fighter staging areas, 2 x IS occupied buildings, 2 x IS tactical units and suppressed a further IS fighting position. The attack on Raqqah hit an IS barracks.
2,000 OPPOSITION FIGHTERS IN SOUTHERN SYRIA GEARING UP TO DRIVE ASSAD OUT OF LAST 2 STRONGHOLDS IN QUNEITRA PROVINCE:
Elsewhere in Syria, yet another mass grave, this time with 21 corpses, has been found in Nawa in Daraa province after Assad’s troops were driven out of the city, HERE: plus the remains of 13 bodies were found in Tal Horan area near the city of Nawa today , including 7 bodies of Opposition fighters and a woman along with her 5 children.
This follows on from 32 corpses found in Nawa just a few days ago, leading to further speculation that they are the disposed of victims of the Assad regime.
Opposition fighters briefly entered Baath City yesterday, Thursday, which, along with the adjacent town of Khan Arnaba are the last strongholds of Assad’s power in Quneitra province. Once these are gone, the Opposition will control all of Quneitra.
Many of Baath City’s 30,000 residents fled as the Opposition fighters approached. The city is named after Syria’s ruling Baath Party led by the Assad family.
The city was named and established as an act of defiance after Quneitra city was destroyed in the war with Israel in 1967. Quneitra city was never rebuilt and Baath City become the province’s administrative capital.
An Opposition fighting force of 2,000 is currently engaged in the battle to oust the Assad regime from the province, hundreds of Al-Nusra Front fighters moving south to join the fight after they were driven out of Deir Ez-Zour by the Islamic State.
In Raqqah city, the Islamic State are reported to have executed 4 of their fighters for “spying for rebels”, other opposition groups opposed to both IS and the Assad regime. A FSA unit is reported to have set off an IED device in Raqqah city.
There are also reports that a number of young IS fighters, usually foreign and non-Arab, have been arrested and executed for wishing to leave the Islamic State and to return home.
One 17 year old Chechen was beaten up by his “Jihadist friends” after he told his family online that life in Syria was not what he expected and he wanted to come home. The swearing of allegiance to the Islamic State is considered by them a pledge for life.
In Deir Ez-Zour province, paranoid IS fighters raided Internet cafes in Al-Madin city, searched people’s mobile phones and arresting 2 individuals. Heavy clashes are also reported once again between IS and the Assad regime around Deir Ez-Zour military airport, with Government jets targeting IS positions in the area.
In Homs province in the eastern desert, fighting has erupted once again between the Assad regime and the IS Jihadists over the Sha’er Gas Field.
Regime forces had recaptured some positions around Gas Well 107, but the situation is very fluid with territory going backwards and forwards into different hands. Heavy casualties on both sides are reported. The gas fields remain crucial to the Syrian Government keeping some of its major electricity power plants generating.
ISLAMIC STATE LOSES CONTROL OF OIL REFINERY BUT ATTEMPTS TO OVERRUN THE WHOLE OF RAMADI CITY IN SURPRISE ATTACK:
Last night, in the early hours of Friday morning, the Islamic State launched a surprise attack on Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar province.
Attacking from the north, south, east and west, IS launched a barrage of mortar shells hitting a police station and provincial government buildings. The attacks killed 6 people, including a police colonel. 12 IS fighters were killed in the subsequent fighting.
IS have controlled part of Ramadi and all of Fallujah in Anbar province since January.
Government forces were able to drive back IS out of one area and keep them out of others, but fighting is continuing into Friday night and the outcome either way is by no means certain.
Earlier in the week, the Islamic State were driven out of Baiji city and eventually the nearby oil refinery, helped by Coalition airstrikes.
Centcom reports today that the Coalition has made 23 airstrikes in Iraq between the 19th and 21st of November, 6 near Baiji. Another 4 airstrikes destroyed 8 x IS armoured vehicles and other facilities near Sinjar.
West of Kirkuk, 3 airstrikes destroyed 5 x IS bunkers, 2 x IS vehicles and an IS tactical unit. A further 9 airstrikes near Mosul, Al-Asad and Ramadi also destroyed or caused considerable damage to IS fighters and assets.
A strike on Tal Afar, where it had been claimed there were IS jets, damaged the airfield.
There are local reports from Mosul that the Coalition airstrike there on Wednesday afternoon killed Radwan Taleb Al-Hamdouni and his driver. Al-Hamdouni was the “Wali” or governor of Mosul and the most important IS official in the city.
True to form, the Islamic State is said to have publicly executed 2 young men in the market area of Zab in Kirkuk province for allegedly “cooperating with Iraqi Government forces”.
Interesting story of Abu Shakr, a 36-year-old who was a former Islamic State commander but after being captured in 2013 now provides the Iraq Army with information on IS tactics and helps them find other Jihadists in return for regular contact with his family.
