SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
KOBANE UPDATE 12: AFTER FURTHER DELAYS AT TURKISH/SYRIAN BORDER PESHMERGA FORCE
TIMELINE 31st OCTOBER 2014 14.15 GMT – UPDATED 22.43 GMT:
UPDATE: Peshmerga forces crossed Turkish border into Kobane city this evening, Friday, accompanied by heavy Coalition bombing of area near border crossing to deter Islamic State attacks.
For 2 days the Peshmerga force sent from Iraq has sat waiting to enter Kobane, but tonight it moved across the border into the city.
This video shows the Peshmerga crossing the border into the city with shouts of “Baji Kobane” (“Long Live Kobane”), HERE:
Apparently a new gate was opened in east Kobane for the Peshmerga to enter to avoid the likely attacks on the convoy if it had entered through the main border crossing.
Having driven 600 kilometres from Erbil in Iraq Kurdistan the 40 vehicle convoy and the 72 men that flew into southern Turkey were billeted in a warehouse in Suruc on the Turkish/Syrian border.
The only sign of the Peshmerga force during the last 2 days had been 2 tanker trucks that drove out of their temporary base in Suruc to refuel earlier today at a local petrol station.
The Turkish authorities have kept the Media and others well back from the border area near Kobane with road blocks.
However, a contingent of 10 Peshmerga officers and men did cross into Kobane at around 3.00am in the night of Wednesday and Thursday, presumably to meet with the YPG and discuss logistics, where to deploy weapons and troops and to prepare for tonight’s successful entry.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) force that entered Kobane earlier this week, whose number varied according to the report (scroll down – see below), appears to be large than any of the estimates.
Reliable reports now say that it amounted to 200 men, bringing to approximately 400 the number of FSA fighters in the city.
The new force which entered on Wednesday is led by Colonel Abduljabbar Al-Oqaidi, a former Assad army officer who had earlier led the Opposition attacks on the regime in Aleppo.
Speaking by phone from Kobane, Oqaidi confirmed that the Islamic State still control around 50% of the city and said that the Coalition airstrikes had not been as effective as he expected.
At the same time, another FSA commander, Nizar al-Khatib, who has been fighting alongside the Kurds in Kobane, has appeared at a news conference in Istanbul criticising the decision to send yet more FSA fighters to defend the city.
“I am criticizing this decision because we need these forces in the other fronts in Aleppo. The situation is very critical in Aleppo right now, regime forces have been surrounding the city for some time,” said Khatib to journalists.
He went on to say that with the extra FSA fighters and the Peshmerga, the total fighting force against the Islamic State in Kobane amounted to more than 2,000 men (and women!).
Khatib also said that the “Train-Equip” program that was to be organized by the Turkish government inside Turkey for FSA forces had not yet started and discussions on how to do this were still underway.
Today, Friday, there have been thunderstorms and heavy rain over Kobane and also a series of big explosions from Coalition strikes and possibly Islamic State (IS) vehicle bombs.
Perhaps in an attempt to make it difficult for the Peshmerga to cross into the city, IS has been pounding the border crossing area on a regular basis in the last few days but has been unsuccessful in taking it.
A YPG report Friday afternoon says that 2 separate attacks by IS on the north-eastern front yesterday were repelled and 3 Jihadists confirmed killed.
A YPG operation in the central municipal area was met by an IS suicide car bomb but the YPG managed to destroy the vehicle while still in range of the Jihadist force and 4 of them were killed by the explosion.
On the eastern front in the city, after fierce battles 13 Jihadists were killed and large amounts of ammunition and weapons taken. On the southern front similarly, according to YPG, 17 Jihadists were killed after heavy fighting in several Kurdish operations.
Latest reports from Kobane (Friday pm) say that the Peshmerga will make their move to enter the city soon and Coalition jet fighters will be overhead “to ensure a safe passage across the border”.
The Assad regime has responded to the arrival of the Peshmerga by condemning Turkey for allowing foreign fighters and “terrorists” to enter Syria in “violation of its sovereignty”. Syria’s Foreign Ministry, in familiar rhetoric as far as Turkey is concerned, described the move as a “disgraceful act”.
Thursday’s report from US Central Command (Centcom) says that the Coalition conducted 10 airstrikes around Kobane on Wednesday and Thursday, hitting 2 small IS units and destroying 7 IS fighting positions and 5 IS-occupied buildings.
This video may well be the result of one of those strikes, (caution remains of some IS bodies) HERE:
There are also unconfirmed reports that 4 Western special forces personnel, 3 Americans and 1 British have entered Kobane to assist the defending forces.
The defending Kurdish YPG/YPG and FSA force claim to have killed 37 IS fighters in the last 24 hours, though 16 YPG fighters were reported killed in clashes on Wednesday night.
There is video of Coalition airstrikes at Kobane on Tuesday, (after an ad) HERE:
And live coverage from Kobane and nearby Suruc (though please note this can be intermittent and probably none in the middle of the night, after an ad), HERE:
As of yesterday, this situation map, courtesy of @macroarch, gives a pretty fair summary of where things are in the city, here:
Interesting piece about the West’s fascination with “badass” female YPJ fighters, HERE:
And BBC Syria news has a video interview with a former Kurdish YPG female commander.
IRAQ NEWS: YEZIDI FIGHTERS AND CIVILIANS TRAPPED BY ISLAMIC STATE ON MOUNT SINJAR, RUNNING OUT OF FOOD AND WATER:
On Mount Sinjar in Iraq, where thousands of Yezidi are still trapped by Islamic State forces (scroll down -see below), conditions are becoming increasingly difficult.
Reports emerging from the mountain today, Friday, suggest that food and water is rapidly running out and mothers suffering from malnutrition are unable to provide their new born babies with milk. One Yezidi fighter said by phone, “I believe they have forgotten us. It rained last night and many civilians are sick”.
Despite the fact that the Yezidi fighters and Peshmerga supporting them seem to be holding their own militarily, there are no recent reported airstrikes on the Islamic State in the area by the Coalition.
Most of the defending Yezidi fighters and civilians are concentrated at their sacred shrine at Sherfedin.
Another Yezidi shrine lower down the mountain at Memê Reshan has, according to photographs appearing on the Internet, been destroyed by IS fighters.
According to Centcom, 2 Coalition airstrikes on Wednesday and Thursday in Iraq struck a small IS unit at Baiji west of Mosul plus an IS vehicle and another IS checkpoint was hit west of Ramadi.
Ramadi, in Anbar province, has also been the scene of another horrific massacre by the Islamic State, after a mass grave was discovered yesterday morning near the city containing the bodies of at least 150 Sunni tribesmen who were accused of organising resistance against them and supporting the Iraqi Government.
