“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
ROJAVA UPDATE 132: YPG SPECIAL FORCES CROSS EUPHRATES TO ATTACK ISLAMIC STATE DEFENSIVE LINES NEAR JARABLOUS:
TIMELINE 28th AUGUST 2015 15.05 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.42 GMT:
Amid local reports that the Islamic State (IS) is evacuating its HQ and bases around Jarablous, YPG Kurdish special forces crossed the Euphrates river last night, Thursday, and attacked IS positions.
The YPG fighters crossed the Euphrates stealthily in boats and attacked IS east of Jarablous, reportedly killing 12 x IS Jihadists and wounding several more.
All the YPG fighters returned safely to the east bank of the Euphrates river after completing the operation.
The attack illustrated Kurdish frustration at not being allowed to finish the job. Turkey keeps talking about creating an “IS-free safe zone” between the Euphrates and Afrin Canton, but so far has done nothing about it except say it will oppose any entry of Kurdish forces into the area in northern Aleppo province.
After the YPG operation, IS arbitrarily shelled Kurdish villages on the east bank of the Euphrates in Kobane Canton, but so far no casualties have been reported.
Slightly different format today, with a collection of pictures from Kobane:
EDITOR: My thanks to all the photographers. Double-click on any picture to reveal the source. You can see more pictures courtesy of TIME Magazine.
A citizen of Kobane was killed by Turkish Border Guards as he tried to cross the frontier near the city as Turkey seems to have a new policy of not allowing refugees to enter, particularly from Kurdish controlled areas. You can read more, HERE:
NBC News has recorded a recent visit to Rojava, entering Syria via Iraq and crossing the Tigris river, here:
South-east of Hasakah the battle for Al-Hawl continues. The Coalition has bombed IS positions there, while once again there are unconfirmed reports that Turkish jets managed to bomb the YPG forces trying to capture the town. It is even suggested that both sets of attacking jets flew from Incirlik Airbase.
The New York Times describes the recent agreement between the US and Turkey to use the Incirlik base for attacks on IS in Syria and Iraq as “a dangerous bargain”.
A short video appeared on the Internet claiming to be footage shot in the Al-Hawl market and showing things so far be pretty normal, HERE:
Over in the Kurdish Canton of Afrin in the north of Aleppo province, the YPG have built a labyrinth of reinforced tunnels on its front lines to defend against attack from the Islamic State or anyone else. Video report inKurdish only, but it will give a sense of what has been prepared, HERE:
The US is reporting that one of its drones has killed a “top cyber Jihadist” in a strike in Syria.
Junaid Hussain, 21, had already been convicted of computer hacking in the UK in 2012 where he was accused of downloading former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s address book and leaking the details online, as well as making hoax calls to a “counter-terrorism hotline”.
Hussain, calling himself “Abu Hussain Al Britani”, fled to Syria in 2014 and had become a key IS player in radicalising and recruiting young people online. The drone strike took place near Raqqah. The BBC has the full story.
The BBC’s security correspondent also questions whether closing off Turkey’s border with Syria, particularly in the proposed “safe zone”, will have any affect on the Islamic State’s recruitment plans, HERE:
ISLAMIC STATE STILL ADVANCING IN TURKEY’S PROPOSED SYRIAN “SAFE ZONE”, WHILE OPPOSITION CONSOLIDATE THEIR POSITIONS ON THE GHAB PLAIN:
In Turkey’s proposed “safe zone” IS are still extremely active. In the last couple of days, IS has seized 5 villages in northern Aleppo province and almost surrounded the town of Mare, just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Turkish border.
However, the battle is going backwards and forwards. Opposition fighters tried to take the IS-held village of Tilalyan north of Mare today after recapturing the village of Sandaf.
After IS Jihadists fled Sandaf, 9 x IS fighters were found still inside the village, most of them under 22.
As many as 50 x IS Jihadists were reported to have died in an assault on Mare yesterday and clashes are still going on around Herbel and Dalhah where there were Coalition airstrikes.
The Opposition are reported to have regained Harjalah on the Turkish border today.
In this footage, the Opposition shot the motorbike of a suspected suicide bomber from underneath him, HERE:
In Idlib province, fierce fighting is reported around the Assad regime’s Abu Al-Duhur Airbase today, Friday, where Opposition fighters tried to blow down the main entrance gate with a vehicle bomb and Government planes tried to destroy Opposition positions in the surrounding countryside and villages, HERE:
On the Ghab Plain in Idlib province and into Hama province, the Opposition continue to consolidate their gains. There is a report (Arabic only) from the northern part of the Plain, HERE:
In addition a Assad soldier is reported to have fallen to his death from a helicopter while on a mission to drop naval mines on Ghab Plain villages – picture too gruesome to show.
Opposition fighters are now within striking distance of the Assad regime’s main base on the Ghab Plain at Joureen, seen here at the foot of the mountains leading to Latakia, HERE:
In Zabadani in Damascus province a 48 hour “truce” was agreed on Thursday between the 2 warring sides and also a corresponding one in Idlib at the surrounded Alawite enclaves of Fu’ah and Kafariya in Idlib province.
Under the terms of the deal Opposition fighters, who have been holding off Hezbollah and other pro-Assad forces for 50 days, will be allowed safe passage out of Zabadani and 1,000 civilians will be allowed out of the 2 villages in Idlib. Humanitarian aid will be allowed into both areas.
As of this morning, some Opposition fighters were still reluctant to leave Zabadani, though resolution is expected soon.
Lastly, over in Iraq this week, the Kurdish Peshmerga liberated 11 villages from IS control south of Kirkuk. Total IS casualties are as yet unknown but 18 Jihadist bodies were found in one village alone. 4 Peshmerga are reported killed. You can read more, HERE:
In this report with video, a young wounded IS fighter tries to kiss the Peshmerga commander’s hand as he is fed with water and advised by the officer to “stop living like this”, HERE:
In Sinjar city Coalition planes destroyed 5 x IS fighting positions on Thursday, while IS are reported to have executed 15 of their “cub fighters” between the ages of 13 and 18 for abandoning their positions in battle with the Iraqi Army near Baiji west of Mosul.
There is a report on child radicalisation by IS, HERE:
ROJAVA UPDATE 131: FSA BRIGADE REJECT GOVERNMENT OF TAL ABYAD FROM KOBANE. TURKEY INTERVENING IN YPG CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE?
TIMELINE – 26th AUGUST 2015 14.15 GMT – UPDATED 22.24 GMT:
News from Rojava remains sketchy, but it seems that since the YPG captured the town of Tal Abyad from the Islamic State and successfully formed a joint administration involving all ethnic groups, new problems have arisen.
