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http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3  “I so appreciate your Pullitzer-class reporting on the Kobane and Syrian conflicts and look forward to your updates. This is so much better than the superficial coverage that the major TV networks are providing.” JM.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

KOBANE/YPG UPDATE 59: WHILE TURKEY SUPPLY RE-CONSTRUCTION VEHICLES, YPG RECOVER MORE THAN 400 VILLAGES ACROSS 2 CANTONS:

TIMELINE – 2nd MARCH 2015 13.34 GMT:

The campaign to drive the Islamic State (IS) completely out of Kurdish territory continues with the YPG driving the Jihadists out of another 9 villages over the weekend.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPG Fighters on the Banks of Euphrates, West Kobane Canton

The Kurds have confirmed that they now have complete control, on Kobane Canton’s western front hard against the Euphrates River, the villages of Zawr Mughar, Boraz, Jubb Al-Faraj and Ziyarete.

The YPG were also reported yesterday to have regained half the village of Shuykh Tahtani.

Additionally, it appears that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has upped its attacks on IS north of Aleppo, possibly leading to a joint FSA/YPG/Peshmerga/Coalition attack on Jarablous.

The Peshmerga and YPG on the east bank of the Euphrates are now close enough to fire artillery shells on the city and to launch attacks across the river.

The Coalition have already mounted air attacks on IS checkpoints near Jarablous.

Between last Friday and Saturday am, the Coalition carried out 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, destroying 2 x IS tactical units and 4 x IS fighting positions.

Near Aleppo, one Coalition airstrike struck 2 x IS tactical units and destroyed an IS HQ building. Coalition airstrikes are reported to have continued over the weekend with further successes.

On Kobane Canton’s eastern front, a Coalition airstrike is said to have destroyed an IS convoy last Thursday consisting of 6 vehicles, a vehicle primed for a suicide bomb attack and 2 tanks on the road between Bexdik and Tel Abayd.

After heavy fighting at the end of last week, the villages of Bexdik and Eydanê and the hill near Derfilît were captured, with losses on the IS Jihadist side reported as high as 67. YPG/YPJ deaths in the last few days have been reported as 7, but 4 other Kurdish fighters were also killed in a mine explosion in the village of Gedas. An IS counter-attack on Bexdik has been repelled.

Altogether, since the liberation of Kobane city on January 26th, the Kurds have recaptured more than 296 of the villages they lost across Kobane Canton to the Islamic State.

Turkey Sends Construction Vehicles to Kobane

Turkey Sends Construction Vehicles to Kobane

In Kobane city itself, a new Peshmerga force has flown into southern Turkey and crossed the border into Syria in the regular rotation of Kurdish forces from Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Turkish municipality of Diyarbakir (which has a large Kurdish population) has also supplied a fleet of diggers and other construction vehicles to help rebuild the city.

Diyarbakir seems to be an interesting community. They are currently establishing a “Culture Street” to reflect local diversity and restoring a mosque, a church, a synagogue and Yezidi houses all in the same area, HERE:

Well east of Kobane in the Kurdish Canton of Cizire in Syria’s Hasakah province, the Kurdish YPG has been having similar success against the Islamic State as their compatriots in the west.

On Friday the YPG/YPJ secured the town of Tel Hamis, having previously surrounded it and over the weekend they also captured Tel Berak.

North of Tel Hamis the Kurds liberated the villages of Mesediye, Saîdiya Kurdan, Saîdiya Ereban and Teqteq, as well as killing 9 x IS Jihadists and seizing an IS minibus, 6 x AK-47s, a rocket launcher, 15 mines and a large quantity of ammunition.

In the fight to recover Tel hamis and Tel Berak, the YPG were supported by the Al- Sanadid Army, an Arabic tribal militia. The clashes are said to have led to deaths on both sides, but IS casualties are put at 175.

The fight for Tel Hamis was supported by Coalition airstrikes which struck an IS tactical unit and destroyed an IS vehicle. This brings the number of Kurdish villages recovered in the Canton of Cizire to at least 103.

As a result of the fighting, 4000 civilians have fled to the IS held city of Al-Shaddadi, south of Hasakah, putting a strain on resources.

The Coalition also carried out 3 airstrikes at the end of last week where the Islamic State tried to carry out an attack on the regional capital of Hasakah city. 3 x IS tactical units were hit and 3 x IS vehicles destroyed.

The Assad regime, which still has a presence in both the Hasakah province cities of Qamishli and Hasakah city itself, is reported to have held a meeting with Arabic tribes in the area in an attempt to enlist their aid in case of a complete Kurdish takeover of the cities.

Two regime soldiers were killed near Thaura Park in Hasakah city when a motorcycle bomb exploded at the weekend.

In the province, the projected number of Assyrian Christians kidnapped by IS last week has stabilised at 220. 19 of them were released on Sunday after a ransom was paid and they were transported on 2 buses from Al-Shaddadi to the Church of Church of Our Lady in Hassakah. Negotiations continue for the release of the remaining 200.

Latest situation map for Kobane Canton, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, is here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 01.03.15

If you have any doubts about the horrors of the Islamic State and the extreme cruelty which they put families through, watch these videos below. Angelina Jolie, the actress (who has had serious health problems of her own), recently went to visit some of the Yezidi refugees in camps in Iraq on behalf of UNHCR, for whom she is a special envoy, and has released these videos:

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KOBANE UPDATE 58: KURDS DRIVING ISLAMIC STATE FURTHER SOUTH AND IN WEST TO BANKS OF THE EUPHRATES:

TIMELINE – 25 th FEBRUARY 2015 14.55 GMT:

South-west of Kobane city, the Kurdish YPG has gained control of Qubbah village which is just to the north-west of Qara Qawazk bridge, and one of the last few outposts in Kobane Canton of the Islamic State (IS) on the shores of the Euphrates.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Qubbah on the Euphrates Recaptured from Islamic State

The Coalition report 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton on Monday through Tuesday morning, hitting a large IS tactical unit, 3 other IS tactical units and 2 fighting positions, as well as destroying 3 other fighting positions completely, plus an IS checkpoint and an IS vehicle.

Two of the strikes are thought to have been on IS positions near Sarrin and Qara Qawazk bridge and there is a suggestion that these were interventions by the French who have now got their aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, in position off Bahrain, but this has not been absolutely confirmed.

IS are using Sarrin as a launching post in order to try and retake Nur Ali just to the north of it, however, for the first time, air attacks are being reported on Islamic State positions west of the Euphrates river.

On the south-eastern front, YPG sources have confirmed that the Kurds have retaken Girek and Cede and yesterday, Tuesday, they recaptured Judaydah village, just 15 kilometres west of IS stronghold of Tel Abayd.

Some reports say that YPG units are within just 5 kilometres of Tel Abayd and that they have captured the Lavarj cement factory on their way to it.

Also on the south-eastern front YPG/YPJ units destroyed an IS pick-up, killed 4 x IS fighters and seized 2 x heavy machine guns in an ambush near Degirmen. As many as 32 dead bodies of IS fighters are reported in the last few days, with 5 x YPG killed in the same period.

An IS suicide vehicle bomb was also reported to have exploded near Degirmen on Monday, but so far no reports of casualties.

Latest Kobane Canton situation map dated 24.02.15, prepared in a fast moving situation, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 24.02.15

 

YPG TAKES FIGHT AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE TO SYRIA’S HASAKAH PROVINCE AS POSSIBLY AS MANY AS 150 CHRISTIANS ABDUCTED:

Much of the world’s attention now seems to be slipping away from Kobane, officially in Syria’s Aleppo province, to the adjacent province of Hasakah where the YPG are trying to drive the Islamic State away from the Syria/Iraq border area.

At least 132 Islamic State fighters are reported killed since last Saturday and 100 villages south of Qamishli, seized by the YPG, who are advancing rapidly with the help of Coalition airstrikes. Centcom (US Central Command) reports 10 airstrikes in the province on Monday this week through to Tuesday am, hitting 9 x IS tactical units and destroying 2 x IS vehicles.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Assyrian Christian Militia Fighter from MFS

Most of the fighting is around the towns of Tel Hamis and Tel Tamir, between the largely Kurdish cities of Qamishli and Hasakah, where IS are said to have imprisoned as many as 150 Christian Assyrians (first reports said 90), mainly women, children and the elderly, in a school.

The villagers were rounded up in dawn raids.

Some Assyrian sources claim that the Jihadists have captured 3 or 4 hundred of their small ethnic group, which amounted to around 30,000 people before the war in Syria began, and destroyed many of their churches and looted their houses.

Almost all of the Assyrians in Syria are concentrated in this north-east corner of the country and in cooperation with the YPG and Peshmerga, they have formed their own small fighting force of around 900, known as the Syriac Military Council or MFS for short.

