“I so appreciate your Pullitzer-class reporting on the Kobane and Syrian conflicts and look forward to your updates. This is so much better than the superficial coverage that the major TV networks are providing.” JM.
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
IDLIB UPDATE: AL NUSRA AND ALLIES OVERRUN KEY TOWN OF JISR AL-SHUGHUR – 60 ASSAD TROOPS REPORTED KILLED:
TIMELINE – 25th APRIL 2015 11.40 GMT:
By sunset yesterday, Friday, the Al Nusra Front had taken over large parts of Jisr Al-Shughur in Idlib province, a key town on the main route from Latakia province to Idlib city and Aleppo.
Since the loss of Idlib city, the Syrian Government has been using Jisr Al-Shughur as its de facto regional capital in Idlib province.
The loss of the town will open the possibility of increased attacks on Assad’s Latakia heartland.
Heavy fighting continues this morning in the south-western districts of the town but reports say the streets are littered with the corpses of at least 60 of Assad’s troops, including officers.
The town, which once housed 50,000 people was persecuted in 1980 by President Assad’s father, Hafez, with scores of local people murdered, so many will be extremely pleased to get rid of regime domination.
Al Nusra sent 15 suicide bombers into the town to push its advance forward and the Syria Air Force has struck back with as many 44 bombing raids since Friday morning.
At least 45 fighters from various Opposition groups have also been killed.
Interesting fighter video inside Jisr Al-Shughur with English voice-over by man with London accent, (caution dead bodies) HERE: and more footage of fighting within the city, (caution more dead bodies) HERE:
Fighters on the streets of Jisr Al-Shughur, welcomed by locals, HERE:
Attacks also continue on the Syrian Army bases at Mastoumah and Qarmeed barracks. In this footage an anti-tank missile takes out a regime 130mm cannon inside Mastoumah base, HERE: and a regime tank at the same general location, HERE:
Out on the Ghab Plain where Opposition fighters are attacking Assad’s positions in the same campaign, but this time in Hama province, they hit a Government munitions depot at Al-Qahira, HERE:
In southern Sweida province yesterday, the Islamic State (IS) claimed it had shot down a regime jet just east of Khalkhalah airport, which IS had attacked but failed to take on April 11th. IS also published photographs of the dead pilot.
The Syrian Government admitted a plane had “crashed due to technical problems while completing a training exercise”.
In Damascus on Friday, the death was reported of Assad’s former military Intelligence chief, Rustom Ghazaleh, who had been earlier widely accused of masterminding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Assad’s orders in 2005.
According to reports Ghazaleh got into a row in March with Assad’s current military Intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Rafik Shehadeh, at Shehadeh’s office, apparently over the Syrian miltary’s use of Hezbollah.
The subsequent beating by Shehadeh’s bodyguards was so severe that Ghazaleh ended up in hospital with cerebral bleeding or breathing difficulties, depending on the report, from which he never recovered.
Ghazaleh’s death coincides with the 10th anniversary of Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
Some sources say that Ghazaleh has been brain dead in a Damascus hospital for some weeks. Such in-fighting may be yet another early indicator of the break-up of the unity of the Assad regime.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 81: ISLAMIC STATE SEND SUICIDE MISSIONS ACROSS EUPHRATES IN VAIN ATTEMPT TO DISTRACT YPG/FSA FROM ATTACK ON SARRIN:
TIMELINE – 24th APRIL 2915 13.00 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 15.03 GMT:
A determined Islamic State this morning, Friday, crossed the Euphrates River and attacked the villages of Tel Ahmer, Zer Kotek and Tel Eber in the south-west of Kobane Canton.
Tel Ahmer lies on a promontory that sticks out into the Euphrates and Zer Kotek is just to the north of Tel Ahmer.
All the villages are around 35 kilometres from Kobane city.
Some reports say that a number of the Asayish (Kurdish security police) have been killed by the attackers in Tel Eber and Zer Kotek and other reports suggested that 10 members of the YPG/FSA combined force had been killed or captured, though this has not been confirmed.
Latest information received Friday lunchtime says that fighting is still ongoing in Tel Eber and Tel Ahmer and 8 YPG/FSA have been killed, though further clarification awaited.
However, what is clear is that this must be a suicidal mission to try and distract the YPG/FSA force from its attack to the south on Sarrin.
Latest information say that Kurdish units have moved swiftly to isolate the IS Jihadists, who have no back-up, and repel their advance.
This is not the first attempt by IS to cross the Euphrates this week. Earlier, the YPG and FSA repelled an IS boat attack near the broken Qara Qwazak bridge which was preceded by Islamic State shelling of the Kurdish positions on the eastern bank of the river, HERE:
Another attempt by the Islamic State to cross the Euphrates by boat also failed after 7 x IS Jihadists were killed and 2 captured.
Fighting around Sarrin continues to be very heavy with the Coalition making repeated attacks on IS positions and also striking IS on the west bank of the Euphrates at Jarablous.
At the Grain Silos just north of Sarrin, up to 50 foreign Jihadist snipers with plentiful ammunition are reported to holding out against combined YPG/FSA attacks. This video, published Wednesday, shows the YPG/FSA moving towards the silos, plus airstrikes and Kurdish attacks on IS positions, here:
Coalition airstrikes yesterday, Thursday, are said to have targeted 10 sites in the centre of Sarrin but IS still seem to be receiving reinforcements and supplies from Manbij both by boat and across the Tishreen Dam.
Earlier in the week there were clashes on Tuesday night around the village of Dikan on the southern Kobane Canton front and 10 x IS Jihadists were killed at the cost of one member of the YPG.
Also on Tuesday night a YPG unit attacked an IS convoy near Sarrin, destroying an IS vehicles and a motorcycle and killing 2 members of the Islamic State.
In the early hours of Wednesday, IS attempted an attack on the liberated village of Mitras but after a series of heavy clashes IS retreated, leaving 3 of their number dead.
On the eastern Kobane Canton Front it has also just been reported that the YPG have captured Agbash, just 25 kilometres west of the IS stronghold of Tel Abayd.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton on Tuesday through to Wednesday morning destroying no less than 14 x IS fighting positions and an IS vehicle, and hitting another 5 x IS tactical units.
During the same time span, the Coalition also destroyed a further 5 x IS fighting positions and an IS vehicle in Hasakah province and hit another tactical unit.
On Wednesday this week through to Thursday, there were 4 Coalition airstrikes in Kobane Canton, destroying 2 x IS fighting positions and hitting 4 more tactical units.
Another 3 x IS fighting positions were destroyed in Hasakah province and one more tactical unit hit.
Back in Kobane city, the Kurdish Peshmerga have announced that they have come to the end of their mission in the Canton to support the YPG and will return to Iraqi Kurdistan next week.
And signs that Kobane city is returning to some sort of normality can be seen in the video below. More and more children are beginning to enjoy school once again, which the teachers see as a very good way of keeping them away during the day from areas of the city still full of unexploded IS bombs and booby-traps, here:
It has also been announced that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has asked its members to support the reconstruction of Kobane. (EDITOR: We will see what happens!)