The tribesmen belonged to the Albu Minr tribe. More than 48 bodies of tribesmen from the same clan were also discovered near the city of Hit, which is under IS control.
In Hit itself, the Islamic State fighters paraded another 30 of the tribesmen through the streets, declaring them via loudspeakers as “apostates”. They then executed them publicly and young men took photographs with their mobile phones.
Most of the dead were apparently police officers or members of a militia called Sahwa (Awakening) that was set up, with the backing of the United States during 2006/7 to fight al Qaeda. Almost all of Anbar province, not far from Baghdad is held by the Islamic State.
The abominable murders even provoked Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, 84 year old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to cross the sectarian divide and to call on the Iraqi Government to rush aid to the embattled Sunni tribesman.
Speaking via a spokesman from the holy city of Kerbala, Sistani said in a statement released following Friday prayers, “What is required from the Iraqi government … is to offer quick support to the sons of this tribe and other tribes that are fighting Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists”.
West of Mosul the Iraqi Army has been inching forward this week capturing villages and towns as it moves northwards to the city of Baiji and the nearby Baiji oil refinery.
In the last few days the Iraqi Government has taken back Al-Hajaj and Toumaa, while a group of special forces fighters has managed to retain a foothold within the housing complex of the refinery which is now only 20 kilometres away. Before the IS takeover, the refinery, the largest in Iraq produced 175,000 barrels of refined oil a day, a third of Iraq’s daily consumption.
Al Jazeera Iraq news has a video report of the very fierce fighting, here:
The Iraqi Army, with the help of Coalition airstrikes, is also reported to be making progress near Tikrit.
SYRIA NEWS: WHILE FOCUS IS ON KOBANE, ASSAD MAKES 762 AIRSTRIKES IN 10 DAYS, KILLING 221 CIVILIANS AND WOUNDING 500:
Yet more horror occurred in Syria on Wednesday when the Assad regime barrel-bombed a refugee camp at Abedin in Idlib province which houses displaced people who had fled similar bombardments in the neighbouring Hama region.
It was claimed that as many as 75 people were killed and many others maimed or injured by the 2 – 4 bombs that fell on the camp.
There is video footage of the attack recorded immediately afterwards, but please do not watch if you might be upset by it – it is extremely harrowing with dismembered bodies and blood, HERE:
Jen Psaki of the US State Department condemned the attack saying, “Unfortunately, if it is confirmed to be the work of the [Assad] regime, it is only the latest act of brutality by the regime against its own people.”
There is concern that in frenzy of madness, Assad is taking advantage of media concentration on Kobane and Iraq, leaving him free to get away with whatever he wants.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has recorded no less than 762 airstrikes by Assad’s Air Force in the last 10 days. The strikes are reported to have killed 221 civilians, including 69 children, 47 women and 105 men. More than 500 people have been wounded.
Elsewhere in Idlib province Opposition brigades from the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) have been fighting among themselves after ANF briefly held parts of Idlib city, but accused SRF of standing aside and not supporting them.
Other Opposition brigades have called for resolution between the two sides in a Sharia court.
In Homs province in the eastern desert, the Islamic State has taken control of parts of the Tiyas airbase and slightly further to the west, the Aljuhar oil and gas company and villages near Palmyra. The attack on the airbase started with a suicide car bomb at the main gate and an assault on a pumping station.
North-west of Palmyra, IS have also retaken 3 gas fields in Sha’er region from the Assad regime, fields which they have held before.
In an alarming UN report this week presented to the Security Council, officials claimed that as many as 15,000 recruits from 80 countries have now been attracted to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other Jihadist groups since 2010.
The report also said that IS had an estimated income of $1 million a day from oil smuggling operations and controlled territory in Iraq and Syria which was home to between 5 and 6 million people, a population the size of Finland’s. Further bolstering the IS treasury was up to $45million in money from kidnapping and ransom demands.
More and more reports are also emerging about the Islamic State recruiting young boys, some as young as 12 or 13, to become IS fighters.
One family in Mosul, Iraq reports that their 13 year old son Abdullah came home with a big smile to tell them that he now had a “new job”. He was now a “fighter for IS” and had been given a gun.
An education official from Iraq’s Niveneh province says that the youngsters are everywhere now, carrying weapons in the streets, manning checkpoints and watching people to make sure they are not smoking and that women are covering their faces.
“ISIS works like a sect, you need to get them young to indoctrinate them,” said the official who wished to remain anonymous. Hundreds of children have apparently been lured or coerced into joining the Jihadist army. You can read more, HERE: and HERE:
In a rare humane move, the Islamic State did however release 25 Kurdish children on Wednesday whom it had held hostage since May, after they were abducted from their school in Kobane.
IRAQ NEWS: MOUNT SINJAR – THE “FORGOTTEN BATTLE” CONTINUES AS YEZIDI FIGHTERS PROTECT CIVILIANS TRAPPED IN SHRINE:
TIMELINE – 29th OCTOBER 2014 11.41 GMT – UPDATED 22.12 GMT:
Little has been heard in recent days of the fight going on at the top of Mount Sinjar, but by all accounts the Yezidi fighters, backed by the Kurdish Peshmerga, are holding their own against the Islamic State.
According to Yezidi sources there are still 5,000 – 7,000 civilians on the mountain, though regular fights by Iraqi Army helicopters are removing small groups as quickly as possible and bringing in supplies, but are insufficient in number to make a quick radical difference.
The Yezidi fighters are backed into their sacred site at Sherfedin, with a large group of civilians within the shrine itself, while IS try to kill them with sniper fire from outside.
The Islamic State are destroying houses at Borik just 2 kilometres away and attacking Mount Sinjar (also known as Shingal) from 4 sides.
However, IS are not having it all their own way. 30 IS fighters are reported killed in clashes south and north of Mount Sinjar and a number of IS vehicles destroyed by an airstrike to the west of the mountain near Hardan.
The Kurdish PKK militia is also reported to have destroyed IS tanks and other other vehicles near the IS-held town of Sinjar, HERE:
US Central Command (Centcom) additionally says that one of its airstrikes near Sinjar struck an IS fighting emplacement and destroyed six vehicles on Monday or Tuesday.
Yezidi fighters repelled an IS attack that came from the steep south side of Mount Sinjar on Monday, killing 3 of the Jihadist fighters and arrested another 4 x IS fighters near a cement factory near the foot of the mountain.
EDITOR: Very much the “forgotten battle” this one – the plight of the remaining Yezidi on Mount Sinjar remains dire.
Many Yezidi who escaped the mountain in August after the initial Islamic State invasion remain traumatised, having seen their loved ones carried off into captivity or brutalised and executed for refusing to give up their faith. For some the memories and loss are too great and there have been a high number of suicides. You can read more in Al Jazeera Iraq news.
IRAQ NEWS: BATTLE AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ EBBS AND FLOWS BUT IRAQI GOVERNMENT SLOWLY MAKING PROGRESS:
A little to the east of Mount Sinjar, Peshmerga forces at the weekend regained control of the town of Zumar near the Syria/Iraq border after a heavy battle with the Islamic State.
The Kurds were supported by Coalition airstrikes, which have continued on Monday and Tuesday destroying a small IS unit, an IS fighting position, an IS vehicle and an IS logistics base around the Mosul Dam.
Centcom also report 2 airstrikes this week on the Islamic State in the vicinity of Fallujah destroying a small IS unit and an IS tank, 1 airstrike north-west of Haditha destroying an ISIL-occupied building being used as a staging area and 1 airstrike west of Baghdad destroying an IS-occupied building and a small IS unit.
7 nations have taken part so far in this week’s airstrikes in Iraq and 5 nations in Syria.
Iraq’s western Anbar province remains largely controlled and under siege by Islamic State forces however and Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haidar Abadi, has been talking to Anbar Sunni tribal leaders living in exile to get them on side with a view to forming a local army of 30,000 tribal fighters.
US C-130 transport planes are also reported to have dropped isolated Sunni tribes in the province supplies of food.
Advances and defeats continue on both sides, with an IS convoy destroyed near Bawabt Al-Sham with many Jihadists killed but the Islamic State capturing a Peshmerga fortress north-east of Mosul and many Peshmerga dying also.
One of the biggest battles at the moment is the fight for Amariyat Al-Fallujah which lies between IS-controlled Fallujah and the capital Baghdad.
Wives of men from the Amariyat Al-Fallujah area who have fled to safer towns, say that IS is forcing their husbands to fight for them.
This video shows Lieutenant Wissam Al-Issawi of the Iraqi forces being hit by a sniper in the battle for Amariyat Al-Fallujah yesterday, Tuesday, HERE:
Reports from Mosul say that the Islamic State authorities there have been arresting journalists, fining shopkeepers and imprisoning dozens of other citizens who took part in the funeral of an Iraqi army officer executed by them.
IS also lost control of Jurf Al-Sakhar 30 miles south-west of Baghdad which was re-captured by a combined force of Iraqi Army and Shiite militia. 30 Jihadists are reported killed in the battle.
Gradually the Iraqi Government side is making progress, re-capturing towns south of Baghdad and in a central corridor towards the north.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has a situation report, published Monday, here:
SYRIA NEWS UPDATE 29.10.14: The first contingent of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters flown from Iraq is at Suruc in Turkey, just across the border from Kobane, literally minutes away, while they wait for the arrival of their weapons convoy, in Turkey but currently 200 kilometres from the Syrian border (midday GMT Wednesday).
BBC Syria news has video of the Peshmerga convoy, with first sight of their heavy weapons, crossing from Iraq to Syria.
50 (or 150 according to some reports) members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are also said to have crossed the Turkish border into Kobane last night. Further details awaited.
KOBANE UPDATE 11: ISLAMIC STATE FILM BRITISH HOSTAGE JOHN CANTLIE IN PROPAGANDA VIDEO INSIDE CITY – PESHMERGA ON THEIR WAY:
TIMELINE – 28th OCTOBER 2014 13.24 GMT – UPDATED 14.14 GMT:
Last week, the Islamic State (IS) issued a video with John Cantlie, the British journalist held hostage by them, in which he appeared dressed in the usual orange outfit (reminiscent of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp) and behind a desk with a plain background.
In that video he said that IS punished anyone that tried to escape by using the torture method known as “waterboarding”, in which the victim believes that he is about to drown, as punishment and criticised the way the US and UK dealt with hostage negotiations.
Yesterday, Monday, an entirely new John Cantlie appeared. In it, Cantlie, looking thin and rather gaunt but in conventional clothes, and almost certainly working from a script prepared for him, appears in a high quality video authentically filmed in battle-scared Kobane.
Cantlie is seen moving around the city, or IS controlled parts of it, giving a report as though he were working for the BBC or CNN.
From his point of view he probably has no choice but to comply with their wishes in order to stay alive, as he is in reality a most unlikely convert to their cause.
The video starts with very professional shots of the city taken from a drone. This is probably a small drone (EDITOR: You can buy them now for less than $1,000) and Kurdish sources have confirmed that they have seen IS using them.
The video then homes in on a point filmed by the drone, naming it, and after it a second point which expands to reveal John Cantlie talking to the camera.
In his discourse, which last more than 5 minutes with various shots around the city, just like a conventional TV news report, he says:
“Now the battle for Kobane is coming to an end. The mujahideen are just mopping up now, street to street, and building to building. You can occasionally hear erratic gunfire in the background as a result of those operations.
But contrary to what the Western media would have you believe, it is not an all-out battle here now. It is nearly over. As you can hear, it is very quiet, just the occasional gunfire.”
Occasional small arms fire can be heard in the background. At another point, standing on a rooftop, he refers to the 200,000 people who fled the city and can now be seen “living in the refugee camp” on the hill in Turkey behind him.
Long shots of Turkey, with the Turkish Army’s tanks sitting on the hillside are clearly visible and there is no doubt that the video was shot live in Kobane.
“Urban warfare,” adds Cantlie, “Is as about as nasty and tough as it gets, and it’s something of a speciality of the mujahideen.”
The message we are obviously meant to get is that the Islamic State have prevailed and taken almost the entire city of Kobane and the defenders have been destroyed.
The video must have been filmed within the last 10 days as John Cantlie refers to international news reports by various media outlets dated the “16th” and “18th” October. Kurdish sources familiar with Kobane say that it has been filmed around the School of Industry in eastern Kobane, territory currently held by IS.
EDITOR: All very clever. It will certainly convince the simple minded. The fact is that the Islamic State do not control all of Kobane. They still hold around 50%, perhaps a little more, as illustrated in the map below (scroll down to earlier report – IS-held territory is in black).
As you will see from that map, it is very easy to stand on the roof of a house in the north-eastern part of that IS-held territory and report with Turkey in the background.
Our thoughts must be with John Cantlie and his family, all going through this regular torture. It is not even known if John Cantlie is aware that his 80-year old father just died following complications after surgery for throat cancer.
I intended to give you a link to the entire video, but YouTube have already removed it.
But BBC Syria news have a video report that gives you a flavour of it.
The good news is that the Peshmerga in Iraq have loaded their trucks with supplies and hitched on their heavy weapons and all the technical details for their route through Turkey have been agreed with the Turkish Government.
The truck convoy, according to a Kurdish officer, consists of, “Forty vehicles carrying machineguns and weapons and artillery with 80 of the Peshmerga forces, will head to Dohuk [province in Iraq] and then cross the border today”.