You can read more in Foreign Policy Syria news.

Some commentators believe IS has opened up a new front in compensation for losing at Kobane, but the YPG, used now to battling with them, are striking back hard.

Currently the YPG have Tel Hamis surrounded with a military cordon 5 to 8 kilometres deep and are bringing in reinforcements.

Significantly, the YPG have cut the road between Tel Hamis and Al-Houl near the Iraq border and a main supply artery for the Islamic State from across the frontier.

Round Tel Tamir, IS are doing exactly the same, bringing in extra fighters so they can relieve the pressure on Tel Hamis and they also managed to kill 2 members of a Kurdish security team with a car bomb on Al-Khabour bridge.

Not far away in northern Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga are busy removing the last Islamic State fighters around Mount Sinjar. In a major joint operation with the YPG last Sunday, the Kurds recaptured 6 villages around Khanasour and, crossing the border into Syria, removed IS from 2 villages there.

Hopefully, all Islamic State routes between Syria and Iraq will soon be broken.

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KOBANE UPDATE 57: KURDS SETTING UP “TENT CITY” TO HOUSE THOUSANDS WANTING TO RETURN TO HEAVILY MINED AND DESTROYED CITY:

TIMELINE 23rd FEBRUARY 2015 22.50 GMT:

The Kurds, continuing their historic advance, are reported to have recaptured the villages of Girek and Nur Ali 45 kilometres to the south of Kobane city.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Another Wave of Refugees Return to Kobane

Although reports this afternoon, Monday, suggest that the Islamic State (IS) has launched a counter-attack at Nur Ali, it seems that at least 36 x IS fighters have been killed in the last 24 hours.

The above villages are not far from Qara Qawazk on the Euphrates where the Turkish Army conducted the operation to remove the remains of Suleiman Shah from the mausoleum on Saturday night.

Apparently, the large Turkish convoy was preceded by a force of 300 YPG and FSA fighters who cleared a security corridor from Kobane to the promontory sticking out into the Euphrates on which the mausoleum stood.

As suspected, the Turkish commandos who went into the Suleiman Shah memorial to relieve the Turkish guard there and remove the 700 year old remains of the grandfather of Osman 1, the founder of the Ottoman empire, entered the complex from the short road running from the bridge across the Euphrates at Qara Qawazk, the entrance of which is held by the YPG.

The bulk of the force of a 100 armoured vehicles and tanks remained, in case they were needed, just to the north of the promontory on which the mausoleum stood before it was demolished by the Turks with explosives before leaving.

It also seems that a “truce” had been agreed with the Islamic State fighters, Jihadists who some weeks ago had threatened to attack the tomb and destroy it, as they consider all tombs “idolatrous”.

Once the operation was complete the YPG escorted the Turkish military back to Kobane and out through the gate across the frontier. Publicly, there has been little thanks in Turkey for YPG/YPJ bravery and fighting prowess, all of which made this operation possible in the first place. Detailed situation map report on the Suleiman Shah operation, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Detail Situation Map for Suleiman Shah Rescue

Various Assad officials emerged from the “woodwork” on Sunday to condemn the Turkish operation. Syria’s Minister of State for National Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, saying the Turkish incursion was an “assault” and a “violation of sovereignty” and threatening “a strategic response” (EDITOR: Whatever that is?).

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Fayssal Mikdad, described it as “a blatant display of belligerence” and a “suspicious act”, pathetically threatening to hold Turkey accountable at the appropriate moment.

Meanwhile at and around Qara Qawazk and the surrounding villages of Qel Haded, Kreek, Tell Sedar, Gadi and the Dijla barrier, fierce fighting continues. There are also unconfirmed reports that the Islamic State has sent a large convoy of one of its Chechen groups to keep open the bridge at Qara Qawazk and that IS has recaptured Al-Tayyara Hill.

Further to the east, the YPG has consolidated its control over passage along the M4 highway and has Islamic State fighters completely surrounded in the LaFarge cement plant, where Coaltion jets are reported to be targeting IS defensive positions. The temptation is to blow the plant to smithereens, but the it may actually be useful in the reconstruction of Kobane.

US Central Command (Centcom) says that it carried out 3 airstrikes in Kobane Canton over the 24 hours of the 21st and 22nd of February, hitting 2 x IS tactical units, an IS anti-tank ditch and defensive bank, and destroying 2 x IS checkpoints.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says that Coalition airstrikes have killed more than 1,600 people in the 5 months since they began on September 23rd.

At least 1,465 of those were from the Islamic State (and again mostly foreigners plus the total is likely to be a conservative figure given the secretive nature of IS), 73 were targeted members of the Al-Nusra Front and another 62 were civilians victims of war, regrettably in the wrong place at the wrong time.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Still Cleaning IS From the Streets of Kobane

Back in Kobane city itself the Kurdish authorities have started erecting hundreds of tents as part of “a thousand tent city” to house returning citizens who are starting to cross the border in large numbers.

According to the Turkish officials, who count everyone into Turkey and out again, 4,000 refugees from Kobane had already returned by the end of the weekend and as many as 3,000 came through the border crossing today, Monday, alone say local residents.

Despite officials warning citizens that the city is still heavily mined, people want to return to their home land.

15 people have already been killed in Kobane, which was once home to 200,000, from unexploded ordinance and many more injured.

This drone video, courtesy of @mutludc, shows the terrible destruction in Kobane, (scroll down) HERE:

Heyvar Sor, the Kurdish Red Crescent, has now opened a new headquarters office in Kobane and has called for international medical and humanitarian aid, as well as for medical personnel to return to the city to help. You can make donations to the work of Heyvar Sor via their secure page on JustGiving, HERE:

@ChuckPfarrer has also produced an updated map today, 23.02.15, for Kobane Canton, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 23.02.15

Meanwhile, in Syria’s north-east in Hasakah province, the YPG continue to take the fight to the Islamic State.

35 kilometres south-east of Qamishli there is fighting taking place between IS and the YPG near the town of Tal Hamis, with the YPG getting air support from the Coalition. On Sunday 23 farms and villages in the area were liberated by the YPG and at least 20 x IS Jihadists were killed.

Also in Hasakah province, the YPG took 2 more villages from IS near the Iraqi border not far from Jaz’ah, helped by the Peshmerga shelling IS positions from the Iraqi side of the frontier. Sadly, the shelling also killed 8 people, 5 of them children.

At the same time IS have retaliated by staging an attack on YPG positions at Ighaibish and other Christian Assyrian villages around the town of Tal Tamer. Casualties are said to have occurred on both sides and there are reports of IS capturing Assyrian women and children.

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

KOBANE UPDATE 56: KURDS PUSH ON TO TAKE 19 VILLAGES FROM ISLAMIC STATE IN THEIR HOME PROVINCE OF RAQQAH:

TIMELINE – 21st February 2015 20.13 GMT – UPDATED 22.15 GMT & 22nd February 15.49 GMT:

The Kurdish advance out from Kobane city, has now moved from Aleppo province into the Islamic State’s home province of Raqqah, where by Thursday the Kurds had captured 19 villages.

SYRIA and IRaq NEWS

More Kobane Citizens Return to the Liberated City

Since January 26th, when the Islamic State were driven out of Kobane city, the Kurdish YPG/YPJ backed by the Peshmerga and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have recaptured 242+ villages formerly occupied by the invading Islamic State (IS) Jihadists.

East of Kobane city the Kurds are now positioned just 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the IS stronghold of Tel Abayd where the Islamic State have a major crossing into Turkey.

On the eastern front this week the YPG retook Eydanê and Mendik, seized an IS military vehicle and yet more good supplies of weapons and ammunition.

South of Kobane city by Wednesday this week, the Kurds had liberated the village of Xêrûs, Hemdînê Rojava, Hemdînê Rojhilat, Seyîd Keta, Xirab Bergîr, Dafîyê, Zagros, Xatûnîyê, Kofîn, Xidir Şetê,Aşmê, Zerik, Xwedê hill and Nasir and freed 2 more to the south-east, Şam and Piling.

2 x Is Jihadists confirmed killed on this front, and by reaching Zerik, the Kurdish forces have reached a point which they held before the IS invasion started on September 15th 2014.

At the village of Kurek, IS set off large amounts of explosive as they retreated, severely damaging the homes of villagers but causing no casualties. Operations in the area resulted in the deaths of another 12 x IS Jihadists and the capture of 3 x AK-47s, 1 x RPG-7 rocket launcher and a thermal scope.

To the south-east, the YPG and Peshmerga are reported to be on the perimeter of a large concentration of IS Jihadists at the La Farge Cement Plant (55 kilometres out from Kobane city – see map below) and besieging it.

