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http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3 “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

ASSAD’S TROOPS BREAK OUT FROM NATIONAL HOSPITAL AT JISR AL-SHUGHUR – MANY KILLED, CAPTURED OR INJURED:

TIMELINE – 22nd MAY 2015 13.25 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.25 GMT:

This morning, Friday, in broad daylight, the remaining Assad troops trapped inside the National Hospital, which they had set up as a base, south of Jisr Al-Shughur in Idlib province, made a run for it.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Desperate Assad Forces Flee National Hospital, Jisr Al-Shughur

The estimated 200 men were clearly alarmed by Opposition video released on the Internet showing the digging of a tunnel for a bomb to be placed under the National Hospital building, HERE:

An Opposition commander has said that the news was deliberately leaked to “encourage” the pro-Assad fighters to leave.

The trapped men were also thought to be running out of food and water.

An attempted Government helicopter drop of barrels of supplies earlier in the week failed and Opposition fighters were very grateful for the bottles of fresh water and tins of (apparently) Iranian tuna fish that fell from the sky, HERE:

There were also reports that the Assad regime had lost contact with the trapped men, probably because batteries had finally run down, but possibly to maintain radio silence before this morning’s break-out.

7 of the soldiers tried to escape yesterday and 2 were killed and 5 were captured. Those captured said that many soldiers wanted to give themselves up or defect, but officers inside the National Hospital building were ordering anyone wishing to defect shot dead.

Some co-ordination with the Syrian Army and Air Force outside must have been taking place as intense fighting broke out Thursday evening and again this morning just before the break-out, between Assad forces and the Opposition on the frontlines south and east of Jisr Al-Shughur.

The Air Force also made a reported 50 airstrikes with rockets and barrel-bombs on Opposition positions around the National Hospital, but some of those strikes are thought to have killed their own escaping men.

When it came, the break-out consisted of 2 groups of men running off in different directions and seeking cover along a corridor 1 kilometre west of the Orontes River and hoping to make it to Government lines to the south. This is an early video of the break-out, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Opposition Fighters About to Enjoy Supplies Delivered by Syrian Air Force

Recent reports suggest that around 50 of Assad’s soldiers were killed initially, 65 taken prisoner, including officers (one being Brigadier Mahmoud Sabha) and another 50 or so are still on the run being hunted down in olive and orange groves.

The Opposition are now in complete control of the National Hospital building.

There is a second video of the escape, HERE:

Putting its usual sad spin on events, the Syrian state media, SANA, published the following this morning:

“The force defending the national hospital of Jisr al-Shughour carried out today morning a tactical manoeuvre and managed to break the siege successfully,” a military source told SANA. The soldiers have been freed and left the hospital, carrying their dead or injured fellow members, and are heading to army posts in Idlib countryside.

SANA reporter in Jisr al-Shughour city, which is located in western Idlib province, said the soldiers are now out of the hospital.”

A SANA reported in Jisr Al-Shughur will be news to the Opposition alliance.

Now that the siege is over, the “Army of Conquest” Opposition group will now be able to concentrate on taking the rest of Idlib province. Several more checkpoints around Ariha have fallen, and it is now only a matter of time before the town falls under Opposition control.

More video has emerged of the captured Mastoumah Army base, in particularly all the hundreds of cases from the shells fired on Opposition towns and villages in the last 18 months, (Arabic only) HERE:

A Reuters report confirms today’s event at Jisr Al-Shughur.

The first video, just released Friday afternoon, from inside the totally wrecked National Hospital can be seen, HERE:

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 93: FIGHTING KURDS LIBERATE 20 MORE VILLAGES, REPEL COUNTER ATTACKS & CLEAR STRATEGIC MOUNTAIN:

In Cizire Canton in their major operation to take Mount Abdul Aziz (also known as Mount Kizwanan), the YPG/YPJ freed the village of Xerra in the foothills from Islamic State (IS) insurgents and captured the nearby hilltops of Izea and Radar.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurdish Forces Reclaim Mount Abdul Aziz, Cizire Canton

They have also liberated the villages of Tal’a, Meraqib and Medîne on the trail towards the mountain and in the above operations around 11 x IS Jihadists are reported killed.

On Tuesday night there were also IS attacks on the frontline near Serêkaniyê, hitting the villages of Til Xenzir, Til Bîlal and Til Boxa areas, but the strong Kurdish defences held and IS repelled, with an IS armoured personnel carrier and 4 other military vehicles destroyed and another 20 x IS fighters shot dead.

2 Kurdish fighters also lost their lives.

Since Wednesday’s capture of the mountain, mopping up operations have continued in villages along the Khaber River between Tel Tamir and Hasakah.

Today’s report, Friday, says that these operations have cleared the villages of Hiseniyê, Til Hefyan, Til Nasrî, Til Şamîran, Til Huda, Til Goran, Til Fêda, Til Belo’a, Xerîta, Selîbiyê, Skaka, Hemaniyê, Şeîra and Xebîş from IS fighters.

Operations to clear mines and booby-traps from the villages are now ongoing.

A video of the YPG/YPJ on Mount Abdul Aziz can be seen, HERE:

K Barakat, who acts as the Interior Minister for Cizire Canton, said in a statement that Coalition airstrikes played a crucial role in the liberation of the mountain.

Arab and Christian Assyriac militia also took part in the fighting with the YPG and a number of civilians, including Christians, who had earlier been kidnapped by IS were freed.

Recent reports say that the Assyrian villages of Tel Shamiram, Tel Nasri and Ghibish have also now been freed, with an armoured vehicle captured and 17 more IS Jihadists killed.

There is also heavy fighting going on at the western outskirts of Serêkaniyê, with loud explosions ringing out across the Canton.

In Kobane Canton on Tuesday night, the combined YPG/FSA force liberated the village of Mencûkê on the eastern front, killing 11 x IS Jihadists, and seizing weapons and ammunition plus 2 vehicles, including one laden with explosives.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

IS Burning Crops to Punish Civilians in Face of Kurds Advance

Fighting erupted at 3.00 am Wednesday morning at the villages of Qilhaydê, Nûrelî and Zerik which IS fighters tried to retake.

However, battles continued until yesterday, Thursday, leaving 23 x IS fighters dead, including a senior commander known as Abu Jaabil Ansari.

Large stocks of AK-47s, machine guns, rockets, hand grenades and medical equipment were recovered, but at the cost of another 2 lives of YPG fighters.

On the eastern front again, another YPG operation near the village of Bîrerêp resulted in the destruction of an IS vehicle and the wounding of 2 of their men.

On the same front, last night Thursday into Friday, IS attempted to retake Korik but were eventually repelled, leaving another 25 x IS Jihadists dead and 1 YPG fighter.

Again Ak-47s, hand grenades, a rocket launcher, ammunition and other useful materials were recovered.

Thursday night on the southern front in Kobane Canton, several YPG positions came under prolonged mortar fire for several hours, but so far no serious casualties are reported.

In the US this week at the Pentagon, Air Force Colonel Patrick Ryder said, “Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria have done very well, and really represent a hostile force in ISIL’s backyard that has caused them some significant problems there.”

On Tuesday through to Wednesday am US Central Command (Centcom) reports 2 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroying 4 x IS fighting positions and hitting 2 tactical units.

On Wednesday through to Thursday morning 5 more airstrikes are reported, this time destroying 2 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS mortar positions and an IS vehicle.

These strikes may well relate to the mortar attacks reported on the southern front above and also to an outbreak of heavy fighting around the Grain Silos north of Sarrin. 4 airstrikes were reported by local sources on IS positions at the Grain Silos within an hour.

As they retreat, IS are also punishing civilians about to be liberated by the YPG by burning their crops, which would normally be ready to harvest in June, and blowing up their houses.

Over the same 2 day period reported by Centcom above, there were also 8 airstrikes near Hasakah and one each near Raqqah and Aleppo, the latter destroying an IS vehicle bomb.

The good news from Kobane city itself is that children can now go to school without fear of IS or barrel-bombs and there are signs that life is returning to some level of normality, as these pictures show.

Lastly on Kobane, take a look at @BikeFoundry on Twitter. They are selling Kurdish badges of various kinds at £1 each to raise money for the Kurdish cause in Syria. Help if you can.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Happy Kids – No IS – No barrel Bombs (2)

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Happy Kids – No IS – No barrel Bombs (1)

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Life Returns to Kobane

Down in Homs, the Islamic State have consolidated their hold on Palmyra and wasted no time in their lust for blood letting by executing 17 members of the Shaitat tribe. So far IS have killed more than 900 of the Shaitat after the tribe stood up to them in Deir Ez-Zour province.

