“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 121: ISLAMIC STATE STAGE ANOTHER ATTACK ON SARRIN, ARABS RAISE HR CONCERNS AGAIN AND 30 TURKISH JETS ATTACK KURDS IN IRAQ:
TIMELINE – 31st JULY 2015 13.43 GMT – UPDATED 21.11 GMT:
SCROLL DOWN FOR KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 120 AND OTHER REPORTS
Despite the capture of Sarrin on Monday by the YPG/FSA combined force, Islamic State (IS) fighters continue to penetrate into the town across the Euphrates river.
In an attack yesterday, Thursday, IS Jihadists in civilian clothes managed to get into the eastern side of Sarrin from the village of Serekaniye (not to be confused with the town of the same name) and to attack a school used by the YPG as a base.
The first IS fighter blew himself up and killed 7 YPG fighters in the blast.
In the subsequent gun battle, at least 8 x IS Jihadists were killed and in the fighting that lasted all day another 6 YPG fighters died, making 13 in all.
The YPG are querying why Turkish jets were flying over Kobane city and Sarrin between 9.00am and 11.00am while the attack was taking place, reflecting the deep suspicion that poisons any relationships between the Kurds and the Turks.
Another IS fighter who had been hiding in Sarrin since it was liberated also appeared and tried to engage the Kurds in a gun battle but was quickly eliminated.
Another large cache of weapons, including 72 hand grenades, and ammunition was recovered as a result.
On Thursday night, IS Jihadists based in Jarablous attacked YPG forces on the east bank of the Euphrates with artillery and heavy weaponry but the YPG and Birkan Al-Firat, the combined force, retaliated in kind until the attack was silenced.
Once again, the YPG has been accused of “human rights violations”, this time after a number of local men and youths were rounded up for questioning in Sarrin.
According to some reports from the town, which normally has an Arab population of 6,000, 150 young men and others between the ages of 15 and 60 were detained, “accused of being members of IS and driven off in trucks to Kobane city where the Kurds put dozens of the detained youths in YPG vehicles and drove around inside the town, beating them, insulting them and directing racist remarks at them”.
The reports went on: “In Sarrin the YPG had torched a number of houses after looting the belongings of their owners, who were also accused of being members of ISIS. Even the aged were not spared the aggression of those units”.
EDITOR: I have to say that I do not recognise this as YPG/YPJ behaviour at all, especially as Sunni Arab fighters from the FSA would have been present as well. That the YPG would round-up some locals for questioning as they may be IS sympathisers is understandable, but there is no record of the Kurds treating even IS prisoners badly and such behaviour would be against the whole published Rojavan philosophy of living in harmony with other races and religions.
You can read more of this supposed “inhuman behaviour” and make up your own mind, HERE:
You can see some of the YPG/FSA “mopping-up” operation against IS in Sarrin, courtesy of LiveLeaks, here:
Fighting continues in Hasakah with the YPG still taking the lead over Assad’s forces who seem largely impotent in stemming the Islamic State attacks.
According to latest information, the YPG is now in control of around 70% of the Al-Zuhour neighbourhood and have advanced southwards from the Nashwa area towards the Panorama district and into the southern portions of the city.
Not ones to sit on their hands, the Kurds in Cizire Canton and the north-east of Syria have reopened many of the oil-wells there in the Rmeilan oil field and started refining, albeit crudely, oil products such as gasoline, kerosene and heating oil for themselves for the first time. Until the start of the civil war, all the oil was sent to Assad refineries in Homs and Banias. You can read more, HERE:
Jordan Matson, the well-known American fighting with the YPG against IS has spoken to the BBC while passing through London.
Recently married in Sweden to a Kurdish woman, Matson expressed disappointment with the reaction of the Turks and the US in relation to the work done by the Kurds in Rojava and Sinjar (Shingal).
You can listen to the audio interview at this BBC site.
Jordan Matson was in the UK, along with other foreign fighters that had fought alongside the Kurds, for a ceremony to remember Eric Scurfield, an ex British Royal Marine killed in fighting with IS. The BBC again has a report.
Have not said much recently about the lovely ladies of the Kurdish YPJ, but this report celebrates their femininity and how they prepare themselves for battle with pride – to look like women and not men, HERE:
Worldwide, concern continues to be expressed about the real motives of Turkey in its sudden interest in “attacking IS” after 4 years of doing nothing, and its obsession with containing the Kurds – a worthy ally if they would allow them to be. The 2 year old peace process of discussions with the PKK is hanging by a thread – and may already be broken.
This morning Friday, 30 Turkish jets struck Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq, hitting shelters, storage points, caves and depots.
There have been no further reports of Turkish air attacks on Islamic State positions over the last 48 hours in either Syria or Iraq.
In Turkey itself, more than 1,000 people have been arrested as suspected members of the PKK or IS, however, the vast majority are Kurds and PKK members or sympathisers. 3 Turkish soldiers were earlier assassinated in retaliation for Kurdish deaths.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), has expressed concern for human rights in Turkey, which seem to be falling apart rapidly under Erdogan’s rule, HERE:
While Al-Aribya, the Huffington Post and Foreign Policy magazine have all expressed the same view that this moment is bad for Syria, bad for the Kurds, and the start of a black future for Turkey, in good articles worth reading.
OPPOSITION ALLIANCE, INCLUDING AL-NUSRA, OVERRUNS ASSAD’S POSITIONS ON THE GHAB PLAIN, BUT AL-NUSRA ATTACKS BOTH YPG AND OPPOSITION IN NORTHERN ALEPPO:
As if the Syrian situation is not complicated enough, clashes broke out yesterday, Thursday, in the western Kurdish Canton of Afrin in Aleppo province between the YPG and the Al-Nusra Front (ANF)
ANF fighters were accused of assaulting some villagers near Atama village and the town of Jenderis. When the YPG intervened to protect the villagers working on their farms, some elements of the ANF opened fire on local YPG checkpoints.
Fortunately, no-one was injured and the ANF fighters retreated to their bases in the northern Aleppo countryside.
A truce has been running between the 2 sides in the area for 6 months now, but this may have been an attempt to test the Kurdish reaction.
ANF is also accused of abducting earlier this week the leader and several members of “Division 30”, an Opposition group which has reputedly just received training abroad from the US under the “train and equip” programme.
The Division 30 base near Azaz in Aleppo province was also attacked at 4.30 am Friday morning and 7 Opposition members killed as they held off the attackers.
This was followed by airstrikes from the Coalition on ANF bases in the area, killing 18 of their fighters.
Jaish al-Thuwar, another Opposition group in the same region, said on Facebook today, Friday, that it had also clashed with ANF, losing 4 of its own members and killing 8 of the ANF attackers.
Quite what is going on here is anybody’s guess, but ANF in northern Aleppo had previously routed US-backed moderate groups. Does it have some arrangement with Turkey to secure the area in Aleppo Province to the northern border?
Near Aleppo city itself, 20 of Assad’s soldiers were killed after they attempted once again to retake the Science Research complex captured by the Opposition earlier this month. Assad’s forces attacked the complex from many sides but failed to make any headway, their own positions being pounded with rockets and Opposition heavy artillery.
An Opposition alliance of fighters in Idlib province, including ANF, stormed ahead this week, capturing the Zeyzoun Thermal Power Plant, HERE:
In a desperate attempt to retake the plant today, Friday, unconfirmed reports say the Government side lost 3 tanks, a BMP armoured vehicle and around 40 troops.
This video shows more fighting today at the nearby Zeyzound Dam, HERE:
In fact a complete collapse of Assad’s forces seems to have taken place on the southern Ghab Plain, leaving all the routes over the mountains to Latakia extremely vulnerable. Regime fighters are seen fleeing Sheikh Elias on Tuesday, HERE:
Footage of a destroyed Government convoy near Frikka, is HERE:
And is in this video an Assad ammo truck travelling at full speed is taken out with a TOW missile on the Qarqur to Ziyarah road on the Ghab Plain, HERE:
Frikka is now under Opposition control, (Arabic only), HERE:
In Damascus province in the Qalamoun, Opposition fighters continue to hold out against all the odds from a massive campaign by Hezbollah and Government troops. This week they have blown up several buildings used by Assad’s troops in the Zahra castle area, destroyed a tank in Bloudan and shot down a Hezbollah surveillance drone.
Lastly, from Quneitra province there are reports that an Israeli Defence Force drone took out a car in the foot hills of Mount Hermon near Hadar on Wednesday containing 2 members of Hezbollah and 3 men from the pro-Assad Druze “Popular Syrian Resistance”.
48 hours earlier it is said in unconfirmed reports, Israel also destroyed some Hezbollah missile and military sites near the Bekka Valley.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 120: WHOLE OF KOBANE CANTON NOW BACK UNDER KURDISH ADMINISTRATION AS ISLAMIC STATE MOPPING-UP OPERATIONS CONTINUE:
TIMELINE – 30th JULY 2015 13.25 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 15.35 GMT:
With the capture of Sarrin earlier this week, effectively, apart from raiding parties and isolated pockets, Kobane Canton is virtually “Islamic State-free” and now wholly returned to Kurdish administration.
Mopping up operations continue both within Sarrin and in the surrounding area.
Minor clashes between the combined YPG/FSA force and IS remnants were reported at the village of Sena’a on the M4 highway just north of Sarrin.
It was also reported that IS blew up part of the Sarrin Grain Silos, collapsing the main tower, before pulling out.
No decisive information as yet on the other pocket of resistance at Khirbat Al-Burj, but it is likely that the defending IS forces have fled the area.
Enormous amounts of ammunition and weapons were recovered from in and around Sarrin and the local population seem to be glad to see the return of the Kurds.
Around 80 Islamic State fighters are thought to have been killed in the Sarrin battles.
Coalition airstrikes picked off some IS units as they fled, while some got away by commandeering small boats to get across the Euphrates to the west bank.
As well as Sarrin town itself, more than 25 surrounding villages and 20 farms were also freed from IS domination and control. 19 members of the combined YPG/FSA Burkan al-Firat force died in the 3 week Sarrin campaign.
Ongoing problems for the Canton remain, including the rebuilding of Kobane city.
While the food supply has improved since a link was established directly to Cizire Canton via Tal Abyad, the re-building programme is still stymied by a lack of fuel to drive vehicles and electricity generators. Al-Monitor discusses the issue.
If you would like to support the Kobane rebuilding programme there is a genuine crowdfunding site, called FireFund based in Denmark, attempting to raise $130,000.
(EDITOR: At my last look they had raised nearly $10,000 – please give it your support.)
Perhaps a new and ongoing problem for the Kurds in Kobane is attacks by the Turks.
As reported earlier (scroll down – see below), Turkey since it claimed to be attacking the PKK and the Islamic State from the 24th July, has twice attacked YPG and even FSA units in northern Syria. The YPG says it will retaliate if it is attacked again.
Interesting interview with Polat Can, who is the YPG’s representative with the International Coalition against IS, HERE:
@ChuckPfarrer’s latest Situation Map for south-west Kobane Canton is, here:
In Hasakah city, violent clashes are still being reported between the YPG and the Islamic State, especially in the Al-Dhuhur district, while heavy airstrikes are occurring south of the city on IS positions and at nearby Shadadi.
Assad’s forces are shelling building used by IS in Shadadi and locals report many IS bodies in the streets in the Hasakah neighbourhood of Ghweran.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 9 Coalition airstrikes on or near Hasakah from Monday through Wednesday this week, destroying 6 x IS fighting positions, an IS fighter staging position, an IS bunker, An IS motorcycle and another IS structure. 6 x IS tactical units were also struck in the attacks.
Another airstrike was on IS in Idlib, hitting a tactical unit and destroying an IS vehicle and 2 more in Aleppo province destroying an IS vehicle, 7 x IS fighting positions, an IS bunker and hitting 2 x IS tactical units.
TURKEY USING “THEY ARE ALL TERRORISTS” SLOGAN TO ATTACK MAINLY THE PKK AS WELL AS THE ISLAMIC STATE:
At the NATO meeting at its headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, several NATO members urged Turkey not to abandon the 2 year fragile peace process that has been ongoing with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and whose leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been imprisoned by the Turks since 1999.
While welcoming Turkey’s involvement against the Islamic State, several countries urged it to be proportionate in any retaliatory attacks against the PKK.
All of the most recent airstrikes however, have been against PKK bases in the northern Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Hours before the meeting, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Monday said he could not continue a peace process with the Kurdish militants and called for Kurdish MPs in Parliament, with links to “terrorist groups”, to be stripped of their immunity against prosecution.
Erdogan it seems is using the opportunity of attacking the Islamic State to bomb the Kurds and at the same time prevent them connecting up Afrin Canton in western Aleppo province with Kobane Canton.
The Guardian has more.
He is also sore that the Kurdish party in Turkey, the HDP, managed to cross the 10% of the vote threshhold and send 80 MPs into Parliament for the first time, preventing his own party, the AKP, from having an overall majority.
Unless a coalition can be formed, which is unlikely, then new elections will be called. Some think that his attacks on the Kurds are deliberate provocation to get them to retaliate and thereby produce resentment and a corresponding anti-Kurdish vote that will sweep his party back into dominate power.
Selahattin Demirtas, the popular leader of the Kurdish HDP party, says his party will forgo immunity against prosecution if Erdogan’s MPs will do the same.
