“I so appreciate your Pullitzer-class reporting on the Kobane and Syrian conflicts and look forward to your updates. This is so much better than the superficial coverage that the major TV networks are providing.” JM.
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 85: CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS COALITION ATTACK ON IS-HELD VILLAGE – 64 CIVILIANS NOW REPORTED DEAD:
TIMELINE – 4th MAY 2015 15.25 GMT:
Controversy continues to surround a Coalition airstrike on the village of Birmahle, 15 kilometres from Sarrin, in an area where heavy fighting continues between a combined YPG/FSA force and the Islamic State.
The village was hit in a air attack on Islamic State (IS) positions on Thursday 30th April. However, local people claim many of the houses were occupied by civilians and not IS fighters.
Latest claims suggest that 64 civilians were killed, including 19 women and 22 children and horrific video footage of dead and mutilated children’s bodies in the back of a pick-up would appear to support this.
On the other hand, the US military issued a statement on Sunday saying that it’s information was that 50+ IS fighters had been killed in the airstrike and none of the victims were civilians.
Locals claim the death toll has risen as they struggled to extract the dying from under blast rubble.
According to the US forces spokesman, a joint YPG/FSA unit was in clashes with the Islamic State about 2 kilometres away from Birmahle at the time of the strike.
“Prior to the airstrikes, Kurdish forces, who held the town before leaving after being attacked by ISIL, reported there were no civilians present in that location and that there had not been any civilians present for two weeks prior to the Coalition airstrikes,” said Major Curt Kellogg on behalf of US Central Command (Centcom).
The enraged citizens in the video, if it is genuine, appear to be civilians and not fighters and of Arabic not Kurdish origin.
It could be that the YPG having reached the perimeter of Kobane Canton may not be as well informed as it was previously when retaking Kurdish villages – or that IS moved civilians in. The true situation in not clear.
Chuck Pfarrer, in his latest map below, suggests that even the exact location of the village may have become confused and is inaccurate.
The latest Centcom report on airstrikes in Syria says that 4 attacks were made last Saturday through to Sunday am, destroying an IS fighting position and hitting an IS tactical unit in Kobane Canton and striking “land features” near Raqqah, “denying ISIL a tactical advantage”.
The YPG itself reports several attacks by IS last Friday night on the villages of Elganê, Sepeta Ereban and Zerik north of the M4 highway and these may well have been break-outs from the Islamic State group still in the area around the Grain Silos north of Sarrin and Mitras.
All the attacks were summarily dealt with by the YPG/YPJ, with 4 x IS Jihadists killed and 6 others wounded.
On Saturday, the YPG also carried out an operation against IS for a hill position near Mirabba, killing another 2 x IS Jihadists in the process.
In Kobane city itself, 2 Kurdish children were injured at the weekend after mines left by IS exploded just north of Mishtenour Hill, while the Asayish (Kurdish security) reported dismantling 16 mines in villages south of the city on Friday.
There is also a report that a citizen of Kobane returning to his home found a large amount of money and 15 AK-47s hidden in his house (presumably left over from IS occupation), all of which he handed over to the Asayish.
Abu Layla, a FSA commander who fought alongside the Kurdish YPG/YPJ in the defence of Kobane, announced at the weekend that he has resigned all his military positions. Although Abu Layla spent many years of his life in Manbij in Aleppo province, he is in fact of Kurdish origin.
A 2 day conference in Amed, Turkey, on the reconstruction of Kobane this last weekend, was notable for the absence of many international organisations, Rojavan politicians and civil administrators but everyone who did attend, whatever their status, did get a chance to speak.
The overwhelming and concluding theme was “we have to rebuild Kobane with the same spirit it was liberated with”.
The latest situation map for south-west Kobane Canton, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, is, here:
Heavy fighting continues in the eastern Kurdish Canton of Cizire, especially along its western edge. Last Friday, the YPG held back concerted attacks on their positions by IS between Tel Tamer and Hesekê and targeted the same night Jihadist groups in the occupied villages of Tel Dimşîd and Seyyad, driving them out.