Recent maps from @ChuckPfarrer show the Islamic State’s attempts to get across the Euphrates, here:
In Cizire, the eastern Kurdish Canton in Syria, there has been continued heavy fighting in the southern sector near Tel Tamer in the villages of Tel Nasri and Tel Hafean. One IS fighter was killed at Tel Hafean.
There were also clashes around the town of Tel Barrek, with reports that some YPG fighters had been killed. A mine also exploded near Tel Tamer, killing 2 more people and an IED exploded in Al- Jawadiyyi injuring a member of the Kurdish security force, Asayish.
OPPOSITION FORCES AIM TO CUT LAST REMAINING ASSAD CORRIDOR INTO IDLIB PROVINCE
The huge Opposition attacks across Idlib and Hama provinces seem to be making progress.
With a force of between 10,000 and 13,000 men, the Opposition grouping, made up of the Al Nusra Front (ANF), various Islamic factions and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is successfully attacking the Assad regime along a front that stretches around 100 kilometres.
The regime territory now under extreme pressure stretches south of Ilib city from Ariha in the east westwards to Jisr Al-Shughur and then down to Hama province’s Al-Ghab plain that goes all the way to Assad’s supposed “stronghold” in Lattakia.
The Opposition fighters have been focussing their attention on the regime’s bases at Mastouma and Qarmeed and the Sunni town of Jisr Al-Shughur where they know they have a lot of sympathisers.
Latest reports today, Friday, suggest that the Opposition have taken control of Tel Hamakah, which if true, means they have almost cut the M4 highway west of Mastouma and the Qarmeed army base and brick factory, effectively isolating them both from Idlib and Ariha and both routes north and routes west and south to Latakia and Damascus.
A report of 30 + air attacks on the Hamakah area this morning alone indicates that the reports may well be true.
Friday evening, Assad regime sources were claiming that that they had retaken Hamakah hill after hitting it with 44 airstrikes and multiple rocket attacks – though this also is yet to be confirmed.
Ariha, was supposed to be the Assad regime’s jumping off point to “retake” Idlib city just 10 kilometres to the north.
According to reports on Thursday, Opposition fighters had captured 5 Government checkpoints near the Qarmeed base and killed pro-Assad fighters and destroyed a tank south of the Mastouma, where the Army houses at present it’s largest concentration of troops in Idlib province.
Opposition fighters also entered the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughur yesterday, destroying a number of Assad checkpoints on the way and are said to be fighting at the central roundabout. In this footage ANF are hitting the town with a 57mm truck mounted gun, HERE:
The Opposition approached Jisr Al-Shughur from the north and quickly seized the Zelito, Saqiya, and Ain Al-Sabeel checkpoints outside the town, capturing three soldiers. Ain Al-Sabeel checkpoint was destroyed with a rigged BMP armoured vehicle, the “operative returning safely after the vehicle was parked”, according to an ANF statement.
An Opposition T-55 tank fires at a regime BMP armoured vehicle, HERE:
This is footage from near Jisr Al-Shughur this morning, Friday, HERE:
Assad’s Air Force is hitting the whole front with dozens of missiles and bombs to try and stem the Opposition advance, but so far with no effect. 30 + blasts are said to have hit Opposition positions near Jisr Al-Shughur this morning alone.
The fighting on the Ghab Plain is mainly led by a coalition of Islamist and FSA groups. A vehicle bomb was detonated at Sarmaniyah and Assad’s checkpoints are under attack along the whole of a 63 kilometre stretch of plain against the coastal mountain range separating it from Lattakia province.
Heavy fighting can be seen and heard on the Ghab Plain yesterday, HERE:
Altogether 45 Opposition groups are said to be involved in the current 3-pronged assault on Assad’s military. The Syrian state media, SANA, is making no mention of any of this today, Friday, though did claim that its military had killed “scores of terrorists” in Idlib province yesterday.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 80 – JOINT YPG/FSA FORCE SURROUNDS GRAIN SILOS AND IS-HELD SARRIN ON 3 SIDES:
TIMELINE – 22nd APRIL 2015 13.20 GMT -UPDATED (scroll down) 21.08 GMT & 23rd APRIL 06.15 GMT:
As a combined Kurdish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) force moved to surround the Islamic State (IS) held town of Sarrin, they liberated 4 villages to the north and east of the city.
The freed villages are Jol Bek, Mitras, Alkana and Kolkan, though reports suggest that IS is preventing people leaving the blockaded town of Sarrin if they wish to and has arrested a number of those trying to escape by the only road that remains open.
Despite being in a precarious position after 3 days of intense fighting, Sarrin’s IS Jihadists still found time this week to go around burning supplies of cigarettes and tobacco.
YPG commanders said they were just 1 kilometre from the gates of Sarrin on Tuesday evening and although IS had left the approaches heavily mined, they were still advancing.
Sarrin occupies an important strategic position east of the Euphrates, being the only major town between Kobane and Raqqah, 95 kilometres to the south-east, passing through an area of semi-desert.
At the moment, IS are still able to receive supplies and reinforcements from Aleppo province via the road across the Tishreen Dam.
The Coalition have refrained from bombing this for humanitarian reasons, the tidal wave of water if the dam was broken likely to take many civilian lives.
At the same time, IS have learnt to travel in smaller convoys and usually at night, especially in bad weather when Coalition aircraft are unable to bomb with any accuracy and may not fly at all.
Initial reports said that the combined YPG/FSA force had taken the grain silos north of Sarrin city completely but later information says that there remains a sniper nest of around 50 x IS Jihadists holding out and possibly causing heavy Kurdish casualties.
In the operations in the south-west sector of the Kobane Canton front, at least 20 x IS Jihadists have been killed since Monday, plus several IS vehicles destroyed, and the Kurds are now in control of around 40 kilometres of the important M4 highway, mostly now challenging IS in villages below it.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 10 airstrikes in Syria in the 24 hours from Sunday morning through to Monday morning this week.
7 of those airstrikes were in Kobane Canton, destroying 2 x IS vehicles, an IS fighting position, an IS mortar tube, an IS anti-aircraft gun and hitting a further 7 x IS tactical units.
The other 3 strikes were in Hasakah province (Cizire), hitting an IS tactical unit, another IS mortar and destroying an IS fighting position.
On Monday morning through to Tuesday, 2 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed an IS vehicle and 2 x IS fighting positions as well as hitting an IS tactical unit.
4 more airstrikes in the same time period in Hasakah province destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles, as well as hitting 2 other IS tactical units and an IS checkpoint.
In Kobane city itself, resistance to the idea of turning 40% of Kobane into a “museum” is growing daily. The plan was originally floated by members of the PYD, the political party behind the YPG/YPJ.
A Facebook page opposing the plane has been started, with some local people suggesting the “museum” idea was intended to “prevent them returning home”.