Tal Abyad falls into the territory which under the Assad regime lay between the Kurdish Cantons of Kobane and Cizire.
After the Islamic State (IS) invasion and their subsequent defeat by the Kurdish YPG and a Free Syrian Army (FSA) joint force, the two Cantons were joined together.
Administratively, it seems to have been decided to place Tal Abyad under Kobane Canton, an action to which the FSA Liwa Thuwar brigade is objecting.
Previously the town fell under the administration of Raqqah city, which continues for the present under IS control.
The basis of this reaction is once again sectarianism. Having failed to make accusations against the Kurdish YPG of “ethnic cleansing” stick, Arab groups are now trying to prevent good government and some sort of normality prevailing.
(EDITOR: Given the Rojavan Constitution, which guarantees the rights of all, I know which group I would rather be adminstered by. I hope those in Tal Abyad from all groups involved in the ruling council, speak up.)
In Kobane city itself yesterday a new hotel and restaurant, called “Martyr Jadou’s”, opened, and separately a 2nd playground and educational area for children. Children from 3 – 5 will receive childcare at the new facility and the older children literacy skills.
There was also a funeral for 9 YPG/YPJ fighters killed in battles in Kobane Canton and at Serekaniye.
Around 35,000 people are now reported to have returned to Kobane city since the last IS attack in June.
There is also a report that Ahmad Hamdan, an IS Jihadist who was injured and captured in the June 25th attack on Kobane, has committed suicide in his prison cell.
The IS fighter was in the care of the YPG who had sent him for medical treatment after his capture on the 27th June.
The circumstances of his suicide and the fighter’s nationality have not been revealed but he is said to have taken his own life on 18th August.
Unconfirmed reports lacking detail are coming in saying that Turkish jets have made an airstrike on YPG forces near Tell Brak, 50 kilometres north-east of Hasakah. Whether this is in error, or some deliberate Turkish move on PKK associated Kurdish fighters is not clear.
Reports yesterday said that Turkey and the US had concluded talks on “the procedures and technical details” of Turkey’s involvement in and cooperation with the Coalition force on strikes against IS. However, US spokesmen said that their had been no discussion of the creation of a “safe zone”. Turkey’s intentions still remain confusing and ambiguous.
Interesting “alternative perspective” story from the B1 bomber crew members of the US 9th Bomb Squadron who dropped 660 bombs on IS positions in Kobane in the first 5 months of Operation Inherent Resolve. Those bombs killed an estimated 1,000 IS Jihadists. You can read more, HERE:
Yilmaz Ali and Evin Bederkhan, who got married in the ruins of Kobane last Saturday (scroll down – see below) have said in an interview that they did so deliberately to defy the Islamic State and urged their fellow Syrians not flee to Europe but to stay and rebuild. Yilmaz is a teacher and met his bride in April when he came back to help get Kobane’s schools working again.
“The kids of Kobani are in need of me and teachers like me to continue the education process after the liberation. To be with our kids at school again and seeing their angelic smiling faces is a very precious thing.” Both Yilmaz and Evin lost cousins who were killed in the IS attack in June.
“Me and my bride stand against ISIS, because it’s against humanity. So we wanted to spread peace in Kobane, where ISIS wanted to bring its evil blackness. Our wedding was very simple with some romantic, Kurdish patriotic songs, not so many fancy things. We wanted to make it simple in honour of our martyrs.” The Daily Mail has the full story.
Originally published back in February, this YPJ fighter sings for Kobane, here:
In Turkey it has been agreed to have yet another election on November 1st. Under the Constitution a temporary Cabinet and Government has to be formed to run the country until then.
This means Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, is obliged to appoint Members of Parliament from the Opposition to his Cabinet as well as those from his ruling party, the AKP.
The main opposition parties, CHP and MHP have already said they will not join a provisional government, but the Kurdish HDP has said it will take part and claim 3 ministerial posts in line with its entitlement from 6 million votes in June.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has described President Erdogan’s recent actions as a “civilian coup”. “There is no law in Turkey at the moment,” he said and, “Democracy is currently suspended and the constitution is not working.”
This is the very first time that the Kurds have taken part in the national government of Turkey. New opinion polls suggest that at the moment the new election in November will have much the same result as in June, leaving the AKP without a clear majority.
Across the Kurdish cities in Turkey’s south-east, workers have called for 5 minute stoppage everyday at 3.00pm to mark their opposition to what they see as a war on Kurds and the PKK engineered by the Turkish President and his party. You can read more, HERE:
And the female co-mayors of Kurdish towns and cities arrested by the Police (scroll down -see below) have accused them of strip-searching them and sexual harassment.
Duran Kalkan, a leading commander of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) has called on their armed followers to refrain from unprovoked attacks on Turkeys Police and military, requesting that they are left to carry out their normal lawful duties.
At the same time, many of the families of the police officers and soldiers killed in the PKK’s retaliatory attacks against the Turkish Government, are also blaming President Erdogan’s AKP Party for the deaths, publicly saying that the Government has provoked the fighting purely for political reasons.
This video shows angry Turks speaking their mind while AKP politicians try to shut them up and get booed in the process, HERE:
It was also reported from Turkey this morning that Jamil Raadoun, the commander of Sukour al-Ghab, a Free Syrian Army brigade, was assassinated this morning, dying of serious injuries after an explosive device went off under his car in Hatay province. This was the 2nd attempt on his life since April. The assassins are as yet unknown.
ASSAD REGIME ONCE AGAIN UNDER PRESSURE ACROSS SYRIA, WHILE ESTIMATES PUT PERMANTLY WOUNDED AT 2 MILLION AND 240,000 DEAD:
Fighting has broken out again in Homs province between the Opposition and the Assad regime near the northern entrance to Homs city. This report (Arabic only) is from the “Kings Barrier”, the regime’s largest fortification in the area, HERE:
The insufferable Islamic State has also released photographs of its foolish destruction (scroll down – see report below) of the Baalshamin Temple.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has confirmed that it treated 4 people, all from the same family, for suspected mustard gas burns on August 21st.
The 2 parents, a 3 year old girl and a 5 day old baby girl were from Marea in Aleppo province, which has just come under IS attack.
Within 3 hours of arriving, the tell-tale blisters appeared and their respiratory difficulties worsened so they were transferred to a specialist unit. The BBC has more information.
Meanwhile just north of Aleppo city Opposition fighters have launched another major attack on pro-Assad fighters at the village of Bashkuy.