Apparently Shakr was able to give the Iraqi Army vital information which enabled them to recapture Baiji oil refinery. You can read more, HERE:
This is a Centcom video of a Coalition airstrike on an Islamic State ammunition bunker near Baiji on Wednesday, here:
There are futher videos of other recent airstrikes, HERE:
US ATTACKS AL-NUSRA FRONT FOR THE 4TH TIME, WHILE WEAPONS SUPPLY TO NORTHERN OPPOSITION MAY STOP ALTOGETHER:
TIMELINE – 20th November 2014 11.41 GMT:
The US appear to have attacked the Al-Nusra Front again, Coalition aircraft bombing a location in the town of Harem in Idlib province, for the 4th time on Tuesday night.
Last week a US drone attacked the Agricultural Institute in Harem and killed 2 men believed to be Jihadists. This Tuesday’s strike hit a “storage facility” according to US Central Command, also killing 2 men.
While the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) is aligned to Al-Qaeda, the United States say it is not attacking them per se, but a particular section within ANF known as the Khorasan group.
The US says Khorasan is not interested in attacking President Assad, but is dedicated to attacking targets in the West.
Analysts both inside and outside Syria have cast doubt on this distinction and many suggest it is a US-led attack pure and simple on the leadership of ANF as an Al Qaeda affiliate.
The US attacks may also have something to do with the Al-Nusra Front’s aggression towards 2 of the more moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades which were cleared to receive US weapons in the war against Assad.
Following disagreements and disputes, ANF has almost driven those brigades completely out of Idlib province, capturing many of the sophisticated weapons the FSA units possessed. Previously, ANF and the FSA brigades had worked closely together.
As a result of all this, it is now likely that the flow (or trickle some might say) of US weapons to the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the Harakat Hazzm Movement, previously the two major beneficiaries of the weapons programme in Syria, will stop altogether.
Hopefully and conversely, the successful Opposition fighters in the south of Syria will get increased supplies of weapons and ammunition via Jordan so they can carry their fight from the southern provinces right up into Damascus itself. You can read more, HERE:
Meanwhile, in Damascus Opposition fighters blew up a tunnel being dug by Assad’s forces under Beit Sahm, a south-eastern district of the capital, HERE:
In Aleppo province 14 people have died after Assad regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on an ambulance and mini-buses carrying civilian passengers in the Al- Qaber Al- Englizi area ( The English Tomb area) between the town of Hretan and village of Kafar Hamra. The dead included 5 children and 3 women.
The Assad regime, contrary to international law, has a habit of attacking medical staff, hospitals and ambulances in Opposition-held areas. According to Physicians for Human Rights, more than 560 medical personnel have been killed and 155 medical facilities have been attacked since the conflict began, though this is probably an underestimate.
Many doctors and nursing staff have just fled for their own safety. In Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, there remain just 13 surgeons, who are now needed more than ever, for a population of over 2 million. You can read more, HERE:
The family of Dr Abbas Khan, the British surgeon who died in Assad regime custody just days before he was due to be released in December 2013, have announced in London that they are taking his case to the International Criminal Court at the Hague in the Netherlands.
Realising that it may take years, the Khan family are determined to seek justice.
The Assad regime claimed that Dr Khan “committed suicide” but an autopsy and and inquest in London found that he had been “unlawfully killed”.
While the Coalition has been attacking the Islamic Front (IS), Assad has used the media diversion to IS and Kobane to up his own air attacks.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday, Assad’s Air Force has carried out no less than 1,592 airstrikes in the last 30 days since October 20th, killing at least 396 people of which 109 were children.
At least another 1,500 were wounded in these explosions, the majority caused by barrel-bombs full of nails and other scrap metal.
Yesterday, Wednesday, another Assad regime airstrike hit the IS-controlled city of Raqqah, killing 9 civilians and another attack killed 8, including 4 women and a child, at Al-Hara in Daraa province.
The somewhat mysterious assassination of 5 nuclear scientists north of Damascus while travelling in a mini-bus last week, has led to speculation that Assad’s “nuclear programme” is “alive and well”.
The assassination had all the hallmarks of an attack by Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service. Israel had previously destroyed a suspected nuclear plant in Syria in 2007.
Opposition reports said that one of the nuclear scientists killed last week was from Iran, a claim quickly denied by the Iranian Government who are in the middle of negotiations with the West over the their own nuclear ambitions. You can read more, HERE:
In Iraq, Masoud Barzani, the President of the independently governed Kurdistan region, has called on the West to supply the Kurds with more heavy weapons to tackle the invasion by the Islamic State. Despite receiving arms from several Western nations, Barzani said that to effectively defeat IS they needed armoured personnel carriers, helicopters and more artillery.
The Iraqi Government itself is claiming on its website that the Islamic State has stolen up to 1 million tons of grain from stores and farmers in the Niveneh province of Iraq and has smuggled the wheat and barley to the IS-held Raqqah and partly-held Deir Ez-Zour.