He also has deep concerns over the proposed “safe zone” or “IS-free zone” to run 90 kilometres along the Syria Turkish border between Afrin Canton and Kobane. He sees it as an attempt to stop Kurdish unity, rather than the Islamic State. Demirtas can be seen in this interview with the BBC.
Fighters from the PKK were instrumental in saving thousands of Yezidi on Mount Sinjar from almost certain death at the hands of the Islamic State and the YPG, aligned to the PKK through its political wing, has driven IS away from the Turkish border. Syria’s Assyrian Christians have also requested that Turkey stop bombing the Kurds.
Interestingly, since July 24th when Turkey announced it was joining the attacks against IS and made the first strikes, the Assad regime has made almost no barrel-bomb attacks in Aleppo province, until now the area of highest bombing concentration. Turkey has said it will shoot down any Syrian aircraft that enter the “safe zone”.
The proposed “”safe zone” is something like this (below), with Afrin in the west and Kobane the green area in the east. Who and which units would be allowed to operate inside the “safe-zone” remains to be seen. Would the Al Nusra Front, to which Turkey seems sympathetic, be allowed? This would be an anathema to the US, who would only consider allowing “moderate Opposition” groups to operate in this protected area.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 119: YPG/FSA WIN AGAIN, CAPTURING SARRIN, WHILE TURKEY GOES TO ATTACK EVERYBODY:
TIMELINE – 27th JULY 2015 20.29 GMT:
This morning, Monday, it has been confirmed that the combined YPG and FSA force has driven the Islamic State out of the town of Sarrin in the south-west of Kobane Canton.
After a 3 week battle the Kurdish YPG and their allies cut off IS fighters in Sarrin from their supply route to Raqqah at the end of last week and progressively made inroads into the suburbs, reaching the “security zone” at the centre of Sarrin last night, while the Jihadists ran out of ammunition.
As the Kurds slowly strangled IS positions in and around Sarrin, the Jihadists were seen to flee into the countryside where the YPG picked them off one by one, (Kurdish only) HERE:
On Sunday night some IS fighters attempted to get away across the Euphrates, heading for the river with their weapons in a truck and escorted by 2 armed vehicles.
The YPG attacked the convoy and all the vehicles and 17 x IS Jihadists were destroyed.
As the direction of the battle was becoming clear, IS threw everything they had at the YPG and the FSA.
Last Friday morning IS fighters attacked the YPG on the road between Makhareten and Malha villages, and when that failed they fired mortar bombs.
During the whole of last week IS were still getting reinforcements from small units crossing the Euphrates. The YPG therefore moved south along the east bank of the river from Qara Qwazak and north from Malha, seizing 3 small villages along the way where IS Jihadists were still hanging out.
IS attempted 2 vehicle bomb attacks but both VBIEDs were destroyed at a distance and rendered ineffective. Weapons, including a Katushya rocket and machine guns, plus a military vehicle were also seized.
On Saturday, the same units managed to liberate a strategic hill at Izeaye and then started mine clearing operations to clean up the area.
In another attempt to stop the YPG/FSA advance, IS prepared another vehicle bomb but it was targeted and exploded before the Jihadists had time to move it. As well as the targeted vehicle, a truck and 3 motorcycles were also destroyed, plus 7 x IS fighters killed.
IS fighters also attacked the villages of Shiukh and Qara Qwazak but in both cases were forced to withdraw with one Jihadist dead.
North of Sarrin town, the Kurds have the IS-occupied grain silo site firmly surrounded, but there are unconfirmed reports that IS have destroyed part of the complex themselves.
On the southern Kobane Canton front an IS attack between the villages of Geydade and Sina resulted in 5 x Jihadists killed and a quantity of AK-47s and hand grenades recovered.
Another IS attack on the south-eastern front of the Canton from 3 axis’s also failed. Further details awaited.
IS will not be happy with the loss of Sarrin as it was used as a base for attacks across the Euphrates into Aleppo province.
Situation map for south-west Kobane Canton as of yesterday, before Sarrin fell, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
South of Tal Abyad (Gire Spi), the YPG/YPJ faced yet another attempt of the IS Jihadists to regain territory on Saturday but the Kurds pounded the IS fighters with explosives to deter their advance.
On the same frontline, 2 x IS vehicles and a motorbike were encircled by the YPG while trying to infiltrate into Kurd controlled areas and the the ensuing fight resulted in the destruction of the three vehicles and 20 x IS fighters were reported killed. Weapons and ammunition were seized.
South of Cizire Canton at Hasakah, the YPG have also made significant advances, yesterday, Sunday, taking complete control of the Nashwa district on its eastern side.
The latest gains include all the strategic buildings, including the Sports Stadium, the Childrens Hospital, the Central Train Station, the Electricity Crossroads and Hasakah University.
Currently the YPG are attacking the last IS-controlled district in the city, Al-Zuhour, with unconfirmed reports that some groups of IS Jihadists want to negotiate a surrender, being completely surrounded and unable to escape from the city.
4 members of the YPG have died in fighting in and around Hasakah in the last 24 hours, but the Kurds have gained vast quantities of weapons and ammunition from the capture of Nashwa district.
The haul included 18 machine guns, 90 AK-47s, 155 AK-47 magazines, 11 RPG rocket launchers and 91 rockets, 3 sniper rifles, 2 Uzi (Israeli!) sub-machine guns, 21 mortar rounds, 36 hand grenades, 10 military vehicles and much more equipment besides.
Further to the north-east in the predominately Kurdish city of Qamishli, IS set off 2 bombs this morning, Monday, delivered via motorcycles.
The first blast was aimed at a passing YPG patrol car, but ended up killing or injuring 3 civilians, while the second was exploded in a livestock market killing or injuring more.
The bomber was reported to have lost a leg but transferred to hospital still alive. 3 children were also said in some reports, to have been killed in the attack.
Turkey meanwhile launched more air attacks against PKK bases in northern Iraq on Sunday, seemingly ending a cease fire which has been in place since 2012. Prior to that 40,000 people had been killed in fighting between the PKK and the Turkish Army since 1984.
As far as Syria was concerned Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said yesterday, Sunday, part of the agreement with the US is that Turkey will provide “the air cover for the Free Syrian Army and other moderate elements fighting against Daesh (Islamic State).”
“If we are not going to send in land units on the ground,” he continued, “And we will not, then those forces acting as ground forces cooperating with us should be protected.”
Turkey is supposed also to be attacking the Islamic State in Syria, but on Sunday night managed to attack 2 positions near the border manned by the YPG and the Burkan Al-Furat (Euphrates Volcano) combined YPG/FSA force.
A YPG vehicle came under fire from Turkish forces in the first incident in the village of Til Findire east of Kobane and west of Tal Abyad. At first the Kurds thought it was a mistake but when the firing continued for half an hour they began to think otherwise.