To the south-west, the Kurds have secured more of the M4 highway between Aleppo and Hasakah, thereby impeding a major IS supply route. Latest reports say a further 6 villages were captured last night, Friday, namely Têlek, Ewênê, Qinê, Êlecax, Zarkotek and Koordînê, on the south-west front, and a total of 18 IS Jihadits killed in various operations.

West of Kobane city the Kurds by Wednesday of this week were able to liberate the villages of Berkel, Bîreloz, Sêv Elî, Derbenov, Derbazina Mezin, Derbazina Navîn, Derbazina Horan and Getaş, plus the hill at Zazros and nearby farmland.

The Kurds have also retaken Jeb-Al-Faraj and completed a siege on Shuyuk near the banks of the Euphrates, capturing the lower part of the town today, Saturday, while the Peshmerga have started to shell IS positions in their stronghold of Jarablous on the west bank of the river.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Tomb of Suleiman Shah – A Tiny Turkish Enclave in Syria

At Qara-Qawazk the Kurds are at the main bridge river crossing and control part of the bridge.

Next to it is the promontory with the tomb of the Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of Osman 1 who founded the Ottoman empire, which is still guarded by Turkish troops and considered (by arrangement with the Assad regime) to be Turkish territory.

Suleiman Shah is believed to have drowned in the Euphrates at around this point on the river.

 TWO UPDATES – Sunday 22nd: Turkey, which normally sends regularly convoys to supply and rotate its troops guarding the tomb, apparently sent in a 100 vehicle heavily armed column with tanks, via Kobane city on Saturday night to evacuate the promontory, including the remains of Suleiman Shah which will be reburied later, because of the heavy fighting.

The Turks completed the operation by removing all their troops, normally numbering around 40, and returning across the Turkish frontier through Kobane city. One Turkish soldier was accidentally killed in the transfer.

In a statement on Sunday, the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has said that the tomb and its surrounding buildings have been destroyed to prevent their use by the Islamic State and Turkey has selected a piece of land and raised its flag over another site at the village of Esme in Aleppo province for a new tomb in Syria just 200 metres from the Turkish frontier. For the moment the remains of Suleiman Shah, who lived from about 1178 to 1236, will however stay in Turkey.

600 Turkish troops, 57 armoured vehicles and 39 tanks were involved in the operation which began around 19.00 GMT on Saturday night and ended early on Sunday morning. The mausoleum was about 35 kilometres (20 miles) south-west of Kobane city before it was destroyed. The Syrian Government has impotently described the Turkish incursion as “flagrant aggression”. You can read more and watch video at BBC Syria news.

(EDITOR: Must have been sickening for the citizens of Kobane to see 600 Turkish soldiers drive through to “rescue” the 700 year old remains of Suleiman Shah – but never, ever lift a finger to help them in their hour of need against the Islamic State.)

There are still Islamic State fighters north of the former tomb’s site on the same promontory, being supplied and reinforced by small boats from the other side of the Euphrates, but Coalition airstrikes are said to be hitting their positions. @ChuckPfarrer has supplied this map, for 21.02.15, specific to the area, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation at Qara Qawazk Bridge 21.02.15

7 x YPG/YPJ fighters were reported killed this week and another 8 injured.

Among the dead, sadly, was Perween Feryal, a YPJ fighter with a beautiful smile who was featured towards the end of 2014 meeting up with her Father, also a YPG fighter, by accident, in Kobane city while it was still under siege.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPJ Fighter Who Discovered Her Father in the Besieged City, Killed in Action – RIP

4 other Kurdish men were reported killed this week by landmines left by IS, which is very much an ongoing problem.

Latest Kobane Canton situation map for 21.02.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Situation Map 21.05.15

Across the border in Turkey it was announced on Thursday that Turkey and the USA had reached a agreement on the training of “moderate” Syrian Opposition fighters on Turkish territory, probably at Kirsehir in central Anatolia.

1,200 fighters have already been “vetted” and the “train and equip” programme is due to start at the end of this March, with a target of training 5,000 Syrian Opposition fighters in the first 12 months and 15,000 over 3 years.

The US has only said that they are being trained to fight the Islamic State. Turkey has made it clear that they are being prepared to fight both IS and Assad. (EDITOR: Time will tell how this works out, whether they are properly equipped after training and how effective they are on the battlefield)

ASSAD’S “OPERATION ZERO HOUR” IN ALEPPO COMES TO NOTHING WITH MANY OF HIS TROOPS KILLED AND CAPTURED:

On Tuesday of this week, Assad’s forces launched an offensive called “Operation Zero Hour” in an attempt to close the gap north of Aleppo through which the last Opposition supply route runs and to relieve the siege of the 2 Alawite enclaves of Nubl and Zahraa, which have been under siege by Opposition fighters since 2012.

After initially gaining control of 3 villages, the Opposition sent reinforcements and took back 2 of them, Rityan and Hardantain, killing around 129 pro-Assad forces and forcing around 50 of them, mainly from Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF) and some from Hezbollah to surrender after they ran out of ammunition, here:

Most of Assad’s forces have now retreated to the town of Bashkuy where they are heavily under attack and the Al-Nusra front has tried to break in with a vehicle bomb. The pro-Assad fighters appear to be a mixture of NDF militia, Hezbollah, Palestinian Quds Brigade fighters (from a nearby Palestinian refugee camp), Iranian regular troops and Shiite fighters from Afghanistan and Iran. The Opposition can be seen shelling Bashkuy, HERE:

The Opposition claimed that they had captured 3 Iranian officers of the Revolutionary Guard and member of Hezbollah in Rityan village, where the regime has also been accused of executing 21 civilians, including 10 children and 5 women, and more civilians in Hardantain, during their brief occupation. The Opposition additionally said that they had killed Abdullah Ali Abdullah the leader of the Hezbollah Reconnaissance squad in rural Aleppo.

In Hardantain village, many Assad troops escaped through olive groves under cover of darkness, but Opposition fighters were able to release 48 civilian hostages there once they had retaken control. Footage shows Opposition fighters on the attack in Hardantain, just before the regime withdrew, HERE:

The Opposition attack was led by the Islamic Front and the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), who themselves lost a reported 116 fighters, including a senior ANF commander. But their tactics were good managing to split 2 government groups from the main force and then surround them.

Bad weather was also on the Opposition side, preventing air support for Government troops all week until this morning when an air raid struck Rityan.

Further problems for the regime side have arisen just to the south-east, between the villages mentioned above and Aleppo city itself, where another Opposition force has recaptured the Al-Mallah farms area and Sheba and is at the entrance to the key town of Handarat, once again putting Opposition fighters not far from Aleppo Central Prison.

Video shows Opposition fighters successfully destroying a Government T-72 tank with a TOW missile and setting it on fire, HERE:

The scale of Assad’s defeat in this offensive, which has achieved neither of its objectives despite sending in 2,500 troops, is yet to become clear and with air support they may still be able to make a comeback, but hopefully the Opposition will keep up the momentum and score a resounding victory.

Situation map for north of Aleppo for 20.02.15, courtesy of @macroarch, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map North of Aleppo 20.02.15

Lastly, if you have had a tough week (EDITOR: Like I have!), here’s something to cheer you up – an outstanding piece of inspirational logic from a Saudi cleric, Sheikh Al-Kaibari (English sub-titles). (EDITOR: Allah help his students!), HERE:

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ASSAD FORCES BOGGED DOWN IN NORTHERN DARAA WITH MANY KILLED BUT NORTH OF ALEPPO THEY ATTEMPT TO CUT LAST OPPOSITION SUPPLY ROUTE:

TIMELINE – 17th FEBRUARY 2015 11.32 GMT – UPDATED 12.42 GMT:

First snow, then snow-melt, rain and mud and finally heavy cloud have bogged down Assad’s assault on Opposition held positions in the northern parts of Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

According to several sources, the Government force, primarily led by Hezbollah and Iranian Quds special forces troops have suffered heavy losses, losing at least 43 men (some reports say 110), including 12 officers, in the first few days of last week’s new campaign to reclaim lost ground in the south of Syria.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Photo ID of Iranian Officer Killed by Opposition in Daraa Province

There was also a report that 13 Syrian Army soldiers, including a lieutenant, had been executed for “treachery” by the Iranians at the 9th Division base near Sanamayn, after being accused of passing military co-ordinates to the Opposition.

The Opposition in turn claimed to have killed several Iranians, including an officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard identified as Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Abdullahi, displaying his picture and ID online.

Urban fighting continues in Daraa city, HERE:  and HERE:

Heavy cloud prevented Assad’s forces receiving air support for 5 days, but improvements in the weather on Sunday meant the bombing and barrel-bomb attacks on Opposition positions restarted throughout the province and also in adjacent Quneitra, where fierce fighting is reported at Mas Hara.