At Rabbia, a border crossing town between Iraq and Syria, the Kurdish Peshmerga repelled an attack by the Islamic State, killing 8 of the Jihadists and seizing 8 of their Humvee armoured vehicles.
IS were also accused of another car-bomb attack at midday yesterday, Wednesday, when a suicide bomber blew up a Hyundai Elantra full of explosives outside the Governorate building in the Kurdish capital of Erbil. Two guards and two civilians, who were close to the building were killed and 29 wounded. Ten vehicles were also destroyed in the blast.
KOBANE UPDATE 20: YPG TAKE OVER 6 BUILDINGS FROM ISLAMIC STATE AND GO ON GUERILLA ATTACK OFFENSIVE:
TIMELINE – 19th NOVEMBER 2014 13.46 GMT – UPDATED 20th November 11.15 GMT:
The YPG and their allies advanced further in Kobane yesterday, Tuesday, seizing 6 buildings formerly held by the Islamic State (IS) and captured large quantities of weapons and ammunition.
The buildings were in the central municipal offices area towards the eastern side of the city, near to the so-called “security zone” which IS had tried to overrun.
Weapons captured included rocket propelled grenade launchers, sniper rifles and AK-47s, plus quantities of machine gun ammunition.
A YPJ fighter shows off newly captured weapons and ammunition from an IS position, HERE:
13 IS fighters were reported killed in the advance, including 2 senior militants, and 4 Coalition airstrikes also targeted IS positions in the central area.
IS positions are now concentrated in the eastern side of Kobane city and a smaller area in the southern districts.
All recent major attacks by the Islamic State have been repelled and the Peshmerga are hitting them hard with artillery fire.
At the same time, the YPG and YPJ are carrying out guerilla attacks at night in the Kobane countryside.
Yesterday they struck at several locations, reportedly killing as many as 27 Jihadists, including 1 commander known as an “emir”.
One YPG guerilla attack near Celebi, 30 kilometres south-east of Kobane, killed 6 Jihadists and another on an IS ammunition truck killed 3 more.
The Islamic State are not only taking a beating in Kobane right now but also in Hasakah province in Syria’s north-east. IS attempted to capture the border crossing at Ras Al-Ayn but have been pushed backed by the YPG there.
Currently heavy fighting is going on south of Ras Al-Ayn between Aalya and Tamer Hill and Mabrokeh and Al-Dahmaa to the south-west, with the YPG destroying 2 x IS vehicles and killing an unspecified number of Jihadists.
The IS positions are also coming under fire from the the south as well as the north, with Assad’s Army shelling them from Hasakah city.
Interesting story emerging from the Netherlands, where a mother travelled to Turkey and then to the IS-stronghold of Raqqah wearing a burka to make a pre-arranged meeting with her 19 year old daughter. Her daughter had earlier married a Dutch Jhadist but then decided to leave.
Despite warnings of the dangers, her Mum came to her rescue. The daughter was at first arrested in Turkey for “entry without a visa” but Dutch embassy officials sought her release and she is now back in the Netherlands. You can read more, including video and photographs HERE:
SYRIA NEWS: SOUTHERN OPPOSITION FORCES ATTACK LARGEST CITY IN QUNEITRA PROVINCE AND CONTINUE ADVANCE IN DARAA:
Opposition fighters in Syria’s southern Quneitra province, most of which they now control, have launched an attack against the province’s largest city, Khan Arnabah, which is still held by the Assad regime, HERE:
The Opposition fighters claim to have already taken over Government and security buildings in Baath city on the western approaches to Khan Arnabah and to have captured 2 villages to the south of the city.
A roundabout with a checkpoint near Khan Arnabah was targeted with mortars, causing regime soldiers to flee after 4 of them were killed. A financial building in Baath city is also under attack.
In Daraa province, after capturing the major regime towns of Nawa and Shayykh Miskin, Opposition fighters are attacking Assad’s Brigade 82 HQ nearby, HERE: , striking an ammunition store inside the base, HERE:
In the same province, they have also seized Burqah and Al-Dali villages due north of Shaykh Miskin and east of Nawa after fierce fighting, HERE:
Interestingly, in the capture of Sheikh Miskin in the last week, the Opposition fighters came across a substantial communications centre for the Syrian military which apparently held computer servers for the regimes 5 and 9 Divisions built by the German company Siemans, HERE:
More useful was the Opposition discovery of a store of ManPad shoulder-held anti-aircraft missile launchers after they captured Nawa, (rather shrill voice!) HERE:
After the liberation of Nawa, returning residents and farmers found a mass grave of 32 bodies and some older mutilated corpses which had been abandoned to dogs and other predators, (Caution – dead bodies) HERE:
The retreating regime forces in Nawa left unbelievable destruction behind, destroying civilian homes as they went, HERE:
KOBANE UPDATE 19: YPG AND ALLIES CAUTIOUSLY ADVANCE AS ISLAMIC STATE STRUGGLES TO HOLD TERRITORY AROUND KOBANE:
TIMELINE – 17th NOVEMBER 2014 18.46 GMT – UPDATED 21.51 GMT:
The ongoing clashes reported on Friday have continued over the weekend, with the YPG and their allies make strong gains across the city.
