“I so appreciate your Pulitzer-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 NEWS IRAQ NEWS
ROJAVA UPDATE 148: ARMED BY THE US, NEW “SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCE” EMERGES IN NORTHERN SYRIA. IN IRAQ NEW ATTEMPT MADE TO KILL IS LEADER:
TIMELINE – 12th OCTOBER 2015 12.12 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 19.05 GMT:
Last Friday, the YPG/YPJ carried an operation against an Islamic State tactical unit near Sarrin in the south-west of Kobane Canton while it was preparing an attack.
The YPG destroyed an IS armed vehicle, killing one IS Jihadist and wounding another.
Also on Friday, IS shelled Kurdish villages east of the Euphrates, killing a 5 year old boy in Kobane Canton and wounding his father.
In Kobane city itself, the Kurds put together a demonstration on Friday, demanding that Turkey release the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, who has been locked up in a Turkish prison for 16 years now.
There were also pictures released of young girls in Kobane training for football, quite common now in the Western world, but still rare in the Eastern.
The big news released yesterday, Sunday, for the whole of the north of Syria was a joint statement released by a new group, the “Syrian Democratic Force”.
In part the statement reads: “Due to the accelerated conditions in both the political and the military development …….. there must be an establishment of a unified military force to all Syrians consisting of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and all others living in the geographic locations of Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Force is to launch a self-governing Syria [under which] the Syrian people who would be willing to live in freedom, impartiality and dignity with inclusiveness to all for obtaining their legitimate rights.
On this basis, the following military groups have declared to establish the Syrian Democratic Forces:
1. Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC)
– Jaysh Al-thuwar
– Burkan Al-Furat Operations Centre
– Al-Sanadid Forces
– Brigade Groups of Al-jazira
2. The Assyrian Military Council
The Syrian Democratic Force brings together around 30,000 fighters and according to local sources has not only received the support of the US but was air dropped 110 pallets of arms and ammunition on Sunday night.
This ties in with statements from the US on Friday when they cancelled the failed $500 million Opposition training programme (scroll down – see below) and said they would actively support “effective groups” on the ground.
(EDITOR: Good news indeed – perhaps there is hope for Syria yet?)
This new force may be particularly important for the Assyrians. IS has just vowed to executed 180 Christian Assyrian hostages they took back in February from villages in Hasakah province around Tel Tamar.
Negotiations have been ongoing since February but so far the Assyrian community has not met the ransom demanded by IS of $12 million for their release. Last Wednesday IS released video of the execution of 3 Assyrians that they already held captive.
In Iraq, in the ongoing joint offensive by the YPG/ Yezidi militia and the PKK to the south-west of Mount Sinjar, more gains have been made.
11 x IS Jihadists area reported killed today, Monday, in clashes near the mountain and another 22 were killed yesterday, Sunday. On Saturday a further 4 villages, Sikeniyê, Jiddale, Heyalê and Wardiya, were liberated, though 4 Peshmerga fighters were also killed the same day by IED bombs planted on Mount Sinjar by IS.
Clearly the loss of IS territory at the foot of Mount Sinjar, and in particular the closing of their supply route between Mosul and Syria, has not pleased the Islamic State leaders.
According to Yezidi sources, IS executed 21 of their own fighters yesterday evening, Sunday, in a school courtyard at Baaj, just south of Sinjar city, infront of local tribal leaders, for withdrawing from the area just liberated by the combined YPG, Yezidi and PKK force.
Also on Sunday, the Iraqi Air Force bombed a IS convoy on its way to a meeting of senior Islamic State leaders at Karabla in north-west Iraq.
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was once again believed to be travelling in the convoy and possibly injured, though the extent of his injuries is not known.
Al-Baghdadi was thought to have survived an earlier airstrike in February after being severely injured in a similar convoy attack at Al-Qa’im while crossing from Syria to Iraq.
The location of the meeting in Karabla was also attacked, according to the Iraqi military, and a number of IS commanders were killed and injured.
French sources are suggesting that their first air attacks in Syria last week, which apparently hit a training camp for foreign Jihadists near Raqqah, may well have killed a number of French nationals. “We are not interested in which passport they have, ” said a spokesman for the French Ministry of Defence.
AFTER 6 DAYS ASSAD MAKES MINIMAL HEADWAY IN HAMA, BUT RUSSIAN’S TALK OF UPPING AIRSTRIKES TO 100’S A DAY:
Massive battles continue to take place on the northern Ghab Plain and on the borders of Idlib province as Russian jets and Assad’s military pound the Opposition.
The exact position is not clear, with both sides making claims that are difficult to verify and within a short time may indeed change.
What is clear is that after 6 days, the Assad regime has not made the advances it would have hoped, given its air superiority and massive fire power.
The body bags are starting to fill up and being sent home.
37 bodies of Hezbollah fighters are already reported to have arrived back in Beirut today, including that of leading Hezbollah commander Hassan Al-Haj who was killed in fighting in Idlib province on Saturday.
The biggest danger for the Opposition now is that Putin, having committed himself to shore up the Assad regime, cannot be seen to lose.
Sources in touch with the joint Iraq/Syria/Russia/Iran operations room in Baghdad, report that the Russian air command operation in Syria is saying that they need to “increase the amount of airstrikes in Syria from 60 a day to 200 – 300 a day”. So far, 60 strikes a day is “insufficient to prepare the theatre of war for ground operations”.
In other words, the current air offensive has been testing the capability and resistance of Opposition forces on the ground and so far they have held up too well against the Russian onslaught.
It is only technical issues with the limitation of 2 airfields that prevent the Russian Air Force from increasing their daily strikes. A third airfield is under construction and will be ready within a month. You can read more, HERE:
In a TV interview, yesterday, Sunday, President Putin said that Russia’s objective was to “stabilise the Syrian Government and create conditions for a political solution” (EDITOR: In Assad’s favour presumably, so he would be in a position of strength).
The Opposition’s political organisation, the Syrian National Coalition, has told the UN that in the face of Russia’s current aggression in Syria, it will not discuss a political solution at all.
Meanwhile, Opposition fighters report that the Russian jets are mainly striking civic buildings and houses, causing civilians to flee the area or left exposed, while the fighters themselves hunker down in an effective routine to hide from airstrikes.
The head of one local council said, “The regime’s planes could bomb maybe one or two buildings, but now a whole district is destroyed [by the Russians]. There is no specific time and we can’t take any more precautions. If you are destined to get killed you will get killed”.
The main result is that more displaced civilians are heading for the Turkish border and Europe.
Weapons for the Opposition are getting through, but the requests for ground-to-air missiles to counteract the Russian bombing are still being met with a “No”. The Guardian has more.
On the ground, the regime has claimed that it has seized the villages of Tak Sukayk and Kafr Nabuda, however Kafr Nabuda, which the Opposition vacated early this morning, appears to have been something of a trap.