If you can stand the “over the top” music (EDITOR: I recommend turning the sound off!), this is a recently published visual record of the Opposition’s considerable success on the “Southern Front” over the last 12 months, here:

The Syrian Army at the weekend also repositioned troops normally based in Hama province and sent a large armoured column to Aleppo. Reports this morning, Tuesday, say that these troops have succeeded in closing the ring around Opposition territory in eastern Aleppo and blocked their last supply road north to the Turkish border.

However, later reports on Tuesday morning, in a very fluid situation, say Opposition fighters have already retaken the villages of Rityan, Bashkuy and Hardatnin to the north of the city and hit a bus at Ramouseh carrying Assad’s troops with a mortar shell, killing and wounding many of those on board and capturing others.

Other reports say the Opposition have also started another assault on the Alawite enclaves in the Aleppo countryside of Nubul &and Zahra and there are renewed clashes to the south-east of Aleppo city at Azizia.

Aleppo Situation Map for 16.02.15 courtesy of @archicivilians, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map in Aleppo 16.02.15

HIDEOUS ISLAMIC STATE MURDERS 21 EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS AND IMPOSES EVEN HARSHER RULES ON WOMEN:

The hideous Islamic State added yet further to its appalling reputation at the weekend by posting a video of the execution on a beach in Libya of 21 immigrant Egyptian workers of the Christian Coptic faith, as a “signed with blood” warning to the “nation of the cross”.

Tens of thousands of poor Egyptians, many of them Copts which make up 10% of Egypt’s population, seek work in Libya. Unconfirmed reports say that another 35 have since been taken hostage in Libya and IS has burned to death 45 people in Iraq.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Peshmerga Fighters Paraded in Cages by IS

Egypt’s retribution was swift and fast with a series of F16 air attacks early on Monday morning on Islamic State storage warehouses and training facilities near the pro-Islamist town of Derna on Libya’s coast.

This was followed by a second raid later in the day yesterday.

The attacks were co-ordinated with Libya’s Air Force, whose own planes went on to attack other targets in Sirte and Ben Jawad.

The Libyan authorites later claimed that between 40 and 50 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the air raids.

Sources in Derna said that several civilians had also been killed, including women and children, and vowed vengeance.

Egypt already has an Islamic State problem in the Sinai peninsular and Libya is often a starting point for illegal migrants heading for Europe, raising the prospect of IS infiltration into the EU.

Back in Iraq, the Islamic State paraded 17 Kurdish Peshmerga prisoners through the streets in Hawija in cages similar to that used to burn to death the Jordanian pilot.

There were hopes that these Peshmerga fighters would be exchanged for Islamic State fighters held by the Kurds, but latest reports suggest IS is “not interested” in having their fighters back.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Poster Urges Women to Wear the Hijab

Information from both Iraq and Syria suggests that IS is imposing even harsher rules on women than before, insisting that they can’t go anywhere without a recognised male guardian, known as a “Mahram”, and that they must wear double-layered veils, loose abayas and gloves.

Universities in IS held territory have been closed because the constant escorting of female students is impractical and the rules, including their imposition on small girls, are rigourously enforced by female religious police known as “Hisbah”.

One Mosul resident said, “I went once with my wife to one of the old souqs to do some shopping, and after a short while I lost her among the crowd. The problem was that all the women were wearing veils and it was hard to know who was my wife.

I was utterly scared to make a mistake and go for the wrong woman. It would be a disaster to fall into Hisbah hands. I could not even use my mobile as the network was down.”

Eventually he called out his wife’s name loudly in the souq until she heard him and they were reunited.

You can read more in the Guardian Syria news.

KOBANE UPDATE 55: KURDS NOW CONTROL 2,000 KILOMETRES OF ALEPPO PROVINCE AND PUSHING TOWARDS TEL ABAYD IN THE EAST:

TIMELINE – 16th FEBRUARY 2015 14.40 GMT:

The Kurdish YPG and YPJ, backed by units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Peshmerga and pushing out from Kobane, now control around 2,000 square kilometres of the northern Aleppo countryside.

Their reach now stretches 30 kilometres to the west of the city, between 34 and 50 kilometres to the south and south-west and around 40 kilometres to the east where the YPG are on the borders of Raqqah province.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Before and After Islamic State Destruction

By last Friday, YPG fighters had liberated the villages of Toraman and Qelha Kon Eftar south of Kobane and on Saturday they pushed back Islamic State (IS) Jihadists from Qelha Kon Eftar Hill, killing 7 of them, destroying an IS vehicle and capturing AK-47s and ammunition.

Another 9 x IS Jihadists were reported killed in battles to the south-west of Kobane, where the Kurds are pressing the Islamic State for control of the entrance to the Euphrates bridge at Qara Qawazk and are attacking IS positions near the village of Jaadah.

Information from yesterday, Sunday, says that the YPG attacked an IS checkpoint on the M4 highway to the south that connects Aleppo and Hasakah, killing 10 x IS fighters and capturing 1.

To the west of Kobane, higher up the Euphrates, the YPG now hold a number of strategic hills on the outskirts of Al-Shuyukh and have taken the village of Çariqli, Şehid Hogir hill and the ponds near Çariqli village. At least 11 x IS Jihadists were killed in this operation and RPG rockets as well as other ammunition captured.

East of Kobane there is heavy fighting around the villages of Solanê and Dêrfilît and the YPG appear to have some IS fighters cornered around the village of Bexdike, not far from the Turkish border, after capturing a strategic hill nearby. The YPG also seized an IS military vehicle, a heavy machine gun, shells, rocket-launchers and good supplies of ammunition. IS deaths are put at 23.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Coalition jets destroyed an IS convoy of 7 vehicles heading west of Tel Abayd towards Kobane on Sunday. The only report from US Central Command says they struck a “large tactical unit” sometime in the 24 hours prior to 8.00am Monday.

Estimates put IS deaths over the weekend at 35+, including an IS commander originating from Kosovo, with 4 killed on the YPG side. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) now puts the total deaths in the Kobane campaign at 1835 since September 16th 2014, 1271 x IS fighters plus another 49 who detonated themselves in suicide bombing attacks.

SOHR puts Kurdish YPG/YPJ deaths at 502 plus 39 Kurdish civilians and 21 from the FSA backing the YPG.

The Islamic State is clearly worried that its town of Tel Abayd (Gere Sepi in Kurdish), east of Kobane is now under threat and has imposed a curfew from 11.00pm to 6.00am, shooting at anyone who moves outside during those times.

Peshmerga forces have been shelling IS positions in Tel Abayd since last Wednesday and the Turks, anticipating a flood of IS refugees from a town once populated by 80,000 people, have sent in tanks and reinforcements to their side of the border there at Akcakale.

Control of Tel Abayd would enable the Kurds to link up Kobane Canton with Jazira (Kurdish, Cizere) Canton in the east and also give them an “official crossing” at Tel Abayd into Turkey.

The frontier gate at Kobane is not considered to be an “official” one by the Turks and at the moment they only allow small amounts of humanitarian aid through and no building materials to repair the city. The returning Kurds are also faced with deadly booby-traps and bombs in houses and even hidden in kitchen appliances.

3 people were killed on Saturday in the Miktala neighbourhood of south-east Kobane by one such device and, more explosive and de-mining experts are urgently needed.

This is the Kobane Canton Situation map as of yesterday, 15.02.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 15.02.15

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KOBANE UPDATE 54: DESPITE DESTRUCTION AND HEALTH HAZARDS, CITIZENS RETURNING TO THE CITY AND REBUILDING HAS BEGUN:

TIMELINE – 13th FEBRUARY 2015 14.47 GMT – UPDATED 21.46 GMT:

According to latest estimates, the 4 month battle with the Islamic State (IS) has resulted in serious damage to more than 4,000 buildings in Kobane, around 1,206 the UN estimates completely destroyed.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Joyful Kobane Citizens Come Home Back from Turkey

Many buildings in eastern Kobane were reduced to rubble after the Kurdish YPG called in Coalition airstrikes to pulverise IS positions and a serious health hazard remains as rotting corpses remain under the flattened houses.

Despite that, local people are in good spirits, returning across the Turkish border with little comfort to return to but determined to rebuild their shattered city.

Re-construction work has already started, cement is being mixed and breeze blocks are being put place to make new walls to keep out the elements.

In addition, the city’s largest bakery is partly back in production and making bread once again.

On the battle fronts, the YPG/YPJ and the Free Syrian Army battalions, backed by the Coalition and the Peshmerga, continue to chase the IS Jihadists away from Kobane city and to push them deeper and deeper into the Aleppo countryside.

The Kurds are now reported to have recaptured around 160 villages, a bit less than half of those they lost in the IS advance in the first place.