According to reports, the Islamic State (IS) have been largely pushed out of western, southern and south-eastern neighbourhoods but persist in the central municipal area of Kobane and across the eastern districts.
The fighting has now turned very much into a war of attrition to see who can hold-out last, but the Kurds with Peshmerga, Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Coalition airstrike support are gradually winning the day.
Two streets on the south-eastern front have been recovered by the YPG in the last 2 days and 10 x IS Jihadists killed (including 2 x IS commanders) and another 30 x IS fighters on the eastern front are reported dead in recent fighting and bombing.
7 Coalition airstrikes struck IS positions on Saturday night through into Sunday morning and another 7 or 8 strikes have been reported this afternoon, Monday, and into the evening.
It may be that heavier munitions than usual are being used as people are saying that the ground and vehicles are being shaken by the blasts as far as 20 kilometres away from the city.
The Kurdish Peshmerga are also hitting IS targets with their artillery, with the YPG reporting that the Islamic State are now “less threatening”.
The combined Kurdish/FSA forces have now gone on the attack, rather than just defense, but are moving ahead slowly and cautiously as most buildings and roads vacated by IS are booby-trapped.
The huge Coalition airstrikes today were concentrated on the central and eastern side of the city where the Islamic State still have some substantial territory but IS were forced to relinquish 2 positions in the eastern districts this evening. At the current time, between 60 – 70% of Kobane is probably back under Kurdish control.
Every time IS occupy a building with their fighters inside, the co-ordinates are passed to the Coalition and strikes soon follow. Many French, Uzbek and Chechen jihadists are reported fighting on the Islamic State side on the frontlines, but 5 French Jihadists were said to have been killed in one strike alone.
IS continue to bombard Kobane with mortar shells, but lost a tank between Tahtik and Bozik villages which was destroyed by the YPG who continue to use guerrilla tactics to attack IS vehicles, positions and supply routes into the city.
Interestingly, one YPG unit says it has captured from IS a M-16 rifle fitted with a US-made Raytheon W1000-9 thermal night vision sight, which allows the shooter to separate and target people from their backgrounds even in complete darkness. IS continue to use sniper fire from the tops of any buildings they hold.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that it had now documented 1,153 deaths in the battle for Kobane since the 16th September.
387 Kurdish fighters are reported killed, 16 from the FSA and 27 civilians (17 executed by IS including 2 teenagers). So far the deaths of 712 Islamic State fighters have been documented (23 of them detonating themselves in suicide bombings) but the total could be much higher as IS are very secretive about their causalities.
EDITOR: Not sure how accurate this map is, courtesy of Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000, as it is a very fluid situation, but IS holding the eastern side of the city in “black”, most of the rest now “yellow”, here:
Kobane and 2 other Kurdish enclaves near the Turkish border in Syria, make up the independent area known as Rojava. This BBC documentary explains all, here:
BLOODY, ABOMINABLE ISLAMIC STATE BEHEAD US AID WORKER AND 13 OF ASSAD’S OFFICERS & PILOTS IN MAD RAMPAGE:
Once again, the bloody, abominable Islamic State took to video on Sunday to publicise its latest mayhem, the beheading of US aid worker Peter Kassig and 13 pilots and officers from Assad’s military.
Peter Kassig, who had taken the name Abdul-Rahman since converting to the Moslem faith, had exhibited huge compassion in his life, working to supply aid to Syrians in need and even setting up his own charity to train 150 Syrians on how to provide medical assistance. But all that counted for naught in the eyes of the foul, insane and inhuman Islamic State murderers.
Peter Kassig was driving an ambulance with medical supplies to Deir Ez-Zour when he was kidnapped by IS militants in October of 2013 and then held with Alan Henning, David Haines and the 2 US journalists, all of them previously executed in the same way.
He had previously served in Iraq in the US Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, a special forces unit, sent to the conflict zone in 2007, before returning in 2013 after a medical discharge from the military, to set up his humanitarian aid charity.
The video took a different form from previous ones and according to one of the speakers was filmed in Dabiq in Aleppo province, just 6 miles from the Turkish border.
Dabiq, a small village of just 3,000 has huge significance, having been mentioned by Mohammed as the site of an “end of days” conflict with “the invaders”. Dabiq is also the name of Islamic State’s online magazine.
The speaker in the latest video, believed to be the British accented Jihadist knows as “Jihadi John” in the West, says, “Here we are, burying the first American Crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive”.
Much of the IS’s current tactics seem to be about trying to lure Western forces, particularly US ground forces, into direct conflict in the way of another “crusade” between “Christians and Moslems”. BBC Syria news explains more about Dabiq.