The Opposition appears firmly back in command of Kafr Nabuda this evening, Monday, with a lot of fighters happy at their success, (Arabic only), HERE: and scenes from the fighting earlier in the day before the Assad regime were pushed back out, HERE:
Opposition forces say that they have also captured both a tank and an armoured vehicle in Kafr Nabuda and that clashes around Sukayk continue.
Opposition fighters also destroyed a tank on Tell Othman, HERE:
At Atshan, a Russia Today reporter embedded with Assad’s troops and hiding at the mosque, acknowledges (in English) the heavy fighting and says any gain has been at great cost to the regime, HERE:
There is a similar picture in Latakia, with the Assad regime making gains after intense Russian bombing but then losing ground again.
Opposition fighters took out a 14.5 mm gun mounted on the back of a technical (armed pick-up) while it was still firing in the Jubb al-Ahmar area. The resulting bonfire and chain of ammunition explosions is spectacular, HERE:
An unconfirmed report claims that Opposition fighters took over Doureen village in the suburbs of Latakia city and attacked Assad and Russian military personnel, but further details awaited.
Heavy fighting continues elsewhere in Latakia province, with the Opposition destroying a regime cannon behind a barrier at Khan Arnabah, HERE:
In Aleppo province, the Opposition are claiming that IS has handed over the territory it recently gained north of Aleppo city around the economic free zone to the Assad regime, though this has yet to be confirmed.
In Damascus province, Government troops, military vehicles and Hezbollah fighters have been moved from Zabadani towards the capital. It is believed that a major attack on the Opposition held suburb of Daraya is imminent.
A regime airstrike also destroyed the Al-Kaf hospital in Eastern Ghouta over the weekend, the most important medical facility in the area. Report, (Arabic only) HERE:
Lastly, a little “ray of sunshine” in a very dismal scene as Malak, aged 7, tells her story of escaping Syria to get to the island of Lesbos in Greece, here:
ROJAVA UPDATE 147: YPG CONTINUES TO DEFEND KURDS AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE AND CLOSES IS ROUTE FROM MOSEL TO SYRIA:
TIMELINE – 9th OCTOBER 2015 13.20 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.52 GMT:
Islamic State (IS) have continued to attack YPG/YPJ positions in Rojava this week, attacking villages near Ain Issa on both Wednesday and Thursday.
An attack on the village of Mikhayrim on Wednesday was repelled with the death of one IS Jihadist and a second wounded.
The Thursday attack at 7.00 in the morning was on a YPG security position between the villages of Shergirat and Hashe, IS eventually retreating after making no advances.
A follow-up to to Tuesday’s IS attack on Tal Abyad (scroll down – see below) saw the YPG together with Kurdish security, the Asayish, kill 2 x IS Jihadists and recover a number of weapons and ammunition.
According to the Kobane Council of Social Affairs, as many as 175,000 people have returned to settle in Kobane Canton in areas that have been cleared of mines, in the last 9 months.
250,000 lived in Kobane before the start of the war in Syria, but this swelled to 450,000 as people fled from fighting in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
Over in Aleppo city, where the YPG/YPJ have been protecting the Kurdish population in the Sheikh Maqsood district from attacks by the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), the YPG carried out an assault operation on the Bostan Pasha neighbourhood, killing 2 ANF Jihadists. At the same time, ANF put out a video claiming the YPG has “attacked them with a car bomb”.
EDITOR: While I am not convinced by this, as it is not normal YPG behaviour, ANF, who are “masters” at car bombing, killing and injuring hundreds, often just innocent civilians passing by, can hardly complain if their own tactics are used against them.
In Iraq, the YPG, along with the PKK and Yezidi militia yesterday, Thursday, mounted an effective attack on the Islamic State, killing an estimated 30 x IS Jihadists. One Yezidi fighter also died.
Initially the Kurdish/Yezidi force took 2 strategic hills west of Mount Sinjar and then took control of an IS checkpoint at Shilo near Skiniya, south-west of Mount Sinjar, liberating the village of Al-Neban in the process. This move effectively closes the IS route along the road from Mosul to Syria.
“ASSAD TANK MASSACRE” CONTINUES, WHILE USA ABANDONS $500 MILLION OPPOSITION TRAINING PROGRAMME TO WORK WITH “MORE EFFECTIVE GROUPS” LIKE THE YPG:
Despite continued Russian bombing and a major Syrian Army assault, the Opposition in Idlib and Hama provinces have continued, what activists are calling, the “Assad tank massacre”.
At the time of writing, a further 6 tanks or armoured vehicles had been destroyed today.
The Free Syrian Army brigade, Liwa Fursan al-Haqq, took this regime tank today at Ma’an, HERE: while Jaish Al-Fatah tried to storm the town, situated east of Morek and due north of Hama.
This armoured bulldozer met it end in eastern rural Hama, HERE:
2 technicals, armed pick-up trucks, were also destroyed between Atshan and Ma’an and unconfirmed reports say that a helicopter was brought down at Kafr Nabodeh, details as yet unknown.
This technical was destroyed at Al-Mughayr, HERE:
A summary of the previous 2 days of “tank massacres” can be seen, together with stirring music, HERE:
Following yesterday’s story of 26 Kalibr cruise missiles fired form Russian ships in the Caspian Sea (scroll down – see below) reports emerged from the US that 4 of these missiles, which are new and relatively untried, had come down in Iran.
Russia vehemently denied that, while Iran would not “yes” or “no”. In the city of Talsh in Iran’s Caspian region a very loud explosion brought people onto the streets in the middle of the night. Iranian authorities claimed it was an explosion at a “gas cylinder filling plant”.
Some of the Russian cruise missiles were filmed flying across Iraq Kurdistan at tremendous speed, here:
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, said that America had no warning of the missile launches and, “It remains our hope that Russia will see that tethering itself to a sinking ship is a losing strategy”. Without further elaboration Carter also said that Russia can expect casualties “in the coming days”.
If you can stand the ads, CNN has a good video report.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said today, Friday that it’s planes had hit the HQ of Liwa al-Haqq “killing 200 insurgents, including two ISIS field commanders” and another “100 insurgents near Aleppo”. (EDITOR: For a start Liwa Al-Haqq has nothing to do with IS). An estimated 90% of Russian strikes are hitting Opposition positions, not IS, as illustrated in the map below.
US jets have been told to avoid Russian aircraft in order to not get in a confrontation, much to the fury of US Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Turkey’s President Erdogan, who was in Moscow just over a week ago and told nothing about the upcoming Russian moves, is also angry, threatening to cancel or move gas and nuclear energy supply contracts according to Foreign Policy Magazine.
Saudi Arabia has already said it will up its arms deliveries to Opposition groups in Syria in view of the Russian intervention and “will not rule out sending ground to air missiles”, according to a spokesman.