After “mopping up” in the area by the YPG on Saturday, the bodies of 18 dead IS Jihadists were found, plus 24 AK-47s, 30 AK-47 magazines, 4 RPG rocket grenade launchers, 1 heavy machine gun and more ammunition.
IS also launched another attack again near the village of Xîzêla, just south of Tel Hamis on Saturday, and after the fighting lasted most of the night, 7 x IS Jihadists were killed.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 84: ISLAMIC STATE BLOW ANOTHER SECTION OF KEY BRIDGE AND COALITION STRIKE HITS CIVILIANS NEAR SARRIN:
TIMELINE 1st MAY 2015 15.03.GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.54 GMT:
On Kobane’s southern front, the Islamic State attempted a probing attack into the village of Khan Mamed but were repelled by a joint YPG/FSA force at heavy cost.
20+ Islamic State fighters were killed and one IS fighter of Afghan nationality was captured, as well as 17 firearms taken.
On Tuesday evening a YPG/YPJ force launched an operation near the villages of Mitras and Ernê and found the corpses of 3 x IS Jihadists killed in an earlier clash.
2 x M16 carbines and 2 x AK 47s were recovered, as well as 4 radios.
To the south-west of the province heavy fighting continues around Sarrin, with regular bombing raids on IS positions by Coalition aircraft which have also killed a number of IS Jihadists.
North-west of Sarrin at Dar Al-Kharb, a group of IS Jihadists is still surrounded within the Grain Silo complex, and just to the south of that another IS group is also encircled at Khirbat Al-Burj.
15 kilometres south-east of Sarrin a Coalition airstrike last night, Thursday, targeting 8 x IS vehicles at the village of Birmehli, appears to have killed a number of civilians, including children, as well as IS Jihadists. Work is ongoing to try and find survivors under the rubble.
Over on the western front, IS are reported to have blown up a section of the Qara Qwazak bridge for the 2nd time yesterday, apparently to prevent the YPG/FSA crossing onto the west bank of the Euphrates.
Within Kobane city itself many of the streets look like those of a deserted and destroyed ghost town, but a rebuilding conference is is due to take place this weekend in Turkey and a rebuilding plan formulated. Meanwhile, those citizens that have already returned are being mobilised to help in the big clear-up.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday through to Thursday am this week, destroying 4 x IS fighting positions in Kobane Canton and an IS armoured vehicle (reported to be a US/Iraq Army Humvee), plus hitting an IS tactical unit.
Near Hasakah the Coalition also hit an IS fighter staging area and near Raqqah 2 of the strikes hit an IS fighting position and destroyed an IS building and a trench system.
The latest report from Centcom this morning says that the Coalition conducted another 6 airstrikes on Thursday through to today, Friday, am in Kobane Canton, destroying 7 x IS fighting positions, another IS vehicle and hitting 1 large and 3 small tactical units.
Another 4 strikes near Hasakah destroyed 2 more IS fighting positions and an IS excavator as well as hitting 2 tactical units.
Latest Kobane Canton Situation Map for the south-west, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
In Cizire Canton, on the road between Tel Tamer and Hasakah city at Tel Jedaya, heavy clashes are reported between the YPG and IS. IS detonated a booby-trapped vehicle but are said to have lost positions in the area to the YPG.
On Tuesday night a YPG operation against IS positions in Tel Mixas village resulted in the death of 1 x IS Jihadist and another operation on the same night at Mişêrfa destroyed an IS military vehicle and an unspecified number of its occupants.
In Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga are reported to have repelled a massive Islamic State attack on their positions in Sinjar city. According to the latest reports, 6 x IS Hummer armoured vehicles were destroyed and 24 x IS Jihadists killed.