The 13 Syrian military men beheaded in the video are seen being dragged along individually prior to the executions wearing dark blue jumpsuits. Their executioners each select a knife from a box before going about their grisly deeds. Two of the executioners, all of which were unmasked except “Jihadi John”, have been possibly identified as one being French and the other a second Briton.
Quite when this video was filmed is unknown, as there is also an unconfirmed report from a nurse at Al-Qaim hospital on the Iraq/Syria border that “Jihadi John” was recently treated there for injuries sustained in the Coalition airstrike on an IS convoy (scroll down -see below) reported earlier.
President Obama said in a statement that Peter Kassig “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity” and “which revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction”.
The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, said he was “horrified by the cold-blooded murder” and described the actions of IS as “depravity”.
Burhan Agha, a Syrian who had worked with Peter Kassig in Lebanon wept when talking to the press about the death of his friend.
“If I could apologise to each American, one by one, I would, because Peter died in Syria while he was helping the Syrian people. Those who killed him claimed to have done it in the name of Islam. I am a Muslim and am from Syria … His killers are not Muslims”.
A defector from the Islamic State, who now resides in Turkey, talks on video about the brutality of IS on video to the BBC, HERE:
And one of the Kurdish schoolboys kidnapped by IS but later released, describes his experience with the Jihadists, HERE:
KOBANE UPDATE 18: ONGOING CONTINUOUS CLASHES FOR THE LAST 40 HOURS AS KURDS SLOWLY PUSH JIHADISTS OUT OF KOBANE:
TIMELINE – 14th NOVEMBER 2014 15.45 GMT – UPDATED 21.09 GMT:
In continuous fighting for the last 40 hours, clashes are ongoing between the combined YPG/Peshmerga/FSA forces and the Islamic State (IS), with casualties on both sides.
On the 61st day of the battle for Kobane, the YPG are said to have regained more ground on Mishtenur Hill and pushed forward in the municipality area on the eastern side of the city.
The YPG say 4 Jihadists were killed near the Reshad Mosque and another 3 in Azidi (Freedom) Square, plus a good quantity of weapons and ammunition were also taken.
On the south-eastern front, the Kurdish forces came under heavy attack yesterday and all through Thursday night after they took control of the Islamic State’s main supply route to the south.
So far the Kurds remain in control of the Helinj road and 13 Jihadists are reported killed in their failed attempts to get it back.
Several operations on the southern front resulted in the deaths of 7 more IS fighters as the YPG advanced for the first time in the area.
Heavy shelling and Coalition airstrikes have been made on the southern districts, today, Friday.
There are also unconfirmed reports Friday afternoon that “200 Islamic State fighters are under siege” and trapped in the eastern part of the city near the border.
To the west of the city, Kurdish operations have continued around the villages of Minaz and Gire Iza, the YPG destroying an IS vehicle and a motorcycle, killing 8 Jihadists and capturing more ammunition. The YPG report 4 deaths on their side in the last 24 hours but there may be more.
This video report, just released, from inside Kobane gives you an idea of the conditions there, but bear in mind it was filmed over 2 weeks ago before the Peshmerga arrived. The comments of the FSA leader too, now seem at odds with reality, HERE:
Many of you will remember the elderly Kurdish fighter Apê Nemir, who appeared in a number of videos and interviews.
It seems he has been wounded but is alive and recovering, and in good spirits. He is also now famous in the West, his image appearing on the back of a bus in Germany! (EDITOR: I think that is where it is – See photograph below):
Across the border in Turkey, 19 year old Turkish Kurd Rosa is waiting for final permission from the YPG to cross the border and join the fight, (English sub-titles) HERE:
While other Turkish Kurds patrol the border on a regular nightly basis looking for Jihadists that may be crossing the frontier behind the Kobane lines, HERE: the commander of Kobane’s YPJ, Meryem Kobani (nom de gueurre), describes the current battle situation and the YPG/YPJ’s tactics as they gain more experience, HERE:
The YPG have also withstood 23 Islamic State vehicle bombs since September 15th.
AFTER DEATH RUMOURS, ISLAMIC STATE ISSUE THREATENING AUDIO STATEMENT SUGGESTING CALIPH IS STILL ALIVE?:
After many rumours on the Internet that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS), had been killed in a Coalition airstrike last week, and even photographs showing him dead or critically injured on the ground, an audio recording was released by IS yesterday with a message from him to their followers.
In the 17 minute tape, Al-Baghdadi calls on IS supporters to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere. Light the earth with fire under all the tyrants and their soldiers and supporters”.
In particular he singles out Saudi Arabia which he describes as the “head of the snake and stronghold of disease”, urging people to “draw their swords” to fight and to kill Shia Muslims – referred to pejoratively with the sectarian term “rafidah”.
Some of the Shia who live mainly in eastern Saudi Arabia, were attacked and killed by unknown gunmen 10 days ago.
Baghdadi also called for attacks on the “apostate” Houthis – Shia rebels fighting the Government in Yemen – but refers to the Sunni rebels in Egypt’s Sinai peninsular, who have frequently attacked and killed Egyptian Government soldiers and policemen, as “the people of the Jihad”.
In the recording, which appears to be authentic according to experts, the IS leader claims that the “crusader “ United States-led campaign against IS was “failing” and that “America and its allies are terrified, weak, and powerless.”
He also heaps scorn and abuse on “the Jews”, “the apostates and the “treacherous Arab Muslim leaders who fear the return of the Muslim faithful to the ways of the caliphate”.
Although Baghdadi does not refer to the airstrikes against IS, he does mention President Obama’s decision to send another 1,500 troops to Iraq, an announcement that was made last Friday, the same day as Baghdadi was supposedly killed or injured (scroll down – see below). It is therefore still possible that the recording was made before the Coalition attacked the IS convoy transporting Baghdadi.
Finally, Baghdadi says that the media is “lying” in claiming that the Coalition has struck against IS targets.
“Be assured, O Muslims, for your state is good and in the best condition,” Baghdadi declares. “Its march will not stop and it will continue to expand, by Allah’s permission. The march of the mujahidin [Muslim holy warriors] will continue until they reach Rome”.
(EDITOR: Well there’s something for Italy to look forward to!)
Showing some media sophistication the audio broadcast was released on a Jihadi website and followed up with Twitter links to English and Russian translations.
According to another IS missive appearing on the Internet on Thursday, their Shura council had approved the production of its own currency based on gold, silver and copper coins of the “Islamic dinar”, in order to “change the tyrannical monetary system”, based on the economies of western states, that has “enslaved Muslims”.
(EDITOR: Whether they will be come to be used as a functioning currency or merely a “collector’s item”, remains to be seen.)
At the UN the Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its first report specifically on the Islamic State today, Friday, and revealed a horrific catalogue of evidence pointing to massacres, beheading boys as young as 15, amputations and lashings in public squares that residents, including children, were forced to watch, the widespread use of child soldiers, stoning women to death for suspected adultery, and holding women as sexual slaves , sometimes forcing them to bear children for the fighters.
The investigators, who had interviewed over 300 people who had fled IS held areas, as well as watching IS distributed videos, concluded that “The commanders of ISIS have acted wilfully, perpetrating these war crimes and crimes against humanity with clear intent of attacking persons with awareness of their civilian or ‘hors de combat’ (non-combat) status”.
The perpetrators “are individually criminally responsible for these crimes,” said the investigators and called for them to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands, for prosecution.
IRAQ NEWS: IRAQI ARMY MAKES PROGRESS, RE-TAKING OIL CITY AND NEAR TO ADJACENT REFINERY. YEZIDI HOLDING FAST:
According to reports from Iraq, Government troops, backed by Coalition airstrikes, have pushed the Islamic State out of the city of Baiji which is west of Mosul and 200 kilometres (150 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraqi Air Force jets targeted fleeing Jihadists.
The nearby Baiji Oil Refinery, lies around 6 kilometres away from the city centre of Baiji, which normally has a population of 200,000. However, the refinery itself may be more difficult to capture completely as the road to it and buildings within the site have been heavily booby-trapped.
Despite throwing almost everything at it, the Jihadists, who overran the area last June, were never able to capture the refinery completely. A group of Iraqi special forces continued to hold-out in an accommodation block, reinforced by regular airdrops, throughout the very long siege.
If the Iraqi Army completes its recovery of the whole of the Baiji area and manages to keep the Islamic State out it will be a significant advance and will cut an important IS supply line to Tikrit, which is also under Jihadist control.
Meanwhile, another 3 bombings across Baghdad today killed at least 19 people and wounded 50.
Up on the top of Mount Sinjar (Shingal) today, the Iraqi Air Force dropped 9 tons of humanitarian aid to the Yezidi still trapped there by Islamic State fighters.
The Yezidi fighters, the HPS, backed by the Kurdish YPG, have put up stiff resistance against Jihadists trying to overrun the Yezidi shrine in the middle of the Sinjar mountain range at Sherfedin, where they are still protecting a large number of civilians.
West of Mount Sinjar, a combined HPS/YPG force has also recaptured the town of Bara, killing 30 IS Jihadists in the process and capturing another 4.
The Iraqi Government is said to have agreed to send the Yezidi fighters more weapons last week but conditions on top of the mountain as winter sweeps in are particularly harsh with zero temperatures at night and snowfalls in the coldest months.
This short film by Nawzad Shekhany, “The Black Massacre”, is a good reminder of the Yezidi story, HERE:
Lastly for today, Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are being helped to explore their dramatic past by being given a 2 week computer and basic animation course where they learn to tell their story. In this one, 13 year old Adib who was forced to work carrying heavy loads while his bullying father stayed at home, recounts what happened to him and his aspirations – at BBC Syria news (recommended viewing – very moving).
KOBANE UPDATE 17: YPG REGAIN PART OF STRATEGIC MISTENUR HILL AS RETREATING ISLAMIC STATE BOMBARD SOUTHERN DISTRICTS:
TIMELINE – 12th NOVEMBER 2014 12.58 GMT – UPDATED 22.17 GMT and 11.42 GMT 13th NOVEMBER 2014:
Reports from Kobane today, Wednesday say that the combined Kurdish and FSA forces have regained control of part of the strategically important hill of Mistenur, which lies just 500 metres from the city’s centre, and the remaining Jihadists are trapped on the top.
Reports 2 days ago suggested they were battling their way towards the hill with its distinctive radio tower, which is where the Islamic State’s black flag first appeared when the Jihadists started to dominate Kobane.
If the Kurdish forces can hold their part of the hill, and even take the rest of it, it will be a distinctive marker of their progress.
Latest reports, midday Monday, said that the Kurdish forces have now targeted IS positions behind the hill and also cut off the Halanj-Ain al-Arab road, the Islamic State’s main supply route to the city. 16 Jihadists are reported killed in the latest advance.
Heavy mortar and heavy machine gun fire can be heard from the eastern side of the city where streams of black smoke are rising into the air.
IS appear to be in something of a retreat but have in turn pounded the southern districts of the city in the last 24 hours with mortar and tank shells. 3 civilians have been killed in the latest attacks and 18 wounded, including women and children.
The Kurdish Peshmerga have returned fire with their heavy weapons on IS positions and the Coalition made 3 airstrikes yesterday afternoon, Tuesday, targeting Jihadists groups in Al-Baladia and southern Kobane. YPG forces claim to have found Jihadists in liberated areas who appear to have been executed by their own commanders.
Latest reports this evening, Wednesday, from Kobane say that 31 Jihadists were killed today, including an IS commander.
Opposition sources in the IS stronghold of Raqqah city have also reported that the Islamic State’s inability to capture Kobane is causing dissent.
Some IS commanders do not understand why they leader, Al-Baghdadi, insists in pursuing what to them appears to be a lost campaign and are shocked that after detonating more than 20 suicide vehicle bombs, the YPG still resisted. This is counter to their experience elsewhere.
The same sources say that IS is now planning new campaigns in the countryside of Homs and Hama provinces where they are more likely to have success.
As to Al-Baghdadi himself, latest unconfirmed reports suggest that he was wounded in the airstrikes last Friday (scroll down – see below) but not killed and is now being treated for his injuries in Syria, most likely in Raqqah.
US Central Command (Centcom) reported today, that the Coalition have carried out 10 airstrikes since Monday near Kobane, 8 attacks hitting small IS units, 3 fighting positions damaged and an IS logistics facility destroyed.
Reports have emerged on the Internet of a Canadian/Israeli woman, Gill Rosenburg, becoming the first foreign female to join the YPG in Syria. Rosenburg, 31, seems to have had something of a chequered past, but is an experienced civil aviation pilot and has been a member of a search and rescue unit in the Isareli Army. You can read more, HERE:
Despite the fact that whatever the outcome Kobane has been largely destroyed, clearly the Kurds currently have something to celebrate. Some of their fighters will no doubt be taking a few moments out to dance to a little music and demonstrate some neat (checkpoint!) moves, (as recorded back in October) here:
UN SAYS 13.6 MILLION NOW DISPLACED IN SYRIA AND IRAQ. CHINA AND RUSSIA’S AID CONTRIBUTIONS 0.1% OF OTHER COUNTRIES:
As winter fast approaches in the Middle East, updated data from the UN estimates that 13.6 million people have now been displaced from the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq – equivalent to moving the entire population of greater London’s metropolitan area out of the city and into the countryside.
Amin Awad, who is the director for the Middle East and North Africa of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said the world was becoming numb to the refugees’ needs.
“Now when we talk about a million people displaced over two months, or 500,000 overnight, the world is just not responding,” he said at a press conference in Geneva.
UNHCR needs a further $325 million to cover its work in Syria and the region for the rest of 2014, otherwise it will have to cut the rations it dispenses for a second time or stop them next month altogether.
UNHCR says it is short of $58.5 million to prepare 990,000 people most at risk of harm for winter. The most generous donors so far have been the EU (particularly the UK and Norway), the US, Japan and some Gulf States. China and Russia have managed to provide about 0.1% of that provided by other donors this year.
A UN convoy managed to enter the Al-Wa’er district of Homs yesterday and a further 12 trucks of supplies today from the Red Crescent and the International Red Cross bringing welcome relief, HERE:
Al-Wae’er, an Opposition-held district, has agreed a truce with the Assad authorities who control most of the city.
The UN’s current special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said after discussions with the Assad regime in Damascus on Tuesday that he was working on a proposal to get “peace in Syria” by extending the 35 truce areas already in the country and making it more widespread.
In particular, he proposed a “freeze in hostilities” in Aleppo and believed that this was a “realistic proposal”.