It turns out, not unsurprisingly, that the regime only evacuated senior officers and their families, plus local notables, leaving ordinary conscripts and local people to fend for themselves after the Islamic State invasion. IS put out calls through the mosque loudspeakers for householders to turn in any hiding military personnel.

This footage shows the Islamic State inside the city with locals nervously paying homage to the insurgents, here:

Before the war the population of Palmyra was around 80,000 but had swollen with refugees and displaced persons to 120,000 in the last 4 years.

The fate of the prisoners formerly held in Palmyra’s notorious Tadmour prison is still not known – they were already empty when IS got there. IS contented themselves with setting light to Assad’s portrait outside the front of the prison, HERE:

With the taking of Palmyra and the surrounding area, the Islamic State now control almost 50% of Syria, around 95,000 square kilometres (36,679 sq miles), although 75% of that territory is empty desert apart from the lucrative oil and gas wells. IS is in a position to deny Assad gas and oil to run his electricity generating stations or to charge him inflated prices for it, as they have done in the past.

IS are also now attacking Tiyas airbase (known as T-4) not far from the city and have taken over the Syria/Iraq border crossing at Al-Tanf, the last frontier post to Iraq controlled by the Assad Government. The border crossing was manned by Assad’s 18th Tank Brigade who soon crumbled under the IS assault.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Fate of Ancient Palmyra is in IS Hands

There is still much international concern about the fate of the extraordinary ancient ruins in Palmyra and the BBC in an article with videos discusses this and the consequences of the loss of the last crossing to Iraq.

Interestingly in Damascus Fadi Saqr, a pro-Assad National Defence Force (NDF) commander, has been arrested on charges of supplying the Islamic State with weapons and ammunition.

Also in the Syrian capital 1 person was killed and 3 injured after Opposition shells hit the Russian embassy and there are additionally unconfirmed reports that the Iranian embassy was severely damaged on Wednesday evening by an explosion, but over this there appears to be a news blackout.

********************

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 92: 26 ISLAMIC STATE VEHICLES AND 170+ JIHADISTS DESTROYED IN 48 HOURS AS KURDS/COALITION DRIVE THEM OUT:

TIMELINE – 20th MAY 2015 13.15 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 19.18 GMT and Friday 21st May 08.39 GMT:

Once again, most of the action in the last 2 days has dramatically been in Cizire Canton.

Opposition sources in Syria are reporting that in a 48 hour period this week, and with the help of concentrated Coalition bombing, between 170 and 180 Islamic State (IS) fighters were killed.

SYRIA and  IRAQ NEWS

YPG With Weapons Captured from Islamic State

YPG forces, in a rapid advance, also announced that they took control of parts of Mount Abdul Aziz yesterday evening, Tuesday (west of Hasakah city), discovering US made artillery (presumably looted from Iraq), large amounts of ammunition and missiles at IS positions on the top.

By midday today, Wednesday, the YPG had announced it had captured the whole of the mountain. This gain will give the Kurds control of the highest peak in the region.

On Monday, the YPG/YPJ, in addition to all their other recent gains (scroll down – see below) had managed to surround IS in a group of 10 villages.

IS attempted 4 counter-attacks, including deploying 2 vehicle bombs, but neither exploded as intended.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to escape, the IS Jihadists fled the villages in numerous small groups but as they were being carefully monitored, the majority were soon killed.

Eventually the villages of Til Tal, Qahîre, Selmasa, Dişîşa, Dişîşa Beggara, Sikr Hêmir (which consisted of houses in 3 separate locations), Dibsa and Til Xelîfa were all cleared of IS fighters.

With the loss of one of their number, the YPG’s own estimate is that 180 IS fighters were killed in this week’s operations so far. In addition 1 x IS tank, 3 military vehicles, a van used to prepare and transfer ammunition and a machine gun were destroyed. 15 x IS prisoners were also taken into custody.

Also acquired as a result of these successes were 8 x IS pick-ups and a motorcycle, a Konkors anti-tank missile launcher, 15 AK-47s, 12 x RPG rocket launchers and 41 rockets, 13 radios and numerous day and night vision binoculars and goggles, thermal scopes and other useful military items.

A number of other villages in the Tel Tamer region are also surrounded by the Kurds, with as many as another 100 x IS Jihadists trapped inside according to latest reports and the YPG expect to take them soon. Yesterday IS fighters trapped near Tal_Nasri, Ghabsh and Tal_Shamiram, were heard screaming for support over the radio. However, more and more it looks as thought IS are in retreat from the rural areas and are likely to concentrate their future attacks on the cities and larger inhabited locations.

Effective Coalition airstrikes have clearly moved things forward. US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Cizire Canton on Sunday through to Monday am and another 7 on Monday through to Tuesday morning.

The total tally was no less than 21 x IS vehicles and 5 armoured vehicles destroyed, 8 fighting positions and a shipping container destroyed, plus hits on 3 large and 5 small tactical units – hence the large number of fatalities.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Living in the Rubble of Kobane

On the south-eastern front of Kobane Canton on Monday night, a joint YPG/YPJ/FSA force liberated the villages of Şewik, Koçgar (60 kilometres out from Kobane city) and Berbihesên, driving out the IS Jihadists.

While IS casualties were not immediately obvious, in another operation near Cêbariyê on the southern Kobane Canton front, 1 x IS fighter was reported killed.

Video footage shows the YPG advance on the cement plant and villages on the eastern Kobane Canton front which were recaptured last Friday, (English sub-titles) HERE:

In Kobane city itself a ceremony was held this morning, Wednesday, at the Martyr’s Cemetery to honour the YPG/YPJ fighters who had died in defence of the city and Canton.

You can read more and watch the video (English sub-titles), HERE:

Slowly – very slowly – the rebuilding of Kobane is underway, with running water restored to 2 of the least damaged districts out of 13 and more water and sewage pipes crossing the border to be laid in the destroyed city.

But the job is immense and around 60% of the citizens there have little expectation of outside help. There is now an estimated 500,000 tons of rubble heaped on the streets which would take 100 trucks 10 months to move – so far there are just 5 trucks on the job. You can read more in The Christian Science Monitor.

The latest Kobane Situation Map from @Chuck Pfarrer is, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 18.05.15

ASSAD REGIME IGNOMINIOUSLY REMOVED FROM ITS LAST BASE IN IDLIB PROVINCE – PALMYRA HAS ALSO FALLEN TO ISLAMIC STATE:

In another spectacular show of skill, planning and force, the rightly named “Army of Conquest”, an Opposition alliance of Islamic orientated brigades and the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), yesterday captured Assad’s last remaining base in Idlib province.

After just 3 days of battle, Mastoumah military base just collapsed under a concerted Opposition attack after the loss of the nearby hill and village of the same name earlier this week (scroll down – see below) and Assad’s troops and militia were seen running for their lives to get away to nearby Ariha.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Assad’s Mastoumah Base Falls to Opposition Advance

The Opposition fighters have lost around 16 men, but the pro-Assad losses are likely to be considerable more.

Pro-Government fighters can be seen on the run, HERE:

Video from the storming of Mastoumah camp is, HERE:  and you can see what it was like inside the base after the takeover, (Arabic only) HERE:

This video shows activist reporters from Orient TV interviewing very happy fighters (Arabic only) in Mastoumah village with smoke pouring from the remains of the military base in the distance and shots of destroyed Syrian Army tanks and vehicles, HERE:

In Opposition-held Idlib city, the mosques announced the victory and local people handed out food in the streets to celebrate.

In the battle for the camp a T-55 tank was destroyed, HERE:  and a BMP armoured vehicle, HERE:

Interestingly, (EDITOR: What justice!) the removal of the Assad regime from Mastoumah comes 4 years to the day after Government security services massacred local people in the same village peacefully demonstrating against the President. Many were killed and injured as they tried to get away. This is the original video from May 20th 2011, HERE:

UNCEF Supplies For Refugees Found in Assad Military Stores

UNICEF Supplies For Refugees Found in Assad Military Stores

More footage from Mastoumah with captured vehicles and many excited (bearded) fighters, HERE:  The regime is believed however to have fired stores of weapons and ammunition before departing. What was discovered at the camp was stores of UNICEF Family Hygiene Kits, still in the originally boxes and clearly not delivered by the regime to the people for whom they were intended.

Spoils from the earlier capture of the village of Muqbalah can be seen, HERE:

As convoys of Assad’s forces fled from Mastoumah towards Ariha they were harassed and shot at by Opposition fighters, (Arabic only and caution – some dead bodies) HERE:

How long Assad’s troops remain in Ariha remains to be seen. There are already reports of arguments and fights between Assad’s elite “Tiger” force and members of the pro-Assad National Defence Force (NDF) after the withdrawal from Mastoumah.