At the other end of the spectrum for the Opposition, the US today, Friday, announced that it is cancelling the $500 million Opposition fighter training programme, which has been a complete disaster, and will now concentrate on “equipping and enabling” effective Kurdish, Arabic and other groups against IS, with whom it has already been working on the ground.
These groups will be equipped with arms and ammunition, communications equipment and training to co-ordinate with US airstrikes. “The work we’ve done with the Kurds [YPG] in northern Syria is an example of an effective approach,” US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter told a news conference in London.
Meanwhile, French jets attacked IS positions around Raqqah last night, Thursday, and Russia has once again been accused of dropping cluster bombs. 5 civilians were killed and 50 wounded at the Nazeheen refugee camp for displaced Syrians in the Idlib countryside after a night time attack.
After Russian jets attacked its positions and bases north of Aleppo, the Opposition has abandoned the hard-fought–for villages of Tel Susayn, Maartiytah, Kafr Qaris, Tel Qarah, and the town of Fafin, as well as the Free Zone and the Cement Factory, all of which are situated in the area to the north and west of the Infantry Military College, which they also surrendered to IS.
The Military College was one of their most important bases in the area. IS made one of their biggest gains in just 24 hours as the Opposition fighters found themselves squeezed between the regime to the south and the Islamic State to the north. This now puts IS on the frontline hard against Assad’s forces and just 2 kilometres to Aleppo city itself.
An early casualty of clashes between IS and Assad’s forces late last night, Thursday, was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brigadier General Hussein Hamdani, who oversaw the elite Iranian Quds force in Syria and was a specialist at integrating militias with regular military.
In May 2014, Hamdani boasted in an interview with Fars News Agency that Iran had “built a second Hezbollah in Syria.” He was on sanctions lists in both the US and the EU for “human rights violations”. (EDITOR: So probably no great loss to the decent world then!)
Lastly, from Quneitra province in the south there is a report that the Commander of Assad’s Base 90, under threat from Opposition fighters, has been arrested by Government security services on “charges of cowardice and dealing with rebels”.
ROJAVA UPDATE 146: YPG CLEAR ALL REMAINING VILLAGES AROUND MOUNT ABDUL AZIZ OF ISLAMIC STATE AND KILL OVER 100 OF THEIR FIGHTERS:
TIMELINE – 7th OCTOBER 2015 13.18 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.25 GMT:
Latest reports from Rojava this morning, Wednesday, suggest that the YPG in their campaign around Mount Abdul Aziz have captured no less than 17 villages from the Islamic State (IS).
Effectively, this means that they have cleared IS completely from the Mount Abdul Aziz region, including the villages of Bidee, Khazaa, Kharaa, Tel Hamam, Jafr Jrada, Hezomiya, Um Bakir, Um Taweel, Um Fakhir and Sfan.
The YPG also claims that they killed 106 x IS Jihadists in the operation and taken 10 of the IS fighters prisoner.
The YPG also acknowledges the help of the Coalition in the campaign and US Central Command (Centcom) reports for October 6th confirms 5 airstrikes near Hasakah, hitting 4 separate IS tactical units and destroying an IS vehicle bomb, 5 x IS buildings and an IS checkpoint.
Two other strikes in Syria for the same day hit an IS crude oil collection point near Deir Ez Zour and a tactical unit near Manbij in Aleppo province, as well as destroying another IS building.
In the report for October 5th, 6 airstrikes near Hasakah hit 7 separate IS tactical units, destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and 3 x IS vehicles.
There is also a report that IS made another attack on a YPG checkpoint on Tal Abyad on Tuesday night, but were driven back with IS loss of life.
Meanwhile, over in Kobane city, the local Kurdish women are learning to defend themselves, and clearing rubble from a collapsed building has revealed the long dead body of an IS Jihadist, still complete with his suicide belt.
Interesting commentary on Women’s Rights in Rojava, where a new law has proscribed polygamy, except in special circumstances of infertility, and honour killings are to be treated the same as any other type of murder, HERE:
Also the moving refugee story of Fakhria, a lady in her 60’s from Kobane, who following illness on the journey, lost her family with whom she was travelling, in Hungry.
The BBC’s John Sweeney, met her on the way and eventually reunited Fakhria, who barely spoke a word of English, with her son and family in a completely different country. Text and video at the BBC.
Turkey’s reputation around the world slide downwards again last weekend after both still pictures and video emerged of Turkish soldiers dragging the dead body of HDP Kurdish activist around the streets on a rope behind an armoured vehicle in southern Turkey.
At first the Turks tried to claim that it was fake and had been “Photoshopped” and then when that failed they tried to claim it was “normal procedure” to check that the “body was not armed with a bomb”.
Finally, in a begrudging admission of wrong doing, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu promised an investigation, saying, “It is unacceptable to treat any corpse this way, even if it is a dead terrorist”.
“Our interior ministry… will conduct a comprehensive investigation, not into the incident itself, but into the way in which this incident was reflected to the world,” he continued.
EDITOR: So that’s alright then, it’s “okay” to drag someone round the streets by their neck … but just make sure you control the publicity properly!
It is not known in what circumstances the man, identified as Haci Lokman Birlik, died in the first place but his family is known to have connections with the Kurdish HDP Party which recently won 80 seats in the Turkish Parliament – a situation which Turkey’s President Erdogan would love to overturn.
Hopefully many Turks, not just Turkey’s Kurds, will be sickened by the Government’s behaviour and vote accordingly in the forthcoming elections on November 1st.
Many see the act as racist and deliberately aimed at Turkey’s Kurdish citizens as a warning – “behave or this is what happens to you”.
You can read more in the Huffington Post.
DESPITE MASSIVE RUSSIAN FIRE POWER, ASSAD REGIME MANAGES TO LOSE 20+ ARMOURED VEHICLES & TANKS IN ONE DAY TO OPPOSITION FORCES:
After a week of air attacks it is very clear that the Russian Air Force has no real intention of confronting the Islamic State (just like Turkey) but is obsessed with trying to destroy Assad’s main Opposition forces.
One estimate put the Russian attack rate on the Opposition at 55 to just 2 on the Islamic State.
A Russian TV Weather Girl even announced during her broadcast that it was “good weather for bombing in Syria”. More, HERE:
Most of the Russian attacks on the Opposition have been in Hama and Idlib provinces, trying to drive the Opposition fighters back from the borders of Lattakia province.
To this end a regime ground invasion was also launched from 4 directions to follow on from the Rusian bombs. Thousands of civilians have fled the area to avoid the bombing and fighting.
There are reports of bombs hitting hospitals, including the Orient Hospital in Kafranbel, and civilians and the use of free-fall and cluster bombs.
Reports from Russian say that 26 missiles were fired at the “Islamic State” in Syria from Russian naval vessels based in the Caspian Sea 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) away. The terrain hugging Kalibr cruise missiles (known by NATO as Sizzlers) travelled over both Iran and Iraq at a height of just 50 metres above the ground to hit their targets, supposedly within an accuracy of 3 metres.
Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, (EDITOR: Clearly talking out of his backside) said on Russian TV there had been “112 Russian attacks on the Islamic State” since September 30th.
In the now crowded airspace over Syria there is US concern that there will be an accident or clash of Russian and Coalition jets and at least one Coalition aircraft has already been re-routed to avoid a collision. Russian aircraft are reported to have crossed into Turkish airspace on both Saturday and Sunday, causing the Turks to scramble their F-16s.
The Turks have on previous occasions shot Assad’s planes out of the air, but may hesitate with Russian aircraft. This video has emerged of Russian attack helicopters based in Latakia, HERE:
Despite the Russian heavyweight hardware and judging from the reports flooding in today from Hama and Idlib, the Assad ground attack has so far been a major failure.
As of this evening, Wednesday, Opposition fighters had managed to destroy more than 20 regime tanks alone, just today, and captured another 4.
The FSA 101st Infantry division destroyed this regime tank, just with mortar fire, HERE:
In addition to that the Opposition have destroyed a regime anti-tank gun, artillery and a number of technicals (armed pick-ups).
So far then a good day for the Opposition despite massive attacks against them.
Russian airstrikes are also reported to have hit the Aleppo suburbs of Darat Azzh and Anadan, HERE:
In Quneitra province, the Opposition continue to make progress and are within 5 kilometres of linking up with Opposition forces nearer Damascus in Western Ghouta, putting the regime-held town of Hadar under serious threat.
Hezbollah is reported to be gearing up to counter-attack the insurgents, with as many as 40 of their vehicles seen entering Assad’s 90th Brigade base which is now almost within firing range for the Opposition Fighters since last week’s gains in the province. You can read more, HERE:
Situation Map in Quneitra province for October 7th courtesy of @archicivilians. A bigger version can be found, HERE:
ROJAVA UPDATE 145: YPG FIGHT OFF ISLAMIC STATE AGAIN & DISABLED KOBANE TEENAGER “RAISES MAN FROM THE DEAD”:
TIMELINE – 5th OCTOBER 2015 13.58 GMT:
Once again on Friday, the Islamic State (IS) launched attacks on positions of the YPG near Mount Abdul Aziz not far from Hasakah, and rained down mortars on the villages of Jafar and Dawoodiyah.
6 YPG fighters were killed in the attack and another 10 wounded.
The YPG temporarily evacuated the area and Coalition jets attacked IS positions and supply lines near the IS-held town of Shaddadi.
On Saturday, Kurdish forces returned to the area and engaged IS insurgents, killing 28 of them, destroying several vehicles and seizing large amounts of ammunition.
The YPG also repelled attacks on the villages of Bdej, Ghara and Tel Hamam.
Yesterday, Sunday, the YPG had gained 3 new villages and taken 6 x IS Jihadists prisoner.
The Coalition on Sunday also struck at the IS stronghold of Hawija in the eastern countryside of Hasakah province, successfully hitting an IS weapons store.
On Saturday in Kobane Canton, IS also tried to inflitrate the village of Hashe to the east of Ain Issa but fled after a series of minor clashes. 2 roadside IED devices were disarmed by the YPG between the village of Marge and Ain Issa.
Another interesting interview with Sipan Hemo, the General Commander of the YPG in which he explains their current role and aims, HERE:
The important news today for Rojava is that there are unconfirmed but persistent reports that the US has at last supplied arms and ammunition to Burkān Al-Furāt, the “Euphrates Volcano”, joint Free Syrian Army (FSA) and YPG force that effectively defended Kobane city and drove the Islamic State from Kobane Canton.
Opposition sources estimate that Burkān Al-Furāt is currently made up of 25,000 men, 5,000 from the FSA and 20,000 from the YPG.
Their next target is believed to be an assault with Coalition back-up on the IS Syrian “capital” of Raqqah. Watch this space.
EDITOR: Over in Kobane city, the new school year began on Sunday.
One young lady from Kobane who won’t be there for the new term is Nujain Mustafa, the 16 year old, disabled from birth and confined to a wheelchair who was attempting with the help of her older sister to get to Europe.
In the last report on September 18th (scroll down – see below), the BBC interviewed her and described how she had got as far as the Hungarian border.
I am very glad to report she is now safely in Germany, where she hopes to receive treatment to improve her disabilities and where she has even brought a “dead man back to life”.
Nujain speaks quite good English, which she had learned from watching the American soap opera “Days of Our Lives”.
When interviewed by the American network ABC, she told them “That’s a great show – But they killed the main character that I loved”.
John Oliver, who hosts “Last Week Tonight” in the US, was so moved by Nujain’s story that he arranged for the dead soap opera character to be brought back to life – just for the brave teenager.
“Nujain has been through enough”, he said. “Any country would be happy to have her.” Live on his show Oliver told his audience, “One final thing we thought we can do… and it is for one refugee. For Nujain, who was saddened by the death of EJ from ‘Days of our Lives.’ We made some calls and it is a surprise that is literally just for you,” he said, addressing the refugee directly.
A special scene then shows EJ knocking at the door of his former “wife”, who opens the door and is awestruck to find him still alive.
“Coming back from the dead, that’s not hard,” EJ says in the scene. “You know what’s hard? Getting from Syria to Germany,” and mentions Nujain’s name.
Nujain posted a YouTube video saying, “In my lucky day, I have something to say. You are stronger and braver than you think. Fight for what you want, and I am sure you will get it.” You can watch her here:
James Scott who played EJ in the series, tweeted after seeing Nujain’s video, “This opened my heart #Nujain Thank you!”.
You can watch the entire manic clip from John Oliver’s programme, HERE:
RUSSIA LIES, KILLS CIVILIANS AND WITH ASSAD/IRAN PREPARES MAJOR ATTACK ON OPPOSITION:
TIMELINE – 2nd OCTOBER 2015 13.15 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 17.09 GMT:
On Wednesday morning, the Russian Parliament had authorised the Russian military to intervene in Syria and shortly after the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that President Assad had formally asked Russia to assist.
A few hours later, under the pretext of “attacking the Islamic State (IS)”, Russian jets attacked the bases of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Army of Conquest (Jaish Al-Fatah), which includes the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), in Hama and Homs provinces.
On Wednesday no IS targets were hit at all.
Lavrov had the neck to put out a statement later saying, “Rumours that the targets of these strikes were not IS positions were groundless,” before the Russian Defence Ministry eventually corrected him.
Then his argument was, “If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?”
5 year old Raghad, pictured right, was one of the victims of Lavrov’s “terrorist” attacks.
Initially, there were 20 airstrikes, hitting 8 different targets, the Russians even releasing video of an “attack on an Islamic State HQ”, which was nothing of the sort.
As usual, most of those killed were civilians. The US was given just 1 hour’s notice of the first airstrikes through its embassy in Baghdad.
Interestingly, US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, put out a call on Thursday, after the Russian intervention, for a “no fly-zone in northern Syria”.
Thursday saw a barrage of Russian air attacks, as many as 50 aircraft making 30 sorties, again exclusively against Assad-Opposition targets.
This time the bombs also fell in Idlib province near Jisr Al Shughour and Kafranbel. The Islamic State have never been in control here and are estimated to be at least 80 kilometres away.
In some cases the Russian aircraft have bombed Opposition brigades supported and armed by the United States, such as the FSA’s Suqour al-Jabal which was trained by the CIA, though US response so far has been muted. 20 missiles are reported to have hit their training camp in Idlib province in 2 separate attacks, with at least 8 men wounded.
One of those killed in Wednesday’s strikes in Homs province was Captain Iyad Al-Deek, a former regime officer who defected to the Opposition early on in the uprising against Assad.
At Jisr Al Shughour, a mosque was hit killing 5 people and wounding 20, while other targets have been a bakery and a market place. Strikes at Talbisa, Rastan, and Al-Za’farana in Homs province are reported to have killed 30, including 6 children and 6 women.
The Russian jets managed to bomb Shanshrah, a UN World Heritage Site, twice on Thursday. The Byzantine ruins were until recently occupied by displaced Syrian refugees but Opposition groups, who have several checkpoints to protect the area, recently moved people into Kafranbel and other nearby towns and villages.
The Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement that Sukhoi-24M and Sukhoi-25 aircraft had hit an ammunition depot near Idlib, a three-storey “ISIS command centre” near Hama and a car bomb factory in the north of Homs.
There was also a report that a Sukhoi-24 had been shot down near Deir Ez Zour, but this has not been confirmed. ANF and other groups have however announced substantial “rewards” for anyone who captures members of the Russian military.
More Russian strikes today, Friday, say civilians have been killed at Jabal al-Zawiyah, 4 dead including a woman and a child, and attacks on the villages of Al-Rakaya, Kafr Sejneh and Al-Hbait.
There is also a report that Russian jets have now targeted an IS training camp near Deir Ez Zour and another at Al Qaryatayn south of Palmyra in Homs province, though these maybe just a token attacks in the same way that Turkey pulled the wool over the eyes of the US targeting 95% of its airstrikes on the PKK and not IS either.
The New York Times has more.
EDITOR: From where I am sitting the current scenario looks like this:
Recent reports suggest that Iran has put hundreds of troops into Syria in the last 10 days. I think that there has been an agreement made between Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah (and possibly Shia controlled Iraq too after a recent meeting of all of them together in Baghdad to “share intelligence”), to keep Assad in power and to shore up a Shiite power block against the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States supported by the West.
Russia also assembled its air power under cover of “military exercises” in the eastern Mediterranean between the 11th and 20th of September.
This footage (French only) shows Russian aircraft on the ground at Lattakia airport, HERE:
What we are likely to see in the next few days is a move by Iranian and Hezbollah troops, backed by Assad’s Army and Russian air power, to retake all the territory lost in Hama and Idlib provinces to the Opposition. Without this territory under his control, Assad and his regime are very vulnerable to attack in their Lattakia heartland.
The unknown factors here are Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Are they going to stand by and see all their billions of dollars invested in Islamic groups opposing Assad go to waste? My bet is that the latest boost to the Assad regime’s strength will see the Saudis supplying Manpad ground to air missiles to Opposition groups, whether the US likes it or not. We shall see.
There is much video footage of the latest tragic events in Syria, though caution, some of it is disturbing and bloody. This footage shows scenes at the Talbiseh hospital after the Russian air attacks on Wednesday, HERE:
This video shows the recovery of corpses from the rubble of the mosque destroyed at Jisr Al Shughour, HERE:
Some examples of the Lavrov and Assad “Islamic State terrorists” hit by the Russian airstrikes and interviewed by Opposition activists (Arabic only), here:
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Syria the fighting continues. Opposition fighters captured Tel Trinjeh in Quneitra province from Assad’s forces just east of the border with Israel, seizing large amounts of ammunition and weapons, HERE:
ISLAMIC STATE DRIVEN FROM ANOTHER 140 SQUARE KILOMETRES IN IRAQ, WHILE FIGHTING BREAKS OUT AGAIN BETWEEN KURDS AND AL NUSRA IN ALEPPO:
Over in Iraq this week, the Kurdish Peshmerga in their 4th campaign west of Kirkuk cleared the Islamic State (IS) from another 140 square kilometres of territory.
As before they were helped by Coalition jets which intensively attacked IS positions on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the Kurdish ground assaults.
The objectives of the campaign were to reach the Ghara Heights, located West of Mount Bawita, secure an additional stretch of the Kirkuk-Samarra Highway, push IS militants further South of the river west of Mount Bawita and generally reduce IS’s ability to threaten Iraq Kurdistan.
The ground offensive began on Wednesday morning and by Wednesday afternoon the Kurds had reached Ghara Heights. The Heights overlook several villages south of Mount Batiwa which is still controlled by IS.
Around 3,500 Kurdish troops were involved in the attacks west of Kirkuk and the Coalition targeted 30 x IS positions, destroying 3 Humvees, 3 pick-ups and 1 vehicle bomb.
40 x IS Jihadists were reported killed. 10 Kurdish fighters were reported dead and 16 injured.
Altogether 12 villages were recaptured and the bulk of the IS Jihadists fled towards Hawija.
In response to losing a significant amount of territory, IS published online on Wednesday another execution video, this time showing the cold-blooded murder of 6 Peshmerga prisoners in Mosul.
Vice News has more.
At the same time as the Peshmerga push near Kirkuk, the Yezidi militia and the YPG have launched a mission to clear the route from Al-Hawl in Syria all the way to Sinjar in Iraq of Islamic insurgents.
Some semblance of normality up on Mount Sinjar, where for the new year 13 schools will be open with 40 teachers and a total of 750 pupils.
Back in Syria in Kobane Canton, preparations for the new school year are also complete, with 100,000 school books (now in Kurdish for the first time), 750 teachers and 250 schools or other premises to use for education.
Interesting opinion piece on the “Kurdish Democratic Experiment” in the New York Times.
Repeated reports of Coalition airstrikes around Jarablous on the west bank of the Euphrates and probing attacks by YPG units across the river, but nothing confirmed, other than a clear desire by the Kurds to take the town away from IS and secure the border crossing into Turkey.
On Tuesday, the YPG progressed further south of Sarrin in the south-west of Kobane Canton killing 11 x IS fighters and besieging others in the villages of Bojaq, Hafian, Bir Alabidat, and Almroh.
Further east the YPG has also taken full control of Al-Heisha from IS, a significant town just north of Raqqah.
The YPG could find itself in trouble with other anti-Assad groups and the Coalition.
This week both Sipan Hemo, the General Commander of the YPG and Saleh Muslim, head of the YPG’s political wing, the YPD, have said that they are prepared to work with Russia to oppose the Islamic State, though they do not think Assad should stay in power.
Optimistically, Muslim believes that Russia, because of its joint defence pact with Assad, will intervene if Turkey steps over the border in the north of Aleppo province. You can read more, HERE:
EDITOR: Perhaps we are about to see another move by the Kurds westwards through Jarablous to link up Kobane Canton with Afrin Canton? The Turks and the local Arabs will be enraged.
Enmity between the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and the YPG continues to bubble in northern districts of Aleppo city. On Wednesday, ANF bombed the Kurdish Sheikh Maksud district again, killing 9 Kurdish civilians, including 2 children, and wounding many more. A number of houses were destroyed.
Clashes had also broken out last Saturday after ANF attacked Kurdish checkpoints, 4 Kurdish civilians were killed, and the YPG lost part of their territory. By Sunday, the Kurds had regained all their territory in Sheikh Maksud, reportedly causing heavy losses among the Islamist forces.
ROJAVE UPDATE 144: 8 CHILDREN INJURED IN ISLAMIC STATE MINE EXPLOSION NEAR KOBANE – TURKS AND IRAQ KURDS STILL REFUSE ENTRY OF DE-MINING EQUIPMENT:
TIMELINE – 28th SEPTEMBER 2015 17.17 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.20 GMT:
In the village of Bobani yesterday, Sunday, a landmine exploded after a number of children were seen playing with it. 8 children were injured, 5 of them critically.
The mines are an ongoing problem in Kobane Canton, some villages uninhabitable until they are cleared.
Effectively, Kobane is still blockaded, with both Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government still limiting access across their borders.
The other border crossings is still held by the Islamic State.
Included in those not allowed to cross are expert de-mining teams with specialised equipment.
Even before Sunday, 48 people had been killed by unexploded mines and booby-traps in the last 2 months.
Abdul Rahman Hamo, the general coordinator for Kobane’s reconstruction, says the YPG tried defusing the mines themselves but lacked the training and equipment necessary to do so without excessive risk. “We lost four of our men,” he says.
Hamo recalls that he attended a conference on reconstructing Kobani which was organised by the EU in Brussels. He listened to speech after speech by government officials promising money and aid, but so far nothing has arrived. The Independent has more on this.
The co-Chair of the YPG’s political arm, the PYD, Saleh Muslim, was in Kobane on Friday, visiting the grave of his son, Shervan, who died fighting the Islamic State for the YPG.
Muslim, in an interview, says that the overthrow of the Assad Government by the Islamic State or other fundamentalist Islamist group would be “a disaster”. He is all for Assad being replaced by a more acceptable alternative, but with extreme Islamist groups now very near to Damascus he thinks they are more dangerous.
This perhaps explains the YPG’s pragmatic approach in city’s like Qamishli and Hasakah, where the YPG is often accused of working with the Assad regime.
In Qamishli there is still a statue of Hafez Al-Assad and pictures of his son, President Bashar Al-Assad, but for the Kurds this is far less of a problem than dealing with both the Turks and the Islamic State (IS).
“War is a matter of strategy and tactics. You can’t fight on too many fronts,” says Lawand Rojava, a YPG commander and its head of foreign relations in Hasakah,
The Kurds now dominate in both cities with Assad’s troops and administrators confined to small areas.
Kurdish is now taught in all schools again and books and newspapers in Kurdish appear all the time, though they were previously forbidden.
Many Kurds in fact, are only fluent in Arabic, having grown up in Syria during the “Kurdish learning prohibition” period which did not end until 2011, so even Kurdish papers are printed in 2 languages.
At the same time, Assad’s Government continues to pay salaries to local teachers, many of whom are Kurds.
Hisham Arafat, who teaches English in a secondary school, studied at the University of Latakia. “Arab students couldn’t understand there were Kurds in Syria. They’d ask me what country I was from. When I said ‘I’m Syrian’, they’d be confused. ‘There are no Kurds in Syria’, they would say. It was insulting and hard to forget,” he says.
Now the YPG flag flies everywhere in the north-east – and one day the regime flag will be gone. You can read more in Middle East Eye.
On Friday, clashes broke out in Qamishli among competing arms of the Assyriac Defence Forces, the Sutoro, with 4 men injured. The fighting started after a unit responsible for defending the town of Derik arrived in Qamishli to confront the central leadership.
Local sources said the dispute was over orders issued from the central command in Qamishli without sufficient consultation or agreement of other units.
The Assyriac force consists of around 1,000 men charged with defending Christian towns and villages in the north-east.
Yesterday, Sunday, IS launched another mortar attack on Hasakah, targeting an Assad regime security checkpoint near the Panorama Roundabout.
3 of Assad’s men were killed in the attack and 2 x IS fighters in the clashes that followed and which lasted into the evening.
The Syrian Air Force launched a number of airstrikes on IS units trying to get into the Geweran district, destroying 3 x IS vehicles.
Fighting also broke out between IS and the YPG near the Abdul Aziz Mountain radio tower on Sunday. More information awaited.
There are also reports of renewed attacks by the YPG on the eastern flank of IS-held Jarablous, just across the Euphrates River. Rumours abound that a major attack will break out soon on Jarablous to drive the IS Jihadists from northern Aleppo province, even that a battalion of Peshmerga have re-entered the Canton to assist the YPG in this campaign – but all yet to be confirmed.
A controversy has also arisen at Tal Abyad where a man called Ayman al- Tahri has died after being arrested by Kurdish security last June for “pledging himself to the Islamic State”. Some Arabic sources are saying he was “tortured to death” by the Asayish while other Arabic sources and the Asayish are saying he died in hospital because he refused to take medication for diabetes.
WORLD LEADERS DEBATE AT THE UN, WHILE SYRIA DESCENDS INTO HELL AND CHINA JOINS THE MELEE TOO:
Both President Obama and President Putin spoke at the United Nations today, Monday, about Syria.
Obama said the US was prepared to work with both Russia and Iran in to find a solution in Syria, “But we must recognise,” he said, “That there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo” in a direct reference to moving on from Assad.
President Putin on his part said it was an “enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces who are valiantly fighting terrorism face-to-face” and suggested a “broad anti-terror coalition” to fight IS as was formed against Hitler in World War ll.
Obama and Putin are scheduled to speak directly together later today. The BBC has summaries of both speeches.
(And Obama’s complete speech is HERE )
According to Russian sources, the Chinese are also about to get in on the Syria act.
Having recently passed through the Suez Canal, the Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning-CV-16, accompanied by a guided missile cruiser, has now docked at the Tartous in Syria.
The reports say that Chinese military advisers are on board and will be working with their Russian colleagues soon.
CBS News has a recent interview with President Putin (if you can stand the adverts).
France made its first airstrikes in Syria over the weekend, 6 French jets attacking an Islamic State training camp near Deir Ez-Zour.
US Central Command (Centcom) also had to admit late on Friday that its 2nd group of US trained fighters who entered Syria the previous weekend, had also been held to ransom by the Al-Nusra Front (ANF). The group of around 70 fighters, known as the New Syria Force (NSF), were forced to give up 6 armed pick-up trucks and ammunition, around a quarter of its weaponry, to ANF in order to get safe passage.
EDITOR: Clearly this US training programme has been a complete disaster, at a phenomenal cost of $500 million.
This video apparently shows Syria New Force operatives, HERE:
According to a Voice of America report, the agreement between the US and Turkey to allow the use of the Incirlik Air Base, does not allow the US to make airstrikes from there in support of the Kurdish YPG.
The US State Department has several times in the last week said how much it values the work of the Kurdish forces on the ground against the Islamic State. President Erdogan of Turkey hates that and continues to feel threatened by their success.
On Friday it looked as though the arranged truce between opposing sides over Zabadani in Damascus province and Fu’ah and Kafraya in Idlib province (scroll down – see below for details) had collapsed after Assad regime aircraft bombed Taftanaz not far from Idlib city, thereby violating one of the conditions.
However, reports today, Monday, say that 2 seriously injured Opposition fighters from Zabadani have been transferred to Lebanon on Sunday, a day earlier than scheduled, suggesting that the plan is underway. Their transportation was facilitated by the UN who considered their condition critical.
After 2 shells fell in Israel on the Golan Heights over the weekend, probably as a result of renewed fighting between the Syrian Opposition and the Assad regime, Israel retaliated by holding the Syrian Army responsible and its aircraft fired rockets at regime bases at Brigade 90, Nabe’ al-Fawar, Kom Muhaires and Tal Shahem. No word of casualties so far.
Apparently not all is “sweetness and light” in the Assad/Russia relationship. Apparently Russia is not impressed by the ill-disciplined National Defence Force (NDF) militia and has suggested it is brought under military control as soon as possible. You can read more, HERE:
Lastly, an excellent analysis (recommended reading) on the current situation in Syria, “West ‘walking into abyss’ on Syria”, by Charles Lister courtesy of the BBC.
ROJAVA UPDATE 143: SIGNS THAT COALITION ALLIES GEARING UP FOR MAJOR ATTACKS ON ISLAMIC STATE HQs IN RAQQAH AND MOSUL:
TIMELINE – 25th SEPTEMBER 2015 13.20 GMT (scroll down for Rojava 142 report and update) – UPDATED 20.07 GMT:
Fighting between the Islamic State (IS) and the YPG broke out again around Sarrin in south-west Kobane Canton yesterday, Thursday.
In the latest outbreak, the YPG took the initiative and shelled IS positions in the villages of Hawiz, Bir al-Ubaidat and Mirouh. 15 x IS Jihadists are reported killed and 22 wounded.
The current moves are part of a campaign to push IS further and further away from Sarrin and to take the battle the Islamic State’s Syrian HQ at Raqqah.
Reports also emanating from the YPG suggest that in the last few days, Coalition aircraft have concentrated on destroying the Islamic State’s heavy equipment and weapons in northern parts of Aleppo province and around Raqqah city.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 4 airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, 2 near Hasakah destroying 2 separate IS tactical units and an IS motorcycle, one at Raqqah destroying a tactical unit and a vehicle and another at Marea in Aleppo province destroying a towed artillery piece.
Centcom has also confirmed the deaths of Jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
Abu Bakr al Turkmani was an IS administrative emir and a close associate of senior IS figures. He was killed in a Coalition airstrike on September 10th.
The other confirmation was of the French Jihadist David Drugeon, described as an explosives expert belonging to the Al-Nusra Front so-called Khorasan group, who was killed near Aleppo in an airstrike on July 5th.
Over in Iraq, it is reported that over 170 x IS Jihadists were killed in concentrated Coalition airstrikes on Wednesday and Thursday on the IS HQ there, Mosul, hitting troop concentrations in the districts of Bab Jdeed, Mansoura and Sinaa Qadimah.
Local sources said 171 corpses were brought into Mosul’s hospitals on Thursday and IS suffered more degradation south of Baiji where the Iraqi Army this week regained ground and villages after heavy fighting. Reports also said IS had buried 60 fighters in a mass grave west of Mosul.
Centcom reports 16 airstrikes in Iraq on Wednesday, 6 around Mosul hitting an IS tactical unit and destroying 2 x IS vehicle bomb-making facilities, an IS fighting position, an IS weapons cache, and an IS bunker, plus suppressing an IS heavy machine gun, an IS light machine gun, and two ISIL mortar positions.
With the Russian presence growing in Syria, there are also reports that Russian military advisers have paid a secret visit to Hasakah in Syria to discuss defence against IS there, meeting both with military representatives of the Assad regime and the Kurdish YPG:
RUSSIA CONTINUES TO SCALE UP ITS BASES AND RESOURCES IN SYRIA WHILE IRANIANS NEGOTIATE CEASEFIRE SETTLEMENT AT ZABADANI:
Reports from Latakia province suggest the Russians are setting up more bases in Syria, taking over Assad’s military assets inland to the south-east of Latakia city and another to the south nearer the coast.
Satellite pictures are also showing a vast array of Russian air power at the airport near to Latakia city, including, as of Tuesday morning, 12 Su24 bombers, 12 Su25 ground attack aircraft and 4 Su-30 multi-role fighters, 2 types of drones, and 20 helicopters (a mixture of gunships and troop carriers).
Russian drones and jet aircraft have been active over Syria in the last few days, though so far no Russian airstrikes have been confirmed, and as well as the visit to Hasakah (reported above) delegations of Russian officers have also been seen viewing the Ghab Plain near Idlib province and in Damascus.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has some good satellite pictures of the ongoing work in Latakia, (scroll down pdf) HERE:
The sudden up-tick in Russian activity and involvement in Syria seems to have concentrated Western minds on finding a solution to the Syria problem.
Following US Secretary of State John Kerry indicating now that “Assad may not have to leave immediately”, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Erdogan of Turkey have more or less said the same thing, allowing space for some sort of transition.
Putin and Obama are due to meet on Monday following a gathering at the UN to celebrate it’s 70th anniversary.
From Quneitra province, there are reports of an Opposition attack on Assad’s 4th Battalion base near Trinjeh village and heavy fighting north of Khan Arnabah.
From Damascus province come strong indications that the Iranians have negotiated a truce with the Opposition over Zabadani and the 2 Alawite enclaves in Idlib province, Fu’ah and Katraya.
Under the terms of the proposed deal the Opposition fighters would withdraw from Zabadani with light weapons, giving up the town. At the same time 10,000 civilians would be allowed to go from Fu’ah and Katraya, but some 4,000 pro-Assad fighters would remain.
500 opposition prisoners would also be released from Government jails and wounded from both sides would start to evacuate from today, Friday.
The arrangement would be overseen by the UN for 6 months and during that period there would no attacks on Fu’ah or Katraya or air raids on Idlib.
However, procedures for implementing this are still under discussion and at the time of writing, the Opposition has yet to fully agree. A temporary ceasefire, the 3rd since August, has been extended until Saturday.
Video footage of the heavy fighting is, HERE:
From Idlib province there is drone video footage of Opposition attacks last weekend on Fu’ah, prior to the most recent ceasefire, with a suicide BMP armoured vehicle attack explosion at around 01.45, HERE:
The teenage boy driving that suicide bomb, a member of the Al-Nusra Front, is seen sobbing before he drives off to his death, HERE:
On a happier note, this video shows Eid celebrations for children in Idlib, (Arabic only) HERE:
In nearby Hama province, Opposition fighters blew-up a Zell Government Army truck crossing the Ghab Plain with a TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:
In Homs province, Assad’s Air Force had pounded IS-held Palmyra with rockets and barrel-bombs for 3 straight days this week by Thursday, 32 attacks on Tuesday alone.
Hundreds of residents have fled by bus to Raqqah or are “celebrating” the Eid holiday in underground bunkers and cellars.
Medical supplies in the city are in very short supply and only one small hospital is operational. At least 100 civilians and IS fighters have been killed by bombing in the last week and some unconfirmed reports speak of “hundreds dead” in the last 10 days.
Heavy clashes between IS and Assad’s forces are also being reported at Deir Ez Zour where the Islamic State is making yet another attempt to seize the military airport.
Living in Aleppo continues to be extremely difficult too. Read this excellent article by Zaina Erhaim, who formerly worked for the BBC, HERE:
EDITOR: And I know you will all enjoy seeing Russia’s very latest weapon to arrive in Syria – the Putin Class Attack Helicopter ……
ROJAVA UPDATE 142: USA STILL DITHERING OVER WHETHER TO SUPPORT THE YPG, WHILE ACKNOWLEDGING IT’S THE BEST FIGHTING FORCE AGAINST IS:
TIMELINE – 24th SEPTEMBER 2015 13.04 GMT:
Last Monday, the Islamic State (IS) set off 2 suicide car bombs in the industrial area at Seri Kaniye (Ras Al-Ain) near the Turkish border.
Reports on the outcome are varied, but some talk of 5 member of the Asayish (Kurdish security) killed and a number of civilians wounded.
In Hasakah, also on Monday, another IS suicide bomber was killed as he tried to drive into the city to deliver his bomb.
South of Hasakah at Tel Brak at the beginning of this week, the YPG and IS exchanged prisoners, 8 people from each side.
The IS prisoners released by the YPG included 2 foreign fighters.
Also set free was by IS was a reporter from the Kurdish media company Rudaw, Massoud Aqeel, who had been held for 10 months.
He was united with his family in Qamishli on Monday evening.
While there has been some criticism of the YPG treatment of prisoners in the past, it is far better than that meted out by IS.
In an attempt to improve matters, the Kurds are including women in the running of their prisons to get a “more compassionate aspect” in the operation. You can read more in VOA.
Fighting between the YPG and IS near Tel Brak in Hasakah province has led to the IS Jihadists evacuating the villages of Tananir and Umm Hajar after heavy Kurdish shelling. According to reports from YPG sources, 7 x IS fighters were killed and many wounded. One IS vehicle was destroyed and a large amount of ammunition seized.
Coalition jets have also been busy attacking IS tactical units at Al-Hawl near the border with Iraq, destroying 2 vehicles and killing several IS fighters.
3 x IS targets at Shaddadi south of Hasakah were additionally targeted by the Coalition yesterday, Wednesday, reportedly killing and injuring as many as 15 Jihadists.
More airstrikes around Jarablous, west of Kobane Canton, and on Minbij and the Marea area were also recorded by local sources on Monday.
Despite still relatively harsh conditions, around 150,000 people have returned to Kobane, the Turkish authorities opening the border gate on just Mondays and Thursdays for a few hours to let people through.
One family describe their flight and return, HERE:
And not with standing the international attention drawn to Kobane after its survival against all the odds, and more recently over the death of the 3 year old toddler who drowned off the shores of Turkey, Alan Kurdi, aid is still not reaching the city while Turkey continues to obstruct access.
While the Turks let through returning Kurds, eager to get rid of their expensive guests, they are still not allowing aid workers to cross the frontier or re-building equipment.
Around 60,000 tons of rubble has been moved, but that represents only 40% of what needs to be done. Much of the help and equipment needed is coming by the long route from Iraq.
You can read more in Middle East Eye.
Alan Kurdi’s father has also written a heartfelt letter asking for help in re-building Kobane, where those who were born there want to stay, not leave, HERE:
Disillusion with the Turkish authorities has additionally worked its way through very quickly to the 2 members of the HDP, the Kurdish party in Turkey, who were asked to join the Government as EU Minister and Development Minister.
They resigned this week over the Government’s “war policies”.
The ruling party, the AKP, which was forced to form an interim coalition Government until more elections in November, was obliged to ask 2 Kurds to join the administration following the HDP’s gain of almost 13% of the vote at the last election, giving it 80 seats for the very first time. You can read more in the New York Times.
While the US acknowledges that the YPG is “not a terrorist organisation” (despite Turkey wanting everyone to believe otherwise), the United States continues to dither over whether to deliver the Kurds more equipment and give them the backing to finish the job against the Islamic State.
The YPG has made it clear that it is both ready and willing, with a force of 25,000+ men and women, to take part in attacks on Jarablous and Raqqah, but still a 100 pallets of weapons and other equipment destined for the YPG remain sitting on the ground in a warehouse at a US Air Base somewhere in the Gulf.
Kurdish fighters, especially the YPG, are widely credited with recovering around 17,000 square kilometres of territory back from the Islamic State – but still the appropriate support does not come, lost in a minefield of international politics. The Washington Post has more.
Lastly, a video about Hamdi Ulukaya, the Syrian Chobani yogurt billionaire from southern Turkey, who shows you can do good in the world by employing refugees in the United State and giving them a fighting chance, here: