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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.

EDITOR: I am told “Noel piroz be” is “Merry Christmas” in Kurdish, but even if you don’t celebrate this, may peace and blessings, whatever your faith and wherever you are, find and envelop you in 2015.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

KOBANE UPDATE 32: KURDS CAPTURE CULTURAL CENTRE AND HOLD OTHER LINES AS COALITION POUND ISLAMIC STATE FROM BEHIND:

TIMELINE – 24th DECEMBER 2014 18.20 GMT:

On Monday, the 100th day of the defence of Kobane, YPG/YPJ Kurdish forces advanced in the south-west of the city and took control of the Cultural Centre.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Brave Defenders of Kobane

At least 5 Islamic State (IS) Jihadists were killed and some YPG fighters wounded, one later dying from his injuries.

The Kurds are now trying to advance eastwards from there but coming under heavy fire from the Islamic State, who fired 18 mortars into the city on Monday and many more since.

Latest information says the YPG moving east of the Cultural Centre have found an IS tunnel.

The US-led Coalition made 4 airstrikes on Monday and another 8 around Kobane on Tuesday, 5 of those mainly targeting IS positions on the eastern side of the city and another 3 hitting IS positions near the Cultural Centre.

YPG snipers also eliminated 4 x IS Jihadists as they attempted to send a booby-trapped vehicle pushed by a bulldozer towards the Cultural Centre.

The Peshmerga have also continued to shell the Islamic State wherever they can pinpoint their positions.

Recent reports from city suggest that Abu Musab Al-Rimeli, the head of the Islamic State operations against Kobane has been killed by the YPG/YPJ. Confirmation awaited.

Also, last Sunday night through into Monday, 24 x IS Jihadists were reported killed with at least 16 bodies lying scattered in the streets. In addition on Monday a YPG operation destroyed an IS vehicle fitted with a dushka heavy machine gun.

16 Islamic State fighters were also reported to have fled across the Syrian border during fighting near the village of Zahwan but were apprehended by the Turkish military.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Unexploded Mortar Bombs All Over Kobane

Largely, the position in Kobane is at least stable, with the Kurds holding their positions and making small but regular advances.

IS continue to deploy snipers and fire rounds of mortars every day.

Unexploded bombs are said to be littered all over the city.

Coalition airstrikes have continued this week, with US Central Command reporting a further 8 attacks around Kobane today, Wednesday.

In today’s operations, Coalition jets destroyed 5 x IS fighting positions, an IS building and an IS staging position.

The jets also struck and damaged 3 x IS tactical units, an IS tactical vehicle and an IS fighting position.

This article, published mid-way through December, talks of the pride in Kobane of the Kurdish resistance to the Islamic States attacks and how children still play in the streets despite gun fire and falling mortar rounds, HERE:

Another more recent article describes Kobane as a “Small Town – Big Heart”.

One YPG fighters says, “We only had one or two days left when they started bombing. We were out of ammunition, everything.

Then the Coalition airstrikes began and the [Iraqi Kurdish] Peshmerga also offered support, and our forces gained the initiative. Practically and psychologically, [IS] are now broken.” You can read more, HERE:

@ChuckPfarrer has kindly provided this Kobane situation map, updated to Monday 22nd December, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map for Kobane After 100 Days of Resistance 22.12.14

While we in the West are enjoying our Christmas and New Year holidays, spare a thought for those still just existing in terrible conditions in Kobane and all the refugee camps. You can give to the Kurdish Charity Heyva Sor (Kurdish Red Moon) via Just Giving, HERE:

Also spare a thought and a prayer for the 3,500 Kurdish and Yezidi women and girls still missing and who are undoubtedly suffering abominable abuse.

BBC Syria news has published a very comprehensive report on “sex slavery”, including conversation with those who were abused but escaped.

Lastly, to lift your spirits a little for the holiday season, Jon Stewart on the Daily Show has found the answer to destroying the Islamic State – send them all the “lazy millenials”. Enjoy, HERE:

EDITOR: Taking a couple of days break over Christmas and then I will be back ….

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurdish Boy Shows the Victory Sign in Kobane

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

SINJAR UPDATE: ISLAMIC STATE DRIVEN COMPLETELY FROM MOUNT SINJAR AND FLEEING IN FACE OF RAPID KURDISH ADVANCE:

TIMELINE – 22nd DECEMBER 2014 16.15 GMT – UPDATED 18.52 GMT:

Following a 5 day campaign across northern Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga force have effectively removed the Islamic State (IS) from the top of Mount Sinjar. A few snipers remain, but these are being “dealt with”.

Between 1,200 and 1,500 Yezidi families remained on top of the mountain during the fighting and these are now free to come and go as they please.

The Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil dispatched a 32 vehicle relief convoy to provide aid to those families remaining, delivering food, tents and medical supplies and this had reached the mountain by Saturday.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Kurdish Leader Massoud Barzani Visits Freed Yezidi Shrine

It was already safe enough on Sunday for Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government, to fly in over the weekend and speak to his victorious Peshmerga forces and the liberated Yezidi who are clearly extremely grateful after 3 month of being under siege.

Barzani said that “Any place we can find them we will crush the Islamic State” and also confirmed, though they had not planned it, that the Peshmerga are trying to drive IS out of Sinjar city.

The Kurdish leader then went on to visit the tomb of Sheikh Sherfadin, the holiest shrine of the Yezidi religion which the Islamic State has tried, and failed, to destroy on numerous occasions.

In joyful scenes, very happy Yezidi welcomed the Kurds back to the mountain, HERE:

During the Peshmerga campaign against the IS Jihadists, which is now in its 6th day, the Kurds estimate that they have killed 300 IS fighters.

Altogether the Kurds say they have recaptured around 2,000 square kilometres of previously Islamic State held territory.

Near Sinune, north of Mount Sinjar, the Kurds report that they have killed 75 foreigners fighting for IS, including nationals from Germany, Tunisia, Nigeria, Russia plus others from other parts of Africa and Europe.

The Peshmerga officer in charge in the area, named as Captain Ali, said they had photographed the foreigners’ passports and IDs, though the bodies had been left where they fell. The Kurds also report that they have re-captured 30 village from IS and surrounded another 100 across northern Iraq.

Ali explained, “There was little resistance or counter-attack from ISIS. They did not expect us to advance so quickly and go this far.” The captain also said there was little sign of local support from Sunni tribes and most of the IS fighting was being done by foreigners.

Below the southern flank of Mount Sinjar the Kurds have advanced on Sinjar city (Shingal) from the west and north and already cleared some districts, but the battle for complete control is ongoing, (YPG fighters) HERE:

Sinjar city remains dangerous however. 3 Yezidi men returning to their old house in the city were killed when an IS booby-trap bomb went off as they entered. If the Peshmerga can gain complete control of Sinjar city, then a vital supply route from IS-held Mosul to Syria will have been cut.

2 IS Prisoners Captured by the Kurds in North Iraq

2 IS Prisoners Captured by the Kurds in North Iraq

The rapid Peshmerga advance, even faster than that of the Islamic State in August, has been supported by numerous Coalition airstrikes, 13 of them in Iraq on Sunday, 4 of those near Sinjar city.

This footage shows destroyed IS vehicles and jets flying overhead at the start of the campaign last Wednesday, HERE:

40 x IS fighters were additionally reported killed in an airstrike on Friday at an assembly point in the village of Bashiqa, just 18 kilometres from Mosul.