In this footage they blow up a 57mm gun behind a barrier, HERE:
Latest estimates of the damage to Syrians in Assad’s completely mad conflict, put the number of dead at 240,000 (EDITOR: Probably on the low side) and 2 million wounded with permanent disabilities. In an interview this week, Assad blamed it all on Israel who were “sponsoring the terrorism”, HERE:
In Idlib province, the Assad regime is once again under pressure on the Ghab Plain where their advance last week seems to have failed, the Opposition regaining all the villages they had earlier lost.
Jaysh Al Fatah, the Opposition coalition, not only recaptured 5 major villages but also took significant spoils from Assad’s specialised “Tiger Force” and Hezbollah, including 2 tanks, 1 BMP armoured vehicle and 1 armed pick-up, as well as other weapons and ammunition.
This report (Arabic only) from the Ghab Plain gives you some idea of the situation, HERE:
At Zabadani in Damascus province, it is reported that talks are underway again to bring about an orderly surrender after Assad’s forces suffered a serious setback on Tuesday in a 2 hour assault from the west.
Local sources say that the Syrian Army and Hezbollah fighters got trapped in a “killing zone” and could not escape or recover their dead bodies, despite sending at least 15 ambulances from Damascus city.
Lastly, Assad’s Prime Minister, Wael al-Halqi, appears to be living in his own little fantasy world, telling the Trade Union Federation on Monday that the Government was “dealing” with all the difficulties and that “Syria will be buzzing with building and reconstruction.” (EDITOR: Dream on! One day perhaps, but not yet.)
ROJAVA UPDATE 130: COALITION JETS POUND IS POSITIONS AT AL-HAWL AS YPG CLOSE IN, WHILE UK JETS DOUBLE ATTACKS IN IRAQ:
TIMELINE – 24th AUGUST 2015 13.58 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.55 GMT::
The fight for Al-Hawl, south of Hasakah is on. Over the weekend, the YPG decisively cut the road running from Al-Hawl across the border into Sinjar province in Iraq and the Islamic State (IS) are now concentrated in a pocket south of Tel Brak.
US Central Command is reporting that at the end of last week it made 6 airstrikes around Al-Hawl over a 2 day period, destroying 5 x IS fighting positions, an IS weapons cache, an IS bunker and 2 x IS excavators.
Hopefully, it will not be long before Al-Hawl is abandoned by the Jihadists and the Kurds, the FSA and the Coalition can move towards to recapture of IS’s Syrian HQ at Raqqah.
Altogether there were 15 airstrikes on Syria between Thursday and Saturday, other targets being Hasakah (where 3 x IS structures were destroyed, 4 x IS fighting positions and an IS sniper nest) and Kobane province where 3 x IS fighting positions were destroyed, an IS artillery piece and an IS heavy machine gun.
There were also 2 strikes in Aleppo province hitting an IS tactical unit and destroying an IS cannon.
The frequency of Coalition attacks in Syria, while maintaining the strike rate in Iraq, has increased since the US has been allowed to use its base at Incirlik in Turkey for attacks, greatly reducing flying and refuelling time.
Previously, most of the aircraft were flying out of the Gulf States, much further away.
Since the IS June attack on tourists in Tunisia, most of them British, the UK has doubled its attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq.
British Tornado jets based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus are attacking IS positions wherever they can.
Earlier is August it has been revealed, UK reconaissance aircraft identified an IS base near Mount Sinjar. Kurdish Peshmerga and SAS (British special forces) crept within 1.5 mile of the base and spotted targets for the incoming jets.
6 laser guided Paveway missiles were fired by the Royal Air Force (RAF) hitting an IS command centre, a barracks, ammunition dumps and equipment stores. The waiting Peshmerga and SAS fired rockets and mortars at anyone trying to escape.
An estimated 40 IS x Jihadists were killed in the attack. You can read more at the Daily Mail. The article is below one on “Jihadi John” who is accused of murdering foreign hostages on behalf of IS and has recently been seen in Deir Ez-Zour.
In Sinjar city itself, where it has been relatively quiet over the last 2 weeks, the Islamic State staged a surprise attack on Saturday near the Sulieman Begg Citadel. With the help of Coalition airstrikes, the Peshmerga repulsed the attack. Reports vary but as many as 20 x IS Jihadists may have died, while one Peshmerga fighter is reported wounded.
West of Sinjar mountain, Kurdish PKK and Yezidi fighters managed to seize an IS armoured personnel carrier, known as an Otokar, HERE:
While, both Iraq’s Christians and Yezidi women are fighting back against the Islamic State too.
There were once 1.5 million Christians living along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Wary of depending on the unreliable Iraqi central Government, they are now taking up arms and are fighting for their own survival. You can read more, HERE:
For surviving Yezidi women, portrayed for the last 12 months as victims of the Islamic State, they are also taking this opportunity in their history to fight back not just militarily but socially and politically too, forming tight knit groups to stand up for women’s equality and rights. Inspiring article, HERE:
Back in Kobane city, the Firefund Appeal did not unfortunately reach its target of $130,000. $50,002 was pledged but none of this will be redeemed (if you signed up) because it represents only 38% of the target. The administrators of Kobane have said that this experience “has made them stronger” and they will come back with a new appeal soon.
The YPG has complained to the Coalition about shell attacks which they believe have come from Turkey. A video report from VOA.
And lastly on Kobane, another sign of normalisation as the first wedding since the city’s destruction has taken place among the ruins, here:
POISONOUS ISLAMIC STATE, AFTER MURDERING ITS PROTECTOR, DESTROY 2,000 YEAR OLD TEMPLE. ARE IS ALSO USING MUSTARD GAS?
It was not enough apparently to behead and mutilate the body of Khaled Al-Asaad, the 81 year old archaeologist who for 50 years had worked among the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Homs province.
Yesterday, Sunday, the Islamic State went one step further and demolished the Baalshamin temple with explosives.
Despite being 2,000 years old, some of it dating from the first century BC, experts said the inner part of the temple was “almost perfect”, one of the best preserved buildings of its type in the world.
The Baalshamin temple is dedicated to the Phoenician god of storms and fertilising rains and therefore a “sacriligious monument” as far as the Islamic State is concerned.
UNESCO world heritage chief Irina Bokova, called the destruction of the temple a “war crime” today, Monday and called for those responsible to be brought to justice. There are now considerable fears for the safety and preservation of the rest of the extensive site.