Latest Kobane Canton maps by @ChuckPfarrer, here:
In the Kurds eastern Canton in Syria, Cizire, fighting around villages in the Tel Tamer area continues, with several IS Jihadists killed near Menacir and Xerita and an IS bulldozer destroyed.
Early yesterday morning, Tuesday, YPG units attacked IS at the village of Xêbiş, destroying 2 x IS vehicles. In another operation at the village of Xîzêla, south of Tel Hamis, the YPG targeted an IS tactical unit and killed 2 x IS Jihadists as they desperately tried to blow up mines and explosives.
This video, mainly covering events last week, with English voice over and sub-titles, gives you an idea of YPG/YPJ action in both Cantons, (caution , many dead bodies) here:
EDITOR P.S: For some reason the way the voice over pronounces YPG/YPJ is extremely amusing!
MASSIVE SIMULTANEOUS OPPOSITION ATTACKS LAUNCHED AGAINST ASSAD ACROSS IDLIB AND HAMA PROVINCES – IS THE TIDE TURNING AT LAST?
Elsewhere in Syria, President Assad and his military are now coming under enormous pressure from multiple directions.
The attempt in Deraa province to take Busra Al-Harir away from the Opposition was clearly a disaster, with claims now that as many as 200 pro-Assad fighters have died in the 3 day regime campaign.
Many of those killed on the regime side appear to Afghans brought in via Iran.
They seem to have been sent in by Assad from the north towards Busra Al-Harir without any heavy support or back-up and just ended up as “cannon fodder”.
A number of Afghan mercenaries have also been captured.
Dead too are members of Hezbollah and some Iranians, including an officer, though Assad in his latest series of interviews with the European media says there are “no Iranians fighting in Syria”
(EDITOR: As someone said on Twitter – “They must be tourists!”)
In this video, Opposition fighters say they destroyed an entire column of Iranian military vehicles, HERE:
Retreating pro-Assad militia are said to have executed 26 civilians in the Lajat area and killed a man trying to leave Busra Al-Harir through a checkpoint, beating the little 5 or 6 year old girl with him to a pulp (shown here). She was later rescued by Opposition fighters.
Opposition loses in the latest Deraa battles are put at around 50 fighters.
But Deraa is not the end of Assad’s woes. Today, Wednesday, Opposition fighters together with the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) launched numerous attacks in Hama and Idlib provinces.
South of Opposition-held Idlib city there was very heavy fighting as the Opposition launched attacks on regime positions at Mastouma, the Brick Factory and the nearby Qarmeed barracks, HERE:
This afternoon a ANF suicide bomber drove an exploding vehicle into the Brick Factory barrier and an Opposition tank fired shells into regime positions at Mastouma, HERE: Reports of a T-72 tank burning at Mastouma and parts of the Brick Factory on fire.
In another simultaneous assault at Jisr Al-Shugour, also in Idlib province, Opposition fighters destroyed 2 Government tanks and shelled the Sugar Company army base south-east of the city with heavy artillery. 3 suicide bombings are also reported at Jisr Al-Shughour this evening.
Also today another Opposition campaign was launched not far away on the Al-Ghab Plain which separates Idlib and Hama provinces from Assad’s stronghold in Lattakia.
Fighting on the northern Al-Ghab Plain can be seen, HERE: and a huge explosion hit the regime barrier at Al-Sirmaniyah today, with latest reports this evening saying that the Opposition have taken it over, seizing weapons and a tank.
Opposition fighters are also using heavy artillery to shell Assad’s supply routes imto Idlib from the Ghab Plain and the army checkpoints along the way, HERE:
In these 3 simultaneous campaigns launched across Idlib and Hama today, as many as 12,000 Opposition fighters are said to be involved.
Clearly this is planned and they seem to be well equipped and have sufficient ammunition.
Maybe – just maybe – Assad is about to get his come-uppance.
And just to add to Assad’s fear, Opposition fighters, despite barrel-bombs and 21 Smerch rockets raining down on them today, made significant advances this week overrunning regime positions in the Jobar district of Damascus, seizing machine guns and ammunition as well as killing regime soldiers, (caution dead bodies) HERE:
Lastly, 100 years ago yesterday, in the First World War, chlorine gas was used for the first time in warfare by German forces in Belgium and the world was outraged. As @WilliamsJon said on Twitter, now it is used in Syria all the time and the world looks the other way.
EDITOR: In memory of all the gassed victims, especially those attacked with sarin gas by the Assad regime in Damascus in August 2013, CBS Syria News has produced this programme in its 60 Minutes series. Sarin has no colour, no smell.
Its heavy viewing, which one viewer described as “heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, nauseating, but necessary.”
US Intelligence estimates 1,429 were killed in this sarin attack attributed to the Assad regime, 426 of them children. No one has so far been charged for what is nothing less than a “crime against humanity”.
Please watch. ( EDITOR: Sorry about the CBS Viagra ads!)
You can view the programme and red the transcript, HERE:
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 79 – KURDISH FORCES BLOCK ISLAMIC STATE ROUTE TO THE EAST AND GEAR UP TO TAKE SARRIN:
TIMELINE – 20th APRIL 2015 14.13 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.03 GMT:
On Saturday, YPG units in conjunction with a Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigade managed to capture the villages of Qirat, Qirata Kurda and Resuleyn on Kobane Canton’s south-western front.
As well as these villages, the YPG also took control of several hills overlooking the town of Sarrin, where the next major battle is likely to take place.
Yesterday, Sunday, the Kurdish/FSA forces also liberated Mitras Alkane and JolBeg KolKan to the east of Sarrin and also a narrow valley through which the main east-west road passes.
When the Sarrin battle starts in earnest, control of this pass will prevent the Islamic State (IS) from sending reinforcements easily from the east.
Another 10 x IS Jihadists were also reported killed in this engagement.
There were a number of Coalition airstrikes on IS positions around Sarrin at the end of last week and this morning, Monday, clashes are reported on the outskirts of the town.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the grain silos near Sarrin have been heavily mined in case of YPG attack.
Earlier in fighting at Erne, 2 x IS Jihadists were reported killed before the village was completely taken on Saturday morning.
In fighting at Sepeta Ereban on the southern front, 13 x IS Jihadists were reported killed and another of the their heavy machine guns mounted on a pick-up, destroyed.
In the south-eastern sector of the Canton, IS have kept up their assaults on the Goktep area, sending in another car bomb which the YPG destroyed before it reached its target. After many hours of constant battles, the IS Jihadists retreated leaving 11 of their fighters dead.
On this occasion, the YPG also captured an armoured vehicle, 7 x AK-47s, 56 AK-47 magazines, 2 x RPG rocket propelled grenade launchers, 2 x PK machine guns and a number of radios.
Another attack on Friday night by the YPG on IS positions around Xane resulted in an additional machine gun mounted pick-up destrpued and 2 x IS Jihadists killed. One YPG fighter was killed in this battle and 2 more in other fights over the weekend.