On the western front Anez, Bestike, Pendira Mezin, Pendira Bicuk, Pendira Enil and Zekeriya villages have all been liberated around 24 kilometres out from the city and there are reports that another IS commander (Issa Ahmed) has been killed in the clashes.

Increasingly, the Islamic State fighters in the west are being pushed back towards the east bank of the Euphrates, which they will have to cross to get away. To the south-west the Kurds are said to have reached the villages of Qoushlee and Kapelk , 34 kilometres out, and in some cases they have recovered territory 40 – 50 kilometres away from the city.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Rebuilding Begins (1)

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Rebuilding Begins (2)

Significantly, the Kurds have reached Qara Qawazak on the Euphrates, south-west of Kobane, where there is a major river crossing point.

A key aim of the Kurds maybe to secure this bridge and all Euphrates bridges to their territory.

However, the battles still have their dangers and the IS Jihadists continue to hit back with mortars and artillery.

Problems still remain both inside Kobane and in the surrounding countryside with landmines, booby-traps and IEDs. 6 Kurdish civilians were reported killed by a landmine just south of Kobane and another 6 YPG fighters killed by a landmine and an IED.

You may have sometimes wondered how the YPG so successfully destroyed the suicide bomber vehicles before there reached the Kurdish lines? This footage shows a Kurdish marksman sniper in action – watch carefully for the approaching vehicle coming up the hill – HERE:

You may also have wondered, who exactly are the Kurds? Students of the Kurdistan Student Organization at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA produced this video back in 2010 (starts slow but great music!), here:

Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, the latest situation map for Kobane Canton is, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 12.02.15

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane’s Grand Bakery gets Back to Work

HEZBOLLAH AND IRANIAN ADVISERS LEAD MAJOR ATTACK ON OPPOSITION IN SOUTHERN SYRIA:

Between 4,500 and 5,000 Hezbollah fighters, directed by Iranian military advisers and led by 300 elite troops, have been deployed south of Damascus to stem the Opposition advance in southern Syria and regain ground in Daraa and Quneitra provinces and the Damascus countryside, with the Syrian Army in largely a supporting role.

Fierce battles have taken place in the in the north of Quneitra province and in eastern Daraa with 19 of the pro-Assad side reported killed and 48 on the Opposition side in the first 4 days of the conflict, the Al-Nusra Front taking the brunt of the pounding.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Pro-Assad Tank Destroyed by Opposition

Initially the pro-Assad force took 4 hills and 3 towns but already the balance may be changing.

The mainstream Opposition led by the Southern Front said that they would deal with the assault through “hit and run” and reputedly have had some success, destroying tanks and vehicles, HERE:

Opposition fighters claimed to have shot down a reconnaissance aircraft near Deir Al-Adas in Daraa province and killed 4 Hezbollah on the outskirts of Kafr Shams.

The Opposition fighters have also detected a regime tunnel in the centre of Mahatta city near the National Hospital and successfully blew it up, (Arabic only) HERE:

Hezbollah are reported to have used motorbikes for their assault on Deir Al-Adas, but these have now been seized by the Opposition.

Opposition fighters also say the have retaken Tel Fatima, (Arabic only) HERE:

Via the Druze community, which lives on both sides of the Israeli/Syrian border, the Syrian Opposition are said to have sent a request to the Israeli military to “hit Hezbollah and the Iranians hard” before the Syrian/Hezbollah/Iranian axis gets a foothold on the Golan Heights from where it can attack Israel.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard General, Muhammad Allahdadi, and several Hezbollah officers were killed on the Golan Heights last month in an alleged Israeli airstrike on their convoy, perhaps engaged in reconnaissance for this week’s pro-Assad advance.

Many Opposition fighters wounded in the last few days are reported to have have been sent to Israel for treatment, more than 2,000 going to hospitals there since 2011.

News has been patchy on these events, partly because of an Opposition media blackout, but also because fighting came to a sudden slow down with heavy snowfall yesterday, Thursday.

Opposition spokesmen have also called on world leaders to intervene to prevent Assad destroying the Damascus suburb of Douma where barrel-bombs, mortars and shells have killed more than 250 people in the last 10 days and after rainfall the streets have literally flowed with blood.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Streets of Douma Running With Blood

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KOBANE UPDATE 53: KURDS PUSH ISLAMIC STATE TO SHORES OF EUPHRATES IN THE WEST AND THREATEN IS-HELD TEL ABAYD IN THE EAST:

TIMELINE – 11th FEBRUARY 2015 17.50 GMT – UPDATED 21.33 GMT:

Spreading out from Kobane city, Kurdish forces are engaged in fierce battles with the Islamic State at a number of points but latest updates suggest at least 140 Kurdish villages are now back under YPG control.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Destroyed House Formerly Occupied by IS in Kobane

To the east of the city there has been heavy fighting in the Turkish border villages of Kultepe, Celebi and Derfilit.

Clashes are ongoing at Celebi, but the other 2 villages fell with minimal resistance.

The YPG reports that 2 x IS military vehicles were destroyed in these operations and 13 xIS Jihadists confirmed killed.

An RPG-7 rocket launcher and rockets were also captured, plus Ak 47s and ammunition.

As the Kurds move eastwards they near the IS-held town of Tel Abayd, where Coalition jets are already reported to be “softening -up” IS points of resistance.

West of Kobane, the YPG is pressing the Islamic State towards the Euphrates River and they have taken an important road junction at Tailku.

To the south the Kurds are pressuring IS at Qara Kawazk (50 kilometres out from Kobane) and at Bur Huyul Faqani, supported by Coalition airstrikes on all points of resistance.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane’s Citizens Start to Return

Within the city itself yesterday, the Kurdish Peshmerga received another shipment of ammunition from Iraqi Kurdistan and several hundred former inhabitants of Kobane returned from refugee camps in Turkey, despite the fact that much of the city remains destroyed.

Sources in Iraq suggest that the Islamic State has withdrawn many of its fighters from around Kobane, which from their point of view is clearly a lost cause, and repositioned them at Hawija in Iraq in preparation for a major attack on Kirkuk.

An attack on Kirkuk at the weekend failed already and Coalition jets are already using IS fighter assembly areas as “target practice”.

The latest Kobane Canton situation map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, is here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 11.02.15

FOR COMMENTARY ON ASSAD’S LATEST BBC SYRIA NEWS INTERVIEW IN WHICH HE SAYS “WE DON’T HAVE BARREL-BOMBS” CLICK, HERE:

ANONYMOUS ATTACKS ISLAMIC STATE ACCOUNTS ONLINE, BUT INTELLIGENCE CHIEFS SAY IS NOW HAS 20,000 FOREIGN RECRUITS:

Despite the Islamic State’s recent “difficulties”, US Intelligence chiefs say that foreigners are streaming to Iraq and Syria to support them from 90 countries.

The number of IS foreign Jihadists is now estimated to be 20,000, with at least 3,400 from Western nations, numbers that are far higher than those of foreign fighters who went to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia previously.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Anonymous Now Attacks IS Online

Meanwhile, “Anonymous” has issued a statement saying that its activists have “exposed and destroyed” more than 1,000 online accounts, email addresses and websites linked to the Islamic State as part of its on-going OpISIS campaign.

Anonymous, presumably the “British Branch” judging from the flag, also published hundreds of emails, IP addresses and VPN connections which it claims belong to people associated with IS.

It justified its actions by saying, “Freedom of expression has suffered an inhuman assault ….. It is our duty to react. It is clear that some people do not want, in a free world, this inviolable and sacred right to freely express opinions. …. We will always fight the enemies of freedom of expression everywhere.”

Last weekend the Islamic State released another video “hosted” by John Cantlie, the British journalist that has been held hostage now for more than 2 years.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

John Cantlie in Better Times – Aleppo 2012

The video is filmed in “Halab”, the ancient name for the city of Aleppo and purports to show the“advance and stretch” of IS as “remarkable and breathtaking”.

Cantlie says that despite large sections of Aleppo being smashed to smithereens by Coalition and Assad bombing, the city still “functions” and has a “thriving economy”.

Cantlie is also seen in a Sharia law court and explains how it operates.

“Unlike the laws of democratic countries, which change to fit every circumstance or to fit every different week, the rules of Sharia are remarkably simple.

“For example, if you are convicted of robbery with the correct number of witnesses and such forth, you have your hand cut off. Sounds harsh but you’re not going to commit the same crime again and it will dissuade others from doing the same.”

He also interviews a French IS member about the Charlie Hebdo and French supermarket attacks in Paris last month. Speaking in French, the IS Jihadist says, “The three attacks only made us happy.”

Ominously, John Cantlie say that this is the last in his series of videos for IS.

What this means for him personally is not clear, though at the moment, healthwise he looks much better than in some earlier recordings when he was pale, thin and a with a sunken face.

This CNN Syria news report gives you a brief flavour of the latest John Cantlie video before YouTube took it down, HERE:

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KOBANE UPDATE 52: ISLAMIC STATE IN RAPID RETREAT AS KURDS RECAPTURE 58 VILLAGES IN 24 HOURS:

TIMELINE – 9th FEBRUARY 2015 15.15 GMT – UPDATED 20.55 GMT and 10th February 18.34 GMT:

In numerous operations on the eastern, western and southern fronts, the Kurdish YPG and YPJ continue to make rapid progress in retaking territory in Kobane Canton, recapturing another 58 villages in a 24 hour period.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Map of Kurdish Villages Liberated Up To 07.02.15

This brings the total back under their control, as of yesterday, to 128, roughly a third of the 350 Kurdish villages in the Canton.

Significantly, in the far west of the Canton, the Kurds have retaken Zariete, allowing them to reach the banks of the Euphrates.

The Isalmic State stronghold of Jarablous is not far away on the other bank of the river.

There are reports that as the Islamic State (IS) forces retreat, the IS authorities near Shuyuk are only allowing women and children to cross the Euphrates, insisting that their men stay on the east bank.

Unconfirmed reports also say that IS has sent reinforcements and are building fortifications around Jarablous and also at Tel Abayd where the Kurds are approaching on the eastern side of Kobane.

In the east the Kurds have recaptured the villages of Solane, Lehene, Mile, Koran, Uckardes, Xerbisan and many more. In the west, Kore, Bira Reme, Xane, Qenter, Kiran, Kulan, Qereko and numerous others have all fallen to the Kurdish advance.

South of Kobane, Komei, Sheikh Botan, Cumo, Piste Zerik and Zirave, as well as a hilltop overlooking the village of Kilxeyde were all taken, plus other villages. In many cases the IS Jihadists have just fled as the Kurds approached, without firing a shot.

IS casualties are thought to be substantial but no figure has yet been given. The YPG report 2 of their fighters killed in the latest operations.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Big Clean-Up in Kobane Begins

Within Kobane itself, the city administration has started the big clean-up to remove rubble but also the rotting bodies and body parts of IS fighters buried by Coalition airstrikes and Peshmerga shelling, and unexploded ordinance.

This driver could not believe his luck. His car was struck twice by IS mortars, but both failed to explode:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Car in Kobane Struck Twice by Unexploded Mortars

The latest map from @ChuckPfarrer shows a wide swath of territory east, west and south of Kobane, in a rapidly changing situation, now firmly under Kurdish control, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Situation Map 09.02.15

VIDEOS RELEASED OF JORDAN’S SWIFT AND DEADLY VENGEANCE AFTER ISLAMIC STATE BURN ONE OF THEIR PILOTS TO DEATH:

Following the vicious, despicable murder of the Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, by burning him alive inside a cage, Jordan has struck back with 56 airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) in 3 days.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Bombs Inscribed With Name of Jordanian Pilot Destined for IS

At first, Jordan had withdrawn its air force, closely followed by the UAE, from participation in Coalition airstrikes on IS in Syria after its pilot was captured, and had tried to exchange him for a failed Al Qaeda female suicide bomber, Sajida Al-Rishawi, imprisoned in Amman.

Talks to release the pilot fell apart after IS failed to produce evidence that he was still alive and in fact, say some reports, he had already been killed in January.

After the release of the gruesome video showing his death, Al-Rishawi and another Al Quaeda operative, both of them already on death row, were executed in a Jordanian prison at 4.00am local time the next morning.

The death of the pilot was also apparently projected onto large public screens in the Islamic State’s “capital” in Syria at Raqqa in a video, watched by children as well as adults, entitled “Muslims’ Joy at Burning of Jordanian Pilot”.

Not surprising then that Jordan’s response was swift and intense with most of the Jordanian airstrikes around Raqqah and Hasakah. The first ones last Thursday hit 19 targets including training camps and equipment stores.

18 targets were hit last Friday including ammunition and fuel depots plus logistic centres. On Saturday another 19 targets were struck including barracks and residences.

At present there have been no further updates, but US General Command (Centcom), who co-ordinated the strikes, has released incredibly sharp footage of three bombing raids on IS by Jordanian aircraft near Hasakah, here:

The UAE also appears to have reversed its previous decision and sent a squadron of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan escorted by pilots and technicians and supported by C-17 transporters and refuelling planes to aid the Jordanian anti-IS campaign.

In addition to that, Coalition jets are reported to have carried out strikes at Al-Bokamel, the IS stronghold on the Syrian/Iraqi border, hitting the industrial zone, the Women’s School (now used as an IS HQ) and the Al-Hajjaneh roundabout.

IS has claimed that one of the Jordanian airstrikes killed an American hostage held in Raqqah, an captured aid worker by the name of Kayla Mueller, though no evidence has been produced other than the photograph of a damaged building. BBC Syria news has published more on this.

(Later information on 10th February 2015, suggests sadly that Kayla’s family has been informed directly by IS that she is dead and that this information has since been authenticated by the White House. President Obama has released a statement saying, “No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death”.  The circumstances of Kayla’s death are currently unknown.)

And not content with killing foreign hostages, the Islamic State are also said to have executed by firing squad 2 Imams, the Imam of Nabi Yunis mosque, Sheikh Abdullah Fahad, and the Imam of Kabir Mosque, Sheikh Ayub Abdul Wahab, in Mosul, plus 4 civilians, all who are reported to have protested at the brutal killing of the Jordanian pilot.

Signs that the Islamic State are under strain however, are coming from local reports north-east of Aleppo, where IS appear to have partially withdrawn from a number of villages under their control, removing heavy weapons and foreign fighters and even dismantling a bakery at Al-Bab.

It may be that they are concentrating their resources to defend towns like Jarablous and Tel Abayd and their major centres like Raqqah and Mosul.

However, the Islamic State should never, every be underestimated. Information from Iraq suggests that they are also massing their forces for a major attack on the Kurdish oil town of Kirkuk.

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KOBANE UPDATE 51: KURDS KILL 608 ISLAMIC STATE JIHADISTS IN JANUARY AND CONTINUE SWEEPING ADVANCE TO RECLAIM VILLAGES:

TIMELINE – 6th FEBRUARY 2015 14.55 GMT – UPDATED 17.41 GMT:

The Kurdish advance through the Kobane Canton continues with 101 villages (updated twice today) recaptured from the Islamic State as of today, Friday.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

New Recruits Arrive For YPG to Fight IS

The Islamic State (IS) seem to be retreating in disarray, with little command and control structure or even communication between their units.

According to the Kurdish YPG/YPJ, during January 2015 they carried out 44 operations against IS, killing 608 x IS Jihadists, 201 of those found dead on the battle field.

3 x IS Jihadists were captured alive and 22 x IS vehicles, 3 x IS tanks, 2 DShK heavy machine guns and 1 artillery piece were also destroyed.

Huge amounts of equipment, weapons and ammunition were captured by the YPG during the month, including 4 x IS tanks, 1 armoured personnel carrier, 1 Humvee and 3 Katyusha rocket launchers.

The human cost to the YPG/YPJ was 36 fighters lost in combat.

Another 150 Kurdish men crossed into Kobane from Turkey yesterday, Thursday, to sign up with the YPG, bringing the number to 750 new recruits since Kobane was completely liberated on January 27th.

500 men who joined earlier have just passed training and will be deployed to defend the city.

Latest Kurdish villages to be liberated south of Kobane are Mojk, Kork-Beshltian, Bear-Arab, Khazenah, Tel Ghazal , Makharg and Qishla, some of them 18 kilometres (nearly 12 miles) from the city.

On the eastern front recent villages recaptured are Krbnav, Grayb, Kosk, Sarzori, Quebec Satan and the largest village to the east, Ein Bat.

To the west of Kobane, the Kurds have confirmed their hold on the village of Susan and also 2 strategic hills nearby and seized once more significant quantities of equipment, weapons and ammunition. Dead IS Jihadists are found in every village they retake.

This video shows footage of the YPG advance east of Kobane with IS Jihadists fleeing across the fields, HERE:

Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here is a view of the scale of the Kurdish advance, a comparison of how the Kobane area looked on January 27th immediately after liberation, and how it looked on Wednesday 4th February 2015, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Situation Map 27.01.15

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Situation Map 04.02.15

@ChuckPfarrer’s map from yesterday, in still a fast moving situation, is also here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Situation Map 05.02.15

Lastly today on Kobane, an appeal to help the children of the city.  How can anyone resist this little cutie telling her story? With English sub-titles, here:

MAD ASSAD’S FORCES KILL AND WOUND MORE THAN 1,000 IN THE FIRST 6 DAYS OF FEBRUARY, MOST OF THEM CIVILIANS:

Latest reports from the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus say that Syrian Government barrel-bomb and rocket attacks have left more than 100 dead and hundreds wounded in just 2 days.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Medics Struggled to Cope As Assad’s Raids Killed Dozens in Douma

Yesterday, Thursday, at least 76 died in the region which is very close to the capital, more than 40 airstrikes, plus mortar and artillery shells, hitting the Douma neighbourhood, killing 29 and another 29, mostly women and children, were killed in a public market at Kafar Batna.

Medical and civil defence centres as well as ambulances were also struck.

The bombs also hit Erbin, Saqba, Darrayah and Ayn Terma and more have been dropped by the Assad regime today, Friday, killing an estimated additional 30.

On top of this the Assad regime slaughtered another 36 in Aleppo on Thursday, most of them after a barrel-bomb hit a bus at the Baedeen roundabout in the central part of the city and others were struck while waiting to collect water from a tanker.

Another 11 were killed elsewhere in Syria.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which has been documenting the deaths, Assad’s military have carried out 647 air raids, dropping 350 barrel-bombs and firing 297 rockets and shells at Opposition held towns and villages across Syria – all in the first 6 days of February 2015.

In less than a week Assad has killed 185 civilians, including 34 children and 29 women, while 800 others have been left wounded, some of them critically.

In all those raids, just 92 fighters were killed from IS, the Al-Nusra Front, the Opposition and Islamic battalions

Syrian state media, SANA’s comment on the killing and wounding of over 1,000 people, the vast majority civilians, in just 6 days? “The Army eliminated scores of terrorists…destroying dens of terrorists in the centre of Douma.”

Not surprising that the Opposition faction Jaish al-Islam retaliated yesterday by sending at least 100 rockets into Alawite-held territory in the centre of the capital, apparently killing 6 civilians and wounding scores more. The Islamic brigade had carried out a similar action last week after the regime intensely barrel-bombed civilian suburbs of eastern Damascus and refused to desist.

On the ground however, the Opposition have held out against the pounding and even destroyed 3 x T-72 tanks, a BMP armoured personnel carrier and killed 29 of Assad’s troops in the Tel Kurdi area between Douma and Adra to the north-east of Damascus.

Back in Aleppo, the Opposition fighters have been recording a string of successes in the last week on the ground in the Handarat area north-east of the city, capturing a barrier at Al-Maiasat not far from the Sheikh Najar industrial area on Wednesday and seizing a good quantity of weapons and ammunition, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPG and FSA Join Forces in Sheikh Maqsoud District of Aleppo

On Tuesday, the Opposition captured 14 of Assad’s troops at the entrance to Sheikh Najar, seen in this slightly cock-eyed video, HERE:

Opposition units have also been targeting the Al-Assad Military Academy in western Aleppo with Grad missiles, HERE: and they destroyed a regime fortified building after repeatedly hitting it with a “hell cannon” on Monday, HERE:

In the predominately Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo, which has recently come under heavy regime attack, the Kurdish YPG and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have signed a collaborative agreement to fight the Syrian Government together, perhaps a result of successful joint working in the defence of Kobane.

Interesting article here on how Bashar Assad, following the tactics of his father, deliberately creates conflict and then manages to dupe everyone into believing that he is a better option for solving it than anyone else, or at least better than the Al Qaeda/Islamic State option that he appears to have had a hand in creating, HERE:

Lastly, from Daraa province in the far south of Syria, there is an unconfirmed report that Assad’s provincial governor has fled to Jordan. Further details awaited.

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KOBANE UPDATE 50: KURDS RECAPTURE 45 + VILLAGES BUT ROTTING IS BODIES AND VEHICLE BOMBS REMAIN A HAZARD:

TIMELINE – 4TH FEBRUARY 2015 14.05 GMT:

Reports coming from Kobane confirm that the Kurdish advance continues as they push out from the city limits and now have more than 45 surrounding villages under their control.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPJ Female Fighters Sweep Last remnants of IS Away from Kobane

As reported earlier in the week (scroll down – see below), the YPG/YPJ recaptured a number of villages to the east of Kobane, including Tel Hecib, where they now say 29 Islamic State (IS) Jihadists were killed in the fighting.

Another 10 x IS Jihadists were killed in clashes in other villages and an IS pick-up, a vehicle primed as a suicide bomb, a heavy machine gun, AK-47s and a RPG-7 rocket launcher, were all seized.

Since then, YPG reports say that they have captured another Humvee armoured vehicle, 2 other IS vehicles, numerous machine guns, AK-47s and rocket launchers, plus hand grenades, thousands of rounds on ammunition and 7 radios.

While it looks as though the Islamic State defence of the region is falling apart, there are numerous warnings that they should not be underestimated.

Yesterday there were reports from local people that a 10 vehicle IS convoy left Serrin, 30 kilometres south of the Turkish border, heading towards the western side of Kobane with vehicle bombs.

So far the Kurds have managed to advance on all fronts and have now established a hold near Meshko, 22 kilometres to the west of Kobane and at Ein-Bet 20 kilometres to the east.

Latest villages liberated to the east of Kobane are Qebacix, Taslok and Qeremox and to the south of the city, Jalik, Siti, Mucik, Birereb and Bisalti.

The latest situation map for Kobane, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrrer for 2nd February, gives a general impression in a fast moving situation, here:

Kobane Situation Map 02.02.15

Kobane Situation Map 02.02.15

Coalition air support continues, albeit at a reduced rate, 2 airstrikes near Kobane on Monday through Tuesday morning, hitting 2 tactical units. US Central Command also reports 2 airstrikes on IS during the same period near Hasakah, hitting multiple oil pump jacks and destroying 4 x IS mobile drilling rigs, and on the IS headquarters at Raqqah, destroying 3 x IS vehicles and an IS building.

Much of the destruction in Kobane, particularly in the eastern and southern sectors, was of necessity caused by the Coalition bombing raids that drove the Islamic State out – but it has left a terrible legacy, with rotting IS bodies and body parts under the rubble threatening disease as well as thousands of buildings destroyed and uninhabitable.

ABC Syria news has published a video report from Kobane, here:

Turkey says that the total cost of the clashes in Kobane for them has been 1 billion Turkish lira and they treated 523 Kurdish fighters in their hospitals, including 65 members of the outlawed PKK, but subsequently arrested some of them on terrorism charges.

The Turks have also arrested and charged freelance Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink, who lives in south-east Turkey, for “disseminating terrorist propaganda” after she published interviews with members of the Kurdish independence movement.

Frederike Geerdink has written articles for numerous Dutch and English newspapers and magazines and most recently has written on the battles at Kobane and the aftermath. If you want to show your support, you can follow her @fgeerdink and read more, HERE:

Recently Frederike met this Kurdish girl, 11 year old Sidrin, on the Turkish/Syrian border, who sang her a sweet song about Kobane:

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37 comments to SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

  • Ezadin Baban

    Thank you Peter for your declarations and true news. Really, the Sunne Arab thought that all the land in Middle east is Arabic land but in deed the most land is by other nations like Kurds, Assyrian, Babylonia, Keldans, Bezintinian, …. The Arab occupied these lands by forces and arabize the nations too. The true land of Arab is south of Euphrates rivers.

    • Thanks Ezadin for you nice comments. However, on the subject of land, this is just too complex to unravel. Taken back far enough, the Welsh could claim back the land the Angles and Saxons took form them when they moved from Germany to England, the Assyrians could claim back all the land of their empire, and so on, and that would be absurd. Sometimes we just have to accept that time has moved on and history cannot be undone. Though perhaps some more recent injustice such as Palestine should still be sorted legally. PC.

    • Vinko

      Sorry, me again. After some contemplation. First, why this debate is so close to me. As if I would go through my historic national state of mind.
      Slovenians lost 2/3 of their land over past centuries. Can’t help but say our neighbours (All of them!) were very entrepreneurial. This history is for the books (Well, one should take care about our minorities abroad).
      But at least after WWII (For Turks I would prolong this period to the beginning of 20. century, when they had slaughtered Armenians, others are to be considered as well – like Kurds) there is a clear legal background for posession of real estate even in the Middle East. There is no place for forgiveness.
      And there should be no modern state to undermine democracy – on the private posession – publicily at least. Bearing this in mind the proprietry posession should be treated as sacred one. If not, we are dealing with state robery. Again, private posession has ultimate importance.
      Next, Czechs expelled Sudet germans, Russians did the same with Kaliningrad (Konigsberg) region. They notably confiscated the land of inhabitants. How this can be used in our case? No validity to my mind. So, “if you go to Rome behave like a nobler Roman”.

      • Well, while I don’t actually disagree with you, it would be so complex to unravel that we will spend the next 500 years sorting it all out and then thousands more dealing with the new grievances created by the reshuffling of land ownership and resettlement. By which time the environment will be is such a mess that Planet Earth will be uninhabitable. Perhaps that is why we are already planning to colonise Mars. PC.

  • zab

    why Kurdish don,t have their country..why colonial at the past not favor them one ? Now Kurdish engage a war on Iraqis Arab..that means Kurdish are going to robbing Arab,s land..my guess only.Where their true land..you seem a great journalist.

    • Well, sorry Zab, I don’t have the answers to all your questions. Certainly former colonial countries made some very odd decisions, usually in favour of their own selfish needs and no-one else’s. It would seem to me that the Kurds deserve their own country, but I can’t see Iraq, Iran and Turkey letting go of territory any time soon. We have enough sectarian and ethnic problems in the Middle East without creating more. PC

    • Vinko

      Nation state is top european export model. It takes centuries to unify people under one umbrella (widespread priviliged nation entirely). In spite of this you have today Cathalonians and Basks in Spain, Scots in Britian, Provansals in France, divided Belgium, Northern Italy etc. – all demanding their own state. At least they follow peacefull and more or less democratic settlement paths.
      I can’t see this model working in Middle East either. Considering the way the borders of todays states has been drafted, regardless the exsisting nations, it is a tragedy for decades to come. Silly borders are pushing people and nations against each other.
      Who will succeed in persuading tyranic and centralistic leaderships from a century ago to follow the path of democratic development and regionalisation.
      This picture is cruel. Yes I support the idea of national state for Kurds, for the time being in Iraq. Born in blood it will contribute to the peace process in Middle East. Let me take exactly – Iraq as confederation could be the best of the bad options. Time is passing by. Such solution is not at the stake all the time. Remember Yugoslavia. “Only” 140.000 casualties – civilians mostly.

  • Ninh Q Duong

    Congratulations for the report of the conflict , we are people who love FREEDOM , HUMAN RIGHTS , RESPECT and JUSTICE will never accept DICTATORSHIP , OPPRESSION and BARBARISM under guise of any ideology or religion .

    • Many thanks, Ninh. Nobody should have to live under dictatorship, oppression or barbarism as you say. Until we wipe these from the earth, no individual is free to find and develop their full potential and the human race is poorer because of it. PC.

  • zab

    why America likes to kill others.?.i guess it is many problem in America to deal with

    • I don’t think that Americans actually “like to kill others”,but they do perhaps like to see themselves as the “guardians of freedom”. Whatever your view on that, where would Kobane and Iraq be right now without the US-led Coalition? Not in a good place I fear, and we would all be under more threat than we are already. PC

    • Vinko

      It’s a little bit tricky thing. I remember a senior US senator coming to Slovenia arguing that US has the right for environment pollution since this is a face of democracy.
      Who can support this?
      On the other hand they had helped Bosnians to get a kind of self establishment in after ex Yu as well as Albanians in Kosovo (and now some of them heavily support ISIS).
      Bloody world.
      Yes, their food taste sweet for our understanding. Prefer Mexicans.
      Hence, someone could put on the table intercultural issues; Americans could learn a lot. That should be considered by them as well.
      As well as your Brites, Peter. Britain has never apologized for what it has done, if wrong.
      Vinko

      • As you say, all a bit tricky. I agree with all you say. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. We all have much to learn from each other, and having worked in 7 countries and lived in 5, I have probably learned more tolerance and understanding than most. But that does not apply to others, many of whom are nationalistic or sectarian out of fear and isolationist for the same reason plus ignorance. The US and Britain still have much to apologise for, but have also given the world an awful lot, some of it not so good, but some of it fundamental, such as constitutions, democracy and legal systems. PC

  • Vinko

    Well Peter,
    You are the boss. Appreciate your points. Especially when seen the last battle ground picture. No more comments.
    Regards/Vinko

  • Vinko

    Hi Peter,
    I bear in mind that PYD ordered total abandonment of the area by the Kurds before ISIS intrusion. That’s why 200.000 kurds from Kobane and villages around fled to Turkey, while Kobane had not more than 60.000 inhabitants.
    Considering the inevitable devastation in the city of Kobane to be continued, this would be “not so important” impact. Perhaps we are stereotyping general situation. Special incidents need special treatment. Nobody has literally seen carpet bombing since WWII (OK, Vietnam). By brokening the ISIS hinterland, their supplying capabilities/reserves and simultaneous general attack from the city side, they could be smashed within a days. Kurds proved ability to steady advance. Does it have sense all the time?
    To whose profit is this low intensity and localised Kobane war. Turks need message that mirroring small victories in Kobane will soon or later dissapoint general audience at least, being seduced from their comfortable chairs in their comfortable homes. Now Turks are really exploiting the powerfull ability of media.
    Well at least I suggested an idea.

    • Hi, Vinko, I am not disagreeing, it is just my view that US policy will not operate in this way anymore. I hope that the end result is the same though – the upholding of some sort of decency, freedom and right to choose their future in Syria. PC

  • Hi peter,
    A reliable source of information about Kobane underpinned with good display.
    I guess it’s time for carpet bombing of Kobane outskirts controlled by ISIS. Such step would substantially shorten the time needed for squeezing ISIS out of the city.

    • Many thanks for your comments. Theoretically, “carpet bombing” is a good idea, but we don’t know how many civilians are still in the area, particularly the elderly. US policy will remain, I suspect, to detect as many obvious targets as possible and strike those, something that they are getting better and better at. PC.

  • Mary Durney

    Peter: I have been reading your posts on Kobane weekley which I appreciate enormosely. The question many of us must have is “Can Kobane continue to survive into the future without the intensity of US & coilition airstrikes? Surely the US cannot sustain this type of air effort endlessly. ISIS is very strong in Syria and if the airstikes were to drop off it seems they could continue to send endless fighters to continue to attack Kobane. In short, do the Kurds have a chance on their own to survive? Thank you for your answer. Mary

    • Hi, Mary, thanks for your comments. Interesting question, one which I have been contemplating myself. My guess is that the campaign against IS will not stop with Kobane. Kobane should be free soon. After that, the US and its allies will encourage the Kurds to pursue them across Syria and Iraq, while their centres at Raqqah and Mosul will be put under pressure. I expect a co-ordinated attack on Mosul soon. Probably, despite the cost, air campaigns are cheaper than boots on the ground and less risky to American lives. Forward planning is leaning to using proxy forces on the ground with air and specialist support.PC.

  • og verser

    the kurds have shown why they need there own country, shame on the us and other powers, give these nice, courages people a country that the usa can understand as a friend. if the usa really wanted to end this war they could do it in 3 months.

    • The Kurds are nearer now than ever to having their own state, James, but whether Turkey and Iran will ever agree is another matter. I believe you are right that if they wanted the US could finish this quickly, but fear of public backlash from more “troops on the ground” will prevent such action. Certainly, after recent performance, the Kurds are more likely to be used more often as “proxy” forces. PC

  • og verser

    really nice reporting, i hope them pigs go to hell

  • Andi D

    I wish you all the best and stay safe god bless you

  • Afa

    Thank you Peter, it will be great if you put them in a book for future researches.

  • STRONG REPORTS AND AMAZING ANALYSIS FOR THE CURRENT STATUS IN SYRIA . WE HOPE THAT FALL IN CRIMINAL ACTS AND MURDERERS SHOULD BE SUBJECTED TO TRIAL HOWEVER THOSE MURDERERS ARE SYRIANS REGIME . IRAQI SHIIS . ISIS OR USA

  • Jerry

    Superb reporting, Peter. Hope you compile these into a book someday!

  • Sam Case

    Thank you, Peter, for providing up-to-date news on what’s actually happening on the ground. I was having trouble finding this kind of news – a lot of what seems to be reported instead is political news.
    Question: do you know what, if anything, is being done to retrain and rearm the Iraqi army? We hear about the Shiite militias and I read about the Iraqi special forces assisting the Kurds, but very little about the army. Are they a lost cause or is there an effort to reconstruct their fighting power.

    • Thanks for your positive comments Sam. Re. the Iraqi Army, they are currently a bit of a disaster. However, the US and other Western allies are in there now with special advisers trying to strengthen their command and control structures and to guide them in tackling the Islamic State (or the Satanic State as I saw someone call them yesterday).
      However, no amount of training, advice or military hardware will succeed if IS (and this is part of their strategy) manage to evoke enough terror beforehand that their opponents throw down their arms and run away. PC.

  • Sam Dobermann

    Wow, impressive reporting. Overwhelming on detail but gives a clearer picture of what’s going on. Maybe the Syrian rebels who are in opposition to Assad but not the whole world.

    • Thanks Sam. Requires a lot of research each time, but hopefully worthwhile. I try to make it so people can read links and watch video as much or as little as they want. I make no bones about the fact that I would like to see the monstrous Assad gone and people free to choose their own future. PC.

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