In the Sinjar area at the village of Hardan Sinjar, the Peshmerga have discovered more evidence of the Islamic State’s grim advance in August, uncovering 2 mass graves containing the bodies of 70 Yezidi men, women and children, (Kurdish only, no bodies shown, but the Rudaw TV reporter clearly overcome by the smell at one point) HERE:

Photograph above is from a interesting series of black and white pictures taken of the Kurds/IS conflict by Israeli photographer Eddie Gerald, HERE:

A bit further to the east of Sinjar city at Tel Afar, also held by IS, special forces of the Iraqi Army’s “Golden Division” have parachuted into the nearby Tel Afar airfield which they are now trying to secure. Kurdish sources estimate that only around 100 Islamic State fighters remain in the town of Tel Afar, the majority having retreated to Mosul.

Mosul must be the next target. The Kurdish leader, Barzani, indicated at the weekend that the Peshmerga were more than willing to take part in an Iraqi Army campaign to recover Mosul city, but they would not attempt it alone.

BBC Syria and Iraq news has a report on the situation in northern Iraq.

A Sinjar situation map from Saturday, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Situation Map Around Sinjar City 20.12.14

Elsewhere in Iraq, the Islamic State are still very active, launching a new attack at Baiji, another near Haditha and firing mortars into the Green (security) Zone in Baghdad.

The Institute for the Study of War has produced an updated situation map for the whole of Iraq, here:

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

REPORTS THAT ISLAMIC STATE MORALE IS PLUMMETING AND SOME FOREIGNERS “WANTING TO LEAVE” HAVE BEEN EXECUTED:

Clearly the Islamic State are having a “hard time” of it in Iraq and Syria, but with what they have done in murdering their way around the Middle East, few in the free world or in the countries concerned will shed any tears over IS’s pain, discomfort and ultimate destruction.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the sudden and sharp reverse in IS’s fortunes is causing dissent, disillusionment and rebellion in their ranks. In an unconfirmed report there is a claim that up to 100 foreign IS fighters have been executed in Raqqah in Syria because they “wanted to go home”.

The reports emerged after the four Elbaf brothers from Australia, aged between 17 and 28, disappeared in the last month after claiming they were “going on a short holiday to Thailand”.

Earlier this year, Mehdi Hassan, 19, after fighting for IS, planned to meet his mother at a nearby Turkish village across the border from Syria when his escape was thwarted.

According to his family he was then imprisoned by IS and later killed by a sniper’s bullet when deployed to the battle at Kobane. SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Morale among Islamic State fighters is reported to be plummeting, not just because of the reversal in their “success” but because many young foreigners joined them to fight, not to help administer the towns and cities they captured, which for some has become their new role.

One activist in Syria quoted by the newspaper report, says, “Morale isn’t falling — it’s hit the ground”.

Another Kurdish report claims the Islamic State has also executed 50 of its own fighters in Mosul as a warning to others not to leave their posts, after hundreds fled Sinjar in the face of the rapid Peshmerga advance in the last 6 days.

In addition there are also reports that some Mosul residents have bravely attacked IS vehicles in the city and that a group of nearby Sunni tribal leaders has asked the Islamic State to leave.

Its claimed that IS have said they will leave Mosul on 2 conditions. 1: that the Iraqi Government pays them a vast sum of money and 2: that they are given safe passage to Syria.

Apparently some IS supporters in Mosul were still “celebrating” in the belief that their fighters had won substantial victories over the Peshmerga in the last week.

EDITOR: How true any of the above is I am not sure and I report it out of interest. However, personally I hope that the Kurds and the Iraqi Army will combine together and thoroughly defeat IS in Mosul, showing further that IS are not “invincible” and that their bloody religious philosophy is completely defunct.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that the Islamic State has lost 1,400 fighters in the last 80 days.

A very interesting report from Juergen Todenhoefer via CNN, in which he managed to visit the Islamic State in Mosul, interview and film their fighters – and still escape without being held captive.

The report shows how mad and deadly the Islamic State is. One German fighter, apparently speaking on behalf of the IS leadership on camera says, “We will conquer Europe one day. It is not a question of if we will conquer Europe, just a matter of when that will happen. But it is certain … For us, there is no such thing as borders. There are only front lines.

“Our expansion will be perpetual,” he continues, “… And the Europeans need to know that when we come, it will not be in a nice way. It will be with our weapons. And those who do not convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax will be killed.”

“What about the 150 million Shia, what if they refuse to convert?” Todenhoefer asks him.

“150 million, 200 million or 500 million, it does not matter to us,” the fighter answered. “We will kill them all.”

You can view and read the full report in CNN Syria news.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

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

SINJAR UPDATE: IN DRAMATIC ADVANCE, KURDISH PESHMERGA BREAK ISLAMIC STATE STRANGLEHOLD ON YEZIDI AT MOUNT SINJAR:

TIMELINE – 19th DECEMBER 2014 14.15 GMT:

Following the start of a major operation at dawn on Wednesday, Peshmerga forces yesterday, Thursday, dramatically broke the Islamic State (IS) siege of the Yezidi on Mount Sinjar, securing a road that allows direct access to the top of the mountain.

The substantial Kurdish forces were backed up by 45 Coalition airstrikes on Wednesday and Thursday directed at IS positions and targets in northern Iraq around Sinjar.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Yezidi Woman Fighters Defend Mount Sinjar From IS

Official US sources report that this was just part of a total of 61 airstrikes on IS in both Syria and Iraq in the same 48 hour period. (6 of these strikes where at Kobane, destroying 7 x IS positions.)

Yezidi fighters from the HPS, who together with the PKK and YPG have prevented IS from capturing the Yezidi shrine at Sherfardin for months now, are reporting by phone that Mount Sinjar is “littered with the bodies of IS Jihadists”.

Fighting in pockets is ongoing on the top of the mountain, particularly to the west, and a 3 pronged assault is underway to trap the Islamic State forces just to the north of the mountain.

Those IS fighters that escaped are said to be heading for Mosul and Tel Afar.

According to Masrour Barzani, head of the Iraqi Kurds national security council, 8,000 Peshmerga fighters were involved in the operation against the Islamic State and he claims that at least 100 x IS Jihadists have been killed.

Early reports suggest 8 Peshmerga dead and 18 wounded.

Barzani also said that the Peshmerga push, first re-taking Zumar and Zorava, had cut key IS supply lines and reclaimed a total of 700 square kilometres (270 square miles) during the 2 day operation. The 1,200 Yezidi families still stranded on Mount Sinjar, who were fast running out of supplies, will now be free to leave if they wish.

The BBC has a video report HERE:

The next Peshmerga target is the recapture the Yezidi city of Sinjar itself. 8 Yezidi villages, including Hardan, Zorava, Gohbel, have already been retaken and operations are ongoing to recapture others. Near Borik, not far from the Yezidi’s main shrine, Peshmerga specialists have been dismantling IS booby-traps and mines.

At the US Pentagon yesterday, Rear Admiral John Kirby said that Coalition airstrikes since November had killed “multiple senior and mid-level IS commanders”, including Haji Mutazz and Abd al-Basit who were reportedly close to IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. They believe that by this action they will effectively hit IS’s command and control structure.

Separately, Kurdish sources are also claiming that Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s deputy for military affairs in Mosul, Shihab Ahmad Hassas al-Lihebi, was killed by a US airstrikes on Wednesday.

Altogether since August 8th there have been 1,361 air attacks on IS and the US believes that this has successfully inhibited the Islamic State’s ability to communicate and to move forces from one place to another.