There were no Coalition airstrikes in Kobane Canton on Friday through to Saturday, but one did take place further east at Hasakah destroying an IS fighting position.
The proposal to keep a large section of Kobane (40% of the city according to latest estimates) as a “museum”, continues to get strong reactions both from within and from outside the city.
Latest map for the situation in the south-western sector of Kobane Canton, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
In the eastern Kurdish Canton in Syria of Cizire, IS launched an attack on YPG positions around Xizela, 23 kilometres south of Tel Hamis.
The battle lasted 2 hours before the IS fighters withdrew, leaving 4 of their dead on the battlefield.
On Sunday, 18 kilometres south-west of Serekaniye (Ras Al-Ayn) at the village of Tel Midan, yet another car bomb was driven by an IS Jihadist against YPG positions, but once again was targeted and destroyed.
The YPG are said to be preparing to launch a very large military campaign shortly to liberate the outskirts of Tel Tamer and SereKaniye. Fighting near Serekaniye, left 7 x IS Jihadists dead, while IS continued to shell the battlefield to give their forces cover under which to retreat.
And on Sunday the YPG were reported to have surrounded a unit of IS on the Tel Khanzir front after an ambush.
The Islamic State have also continued their destructive cultural path by destroying the “Mar Shimon” Christian Assyrian Church at the village of Abu Tina near Tel Curran (Mar Shimon was an Assyrian Patriarch who was assassinated in California in 1975).
ASSAD GETS BLOODY NOSE AFTER COUNTER ATTACK IN DERAA PROVINCE DOES NOT GO ACCORDING TO PLAN:
In the south of Syria Assad’s military launched a 2 pronged attack on the eastern Deraa Opposition-held town of Busra Al-Harir early this morning, Monday, but so far it does not look as though it is going to plan.
Despite initially taking control of 5 villages, the Syrian Army has lost at least 7 tanks and pictures emerging from the scene show bodies of killed regime soldiers and others taken prisoner including officers and possibly some Iranian “advisers”.
Latest reports suggest 18 regime fighters killed and 11 from the Opposition.
In an attempt to cut the Opposition’s supply roads the Syrian Air Force has carried out 36 airstrikes on Deraa province alone today, killing at least 6 opposition fighters including a commander and hitting numerous Opposition-held villages with barrel-bombs.
Busra Al-Harir was also pounded with more than 500 artillery shells before the ground assault started.
In reaction Opposition fighters both staged a diversionary attack on regime positions at Qarfa and sent reinforcements to Busra Al-Harir.
This tank was hit with a Milan anti-tank missile and then burst into flames, smoke pouring out of the gun barrel, HERE:
Just north of Busra Al-Harir in the Lejat area, the Opposition hit a regime technical (pick-up with mounted machine gun) with a roadside mine and nearer to Busra itself captured a T-72 tank.
The stated aim of the regime operation was to open a supply route between Izraa and Sweida province, but it is beginning to look as not only have the Opposition prevented this but their units are currently moving on the bases of Assad’s Brigades 12 and 52 and Assad’s forces are in retreat. The regime also intended to cut the Opposition’s supply routes from Jordan.
A joint regime/Hezbollah attack on Nahatah just to the south of Busra Al-Harir seems to have penetrated the eastern side of the town but not much more. Further news awaited.
Map of the current battle area, courtesy of @Syria_Rebel_Obs, here:
In Idlib province, the battle continues south of Idlib city as Assad tries to regain ground and the Al-Nusra Front and their allies resist an regime advance.
In the last 20 days the Syrian Air Force has targeted Idlib city and its surrounding countryside with 349 airstrikes, including 335 barrel-bombs. 125 civilians have been killed in these attacks, including 25 children and 21 women, with the wounded count reaching over 700.
To try and take some of the regime pressure off Idlib, Opposition fighters have once again launched an attack on Kasab in Lattakia province not far from the Mediterranean coast.
SIGNS OF ASSAD REGIME PANIC AS LOYALISTS AVOID MILITARY DRAFT AND SYRIAN POUND COLLAPSES EVEN MORE:
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Assad regime has, in the last 6 months between October 22nd 2014 and April 20th 2015, carried 13,084 airstrikes, deliberately, they suggest, taking advantage of world’s obsession with the Islamic State.
7,188 of those attacks have been recorded as barrel-bombs and the total death toll for the 6 month period stands at 2,312 civilians (including 376 women and 529 children), with around 704 actual fighters, of various denominations killed. The wounded numbers are thought to be around 13,000. (EDITOR: But of course, Assad is only attacking the “terrorists”)
CNN Syria news shows the video of the chlorine gas attack that moved UN diplomats to tears, HERE:
Recent signs that the Assad Government is under increasing pressure are that recruitment to their armed forces is falling, despite it being compulsory, and the value of the Syrian pound against the US dollar continues to collapse.
While many of Syria’s young men still support the regime, particularly from the Alawite community, after 80,000 pro-regime fighter deaths, they no longer support Assad enough to want to die for him.
One activist from Assad’s heartland in Latakia said, “Even if they support the army and the regime, they’re not willing to serve its flag,” and after 4 years of war,“Everyone without exception is discontented”.
Hit by defections and desertions, Syria’s 300,000-strong military has halved it’s size since 2011 and Assad’s security police are combing entrances to cities and universities looking for draft dodgers.
However, the strongest resistance has been in Druze dominated Sweida province in the south where local people have demonstrated outside police stations after the arrest of young conscripts.
In many cases they have been released, Assad terrified that the Druze may change sides and support the Opposition. You can read more, HERE:
Meanwhile, today, Monday, in Damascus, the Syrian Central Bank, which has been trying to hold the official Syrian pound exchange rate to around 189.1, raised it to 253.23. On the unofficial market it is running at 300 Syrian pounds to the dollar.
Before the conflict started in March 2011, the rate stood at 50:1
There are clearly doubts now that the Syrian Government can maintain services and deliver supplies, especially from abroad. Last week all exporters were ordered to hand over foreign currency and there are reports today that customs and intelligence officers are making surprise visits to companies looking for stashes of dollars or euros or other convertible currencies.
Even Iran, in the light of a potential nuclear agreement with the West, is beginning to look reluctant to continue its $3.6 billion line of credit granted to Assad in 2013.
KOBANE /CIZIRE UPDATE 78: YPG LIBERATE YET MORE VILLAGES ON THE SOUTHERN FRONTS, WHILE TALK OF TURNING KOBANE INTO A “MUSEUM” OFFENDS SOME:
TIMELINE – 17th APRIL 2015 14.07 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 17.51 GMT:
Battles against the Islamic State continue in the sectors to the south and south-east of Kobane city, with a YPG/YPJ operation on Wednesday night targeting the Jihadists near the village of Xane. An IS vehicle was destroyed and 5 x IS fighters killed.
Having taken Hamdoun and then Khan Mamed, the YPG are in a position to isolate the IS Jihadists still within the Sal/Lil salient north of the M4 highway, by crossing the M4 and cutting them off by moving westwards.
The attempted suicide car bomb attack on the YPG at Gocekmetê reported earlier (scroll down – see below) resulted in the killing of 9 x IS Jihadists when the YPG blew up the suicide vehicle while it was still surrounded by IS fighters.
Further to the west, the combined YPG/FSA force has been making attacks on IS positions 10 kilometres north-west of Sarrin, supported by Coalition attacks on IS in the centre and on the outskirts of Sarrin town.
Just east of Sarrin, the Kurdish forces have also once again crossed the M4 highway and have advanced towards Ras Al Ayn, supported by Coalition airstrikes.
In the battle for the Lafarge Cement Plant, 2 FSA fighters died and 3 from the YPG, their funerals held together in Kobane earlier this week.
The YPG has produced this video of the battle for Lafarge and the surrounding villages, (EDITOR: I’ll forgive them the over-dramatic music!) here:
Latest reports today, Friday, say that last night, Kurdish forces on the southern Kobane front liberated the villages of Bîrhemlî, Gewande, Dafiya and Girê Şehîd Hecî and 6 x IS Jihadists were killed.
On the eastern front of Kobane province, YPG are additionally reported to have moved even nearer to IS-held Tel Abyad, liberating villages less than 20 kilometres from the IS stronghold, though further detail still awaited.
Within Kobane city itself, 9 truckloads of food aid have arrived from the Municipality of Bedlîs in northern Kudistan, Iraq, 6 containing flour and 3 more other food supplies.
There also appears to be a proposal, coming from whom is not yet clear, that half of Kobane should be left as it is and turned into a “museum”.
Some Kobane citizens have already expressed their horror at this idea, though given the worldwide interest in the struggle for Kobane, it could in fact bringing tourists from all over the world and help to fund the rebuilding of a new modern city.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton from Tuesday am through to Wednesday destroying 6 x IS fighting positions and hitting 2 tactical units.
2 further airstrikes near Hasakah during the same time period destroyed another 6 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle bomb, an IS tunnel and an IS bunker, plus hitting 2 more tactical units.
From Wednesday am through to Thursday morning, yesterday, 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed another 6 x IS fighting positions and hit 2 tactical units.
Kobane Canton Situation Map for 16.04.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
In Cizire Canton, unconfirmed local reports suggest that the Islamic State is sending its elite forces to the province, perhaps now seeing it as a “softer target” than Kobane.
On Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, IS Jihadists attacked the small village of Ennabiya Sudan, 7 kilometres south-east of Tel Tamir. After a long and heavy battle, the YPG prevailed, killing 4 x IS fighters and wounding another 5.
The bulk of the IS attacking group then retreated to the village of Derxam, 1.5 kilometres away, where they later hit by a Coalition airstrike, killing another 15. The same night, Coalition planes targeted another IS group in Lilan, 6 kilometres to the south-west of Tel Tamer, destroying a pick-up with a heavy machine gun and killing a further 3 x IS fighters.
Meanwhile, IS appear to be increasingly training younger and younger children to fight for them, in the hope that by brainwashing them earlier they can induce them to be “life-long members” of the IS Jihadist cause.
Children are taught religion and Sharia, as well as Arabic, hand to hand combat techniques and military training. Some are even given dolls on which to practice “beheading” and one video features a real-life executioner who is probably no more than 10.
But IS, in its backwardness, sees philosophy, science, history, art and sport to be incompatible with Islam, and instead seems to be committed to raising a generations of unfeeling individuals who are likely to be locked into “ long-term loyalty” and who will become a “cadre of fighters that will see violence as a way of life”.
You can read more in The Guardian Syria news HERE:
ESTIMATES PUT THE REAL NUMBER OF DEAD IN SYRIA SINCE 2011 AT MORE THAN 310,000, WHILE RUMOURS SWIRL OF A PLANNED COUP AGAINST ASSAD:
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) yesterday said that its records indicate that 220,271 have been killed in Syria between 18th March 2011 and 14th April 2015.
104,629 (47.50%) are civilians, including 11,021 children (10.53%) and 7,049 women (6.73%).
Another 39,848 (18.09%) killed in that time are Opposition and Islamic fighters (including defected soldiers and officers), while 28,253 are from the Islamic State (IS), the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and other extremist organisations.
Putting all the pro-Assad fighter deaths together (regular soldiers and National Defence Force militia), amounts to 78,189 or 35.49% of the total. (EDITOR: So no wonder the Alawite community is getting restive – see below)
They have also logged 3,162 unidentified dead, which are included in the total, and 3,526 pro-Assad Shiite militia fighters.
However, SOHR estimates that there are another 20,000 at least who have disappeared into Assad’s prisons and 14,500 from various groups held by the IS and ANF. The true death total for these two secretive groups for their own fighters may be more like 86,000 than the 28,253 recorded above.
SOHR also estimates that during the last 4 years, as many as 1.5 million have been wounded.
The reality of some of this hit home this week when video footage was shown to the UN Security Council on the alleged chlorine attack by the Assad regime on the village of Sarmin in Idlib province last month on March 16th as Opposition fighters prepared to overrun Idlib city.
Assad’s military believed that Sarmin was one of the Opposition fighters “command and control” centres.
Some of the doctors from Sarmin who treated the injured, led the presentation and answered questions.
The bombing came just days after the Security Council passed a resolution condemning the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in such attacks.
3 children under 4 died in the regime raid, after the doctors were unable to revive them, plus the mother of one of them and a grandmother.
Many of those present at the UN were in tears as the evidence emerged and while the session was underway, another 5 barrel-bombs were dropped on Sarmin by Assad’s helicopters, some allegedly containing more chlorine and causing distress yesterday, HERE:
You can read more from BBC Syria news, HERE:
The huge death toll may also be getting to Assad’s main backers, the Shia orientated Alawite community.
There were reports this week that another of Assad’s cousins, Munther al-Assad, was arrested after a big security lockdown in Lattakia city.
Munther, who reportedly had gone into hiding, was, according to some sources under suspicion of preparing a coup, along with President Bashar Assad’s exiled uncle, Rifaat Al-Assad who attempted to take control from his brother, Hafez (Bashar’s father) in 1984, but failed and retreated to France where he has remained ever since.
After being flown to Damascus for an “interview” with the President, Munther was apparently returned to Lattakia. You can read more of this mysterious saga, HERE:
There are also reports that after suffering heavy losses in the last few months, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, of whom there are thought to be around 6,000 deployed in Syria, have withdrawn from many far-flung combat zones and re-deployed in locations around Damascus in defence of the capital.
You can read more on this, HERE:
Units of Syria’s Opposition fighters, fed up with the behaviour of the Islamic State around Damascus, yesterday stormed their HQ in the suburbs of Qaboun and Barzeh districts, killing 20 of them and capturing another 30, (caution – gruesome towards the end) HERE:
Meanwhile, fighting inside the Yarmouk camp between the Palestinians and extreme Islamists continues.
Reliable sources are saying the Al Nusra Front, in conjunction with the Islamic State, still control around 80% of the camp and the desperate situation for the civilians trapped there remains unresolved.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 77 – LATEST KURDISH OFFENSIVE SEES 20 VILLAGES LIBERATED AND MORE THAN 60 ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS KILLED:
TIMELINE – 15th APRIL 2015 14.05 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.18 GMT:
The YPG have confirmed that they have successfully completed an operation on their southern and south-eastern front on Tuesday which began on April 8th to drive back the Islamic State (IS).
During that period the YPG/YPJ, with support from Free Syrian Army (FSA) units, have captured as many as 9 villages, the Lafarge Cement Plant (scroll down – see below) and 2 quarries near Celebi.
The villages captured included Bocak, Xirab Hişk and Derfilît.
IS have continued an attack on the village of Gocekmetê, which the YPG had captured earlier, and attempted to penetrate the Kurdish defences with a suicide car bomb.
The YPG managed to detonate the car while it was still surrounded by Islamic State fighters.
Two other suicide bomb attacks were also repelled and 31 x IS Jihadists killed during this operation at a cost of 3 Kurdish fighters.
20 x AK-47s, a 120 mm mortar and 24 rounds, 8 Katyusha rockets, a military vehicle, 1 scope and 2 radios were also recovered.
Since these reports came in, latest information suggests that a combined YPG/FSA force has liberated another 6 villages including Hamdoun, with claims that as many as 60 x IS fighters have been killed in the Hamdoun area. This video footage shows parts of the battle at Hamdoun and (caution) a large number of bloody IS corpses at the end, HERE:
Along with Hamdoun, Khan-Mamed, Xorxori, Girek, Dafiye and Xwedan, all 40 – 50 kilometres from Kobane city, were freed by the YPG/FSA force late on Tuesday or earlier today.
Between Sunday am and Monday morning, US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, which destroyed 12 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles as well as hitting an IS tactical unit.
From Monday morning through to Tuesday am, 3 more airstrikes by the Coalition destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and 1 x IS vehicle, as well as hitting 2 x IS tactical units.
This video declassified by Centcom shows a Coalition strike on an IS fighting position on April 6th (not even time to say prayers), here:
To the east in the Kurdish Canton of Cizire, numerous battles with the Islamic State continue along its western edge, with a YPG operation near Tel Xenzir destroying an IS vehicle and all its occupants.
A joint Kurdish/Arab fighting force is being trained to defend the Canton and recently went into action after passing out, (sub-titles) HERE:
Cizire Canton Situation Map courtesy of @MarkMonmonier , here:
OPPOSITION FIGHT IN ALEPPO HOTS UP AND MODERATE FIGHTERS IN THE SOUTH REJECT COOPERATION WITH THE AL NUSRA FRONT:
In the north-western district of Aleppo city this week, Opposition fighters did a thorough job of finally demolishing the regional headquarters of Assad’s Air Intelligence, where hundreds, if not thousands have been tortured and/or imprisoned.
At the weekend the Opposition completed mining a tunnel under the Air Intelligence building, HERE: followed by the grand finale, here:
The result caused widespread celebrations in Opposition held parts of the city, HERE:
Since destroying Assad’s security building, Opposition fighters have gone on to take over the Al-Basheer Mosque nearby and an orphanage and have moved into the Al-Zahraa district below it, attacking regime-held positions, HERE: and using their homemade “Hell-Fire” cannon to good effect, HERE:
Rumours have circulated that some senior Assad officers and their families have left Aleppo in the face of the renewed Opposition offensive, but this has been denied by the Syrian Government’s Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi – though this probably does not mean a lot as he is frequently seen as Assad’s chief “Minister of Propaganda”.
The Opposition’s current strength in Aleppo has certainly persuaded Syria’s Grand Mufti, Ahmad Hassoun, to apparently issue a Fatwa allowing Assad to barrel-bomb Opposition-held areas of the city out of existence.
Assad’s murderous regime has been quick to follow through with shell, rocket and barrel-bomb bombardments, with more than 100 killed in Aleppo province in air attacks in the last few days.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has already recorded 1709 airstrikes by Assad’s forces all around Syria in April 2015 alone, including 984 barrel-bombs. 260 civilians have been killed in the first half of this month by these attacks, including 81 children and 51 women, and an estimated 1500 wounded.
Assad airstrikes in Idlib province yesterday, Tuesday, killed 11 in Idlib city and another 12 in Saraqeb, HERE:
Situation Map for Aleppo courtesy of @PetoLucem, here:
In Damascus, barrel-bomb attacks and clashes between warring sides have also continued in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, though latest reports from local people suggest that the bulk of the Islamic State fighters have withdrawn to their stronghold in nearby Hajar al Aswad.
Some IS fighters remain in the south-west of the camp, while Palestinian factions – both pro and anti-Assad – are controlling most of the eastern and northern sections of the camp.
This leaves the largest fighting group inside the camp as the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), who allowed the Islamic State to enter the Camp in the first place. Both of the extremist groups loath the Palestinian Opposition force, who were until recently running the camp, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.
Hopefully, ANF will allow in more aid, so desperately needed by those trapped inside, some of whom demonstrated yesterday to bring their plight to world attention, HERE:
Al-Qaeda aligned ANF have fared less well in southern Deraa province, where the “Southern Front”, an alliance of FSA and more moderate Islamic Groups, has pushed them away from the border crossing at Nassib to Jordan and now attacked a number of their HQs.
The Southern Front issued a strong statement rejecting ANF’s ideology, refused any cooperation with it, and declaring themselves the “sole military force representing the Syrian revolution” in the south.
“We can’t go from the rule of Assad to Zawahri and Nusra,” said a spokesman referring to the Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
He then went on to invites ANF members to defect and join their more moderate ranks.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 76: ISLAMIC STATE LOSE CEMENT PLANT AND SURROUNDING VILLAGES TO YPG – 88 IS JIHADISTS KILLED IN LAST 5 DAYS ACROSS 2 CANTONS:
TIMELINE – 13th APRIL 2015 14.02 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.12 GMT:
After concentrated airstrikes on Friday and Saturday and fierce fighting with the Islamic State (IS) on the ground, a combined YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) force took complete control of the Lafarge Cement Plant in the south-east of Kobane Canton on Sunday.
Coalition airstrikes hit IS positions and vehicles to the south and east of the Lafarge plant prior to the ground assault, but according to latest reports the plant is largely intact and will be useful for the rebuilding of Kobane city.
The Kurdish forces and their allies have also taken Darflit, having secured higher ground nearby earlier, and 3 more villages just south of the cement plant, bringing to 7 the number of captured villages since Friday.
The Lafarge plant is 60 kilometres south of Kobane and just north-west of IS-held Ain Issa in Raqqah province.
This advance put the YPG just 60 kilometres (35 miles) away from the IS Syria HQ at Raqqah city.