In the second incident Turkish troops shelled the village of Zur Maghar in western Kobane Canton, not far from Jarablous. The village is under the control of the FSA aligned Burkan Al-Furat and the YPG.
7 tank shells hit the village and initial reports said 4 members of the FSA had been injured and a number of villagers, but this has not been confirmed.
Turkey has said it will investigate the attacks, but a Turkish official said (ominously), “The PYD (the political wing of the YPG), along with others, remains outside the scope of the current military effort.” Turkey has called a meeting of NATO members, which meets tomorrow, Tuesday, to discuss the “Islamic State and Middle East Security”.
(EDITOR: The PYD is also aligned with the PKK which Turkey is attacking in Iraq. Can this situation get any more complicated?)
The Guardian discusses Turkey’s convoluted relationship with the Islamic State and the Kurds in more depth.
OPPOSITION NOW ATTACKING 4 ALAWITE ENCLAVES AND CENTRAL DARAA, WHILE TURKEY LAUNCHES 3rd WAVE OF STRIKES AGAINST IS AND PKK:
(SCROLL DOWN FOR KOBANE UPDATE 118)
TIMELINE – 25 JULY 2015 12.21 GMT:
The Opposition have kept up their intense attack on the Alawite enclaves of Al-Fuah and Kafraya in Idlib province where activist estimates say that up to 4,000 of Assad’s forces are still holed up.
A remote controlled BMP armoured vehicle bomb was sent against one of the barriers protecting the towns, HERE:
Opposition fighters have advanced in the farmland north-east of Fuah and kept up a devastating barrage of mortars and rockets while Assad’s jets continue to try and deter them overhead.
In Aleppo, the Opposition have opened up another front by shelling the artillery school in the south-western part of the city, HERE:
The Abu Amarah Brigade has also released this video of fighting against Assad’s forces in the Salah Al-Din neighbourhood, HERE:
Outside the city to the north-west of Aleppo city, the Opposition have also started a “copy-cat” action to the one in Idlib province, by shelling the besieged Alawite villages of Nubbol and Al-Zahraa, HERE:
North of Aleppo city the Al-Zanki Unit destroyed a T55 tank on the Handarat Front, HERE:
And somewhere in the northern part of Aleppo province, location unknown, a group of jubilant Opposition fighters battling it out with the Islamic State, overran an IS ammunition store earlier this week and quickly ran off with the booty, HERE:
In the south of Syria, the Opposition have kept up their attacks on Assad regime forces in Daraa city, but at heavy cost.
Shelling is concentrated on the northern and eastern suburbs of the city, but a fire also broke out in the security zone in the heart of the city after Opposition fighters escalated their attacks, HERE:
The Syrian Air Force have continued to pound Opposition-held villages and towns surrounding Daraa and activist sources claim that 10 Opposition fighters have been killed, including a defected colonel who led an Opposition division, 2 leaders of Opposition battalions, 2 other commanders and a young media activist less than 18 years old.
In Damascus province fierce fighting continues around the besieged Opposition town of Zabadani in the Qalamoun region, with reports though that the Opposition fighters seized control of Syrian Army/Hezbollah checkpoints at Al-Mour and AL-Karazat on Friday.
Also in Damascus province, the Opposition attacked a regime sniper and radio position on top of a water tower in Al-Dirkhabiyah, scoring a well-aimed direct hit with a Konkurs anti-tank missile, HERE:
Following on from the reports of yesterday’s attacks (scroll down – see below), Turkey launched 2 more waves of airstrikes today, Saturday, against further Islamic State targets in Syria but also against the PKK Kurdish Opposition in northern Iraq.
According to the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, the strikes include artillery attacks by ground forces against both IS and PKK bases.
The number of arrested people who are “suspected” as being members of IS or the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party) has now exceeded 590.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, also muttered about “parts of northern Syria becoming a safe zone” in a press conference today.
Clearly an optimist, Cavusoglu said, “When areas in northern Syria are cleared of the [ISIS] threat, the safe zones will be formed naturally.”
EDITOR: I think that as a result of Turkey’s latest moves it is in danger of dissolving into hell. By attacking both the PKK (with whom they were negotiating a truce) and the Islamic State they are provoking a wave of retaliatory bombings inside Turkey that will kill its people and destroy its substantial tourist trade – plus dragging Turkey right into the middle of the Middle-East mess.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 118: KURDISH FORCES AND ALLIES CUT OFF ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS IN BOTH SARRIN AND HASAKAH
TIMELINE – 24th JULY 2015 20.28 GMT:
Despite ongoing minor clashes the YPG together with the FSA combined operations force, Burkan Al-Firat, have successfully managed to cut the Islamic State (IS) supply route between Raqqah and Sarrin in the south-west of Kobane Canton.
The Kurdish forces have reported steady progress near the village of Shukh’ha after liberating the nearby hill of the same name on Monday and capturing the village along with a number of IS fighters on Tuesday. Mirabba village and Mirabba Hill were also taken.
Last night, Thursday, after the road was cut the YPG were able to attack the village of Malha. Casualties have not yet been confirmed in the latest fighting but an IS vehicle and a motorcycle have been destroyed.
Burkan Al-Firat have been pounding Sarrin with artillery fire all week and there are unconfirmed reports that IS shot at civilians in Sarrin who tried to escape from the town.
Flying overhead Coalition aircraft have also been making strikes against IS positions.
Fighting, although of a light nature, is additionally reported in the southern part of the Canton near the villages of Algane and Qilhayde and also an IS attack at Til Hemam near Suluk.
South-west Kobane Canton Situation Map for 23.07.15 courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
In Hasakah, the YPG penetrated the western IS-held Nashwa district last weekend and have been slowly pushing forward ever since. Yesterday they captured the 2nd square in that neighbourhood, followed by a number of significant buildings, including the Harun al Rashid School, and are now thought to be in control of the whole area.
Mopping-up operations continue though just in case there are hidden IS units. Currently the YPG are battling IS Jihadists in the southern districts of the city at Gweran and Zuhour.
Unconfirmed activist reports from IS-held Shaddadi suggest that there is great disarray among the Islamic State fighters and that the leadership have decided to abandon a plan to try and rescue their colleagues cut off from them by YPG forces surrounding Hasakah city.
The IS leadership apparently reached this decision after two vehicle bomb attacks from the south and the east were both stopped by the YPG at Al-Dawudiyah and Al-Salaliah.
Clashes have also broken out between fighters from the National Defence Force plus the Syrian Army and the YPG, after the pro-Assad military tried to enter areas now controlled by the YPG.
Since Tuesday, US Central Command (Centcom) reports 19 airstrikes in and around Hasakah and 10 in Kobane Canton, wiping out IS vehicles, tactical units, fighting positions and an IS HQ and a logistics hub.
Turkey this week also seems to have made a decision to join the fray and this morning, Friday its jets attacked 3 Islamic State targets with smart bombs, reputedly killing 9 x IS fighters, wounding 12 others and destroying an IS vehicle and a heavy machine gun.
The strikes were made by 3 x F-16 jets which fired from Turkish air space at IS positions just across the Syrian border near the village of Hawar al-Nahr, east of the Rai area and west of the town of Jarablous.
The targets were said to be 2 x IS bases and a “fighter assembly point”.
The airstrikes were approved on Thursday after 5 x IS fighters attacked a Turkish frontier post at Dag near Kilis, killing one soldier, and following the explosion at Suruc on Monday that eventually killed 32 young Kurds and wounded over 100.
The Suruc bomber was not “an 18 year old woman”, as previously rumoured, but a 20 year old student, Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, from Adiyaman in south-east Turkey, something of an IS centre according to Al-Monitor. The BBC has more on the Suruc massacre.
300 people have been arrested this week in a major sweep through Turkey by police and the military looking both for IS sympathisers and members of the outlawed Kurdish nationalist movement, the PKK.
In moving on the offensive into Syria, Turkey’s Erdogan may be up to 2 things. Firstly to ensure that the Kurds do not link the western Canton of Afrin with Kobane and secondly to help the Syrian Opposition re-occupy northern Syria to push out IS and eventually take more territory that Assad cannot use.
(EDITOR: Watch this space – it may only be a matter of time before Turkey’s military enter Syrian territory or airspace and attack IS-held Jarablous. There may also be increased Coalition attacks on IS in Syria now that Erdogan has given the US permission to fly these missions from the Incirlik airbase in Turkey – a much shorter flying time for both surveillance aircraft and drones, as well as bombers and fighter jets, currently flying a long journey from and to the Gulf States.
KOBANE CIZIRE UPDATE 117: DOUBLE BLAST ON EITHER SIDE OF TURKISH BORDER AT KOBANE LEAVES 31 DEAD:
TIMELINE – 20th JULY 2015 13.45 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.16 GMT:
The first explosion this morning, Monday, was at the Turkish town of Suruc not far from the border with Kobane and home to a refugee camp for Kobane’s refugees.
The blast appears to have been a suicide bomb at the Kurdish Cultural Centre where young members of the Socialist Youth Association were meeting to plan the building of a library and a park in Kobane.
The bomb went off while a press release was being made about the young volunteers going to Kobane to give their time to aid the reconstruction of the city.
The were photographed sitting at tables under the trees happily enjoying breakfast together shortly before the bomb went off.
Turkish officials initially said 27 young people were killed and more than 100 injured, though the death toll has now risen to 31.
The injured have been transferred to Urfa and hospitals in other surrounding towns.
The numbers of dead would have been even higher if some buses bringing more volunteers to the press conference had not been delayed.
The bomber is reported by one media outlet as an 18 year old woman, but this has not been confirmed. Another says there is an injured young woman in hospital wearing a suicide vest – again not confirmed.
The finger once again points at the Islamic State and their mindless, meaningless atrocities.
Shortly after the explosion on the Turkish side of the border, another occurred in Kobane itself on the Syrian side.
At first it was thought to be a car bomb, but it seems to have been an unstable old mortar stored in a warehouse. No casualties were reported at first, though all the windows in the immediate area were broken and people in the vicinity were showered with broken glass, suffering minor injuries.
Later reports suggest 2 members of the Euphrates Volcano force were killed in the blast, but not confirmed. However, Kurdish security services and the YPG remain on high alert.
Elsewhere in Kobane province and beyond, fighting continues. At the end of last week, the Islamic State (IS) launched another series of concurrent attacks in the south of Kobane Canton, hitting the villages of Qilhayde, Sina, Argane, Nurali and Arabic Sepata with mortars and heavy weaponry.
The combined YPG/FSA force dealt with this and responded without losing territory. On the east side of the Canton, IS attacked the village of Faatfe, but the YPG effectively drove them off, killing 5 x Is Jihadists and seizing 2 thermal scopes.
Further east a raid was also carried out by IS on Nastal, a village 24 kilometres west of Mabroukah, not far from Serekaniye. 3 x IS Jihadists tried to infiltrate the village from the Turkish border, which is less than three quarters of a kilometre away.
One of the IS fighters was killed, one fled back across the border and the third, believed to be wounded, was the subject of a search operation.
On Friday night, more fighting broke out a Qilhayde, with more IS Jihadists killed and AK-47s, a machine gun, hand grenades, ammunition and equipment and an IS vehicle all captured.
Also near Ain Issa, the YPG targeted the IS-held village of Shergirat and 2 other nearby locations, ultimately freeing them and securing the area.
Another group of 3 x IS fighters penetrated the town of Suluk and using a previously hidden store of weapons attempted a suicide attack, but were eliminated and their weapons seized.
Over in Hasakah, having captured the Youth Detention Centre in the middle of last week, the YPG advanced to the village of Tal’a leaving 4 dead Jihadists on the battlefield.
A second force of YPG moved at the same time from the neighbourhood of Azizya round to southern Hasakah, securing the village of Fallah on the way.
Later the same day 2 villages in the Vilate Sor district were captured from IS and the end result was that over a 48 hour period 30 x IS Jihadists were killed and an IS tank, a Humvee armoured vehicle and 4 other vehicles, plus large quantities of ammunition and weapons were seized.
Over the weekend another YPG force advancing from the Abdul Aziz Mountain area, linked up with the 2 groups from south and east Hasakah, effectively cutting off all the Islamic State’s rural supply routes into the Hasakah districts of Nashwa, Khweran and Panorama.
The YPG have also penetrated the Nashwa area clashing with IS at the village of Um Hijra.
In order to try and break the encirclement of their fighters by the YPG within Hasakah, the Jihadists have attempted attacks from Hawl to the east of the city and Malabiyeah to the south, but so far without success.
Reports yesterday suggest that 5 x IS Jihadists, including a commander, were trapped in a house by the YPG in the Nashwa district and after several hours were forced to surrender.
Pressure is being kept up on IS with the use of heavy weaponry supported by Coalition airstrikes and constant sniper fire. There are unconfirmed reports that IS are trying dig themselves out in some places by creating tunnels.
On the road to the Regiment 121 base violent clashes were reported between IS and the YPG and at Tel Baroud village, 13 kilometres south of Hasakah, the YPG were able to stop an IS convoy bringing supplies to their fighters. Other reports say that IS are still getting ammunition into Nashwa and Zuhour by using motorbikes.
Assad’s military have retreated into the centre of Hasakah and are saying that they have “allowed” the YPG to capture areas to the south of the city which they formerly controlled …. (EDITOR: Did they have much choice?)
This video footage shows the Senadid Army, provided by the Governor of Cizire Canton, fighting, with the YPG near Hasakah, (English Sub-titles. Mostly handsome young men, ladies, with very distinctive long black hair!), HERE:
Map of the current situation in Hasakah courtesy of @Karybdamoid, showing IS (grey) completely surrounded by the YPG (yellow) with Assad’s forces (red brown) in the centre of the city, here:
Moving further to the south, the YPG has captured the town of Al-Hishah, just 40 kilometres north of Raqqah.
The Kurds have said that they want the FSA and other Opposition groups to lead the fight to take Raqqah and that they will provide support, but no clear plan is as yet obvious. After recent IS attacks in Europe and North Africa, expect heavy Coalition support.
Perhaps in anticipation of this, reports that the Islamic State is moving its foreign officials in Raqqah to the northern and eastern outskirts of Aleppo are not surprising. Local IS officials are now being left in charge of Raqqah apparently.
US General Command (Centcom) report 8 airstrikes on Hasakah on Sunday and 3 more today. Interestingly, 3 airstrikes on Raqqah on Sunday destroyed 6 x IS minefield sections among other targets and one today destroyed 8 protective concrete T-walls. (EDITOR: Looks suspiciously like preparation for a ground assault to me!)
Just to make sure they get the message, Coalition planes have dropped a leaflet on Raqqa, Sarrin and Shaddada over the weekend which depicts YPG and FSA fighters walking down a street in a rather dark comic format with dead IS fighters strewn on the streets on either side.
The message underneath is “Freedom Will Prevail”. (EDITOR: Let’s hope so!)
In another indication of nervousness, IS officials have given Internet cafes in Raqqah just 4 days to amend their WiFi systems so that it is not available to houses nearby, which up until now has been the case. By controlling who uses the Internet and with whom they communicate, IS hopes to prevent intelligence about the city and their activities leaking out. (EDITOR: But there are bound to be ways around that – as we shall see.)
Back in Kobane city, trucks loaded with tons of food (including fresh vegetables) for the population, arrived from Cizire Canton on Sunday but a sour note was raised after Burkan Al –Firat, the combined FSA/YPG force known as “Euphrates Volcano”, which has been extremely effective against IS, fired 2 FSA battalions and told them to leave the city.
The 2 FSA military groups, Zaza and Jund Al-Heremin, were ordered leave after accusations of theft, unethical behaviour and lack of commitment.
OPPOSITION POUND ALAWITE ENCLAVES WITH HUNDREDS OF MISSILES AND SHOOT DOWN EXPENSIVE DRONE IN LATAKIA:
In Damascus province in the Qalamoun region, Opposition fighters are still holding out in Zabadani despite the Assad regime dropping 520 barrel-bombs and more than 500 missiles and shells on them in the last 13 days.
Hezbollah and the regime keep saying they have “taken the town” or “entered the town” but these forays don’t seem to last long and the Opposition have even made attacks on the pro-Assad forces outside and recovered some districts, so for Assad it does not seem to be going to plan.
There are also an unconfirmed report that Hezbollah has arrested 175 fighters because they refused to fight at Zabadani.
Responding to the Zabadani situation, Opposition fighters in Idlib province have launched a similar attack on the 2 surrounded Alawite enclaves remaining in the province at Al-Fuah and Kafraya.
Opposition activists say that between 600 and 1,000 missiles have been launched at the 2 villages today, Monday, alone. And this follows several days of shelling.
Today also a failed Syria Air Force attack seems to have struck their own troops and as part of an impending ground assault Opposition fighters captured a farm south of Kafraya, a first line of regime defence.
In Latakia today, Monday, the Al-Nusra Front shot down a $55,000 regime Enix Aileron 3SV intelligence drone, presumably supplied by Russia who bought 34 of them in December 2013.
Heavy clashes have continued in the mountains of Latakia as the Syrian Army seeks to drive Opposition fighters away from Assad’s home town at Qardaha, HERE:
In this footage, the Opposition fire a TOW missile at a regime armed pick-up, putting it out of commission, HERE:
After a 3 week cut, running water and electricity have returned to large parts of Aleppo following a prolonged dispute between the Al-Nusra Front, other Opposition groups and the Syrian Government.
Heavy fighting also continues in the Khalidiya north-western district of Aleppo city, where the Opposition are giving pro-Assad defenders a pounding, seen running for their lives HERE:
Some good news though – the Assad Government also released 350 prisoners “to celebrate” the end of Ramadan.
Most of them were activists who were arrested in 2011 during the first demonstrations.
EDITOR: Lastly, this will be my last report for a few days as I am taking a break – Back on Friday 24th July.
Also today, my blog, which started on 1st January 2011 received its 1 millionth visitor – 446,000 of them arriving so far this year alone. Many thanks to one and all – your interest much appreciated.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 116: KURDS SURROUND ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS IN HASAKAH AND CUT THEM OFF FROM SOUTHERN SUPPLY ROUTES:
TIMELINE – 17th JULY 2015 13.58 GMT – UPDATED 19.35 GMT:
In a powerful advance, the Kurdish YPG have taken control of an arc of territory to the south of Hasakah city, effectively cutting off Islamic State (IS) fighters already in the suburbs from their supply routes.
Yesterday, Thursday, the YPG took over an area in north-east Syria running from Mount Abdul Aziz in the west to the Al-Khabur River in the east.
They also secured the road that connects Hasakah with the IS-held towns of Shaddadi and Raqqah.
In addition the YPG took control of districts in the south-west of Hasakah city and were able to drive IS Jihadists from Hasakah’s southern electricity transformer station, the juvenile prison at Al-Ahdath and the Martyrs’ Cemetery.
These positions have moved backwards and forwards between the Assad regime and IS several times, but Syrian Government forces are now more inclined to move back into the city, leaving the YPG to take their place.
In their campaign the YPG are being supported by the Al-Sanadid Army supplied by the Governor of Cizire Canton.
After 2 weeks of fighting, the YPG are now also holding the Al-Ghazl Junction, which in turn controls the route between Hasakah and Deir Ez-Zour.
The latest moves mean the YPG has IS fighters besieged in the neighbourhoods of Nashwa, Geweran and the Panorama roundabout, and controls all routes into the city from the west, the south and the east. 29 x IS fighters are reported killed in the latest clashes and 1 from the YPG. A number of IS fighters have also been captured.
In addition 2 x IS armoured vehicles and a tank were destroyed in the latest fighting and a substantial stock of weapons and ammunition recovered.
Interestingly, SANA, the Syrian State media, is saying today on it’s website that “Syrian Army troops” have surrounded and besieged the Islamic State fighters (without mentioning the Kurds at all)!
Coalition airstrikes on IS have undoubtedly helped the latest advance.
US Central Command (Centcom) says 6 airstrikes on and near Hasakah on Wednesday destroyed 2 x IS fighting positions, an IS bunker, an IS tunnel entrance, an IS vehicle bomb, an anti-aircraft gun, an artillery cannon and 2 x IS checkpoints as well as hitting 6 x IS tactical units.
This was followed by another 4 airstrikes on Thursday destroying an IS vehicle and 2 x IS fighting positions, plus hits on 2 tactical units and an IS tank.
Over the 2 day period, there were a total of 31 Coalition airstrikes on Syria and apart from the 10 on Hasakah described above there were also hits in Aleppo province, near Raqqah, Ain Issa, Tal Abyad, Kobane Canton and Deir Ez-Zour with the usual range of targets destroyed and damaged.
Over in Kobane city itself, as the photographs on this page portray, things are now much quieter as people prepare for the celebration of Eid today.
It will be particularly tough today though for the 600 orphans in Kobane left after the recent IS massacre and for the more than 1,000 Yezidi orphans in refugee camps.
Macer Gifford, the English city trader who abandoned his job to go and fight with the YPG in Syria, has returned to the UK but made a video urging others to support the Kurds in whatever way they can, here:
Interesting article in Al-Monitor on the quagmire that is Syria and the Kurds dilemna as they contemplate, along with Arabic partners, an attack on the IS HQ at Raqqah.
The Islamic State themselves are also nervous about a possible Turkish invasion in northern Syria and an attack on Jarablous. More in NOW media.
AS BLOODY BATTLE FOR ZABADANI CONTINUES, OPPOSITION LAUNCH RETALIATORY CAMPAIGN AGAINST ALAWITE ENCLAVES IN IDLIB:
Some of the 55,000 high resolution photographs smuggled out of Syria to show how Assad’s security services tortured, starved and killed 11,000 of its victims were displayed in the US Congress this week. After several years of investigation, the pictures have been authenticated as an accurate record.
EDITOR: If you can stomach it I have written extensively on this, HERE:
Meanwhile, the water situation in Aleppo is getting worse (scroll down – see earlier reports below), with not safe drinking water for 3 weeks now.
People are drinking from exposed tanks and old wells, resulting in serious stomach problems and illnesses. You can read more, HERE:
In the Khalidiyeh district of north-west Aleppo city the Opposition continue to advance. (Or at least what is left of it. Arabic only) HERE:
The Assad regime continues to hit back with barrel-bombs, not seeming to care who it kills.
Chaotic scenes after a Syrian Air Force attack in Opposition-held east Aleppo, not far from the Citadel, HERE:
Due south of Aleppo city in the countryside, the Opposition also launched a new campaign around Mount Azzan in order to disrupt Assad’s military supply lines into the regional capital. Mount Azzan is the base for the Air Defence Battalion and is the highest point in the area.
Nearby Nayrab Airbase was also targeted with several Grad and Katyusha rockets yesterday evening, Thursday.
In the Qalamoun region of Damascus province, the bloody battle at Zabadani continues, with the Opposition claiming that in the last 24 hours they retook the western part of the Sultaniyah district in the south-east of the city.
You can read more about the fight for Zabadani and Hezbollah’s desperation to take it, HERE:
In retaliation for the attack on Zabadani, as reported below, Opposition fighters in Idlib province have started a new campaign to take the Alawite enclaves of Kafraya and Al-Fuah, which are completely surrounded.
A devastating Opposition artillery bombardment yesterday, killed a man and a girl in the enclaves, and an air raid in kind by Assad’s Air Force on the nearby Opposition town of Binnish killed at least 4 more civilians.
Out on the Ghab Plain Opposition fighters attacked Assad’s forces as they fled Kherbet Al-Naquous, HERE:
The Islamic State is reported to have punished 94 people, including 5 teenagers, for breaking the fasting rules during the month of Ramadan, which finished today.
All survived the punishment, but some were flogged after being accused of eating during daylight hours, others were crucified and hung up by their arms, while some were put in cages in public places.
The teenagers were aged between 13 and 16. Young children are not normally expected to observe the fast.
EDITOR: This is probably a complete spoof, but this is supposed to be an outfit for a female Islamic State policewoman – it did make me laugh!
The British Government seems to have got itself in “hot water” again after a Freedom Of Information request revealed that 20 British military personnel have taken part in air raids against the Islamic State in Syria, some of them flying F-16s for other Coalition partners.
While the UK Government is considering extending its military campaign in Iraq against IS to include action in Syria, this has not yet been approved by the British Parliament and was specifically proscribed by them in 2013.
The UK Government claims that the pilots were embedded and flying with the US and Canadian Air Forces and therefore were not covered by the Parliamentary ban. (EDITOR: That’s weasely minded politicians for you! And if you have ever actually seen a weasel you will know exactly what I mean). The BBC has more on this.
KOBANE/CIZIRE/IRAQ UPDATE 115: US SPECIAL FORCES RETURN IRAQI ANTIQUITIES RECOVERED FROM RAID ON IS IN SYRIA & HASAKAH FIGHTING CONTINUES:
TIMELINE – 15th JULY 2015 13.16 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.36 GMT:
Most of the heaviest fighting in Kurdish areas of northern Syria continues in and around Hasakah city.
YPG fighters have advanced into southern and south-western areas of Hasakah city taking the Ahliya and International Schools and a gas station formerly held by IS.
On Monday night the YPG also launched an operation in the Red Villas area, while Coalition aircraft attacked an IS convoy nearby and a command post, reportedly killing 2 of their field commanders.
Assad regime aircraft have also been bombing IS positions, including the Al-Adath prison and Syrian Army artillery inside the city has been shelling IS positions in the western Al-Nashweh district.
A loud explosion between the Al-Basel roundabout at the southern entrance to the centre of the city and the Al-Panorama roundabout, was thought to be an IS booby-trapped vehicle.
The brunt of IS attacks seems to be against Syrian Army positions with 17 x IS suicide vehicle bombs hitting them since June 25th.
Since that date an estimated 100 pro-Assad fighters have been killed and another 100 injured.
Reports say that 70 x IS Jihadists have also been killed, including 15 under the age of 16.
IS are currently strongest in the Al-Zuhur district, where they are reported to have looted homes, and in parts of Ghwayran.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 7 airstrikes at Hasakah on Monday and another 2 on Tuesday this week. Destroyed were 9 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle and an armoured personnel carrier plus hits on 8 x IS tactical units.
During the same time period the was one strike on Raqqah, one in Kobane Canton, 3 near Aleppo and 2 near Deir Ez-Zour , all with a similar range of targets hit or destroyed.
In the early hours of yesterday, Tuesday, an IS attack on the village of Shergirat, south of Tal Abyad and near Suluk, took place. The IS attack started with the deployment of a vehicle bomb and then a ground attack but the assailants were driven away by the YPG with lost of one Kurdish fighter and an unknown number of the attackers.
Fierce fighting is reportedly continuing in south-western Kobane Canton around Sarrin but detail still awaited.
Human Righs Watch (HRW) has also criticised the YPG once again for continuing to use “child soldiers” under the age of 18. In 2014 the YPG signed a “Deed of Commitment” with the NGO Geneva Call, pledging to demobilize all fighters under 18 within a month.
However, HRW said today that it has compiled a list of 59 children – 10 of them under 15 – who were recruited by or volunteered for the YPG or YPJ since July 2014. HRW has also said that it estimates 52 children recruited by IS have died this year, mostly from bombing, combat or suicide missions, 31 of them in July alone.
Despite everything that has happened, Kobane city seems to be starting to thrive once again and traders and shops are beginning to operate normally.
However, prospects of a Kurdish state in northern Syria linking Afrin, Kobane and Cizire look remote. In an interview yesterday, Tuesday, retired General John Allen, who is President Obama’s special envoy to the Coalition, said, “We don’t support, and I don’t think the Kurds support in northern Syria, a separate governmental entity.
It is important that a partner that has ultimately been enabled to defeat Daesh (IS) does not become an occupying force,” Allen told a Washington think tank.
This all may part of an agreement between the US and Turkey who are very nervous of a continuous Kurdish state along their border with Syria.
In the last few days Turkey, for the first time, has arrested 21 suspected members of IS in dawn raids and blocked access to more than 6 pro-IS websites on the Internet.
Over in Iraq, the United States this morning, Wednesday, returned ancient antiquities to Baghdad’s National Museum, including early Islamic coins, cylindrical stamps, pottery, metallic bracelets and other jewellery, and glass shards from a coloured vase.
The items, recovered from a US special forces raid in May near Deir Ez-Zour which killed Abu Sayyaf, who was reputed to be the IS official in charge of their sales of oil and gas, is the first hard evidence that IS is dealing in a black market in antiquities as well, while at the same time appearing to destroy some of them.
In northern Iraq fighting with the Islamic State continues in Sinjar city and around the base of Mount Sinjar.
Last Sunday the Kurdish Peshmerga retook the village of Gabara, reputedly destroying 4 x IS vehicles including Humvees and killing 30 x IS fighters, but discovering that the Yezidi shrine there had been destroyed by the Jihadists.
A further 25 x IS Jihadists are reported to have been killed by the Peshmerga on Tuesday in fighting in Sinjar city. In an attack on local people, IS in the region are said to be setting fire to Yezidi farms and crops.
There is also an interesting report from what some people describe as the “prison city” – Mosul, with residents trapped and unable to escape from IS’s brutal rule and describing regular beatings and beheadings, HERE:
Lastly on Iraq, 3 young brave Yezidi women visited the UK this week to tell their stories of horrific daily beatings and rape while they were in the hands of Islamic State fighters. They said that some of them were raped as many as 5 times a day. One of the girls was just 15 when she was captured and exploited, but all 3 eventually escaped.
EDITOR: After watching the BBC video, words fail me in thinking about what these poor women suffered and what these self-styled “spiritual men” have done in the name of Allah/God – may they go straight to hell.
You can read the women’s chilling story at the BBC website.
OPPOSITION CONTINUE TO MAKE GAINS ON THE GHAB PLAIN, WHILE HEZBOLLAH CLAIMS TO HAVE MADE INROADS INTO ZABADANI:
The UN’s special envoy on Syria, Staffan De Mistura, met yesterday, Tuesday, with representatives of the Opposition Southern Front that controls large parts of Daraa and Qunietra provinces in southern Syria.
“We showed him our road map, our vision, how the Southern Front sees the transitional period without Assad,” said Southern Front spokesman Issam al-Rayyes. Mistura also met with representatives of the Opposition in north Syria earlier this month, and they will have given him much the same message – there can be no solution while Assad is in power.
Arhar Al-Sham, one of the most effective Opposition groups in northern Syria ( scroll down – see link to article by them in the Washington Post), particularly in Idlib province, was attacked for a 2nd time yesterday in a double suicide bombing.
This time one of its top leaders, Abu Abdel-Rahman Salqin, was killed and 6 of his men. Ahrar Al-Sham is a conservative Islamist group, but opposed to the Islamic State.
In September 2014 another blast in Idlib province killed 47 of their top military and religious leaders and many thought they would never recover, but the opposite has proven true.
No-one has claimed responsibility for either attack, but many suspect IS as the culprits.
In Idlib province their is a great deal of fighting going on in Idlib with the Opposition making significant gains on the Ghab Plain.
Today Opposition fighters re-gained control of the villages of Tall Waset, Al Mansoura and Naqus (west of Maarat Al-Numan) in the northern part of the Plain and last night also captured a group of Assad’s soldiers in a night battle. 4 of those captured appear to be Iranians.
There is additionally an unconfirmed report that 60 pro-Assad fighters were killed by a vehicle bomb at Joureen.
In north-west Aleppo 10 of Assad’s forces were killed and a vehicle destroyed as they tried to advance at the Leiramon roundabout, while Assad’s Air Force is reported to have killed as many as 75 people in barrel-bomb attacks on the IS-held town of Al-Bab in Aleppo province in just the last 3 days.
In Damascus, the Opposition group, the Army of Islam, claims that an IS commander, Shadi Diyab, and 6 of his men have defected to their side and that “dozens more IS Jihadist are waiting to do the same”. IS have apparently placed a $25,000 bounty on Diyab’s head.
The Army of Islam also claims to have destroyed an Assad convoy consisting of several military vehicles and BMP armoured personnel carrier.
In the same province, Hezbollah says it has pushed deeper into the Qalamoun town of Zabadani, seizing the main crossing at Madaya on the outskirts of the town and destroying a 360 metre tunnel linking Madaya and the centre of Zabadani under the main highway.
Back in Idlib province the Opposition group Jaysh Fateh has announced a battle to take the 2 Alawite enclaves remaining in the province of Kafraya and Al-Fuah in retaliation for the attack on Zabadani. Recent reports Wednesday say that Opposition fighters have seized boxes of Syrian pounds today being parachuted into the 2 villages.
And lastly, some people rise to the challenge whatever the difficulties. Karim and Sandro Saade run a vinyard in Syria and every 3 days grapes packed in ice are sent to their office in Beirut by car for them to see how it is progressing.
Somehow they manage to produce 45,000 bottles of quality wine a year despite the difficulties and continue to support 35 families by doing so. More at the BBC.