In addition a contingent of 72 Peshmerga fighters is being flown separately to Turkey’s Sanliurfa province and will then pass through a border corridor into Kobane early on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government, Halgort Hekmat, said all problems had been sorted out and that their fighters would not just be providing tactical support, as previously suggested, but fully engaged in the fight against the Islamic State.
The armaments include automatic weapons, mortars, rocket launchers and artillery. Contrary to earlier statements, the Kurdish Prime Minister, Mustafa Qader, has also said that they will “They will remain there until they are no longer needed.”
KOBANE UPDATE 10: DESPATCH OF PESHMERGA FORCES DELAYED AS TURKEY’S ERDOGAN ACCUSED OF “STIRRING THE POT”:
TIMELINE – 27th OCTOBER 2014 13.06 GMT – UPDATED 15.32 GMT:
Since reinforcing their numbers last week, the Islamic State (IS) attempted to gain control of the border area between Kobane and Turkey again yesterday, Sunday, the fourth straight day of pre-dawn mortar attacks.
However, the YPG Kurdish militia have held their ground and even advanced slightly in the central area around the municipal buildings, the Haj Rashad mosque and the Al-Hal Market. Fierce fighting is ongoing, with IS launching at least 17 mortar shells into the area on Sunday and sending in yet another car-bomb.
The car bomb, which got as far as the Haj Rashid mosque was detonated, along with an earlier car-bomb attack and a bomb laden motorcycle, by Kurdish forces.
Two more motorbike bomb attacks have been reported on Monday morning, both thwarted by the YPG.
Heavy fighting continues on the eastern and southern fronts of the city. On Saturday night the YPG carried out an operation against IS near the villages of Pindar and Sosan to the west of Kobane. 2 x IS vehicles were destroyed and 7 IS fighters killed.
There is additionally a report from Opposition sources that Abo Hamza Al-Askare, an important IS commander from Raqqah, was killed over the weekend, plus reports in the British press of the deaths of several young Jihadists from the UK, all killed in fighting in the city.
The Kurds have once again been helped by 5 airstrikes from Coalition forces on Sunday, Kurdish sources saying that at least 30 Islamic State fighters were killed and forcing IS to withdraw, temporarily at least, from some of the southern parts of the city. Kurdish fighters were able to capture weapons and ammunition.
Latest estimated figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) suggest 481 Islamic State fighters and 313 Kurds plus 21 civilians have been killed in Kobane since September 16th, though the number of IS fighters killed in airstrikes is still not certain and could run into “hundreds” according to American sources.
US Central Command also says it destroyed an IS artillery position, 7 vehicles and an IS building over the weekend.
The UK press is carrying an unconfirmed report that some British special forces from the SAS have moved over to the Kobane area from Iraq and are helping to direct US airstrikes with great accuracy.
Situation map for Kobane, courtesy of Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000, here:
Reports emerging from the Kurdish capital Erbil in Iraq, say that the dispatch of the Peshmerga force to Kobane has been delayed because of “technical details” in the agreement to get the troops across Turkish territory.
A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, Safeen Dizayee, has also said that the Peshmerga are not expected to engage “at the moment” on the frontline but to deploy their heavy and other weapons in support of the YPG. He added that he expected the Peshmerga force to stay in Kobane for “3 months”.
Turkey continues to meddle in this whole affair, President Erdogan of Turkey inflaming Kurdish sensibilities over the weekend by calling Kobane “an Arab town” and saying that the PYD, the political arm of the PYG Kurdish fighters, does not want the Free Syrian Army (FSA – who have offered 1300 fighters for Kobane) in the city. Kurdish sources say that talks between the YPG and the FSA are ongoing.
There have additionally been a number of photographs on the Internet of Turkish soldiers having “friendly chats” and exchanges across the border fence with Islamic State fighters and even unconfirmed claims that Turkey had recently allowed 120 IS fighters to cross the frontier from their side into Syria near Kobane. (EDITOR: All very confusing if true!)
Interesting article about how the US Government’s opinion of the Kobane situation has switched from “not strategically vital” to “symbolically important” in just a few weeks, HERE:
In Kuwait this morning, Monday, the US’s retired General John Allen, meeting with representatives of the Coalition countries, urged them to fight the Islamic State “online” as well.
“It is only when we contest ISIL’s presence online, deny the legitimacy of the message it sends to vulnerable young people… it is only then that ISIL (IS) will truly be defeated,” he said (optimistically!).
And also an interview with one of the YPJ’s Kurdish female fighters in Kobane, giving a lot of insight into the background of how and why these brave women join and continue to fight for a cause they passionately believe in, HERE:
OPPOSITION FIGHTERS BLOCK MAIN HIGHWAY TO IDLIB AND ENTER CITY – HAS GOVERNOR FLED?:
Elsewhere in Syria, the Syrian anti-Assad Opposition has made a significant advance in central Idlib province capturing Tel Al-Mastumah and several other barriers due south of Idlib city, about half way to Ariha. This effectively cuts the main highway running north from Damascus to Idlib and beyond.
Reports say that the Opposition fighters seized 2 Government tanks and destroyed 3 more.
There are also reports that an Al-Nusra Front commando group have captured a municipal building within Idlib city. In addition to this there are unconfirmed reports that the Governor of Idlib province and his son were captured on the Idlib –Ariha road as they tried to flee the provincial capital, but further detailed information awaited.
In the Idlib countryside the Assad regime dropped 2 barrel-bombs on Saraqeb city causing massive destruction.
In Homs province Assad’s jets hit 2 Opposition controlled areas on Sunday, killing 25 civilians including 11 children. 16 of the civilians died in Talbisseh while the others died in Al-Wa’er, the only part of Homs city still in Opposition hands.
In the northern part of Hama province however, the Syrian Army has regained control of Mork city and the area surrounding it as the battle for Syria ebbs and flows from one side to the other. This was the city burning on Friday after the Army broke in, (Arabic only) HERE:
95 airstrikes are reported to have hit Mork in the last few month, both sides paying a heavy price. During the same period the regime lost 150 + vehicles (tanks, armoured personnel carriers and armed pick-ups) plus an estimated 1000 fighters.
Heavy fighting is reported from several areas of Aleppo as the Opposition try to stem a regime attempt to cut off its supply lines to the north.
In Deir Ez-Zour province the execrable Islamic State executed another 4 members of the Shaitat tribe who had rebelled against them, bringing to 700, according to some reports, the numbers of that one clan they have now murdered.
The 4 men were beheaded in public at Al-Bukamel on the Iraqi border after being accused of “collaborating with the regime”.
KOBANE UPDATE 9: KURDISH PESHMERGA FORCES ON THEIR WAY, THOUGH TURKEY WANTS TO SEND FSA AS WELL:
TIMELINE – 25th OCTOBER 2014 17.05 GMT:
On the 40th day of the Kurds successful defence of Kobane, the Islamic State (IS) launched another attempt around dawn to capture the territory near the border crossing into Turkey, pounding it with mortars and heavy machine gun fire, but since then it has been relatively quiet.
Friday saw heavy fighting which continued through the night until around 5.00am on Saturday morning. Clashes were around the Al-Hal market area, the northern and eastern outskirts of the Kaniya Kurda district, the municipality areas west of Kobane’s city hall and Azadi (Freedom) Square.
Kurdish sources claimed that 27 IS fighters and 4 YPG were reported killed and a mortar shell killed another civilian in the Al-Jamarek area.
The YPG also damaged or destroyed 4 vehicles and captured supplies of ammunition.
Fighting was reported yesterday on the southern front where an IS car bomb was targeted by the YPG causing it to explode amid the IS fighters, killing 7 of them.
A large group of IS fighters preparing an assault on the city on Friday from the eastern side were ambushed by the YPG and the YPJ and at least 10 Jihadists were killed.
This video has information and interviews fighters on the Kobane frontline, including one with an “old man” (EDITOR: Ahem … he is one year older than me!), HERE:
A motorcycle with 2 IS fighters was also destroyed in the countryside west of the city.
IS mortar fire is occurring almost every night onto the border crossing area and the Turkish Government has taken the opportunity to use that as a reason to move back the Press and camera teams on the Turkish side away from the border.
Earlier in the week the YPG lost control again of Tel Shair but in a spectacular Coalition jet attack on Thursday the Islamic State fighters standing there and their flag were blown to pieces, (after Ad) HERE:
The YPG have since reclaimed the hill and captured IS ammunition but have been subjected to IS mortar fire as a result.
Coalition jets are also reported to be targeting IS positions in the city today. US Central Command (Centcom) released this video on Friday showing the destruction of an IS vehicle near Kobane on 21st October, here:
Today, Saturday, it has been announced in Iraqi Kurdistan that following agreement with the Turkish Government, 150 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters will leave Erbil and cross Turkish territory tomorrow, Sunday, to reinforce Kobane.
More may follow later in the coming week, some sources saying the 150 could rise to 1,000, though it will be surprising if the Turks allow such a large number through.
The Peshmerga force will be allowed to bring heavy weapons with it but have had to agree not to hand them over to local fighters or to stay beyond an agreed time.
The initial Peshmerga force is being led by Sihad Barzani, the commander of Iraq Kurdistan’s artillery brigade and the brother of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s President Massoud Barzani. Peshmerga sources said that the names of the soldiers, as well as a detailed list of their weapons, have been provided to both Turkey and the US.
President Erdogan of Turkey also announced during a visit to Estonia that “agreement had been reached with the YPD” (the political arm of the YPG Kurdish fighters) to allow 1300 fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to enter Kobane.
The YPD has subsequently denied this saying, while they have no objections politically to FSA help, the FSA could better serve them by attacking Islamic State strongholds at Manbej, Jarablous and Tel Abyad.
FSA commander Al-Oqaidi is quoted as saying that an agreement has been reached to begin establishing a united defense force, sending initially 1,350 FSA “reserve” (rather than frontline) fighters to Kobane in “two or three days”.
The PYD has also denied the claims by the Assad regime that it has provided “weapons, ammunition and logistical help” to the embattled Kurds in Kobane (scroll down – see below).
Some reports claim that it is quiet in Kobane today because, according to Opposition sources, the Islamic State is burying 91 of its fighters in Manbej.
Whether true or not, the long drawn out battle for Kobane, which IS claimed it would take in a week, is certainly taking its toll. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that Coalition airstrikes in Syria have now killed 464 IS fighters, 57 other Jihadists (mainly Al-Nusra Front) and 32 civilians, though the IS figures could well be much higher than this.
Opposition sources say that following the heavy casualties in Kobane from both the YPG and Coalition airstrikes, the Islamic State is constantly pulling more fighters from Raqqah, Aleppo, Hasakah and Deir Ez-Zour. Many of these are accompanied by raw recruits straight from their training camps who have little or no combat experience.
The BBC Syria news has a video with a general overview of the Kobane situation.
Lastly, this little Kurdish boy refused to leave Kobane unless he was allowed to take his 3 pet doves with him. All 4 of them are now safe with his family in Turkey:
KOBANE UPDATE 8: AS KURDS RESIST FIERCE ONSLAUGHT, ASSAD REGIME CLAIMS IT HAS SUPPLIED HELP & ARMS TO THE CITY:
TIMELINE – 22nd OCTOBER 2014 12.58 GMT – UPDATED 21.43 GMT:
SCROLL DOWN FOR LATEST UPDATES AND ADDITIONS
Since Monday, the Islamic State (IS), having brought in reinforcements, seem to be throwing everything at the Kurdish defenders in Kobane, but so far have made no further progress.
On Monday evening IS sent 2 suicide car bombs to try and cut Kobane off from the Turkish border but both were destroyed by the YPG Kurdish militia before reaching their target, exploding with spectacular effects into the night-falling sky. IS have sent 13 truck or car bombs into Kobane in the last week.
Attacks on Kobane are coming from the east, the west, the south and south-east, with the Kurds claiming that they killed 42 Islamic State fighters on Monday alone, with the loss of 11 of their own.
The YPG also carried out a raid in the Gire Izea area, destroying 2 x IS minibuses, 2 of their motorcycles and killing another 16 Jihadists.
Though it had been relatively calm during the day, a fierce onslaught continued Tuesday evening until after midnight with fighting around the “secuity zone” in the centre of the city, Tarik al- Bab and Al-Hurreyyi Square and an attack from 6 directions in the east.
Kurdish sources claim that as many as 25 IS Jihadists were killed throughout yesterday.
Islamic State’s artillery continues to rain shells on Kobane from a distance, one explosion releasing a chemical agent of some kind that resulted in 8 people being hospitalised with swollen lips, blood-shot eyes, coughs, runny noses, itching, red skin patches and blistering.
Whether this was a deliberate chemical attack or an interaction with some local chemical on the ground is unclear. This video shows a fire and then an explosion at what may be a Kurdish ammunition depot, HERE:
After Turkey has apparently given clearance for Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga to cross its territory to reinforce the defenders in Kobane, the city’s fighters are waiting for them to arrive. The Kurdistan Regional Parliament in Erbil, Iraq, voted positively on this on Wednesday afternoon and troops will be sent “as soon as possible”, said an MP.
Other Kurds have called for the Peshmerga to go to the aid of the Yezidi forces surrounded on top of Mount Sinjar instead (scroll down – see below).