Initial reports from the examination of samples taken from Iraq suggest that IS recently used mustard gas in an attack on the Peshmerga, though it will be a couple of weeks before detailed analysis is available, however the gas leaves tell-tale yellow blisters on the skin when it burns.
Latest reports from northern Syria where IS is battling Opposition groups for control of supply routes between Turkey and Aleppo, doctors said they had 50 cases of people with breathing difficulties and 30 with blistering after a series of IS shells landed on Mare’.
10 patients, along with samples from the incident, have been transferred to Turkey for further investigation.
Turkey’s behaviour gets more and more eccentric as their President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seeks to undermine Kurdish political aspirations.
Yesterday, Sunday, a court placed in custody 5 Kurdish mayors from Kurdish dominated communities in the south-east of the country for allegedly supporting “calls for regional self-rule”.
Some of the mayors are women as many Kurdish communities jointly share the position between males and females. 93 Kurdish municipalities are also under investigation by Turkey’s Interior Ministry on charges of lending “logistical support to the outlawed PKK”.
All of those involved are aligned with the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) which in turn is associated with the HDP, the successful Kurdish Party that won 80 seats in recent elections.
The Turkish Government has also expressed anger towards the BBC accusing it of “making propaganda for the terrorist PKK”. You can see the “offfending video” on this page below (scroll down) – “The Women Fighters Take revenge Against IS”.
In the Damascus suburb of Douma, there have been yet more rocket and barrel-bomb attacks by the Assad regime on civilians. Another 50 people were killed over the weekend, bringing the total to at least 170 killed in the same district in the last week.
30 barrel-bomb attacks followed by intense shelling hit 6 other East Ghouta Opposition-held neighbourhoods yesterday, Sunday.
At the same time the Syrian authorities are claiming that 5 shells hit a Government area north-east of Douma, killing 10 and wounding 50 people “visiting” Adra Central prison.
In the Qalamoun region of Damascus province, 12 barrel-bombs and 20 rockets hit the besieged town of Zabadani on Saturday, destroying the main mosque. There are also reports of previous residents of Zabandani who had already fled to nearby villages being forcibly removed to an unknown destination in regime trucks.
Regretably, the killing goes on. In the Idlib towns of Al-Bara and Jisr Al-Shughour, 30 people are reported killed today, Monday, in regime airstrikes.
However, the Opposition continue to make progress in the major battleground with the Assad regime at the moment on the Ghab Plain, seen in this map on the boundary of Latakia, the Alawite community’s heartland, here:
In this video, Opposition fighters destroy an armed Government pick-up with a TOW missile, HERE:
To the north-east of Marrat Al-Numan there is also heavy fighting around the Abu Ad-Duhur airbase, one of the last military installations in the whole province of Idlib under Government control.
Opposition fighters are reported at the main gates, inside the “pilot school building” and to have captures the surrounding villages of Janab, Khasir and parts of Salmu.
From Aleppo city reports are coming on Monday afternoon of an Opposition tunnel explosion under the old orphange near to the remains of the Air Intelligence building. The Opposition are claiming they have killed 2 dozen pro-Assad fighters there is the Al-Zahraa district of north-west Aleppo. This video was released late this afternoon, HERE:
Lastly, consider this from UNHCR, especially if you thought your life was tough.
Khaled and his family fled to the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan in 2012 when the fighting near their house in southern Syria became too much but the hot, dry dusty air was bad for his mother’s asthma and they returned home.
When they heard some months later that their town was likely to come under attack again, they went to what they thought was a safer place – but it wasn’t. One fateful morning a mortar fell just as they sat down to breakfast.
15 year old Khaled’s Mother was killed and Khaled lost both his arms.
Now 17, handsome, unbreakable Khaled somehow still smiles and like any other teenager surfs the web and hangs out with his friends. But it is not the life he planned. You can read his story, HERE
WHILE YPG CARRIES ON FIGHT AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE, TURKEY’S PLANS REMAIN TOTALLY CONFUSING AND COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE:
TIMELINE – 21st AUGUST 2015 17.50 GMT:
Little news from Rojava today other than another 1200 people have crossed the border from Turkey and returned to Kobane.
However, still moving south-east from Hasakah city, the YPG have captured the village of Al-Khatuniyah from the Islamic State (IS) and are advancing from both the north and the south on the IS-held town of Al-Hawl.
More than 30 x IS fighters are reported killed in recent battles around Al-Hawl and the YPG are bombing IS positions in the “old refugee camp” on the south side of the town.
The YPG are also attempting to cut off IS supply lines coming from the east over the Iraqi border.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 8 airstrikes in Syria on 18th and 19th of August, 6 x IS fighting positions and an IS motorbike destroyed near Hasakah and one fighting position and an IS vehicle destroyed in Aleppo province.
At Raqqah the Coalition destroyed an IS checkpoint, as well as hitting 6 x IS tactical units at the 3 locations mentioned.
Over in Iraq, a quiet series of escape routes has been set up for members of the Yezidi community imprisoned by the Islamic State. The Telegraph has the moving story.
The Kurds story of course is very much tied up with Turkey. While Turkey’s participation in the Coalition against IS was broadly welcomed, much concern has been expressed about Turkey’s, or more precisely Turkey’s President Erdogan’s obsession with bombing the Kurdish PKK.
So far Turkey has made more than 300 airstrikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq and just 3 on the Islamic State. Turkey claims to have killed more than 770 PKK fighters, though many think that number is vastly exaggerated.
There is no hope of Turkey anhilating the PKK with airstrikes. It would take a ground invasion to do that and the Turkish Army would be hopelessly out-manouvred in the PKK’s “backyard”, the mountains of northern Iraq which it knows intimately.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday, Thursday, that Turkey allowing the US military to use the Incirlik Air Base for raids on IS in Syria and Iraq was “important, but not enough”. The US needs Turkey to properly control its borders against IS movements and supply routes and to fully target Islamic State positions.
Having failed to win an outright majority in recent elections, after the pro-Kurdish party HDP won more than 10% of the vote and 80 seats in Parliament, Erdogan is hoping to dent their popular standing and link them irrevocably with the PKK, who are still outlawed as “terrorists”.
Not being able to form a coalition to stay in power, Erdogan is likely to call new elections in October or November, by then hoping that the HDP’s popularity will have fallen. But this may well backfire.
The HDP’s popular and charismatic leader, Selahattin Demirtas, is calling for an end to violence on all sides.
As a former investigator into human rights abuse, he has said, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s security forces, PKK or civilians – the deaths have to stop immediately”.
2 opinion polls published this week in Turkey put the HDP on 12.8% and 14.1% of the popular vote, well above the 10% parliamentary threshold.
Fighting between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants has spread to Kurdish towns in south-east Turkey, where some areas are no-go zones for the Turkish police and army.
The murder of Turkish policemen and soldiers by the PKK does not help the situation, merely playing into Erdogan’s hands and giving him more reasons to attack them.
Many Kurdish civilians living in Turkey are now fleeing across the border, when Turkish troops allow them, into the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. You can read more, HERE:
However, just to complicate things further, not all is well in Iraqi Kurdistan where the President Massoud Barzani has just completed his second term as de facto leader and is reluctant to stand down. The BBC has the full story.
In the United States, Turkey is reputed to be spending $5 million a year to push its version of events in the Middle East, especially the “PKK terrorist” line. The Huffington Post has the details.
Back in Syria, of more interest is the proposed Turkish/US protected safe zone running along the Turkish/Syrian border from the Kurdish Canton of Afrin to the Euphrates river bordering Kobane Canton.
Driving the Islamic State completely out of the area, largely in northern Aleppo province, would make it much easier for anti-Assad Opposition forces to operate. But whether Assad’s jets and bombers would be kept out of that zone is another matter and yet to be tested.
News has just been released that the US has formally requested Australia to join the Coalition in airstrikes in Syria, as well as Iraq, and the UK government/parliament is considering a similar move.
Whether the US, without the Kurdish YPG and their Kurdish allies, who Turkey have foolishly banned from the “safe zone”, will have enough competent “approved” Opposition fighters on the ground to make a difference against the Islamic State remains to be seen.
Certainly these PKK fighters in training, Kurdish and Yezidi women very keen to fight IS, do not come across as “terrorists”. If only all those opposed to the Islamic State could just get over their prejudices and sectarian blindness and work together, this dreadful curse on humanity that threatens us all would be quickly eliminated.
2013 ASSAD SARIN ATTACK REMEMBERED, WHILE SYRIA RASHLY ALLOWS PALESTINIAN ATTACK ON ISRAEL:
Today, August 21st is a day to remember the Assad regime vicious attack on the Opposition-held Damascus suburbs of East and West Ghouta in 2013.
7 sites were hit with rockets containing Sarin nerve gas, which because of weather conditions and being heavier than air, sunk to the ground, killing hundreds of civilians sheltering in basements.
We may never know how many died that day, but the final figure is somewhere between 1360 and 2,000. Many of the victims were women and children. This disturbing video is a horrible reminder of events, (caution victims fitting and foaming at the mouth) here:
Meanwhile fighting in Damascus province continues around Zabadani, with Opposition fighters outside the city apparently breaking through the Assad regime and Hezbollah protective ring.
Opposition fighters are said yesterday to have regained a ridge near Zabadani and 2 checkpoints, one at the Jdouna restaurant and another at Karm Al-Alali. The Opposition brigade, Jaish Al-Fatah are also reported to have seized 2 x T-72 tanks and 2 anti-tank missile launchers from the regime and killed 4 members of Hezbollah near the Huda mosque in Zabadani.
The BBC has a report on the situation, HERE:
The BBC is also reporting an outbreak of deadly and contagious typhoid in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp where there are still thousands of refugees, including women and children, HERE:
On the political front, Assad is reported to have replaced 2 of his ministers, one of whom, Kinda al-Shammat, the Social Affairs Minister, was recently photographed embracing Suheil “Tiger”Al-Hassan, a top Syrian Army commander who has reached celebrity status.
After some success with his “Tiger Force”, relieving the siege on Aleppo prison and retaking the Shaer Gas Field (though not recently, having lost Idlib), Hassan has reached cult status among some Alawites and is seen as a possible rival to Assad in the future. You can read more, HERE:
There are also reports that Russia is to build a 2nd naval base in Syria, but further detail awaited.
In Aleppo yesterday, Thursday, the Opposition broke into the north-eastern district of Jabal al-Ghazzalat and took control of the Fire Brigade HQ, while new positions were also taken in the Sulaiman Al-Halabi neighbourhood.
The Sham Front has released a comprehensive video of their recent battles in Aleppo, here:
While Newsweek had an in-depth piece on Aleppo from the regime side of the frontline.
In Idlib province, the Opposition have launched more substantial rockets against the Alawite enclaves of Fu’ah and Kafraya, HERE: and successfully blown up another regime piece of hardware on the Ghab Plain, HERE:
Also in the south of Syria in Quneitra province a pro-Assad Palestinian group apparently conniving with the Assad military rashly fired 4 rockets into Israel, 2 into the Golan Heights and 2 into Upper Galilee. This caused some brush fires but no casualties.
However, the attack provoked a very strong response from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) who made 14 strikes against Syrian army positions.
The IDF also wiped out a vehicle with five passengers, including at least 2 members of the Assad military, a lieutenant and a colonel, using a drone.
Opposition sources claim that Israeli targets included the 68th and 90th Brigades, the 37th Regiment, a military security branch, artillery batteries, communications antennae, and other military posts and infrastructure. 1 other soldier is reported killed and 7 injured.
Some reports say that Syria has decided to end the 41 year old truce it has with Israel, but this is yet to be confirmed.
Lastly, in Homs province, not content with killing elderly men (scroll down -see below) the Islamic State are now reported to have destroyed the Christian monastery of Mar Elian, which was founded 1500 years ago in Al-Qaryatain, not far from Palmyra.
A 100 captives, mainly Christians from the town and including the local priest who worked at the monastery, have apparently been transferred to Raqqah after the religious centre was demolished and bulldozed.
ROJAVA UPDATE 129: ISLAMIC STATE ATTACK KURDISH SECURITY IN QAMISHLI KILLING 10+ CIVILIANS, WHILE YPG CHASE THEM FURTHER SOUTH:
TIMELINE – 19th AUGUST 2015 12.55 GMT- UPDATED (scroll down) 18.10 GMT:
An Islamic State (IS) suicide tanker truck bomb was exploded outside the headquarters of the Asayish (Kurdish Security) in Qamishli this morning, Wednesday, near the Al-Sinaa roundabout.
Reports vary but between 10 and 13 people were killed, mostly passing civilians plus 2 members of the Asayish. Between 29 and 50 people were wounded by the blast, for which IS has already claimed responsibility.
South-east of Hasakah city, the YPG advance on the town of Al-Hawl continues.
IS have dug trenches around the town but clearly don’t expect to hold it as local people say they have already dismantled the automatic bakery, the mill and a oil refinery and transported them further south to Shaddadi city.