In the fight for the Lafarge plant, 30 x IS fighters are reported killed and a large quantity of weapons and ammunition captured.
Further to the west along the line of the M4 highway, IS continues to reinforce its positions around the Grain Silos north of Sarrin and Mitras just to the south, sending fighters, weapons and ammunition across the top of the Tishrin Dam. However, latest reports Monday afternoon say that the YPG/FSA are massing their forces to make an attack on the Grain Silo site and have also captured today the village of Minifa Avi, killing another 11 Islamic State fighters.
Between the Lafarge Plant and the Grain Silos, the YPG also seem to be making a break out westwards around the IS occupied Sal/Jil area where the Jihadists broke through last week. Hopefully, with Coalition support, the Jihadists occupation can be destroyed (scroll down to earlier report and see @ChuckPfarrer map of 09.04.15 for a better view).
There are also unconfirmed reports that the Islamic State is trying to repair broken sections of the Qara Qwazak bridge, further up the Euphrates River.
US Central Command reports 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton from Thursday am through to last Friday, destroying 4 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles and hitting an IS tactical unit.
From Friday morning through to Saturday am, the Coalition made 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroying 4 x IS fighting positions and 3 more IS vehicles, plus hitting yet another IS tactical unit.
During the same 2 day period, Coalition aircraft destroyed 8 x IS vehicles in Hasakah province and struck 3 x IS tactical units.
Within Kobane city itself things improved again with the arrival of modern medical equipment including an endoscope to examine internal injuries or problems and 2 more schools have opened in villages just to the south.
In the Kurds Cizire province to the east, the YPG are reporting similar successes with as many as 58 x IS Jihadists killed since April 8th, 40 of them on the road between Tel Tamer and Hasakah city, along with 3 x IS vehicles destroyed.
This brings the total of IS Jihadists killed by the Kurds across 2 Cantons in the last 5 days to 88.
The latest Kobane Canton map showing the situation near the Lafarge plant, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer is here:
YEZIDI COMMANDER FREE AT LAST, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE IN ITS MADNESS DESTROYS 3,000 YEARS OF HUMAN HISTORY:
In Iraq, Heydar Shesho, the commander of the Yezidi militia, the HPS, was released by Kurdish security this morning, Monday.
The exact reason for his detention (scroll down – see below) is still not clear but appearing on TV today Commander Shesho said, “The HPS will remain and our resistance continues … I will continue to defend the Yezidis and Shingal [Sinfar] until the last drop of my blood”.
Despite the tensions caused by Shesho’s arrest, the HPS and the Peshmerga have continued to work together in the Sinjar region battling the Islamic State.
In the east of the Sinjar region over the weekend IS attacked Kurdish/HPS/YPG positions in Hardan but were repelled with 18 x IS Jihadists killed.
In west Sinjar IS also attacked Gabara, both events seen as an attempt to recapture part of the road that runs from Syria to Iraq.
In Sinjar city itself there still seems to be a state of stalemate and many Yezidi are confused as to why the Peshmerga advance, so successful last year has stalled and not moved forward since December 2014.
There also seem to be ongoing tensions between the Peshmerga and the YPG, both representing different military factions of Kurdish political groups. A report from Al-Monitor, HERE:
The Islamic State has also released new footage of its fighters inside the Baiji oil refinery west of Mosul, but the Iraqi Army insists that it still has a substantial presence there. Further information awaited.
Another IS video shows IS fighters insanely destroying 3,000 of history with sledgehammers and power tools at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq.
Nimrud was already a major city in 1250 BC but IS in their ignorant madness have completed its destruction by blowing the site up.
Irreplaceable artifacts destroyed include intricately carved stonework and the large winged Lamussu statues with human heads that guarded the city.
The Lamussu were protective deities with the bodies of a lion or bull, eagle’s wings and a human head. You can read more about Lamussu, HERE:
There are also reports that they have burnt to the ground a library in Mosul containing 8,000 ancient and rare documents.
You can read more in The Independent Syria news report, HERE:
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) IS has recruited 400 children into its ranks between January 1st this year and March 23rd, known as “Ashbal al- Khilafah or “Cubs of the Caliphate”.
IS is persuading children and inducing their guardians to send children to its training camps to take part in Sharia and military courses. The Islamic State sent 140 children under 18 to fight in Kobane, where at least 6 of them were killed.
At the same time, SOHR says that recruits to IS from abroad are at their lowest in the first quarter of 2015 at 120 members since the “caliphate” was first announced in June 2014.
YARMOUK DISSOLVES INTO POLITICAL AND MILITARY TURMOIL AS CIVILIANS FACE DEATH BY BOMBING OR STARVATION:
TIMELINE – 10th APRIL 2015 14.20 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.05 GMT:
As if conditions in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp were not bad enough already, things have got considerably worse over the last week since the Islamic State invaded the southern half of it.
The Assad regime, as usual, has played its part in what Ban Ki-Moon, the UN General Secretary has described as “The blackest hole of hell”.
The Syrian Air Force dropped 11 barrel-bombs on the camp on Wednesday, bringing the total number of barrel-bombs falling on the camp to 36 since 4th April.
On Thursday morning, yesterday, a barrel-bomb destroyed the Palestine hospital, the last semi-functional medical facility in Yarmouk, the last 2 doctors remaining there somehow managing to work for a year without medicine or antibiotics.
There are still believed to be between 16,000 and 18,000 Palestinians resident in the camp, including 3,500 children.
Civilians have survived until now by scavenging for plants and roots growing on waste ground on the margins of the camp and the very occasional UN relief delivery.
With fighting ranging around them they have not been able to leave their homes for 9 days, except at the risk of getting shot. There has been no running water in the camp since September 2014.
The International Red Cross has demanded instant access to the camp but so far this has not been allowed and they have had to deliver tons of food supplies to Yalda, a nearby suburb, itself in danger of being taken over by the Islamic State.
Following an agreement between Ahmad Majdalani, a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Syrian Government, Assad’s regime has said it will supply ammunition to the Palestinian fighters of Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis inside the camp, who had formerly opposed him, to fight IS.
A contingent of the Assad militia, the National Defence Force (NDF), led by pro-Assad Palestinians, some of whom were born in the camp, has entered to join the fight against the IS Jihadists.
However, a statement released late Thursday from the PLO headquarters in Ramallah in Palestine, seemed to back away from any military involvement and any local agreements, making it clear that its traditional position of non-involvement had not changed.
“We refuse to be drawn into any armed campaign, whatever its nature or cover,” the statement said, “And we call for resorting to other means to spare the blood of our people and prevent more destruction and displacement for our people of the camp.”
Quite where this leaves the Palestinians of Yarmouk remains to be seen.
While the rest of the world, whatever their view, stands by and watches helplessly, the Palestinians remain mired in hopelessness.
The pro-Assad Palestinian fighter group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), that was driven out of the camp after its headquarters was burned down last year, claimed this morning, Friday, that IS had already lost control of two-thirds of Yarmouk – but this has not been confirmed as yet by any other source.