Bizarely, clearly not to be left off the media bandwagon, the Assad regime is also claiming that it has supplied weapons and help to the Kurds in Kobane. Assad’s Information Minister, Omran Al-Zoubi, said yesterday in the press that “The state with its military forces and planes has been providing military and logistical support, and has supplied ammunition and arms to the town”.
“From the outset of the battle, the state has not hesitated to play its military, political, social and humanitarian role” because the town is “Syrian territory and its residents are Syrians”, said Al-Zoubi, parroting usual Syrian state gobblegook and completely ignoring the fact that Assad has killed tens of thousands of its civilian citizens with barrel-bombs and shells.
In a further “not-very-believable” statement, in relation to the reports of Islamic State flying former Assad MIG jets, Al-Zoubi claimed on Syria state TV late on Tuesday night that the Syrian Air Force “bombed the jets as they were landing at Jarrah airbase in the eastern countryside of Aleppo province”.
Saying that the aircraft were “old and no longer useful as military equipment”, Al-Zoubi went on to claim that the “Jihadists had been able to hide the third jet but the Syria Air Force was looking for it”.
Opposition sources have not been able to confirm any of this.
Al-Zoubi also attacked Turkey for “using the report” to push for a no-fly zone over Syria, which would hamper Assad’s murderous air attacks across the country.
US Central Command (Centcom) says that it made 4 airstrikes of its own against the Islamic State in or near Kobane on Monday and Tuesday, destroying IS fighting positions, an IS building, and a large IS unit.
Of the 28 pallets of supplies and weapons dropped to the Kobane Kurds on Sunday, Centcom had earlier said that 27 had arrived on target and one that went astray “had been destroyed”.
Unfortunately, this rather convincing video put out my the Islamic State contradicts that, showing the parachute and dropped supplies of hand-grenades, mortars and other explosives which fell neatly into their hands, HERE:
Though as someone on Twitter pointed out, why the fuss over one bundle of supplies? They already possess millions of dollars worth of US equipment captured from the Government in Iraq!
Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said this morning, Wednesday, that the airdrop “had been wrong” because some weapons had fallen into Jihadist hands.
The UK has announced that it will deploy unarmed Reaper drones and Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft over Syria “very shortly”. Until now, the UK Parliament has only given the British Government permission to act militarily against the Islamic State in Iraq and a further vote will be required to allow UK forces to attack in Syria.
It is also reported that Paul Cantlie, the 80 year father of John Cantlie, the hostage-held journalist who has now appeared in 5 Islamic State videos, died on the 16th October and the family have desperately been trying to get a message to John before it appeared in the media. However, despite repeated calls for contact, the Islamic State have not responded.
In Canada the security levels have been raised to “high” on Tuesday after an Islamic State “sympathiser” ran his car into 2 soldiers, killing one of them. Police shot the attacker dead after he ran at a female officer with a knife.
This decision to raise security levels was justified this afternoon (09.52 Canadian local time), Wednesday, when a soldier guarding the national war memorial in Ottawa was shot dead and the gunman (or gunmen) moved inside the Canadian parliament building. There has also been shooting in a shopping mall. One gunman is believed to have been killed and at the time of writing the incident is ongoing with large parts of the centre of Ottawa locked-down by security services. At this stage it is not known if this attack is related to the previous one or even terrorist/Jihadist related.
And in Australia a 17-year old teenager who ran away from home some months ago, has reappeared on video in support of the Islamic State and calling himself “Abu Khaled”. Carrying a rifle he threatens Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and vows to “not stop fighting”.
IRAQ: SINJAR UPDATE: REMAINING YEZIDI COMMUNITY ON MOUNT SINJAR COMPLETELY SURROUNDED AND IN DANGER OF ANIHILATION:
On Mount Sinjar (Shingal) in Iraq the plight of the Yezidi fighters defending the Serfedin shrine in the centre of the mountain plateau is becoming increasingly desperate.
Yesterday, Heydar Shesho, the commander of the HPS Yezidi fighters said they had lost the villages of Bara, Shlo, Sikeniye, Mihrkan, Duhola and Borik and that 30 Yezidi had died in the last 2 days with many wounded and 6 missing.
Increasingly desperate pleas for help are coming from the Yezidi community this morning, Wednesday, with reports that the Islamic State are working from west to east across the mountain and have reached Kursi which lies just west of the Serfedin shrine.
IS fighters are also moving from the east and reports say that the entire Yezidi community left on the mountain top, both civilians and fighters, are completely surrounded with no way out and no way to combat IS’s heavy weapons and armoured vehicles.
According to some reports there could be as many as 7,000 people, including many women and children, in danger of a massacre. So far, at the time of writing, no Coalition airstrikes have come to their aid. The Yeszidi fighters say that if Serfedin falls, they “will go down with it”.
Below the mountain in west Shingal an IS suicide bomber had earlier killed 10 and wounded many more Kurdish fighters at Solakh.
Elsewhere in Iraq, US Central Command reports that there were 3 Coalition airstrikes on Monday and Tuesday, one destroying an IS fighting position south of the Baiji Oil Refinery and another accomplishing the same south-east of Mosul Dam. The third strike suppressed an IS attack north of Fallujah.
Today, Wednesday, Coalition airstrikes hit the IS-held town of Al-Siniya, west of Baiji, in the early hours, killing it is reported 25 Jihadists.
400 Islamic State fighters and their allies are reported to have massed around Fallujah yesterday and the Iraqi Army and Shia militias fought them off around Amiriya Fallujah, the western gateway to Baghdad, today, destroying 6 x IS vehicles.
However, the Iraqi militia suffered heavy losses at Alsger north-east of Fallujah in another battle, HERE:
Heavy fighting is also reported around the town of Hit in western Anbar province, but the outcome is at the moment unclear.
For the most bizarre video of the week, this one of a lion in a pick-up “detained by the Army” near Samarra gets the award, here:
SYRIA: OPPOSITION DESTROY 2 ASSAD JETS ON THE GROUND AND CLOSE IN ON JORDAN BORDER CROSSING – EU TO BAN JET FUEL TO SYRIA:
Taking advantage of the world’s attention on Coalition strikes against the Islamic State and the battles around Kobane, Sinjar and in Iraq, it was estimated on Tuesday that the Assad regime had made 210 airstrikes, mainly against the Syrian Opposition, in 36 hours. The death toll throughout Syria on Tuesday alone was thought to be at least 214.
Analysts think that Assad is trying to weaken Opposition fighting brigades before they receive the promised military training and equipment from the USA.
Regime bombing was particularly intense around the town of Naseeb in Daraa province where Opposition fighters have advanced almost to the border crossing into Jordan. 15 air raids there yesterday killed 22 people, almost all of them civilians and including 13 children and 3 women.