Civilians have also been cleared from the town and there are already battles taking place on Al-Hawl’s eastern and north-western front approaches.
Several IS positions have already been destroyed near the Iraqi border where the YPG are advancing from the Mount Sinjar area in Iraq.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 3 Coalition airstrikes on Monday through to Tuesday this week, 2 near Hasakah and 1 in Kobane Canton.
In total the 3 strikes destroyed 2 x IS fighting positions, an IS barrier (berm) and a motorcycle and hit 2 x IS tactical units.
The building work has started, as can be seen from the photograph but still needs more support. Pledge yours at Firefund. As of this morning pledges stood at just over $48,000 so there is a long way to go to reach $130,000.
And to protect children and pregnant women especially, a measels vaccination campaign has been launched in Kobane.
ISLAMIC STATE EXECUTE 81 YEAR OLD ISLAMIC SCHOLAR IN PALMYRA, BUT IS FIGHTERS HIT WITH AIDS IN DEIR EZ-ZOUR:
In another bloody and revengeful attack, the Islamic State in Palmyra are reported to have executed 81 year old Khaled Al-Asaad, who for 50 years had cared for and written about the ancient Roman remains on the outskirts.
He was executed yesterday, Tuesday, in a square infront of the town’s museum after being imprisoned for over a month. Afterwards his body was taken to Palmyra’s 2,000 year old archaeological site and strapped upright to one of the ancient columns.
Al-Asaad had been in charge of the famous site for more than 40 years until his retirement in 2003 and since then he had been retained by the Syrian Antiquities and Museums Department as a recognised expert.
He is believed to have been killed because he refused to reveal the secret location of some of the more precious antiquities which had been hidden shortly before the arrival of IS in May 2015.
IS, known for destroying antiquities that it does not sell, is believed so far not to have damaged the Roman ruins in Palmyra.
Perhaps the Islamic State’s ugliness is attracting a curse? According to reports coming out of the National Hospital in Mayadeen in Deir Ez-Zour province 16 x IS fighters have been quarantined there because they are infected with Aids.
Most of the fighters are foreign Jihadists who are reported to have had sexual relations with 2 Moroccan women who are said to have escaped to Syria for “fear of execution”. Tests have apparently been ordered on all IS fighters in Deir Ez-Zour province to try and prevent the spread of the disease.
3 months ago there were similar reports from the town of Shaddadi in Hasakah province where an Indonesian, who had donated blood at the local hospital, passed on Aids to a Yezidi woman held as a sex-slave. Both the Jihadist and the doctor who released the information were reportedly executed in June.
The Islamic State, reacting to Turkey joining the Coalition against IS, has issued a video calling for Turkish people to “rise up and destroy Satan”, in a reference to the country’s President, Recep Erdoğan. The speaker, in Turkish, goes on the say that Erdogan has made Turkey ” a slave to the Crusaders”. You can read more in the Independent.
Back in Syria, IS is reported to have stormed key villages held by Hezbollah near the Lebanese border. Some reports said that Hezbollah withdrew after heavy shelling and that IS captured the border crossing from Syria into the Bekka Valley at Jousiya, though the Lebanese authorities have denied this.
The attack comes after several attempts by the Al-Nusra Front to capture the same area, all of which have failed. On this occasion Hezbollah seems to have lost ground and heavy casualties are reported on both sides.
ASSAD COUNTER-ATTACK MEETS RESISTANCE ON GHAB PLAIN, WHILE DOZENS OF ELITE GOVERNMENT TROOPS DIE NEAR DAMASCUS:
In Hama and Idlib provinces, the Assad regime staged a counter-attack yesterday, Tuesday, on the Ghab Plain to try and recover villages and territory lost to the Opposition coalition Jaish Al-Fatah.
At first the Assad force of around 600 men seemed successful but today the Opposition has struck back, recapturing Mishayyak and northern parts of Qahira, despite massive airstrikes, some reports saying as many as 150 in the last couple of days.
Some observers said that the Opposition were too focused on moving into Latakia and getting to the coast, rather than reinforcing their new gains on the Ghab Plain, thereby allowing Government forces to re-enter.
However, Assad’s troops are having a tough time of it.
Opposition reports say that today alone they have destroyed a BMP armoured personnel carrier, a Shilka tank, 1 mounted heavy machine gun, 2 transport vehicles and another vehicle full of ammunition.
The Opposition also have killed 12 pro-Assad fighters and captured 5.
In this footage the Opposition reduce a Government tank to a burning wreck, HERE:
In this video the Opposition shower the pro-Assad forces on the western edge of the Ghab Plain with Grad missiles, HERE:
The Opposition are also still attacking the 2 Alawite enclaves of Fu’ah and Kafraya, which are believed to be suffering a fuel crisis as all traffic movements appear to have ceased.
In Aleppo province the Opposition continue to battle the Islamic State for control of the supply routes north to Turkey and they destroy an IS vehicle with a TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:
Video from the frontline against IS in northern Aleppo province, HERE:
CNN has a report on the Division 30 US trained Opposition fighters, including an interview with one of their commanders who says they will attack Assad as well as IS, here:
In Damascus province the Opposition battle to take Government territory around Dariya and Harasta continues, with Opposition sources claiming they have killed 170 members of Assad’s Republican Guard in the last 5 days.
Yesterday evening, Tuesday, in another assault on the Syrian Army’s vehicle base, the Opposition destroyed 2 tanks, a BMP armoured vehicle and a 14.5mm gun. There is an action video, (Arabic commentary only) HERE:
In the Dariya advance, the Opposition have gained ground towards the Mezze Airport and a Government hospital.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s appalling Assad airstrike on the Damascus suburb of Douma (scroll down – see below) a doctor from the district has said that there are a total of 532 wounded, a third of them children and 100 of the victims need full anaesthetic surgery.
The actual death toll now appears to be around 102.
A Free Syrian Army (FSA) unit has sent an open letter to President Obama asking him to look at pictures of Sunday’s carnage in Douma and both the US State Department and UN representatives have condemned the attack, one calling it a “war crime”. You can read more, HERE:
In the Qalamoun region of Damascus province, Zabadani, is still being shelled and bombed by Assad’s airstrikes, the Opposition fighters holding out there, low on ammunition and weapons, possibly nearing the end of their resistance. New reports awaited.