However, the Revolutionary Military Council in Aleppo has already said it will not stop fighting Assad until he falls and others have pointed out that most so-called truces are tantamount to “surrender” and invariably the Syrian Army takes advantage of the situation to reinforce its positions.
Al Jazeera Syria news has a video report.
Certainly for the many the situation across Syria remains dire. In Eastern Ghouta, an Opposition-held area near Damascus which has been under attack and siege by the Assad regime for years, children go out every day with buckets searching for scraps of food in derelict buildings.
Some of the “bucket children” as they are known, walk up to 15 kilometres a day to find a piece of stale bread or animal feed to eat. For many it has become a way of life, breeding a sense of camaraderie and not opposed by overwhelmed parents. The UN’s World Food Programme continues to push for access to the area. You can read more from Al Jazeera, HERE:
EVIDENCE EMERGES OF CONTINUED ISLAMIC STATE BRUTALITY, WHILE AL NUSRA ASSEMBLES HUGE FORCE TO MOVE NORTH:
A former Islamic State bodyguard to the IS commander Saddam Jamal has described the horrific behaviour of the group’s leader. Jamal was a former drug dealer who joined the Free Syrian Army (FSA) early on in the revolution and later defected to the Islamic State.
The bodyguard describes one occasion when Jamal ordered one of his men to behead 3 children one by one infront of their parents. “He doesn’t really care if the mission spreads Islam. All he cares about is becoming more powerful. Now, if a stronger organisation emerges, he will join it. And there are lots of men in ISIL (IS) just like him”. You can read more, HERE:
In Deir Ez-Zour, Opposition sources say that IS had just executed 2 former leaders of the Al Nusra Front who had joined the Islamic State earlier but were no longer trusted.
While in the Qalamoun region north of Damascus, pictures appearing on the Internet suggest the Opposition Al-Farouq and Al-Qusayr Brigades have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Interesting report from the other side of the fence in predominately Kurdish Qamishli in Hasakah province in the north-east of Syria, where the Assad regime still has a small isolated outpost manned by the 54th Special Forces Paratroop regiment. There the Syrian Army soldiers spend their days fighting off the Islamic State as well.
In recent months the Paratroopers have regained around 20 miles of territory back from the Jihadists in order to prevent them shelling the centre of Qamishli but remain on their guard against a relentless foe who uses stealth at night and suicide car bombs to penetrate their defences. You can read more in the Independent Syria news.
In Homs province out in the desert once more, there are unconfirmed reports that the Islamic State killed between 50 and 70 of Assad’s troops in the ongoing battle for control of the Sha’er Gas Field on Monday.
And in Hama province the more moderate Opposition has today hit one of Assad’s last remaining working power plants with missiles setting part of it on fire, HERE:
In Aleppo, once again another new Opposition joint command has been formed and another new campaign started. Renewed fighting is reported around the regime’s Air Force Intelligence HQ. An Opposition sniper is seen targeting some pro-Assad men with a heavy calibre weapon, HERE:
In Daraa province in southern Syria, where the Opposition have made huge advances in the last few days (scroll down – see below), the fighters have taken control of the northern rural part of Shaykh Mishkin city and moved on towards Izraa.
Unconfirmed reports from the regime’s base at Regiment 175 say that some of Assad’s troops have been executed by the Syrian Army after being charged with “treason” for allowing Shaykh Miskin to fall.
Latest reports from the area today, also say that a regime convoy travelling out of Izraa towards Shayk Miskin was destroyed in an Opposition attack.
Observers of the complex Syrian conflict are wondering what the Al Nusra Front’s (ANF) next move will be after being attacked by the Coalition for the second time.
A massive ANF armoured convoy has been seen moving through Khan a-Subul in the southern part of Idlib province, HERE:
Is this force moving to drive out the remaining moderate Opposition brigades from their positions in the northern part of the province near the Turkish border (see below) or to attack the regime in their base at Wadi Deif?
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this morning, 865 people have been killed by Coalition airstrikes in Syria since the 23rd September.
746 were estimated to be Islamic State fighters and 68 members of ANF. The other 51 were thought to be civilians, including several children.
The BBC, to its credit, is spending several days on special reports from Syria. This one concentrates on the nearly 90,000 who have just disappeared in Syria, most of them into Assad’s prisons, HERE:
In a second report the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen looks at both sides of the pro and anti-Assad coin in a “War Without End”, HERE:
Lastly, a shred of good news. Doctor Maria Bahjat Sha’bo, who was arrested on the Syrian border after attending a human rights conference in Beirut at the beginning of the month, has been released. Dr. Sha’bo was actually born in one of Assad’s prisons 26 years ago while her parents, who were active members of the Syrian Communist Party, were being detained.
Coincidentally, Louay Hussein, a prominent member of the “approved opposition” in Damascus (but also a former Communist Party member) was arrested on the same border crossing this afternoon while on his way to Spain. No reasons have been given.