Some surprise has been expressed at the Kurdish claims of such rapid success in such a short period, but the number of troops involved and the escalation of Coalition bombing may have turned the balance. If the Peshmerga can recapture Sinjar city, then one of IS’s main supply routes between Syria and Mosul will be broken.

BBC Syria and Iraq news has an assessment of the situation by their Middle-East correspondent Jim Muir.

Conversely, elsewhere in Iraq the Islamic State is reported to have captured another 17 villages in Anbar province and has now completely surrounded Ain Al-Asad airbase. BBC Iraq news are reporting that IS are just 10 kilometres away and the base is now unreachable by road, only air.

Additionally, at Baiji, west of Mosul, the Iraqi Army has withdrawn from the city and back into the oil refinery, allowing IS back into some of the city districts.

The fight with the Islamic State is a long way from being over yet.

This situation map courtesy of @ezidiPress, here:

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Combined Kurdish and Yezidi Forces Drive IS Jihadists From Mount Sinjar

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

KOBANE UPDATE 31: KURDS CONSOLIDATE THEIR GAINS WHILE ISLAMIC STATE PELT THEM WITH MORTARS KILLING 3 CIVILIANS:

TIMELINE – 17th DECEMBER 2014 15.40 GMT – UPDATED 21.35 GMT:

On the 93rd day of the fight to defend Kobane, there is limited news but reports suggest the Kurds are consolidating their advances in southern parts of the city and fighting continues in the eastern sector.

Last night, the Islamic State (IS) tried to infiltrate YPG recovered territory in south Kobane but were forced to retreat leaving 1 Jihadist dead and a large supply of ammunition.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Despair in Kobane After IS Attack on Civilians

4 x IS Jihadists were also killed last night in fighting on the south-eastern front near Yazadi (Freedom) Square and violent clashes have taken place at Tarmek Street in the Botan area.

On Monday the YPG reported an operation to the west of the city near the village of Kor Ali in which another IS motorcycle and its 2 riders were killed.

On Tuesday, yesterday, the Islamic State bombarded Kobane with 32 mortar shells and 3 Kurdish civilians were reported killed, including a 12 year old boy.

In retaliation the YPG and Peshmerga bombarded IS positions in east Kobane and the Coalition struck at them with 2 jet attacks.

There is an interview with Arin (nom de guerre), a 27 year old Women’s Protection Unit or YPJ fighter, who used to be a nurse in Cologne in Germany, but could not stand by and just watch as the Kurds were attacked by the Islamic State.

Now she is one of 7,500 women fighting alongside their Kurdish menfolk. “I remember watching television,” Arin said, “When I saw women and children slaughtered by Daesh (Islamic State), and I couldn’t stand it anymore”. You can read more of her story, HERE:

Many Kurdish fighters do not of course survive the fighting and their bodies are shipped across the border to Turkey for burial. This report, with excellent photographs, follows the coffin and the grieving families from reception on the Syrian border to burial in Turkey’s unofficial Kurdish capital, HERE:

@ChuckPfarrer has issued this update situation map on Tuesday, though it is not much different from the previous one, and monitoring of the live video broadcast from Kobane this morning revealed a fairly quiet scene with only occasional small arms fire, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Situation Map 16.12.14

EDITOR: A report from Monday suggests that “2,900 Islamic State fighters have been killed in Kobane” since the fighting began and “263 Kurds from the YPG”. However, I would treat these numbers with caution, particularly the high IS one, as they do not square with other sources. The YPG, who issued this statement, are a bit “flaky” on accuracy sometimes, in my opinion.

If you want to help the Kurds survive the winter this Christmas, especially the children, you can donate to the Kurdish charity Heyva Sor via this link, HERE:

SENSE OF REGIME PANIC AS MOST OF IDLIB PROVINCE FALLS TO OPPOSITION AND IDLIB CITY LIES EXPOSED TO ATTACK:

Following the loss of 2 major bases in Idlib province on Monday (scroll down – see below), Assad’s forces lost dozens of men and tons of equipment, including tanks and armoured vehicles, as they fled southwards into Hama province.

An estimated 1,000 of Assad’s troops ran from the 2 bases at Al-Hamadiyah and Wadi Deif but as of Tuesday night, only around 500, with 7 tanks and 6 armoured vehicles, are reported to have made it to Hama city and abut 50% of those men are reported wounded. Hospitals in Hama are said to have been closed to civilians and are now only treating military personnel

Another base at Ma’ar Htat, where Assad’s forces tried to consolidate their position, quickly came under attack and fell within hours.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Opposition Firing Grad Missiles At Assad Base South of Idlib

The fleeing Government soldiers were then thought to be heading for the 11th Division base near Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province but seem to have forgotten that the town of Khan Sheikhoun is under Opposition control and a reception committee was waiting for the on the edges of the M-5 highway, the main route from Damascus all the way to Aleppo.

Latest unconfirmed estimates are of 350 Assad troops dead and 200 captured, with 80 Opposition fighters, mainly the Al Nusra Front, also dead.

The Opposition are said to have captured huge stores of ammunition and weapons.

This video (caution with all videos today as there are still a lot of dead bodies around) shows the captured Al-Hamadiyah base, just south-west of Ma’arat Al-Numan, HERE:  and a tour of Wadi Deif, situated to the east of the same city, HERE:

Some of the booty seized by the Opposition can be seen in trans-shipment, HERE:

There is also a walk around the Al-Dahrooj barrier, due south of Ma’arat Al-Numan, which the Opposition blew-up part of weeks ago with a tunnel bomb as they weakened the Assad regime’s ring of checkpoints still connecting their 2 bases, HERE:  When these checkpoints fell they had no choice but to run.

10 government tanks, supported by heavy regime airstrikes, were reported to have set out from Ma’ar Htat but the Opposition destroyed 5 on Monday night, one of them, HERE:

Other Assad vehicles ran out of fuel or were just not fast enough and had to be abandoned, or the Opposition intercepted them near Khan Sheikhoun, (caution, more dead bodies) HERE:

In deteriorating weather conditions, Opposition fighters were also seen combing farmland near Khan Sheikhoun in search of regime soldiers that had left their vehicles and fled on foot, HERE:

Since this regime debacle, the Syrian Air Force has struck back with bombing raids, killing 15 people in Ma’arat Numan, attacks on both their former bases to try and kill Opposition fighters and a bombardment on the Orient Hospital at Kanfranbel killing at least 12.

Another regime attack on an Islamic State hospital at Mayadin in Deir Ez-Zour province is reported to have wiped out 5 x IS commanders, plus doctors, nurses and civilians. 36 civilians were also reported killed when a Government airstrike and ground shelling hit the Opposition-held suburb of Al-Waer in Homs, including 1 man who was trying to negotiate a ceasefire for the neighbourhood.

The major defeat at Ma’arat Al-Numan seems to have induced panic in the remaining troops in Idlib province.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Assad Regime Deaths Escalating

Latest reports suggest that an Assad military convoy, 40 vehicles strong, has left Matumeh base just south-west of Idlib city, heading it was thought for Ariha to the west of the M-5 highway, after the Opposition started firing Grad missiles at the military site.

However, later information said it did not stop there but continued, maybe heading for the North Hama Plain or even Latakia province.

All of this now leaves most of Idlib province in the hands of the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and Idlib city, which is still largely controlled by the regime, in a very vulnerable position.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is estimating that in the last 45 months since fighting in Syria began 120,000 pro-Assad fighters, both regular soldiers and volunteer militia, have been killed, almost 11,000 in the last 5 months alone. Clearly this is unsustainable.