This photo report from Mount Sinjar and Sinjar province has some excellent pictures by HERE: of the female fighters of the PKK,
VEHICLE BOMB HITS REMAINING ASSAD FORCES AT FORTIFIED NATIONAL HOSPITAL AS OPPOSITION GO ALL OUT TO DRIVE THEM COMPLETELY FROM IDLIB PROVINCE:
Opposition fighters used a massive car bomb driven into the inner courtyard of the National Hospital in the southern part of Jisr Al-Shughur in Idlib province this morning, Friday, to try and dislodge the remnants of Assad’s forces still remaining in the city.
Between 150 and 250 of Assad’s troops were said to be still inside the fortified National Hospital, plus some civilians including doctors, though after today’s explosion around 53 regime soldiers, including some senior officers and medics were said to have been captured.
Assad’s Air Force has continued to bombard Opposition positions around the province from the air and there are accusations that bombs containing chlorine have been dropped once again on civilians, including children, in Saraqeb.
The remaining pro-Assad forces in Idlib province attempted to drive Opposition fighters from a strategic hill position at Mardoba’a, which overlooks Ariha and the Mastoumeh base, but failed in the attempt, HERE:
In the fighting, the Opposition seized 2 Government tanks on the hills east of Ariha and this afternoon, Friday, took the hillside barrier of MT 40 which directly overlooks the town, allowing them to attack from the south and east, HERE:
The Opposition are also said to be very near the north-east entrance to Ariha town.
Should they take this and the nearby base, then Assad’s presence in Idlib province is effectively over.
Out on the Ghab Plain, which runs through both Idlib and Hama provinces, battles between the 2 sides have been taking place between Aqrqur and Al-Mishek, very near the thermal power plant (seen in the background), HERE:
Opposition fighters on the Plain have also pulled out around 20 dead bodies of Assad regime forces from the Orontes river. They believe they are troops executed by the regime for refusing to obey orders.
There is also a completely unconfirmed report that Russian warships in the Mediterranean yesterday fired 80+ rockets against Opposition-held villages on the Ghab Plain. This is the 2nd time such a report has emerged in the last week.
EDITOR: Until more evidence appears we can only assume it is wishful thinking by desperate pro-Assad supporters who want Russia to intervene on behalf of their besieged President?
In Damascus province, the Opposition blasted a regime fortification between Jisreen and Mleiha, north-east of the capital, HERE:
While in Aleppo jubilant Opposition fighters took over the Bashir Pasha Mosque in the Old City, HERE:
On Tuesday another 3 of Assad’s soldiers defected across to Opposition lines in the city, an occurence which locals say has been happening on a regular basis almost daily for the whole of April.
In Quneitra province Ahrar Al-Sham, one of the leading Opposition Islamist groups, took control yesterday of a crossing into Israel.
They took possession of the frontier posts away from the Army of Islam, another group which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Ahrar Al-Sham is now one of the leading and most powerful Opposition groups, a remarkable comeback as virtually all of their top leadership was wiped out in a mysterious assassination blast at a meeting in Idlib province in September 2014.
Opposition fighters in Quneitra are also attacking IS positions near Qahtaniyeh, determined to keep the Jihadists from establishing a foothold in the province, HERE:
Heavy fighting has additionally been reported overnight in northern Latakia province in the mountains of Jabal al-Akrad, where a panicked Syrian Army is trying to drive Opposition fighters out of Assad’s heartland before the Opposition stranglehold on Idlib province is complete.
If the Opposition control Idlib province and the plains running up to Latakia, it is only a matter of time before they launch attacks once again on Latakia city and Assad’s ancestral village at Qardaha.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates from its documentation that 4,458 people died in Syria in April, including 180 children and 108 women. Regime pro-Assad deaths are put at 1,461, while the Opposition toll, from all factions, is not much lower.