In Latakia province, in very dry summer conditions, shelling in the mountains has started forest fires, HERE:
Lastly, in Daraa province, the Opposition Southern Front have been hit by a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations of their top commanders, thought to have been carried out by Assad death squads or perhaps the Al-Nusra Front. You can read more and make up your own mind, HERE:
ROJAVA UPDATE 128: WITH AREAS CLEARED AND MATERIALS ARRIVING, REBUILDING OF KOBANE ABOUT TO BEGIN:
TIMELINE – 17th AUGUST 2015 14.55 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 18.23 GMT:
Substantial areas of Kobane have now been cleared and trucks are delivering building materials and equipment to begin the reconstruction of the city.
The Kobane reconstruction fund at Firefund.net has just reached $41,000 (EDITOR: At my last look), but this is just 31.5 % of the requested total of $130,000 and they are a long way short.
Reports from Hasakah say that the YPG have handed back the southern entrance of the city to Assad’s troops, while the main Kurdish force has now moved further south and is threatening the Islamic State-held (IS) town of Al-Hawl.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports that on Friday through Saturday, it destroyed near Hasakah in 3 airstrikes, 6 x IS excavators, a heavy machine gun, 3 x IS fighting positions and an IS bulldozer (EDITOR: Could have done with all that equipment in Kobane!).
4 more airstrikes in the same time frame in Aleppo province destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and an IS vehicle.
On Saturday through Sunday there were 7 airstrikes in Syria, destroying 3 x IS tactical units in Kobani province, 2 more and an IS resupply vehicles near Ayn Isa, another tactical unit near Aleppo and 6 tactical units, 3 x IS bunkers and 2 more IS excavators near Hasakah.
Centcom has also released this video of Coalition aircraft destroying an IS HQ and several fighting positions in Kobane province on August 12th 2015, here:
The YPG has also released an English translation of the interview with Yasin Ebdıleziz Egumi, a Morroccan IS fighter who was captured during the battle against IS insurgents in Kobane on June 25th.
According to his retelling, both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are supporting the IS cause. You can make up your own mind, HERE:
This interesting animated map, courtesy of @rConflictNews shows how control of Syria and Iraq has changed on a day to day basis over the last 4.5 years since March 2011. Advance the slider to see the latest position, here:
ASSAD REGIME KILL 100+ IN HORRIFIC ATTACK ON CIVILIANS IN DAMASCUS SUBURB, WHILE STORY EMERGES OF IS ABUSE OF US AID WORKER:
Not content will killing dozens yesterday, Sunday, in the Damascus Opposition-held suburb of Douma, the Assad regime continued to carry out airstrikes on the district today.
On Sunday, in addition to artillery shelling, the Syrian Air Force is thought have dropped 9 vacuum bombs on a crowded market in the neighbourhood of Douma.
Casualty figures vary, depending on the source of the report, but deaths are put at 96 -120 and the wounded 240 -300. Many, including women and children, are seriously injured and the death toll is expected to rise. The aftermath of the attack can be seen, HERE:
Assad’s forces also attacked other areas in Damascus province yesterday, including Wadi Barada, which is the source of much of the capital’s water supply and Zabadani, where the ceasefire agreed last week (scroll down – see below) has fallen apart.
The Douma bombing is thought to be a direct attack on the HQ territory of the leading Opposition brigade, Jaish Al-Islam, who have just completed a successful operation against Assad’s troops at Harasta to the north-east of the capital.
In the Harasta attack, Jaish Al-Islam are reported to have seized 50 buildings on Friday, including the Syrian Army’s Vehicle Base and killed as many as 40 of Assad’s troops including 25 of his elite Republican Guard. Battle footage from Harasta is, HERE:
Wadi Barada also came under attack after the local Opposition council cut the water supply to Damascus (again) in support of the fighters in nearby Zabadani, but the supply has been restored today, Monday.
The agreement negotiated last week for fighters in the Qalamoun region of Damascus province to leave Zabadani and in return humanitarian supplies allowed into and wounded out of the Opposition surrounded Alawite enclaves of Fu’ah and Kefraya in Idlib province, fell apart on Saturday after the Opposition decided it was really a plan for sectarian division.
Iranian representatives, who seem to be leading the talks, are thought to want to clear all Sunnis away from Damascus and the corridor through the Qalamoun to Lebanon, as a prequel to creating an Alawite state.
As a result, the 2 Alawite enclaves have again come under heavy Opposition rocket and shell attack and Assad’s Air Force has bombed Zabadani this morning.
20 Opposition fighters, including a commander, are reported dead in Zabadani as a result of overnight bombing and 10 pro-Assad fighters are reported killed at Fu’ah and Kefraya plus 3 from the Opposition side. Video of the Opposition shelling, HERE:
Elsewhere in Idlib province, the Opposition continued the assaults on the Assad regime on the Ghab Plain, in this footage wiping out a caterpillar digger, (and setting fire to the local countryside!) HERE:
Ironically, while all this was going on in and around Damascus, the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, was in the Syrian capital for high-level talks with members of the Syrian Government.
Eventually he put out a meaningless generalised statement this morning, Monday, saying that, “All attacks on civilians are unlawful, unacceptable, and must stop. I am horrified by the total disrespect for civilian life in this conflict.”
In Daraa province, jubilant Opposition fighters are now well placed on Tel Za’tar overlooking the north-west approaches to Daraa city, HERE: and are also reported to be attacking from the east side of the regional capital.
In Aleppo province an unconfirmed report says that the Islamic State have abducted 70 Kurds in the countryside around Al-Bab which falls under their control. The Kurds have been taken to an unknown location.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) destroyed an IS bulldozer on the road to Tilalyan with a TOW missile, HERE:, where there is intense fighting for control of the routes between Aleppo city and the Turksih border.
Conflicting reports have also emerged today over the fate of 2 commanders and 5 other members of the ill-fated Division 30 group (scroll down -see below) which were trained by the US but quickly almost annihilated by the Al Nusra Front (ANF).
Several reports said the men have been released, but ANF are now denying that.
In another blow to the Assad regime, many financial transactions in Opposition areas of Aleppo and northern Syria are now being carried out in Turkish Lira, while the Syrian pound continues to weaken against the US dollar.
Some see the move as an attempt by Turkey to extend yet again its influence into northern Syria. Al Jazeera has a video report.
According to reports from Reuters the US and Germany say that those countries will be pulling out their Patriot missiles from Turkey in October, now that the situation along the Turkish/ Syrian border has vastly changed since 2012.
While the deputy leader of the Kurdish PKK, now in direct conflict once again with Turkey, has called on the US to mediate a peace between the 2 sides, according to the UK’s The Telegraph.
Syria’s passports are it seems now the most expensive in the world, after what may be a desperate move by the Assad Government to raise foreign exchange revenue. For Syrian’s living abroad, the fee for a new passport is $400 to be paid in US dollars or Euros and to renew an old one, $200. You can read more, HERE:
And lastly, in a horrific report from the US, it is claimed that Kayla Mueller, a 26 year old American aid worker who it is thought was executed by the Islamic State in February of this year, was earlier “married off” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS, and regularly raped by him when he visited the home of one of his lieutenants where she was kept.
The lieutenant was Abu Sayyaf who was in charge of the Islamic State’s oil and gas operations, but he died in a US special forces raid in May. Abu Sayyaf’s wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured in the raid and 2 Yezidi girls who were used as servants and sex slaves, were released. (EDITOR: Does the Islamic State’s spiritual” depravity have no end?) The BBC has a fuller report.
KOBANE/ROJAVA UPDATE 127: HEAVY FIGHTING SOUTH OF HASAKAH AS YPG TARGETS KEY ISIS TOWNS, WHILE KOBANE PREPARES FOR NEW SCHOOL YEAR.
TIMELINE – 14th AUGUST 2015 19.30 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.36 GMT:
After they were driven out of Sarrin on Kobane Canton’s south-western front, the Islamic State (IS) retreated further south to the Najm citadel, the remains of an ancient fortress overlooking the Euphrates River, where they established a new headquarters.
Yesterday, Thursday, Coalition aircraft bombed IS facilities near Najm and this was followed by loud explosions, indicating that stores of weapons and ammunition had been struck.
Generally, Kobane city is now seen as safe and this week another 1,600 Kobane citizens returned across the Turkish border from North Kurdistan where they had been seeking refuge.
Preparations are also underway for the start of the new school year in Kobane on September 7th.
All the schools in the city were destroyed during the Islamic State attacks but 5 will be operational in September and all the schools in the outlying villages across the Canton.
As importantly, another 180 teachers have been trained to teach in Kurdish and the Kurdish Language Institute now has 450 teachers able to teach in the Kurdish Language at 3 levels.
At the Kobane border gate into Turkey, Turkish authorities are still denying the entry of the bodies of 20 YPG/YPJ fighters who were killed in battle against IS.
The fighters originated in North Kurdistan on the the Turkish side of the border where their families have been waiting 2 weeks now to reclaim their loved one for a proper burial.
An appeal has now been made to the UN to take action on the issue.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, also said yesterday that his country does not expect to use ground troops in Syria to fight the Islamic State – but the option “remains on the table”.
The “Clean up the city – First International Campaign for Reconstructing Kobanê” fundraiser at Firefund has nearly reached $20,000 but that is only around 15% of the target of $130,000.
Further to the east, Kurdish security, the Asayish, have arrested 30 people in Tal Abyad who they believe to be members of Islamic State sleeper cells. Along with the arrested people they discovered weapons, ammunition, Turkish uniforms and other equipment.
Near the frontier at Tal Abyad some Kurds trying to cross were ordered by Turkish border guards to “back off and turn” and when they did so, according to local reports, the guards opened fire, killing 2 and wounding 8.
In the north-east of Syria, the Islamic State continues its attempts to infiltrate Qamishli and Hasakah. On Wednesday, Coalition jets hit several IS targets near Tel Hamis south of Qamishli, while the YPG battled with IS both south of Qamishli and east of Hasakah city.
Heavy fighting took place at Ghazalla, 22 kilometres south Tel Hamis with at least 4 x IS Jihadists killed and 3 YPG fighters injured. Coalition planes also bombed an IS checkpoint near Al-Hol town south-east of Hasakah.
Fierce battles are reported again today, Friday, south of Hasakah as the YPG moves forward towards Al-Hol and Shaddadi. IS is reported to have brought in as many as 200 suicide bombers and heavy artillery from Deir Ez-Zour to defend the 2 key towns.
Vice News, which has embedded itself with the YPG in Hasakah has released its 3rd video report (after short ad), here:
(Go to Vice News if this video fails to load)
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 21 airstrikes in Syria this week on Tuesday through Thursday, 10 of them near Hasakah destroying 15 x IS fighting positions among other targets.
2 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed 7 x IS fighting positions and an IS motorbike as well as hitting 2 tactical units. The other airstrikes were near Aleppo, Abu Kamal (destroying an IS front-end loader and a bridge) and Deir Ez-Zour.
OPPOSITION FORCES ADVANCE INTO NORTH-WEST DARAA CITY, WHILE SWISS BANK REVEALS MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS OF ASSAD’S COUSIN MAKHLOUF:
In south Syria the Opposition have once again made huge advances near Daraa city overrunning the north-western approaches.
In the last 48 hours Opposition fighters have taken Government defensive lines in Tal Za’tar, a hill at AL-Yududeh and the “cypress barrier” between Daraa and its northern suburb of Atman.
Reports of a large number of regime troops killed including Assad General Al Ayoud.
This map. courtesy of @markito0171, shows the (blue) area of Opposition advance towards the city itself, here:
In Idlib province the Opposition are shelling the main regime base at Joureen on the Ghab Plain with rockets, HERE: and have detonated 2 bridges near Al- Ziyara to prevent a regime advance.
In Latakia province, the Al-Nusra Front has stormed regime positions in the Jabal Al-Turkman mountains north-east of Latakia city and shelled Latakia city itself, killing 2 and wounding 13.
Latakia city remains tense since the arrest of Suleiman Assad, a cousin of the President, for shooting of a senior Army officer in a road rage incident. Some Alawites have called for Suleiman Assad’s execution (scroll down – see below).
Even more interesting is evidence of possible corruption and intrigue after the release of a swathe of documents by the Swiss arm of international bankers HSBC which show a whole host of accounts, 18 in all, linked to President Assad’s close cousin, businessman and millionaire Rami Makhlouf.
Even more damning is that some of the front companies connected with the accounts are headed by well-known Israeli businessman Freddy Zinger. You can read more, HERE:
In Aleppo province the Islamic State captured the village of Tilalyan north of Mare as they seek to cut off the Opposition supply route between the Turkish border and Aleppo city, but Opposition fighters are said to be fighting back strongly.
In Damascus province, the agreed ceasefire (scroll down – see below) involving Zabadani and the 2 Alawite enclaves in Idlib province, Fu’ah and Kefraya, appears to be holding and the first of 40 Opposition fighters are said to have left Zabadani today.
However the ruling council at nearby Wadi Barada has once again shut off the water supply to Damascus city in protest at the Hezbollah and regime actions at Zabadani, calling for the pro-Assad forces to withdraw.