Assad is now calling up all reservists and arresting any young men of military service age who are not already enlisted, all causing tension among his own Alawite community, of which you can read more, HERE:

So far the Syrian state media, SANA, has failed to report any of this week’s events in Idlib and Hama provinces, merely publishing with fascinating relevance that the “olive harvest in Hama, producing 47,000 tons of olives, in addition to 7,500 tons of olive oil in this year’s season” is down because of a “heat wave”. (EDITOR: Though the current “heat wave” has nothing to do with the weather!).

Elsewhere in the western part of Hama province, Opposition fighters have retaken Tel Malah hill and the village below it which the lost several months ago. 20 rgime soldiers are reported killed in the attack and a BMP armoured vehicle was left in smoking ruins, HERE:

Meanwhile in Daraa province, Opposition fighters are moving into the outskirts of Daraa city. In this footage an Opposition sniper shoots a regime soldier in the Manshiyeh district of the city, HERE:

In Aleppo, heavy fighting continues to the north of the city around Handarat as both sides struggle for control of routes into the city, while near the Alawite enclaves of Nobol and Zahra, the Opposition tired of waiting for a surrender have launched Grad missiles against the towns, HERE:

From Damascus comes this interesting report from Diana Darke via BBC Magazine Syria news, after she travelled back to Damascus to reclaim a house which she owns there and which local profiteers were trying to steal from her.

In Deir Ez-Zour province the abominable history of the Islamic State has taken an even worse turn after members of the Shaitat tribe were allowed to return to their homes under strict conditions imposed by IS.  The conditions included a strict evening curfew and the surrender of thousands of their weapons.

In the summer, the Shaitat tribe rebelled against Islamic State rule and tried to drive IS fighters out of their area. Retribution by IS was swift and heavy with as many as 670 of their men and boys executed or disappeared. Returning tribesmen have now found another mass grave near Kashkiya in the eastern part of the province with 230 bodies, bringing the total number of tribesmen massacred to 900.  BBC Syria news has more information.

Understandably, Valerie Amos, the head of the UN’s Humanitarian aid agencies yesterday told the UN Security Council, “We have run out of words to explain brutality” in Syria. “Every time we use a new figure in relation to the Syrian crisis”, she said,“We say that it is unprecedented. We have run out of words to fully explain the brutality, violence and callous disregard for human life which is a hallmark of this crisis.”

Amos went on to urge the members of the Security Council to step outside the limitations of the “veto” and to take steps to end the indiscriminate use of weapons, protect children from violations, lift sieges on city, and allow unhindered humanitarian assistance.

EDITOR: How right she is.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Shaitat Tribe Forced to Surrender Their Weapons to Bloody IS

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

KOBANE UPDATE 30: KURDISH FORCES RECAPTURE 2nd MAJOR ROAD RUNNING SOUTH AS ISLAMIC STATE RETREAT ESCALATES:

TIMELINE – 15th DECEMBER 2014 15.35 GMT – UPDATED 20.28 GMT:

On Friday, on the 88th day, after almost 3 months of defending Kobane against the Islamic State (IS) insurgency, the Kurdish YPG/YPJ made a major gain to the south of the city retaking another access road.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Refugees in Misery of Refugee Camp, Suruc, Turkey

The road runs south through Tarmik village and now puts the Kurdish forces in control of both this and the road to Aleppo. “Mopping up operations” are continuing in the area.

Several YPG operations have been carried out on the eastern front against IS in the last 3 days in the Kaniya Kurda neighbourhood, one killing 3 x IS Jihadists on Friday and another killing 4 x IS Jihadists on Saturday.

Clashes on Friday near the Cultural Centre on the south-eastern front led to the death of 2 more IS fighters and heavy Coalition airstrikes on Sunday night to the south-east of Kobane are reported to have caused “serious IS damage”.

Another airstrike to the south-east was reported this morning, Monday, with a Coalition jet firing 4 missiles at IS positions and around the city small arms fire can be heard today, louder percussion “booms” going off every few minutes.

Kurdish Peshmerga sources report that together with the YPG, the Kurds have taken back 7 IS positions over the weekend and killed a total of 16 IS fighters to the north-east of Kobane.

Captain Sherwan Mohammad of the Peshmerga said, “We started a major assault on the ISIS militants, detaining many types of different military equipment”. He said that Coalition warplanes were bombing “IS strongholds in the city,” and that Kurdish forces were on the offensive against IS, whose militants he said were fighting defensively and retreating.

This map of the situation, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, shows the position of the 2 sides as of Sunday 14th December, the 90th day of fighting, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map Kobane 14.12.14

An good article describes “every day life” for Kurdish civilians in Kobane, with no heating, basic supplies of food and a terrible fear that their children playing in the street will be killed by mortars, HERE:

Across the border in Turkey, many refugees from Kobane, especially those not in camps, seem be suffering pretty rough treatment from the Turkish authorities, as you can read, HERE:

Even those in camps seem to be in dire conditions of cold, wet and overwhelming mud if the photograph on this page is anything to go by.

EDITOR: This very fine piece of music came to my attention in praise of Kobane and in particular all the woman imprisoned by the Islamic State, whose fate as yet remains unknown – as yet I do not know who the singer is, here:

And on a more traditional Kurdish note, the Heskîf Orkestra produced this – Ez Kobanê Me:

IN MAJOR BLOW TO ASSAD, HIS FORCES FLEE AS OPPOSITION CAPTURE 2 MILITARY BASES AFTER 2 YEAR SIEGE:

In a major blow to the Assad regime, 8 of their checkpoints protecting 2 military bases in Idlib province near Ma’arat Al-Numan fell to Opposition forces over this weekend, followed by disastrous defeats today.

The Opposition stormed the Al-Dahrooj barrier just south of Ma’arat Al-Numan, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Opposition Seize Assad Artillery Near Ma’arat Al-Numan

Unprotected, the soldiers at the Wadi Deif base to the east of Ma’arat Al-Numan tried to flee to the second base just to the south-west of the city at Al-Hamidiyah, which is near to the M-5 International Highway which runs from Damascus to Aleppo.

180 of Assad’s troops are reported to have surrendered or captured after combat on the outskirts of Ma’arat Al-Numan.

This was the battlefield just south of Ma’arat Al-Numan this morning, HERE:

Shortly after, Ayn Qari village fell to the Opposition, just to the south-east of Ma’arat Al-Numan, where they captured armoured vehicles, HERE:

The battle this morning then switched to the Al-Hamidiyah base which also fell quickly today after the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) brought up heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery, which they had taken recently from the moderate Opposition Revolutionary Front when they drove them out of Idlib province.

The Opposition fighters entered the Hamidiyah base from the north, HERE:  and also reportedly captured the commander of the base, Nidal Daoud Nusairi.

Assad’s military made a break for it on the M-5 International Highway trying to get to bases further south. Chaos ensured as a reported 1,700 Government troops fled, fighting a hopeless rearguard action as they did so. Pictures on the Internet show the main highway strewn with burning tanks and armoured vehicles, HERE:

Al- Hamidiyah village to the south of the base quickly fell, a munitions depot burning and exploding HERE:

The Opposition are reported to have picked up another 8 tanks and BMP armoured vehicles, a Shilka tank and 130 mm cannons in the Al-Hamidiyah area as Assad’s troops abandoned their equipment and ran, HERE:

More scenes of jubilation on the highway near Al-Hamidiyah, HERE:

Pursued down the M-5 Highway, Assad’s troops made a brief stand at the village of Al-Nasih and then Basidah, but both of these positions, some 10 kilometres from Ma’arat Al-Numan, are believed now to be in the hands of the Opposition. Another 120 Assad military are reported to have surrendered at Basidah village.

The fleeing Government troops were later said to be concentrating at a base at Ma’ar Htat, east of the M-5, just north of Hish, but they were already under attack from the advancing Opposition.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

More Booty Seized by Opposition in Assad Army Rout

Unconfirmed reports say that as many as 300 pro-Assad fighters may have been killed in the last 2 days.

All Syrian state media has managed to say so far is that “several terrorists have been killed in the Ma’arat Al-Numan area” and that there were fierce battles in Al-Hamidiyeh after “carrying out a redeployment” in the Wadi Deif region Monday morning.

Assad’s Air Force has retaliated with 17 jet and helicopter attacks on their 2 former bases and other captured villages, but casualties on the Opposition side are reported as relatively low.

Opposition fighters at Wadi Deif have apparently spent part of the day defusing mines there.

There is also a report that a regime helicopter managed to airlift a number of Assad’s officers out of the Al-Hamidiyah base this morning before it fell, but not the commander it seems.

The successes of the last 2 days have been led by ANF, which is aligned to Al-Qaeda, in co-ordination with the Islamic Front brigades of Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham.

ANF now effectively almost all the countryside in Idlib province, Assad only holding Idlib city, the Qarmid base nearby and the town of Ariha.

Civilians living around the camps at Al-Hamidiyah and Wadi Deif are clearly joyful at the news, despite this being in Arabic only, HERE:

Latest unconfirmed reports Monday evening say that the Opposition have also taken the Assad base at Ma’ar Htat, though 900 of Assad’s troops are said to have made it through the 11th Division headquarters further south at Khan Sheikhoun.

This was a situation map published earlier today by @deSyracuse (though probably already out of date because the situation has been so fast moving), here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

In contrast to all the above in Idlib province, just north of Aleppo the Opposition are fighting a rather desperate battle to stop a Syrian Army advance which aims to cut off the main supply route from Turkey to eastern, Opposition-held parts of the city.

Fighting around Al-Mallah apparently led to the deaths of 34 members of the Al-Nusra Front. There were also heavy clashes at nearby Handarat and Al-Breij, as well as other battles east, west and south of the city. Fighting at the frontline at Al-Mallah can be seen, HERE:  and HERE:

The UN special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is currently seeking to get agreement on a local ceasefire in Aleppo in order to let in badly needed humanitarian aid, a ceasefire which the Opposition are at the moment rejecting because they see it as another Assad ploy to take control.

Keeping up its awful reputation, a mass grave created by the Islamic State has been found by local people at Gharaneej on the Euphrates River. The bodies found are believed to be executed members of the Shaitat tribe.

Lastly, another Assad follower in a panic. Assad’s former Intelligence chief, Rustom Ghazali, just blew up his extremely large and expensive palace in Daraa province and put it on YouTube, shortly before Opposition fighters arrived, (worth a watch, despite the music) HERE:

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IRAQ – SINJAR UPDATE: YEZIDI SHRINE ON MOUNT SINJAR ATTACKED BY ISLAMIC STATE VEHICLE SUICIDE BOMBERS:

TIMELINE – 12th DECEMBER 2014 14.54 GMT:

While tens of thousands of Yezidi, driven out of their ancestral homes in Iraq by the marauding Islamic State, face seemingly endless life in exile, the harsh weather in northern Syria and Iraq closes in on their refugee camps. (EDITOR: It may be the Middle East, but, yes, they have snow there and freezing temperatures.)

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Yezidi Refugee Woman Displaced From Sinjar

Up on the top of Mount Sinjar, where some of the harshest conditions will be experienced, the Yezidi HPS defence force, supported by the Kurdish YPG and PKK, are still holding out around their shrine at Sherfadin.

On Wednesday three Islamic State vehicles approached the Sherfadin shrine, a truck loaded with explosives followed by 2 armoured Humvees.

After heavy fire from rocket propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), the suicide bomber was killed and the truck exploded before it reached its target and the many civilians still at the enclave.

4 Yezidi defenders were injured in the attack and a further 4 x IS fighters killed. The 2 x IS Humvees retreated under fire.

This was the first time IS had attempted to attack the shrine with suicide bomb vehicles but their attacks have clearly intensified over the last month according to the defenders.

On Tuesday, IS attacked the shrine with 4 Humvees but were repelled, and on Monday the Jihadists were also beaten back from the village of Sikeniye on the lower edge of Mount Sinjar , south-west of Sherfadin. 15 x IS Jihadists were reported killed.

This video shows IS weapons and ammunition captured by the Yezidi, (caution dead body at end) HERE:

Yezidi sources claim that there are still as many as 9,000 Yezidi living in tents and other shelters on the top of Mount Sinjar.

Below the mountain, US Central Command (Centcom) reports that between 8th – 10th December it made 4 airstrikes near Sinjar (Shingal) city, destroying 4 x IS-occcupied buildings, 3 x IS storage containers, 2 x IS fighting positions and also struck an IS guard tower.

Local sources say that a further 2 Coalition airstrikes yesterday, Thursday, near Sinjar city destroyed 2 more IS vehicles and killed 6 x IS Jihadists.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Yezidi Fighters at Sherfadin, Mount Sinjar

Between 5,000 and 7,000 Yezidi women and children are still missing, trucked away by the Islamic State in vehicles they seem to have brought for the job. Around 100 have managed to escape.

Amsha Ali Alyas, a 19-year-old Yezidi woman managed to breakout of the room where she had been locked in and ran away with her 1 year old son. Her family never expected to see her again. You can read her story, HERE:

Matthew Barber, a graduate student at Chicago University, has made a study of the Yezidi and was in the region when some of the women disappeared. He has been widely attacked on Twitter by IS supporters who claim that “the abductions never happened”.

Matthew’s researches show that it was a deliberately policy on behalf of the Islamic State to capture the Yezidi women to use as “sexual slaves” during warfare, twisting medieval interpretations of the Koran to justify their evil actions.

You can see and hear Matthew’s view of the situation in this interview with Joshua Landis, here:

The photograph of the Yezidi woman in this Yezidi report was taken by Kurdish photographer Warzer Jaff. “I am fascinated with the deep sadness in their eyes,” Jaff says. “You don’t see one single happy face.” You can see more of his photographs, HERE:

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Map of Mount Sinjar, Sherfadin to North-East

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KOBANE UPDATE 29 – KURDS CONTINUE TO PUSH FORWARD BUT AT A COST OF 5 DEAD FIGHTERS A DAY: IS ISSUE DRONE VIDEO:

TIMELINE – 10th DECEMBER 2014 13.39 GMT – UPDATED 22.25 GMT:

On the 86th day of the defence of Kobane, fighting continues with the Kurds making slow but painful gains in the east and south.

In the Kaniya Kurda and Souk Al-Hal districts towards the east of the city, clashes between the YPG and Islamic State continue but with reports of 6 x IS Jihadists killed on Monday night and a small amount of weaponry confiscated.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurdish Fighters and Civilians in Kobane 10.12.14

Mutual exchanges of shell fire continue between the Kurdish Peshmerga and IS, the Jihadists firing 8 shells into Kobane on Monday and the Peshmerga shelling IS positions to the south of the city.

In a YPG operation on the south-eastern front on Monday night near Azadi Square, 2 more IS Jihadists were killed but the Kurds greatest successes are coming currently on newly YPG-liberated areas in the south.

A co-ordinated TPG/Peshmerga force, assisted by 2 Coalition air strikes repulsed an IS counter-attack near Kobane Hospital, killing another 5 x IS Jihadists including a well-known commander, Jandullah Shishani, a Chechen.

10 kilometres to the west of Kobane near the village of Salim, a YPG unit also destroyed an Islamic State vehicle together with its occupants.

Latest report from US Central Command (Centcom) says that the Coalition made 7 airstrikes near Kobane between Monday 8th December and today, Wednesday, destroying 5 IS fighting positions and striking 3 other IS fighting positions and a large ISIL unit.

Clearly IS are taking a beating, but the cost to Kurdish forces is still estimated at an average of almost 5 deaths a day (scroll down – see SOHR report for 8th December below).

This video, published by IS, shows a drone’s-eye view of Kobane (as in the previous Cantlie video), with views of the border crossing to Turkey, the nearby silos (the site of the recent border crossing attack) and locations of where IS exploded suicide car bombs, HERE:

(EDITOR: Please be aware that Western security services in particular are removing 1,200 “terrorist” links a day, so don’t be surprised if this video has been blocked when you go there. But an interesting one all the same.)

This map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, shows the Kobane situation on the ground, clearly showing YPG gains in the south but IS holding ground to the east, plus the path of the IS drone in the video above, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Situation Map 09.12.14

This video, originally released back in March 2014, shows the training and daily life of the Kurds YPJ female volunteers, (after Ad) HERE:

NBC’s Richard Engel reports from Kobane last weekend, here:

And if you want to read more on life in Kobane, there is a comprehensive article originally from Associated Press Syria news service.

ASSAD REGIME MOVES TO TIGHTEN SIEGE NOOSE AROUND OPPOSITION-HELD EASTERN ALEPPO, BUT OPPOSITION FIGHT BACK:

In Daraa province, Opposition fighters are reported to have found 23 civilian corpses in the Brigade 82 housing complex north of Sheikh Miskin which they captured earlier in the week (scroll down – see below).

8 of the civilian bodies, including 2 women, appear to have been burnt, suggesting that they might have been used as human shields.

This video shows destruction inside the housing complex, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Bassel Al-Assad Stadium in Daraa Attacked by Opposition

Moving into the outskirts of the regional capital, Daraa city, the Opposition are seen firing an anti-tank missile at the Bassel Al-Assad sports stadium, HERE:

(EDITOR: Bassel Al-Assad, destined to take over as dictator of Syria from his father Hafez, was the elder brother of Bashar Al-Assad, but he was killed in a car crash. On the death of Hafez, the presidency then passed to the present incumbent, the equally murderous Bashar.)

Fighting has taken off again in a big way this week around Aleppo as the Assad regime, backed by Hezbollah and with advice from the Iranians, tries to close a siege ring around the whole of eastern Aleppo held by the Opposition and cut of their supply routes to northern Syria and the Turkish border.

Heavy fighting continued thoughout Tuesday night in the north-eastern outskirts of the city, HERE:

South-west of Aleppo Opposition fighters are trying to stage a diversion by attacking the Khan Tuman army depot and north of the city they have taken control of several points around a sawmill near the village of Bureij.

In Hama province Opposition fighters have overrun a regime barrier near Ma’an just east of Morek and seized a Shilka tank, plus destroying several Assad armed pickups and troops at Tel Bizam just north of Souran, to the south-east of Morek.

In Damascus, fierce fighting has broken out in Jobar as the Assad regime try to storm the suburb but Opposition fighters are holding on and claim they have captured a member of Hezbollah.

In the besieged Opposition southern suburb of Darayah, the fighters there say they killed 21 of Assad’s troops yesterday, Tuesday.

In response to the recent Israeli airstrikes on Assad’s bases, this satirical video has appeared from the Syrian Army, making fun of Israelis, HERE: (EDITOR: If that is the Syrian regime’s only response to the Israeli attacks, Israel must be “terrified ….”)

In Homs province, clashes have been reported between the Syrian Army and Opposition fighters near Ayn Al-Dananir, north-east of Homs city and in Deir Ez-Zour city clashes are still ongoing between Assad’s forces and the Islamic State on several fronts.

The Islamic State continue to add to their appalling reputation, executing a man in Raqqah city yesterday for “cursing the Prophet Mohammed” and even worse, throwing a man of the top of a building in northern Iraq and then stoning him to death because he was apparently “gay”.

This report appeared today on International Human Rights Day, 10th December, immediately following documents released by a Senate Committee in the United States bravely and quite rightly exposing worldwide abuses and torture by the CIA. A report on this from the Guardian, HERE:

Lastly, Centcom has declassified more videos of airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS). This jet-cam footage is of an IS tank destroyed near Raqqah on November 29th, here:

You can watch 3 more recent videos and the Centcom back playlist, HERE:

EDITOR: Torture is an appalling business and not at all funny, but could not resist this cartoon from the New York Times – George W. Bush was President of the United States when most of the CIA abuses reported above took place.  Since then he has taken up “art”.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

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KOBANE UPDATE 28: KURDS MAKE USEFUL GAINS AS ISLAMIC STATE, FOR THE MOMENT AT LEAST, ON THE DEFENSIVE:

TIMELINE – 8th DECEMBER 2014 14.55 GMT – UPDATED  22.14 GMT:

Over the weekend, the Kurdish attacks on Islamic State positions have accelerated and more ground has been recovered.

On Friday night YPG fighters carried out an operation in the Botana Rojhilat area on the southern front. According to the YPG, 22 Islamic State (IS) fighters were killed and useful quantities of weapons and ammunition taken.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Children Struggle in Harsh Winter Conditions at Suruc Camp in Turkey

Sporadic clashes between the 2 sides continued on Saturday and Sunday in both the eastern and southern fronts, with occasional Coalition airstrikes and mutual artillery and mortar exchanges between the Jihadists and the YPG/Peshmerga.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 5 airstrikes near Kobane from 3rd – 5th December, destroying 6 x IS fighting positions and a heavy weapon.

A further 14 airstrikes over the weekend have destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions, 3 x IS-occupied buildings, 2 x IS fighter staging areas, 2 x IS tanks, a mortar and a motorcycle.

Further strikes hit 8 x IS tactical units and 2 x IS fighting positions.

Explosions and columns of smoke have been seen over the city this morning, Monday and fierce fighting with heavy machine gun and mortar fire is reported near the border crossing to Turkey this evening.

Reports Monday afternoon say that another YPG attack is underway on the southern front in Kobane and that there have been 5 Coalition airstrikes near the city today.

Several airstrike were targeting IS positions in the southern part of Kobane, while 2 others hit IS positions near the village of Termek in the same southerly direction.

The YPJ, female fighters are also reported today to have targeted a suicide car bomber on Monday afternoon and exploded his vehicle before it reached the southern frontline.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) now estimates that 905 Islamic State fighters have been killed at Kobane since the start of their campaign against the city on September 16th 2014.

SOHR says 431 fighters have been lost on the YPG/Free Syrian Army (FSA) side in that time and the total deaths, including civilians killed, comes to 1381, though there could still be many more unrecorded.

The fighting therefore grinds on with Kobane turning into a graveyard for Islamic State fighters as predicted by many.

Although the Islamic State will be reluctant to be seen as having been defeated in Kobane, it now seems as though their reinforcements have been sent most recently to Deir Ez-Zour over the weekend, where they are making inroads in Assad areas of the city.

No-one should however right-off IS at Kobane – the moment the YPG/FSA/Peshmerga drop their guard, the Jihadists will strike with suicide bombs and renewed force. There is still a long way to go to defeat this inhuman menace that threatens us all.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurds Frustrate IS Ambitions

ISRAEL MAKES MULTIPLE AIRSTRIKES ON SYRIA TRIGGERING PREDICTABLE RUSSIAN AND IRANIAN CONDEMNATION:

The Syrian Government reported yesterday that the Israeli Air Force made several airstrikes on its facilities, one near Damascus and the other near the Syria/Lebanon border.

A number of missiles seem to have been fired in each case, the attack near Damascus striking an “import and export warehouse”, which activists say was in the military part of Damascus International Airport which is often used for weapons storage, and other strikes on targets in the Khan al-Sheeh district on the eastern side of the capital.

The second major attack was on what was described as an “agricultural airfield” at Dimas, not far from Lebanon, where local people reported hearing as many as 10 explosions. 8 airstrikes were counted in total.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Aftermath of Israeli Airstrike at Dimas Near Lebanon Border

This video footage from Al Jazeera shows the explosions shortly after one of the attacks took place, (Arabic only) HERE:

There is additionally a report that Israeli jets struck at Assad’s Brigade 90 in Al-Kom in Quneitra province, but this remains unconfirmed.

Syria’s Armed General Command said that there were “material losses” in all cases, but “no loss of life”. Israel as usual would neither confirm or deny the attack.

Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Al-Moallem, claimed that Israel was trying to “compensate for losses incurred by terrorists at the hands of the Syrian Army in the south of the country”. As the Syrian Army are currently losing heavily in southern Syria, this does not make sense.

The Syrian Government also threatened to strike back at Israel at a “moment of its choosing”, but has notably failed to take any such action in the last 3 years following previous Israeli strikes.

The reason for the latest airstrikes is also unknown, but on earlier occasions Israel has hit Syrian targets to a) destroy any missiles or other weapons destined for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon or b) destroy any advanced missile or missile defence technology being delivered to Syria from Russia or Iran.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it “is deeply concerned about this dangerous development” and the use of force is “unacceptable in international relations and deserves an outright condemnation,” which is pretty good from the country that just invaded parts of Ukraine.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who was meeting Al-Moallem in Tehran, also referred to Israel as being “in the same trench” as the “terrorists” attacking the Syrian Government.

BBC Syria news has a video report from it’s correspondent Jim Muir.

Other sources are also reporting the downing of an Israeli unmanned drone in north-western Daraa province yesterday, Sunday, a little to the south-west of Damascus. Mobile phone video footage certainly shows Hebrew writing on some of the parts retrieved from the wreckage, HERE:

Further video claims to show Syrian air defence missiles vainly attempting to hit Israeli jets, but it looks as the though the Israelis are long gone leaving just vapour trails behind, (Arabic only) HERE: They may however have hit the drone, if all these reports tie up, though that is not at all clear at the present time.

OPPOSITION GAIN WHOLE OF MILITARY HOUSING COMPLEX IN DARAA PROVINCE, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE BREAK INTO DEIR EZ-ZOUR AIRPORT:

It was another couple of bad days for the Assad regime on Sunday and today.

Yesterday, a combined Opposition force moved out from Sheikh Miskin in Daraa province and drove Assad’s military from its housing complex to the north of the city. The vast housing complex supplied all the accommodation for the Brigade 82 base nearby which is now under threat.

The battle started with a Al-Nusra Front suicide car bomb attack on the entrance, followed by very heavy fighting before the military housing area was captured, HERE:

Part of Military Housing After Opposition Capture in Sheikh Miskin

Part of Military Housing After Opposition Capture in Sheikh Miskin

By the end of Sunday the Opposition had also destroyed a T-55 tank and seized 3 x T-72 tanks and a large stock of Government ammunition.

Regrettably, a retaliatory airstrike on Sheikh Miskin is today reported to have killed 3 members of an Orient TV reporting team.

Over in Deir Ez-Zour, the Islamic State too sent a suicide car bomb against the entrance to Deir Ez-Zour military airport and followed that with a massive attack today.

Activists say that Assad’s Army started transporting prisoners out of the prison at the base today, removing them to an unknown destination.

Latest reports this evening, Monday, say that the IS Jihadists have penetrated the base and are inside the airport grounds, which could be the beginning of the end for the Assad regime in the city.

IS supporters in their Syrian capital, Raqqah, are said to be on the streets celebrating tonight, though this could be a little premature.

Substantial fighting has also broken out between the Opposition and the Assad regime in Aleppo, where Opposition fighters have today attacked the “School of Wisdom Barrier” again in the south-west of the city and claim to have killed a dozen of Assad’s troops with this bomb blast in the Salahedin district, HERE:

With this incredibly lucky “hell cannon” blast, Opposition fighters managed as well to wipe out an Assad sniper nest on the top of Aleppo’s Amir Palace Hotel – spectacular, HERE:

In Aleppo’s Old city there is currently a very heavy attack going on right infront one of the gates to the Aleppo Citadel, HERE:

Aleppo still remains a very hard nut to crack for the Opposition. This map, courtesy of @markito0171, shows the huge number of Assad Army checkpoints in just the south-western part of Aleppo city alone, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Assad Checkpoints in SW Aleppo

There are also unconfirmed reports that the Opposition have managed to shut off the water and electricity to Idlib city and cut off some approach roads today.

Lastly, there is an interesting video to watch from Al Jazeera, “The Last Assignment”.

On November 20th, 2013, Iraqi freelance cameraman Yasser Faisal al-Jumaili crossed the Turkish border into Syria with a trusted Syrian fixer Jomah Alqasem to interview fighters opposed to the Assad regime.

For 13 days they filmed and interviewed fighters with the Free Syrian Army, Al-Tawhid Brigade, the Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar Al-Sham, and even ISIL.

On December 4th, 2013, as the 2 men were about to leave Syria by road, their car was stopped and Yasser was shot multiple times. His killers remain unknown. Only Jomah survived.

This is their story, with commentary from friends and colleagues and using footage that was never going to be shown plus Yasser’s phone video diary – both smuggled out of Syria – HERE:

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KOBANE UPDATE 27: ISLAMIC STATE REINFORCE AND RENEW ATTACKS ON CITY DESPITE BEING HIT WITH MORE THAN 14 AIRSTRIKES THIS WEEK:

TIMELINE – 5th DECEMBER 2014 14.05 GMT – UPDATED 22.58 GMT:

Reinforced with with more fighters at dawn this morning, Friday, arriving from Tel Abyad, the Islamic State (IS) launched further attacks on 3 fronts at Kobane today.

But after starting with an artillery and mortar barrage and following it with a fighter ground attack, the IS Jihadists have once again failed to make headway in the city.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPJ Fighters Hug Each Other in Kobane

Yesterday, Thursday, IS hit Kobane with 35 mortars but they still lost ground, the Kurdish militia, the YPG, retaking 2 neighbourhoods to the south of the city. 13 Jihadists were reported killed in this clash and 5 captured.

Continued violent clashes are reported around Azadi Square after a suicide bomber detonated himself in the Botan Sharqi area and 9 more IS Jihadists were killed in fighting around the Souk Al-Hal and municipal offices district to the east.

A further 9 x IS fighters were reported killed in a YPG operation to the south-east of the city near the Cultural centre. The YPG has issued this video of recent battles in Kobane, HERE:

To the south of Kobane in the countryside, a YPG unit attacked a group of IS Jihadists on the road to Momita village, killing 2 of them.

The YPG and YPJ were supported in their attacks by a 2nd detachment of Kurdish Peshmerga artillery, the first detachment of 150 Peshmerga soldiers reported to have flown back safely back in Erbil the Kurdistan capital.

As well as seizing more ammunition and weapons from IS, one of the Jihadists captured by the YPG turned out to originate from the Republic of Turkistan.

A recommended video and written report on the current situation inside Kobane, showing Kurdish YPJ fighters hugging each other, in stark contrast to IS’s cruel inhumanity is, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPG Fighter Feeds Abandoned Animal Near Kobane

Coalition airstrikes continue to aid the defending Kurds, US Central Command (Centcom) reporting another 14 air attacks on IS positions near or in Kobane between Monday and Wednesday of this week.

The Coalition air attacks destroyed an IS vehicle, 17 IS fighting positions and an IS fighter staging post. The Coalition jets were also able to suppress 8 additional IS fighting positions and struck a large IS unit.

After the destruction of Kobane’s hospitals, a single small aid station with very limited facilities is all that is left. Associated Press reports on the medical situation, (stupid Ad first, but English sub-titles) HERE:

The Wall Street Journal has published more pictures taken by French photographer Frederic Lafargue in Kobane last weekend:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane – YPG and YPJ Flags Flying

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Weapons at Rest

ISLAMIC STATE PUSH ASSAD FORCES TO THE WALL IN BID TO OVERRUN DEIR EZ-ZOUR CITY:

Another major battle this week is an attempt by the Islamic State to overwhelm Assad’s forces still remaining in Deir Ez-Zour city in eastern Syria.

Having already driven away the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Al-Nusra Front and other Opposition groups, IS has now turned its attention to Assad’s regular Army and National Defence Force members remaining in the city.

In the last 48 hours, the Islamic State have taken complete control of Saqer Island, which sits surrounded by arms of the Euphrates river, captured Al-Jafra village which lies just east of Deir Ez-Zour airport and reached the gates of the military airport itself after destroying a number of barriers and checkpoints protecting it.

At least 30 of Assad’s forces have been killed and 37 x IS fighters. 200 terrified Government troops still inside the military airport are reportedly communicating that they expect to be massacred.

The attack on the airport began with a suicide car bomber detonating himself at a building where Assad’s forces were congregated on Wednesday night, though in the battle for Al-Jafra Assad’s jets destroyed an IS convoy of armoured vehicles and vehicles fitted with heavy machine guns.

Despite regime airstrikes to try and hold back the Jihadist flood the Islamic State seem determined to seize the airport, the last Assad-held asset of any significance remaining in the province. Control of the entire city would give them a virtually free run to the Iraqi border.

Situation map, courtesy of @archcivilians dated 4.12.14, though already out of date as Jihadists have overrun Jafra and captured the whole of Saqer Island, but gives you a very good idea of the area.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Elsewhere in the province, Coalition war planes also targeted the Islamic State near Al-Bukamel on the Iraqi border, reportedly destroying another IS convoy and killing a number of Jihadist fighters.

In Aleppo province violent clashes were reported last night between the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and a combined force of the Syrian Army, the National Defence Force and Hezbollah near the Omawi Mosque in Old Aleppo, the Air Force Intelligence building in Zahra district and in Bustan Al-Basha to the north-east of the city. ANF claim they have killed 18 members of Hezbollah.

In southern Daraa province, similar forces on either side, with the addition of more moderate Syrian Opposition fighters are still battling it out for complete control of the town of Sheikh Meskin. ANF is reported to have shelled the military housing complex on the edge of the city and advanced towards Assad’s Brigade 82 base nearby. 7 ANF fighters are said to have been killed and also an Opposition commander, with unknown casualties on the regime side.

In Idlib province Raed Fares has led the independent resistance to both the Assad regime and extreme Jihadists in the town of Kafranbel, with both weekly demonstrations and pithy and colourful posters that are now recognised worldwide.

Recovered from an assassination attempt by the Islamic State, he is receiving support from a private American organisation to communicate and protect his community in new, innovative ways. A good read from the New York Times Magazine Syria news.

MYSTERY OF ISLAMIC STATE LEADER, AL-BAGHDADI’S WIFE – SOLVED WITH DNA:

Contradictory claims this week between Lebanon, who said that they had “captured the wife of Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi”, 10 day ago following a “foreign intelligence tip-off” and the Iraqi Government who said they hadn’t, has been solved – with both sides being right to some extent.

The woman has been identified as Saja al-Dulaimi, the daughter of an active member of the Al-Qaeda aligned Al-Nusra Front. Apparently she has been married 3 times and has 2 sons and a daughter, who the Lebanese authorities now say were travelling with her when she crossed the Syrian/Lebanese border.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Woman Arrested Was Married to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi For 3 Months

Nohad Machnouk, Lebanon’s Interior Minister says that her first husband, with whom she had the 2 boys, was a member of the former Iraqi regime.

Her second husband was Islamic State’s Al-Baghdadi, with whom she had a daughter, and she is currently married to a Palestinian and is pregnant with his child.

She was apparently married to Al-Baghdadi 6 years ago for a period of only 3 months.

So she is currently no longer married to the Islamic State leader, but DNA tests have confirmed that the daughter is in fact their child.

Where does Al-Baghdadi’s DNA come from you may ask?

Apparently it is still held in Iraq where he was imprisoned by the Americans for 4 years in Camp Bucca in the south of Iraq, but later released as “not posing a threat” (EDITOR: Ha!)

The Islamic State has so far made no comment on the arrest of Al-Dulami and her children, but Al-Nusra has. The Lebanese may just find the detention useful in their prolonged negotiations with the Al-Nusra Front on the release of Lebanese Army soldiers still held by the group.

Whether the Islamic State show an interest in these events remains to be seen, but their all pervasive influence seems to keep spreading.

The BBC has a video report from southern Jordan where demonstrations in support of IS took place in the town of Mann last June and many there do not even bother to hide their support for the Jihadist extremists, HERE:

In northern Iraq, IS are having more of a difficult time with reported Coalition airstrikes on their positions near Sinjar, destroying 2 Humvee armoured vehicles, and north-east of Mosul at Mount Bashiq, HERE:

The airstrikes are reported to be paving the way for more Kurdish Peshmerga advances, the Kurds having already taken back 16 villages from the IS Jihadists.

IS however retaliated Thursday with a massive suicide bomb inside a teashop in the Kurdish district of Shorija in Kirkuk, killing 21 and wounding more than 30.

Up on Mount Sinjar, 4 helicopters made it through to the Yezidi community today, Friday, carrying supplies and bringing with them 2 Kurdish doctors from Sweden.

5,000 Yezidi refugees, rescued from Mount Sinjar now live at the Newroz Refugee Camp in north-east Syria. You can hear their tragic story, (English sub-titles), here:

 

Even worse is the story of this young Yezidi girl apparently sold off by the Islamic State to a smuggler for $170 and later forcibly married to a man in Saudi Arabia. You can read it, HERE:

(EDITOR: And in the West we are obsessed with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” – Yuk! I know who I will be thinking about this Christmas)

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10 comments to SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

  • 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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