Also in April, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) reckon that they and their allies destroyed 43 of Assad’s tanks in just the last month alone, here:
ASSAD REGIME ON THE BACK FOOT AS SHIFTING POWER BALANCES AND SUPPORT FROM SUNNI STATES FAVOURS OPPOSITION ADVANCE:
Khaled Khoja, the current head of the Opposition Syrian National Coalition, met with US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday to ask for $3 billion in support and for the establishment of “safe-havens” in liberated areas.
Hot foot from an earlier meeting with the Saudis, Khoja may be feeling confident at last that international political opposition to Assad is coming together.
Both Qatar and Turkey, like the Saudis, have long opposed Assad but are also closely allied to the Moslem Brotherhood to whom Saudi Arabia has in the past been opposed. Now it seems all three countries are aligned not only to depose Assad but to break Iran’s Shiite influence in the region.
Opposition sources say that the Saudis and even Jordan, supported by Turkey and Qatar, may now be prepared to use air power, after their recent experience with the Coalition against the Islamic State, to create “safe zones” or “no fly zones” over parts of liberated Syria in the north and south, confronting Assad’s Air Force and air defences directly.
Failing that their is even talk of the Sunni states supplying ground to air missiles to stop Assad’s barrel-bombing once and for all.
Clearly, there is more money, training, equipment and armament support for successful Opposition groups, judging by recent successes and videos of well trained and equipped fighters and others using very sophisticated anti-tank weapons in large numbers.
Unity among Opposition fighting groups is also apparently stronger and a number of them met with the Syrian National Council in Istanbul in Turkey last weekend, reaching consensus on 5 points, including “no agreements with the Assad regime”.
BBC Syria news has more on Opposition unity.
At the same time, it is apparent that pro-Assad forces are increasingly feeling demoralised and that President Assad has reached the finite point where he cannot replace his lost fighters from Syrian ranks, and foreign mercenaries, whatever their numbers, will not have the commitment to him personally.
Alawite and Druze families, appalled by the daily flow of returning body bags, regularly hide their young men or send them out of the country to avoid conscription. And in Homs this week local activists report that the Syrian Army turned on members of the pro-Assad National Defence Force in the Zahraa area of the city after a dispute, resulting in fatalities. You can read more, HERE:
There are also unconfirmed reports that antiquities have been removed from the Byzantine Museum and money emptied from the National Bank in southern Sweida province and taken to Latakia, likely to be Assad’s provisional capital if Damascus falls. The regime presence in Sweida is limited and the majority Druze population may easily switch sides to protect their culture if they see that Assad is about to lose the whole of southern Syria, which seems increasingly likely.
Another good article questioning whether the Assad regime is “reaching the limit?” is, HERE:
As Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center said in an another article today, “The rebels still cannot win the Syrian conflict [EDITOR: yet!], but the regime can lose”.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 83 – STALEMATE AROUND SARRIN AS COALITION BLASTS ISLAMIC STATE POSITIONS – HEAVY FIGHTING NEAR HASAKAH:
TIMELINE – 29th APRIL 2015 13.06 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.05 GMT:
Numerous clashes between the YPG and the Islamic State (IS) are being reported on Kobane Canton’s southern front around the town of Sarrin but currently with no clear change of held territory.
On Monday IS also mounted an attack against the village of Dikane, but this was repelled, IS forces fleeing to the south.
During the fighting at Sarrin on Monday, one YPG fighter was reported killed.
On Kobane’s eastern front, IS Jihadists tried to occupy the village of Seferiyê on the road to Rutkê, on Monday night, but again the YPG prevailed, capturing 2 of the Islamic State fighters with their weapons and driving the others away.
In Kobane city itself, citizens were sorry to see Kurdish Peshmerga forces leave on Tuesday night along with all their military equipment, crossing the Turkish border to drive back to Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Peshmerga served Kobane city well, supporting them in their hour of need.
Sunday through to Monday am, US Central Command (Centcom) is reporting 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, the majority believed to be near Sarrin. 5 x IS fighting positions were destroyed and an IS heavy machine gun post, plus a hit on an IS tactical unit.
A further IS fighting position is reported destroyed in Kobane Canton in the time period Monday am through to Tuesday morning.
Tuesday through Wednesday, this morning, 4 airstrikes struck an ISIL large and two small tactical units, destroying five ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL vehicle.
Centcom have also released video of an attack on an IS mortar position in Kobane Canton on the 19th April 2015, here:
And more footage of the destruction of a IS fighting position in Kobane Canton (thought to be near Sarrin) on April 20th 2015, here:
Interesting analysis of Islamic State weapons recovered by the YPG, which lists the types of weapons found and where they may have originated, HERE:
Lastly on Kobane today, the 60 Minutes programme in Australia has produced another compelling video on the work of the brave Kurdish women of the YPJ, here:
In Cizire Canton, fighting continues along the western edge of the Canton, with operations in the Tel Tamer area between the villages of Xebîş and Menacir. An IS vehicle with its occupants inside was destroyed in these clashes
After completing another operation around a quarry 17 kilometres west of Tel Tamer, the YPG found several dead IS bodies and recovered 3 x AK-47s, plus radio equipment and other weapons and ammunition.
On Monday night IS targeted the village of Mecdal in the Xerita area but retreated after 2 of their men were killed. On the same night IS also made a mortar attack on Tel Hamis, to which the YPG responded appropriately.
Just to the south of Cizire Canton in Hasakah city there are conflicting reports. The Syrian Army is saying it “restored several points” around the city with the help of the Syrian Air Force, while IS announced yesterday, Tuesday, that it had captured 3 Government barriers in the southern part of the city.
ASSAD’S FORCES CONTINUE TO GET THUMPED IN IDLIB PROVINCE – LOYALIST DEATH TOLL RAPIDLY MOUNTING:
In Idlib province, combined Opposition forces continue to consolidate their gains.
Istabraq village south of Jisr Al-Shughur was captured and Assad’s forces withdrew to Joureen.
Substantial stocks of weapons and ammunition were taken in the area, HERE:
In Jisr Al-Shughur itself there was a significant prisoner capture, when Colonel Hassib Moalla, head of political guidance for Assad’s special forces, was found hiding in a sewer.
Fighting was still going on along the southern edge of Jisr Al-Shughur yesterday, where the Syrian Army had a base at the National Hospital, HERE:
Most of the pro-Assad fighters however, fled from the city either by high speed vehicles shot at by the Opposition or on foot along the railway, HERE:
More chaos ensued as the Opposition took control of Ishtabraq, HERE:
Currently, Assad seems to be concentrating his heavy weapons at the Al-Ma’asara checkpoint between Jisr Al-Shughur and Ariha.These positions might now be vulnerable too as Opposition forces have attacked the barriers at Musbin village and have taken a quarry and a hill top which is only 1.5 kilometres from Ariha and overlooks Mastouma military base, HERE:
Unconfirmed reports say that at least 100 of Assad’s forces have been captured and a pro-regime page says that as many as 630 Assad loyalists have been killed in recent battles in Idlib, and Hama provinces.
Idlib Situation Map for 29.04.15 around Mastoumah, courtesy of @archicivilians, here:
The New York Times Syria news has an interesting article about Assad’s eroding army and how he relies more and more on Hezbollah and Iran’s military to prop him up, HERE:
In the Qalamoun region not far from Damascus, the FSA is battling with the Islamic State out in the desert, while in Quneitra, not far from the Golan Heights they are trying to drive IS out of the province altogether, 29 fighters on both sides killed in the last 3 days.
Fighting has also broken out again in the Syrian capital in the Yarmouk camp, with the Assad regime helping matters along by dropping 13 barrel-bombs on the area as well.
In Deraa province, in the south, the Opposition hit 2 regime vehicles with anti-tank missiles near Bosra Al-SHam, HERE: and completely destroyed a SUV carrying ammunition, judging from the ensuing firework display, HERE:
Photographs have also appeared showing an anti-tank missile launcher fitted with night vision equipment. Weapons and money to properly train Opposition fighters seems to be getting through at last.
This video has just appeared today – a passing out parade for no less than 1700 new Opposition recruits, clearly well equipped and well-trained, in Eastern Ghouta, not very far from central Damascus. The recruits belong to Jaysh Al-Islam which is aligned to the Islamic Front, but not the FSA.
Jaysh Al-Islam is apparently receiving money from Saudi Arabia and trainers from Pakistan, (sit out the PR, the rest is impressive!) HERE:
In Aleppo, Opposition fighters have made advances once again in the Old City, HERE:
In the US a group of activists is designing, testing and planning to fly drones carrying aid supplies into barrel-bombed Aleppo. You can watch the full story from on BBC Syria news, here:
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 82 – COMBINED YPG/FSA FORCE ENTERS SUBURBS OF SARRIN AND YPG TAKE 2 STRATEGIC HILLS IN CIZIRE:
TIMELINE – 27th APRIL 2015 12.49 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 14.50 GMT:
In the south-west of Kobane Canton, a combined YPG/FSA force now has Sarrin firmly surrounded on 3 sides and is pushing into the suburbs from the north, east and west.
Despite heavy clashes however, the capture of the whole of the town make take some time as the Islamic State have reinforced buildings, particularly on the north and east sides, mined roads and set booby-traps and other explosive devices.
On the south side of Sarrin the Islamic State (IS) are still able to reinforce themselves with men and supplies via a road that leads to the Tishreen Dam and then to their Manbij stronghold in Aleppo province.
The Kurdish forces are occupying higher ground to the north-west of Sarrin and this should give them a military advantage.
Reports say that some of the IS fighters based in Sarrin have already tried to escape towards the banks of the Euphrates but that they are being intercepted by the YPG and their weapons seized.
The combined Kurdish/Free Syrian Army (FSA) force says that they have also intercepted an “IS spy” working inside one of their units.
The attack by IS on the 3 villages of Tel Ahmer, Tel Eber and Zer Kotek last Friday (scroll down – see below) apparently originally involved a force of around 60 x IS Jihadists crossing the Euphrates with boats.
By Saturday, the 3 villages had been recaptured with 25 x IS Jihadists killed and 17 wounded. 2 more drowned as they tried to get back over the Euphrates and 2 of the IS boats that brought them were hit by Coalition airstrikes.
6 members of the YPG/YPJ and 1 member of the FSA died in these battles over the villages.
This morning, Monday, it is reported that a FSA unit also captured 2 x IS Jihadists hiding in Tel Ahmer, remnants of last Friday’s attacking force. Both of the captured fighters appear to be from Khazakstan.
A little further to the east, the YPG also halted the IS attack on the village of Mistras, though there is still a surrounded IS force embedded in the Grain Silo site just to the north. 7 x IS fighters were killed at Mistras and the YPG captured AK-47s, ammunition and other equipment.
IS also targeted over the weekend the village of Sina on the southern Kobane Canton front but were successfully repulsed with the death of 9 x IS Jihadists and the capture of 5 x AK-47s, ammunition, 2 x RPG rocket grenade launchers, 1 heavy machine gun and 13 hand grenades.
This is @ChuckPfarrer’s updated Kobane Canton Situation map for Sunday 26th April, here:
In the Kurds Cizire Canton, a bit further east towards Iraq, the YPG mounted an operation starting on Friday and running into the weekend to regain from IS control of 2 strategic hills between the villages of Aliya and Al-Manajir, around 17 kilometres west of Tel Tamer.
After heavy fighting and backing airstrikes from the Coalition, the YPG gained the hill positions despite the Islamic State fighters mounting 6 counter-attacks over 2 days but eventually withdrawing with serious losses, some reports saying as many as 40 x IS Jihadists killed. 3 x IS vehicles were also destroyed. 2 YPG fighters died in the operation.
This video shows the YPG in action around the Seri Kaniye (Ras Al Ain) region, here:
The loss of the hill positions however, did not stop a major attack on the city of Hasakah, just south of Cizire Canton, launched on Sunday.
The clearly planned IS attack came from 3 sides and apparently includes their elite forces of the Jund Al-Khalifa.
The YPG has called on people to remain in their homes in the Kurdish neighbourhoods, and Syrian Army units still inside the city are engaged in direct combat with the IS Jihadists and using helicopters to barrel-bomb their positions.
This morning, Monday, IS is claiming it has captured 33 members of Assad’s National Defence Force near Hasakah. Further information awaited.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports on Friday though to Saturday morning it carried out 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, destroying 4 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS boats, plus hitting another 4 x IS tactical units.
Near Hasakah the Coalition destroyed an IS improvised explosive device (IED) cache and an IS mortar position, as well as hitting another fighting position.
On Saturday through to Sunday am, the Coalition destroyed a fighting position in Kobane Canton and hit a tactical unit and did the same near Hasakah.
Lastly on Kobane, @jackshahine has come up with this ancient photograph of famous British crime novelist Agatha Christie visiting Kobane city with Kurdish hosts in the 1930’s and posing near Assyrian lion carvings.
Agatha Christie died in 1976 but remains well known for her created characters Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, many of whose stories have been produced as TV dramas and films.
The play Christie wrote called “The Mousetrap”, is still running in London after 63 years and 25,000 performances – a world record for any production.
You can read more about Agatha Christie, HERE:
(EDITOR: What she would have made of recent events in Kobane is anybody’s guess!)
ASSAD LOSES ANOTHER BASE – THIRD MAJOR LOSS IN IDLIB PROVINCE IN LAST 30 DAYS:
An Opposition force made up of the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and other less extreme Islamist allies, this morning, Monday, captured another important Syrian Army base.
This is the third significant loss to the Assad regime in Idlib province in the last month, following the capture by the Opposition of Idlib city on March 26th and last week the capture of the strategic town of Jisr Al-Shughur.
Today’s Opposition victory was the capture of the Qarmeed base, also known as the “brick factory base” from where Assad’s forces had shelled Opposition held towns and villages with long-range artillery for the last 4 years, causing as many as 5,000 deaths.
The attack started yesterday when an ANF suicide bomber drove a BMP suicide armoured vehicle loaded with 2 tons of explosive into the entrance of the camp, HERE:
This was followed by a concentrated attack and by dawn this morning the base had fallen.
The initial suicide bomb explosion killed 15 of Assad’s forces and led to the capture of 6 T-72 tanks, 6 M46 Cannons, 18 anti-tank missile launchers, 4 Grad rocket launchers, armoured personnel carriers, 23 14.5mm guns, heavy machine guns and large quantities of ammunition.
The Syrian Air Force has countered with a furious attack of at least 10 barrel-bombs on the Qarmeed base area.
The remaining Assad fighters who were not killed in the the attack have retreated to the nearby Mastoumah camp, which undoubtedly be the Opposition’s next target, or Government held towns like Ariha.
However, the Government’s position in Idlib province is now extremely weak.
Footage shows victorious Opposition fighters inside the Qarmeed base, (caution dead bodies and rather excitable fighter!) HERE:
Out on the Ghab Plain the area now seems split along the line of the Orontes water canals with the regime holding the western sector towards the Latakia mountain range and the Opposition holding the east. In this video, Opposition fighters ambushed and destroyed a regime convoy somewhere near Joureen, HERE:
In this footage the well-equipped Opposition use an anti-tank missile to destroy a Government Shilka tank at a barrier on the Ghab Plain and almost destroy a passing truck as well, HERE:
As if to punish the people of Idlib province, the Assad regime has carried out 3 airstrikes in the last 24 hours, killing more than 74 people, including 19 children and 11 women. One bomb hit a market at Darkoush on the border with Turkey, killing mainly displaced Syrian refugees from other parts of the country.
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.