Convoys of Government soldiers have been seen leaving Ariha for Mahmpel Barrier, 20 kilometres to the west and several checkpoints to the east of Ariha are said to have already fallen today, Wednesday, to Opposition fighters.

After taking Mastoumah, the “Army of Conquest” has also taken control of Nahlaya and Kafr Najd, 2 large villages near Ariha town, which is now surrounded on 3 sides. The FSA also destroyed a regime tank at Ma’taram near Ariha, HERE:

Given the fall of the Mastoumah base, there is probably no hope, , short of a “miracle”, for the 150/200 Assad troops still trapped in the remains of the National Hospital to the south of Jisr Al-Shughur. The Syrian Air Force has kept up a barrage of air attacks on the town but these have not dislodged the Opposition fighters there.

The Opposition remain very firmly in control of the road between Ariha and Jisr Al-Shughur, as evidenced by the following 2 videos. In the first one the Opposition bring a large supply truck to a grinding halt with a TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:

Some time later, a regime BMP armoured vehicle is sent to hook up with the truck and tow it away. The same TOW team strike again, this time destroying the BMP, enjoy HERE:

Situation Map around Ariha after the fall of the Mastoumah military base, courtesy of @archicivilians, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map at Ariha After Fall of Mastoumah 20.05.15

Over in Palmyra, out in the desert in Homs province, things are not looking much better for the regime. Seemingly in anticipation of a defeat, Government soldiers emptied all the artifacts from Palmyra Museum this morning, Wednesday. The only remaining hospital in the southern part of the city has also been exclusively reserved for troops and is now closed to civilians, whatever their injury.

Latest reports say that the Islamic State have control for the second time of northern parts of the city and are now in the city centre, capturing the state security building, a bread factory, other regional Government buildings and the National Hospital building and now look set to take the rest of the city, despite air attacks from Assad’s Air Force.

Reports on Wednesday afternoon say that IS have now taken the Youth Barrier in the city centre, the largest and supposedly strongest in the city and Assad’s NDF has begun evacuating all civilians Palmyra/Tadmour city.

UPDATE Friday 21st May: Assad’s forces yesterday, Thursday, retreated from Palmyra.  IS are now in charge of the whole city, including the prison, airport and ancient ruins.

Syria and Iraq NEWS

Celebrations in Idlib at the Fall of Mastoumah

The Assad regime is also under attack at several points in and around Aleppo, both with IS who are attacking the Sheikh Najar industrial area and Qweires airbase, fighting with the YPG defending the Kurdish neighbourhood of Sheikh Maksoud, and in the north of the city where they are fighting an Opposition alliance around Handarat.

In Ghouta, just east of central Damascus, another Opposition alliance is attacking Syrian Army Base 39 and has broken through the first defence line, HERE:

And in Western Ghouta, not far away Opposition fighters captured a T-55 tank and large stocks of weapons and ammunition after overrunning a Government checkpoint on the Al-Salam highway near Khan Al-Sheeh.

The only glimmer of hope for the Assad regime at the moment is that Hezbollah are reported to have taken more mountain tops away from the Opposition in the Qalamoun region between Damascus and Lebanon.

More leaked documents from the Assad regime have emerged, shedding light on its relationships with journalists, legal and PR firms and other countries, and how the Assad family regards its citizens. NOW Media from Lebanon has the stories in a series of exclusive articles – take your pick or read them all.

Lastly, the Mother of Austin Tice has given a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, appealing for the release of her son who has now been missing for 3 years. Surprisingly, recent information suggests he is still alive somewhere in Syria and is not being held by any Opposition faction or any extreme religious group. Reuters has a report.

***********************

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 91: IN LAST 4 DAYS ANOTHER 27+ VILLAGES RECAPTURED AND 80 ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS KILLED ACROSS 2 CANTONS:

TIMELINE – 18th MAY 2015 13.45 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.46 GMT:

On Friday, combined YPG/FSA forces on the eastern front of Kobane Canton launched an operation which regained the Guris Cement Plant and no less than 10 more villages.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Jubilant Kurdish Fighters Infront of Recaptured Cement Plant

The villages liberated include Edîfê, Diçkiram, Şerebanî, Korpiling, Bîrxas, Bîrnasir, Gocekmêt, east and west Sefêriyê and east and west Yedûkî. The village of Sulûxke was also freed from Islamic State control, as well as 3 strategic hills in the area.

Initial reports said that 17 x IS Jihadists had been killed and large amounts of equipment gained. As well as binoculars, night vision equipment, 4 radios and 2 vehicles, the Kurdish led force also recovered 14 AK-47s, RPG rockets and launchers, mortar rounds and thousands of bullets.

Advancing further on Saturday, 4 more villages were also freed; Sheshê, Girikê Hemêr, Korik and north Bîrnasir and another 13 x IS Jihadist reported killed.

2 x IS military vehicles and a motorbike were seized this time, along with more rockets and launchers, hand-made mines, hand grenades and more AK-47s plus stocks of ammunition.

EDITOR: I have often reported on this page on YPG blowing up IS suicide vehicle bombs before impact. This is how it is done with concentrated fire until they get a result, here:

To give you some idea of the booty recently recovered from the Islamic State, take a look at this, at least 500 mortar shells, HERE:

Joint operations by the YPG/YPJ and the FSA on the eastern front in Kobane Canton can be viewed, HERE: and more with co-ordinated Coalition airstrikes on IS positions, HERE:

In Cizire, the Kurds eastern Canton, they launched a major operation in memory of Rubar Qamishlo, one of their experienced commanders who was killed recently in fighting near Tel Tamer.

By Sunday night, yesterday, they had seized the villages of Um El Mesamîr Ereb, Um El Mesamîr Rojava, Heci Qedrî, Hiwêce, Tel Hemam and El Mesamîra, all within 10 kilometres of Tel Tamer, and hemming in an Islamic State force.

23 x IS Jihadists were killed in this operation and many more wounded. In another operation near Tel Hemam village a further 3 x IS Jihadists were killed and 2 of them captured alive, with an IS tank and 3 x IS military vehicles destroyed.

16 kilometres north-west of Hasakah city on Saturday at Tel Hirmiz, a major battle with IS resulted in another 20 of their fighters killed.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPJ Fighters on the Frontline

Once again this follows a successful operations in Cizire on Friday night through to Saturday morning retaking Gozeliyê and Şiwêş, with 4 x IS Jihadists killed, and another on Saturday night capturing Lîlan, Emriya, Rêhaniyê Rojava and Abu Heyya Remo Farmlands (12 kilometres to the west of Tel Tamer) as well as Til Fîtêtat and Hûda villages, killing a further 6 x IS fighters

Total number of YPG/YPJ fighters killed across Cizire in all these engagements reported as 5.

EDITOR: This brings, by my reckoning, the number of villages recaptured in the last 4 days to 27+ and around 80 x IS fighters killed across the 2 Cantons.

DETAILS EMERGE OF US SPECIAL FORCES ATTACK IN SYRIA, AND ASSAD REGIME’S ELECTRICITY/GAS SUPPLIES UNDER THREAT:

In Idlib province, the demolition of Assad’s last defences in the province continues, with a major attack on Mastoumah base still underway and nearby villages falling to the Opposition.

The Al-Nusra Front set off another vehicle bomb near the camp and had quickly taken Mastoumah Hill by Sunday night and the village of the same name just to the north of the military base. You can see the explosion on this video at around 1.20, HERE:

13 of Assad’s troops were reported killed as the Opposition surrounded and took over Mastoumah school, also capturing an ammunition depot in the village.

A recent video of the entrance to Mastoumah camp is, (Arabic only) HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Opposition Destroy Assad Armoured Vehicle Near Kufayr

To the south-west of Matoumah, Opposition fighters captured the village of Muqbalah after Assad’s forces retreated under attack, HERE: and they are now attacking Nahlaya, both just north of Ariha.

Journalist/activist Hadi al-Abdallah watched the fighting over the weekend, HERE: but almost came a cropper himself, bullets whizzing overhead, HERE:

The Assad regime attempted to send reinforcements from Ariha to Mastoumah but it came under Opposition fire and was stopped according to Opposition sources.

Similar sources also reported that a Syrian Army officer, Colonel Asef Suleiman, was executed by the regime in Jorin for refusing to lead a convoy to rescue Masoumah.

A good supply of anti-tank missiles and launchers is clearly helping the Opposition considerably. So far 5 regime tanks have been destroyed in the assault on Mastoumah.