This report from the Telegraph describes how a falling bomb separated 2 children in a playgroup from their Mother, as well as all the other complications, HERE:
And for another interesting take on the situation, from someone who has lived there, read, HERE:
KURDS RISK WORLDWIDE CONDEMNATION AS PROTESTS AGAINST DETENTION OF YEZIDI COMMANDER GROW.
Protest is starting to grow around the world over the controversial detention of the Yezidi commander Heydar Shesho, leader of the HPS militia, by the Kurdistan Government of Massoud Barzani in Iraq.
Barzani’s party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), is now in conflict with it’s rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who have called for Shesho, who is also a member of the PUK, to be released immediately.
Agreement to release the Yezidi commander was reached between the 2 Kurdish parties on Tuesday, but does not seem to have been put into effect.
Partly the problem is one of KDP paranoia about the HPS receiving money to pay its fighters from the Shia-led Government in Baghdad, and partly some sort of resentment towards the Yezidi people generally.
Barzani’s Kurdish security force, the Asayesh, seem to be down on the Yezidi.
On March 23rd 2015, Yezidis in several locations in northern Iraq expressed their solidarity in support of demonstrations around the world for the Yezidi people, but Kurdish security violently dispersed them.
A number of Yezidi human rights activists who organised the demonstrations were arrested by Kurdish security and are still in prison without trial. One man was beaten and arrested for just wearing a T-shirt displaying the Yezidi flag.
There are now several dozen Yezidi held in President Barzanis’s prisons without explanation and reportedly members of his KDP party have threatened Yezidi in Europe “with death”, notably in Germany where there is a large Kurdish/Yezidi population.
Heydar Shesho has in fact lived in Germany with his family for many years, only returning when IS attacked northern Iraq, and travels on a German passport. Germany’s influential Green Party has already called for his release.
EDITOR: The Yezidi have clearly suffered more than enough being displaced from their homeland and thousands of their number either killed by the IS Jihadists or kept as sexual slaves. President Barzani risks losing all the Western goodwill built-up towards the Kurds in recent months if he is just going to add to their persecution.
In February, Vice News interviewed Heydar Shesho’s Father, Qasim, known as the “Tiger of Mount Sinjar” after he also returned from Germany to lead the defence of the sacred Yezidi shrine at the top of the moutain, HERE:
Islamic State brutality obviously knows no bounds. This 15 year old Yezidi girl, pictured below, was held captive by IS for 7 months – they killed her father and brother infront of her, on her birthday.
ITV Syria news released this video report on the displaced Yezidi in March, which wonders where, after a tradition of thousands of years, their future lies now, here:
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 75: KURDS MAKE PROGRESS IN SOUTH-EAST, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE DEMAND $30 MILLION FOR ASSYRIAN CHRISTIAN PRISONERS:
On the southern Kobane Canton front the YPG over the last few days has been attacking Islamic State positions around Sabta village, killing at least 2 x IS Jihadists, and targeting their defences at Ninifi Kor, Jalabi and Khwedanki.
However, good news today, Friday, if confirmed, that the YPG/YPJ have captured Chelibi in the south-east after taking higher ground at Dar Flit and near Chelibi itself on Wednesday.
On the eastern front it has been largely stalemate for this week but today the village of Gul Tepe fell back under Kurdish control.
In the south-west the Islamic State, fed by reinforcements into Sarrin have broken across the M4 highway near Mitras and the Grain Silos and at Nur Ali and Hamadoun just a little further east.
On the other bank of the Euphrates, directly opposite Kobane Canton, local people report that a 50 strong vehicle convoy full of weapons, ammunition and fighters arrived from Raqqah on Thursday at the IS-held town of Jarablous.
Quite where these fighters are headed is unclear, but it obviously spells trouble for either the Kurds in Kobane or Opposition fighters in Aleppo province.
On Wednesday through to Thursday am, Coalition planes made 2 airstrikes near Kobane, destroying 2 x IS fighting positions and hitting an IS tactical unit. And on Wednesday, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) made its first attacks in Syria on behalf of the Coalition, hitting an IS garrison near Raqqah.
Until now RCAF has confined its strikes to Iraq and only surveillance work in Syria, but the bloody terrorist attack in Ottawa last October has changed all that, the Canadian Parliament granting permission for Syria strikes a week ago.
The Coalition also destroyed 5 x IS vehicles and an IS tank, and hit an IS tactical unit and 2 more vehicles near Hasakah during the same time period mentioned above.
Nearer Kobane city itself at Sheran, just 8 kilometres south, local people are reported busy preparing another school and bringing it back into operation (scroll down – see earlier reports).
The Kobane Canton Situation Map for 09.04.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer is, here:
Further east in the Kurdish Canton of Cizire, heavy fighting continues. On Wednesday morning the Islamic State used tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy weapons to launch a major attack between Hasakah city and Tel Tamer.
IS targeted the Xerîta bridge, the only one on the Xabur River, as well as the villages of Tel Baz, Tel Cezîrê, Xerîta, Tel Tal, Tel Necmê and a nearby poultry farm. The YPG/YPJ put up strong resistance along a 9 kilometre front, killing 23 x IS Jihadist at the cost of 6 of their own fighters.
The YPG/YPJ also thwarted an IS attack coming from Xebîsh and destroyed an IS military vehicle en route from Tel Tamir to Alya, leaving an unspecified number of IS casualties.
This morning, Friday, the Kurds had another success when IS resistance in the village of Tel Riman completely collapsed and they were able to enter, HERE: An IS “Emir” or commander of Indonesian origin was also reported killed in the village.
This footage shows Coalition airstrikes on IS positions in Cizire this week, HERE:
According to Assyrian Christian sources, the Islamic State is now asking a $30 million ransom for the 250 – 300 local people it has captured from the Cizire area in Hasakah province, amounting to around $100,000 for each person.
Assyrian sources said that IS knows full well that they cannot come up with this kind of money but that it is hoping that other Christian people or countries will.
This is a situation map for Cizire province, dated 09.04.15 courtesy of @_paulo34, here:
Elsewhere is Syria, IS has captured another 50 people from the village of Al-Mabouga in Hama province and a very, very sinister video showing IS women training as fighters has emerged.
The video, since taken down, was clearly filmed infront of St. Simeon, one of the world’s oldest Byzantine churches, near Aleppo, but was described as taking place at the “Camp of the Women of Victory and Empowerment”.
Since Opposition fighters, led by the Al-Nusra Front, captured Idlib 2 weeks ago, the city has been hit by 200 Assad regime airstrikes, killing 236 people including 54 children and 39 women.
Reports from Deraa province in the south however, if correct, may put an end to some of this.
In capturing the town of Kafr Shams last week, the Opposition have found a store of 200 Igla anti aircraft missiles. The Igla is a Russian made, man portable infra-red-homing surface to air missile launcher. Hopefully it will soon be put to good use against Assad’s barrel-bombing helicopters.