Opposition fighters have seized a regime tank, a BMP armoured vehicle, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons and ammunition near Naseeb, HERE: and smoke can be seen rising from within the Syrian border control area at the frontier, HERE:
In Quneitra province the Opposition have claimed yet more “Assad territory” entering Samadaniyah Al-Gharbi north-east of Quneitra city.
And just to the north-east of Samadaniyah Al-Gharbi, the Opposition took Hamidiyah after a long battle and a claimed 39 Assad troops dead. An Opposition brigade commander and 4 other of their fighters were also killed in the clashes.
In the East Ghouta area near Damascus Opposition fighters took control of the Al-Khalil mosque not far from Adra, HERE:
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) also claims to have killed 20 Hezbollah and Shia mercenaries at Talfita in the mountainous Qalamoun region.
In Aleppo province the Opposition destroyed 2 Syrian Air force jets on the ground at Nayrab military airbase south of Aleppo city with a TOW anti-tank missile, a direct hit on one and the second engulfed in flames from the ensuing fire (though they appear to be L-39 Albatross training jets and not MIGs as claimed elsewhere on the Internet), here:
In Hama province, the Assad regime started today, Wednesday, with 10 airstrikes using both jets and helicopters on Mork city, 10 barrel-bombs striking the city. However, on the outskirts the Opposition destroyed a Government tank, HERE:
In eastern rural Hama province a young woman has been apparently stoned to death by the Islamic State for the alleged crime of “adultery”, putting video of it on the Internet. The poor woman’s “father” appears complicity in this dreadful act and took part in the stoning.
In Deir Ez-Zour city the Islamic State are also reported to have taken over large parts of the industrial area from Assad’s troops yesterday and violent fighting is reported in the Al-Sena’ah district.
President Assad is reported today to have replaced all the Provincial Governors in 5 regions, Idlib and Aleppo, Quneitra, Tartous and Latakia. No mention was made of the Homs Governor whose resignation was widely called for by Government supporters after 41 children died in a bomb attack.
Lastly, the EU yesterday imposed travel and asset control sanctions on 12 of Assad’s Government ministers and 2 of his senior military officers. Similar controls were also applied to 3 oil companies based in the UAE, Egypt and Lebanon, all suspected of trading oil with the Assad regime.
The EU also agreed on Monday to ban the export of jet fuel to Syria on the grounds that it is being used to attack civilians. That decision will not come into place though until suitable legal texts have been drafted.
KOBANE UPDATE 7: US AIRDROP ARMS AND AMMO TO KOBANE & TURKEY AGREES TO ALLOW PESHMERGA TO ENTER CITY:
TIMELINE – 20th OCTOBER 2014 13.26 GMT – UPDATED 20.42 GMT:
On Sunday, yesterday, at dawn 3 x US C-130 Coalition aircraft dropped 27 packages of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the besieged Kurds in Kobane.
The aircraft met no resistance from Islamic State (IS) forces on the ground and sources from within Kobane have confirmed that the multiple airdrops arrived safely. “We are hoping for more”, said a Kobane spokesman, adding that they would “help greatly” with their fight against IS.
The weapons and ammunition were supplied by the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq whose President, Massoud Barzani, has been talking to the Americans and the Turks for weeks.
US Central Command reported on Monday afternoon, that six airstrikes near Kobani on Sunday and Monday destroyed IS fighting and mortar positions, an IS vehicle, and one stray resupply bundle from a the U.S. airdrop of Kurdish supplies.
The stray supply bundle was destroyed to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. All other resupply bundles were successfully delivered.
Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was informed in advance of the airdrops on Saturday night in a telephone call from President Obama.
Erdogan’s response is not known, but on Sunday he is reported once again as saying that the PYD (the YPG Kurdish fighters political branch) is the same as the PKK (armed Kurdish group in Turkey) and “they are all terrorists”.
However, there has been an announcement by the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, this morning, Monday, that his Government has agreed to allow a force of Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraq to cross Turkish territory to reinforce the fighters in Kobane.
No further details were given, but Cavusoglu also showed no anger at the US airdrop, saying only that,”We have been in full cooperation with the Coalition” and adding “We have no wish at all to see Kobani fall”. BBC Syria news explains why the Turks will allow in Iraq’s Kurdish Peshmerga but not Syrian Kurds to support Kobane.
Fighting over the weekend was fierce on Saturday but quieter on Sunday.
The Islamic State is reported to have dropped around 44 mortar bombs on Kobane on Saturday, some of them landing on Turkish territory across the border, plus driving 2 suicide vehicle bombs towards YPG positions. The bombs were intercepted before reaching their target, but there were some YPG injuries. There is video of one such explosion, HERE:
The Kurds say that the centre of Kobane was attacked from 3 different sides including the municipality building and the market place, but attacks have been resisted and no ground lost.
The Coalition, in conjunction with Kurdish YPG fighters on the ground directed 11 airstrikes against IS positions on Saturday, another 5 on Sunday and 2 early this morning Monday.
3 of the airstrikes on Sunday targeted areas southeast of the city and behind the Cultural Center and 2 others targeted areas near the hospital south of the city.
Opposition activist sources claim that at least 70 Islamic State fighters have been killed in the last 48 hours and there is an unconfirmed claim originating from Kobane saying that since the fighting there started 133 YPG fighters have been killed, 9 Free Syrian Army (FSA), and 1,294 from the Islamic State.
There is no way of verifying these numbers and they do differ from estimates put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), but are not inconceivable considering the number of airstrikes, more than 135 laser guided bombs dropped on Kobane since September 16th.
Interesting report from a wounded fighter FSA fighter on the battles against IS and how they lured them into bomb-rigged buildings and targeted their gatherings with airstrikes, HERE:
Disturbingly, there is an additional a report from SOHR saying that the FSA aligned Raqqah Revolutionary Brigade (RRB), fighting alongside the YPG, had captured 2 Islamic State fighters and subsequently executed them.
One of them was reported as just 15 years old and video had appeared earlier on the Internet of the FSA fighters interrogating him. If true, an action to be condemned and RRB held responsible.
While the YPG and the FSA have often fought against each other in the past, there appears to be increasing cooperation between the 2 groups to fight against IS, not just inside Kobane but elsewhere too.
On Sunday, the YPG put out a statement saying, “We can also confirm that there is coordination between us and the important factions of the FSA in the northern countryside of Aleppo: Afrin, Kobane, and Al-Jazira.
Currently, there are factions and several battalions of the FSA fighting on our side against the ISIS terrorists.” Let’s hope they can extend that cooperation to jointly drive out Assad.