Near Kufayr the Opposition destroyed an armoured vehicle, HERE: and in the same area, a second one, HERE:

Near Al-Fanar just above Ariha, a T55 tank was destroyed, HERE:  and another tank near the Sawmill Barrier not far from Jisr Al-Shughur, HERE:

The Assad regime did not have much luck sending in supplies to its troops still trapped in Jisr Al-Shughur National Hospital either. Five packages containing water, cigarettes and other supplies fell straight into Opposition hands, HERE:

The only way the Assad regime can effectively strike back at the moment is using its air power. 96 people are reported killed across Syria in airstrikes on Saturday alone, including 18 children and 12 women. 56 of the deaths were in Idlib province.

Courtesy of ‏@archicivilians, this is a situation map for the area around Masoumah Syrian Army camp, here:

SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map of Area Around Mastoumah

In Aleppo, Assad’s Air Force “helpfully” dropped a barrel-bomb on a major depot operated by the Syrian Red Crescent.

In Deir Ez-Zour province more detailed reports have started to emerge of US Special Forces ground attack on a compound at Al-Amr in the Omar Oil field. The compound was formerly home to oil-field workers but is now occupied by Islamic State officials and pro-IS civilians.

In the early hours of last Saturday morning a team from the US Delta Force flew under cover of darkness from Iraq in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

Coalition aircraft passed over over the target compound at around 1.00am without shelling, as they had done for the last 10 days, and the helicopters arrived at around 3.00am.

Fighting broke out immediately and 19 IS fighters, including 12 foreign fighters were killed almost immediately. One of the main targets of the strike, Abu Sayyaf, a Tunisian in charge of managing the Islamic State’s oil revenues and other finances, and who they hoped to capture alive, was also killed in the clashes.

However, his wife Umm Sayyaf, was arrested and brought back to Iraq, along with a freed Yezidi woman who had been used as a slave. Dogs were used by the special forces troops and 2 woman at the compound were reported bitten.

There are around 50 houses in the compound, which includes a swimming pool and tennis courts and approximately 1,000 people live there.

The operation lasted around 20 minutes and all of Delta Force left the area unhindered and with no reports so far of casualties. Coalition aircraft bombed the nearby oil-fields shortly after.

According to local sources, IS were stunned by how the Americans knew exactly in which house to find Abu Sayyaf. Since the raid all the civilians have been removed from the compound and checkpoints set-up around it.

There have been some suggestions that the real target of the operation was Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the chief Islamic State spokesman, as he and Abu Sayyaf were often know to be together.

Syria state media, Sana put out a stupid statement that it’s “commandos” had killed the Islamic State “Oil Minister” but later withdrew the claim.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Regime Troops in Palmyra Fire Artillery at IS

Over in Palmyra in Homs province, the regime also claimed that that it had stopped the IS advance into the city and pushed them out of the northern suburbs, but latest reports suggest that this is little more than a regrouping after as many as 30 regime airstrikes.

Street fighting is reported near the main hospital and at the Bkhitan Barrier and IS has released several hundred inmates from the prison.

A barrage of IS rockets falling on civilian areas in Palmyra today, Monday, is also said to have killed 5 people.

2 of the rockets landed in the garden of the archaeological museum, but did not destroy any antiquities.

The Assad regime is reported to have lost at least 150 men in fighting at Palmyra and nearby gas fields (including Brigadier General Haidar Ali Asaad, the head of the regime’s Palmyra operations and 2 more of Assad’s cousins, Brigadier General Mou’tadh Deeb and Colonel Muhammad Makhlouf) where IS also took over large stocks of ammunition and weapons.

The gas fields which finally fell to IS control late Sunday are north-east of Palmyra at Al-Hail and Arak, 40 and 25 kilometres (25 and 15 miles) respectively from the city and are vital for the Syrian Government’s generation of electricity to supply areas under its control.

In Iraq, a total of 500 men were reported killed on both sides in the battle for Ramadi, which is now almost completely under Islamic State control, the Iraqi Army reportedly having fled once again obligingly leaving large amounts of military vehicles and equipment behind.

A force of several thousand Shiite militia has been assembled to try and get Ramadi back and to stop IS marching on Baghdad. IS now controls continuous territory all the way from Aleppo province to the Iraqi capital, though its overall territorial hold is actually shrinking.

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KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 90: KURDISH ADVANCE IN CIZIRE CONTINUES TAKING 20+ VILLAGES FROM ISLAMIC STATE IN 48 HOURS:

TIMELINE – 15th MAY 2015 14.00 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 17.40 GMT:

The Kurdish forces surge against the Islamic State (IS) in Cizire Canton continued over the last 3 days with the capture of another 20 villages and large stocks of ammunition.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPG Fighter in Remains of Silos Near Alya Village 13.05.15

Having gained control over a section of the M4 highway that runs from Syria through to Iraq, near Alya, the YPG/YPJ captured the village of Alya and the nearby grain silos/cotton depot that IS had been using as an operations centre.

Then in 24 hours the YPG liberated the villages of Hewş Nasir, Rehaniye Begara, Salihiye Edwan, Sidyan, Qarqer, Mişêrfa Remo, Um Hicera, Sheikh Rûcim, El Herbî, Redînî, El Wusta and the smaller villages of Dirxam, Naîf Berhawî, Meşrû Ebdileziz, Xelef El Huseyn and El Ebû Hesen.

Weapons and ammunition gained included 10 G3 rifles, 16 carbines, 2 machine guns, mines, hand grenades, tank shells, mortar shells, rockets, thermal scopes and other useful equipment, plus 2 vehicles, a van and a bulldozer.

15 YPG/YPJ fighters are reported injured in the clashes, but so far no deaths.

This video shows the scale of the Grain silo site (notice creative use of captured bullet reels!), HERE:

Just west of Hasakah, the YPG started another operation to capture the villages of Rezaza and Debaxiye. Debaxiye fell quite quickly but the battles for Rezaza continued, though latest reports suggest it has now fallen to Kurdish forces. 37 x IS Jihadists are reported killed in the battle for Rezaza.

In the same area an operation against IS positions at Tel Kiber resulted in one IS vehicle and its occupants destroyed and 4 other IS Jihadists killed.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPG Fighter Stands Atop Destroyed IS tank, Alya 13.05.15

Through Wednesday and Thursday, the YPG/YPJ have continued their advance in the same area, this time liberating Nufeliyê, Til Lebn and Megrîn Beggara as well as the smaller villages of Ehmedê Mele and Ebdulazîzê Cafer.

Once again, the Islamic State attempted a truck bomb attack on the YPG-held village of Mişêrfa , but the vehicle was targeted and destroyed before impact, killing the 2 x IS Jihadists inside.

Rezaza, the latest village captured, is just west of Hasakah and 6 kilometres from the Abdel Aziz mountain range to the south.

Interestingly, Abdel Aziz mountain is on exactly the same line as Sinjar mountain in Iraq, due east of it, and roughly the same shape and size.

Reports this morning, Friday, indicate that the Kurds have now turned their attention to getting control of this mountain and their move in that direction has been preceded by Coalition air attacks on IS positions there.

This map, courtesy of @ArjDnn, gives some idea of the area, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Map of Area West of Hasakah (Rezaza Circled)

In Kobane Canton on the eastern front, the combined YPG/FSA force consolidated their capture of Kartêl village on Monday and cleared the local area of IS Jihadists, gaining a machine gun, 4 AK-47s, 10 hand grenades, 1 radio, 800 AK-47 bullets and two boxes of shells.

Also on Kobane’s eastern front on Wednesday, the combined force took control of Zerê and Gundik villages, seizing another machine gun, bullets and other military equipment.

This recent video shows the YPG/YPJ in action, HERE:

On Kobane’s south-western front Islamic State units are still surrounded in the Grain Silos north of Sarrin and at Khirbat Al-Burj, but much weakened because of unsuccessful outbreaks into the surrounding areas.  IS-held Sarrin continues to be resupplied by road via the Tishrin Dam and by boat from the west bank of the Euphrates river, as confirmed by this map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

SW Kobane Canton Situation Map 14.05.15

US Central Command (Centcom) reports that on Tuesday through to Wednesday am they conducted 5 airstrikes in Syria, the one in Kobane Canton destroying an IS fighting position.

Another strike near Raqqah hit an IS tactical unit and 3 more near Hasakah destroyed 6 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS vehicles and an IS tank, plus hits on 2 x IS tactical units and a trench system.

During the same time period there were 11 Coalition airstrikes in Iraq from Qaim to Tel Afar.

On Wednesday through Thursday am, the Coalition destroyed an IS fighting position, an IS bunker, an IS vehicle and an IS checkpoint, as well as hitting an IS tactical unit in Kobane Canton.

A further 8 airstrikes near Hasakah destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS vehicles, an IS mortar position, an IS warehouse and an IS building.

In the same time period, the Coalition conducted another 22 airstrikes in Iraq from Qaim to Sinjar. (EDITOR: I really don’t think IS are having a good time!)

Latest local report is of a Coalition airstrike in eastern Kobane Canton on Kej-Qeran hill, again in preparation for a YPG advance.

In this article there is discussion of the “second battle for Kobane” i.e mobilising the world to help rebuild it, with a lot of local detail, HERE:

And yet another “battle” to fight for those returning to Kobane is an outbreak of Leishmaniasis – a diease spread by the bite of sandflies, causing skin ulcers, fever and swelling of the spleen and liver.

The outbreak started 45 days ago and has been added too with the lack of water, rotting bodies still under rubble and many more cases of lice, scabies and measels. You can read more, HERE:

EDITOR: Many of you liked the Kurdish singing posted a few days ago. Here is the song that every Kurdish household has been singing for the liberation of Kobane:

(EDITOR: And let the Youtube Channel keep playing afterwards – good music – recommended)

In Iraq, despite heavy losses in Syria, the Islamic State continues to make impact. Reports today, Friday, say that IS has taken at least half of the important city of Ramadi, including the security area in the centre, and blown-up the main police station.

In northern Iraq, where IS mounted another attack on the districts of Nesr and Zubbat in Sinjar city on Wednesday, they were not so lucky.  The Kurdish Peshmerga, supported by Coalition airstrikes, repelled the Islamic State and 15 x Jihadists were reported killed.

INCREDIBLE WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN EXTREME DANGER OF DESTRUCTION BY ISLAMIC STATE BARBARIANS AT PALMYRA:

Fears have been expressed throughout the world of the potential imminent destruction by the Islamic State of an amazing UNESCO World Heritage at Palmyra in Syria’s Homs province.

Palmyra was an ancient city which became wealthy in the 1st to the 3rd century AD in the Roman Empire as a very important caravan stop in the Syrian desert.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Overview of Ancient Palmyra

There is still a vast expanse of columns, aqueducts and richly carved and decorated buildings standing alone in the desert covering 50 hectares. The Islamic State, who are currently in an all out attempt to take over modern Palmyra and its successor Tadmur, have vowed to destroy it. It is irreplaceable.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Palmyra – The Amphitheatre

On Wednesday, IS fighters took control of the desert town of Sukhna to the east and cut the main highway to Deir Ez-Zour. Reports say the pro-Assad forces in Sukhna ran out of ammunition.

So far IS have captured the Al-Amiriyah district in the north of Palmyra, the radio tower, districts in the south and south-east, surrounding farmland and the industrial area to the north.

The Assad regime still hold the city centre, some northern and south-western districts, the ancient city, the prison and the airport – but all of this could change very rapidly. Government sources say that Hezbollah reinforcements have been dispatched to the city to support the Syrian Army.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) estimates that 70 of Assad’s troops, including 6 officers, were killed in fighting at Palmyra yesterday, Thursday, along with 40 x IS Jihadists.

The bulk of the Islamic State force is positioned to the west of the city where they have taken fuel stores and ammunition/weapon warehouses. BBC Syria news has a report with more photographs.

In Idlib province, despite personal promises from President Assad, his forces have so far failed to rescue trapped soldiers surrounded by the Opposition in Jisr Al-Shughur National Hospital.

In fact his Army’s attempts to rescue them have gone from bad to worse, with hundreds of his troops reported killed, including the leader of his special forces in the province, Brigadier General Mehi al-Din Mansour, who was buried in Tartous yesterday.

SANA, the Syrian state media put out a story earlier that somehow the Syrian Army had “destroyed a large refrigerator truck loaded with huge amounts of explosives before reaching the wall of the hospital, killing scores of terrorists who were near the vehicle and their ammunition and weapons were destroyed”.

The Al Nusra Front said, which sounds more likely, that they themselves had blown up the vehicle after it became stuck against a building in a previous operation and they were just clearing it away from their field of operations.

To the south of Jisr Al-Shughur Assad’s troops were driven out of Kufayr and can be seen retreating, (Arabic only) HERE:

The Opposition also killed around 24 pro-Assad fighters as they attempted to retake the mountain top barrier of Fanar near Ariha. Footage overlooking Ariha can be seen, (Arabic only), HERE:

Due south of Jisr Al-Shughur, the Opposition are shelling Government positions on Tel Qarqur with mortars, HERE:  while the Syrian Air Force carried out 35 airstrikes in Idlib province this morning alone.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

War Brooding Over Palmyra

Assad is once accused of dropping bombs containing chlorine, this time on Mishmishan in Idlib province, injuring 22.

The US Government also said yesterday, Thursday, that if it is proven that Assad is still using chlorine, then it “will take action”. (EDITOR: Don’t hold your breath. No pun intended!)

Currently the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is being denied access by the regime to suspected chlorine bombing areas.

In Aleppo a metal ball weighing 1 kilo was found inside a barrel-bomb dropped by Assad’s Air Force this morning.

And at Tel Malid, north of Aleppo city near Mare’a, a Coalition airstrike is said to have killed 12 x IS Jihadists.

Conversely, 13 Opposition fighters, who are also in combat against IS in Aleppo province were reported killed by landmines in the Al-Hesia area.

Another airstrike, probably from the Assad regime, totally destroyed the bread factory in IS-held Manbij.

In southern Deraa province, the Opposition has been active again, this time capturing the village of Al-Faqi’a and 2 checkpoints at Al-faqi’s and Al-Kounsura due north of Deraa city in the countryside. Video footage, HERE:

In Damascus province, in the Qalamoun region, the pro-Assad forces led by Hezbollah continue to gain ground for the moment, this morning, Friday, seizing control of all of the Jabal al-Barouh mountain range which overlooks the main highway from Damascus to Beirut.

Whatever else happens, Hezbollah it seems is keen to get total control of the Lebanese/Syria border area at any cost.

Lastly, following reports yesterday that his second in command had been killed in an airstrike (scroll down – see below), Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, resurfaced yesterday with an audio message to his followers distributed through IS sources and media.

In the 34 minute message, Al-Baghdadi attacks the Saudi royal family and the Saudi led air attacks on the fighters in Yemen, and calls for the mass mobilisation of every Muslim to fight on the side of IS. “O Muslims go to war everywhere. It is the duty of every Muslim,” Baghdadi says.

Baghdadi, who according to some reports is incapacitated with spinal injury following an earlier airstrike that hit the convoy he was travelling in, continues in the message, translated into 5 languages, with a diatribe against the Gulf States calling them “guard dogs” and “apostate rulers”, as well as having cracks at Iran and the “Kurdish atheists”.

EDITOR: The daily flow of bad news and heavy IS manpower losses cannot be helping his recovery!

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Entrance to the Ancient Remains at Palmyra

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KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 89: VILLAGE AFTER VILLAGE FALLS TO KURDISH FORCES AS THEY CLEAR THE ROAD TOWARDS HASAKAH:

TIMELINE – 13 th MAY 2015 12.55 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.45 GMT:

Most of the major action so far this week in Rojava has been in the Kurds eastern Syria Canton of Cizire.

Syria and IRAQ NEWS

YPJ Female Fighters Lead the Advance in Cizire Canton

On Monday, the Islamic State (IS) counter-attacked at Alya after the Kurdish forces took control of the M4 highway in that area over the weekend (scroll down – see below), but they failed to make any progress.

The attack lasted for hours with an unverified number of IS Jihadists killed or wounded.

On Sunday evening the YPG/YPJ launched another attack to gain the IS-held village of Salihiye, which IS tried to stop with a suicide vehicle bomb.

The bomb was detonated before impact and after several hours of heavy fighting the village was liberated.

As previously reported more than 30 x IS Jihadists were killed in operations in this area and lots of useful equipment recovered.

14 kilometres west of Hasakah, the YPG/YPJ also freed the villages of Tel Teyr, Bueda, Upper Ezam and later on Monday, Mişêrfa and Aşra on the same front.

14 x IS Jihadists were killed in Mişêrfa and more deaths are expected as mopping-up operations continue in the area.

Weapons seized include a 23.5 mm heavy machine gun, 7 AK-47, 1 RPG rocket launcher and 13 rockets, plus 4 x IS vehicles, 2 of them armed, being destroyed.

On Monday evening another operation targeted and captured the villages of Xanat and Emero, just 9 kilometres west of Hasakah. The YPG at Emero came under counter-attack with battles lasting to 2.00am in the morning. Yet more weapons and ammunition were taken, as well as number of IS fighters killed.

Around the Alya area, Kurdish fighters went on to liberate Lîfaf and 4 small inhabited parts of Ehmedê Kino, Mala Ehmet Xelef, Mala Ebû Xelef and Mala Naîf Xelîl.

Nearby, the YPG also attacked IS positions at the village of Şêx Recûm (EDITOR: No comment! I have checked the spelling!), destroying an Islamic State vehicle with all its occupants.

Hîlal village in the same area was liberated on Tuesday and fighting continues to free Hewşa Nasir, where the YPG have already destroyed an IS tank.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Spring Near Kobane – A Poppy For Every Drop of Blood, Perhaps?

Estimates of IS Jihadists killed in this week’s operations total around 46, with another 25 thought to have been killed by Coalition airstrikes.

US Central Command reports 5 airstrikes in Syria on Monday through to Tuesday am. In Kobane Canton the Coalition destroyed an IS fighting position, near Raqqah they hit an IS tactical unit and near Hasakah they destroyed 6 Fighting positions, 2 x IS vehicles and an IS tank, plus hitting 2 more tactical units.

On the eastern front in Kobane Canton, the Kurds seized more equipment on Sunday, including 24 Ak-47s, a RPG rocket launcher with 5 rockets and 4 hand grenades.

Joined by the FSA brigade, Thwar al-Raqqa, on Monday, the combined force liberated Kartel village on the eastern front, as well as a nearby strategic hill.

On the south-eastern front near Qilhaydê, 5 more IS Jihadists on Sunday were found dead and 4 AK-47s acquired along with substantial amounts of ammunition.

The death of just 1 YPG fighter is reported in the most recent operations.

Interesting interview, made back in October, with a YPJ female fighter, HERE:

And a song dedicated to the YPJ fighters (“Your hair is the ray of the sun of the night, You are a willow and the bird knows the willow dies standing…”), here:

Back in Kobane city itself, another small advance with the Kurdish Red Crescent re-opening its Center there, yesterday.

From Iraq today, Wednesday, come reports that the number 2 in the IS chain of command, Abu Alaa al-Afari, has been killed in a Coalition airstrike on Tal Afar. Also hit were a number of other IS leaders, including a senior IS judge, after intelligence information reported a gathering of Islamic State leaders at the Martyrs’ Mosque in Tal Afar’s Al-Ayadiya district.

Al-Afari had a $7 million bounty on his head for information leading to his capture. He was believed to have taken over day to day running of the Islamic State after Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the IS leader, was seriously hurt in a Coalition airstrike on a convoy travelling from Syria to Iraq late last year.

WELL EQUIPPED OPPOSITION FORCES SLOWLY DRIVING ASSAD’S ARMY COMPLETELY OUT OF IDLIB PROVINCE AND IS ATTACKING THEM IN THE DESERT:

The rout of Assad’s Army in Idlib province continues apace, with the Opposition now concentrating their attack on Ariha and Mastoumah base to the north.

Yesterday, the combined Opposition fighters took Musabeen (Musbin) and a number of high level checkpoints which overlook Ariha, thereby making it an easy target. This unfortunate Syrian Army soldier must have been sleeping on the job to get caught by the advancing Opposition fighters, ( caution, dead body) HERE:

This is the view from the Al-Jamayat checkpoint above Ariha, (Arabic only), HERE:

Al-Fanar Checkpoint Hit with Tunnel Bomb in Idlib Province

Al-Fanar Checkpoint Hit with Tunnel Bomb in Idlib Province

A similar high level checkpoint at Al-Fanar was captured after the Opposition detonated a tunnel bomb, HERE:

Orient News, who are following Opposition progress closely in the field, say that the 700 metre tunnel took 150 men 11 months dig and the subsequent bomb contained 55,000 pounds of explosive.

After the bomb went off the Opposition fighters stormed the Fanar checkpoint, HERE:

The Al-Nusra Front also exploded a suicide bomb in the Tel Mastoumah area and are bombarding the Mastoumah camp and village.

If Ariha falls, Mastoumah will be cut off from the south and Assad’s routes from Damascus and Lattakia to Idlib and Aleppo will be totally compromised.

Near Jisr Al-Shughur the Opposition took back Tel Sheikh Khatab which overlooks the M4 highway and which they had lost earlier to Assad’s forces.

A defector from the remains of Assad’s Idlib Army is reportedly saying that there are as many as 400 Government troops trapped inside the National Hospital building.

The Opposition have strengthened their positions around the National Hospital and other Government sources have apparently said that Assad has expended the lives of 400 of his troops trying to get there to mount a rescue, so far without success. No less than 188 pro-Assad fighters are reported killed in the last 24 hours alone.

Not far from Jisr Al-Shughur at Kufayr, the Assad commander of the regime’s southern front in Idlib was reported killed in an Opposition assault on the village and an ambush there had Government forces running in all directions, HERE:

Out on the Ghab Plain, Opposition fighters continue to have similar success, destroying a SUV with a mounted anti-aircraft gun, HERE:  and a 122 mm howitzer with anti-tank missiles.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Is The Assad Regime Falling to Pieces?

Using his air power, Assad as usual is retaliating with rockets and barrel-bombs, not only trying to hit the Opposition fighters near Ariha but killing 55 people near the Al-Hajj roundabout in Aleppo, with Assad’s military firing artillery shells on the rescuers.

Video footage of the Al-Hajj attack, HERE:

Another 40 civilians were reported killed in a barrel-bomb attack today, Wednesday, on a market in at Al-Eis, south-west of Aleppo city.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Assad has now conducted 12,560 airstrikes so far in 2015, dropped 6,686 barrel-bombs, killed 1,820 civilians, including 428 children, and possibly injured as many as 15,000.

The Guardian reports that Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), made up of investigators and legal experts who formerly worked on war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda on behalf of the international criminal court (ICC), have now smuggled out of Syria sufficient documents to make a prosecution case against Assad and his higher ranking cronies. (EDITOR: Hopefully the day of prosecution will come soon!)

A dangerous business, the work was carried out by 50 Syrian investigators, one of whom has been killed, one severely injured and several imprisoned and tortured by Assad’s security services. You can read more HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

This Boy Just About Surviving in Douma, Kilometres from Assad’s Palace

Somehow this young boy just about survived the Assad siege of the Damascus suburb of Douma, HERE:

To counter the reports that Assad’s Intelligence chief, Al Mamlouk, was under house arrest (scroll down – see earlier report), the Syrian Government wheeled him out to sit next to President Assad in a meeting (ironically) with Alaedin Boroujerdi, the head of security and foreign affairs in the Iranian Parliament.

Probably a complete set-up and Mamlouk is already back in custody.

Firstly, Mamlouk, as head of Intelligence would not normally be photographed in public at all and the apparent reason for his disaffection with the President is the all-encompassing control of Syria by Iran (EDITOR: Nice touch that, Bashar – but you are not fooling anyone!)

The Assad regime is also in trouble out in the eastern desert north-east of Damascus where the Islamic State are reported to have captured 30% of Palmyra today and the T-3 oil pumping station, but they are having some success, for the moment at least, in the Qalamoun region where Hezbollah have captured several mountain tops from Opposition forces. Another complication is that Opposition fighters in the Qalamoun area have simultaneously declared war on the Islamic State who have been attacking their positions.

BBC Syria news has an overview of the current situation.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Hope, Joy and Laughter – “I Can Walk Again!”

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KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 88: COMBINED YPG/FSA FORCES CONTINUE THEIR 2 CANTON SURGE AND CONTAIN ISLAMIC STATE BREAKOUT IN SOUTH-WEST:

TIMELINE – 11th MAY 2015 13.23 GMT – UPDATE (scroll down) 20.27 GMT:

Following on from further fighting in the eastern part of Kobane Canton the liberation of the villages of Goktepe and Metîniye was confirmed on Friday.

Eagle Statue Still Standing in Freedom Square, Kobane

Eagle Statue Still Standing in Freedom Square, Kobane

6 Islamic State (IS) fighters were killed in the clashes, including a commander known as Abu Khalid, and 2 others wounded.

Weapons and ammunition were also seized including an AK-47, machine guns, a thermal scope, a suicide vest and 3 RPG rocket propelled grenades.

Friday night, IS launched 2 suicide bomb vehicles against YPG positions but both were destroyed before reaching their target.

In the 3 day operation in the area, this brought the total number of villages regained on the eastern front to 10, 7 x IS Jihadists killed, and lots of equipment taken including 50 hand-made mines.

2 members of the Kurdish forces died in these battles.

On the south-eastern and southern fronts in Kobane Canton, IS launched simultaneous attacks on on Friday night on the villages of Ernê and Qilhaydê.

At Ernê, after heavy fighting, the IS attack was repelled with another 7 x IS fighters killed and equipment seized. At Qilhaydê, IS briefly took control of 2 hills but were soon ousted from those positions.

By Saturday, a total of 25 x IS Jihadists had been killed at Qilhaydê and 4 wounded. The death of 4 Kurdish fighters was also reported during these fights.

After a pause, with overflights but no strikes in Kobane Canton for some days, a Coalition aircraft struck near Qilhaydê on Saturday, reportedly destroying an IS vehicle and a heavy machine gun, as well as hitting an IS tactical unit.

Latest reports on Sunday from the eastern front say that the Kurdish forces have taken higher ground near Shash and are now engaged in urban combat on the outskirts of the town of Mutayn.

Video of the combined YPG/FSA force operating in eastern Kobane Canton is, HERE:

On Kobane Canton’s south-western front, an attempted breakout was reported by IS fighters surrounded in the Grain Silos north of Sarrin. Timed to coincide with the breakout was a barrage of Islamic State machine gun and heavy artillery fire, including 130 mm cannon, from IS on the west bank of the Euphrates.

However, the YPG/FSA force in the area held their ground, including the town of Mitras, and contained the dwindling IS force still inside the Grain Silo complex.

Opposition sources say that IS Chechen commander Abu Omar al-Shishani is leading the Islamic State forces in the Sarrin area and mobilizing vast numbers of fighters and heavy equipment, including tanks.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Getting to Work Rebuilding Kobane

In Kobane city itself, the Kobane authorities with the help of the municipality of Amed, managed after 8 months of no running water, to restore the water pump and supply for the urban area, repaired the pipelines and cleaned the main water tank.

This was just as well, as another 600 Kobani citizens arrived back in the city on Saturday.

Not that Turkey is making it easy to rebuild, keeping the frontier at Kobane largely closed.

You can read more about the difficulties and the recent “rebuilding Kobane conference” from Fréderike Geerdink (good journalist support her Kurdish Voice Beacon Appeal), HERE:

On the military front, FSA commander in Kobani Canton, Abu Layla, has been persuaded to back down from his reported resignation (scroll down – see below), citing lack of support and weapons for their cause from the International community as his reasons for disillusionment.

Also interesting report about the British actor Michael Enright, who is normally based in Hollywood, and has acted in films with Johnny Deep, Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, John Travolta and Anne Hathaway.

Without telling his family or his celebrity friends, Enright, incensed at the actions of IS, left the US and is now training with the YPG. You can read more in the Daily Mail Syria news.

Latest Kobane Canton maps from @Chuckpfarrer are, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 10.05.15

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

SW Kobane Canton Situation Map 09.05.15

In the Kurds eastern Canton of Cizire, the YPG continued its recent advance (scroll down – see below) taking over the villages of Mahmud Kurdî, Nusret, Ezam and Mecdel, 14 kilometres west of Hasakah city, last Thursday.

On Friday night IS counter attacked at Nusret but were repulsed with the death of 6 x IS Jihadists and 1 YPG fighter. Fighting throughout the night continued around Aşra, Salihiyê and Mecdel, this time with the deaths of 22 x IS Jihadists and 2 YPG.

Fighting for control of Mecdal went back and forth through the night, eventually resulting in 6 more IS fighters killed, 1 more YPG fighter dead, and useful equipment taken. Yet another unsuccessful attack on Mecday was attempted by IS yesterday morning, Sunday, and Salihiyê was also liberated later in the day.

Also on Friday night IS attacked Qeşqa and Hêla, which had been liberated by the YPG on May 6th, this time using 2 vehicle bombs which were destroyed before impact. 2 more YPG fighters died in the defence of these villages.

In a search and mopping up operation around the 2 villages on Saturday, the YPG found a total of 40 dead IS bodies on the battlefield and 50 types of weapons. After this operation was complete, the Kurdish forces were able to take control of part of the M4 highway around Alya that runs from Syria through to Iraq.

Video of recent fighting in the Tel tamer area is, HERE:

South of Tel Hamis, in an operation around the village of Ummişok, 6 more IS fighters were killed on Saturday night. 2 more IS Jihadists were killed in the same area at the village of Xîzêla.

24 kilometres south-west of SeriKaniye (Ras Al-Ayn) on the same night, IS attacked a YPG position on the hill at Tel Boxa and Firesa village.

Fighting continued until Sunday morning, by which time the Kurds had fought off IS, killing 17 of them, though reports say battles continued around Firesa.

MASSIVE BATTLES LOOMING BETWEEN OPPOSITION AND REGIME FOR NATIONAL HOSPITAL AT JISR AL-SHUGHUR AND QALAMOUN:

Opposition fighters, led by the Al Nusra Front, stormed the National Hospital south of Jisr Al-Shughur in Idlib province after they exploded a massive suicide vehicle bomb there on Sunday morning.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Suicide Blast Hits National Hospital Building at Jisr Al-Shughur

The blast demolished part of one wing of the building and Opposition fighters are thought now to be inside the complex, though currently there is an information blackout and detail is limited.

Rumours have abounded all weekend that with the 100 – 250 regime supporters left inside there are senior Assad officers/Iranian officers/Russian officers/and they are guarding gold and currency from the National Bank building in Idlib (EDITOR: Take your pick!).

Some unconfirmed reports say that Khayreddine al-Sayed, the Governor of Idlib province is also inside and Colonel Suhail Al-Hasan, the regime’s most prominent ground commander.

The pro-regime fighters, along with some of their family members, civil servants and medical staff, are thought to be based in 4 underground levels below the main building. At least 39 Opposition fighters and 60 pro-Assad military are reported either dead or wounded after this morning’s attack.

Assad regime forces have been trying to get to Jisr Al-Shughur for 2 weeks now without success and the area around Jisr Al-Shughur and the National Hospital has been reportedly bombed 100 times in the last 24 hours as a desperate Syrian Government tries to break through Opposition lines.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

National Hospital Building After Sunday’s Blast

Assad’s elite forces have so far been unable to get far beyond Ariha and the Sugar Factory base captured by the Opposition earlier and Ishtabraq, and are still 2 kilometres away from the National Hospital.

Opposition fighters have in fact regained 3 checkpoints that they lost earlier near Ariha and the regime had to retreat from the Sawmill checkpoint to Frikka Hill leaving their dead behind.

In this footage, Opposition fighters destroy a Shilka tank at the Sawmill checkpoint, HERE:

Not far away, out on the Ghab Plain, just north of Frikka, the Opposition also took the Thermal Power Plant but retreated again afterwards after airstrikes on their positions and fears that the electricity to Jisr Al-Shughur and surrounding areas would be cut.

Video footage HERE:  and HERE:  illustrates the battle.

This video gives a wider overview of Jisr Al-Shughur and the Ghab Plain battleground, HERE:

Situation Map for Jisr Al-Shughur in Idlib province and the National hospital, courtesy of @PetLucem, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map at Jisr Al-Shughur and National Hospital

Fighting continues in numerous locations across Syria, but the other major brewing conflict is in the mountainous Qalamoun district of Damascus province.

The Opposition claim to have ambushed and killed 18 members of Hezbollah there over the weekend, while fighting around Ras Al-Maara today, Monday, has left 7 Al Nusra Front (ANF) fighters dead including 2 of their commanders.

Fighting this morning was over Al-Barouh Hill which overlooks both Ras Al-Maara and the Lebanese border. The regime claimed to have destroyed 4 x ANF vehicles on Al-Barouh Hill.

ANF fighters retreated to other hilltop positions near the town of Arsal. The regime is now targeting the highest point in the Qalamoun at Tallit Moussa, which would allow them to monitor all comings and goings into Arsal.

While Hezbollah claims to have amassed a large force for the Qalamoun battle, there are reports that they are having trouble finding new recruits, just like the Assad regime, to replace their dwindling numbers.

Opposition fighters in southern Deraa province are reported to be sending 400 more of their fighters to support ANF and their Islamic allies in Qalamoun, with the promise of 800 more men later.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Opposition Fighter Infront of Thermal Power Plant

The Assad regime itself seems to get into more and more “hot water”.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons (OPCW) say that samples they took from previously undeclared chemical weapons research sites in December and January have tested positive for traces of both Sarin and VX nerve agent.

So far the Syrian Government has been unable to give an explanation.

President Assad also seems to having trouble keeping some of his closest advisers under control. After Rustum Ghazaleh, the former head of the Political Security Directorate died in hospital after being beaten up by his successor (who was then also sacked) comes news that Ali Mamlouk, the head of the country’s National Security Bureau, has also lost his job and been placed under house arrest.

According to Opposition sources, Mamlouk is accused of communicating with Turkish Intelligence and seeking to “discuss alternative ways forward” with anti-Assad politicians from the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), and also President Assad’s exiled uncle, Rifaat al-Assad, who lives in France.

Both Mamlouk and Ghazaleh are Sunnis and were fiercely opposed to the increasing control exercised by Iran over Syria’s military decisions.  You can read more in The Telegraph Syria news coverage.

Today’s last word goes Miss “rubber lips” Syria, Sarah Nakhleh, who told an Egyptian TV channel that President Bashar Al-Assad in not “a butcher”.

“No ophthalmologist in the world is capable of harming an ant”, she apparently squeaked.

“I support the Syrian regime. I support Dr. Bashar Al-Assad …. Opinions on this are based on one’s background. As for me, I support him. At the end of the day, he is a doctor, and no doctor can possibly be a butcher.” EDITOR: Obviously a big student of history (think Dr. Mengele) and one of Syria’s greatest discerning intellects!

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14 comments to SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

  • Valentin

    Hi Peter,

    Just wanted to correct a mistake I noticed in one of your posts. In update 91, toward the end of the post you mentioned the Syrian army fleeing Ramadi. I believe that you mean to say the Iraqi army.

    In any case, I love your work, thank you for the time you put into this. It is incredibly informative.

    Val

    • Ah! Well spotted Valentin, thank you and now corrected! Perhaps information overload on my part as I handle and sort a lot of material – but still not bad for a 67 year old, I reckon! Glad you enjoy the blog and glad you find it useful. PC.

  • steve

    Once again to hear the news of the advances of the Kurdish forces is like a flicker of hope in this world of ours that seems to crumble daily into more chaos. The song you posted was heart wrenching and moved me to tears of joy to know that real people with real human feelings could are winning rather than the animals they have to face daily with their warped ideologies. This page is the first thing i look for every day and God i hope one day i shall visit and meet these people whom i admire so very much. Bless them all, mu thoughts at least are with you.

    • Many thanks, Steve. Despite these terrible, terrible events, I do try to add a bit of heart and hope to the reports – otherwise I believe that without this humankind is lost. That’s the dark side of the message of IS – so called “spirituality” without humanity, a message without a future which for all our sakes must be defeated.

      Thanks for your continued loyal interest – much appreciated. PC.

  • James

    Peter

    The replacement for the current President ,should he fall, will be JAN/isis
    who will impose a ‘lifestyle’ like that being experienced in Raqqa ,back to the dark age. A prospect the majority of ordinary Syrians must dread. What began as a freedom movement attempting to bring change evolved into a proxy war between Iran and Saudia Arabia/ Qatar/Turkey( basically Shia versus Sunni) with the Syrian civilians in the middle. The ‘ King’ of Saudi who is partly funding the continuance of this conflict is equally as despotic as President Assad. It will be a change from from one despot who lets the people have every freedom except political choice and another where their is no freedom and no political choice. As I mentioned I visited Syria before this debacle began. It was a nice, pleasant relaxed country. I feel for the Syrian people’s plight. Their is no way I would wish to visit Raqqa or Saudi where freedom is unknown.

    James

    • Got you message James, just been busy with other things, so hence delay in reply. Apologies.

      Well, the outcome after Assad is not assured or clear. It could be what you say or it could be something else. I will be surprised if the Alawites don’t get rid of Assad before long themselves. Yes, in many respects it is a proxy war, just like Iraq, Afghanistan etc but we should still support the centre ground in a chance to find a decent outcome. I too have been to Syria. While on the surface fine, it has never been a “nice, relaxed country” for those imprisoned or tortured or their families or the tens of thousands killed by Hafaz Assad before his son even got started. The ICC for Bashar Assad as far as I am concerned. PC.

  • James

    Paul
    I agree the Kurdish YPG/J have an enlightened approach compared to the rest of the Middle East. Very similar to the Israeli model but perhaps a little more left leaning. It is hoped they can achieve some autonomy out of this mess. The rest of Syria is now a basket case, being fought over by so called freedom fighters, who , if the Government or what’s left of it falls will prove just as repressive. It’s a case of (or was) better the devil you know.
    James

    • Thanks James for your comments. Yes, the ensuing mess after Assad falls is no guarantee that anything stable will come out of it. However, we must all believe that justice and goodness will eventually prevail – otherwise there is no hope for the planet at all, anywhere. I would, personally, take a punt on getting rid of Devil Assad and see what emerges. PC.

  • paul kohagura

    First, How did your journal/report numbers go from 79 to 90? Did I miss a lot the fighting reports? Second, I like your reports. Third, for JAMES. What makes the YPG/YPJ in Syria so attractive to the real combat veterans in the west is the rise of gender equality within the ranks of the fighters! Islamic extremist try to bully their way into power. The foundation of all religious extremism is the subversion of the female gender, ethnic discrimination, and religious conformity/genocide. The young female YPJ fighters clearly state that they are fighting for gender equality and freedom. A few proclaim they will continue this fight for all humanity. It is easy to over look or dismiss these young girls/fighters. But on a deeper level, gender equality and religious freedom will keep religious extremism at bay and change the middle eastern culture if backed up a female fight force (all female). Armed militia for local self protection and minorities is not a bad idea. When the local situation is fluid as it once was in Israel, they created the Kibutz system to defend and populate the frontier In the Kobani Canton the fighters are young and committed to giving up their lives for equality and freedom. They go into battle willingly and with conviction to succeed. Look at the Barzani and Talibani Peshmerga troops sitting outside Tekrit and Mosel unwilling to go in because it is an arab area. Shingal also stalled maybe because the Peshmergas are not committed to giving up a Kurdish life for a Yuzidi home. Or maybe, the Peshmergas commitment to equality and freedom are really BS like the Turks. The State Department better wake to the new reality of people power in Western Syria. The Central Command certainly recognize the YPG/YPJ fight, but because of the state department idiots and the thanksgiving TURKEY next door, the mission control has to go thru the FSA for air strikes. I have no idea where the YPG/YPJ is getting their ammunition resupply and soon the Kurds in the Kobani Canton will run out of fighters, guns and ammunition to hold on the territory gained.That little surge put on by the extremist fighters put on to link up at the cement plant and the town Sal is a symptom of too much territory and not enough fighters with guns. The synergistic aura arises as one watch the Kobani warriors go into combat and celebrate their victories. Culture and societal change within the YPG/YPJ is thriving. Permanent women fighters and women fighting units will kill the extremist bully and certainly change the female role. As with all bullying gangs (Daesh./ISIS), they will pick on only those to weak to fight back and those unprepared to fight back.

    • Thanks Paul for your comments. The report number was a mistake on my part – it just felt like report 90! It’s been a long time! :) As for the rest of your comments I agree with them entirely. Don’t know if you have read the Rojavan constitutional statement on democracy and equality but it’s very, very good – so good some Western states would have trouble emulating it. All Arab states, and Iraq Kurdistan, are miles away. Sexual equality is probably the key to peace in the Middle East, but until men give up their false belief of superiority and stupid sectarian defensiveness, we won’t be seeing an end to war and fighting any time soon. PC.

  • Joe

    Very rarely is a revolution peaceful – they are bloody, chaotic, desperate times. When viewed from within the turmoil it can seem endless and hopeless, but Assad will fall. It may take a decade and war might rage long after that, but this is a blink of an eye in history. Peace, when it will come and homes have been rebuilt, will be worth all this evil.

  • James

    Peter
    If the Syrian President falls and his regime disintegrates we will have another failed State like that of Libya and Iraq. No one likes the Dictators
    and their methods but they have to be preferable to what is happening
    now. All the unemployed brainwashed jihadi lunatics from the world over
    given weapons and creating mayhem. Murdering innocents who do not
    conform to their narrow view of how society should be.
    As some Syrians say, we now have Assad but with a beard.
    The ordinary Syrian must deeply regret the Arab spring and wish the clock could be turned back.
    James

    • Thanks for your comments James. While I have no time for the inhuman “brainwashed jihadi lunatics”, who are an extreme danger to us all, I also don’t think we have a right to impose Assad on the Syrian people. He is a murderer of innocents on a vast scale (11,000 children for a start if you have read my latest post) and probably guilty of torturing, imprisoning and killing 200,000 +. The only “state” Assad deserves is a small cell at the ICC. While some Syrians will want to return to the past inevitably, those with a brain who started the fight for freedom will want to see this through until the end. Europe in the Middle Ages was riddled with “failed states”. Although the “Arab Spring” has turned into something of an Arab winter of discontent, it will sort itself eventually, once they abandon sectarianism, though that will take some time. But the right to self-determination is not ours in the West alone – it is everybody’s right. PC.

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