Situation map for Kobane, courtesy of @macroarch, for Saturday 18th October, and little has changed since, here:
IRAQ NEWS: MOUNT SINJAR, SURROUNDED BY ISLAMIC STATE, IN DANGER OF BECOMING ANOTHER MASSACRE – 1000’S TRAPPED AGAIN:
In Iraq, having closed all the exit roads to Mount Sinjar (Shingal) last week, the Islamic State are now honing in on the remaining Yezidi fighters and the civilians living on top of the plateau and any villages on the slopes, by all accounts having them completely surrounded.
Estimates say that there are still between 5,000 – 7,000 people in the area that either refused to leave the top of the mountain or their villages in the region, despite Kurdish officials advising them to do so. The Islamic State regard followers of the Yezidi religion as “devil worshippers” and will almost certainly execute them if they refuse to convert to Islam.
Qasim Shesho, a Yezidi commander on Sinjar mountain for a Yezidi brigade known as the HPS, said that IS began a new attack early this morning, Monday, and that it has continued throughout the day.
“A large number of ISIS militants are using nearly 20 Humvee vehicles to fight the Yezidi fighters,” he said.
Following the massacres last August when the Islamic State killed or imprisoned hundreds of Yezidi, trapping them on the Mount Sinjar, many Yezidi men trained with the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Syrian YPG, and formed brigades to defend the area.
The Yezidi fighters say the attack has come from 3 sides after a string of villages were overrun when the exit roads were closed.
So far 16 IS fighters are reported killed and 11 Yezidi but the remaining Yezidi are surrounded on the north side of Mount Sinjar around their holy place, the shrine at Sherfedin.
Units of Peshmerga, YPG and PKK are all thought to be on the mountain but usual supplies brought in by Iraqi Army helicopters have not arrived for the last 20 days.
Latest reports on Monday afternoon say that the Iraqi Air Force made 2 attacks on IS positions by helicopter but that these “failed”. Further details awaited.
Many Yezidi having retreated to the mountain during the August IS invasion arrived with very little and now with winter approaching have even less to protect themselves. Yezidi regard Mount Sinjar/Shingal as sacred and many refuse to leave, preferring to graze their flocks of goats and sheep on the slopes as they have done for generations.
To the Islamic State, the whole Sinjar region, 120 kilometres west of IS-held Mosul, is crucial to their plans to link Mosul to Syria and Raqqah.
Unless the Coalition and other forces come to the rescue, Mount Sinjar is in danger of becoming once again the site of another Islamic State massacre.
Elsewhere in Iraq, the Coalition carried out 6 airstrikes on Sunday and Monday using pilotless drones and jet aircraft from France and the UK.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports today, Monday, on successful strikes against the Islamic State (IS) over the last 2 days, hitting a large IS unit and 3 x IS vehicles south-east of Fallujah and destroying a small IS unit, an IS building and 3 x IS vehicles, plus damaging another IS building south of the Baiji Oil Refinery, west of Mosul.
In addition, Centcom says that Coalition aircraft destroyed 4 x IS boats south of Baiji on the Tigris River and damaged at least 4 more.
Unconfirmed reports say that 94 Islamic State fighters have been killed in Coalition airstrikes over the last few days, including air attacks earlier in the weekend near Tikrit.
Car bombing however has also continued with another explosion in Baghdad killing 11 and injuring 26 as they left noon prayers at the Shiite mosque in the Sinak area of central Baghdad today, and 18 killed and 28 injured at a funeral at another mosque in the eastern part of the capital on Sunday.
Another explosion by a suicide bomber targeted a funeral ceremony at a Shiite mosque in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, leaving 19 people dead and 28 injured.
3 car-bombs also exploded on Monday in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, some 100 kilometres south-west of Baghdad, which until now has been relatively unscathed.
According to reports from the north of Iraq 2 Islamic State fighters attempted to set up a vehicle IED to kill Peshmerga forces in Malla Abdulla but accidentally blew themselves up in the process.
A study of Iraq’s suicide bombers, whose “martyrdom” appears on Jihadist websites, over a recent period has revealed that 45% of them are Saudi Arabian nationals.
There are also reports that 33 Iraqi soldiers have been killed by an IS cell at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.
Much to the relief of everyone, in and outside of Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, completed his Cabinet at the weekend, getting Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a Shia, voted in as Interior Minister and Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni, as Defence Minister.
SYRIA NEWS: OPPOSITION CAPTURE LAST MAJOR CHECKPOINT INFRONT OF ASSAD BORDER CROSSING TO JORDAN IN DARAA PROVINCE:
Back in Syria, Assad’s Air Force taking advantage of international media attention on Kobane and Iraq, launched no less than 46 air strikes this morning, Monday, on Opposition centres across Syria. As well as towns in Idlib and Hama provinces other targets were towns and villages in Daraa province and suburbs in Aleppo and Damascus.
In Aleppo the Civil Defence Team once again yesterday rescued 2 little boys from the rubble of another of Assad’s attacks on civilians, HERE:
In Damascus this was the moment when a regime indiscriminate, so-called “elephant” bomb, hit the already largely destroyed suburb of Zamalka, here:
However, in Daraa province, Opposition fighters have made significant advances today, capturing the strategic Umm Al-Mayadin checkpoint, HERE:
This gives them control of the east-west highway through Daraa province and enables them to block the main highway running north-south from Damascus to the border with Jordan.
Since then, the Opposition have gone on Monday evening to enter the fortifications infront of the Naseeb border crossing, HERE: and Assad regime vehicles are now burning within the frontier crossing area, HERE:
These fighters seem very well equipped with new uniforms, helmets and body-armour, HERE:
On their way to the border crossing Opposition fighters hit this Assad tank yesterday, HERE:
Around Aleppo fierce fighting is reported in the districts around Aleppo Central Prison with the regime claiming to have gained ground with the help of Iranian, Lebanese and Afghan militias.
Government forces are said to have taken the strategic points of Al-Jubaila, along with a glass factory and a cement plant in the north-west in an attempt, once again, to try and cut off the Opposition supply route from Turkey to Opposition-held eastern Aleppo.
Read this monumentally moving descriptive article on the state of Aleppo after years of destruction, HERE:
In the predominately Kurdish city of Qamishli in Hasakah province, the Islamic State (IS) have launched another attack to get control, advancing from 2 sides.
In Deir Ez-Zour province however, the Coalition once again struck at IS positions over the weekend, hitting a gas distribution facility and setting off secondary explosions at the town of Khasham. 8 men, mainly thought to be tanker drivers, were killed in the attack, which eye-witnesses described as producing “long tongues of flame”.
Lastly, please make the effort to read this appeal for help (in English, Arabic and French) from 500+ forgotten female political prisoners still detained in Assad’s Adra prison in Damascus, 30% of whom are over 50 and another 5% who are pregnant.
Conditions are desperate and few have even enough money to get a lawyer, never mind buy their freedom, HERE: