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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

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 79 – KURDISH FORCES BLOCK ISLAMIC STATE ROUTE TO THE EAST AND GEAR UP TO TAKE SARRIN:

TIMELINE – 20th APRIL 2015 14.13 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 20.03 GMT:

On Saturday, YPG units in conjunction with a Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigade managed to capture the villages of Qirat, Qirata Kurda and Resuleyn on Kobane Canton’s south-western front.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurdish Woman in Despair in Kobane After Losing Everything

As well as these villages, the YPG also took control of several hills overlooking the town of Sarrin, where the next major battle is likely to take place.

Yesterday, Sunday, the Kurdish/FSA forces also liberated Mitras Alkane and JolBeg KolKan to the east of Sarrin and also a narrow valley through which the main east-west road passes.

When the Sarrin battle starts in earnest, control of this pass will prevent the Islamic State (IS) from sending reinforcements easily from the east.

Another 10 x IS Jihadists were also reported killed in this engagement.

There were a number of Coalition airstrikes on IS positions around Sarrin at the end of last week and this morning, Monday, clashes are reported on the outskirts of the town.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the grain silos near Sarrin have been heavily mined in case of YPG attack.

Earlier in fighting at Erne, 2 x IS Jihadists were reported killed before the village was completely taken on Saturday morning.

In fighting at Sepeta Ereban on the southern front, 13 x IS Jihadists were reported killed and another of the their heavy machine guns mounted on a pick-up, destroyed.

In the south-eastern sector of the Canton, IS have kept up their assaults on the Goktep area, sending in another car bomb which the YPG destroyed before it reached its target. After many hours of constant battles, the IS Jihadists retreated leaving 11 of their fighters dead.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Nearly Half of Kobane to Become a Museum?

On this occasion, the YPG also captured an armoured vehicle, 7 x AK-47s, 56 AK-47 magazines, 2 x RPG rocket propelled grenade launchers, 2 x PK machine guns and a number of radios.

Another attack on Friday night by the YPG on IS positions around Xane resulted in an additional machine gun mounted pick-up destrpued and 2 x IS Jihadists killed. One YPG fighter was killed in this battle and 2 more in other fights over the weekend.

There were no Coalition airstrikes in Kobane Canton on Friday through to Saturday, but one did take place further east at Hasakah destroying an IS fighting position.

The proposal to keep a large section of Kobane (40% of the city according to latest estimates) as a “museum”, continues to get strong reactions both from within and from outside the city.

Latest map for the situation in the south-western sector of Kobane Canton, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

SW Kobane Canton Situation Map 18.04.15

In the eastern Kurdish Canton in Syria of Cizire, IS launched an attack on YPG positions around Xizela, 23 kilometres south of Tel Hamis.

The battle lasted 2 hours before the IS fighters withdrew, leaving 4 of their dead on the battlefield.

On Sunday, 18 kilometres south-west of Serekaniye (Ras Al-Ayn) at the village of Tel Midan, yet another car bomb was driven by an IS Jihadist against YPG positions, but once again was targeted and destroyed.

The YPG are said to be preparing to launch a very large military campaign shortly to liberate the outskirts of Tel Tamer and SereKaniye. Fighting near Serekaniye, left 7 x IS Jihadists dead, while IS continued to shell the battlefield to give their forces cover under which to retreat.

And on Sunday the YPG were reported to have surrounded a unit of IS on the Tel Khanzir front after an ambush.

The Islamic State have also continued their destructive cultural path by destroying the “Mar Shimon” Christian Assyrian Church at the village of Abu Tina near Tel Curran (Mar Shimon was an Assyrian Patriarch who was assassinated in California in 1975).

ASSAD GETS BLOODY NOSE AFTER COUNTER ATTACK IN DERAA PROVINCE DOES NOT GO ACCORDING TO PLAN:

In the south of Syria Assad’s military launched a 2 pronged attack on the eastern Deraa Opposition-held town of Busra Al-Harir early this morning, Monday, but so far it does not look as though it is going to plan.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Deraa Opposition Fighters Seize a T-72 Regime Tank

Despite initially taking control of 5 villages, the Syrian Army has lost at least 7 tanks and pictures emerging from the scene show bodies of killed regime soldiers and others taken prisoner including officers and possibly some Iranian “advisers”.

Latest reports suggest 18 regime fighters killed and 11 from the Opposition.

In an attempt to cut the Opposition’s supply roads the Syrian Air Force has carried out 36 airstrikes on Deraa province alone today, killing at least 6 opposition fighters including a commander and hitting numerous Opposition-held villages with barrel-bombs.

Busra Al-Harir was also pounded with more than 500 artillery shells before the ground assault started.

In reaction Opposition fighters both staged a diversionary attack on regime positions at Qarfa and sent reinforcements to Busra Al-Harir.

Footage from the battlefield can be seen HERE:  and HERE:

This tank was hit with a Milan anti-tank missile and then burst into flames, smoke pouring out of the gun barrel, HERE:

Just north of Busra Al-Harir in the Lejat area, the Opposition hit a regime technical (pick-up with mounted machine gun) with a roadside mine and nearer to Busra itself captured a T-72 tank.

The stated aim of the regime operation was to open a supply route between Izraa and Sweida province, but it is beginning to look as not only have the Opposition prevented this but their units are currently moving on the bases of Assad’s Brigades 12 and 52 and Assad’s forces are in retreat. The regime also intended to cut the Opposition’s supply routes from Jordan.

A joint regime/Hezbollah attack on Nahatah just to the south of Busra Al-Harir seems to have penetrated the eastern side of the town but not much more. Further news awaited.

Map of the current battle area, courtesy of @Syria_Rebel_Obs, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map for Busra Al-Harir Area in Deraa Province 20.04.15

In Idlib province, the battle continues south of Idlib city as Assad tries to regain ground and the Al-Nusra Front and their allies resist an regime advance.

In the last 20 days the Syrian Air Force has targeted Idlib city and its surrounding countryside with 349 airstrikes, including 335 barrel-bombs. 125 civilians have been killed in these attacks, including 25 children and 21 women, with the wounded count reaching over 700.

To try and take some of the regime pressure off Idlib, Opposition fighters have once again launched an attack on Kasab in Lattakia province not far from the Mediterranean coast.

SIGNS OF ASSAD REGIME PANIC AS LOYALISTS AVOID MILITARY DRAFT AND SYRIAN POUND COLLAPSES EVEN MORE:

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Assad regime has, in the last 6 months between October 22nd 2014 and April 20th 2015, carried 13,084 airstrikes, deliberately, they suggest, taking advantage of world’s obsession with the Islamic State.

7,188 of those attacks have been recorded as barrel-bombs and the total death toll for the 6 month period stands at 2,312 civilians (including 376 women and 529 children), with around 704 actual fighters, of various denominations killed. The wounded numbers are thought to be around 13,000. (EDITOR: But of course, Assad is only attacking the “terrorists”)

CNN Syria news shows the video of the chlorine gas attack that moved UN diplomats to tears, HERE:

Recent signs that the Assad Government is under increasing pressure are that recruitment to their armed forces is falling, despite it being compulsory, and the value of the Syrian pound against the US dollar continues to collapse.

While many of Syria’s young men still support the regime, particularly from the Alawite community, after 80,000 pro-regime fighter deaths, they no longer support Assad enough to want to die for him.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Pro-Assad Young Men Increasingly Reluctant to Fight

One activist from Assad’s heartland in Latakia said, “Even if they support the army and the regime, they’re not willing to serve its flag,” and after 4 years of war,“Everyone without exception is discontented”.

Hit by defections and desertions, Syria’s 300,000-strong military has halved it’s size since 2011 and Assad’s security police are combing entrances to cities and universities looking for draft dodgers.

However, the strongest resistance has been in Druze dominated Sweida province in the south where local people have demonstrated outside police stations after the arrest of young conscripts.

In many cases they have been released, Assad terrified that the Druze may change sides and support the Opposition. You can read more, HERE:

Meanwhile, today, Monday, in Damascus, the Syrian Central Bank, which has been trying to hold the official Syrian pound exchange rate to around 189.1, raised it to 253.23. On the unofficial market it is running at 300 Syrian pounds to the dollar.

Before the conflict started in March 2011, the rate stood at 50:1

There are clearly doubts now that the Syrian Government can maintain services and deliver supplies, especially from abroad. Last week all exporters were ordered to hand over foreign currency and there are reports today that customs and intelligence officers are making surprise visits to companies looking for stashes of dollars or euros or other convertible currencies.

Even Iran, in the light of a potential nuclear agreement with the West, is beginning to look reluctant to continue its $3.6 billion line of credit granted to Assad in 2013.

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

KOBANE /CIZIRE UPDATE 78: YPG LIBERATE YET MORE VILLAGES ON THE SOUTHERN FRONTS, WHILE TALK OF TURNING KOBANE INTO A “MUSEUM” OFFENDS SOME:

TIMELINE – 17th APRIL 2015 14.07 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 17.51 GMT:

Battles against the Islamic State continue in the sectors to the south and south-east of Kobane city, with a YPG/YPJ operation on Wednesday night targeting the Jihadists near the village of Xane. An IS vehicle was destroyed and 5 x IS fighters killed.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Destroyed Petrol Station With Lafarge Plant in Background

Having taken Hamdoun and then Khan Mamed, the YPG are in a position to isolate the IS Jihadists still within the Sal/Lil salient north of the M4 highway, by crossing the M4 and cutting them off by moving westwards.

The attempted suicide car bomb attack on the YPG at Gocekmetê reported earlier (scroll down – see below) resulted in the killing of 9 x IS Jihadists when the YPG blew up the suicide vehicle while it was still surrounded by IS fighters.

Further to the west, the combined YPG/FSA force has been making attacks on IS positions 10 kilometres north-west of Sarrin, supported by Coalition attacks on IS in the centre and on the outskirts of Sarrin town.

Just east of Sarrin, the Kurdish forces have also once again crossed the M4 highway and have advanced towards Ras Al Ayn, supported by Coalition airstrikes.

In the battle for the Lafarge Cement Plant, 2 FSA fighters died and 3 from the YPG, their funerals held together in Kobane earlier this week.

The YPG has produced this video of the battle for Lafarge and the surrounding villages, (EDITOR: I’ll forgive them the over-dramatic music!) here:

Latest reports today, Friday, say that last night, Kurdish forces on the southern Kobane front liberated the villages of Bîrhemlî, Gewande, Dafiya and Girê Şehîd Hecî and 6 x IS Jihadists were killed.

On the eastern front of Kobane province, YPG are additionally reported to have moved even nearer to IS-held Tel Abyad, liberating villages less than 20 kilometres from the IS stronghold, though further detail still awaited.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Stairs But No House Left in Kobane

Within Kobane city itself, 9 truckloads of food aid have arrived from the Municipality of Bedlîs in northern Kudistan, Iraq, 6 containing flour and 3 more other food supplies.

There also appears to be a proposal, coming from whom is not yet clear, that half of Kobane should be left as it is and turned into a “museum”.

Some Kobane citizens have already expressed their horror at this idea, though given the worldwide interest in the struggle for Kobane, it could in fact bringing tourists from all over the world and help to fund the rebuilding of a new modern city.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton from Tuesday am through to Wednesday destroying 6 x IS fighting positions and hitting 2 tactical units.

2 further airstrikes near Hasakah during the same time period destroyed another 6 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle bomb, an IS tunnel and an IS bunker, plus hitting 2 more tactical units.

From Wednesday am through to Thursday morning, yesterday, 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed another 6 x IS fighting positions and hit 2 tactical units.

Kobane Canton Situation Map for 16.04.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

SW Kobane Canton Situation Map 16.04.15

In Cizire Canton, unconfirmed local reports suggest that the Islamic State is sending its elite forces to the province, perhaps now seeing it as a “softer target” than Kobane.

On Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, IS Jihadists attacked the small village of Ennabiya Sudan, 7 kilometres south-east of Tel Tamir. After a long and heavy battle, the YPG prevailed, killing 4 x IS fighters and wounding another 5.

The bulk of the IS attacking group then retreated to the village of Derxam, 1.5 kilometres away, where they later hit by a Coalition airstrike, killing another 15. The same night, Coalition planes targeted another IS group in Lilan, 6 kilometres to the south-west of Tel Tamer, destroying a pick-up with a heavy machine gun and killing a further 3 x IS fighters.

IS training Younger and Younger Children to be its "Next Generation"

IS training Younger and Younger Children to be its “Next Generation”

Meanwhile, IS appear to be increasingly training younger and younger children to fight for them, in the hope that by brainwashing them earlier they can induce them to be “life-long members” of the IS Jihadist cause.

Children are taught religion and Sharia, as well as Arabic, hand to hand combat techniques and military training. Some are even given dolls on which to practice “beheading” and one video features a real-life executioner who is probably no more than 10.

But IS, in its backwardness, sees philosophy, science, history, art and sport to be incompatible with Islam, and instead seems to be committed to raising a generations of unfeeling individuals who are likely to be locked into “ long-term loyalty” and who will become a “cadre of fighters that will see violence as a way of life”.

You can read more in The Guardian Syria news HERE:

ESTIMATES PUT THE REAL NUMBER OF DEAD IN SYRIA SINCE 2011 AT MORE THAN 310,000, WHILE RUMOURS SWIRL OF A PLANNED COUP AGAINST ASSAD:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) yesterday said that its records indicate that 220,271 have been killed in Syria between 18th March 2011 and 14th April 2015.

104,629 (47.50%) are civilians, including 11,021 children (10.53%) and 7,049 women (6.73%).

Another 39,848 (18.09%) killed in that time are Opposition and Islamic fighters (including defected soldiers and officers), while 28,253 are from the Islamic State (IS), the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and other extremist organisations.

Putting all the pro-Assad fighter deaths together (regular soldiers and National Defence Force militia), amounts to 78,189 or 35.49% of the total. (EDITOR: So no wonder the Alawite community is getting restive – see below)

They have also logged 3,162 unidentified dead, which are included in the total, and 3,526 pro-Assad Shiite militia fighters.

However, SOHR estimates that there are another 20,000 at least who have disappeared into Assad’s prisons and 14,500 from various groups held by the IS and ANF. The true death total for these two secretive groups for their own fighters may be more like 86,000 than the 28,253 recorded above.

SOHR also estimates that during the last 4 years, as many as 1.5 million have been wounded.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Young Victim of Assad’s Chlorine Attacks

The reality of some of this hit home this week when video footage was shown to the UN Security Council on the alleged chlorine attack by the Assad regime on the village of Sarmin in Idlib province last month on March 16th as Opposition fighters prepared to overrun Idlib city.

Assad’s military believed that Sarmin was one of the Opposition fighters “command and control” centres.

Some of the doctors from Sarmin who treated the injured, led the presentation and answered questions.

The bombing came just days after the Security Council passed a resolution condemning the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in such attacks.

3 children under 4 died in the regime raid, after the doctors were unable to revive them, plus the mother of one of them and a grandmother.

Many of those present at the UN were in tears as the evidence emerged and while the session was underway, another 5 barrel-bombs were dropped on Sarmin by Assad’s helicopters, some allegedly containing more chlorine and causing distress yesterday, HERE:

You can read more from BBC Syria news, HERE:

The huge death toll may also be getting to Assad’s main backers, the Shia orientated Alawite community.

There were reports this week that another of Assad’s cousins, Munther al-Assad, was arrested after a big security lockdown in Lattakia city.

Munther, who reportedly had gone into hiding, was, according to some sources under suspicion of preparing a coup, along with President Bashar Assad’s exiled uncle, Rifaat Al-Assad who attempted to take control from his brother, Hafez (Bashar’s father) in 1984, but failed and retreated to France where he has remained ever since.

After being flown to Damascus for an “interview” with the President, Munther was apparently returned to Lattakia. You can read more of this mysterious saga, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Deployed in Syria

There are also reports that after suffering heavy losses in the last few months, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, of whom there are thought to be around 6,000 deployed in Syria, have withdrawn from many far-flung combat zones and re-deployed in locations around Damascus in defence of the capital.

You can read more on this, HERE:

Units of Syria’s Opposition fighters, fed up with the behaviour of the Islamic State around Damascus, yesterday stormed their HQ in the suburbs of Qaboun and Barzeh districts, killing 20 of them and capturing another 30, (caution – gruesome towards the end) HERE:

Meanwhile, fighting inside the Yarmouk camp between the Palestinians and extreme Islamists continues.

Reliable sources are saying the Al Nusra Front, in conjunction with the Islamic State, still control around 80% of the camp and the desperate situation for the civilians trapped there remains unresolved.

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

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 77 – LATEST KURDISH OFFENSIVE SEES 20 VILLAGES LIBERATED AND MORE THAN 60 ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS KILLED:

TIMELINE – 15th APRIL 2015 14.05 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.18 GMT:

The YPG have confirmed that they have successfully completed an operation on their southern and south-eastern front on Tuesday which began on April 8th to drive back the Islamic State (IS).

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPG Preparing for Battle Once More

During that period the YPG/YPJ, with support from Free Syrian Army (FSA) units, have captured as many as 9 villages, the Lafarge Cement Plant (scroll down – see below) and 2 quarries near Celebi.

The villages captured included Bocak, Xirab Hişk and Derfilît.

IS have continued an attack on the village of Gocekmetê, which the YPG had captured earlier, and attempted to penetrate the Kurdish defences with a suicide car bomb.

The YPG managed to detonate the car while it was still surrounded by Islamic State fighters.

Two other suicide bomb attacks were also repelled and 31 x IS Jihadists killed during this operation at a cost of 3 Kurdish fighters.

20 x AK-47s, a 120 mm mortar and 24 rounds, 8 Katyusha rockets, a military vehicle, 1 scope and 2 radios were also recovered.

Since these reports came in, latest information suggests that a combined YPG/FSA force has liberated another 6 villages including Hamdoun, with claims that as many as 60 x IS fighters have been killed in the Hamdoun area. This video footage shows parts of the battle at Hamdoun and (caution) a large number of bloody IS corpses at the end, HERE:

Along with Hamdoun, Khan-Mamed, Xorxori, Girek, Dafiye and Xwedan, all 40 – 50 kilometres from Kobane city, were freed by the YPG/FSA force late on Tuesday or earlier today.

Between Sunday am and Monday morning, US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, which destroyed 12 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles as well as hitting an IS tactical unit.

From Monday morning through to Tuesday am, 3 more airstrikes by the Coalition destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and 1 x IS vehicle, as well as hitting 2 x IS tactical units.

This video declassified by Centcom shows a Coalition strike on an IS fighting position on April 6th (not even time to say prayers), here:

To the east in the Kurdish Canton of Cizire, numerous battles with the Islamic State continue along its western edge, with a YPG operation near Tel Xenzir destroying an IS vehicle and all its occupants.

A joint Kurdish/Arab fighting force is being trained to defend the Canton and recently went into action after passing out, (sub-titles) HERE:

Cizire Canton Situation Map courtesy of @MarkMonmonier , here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Cizire Canton Situation Map 14.04.15

OPPOSITION FIGHT IN ALEPPO HOTS UP AND MODERATE FIGHTERS IN THE SOUTH REJECT COOPERATION WITH THE AL NUSRA FRONT:

In the north-western district of Aleppo city this week, Opposition fighters did a thorough job of finally demolishing the regional headquarters of Assad’s Air Intelligence, where hundreds, if not thousands have been tortured and/or imprisoned.

At the weekend the Opposition completed mining a tunnel under the Air Intelligence building, HERE:  followed by the grand finale, here:

The result caused widespread celebrations in Opposition held parts of the city, HERE:

Since destroying Assad’s security building, Opposition fighters have gone on to take over the Al-Basheer Mosque nearby and an orphanage and have moved into the Al-Zahraa district below it, attacking regime-held positions, HERE:  and using their homemade “Hell-Fire” cannon to good effect, HERE:

Rumours have circulated that some senior Assad officers and their families have left Aleppo in the face of the renewed Opposition offensive, but this has been denied by the Syrian Government’s Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi – though this probably does not mean a lot as he is frequently seen as Assad’s chief “Minister of Propaganda”.

The Opposition’s current strength in Aleppo has certainly persuaded Syria’s Grand Mufti, Ahmad Hassoun, to apparently issue a Fatwa allowing Assad to barrel-bomb Opposition-held areas of the city out of existence.

Assad’s murderous regime has been quick to follow through with shell, rocket and barrel-bomb bombardments, with more than 100 killed in Aleppo province in air attacks in the last few days.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has already recorded 1709 airstrikes by Assad’s forces all around Syria in April 2015 alone, including 984 barrel-bombs. 260 civilians have been killed in the first half of this month by these attacks, including 81 children and 51 women, and an estimated 1500 wounded.

Assad airstrikes in Idlib province yesterday, Tuesday, killed 11 in Idlib city and another 12 in Saraqeb, HERE:

Situation Map for Aleppo courtesy of @PetoLucem, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Aleppo Situation Map 14.04.15

In Damascus, barrel-bomb attacks and clashes between warring sides have also continued in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, though latest reports from local people suggest that the bulk of the Islamic State fighters have withdrawn to their stronghold in nearby Hajar al Aswad.

Some IS fighters remain in the south-west of the camp, while Palestinian factions – both pro and anti-Assad – are controlling most of the eastern and northern sections of the camp.

This leaves the largest fighting group inside the camp as the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), who allowed the Islamic State to enter the Camp in the first place. Both of the extremist groups loath the Palestinian Opposition force, who were until recently running the camp, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Palestinians Have Suffered Chronic Food Shortages for 2 Years in Yarmouk

Hopefully, ANF will allow in more aid, so desperately needed by those trapped inside, some of whom demonstrated yesterday to bring their plight to world attention, HERE:

Al-Qaeda aligned ANF have fared less well in southern Deraa province, where the “Southern Front”, an alliance of FSA and more moderate Islamic Groups, has pushed them away from the border crossing at Nassib to Jordan and now attacked a number of their HQs.

The Southern Front issued a strong statement rejecting ANF’s ideology, refused any cooperation with it, and declaring themselves the “sole military force representing the Syrian revolution” in the south.

“We can’t go from the rule of Assad to Zawahri and Nusra,” said a spokesman referring to the Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

He then went on to invites ANF members to defect and join their more moderate ranks.

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

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 76: ISLAMIC STATE LOSE CEMENT PLANT AND SURROUNDING VILLAGES TO YPG – 88 IS JIHADISTS KILLED IN LAST 5 DAYS ACROSS 2 CANTONS:

TIMELINE – 13th APRIL 2015 14.02 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.12 GMT:

After concentrated airstrikes on Friday and Saturday and fierce fighting with the Islamic State (IS) on the ground, a combined YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) force took complete control of the Lafarge Cement Plant in the south-east of Kobane Canton on Sunday.

SYIRA and IRAQ NEWS

YPG Pick-Up inside Lafarge Cement Plant

Coalition airstrikes hit IS positions and vehicles to the south and east of the Lafarge plant prior to the ground assault, but according to latest reports the plant is largely intact and will be useful for the rebuilding of Kobane city.

The Kurdish forces and their allies have also taken Darflit, having secured higher ground nearby earlier, and 3 more villages just south of the cement plant, bringing to 7 the number of captured villages since Friday.

The Lafarge plant is 60 kilometres south of Kobane and just north-west of IS-held Ain Issa in Raqqah province.

This advance put the YPG just 60 kilometres (35 miles) away from the IS Syria HQ at Raqqah city.

In the fight for the Lafarge plant, 30 x IS fighters are reported killed and a large quantity of weapons and ammunition captured.

Further to the west along the line of the M4 highway, IS continues to reinforce its positions around the Grain Silos north of Sarrin and Mitras just to the south, sending fighters, weapons and ammunition across the top of the Tishrin Dam. However, latest reports Monday afternoon say that the YPG/FSA are massing their forces to make an attack on the Grain Silo site and have also captured today the village of Minifa Avi, killing another 11 Islamic State fighters.

Between the Lafarge Plant and the Grain Silos, the YPG also seem to be making a break out westwards around the IS occupied Sal/Jil area where the Jihadists broke through last week.  Hopefully, with Coalition support, the Jihadists occupation can be destroyed (scroll down to earlier report and see @ChuckPfarrer map of 09.04.15 for a better view).

There are also unconfirmed reports that the Islamic State is trying to repair broken sections of the Qara Qwazak bridge, further up the Euphrates River.

US Central Command reports 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton from Thursday am through to last Friday, destroying 4 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles and hitting an IS tactical unit.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Destroyed Home in Kobane

From Friday morning through to Saturday am, the Coalition made 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroying 4 x IS fighting positions and 3 more IS vehicles, plus hitting yet another IS tactical unit.

During the same 2 day period, Coalition aircraft destroyed 8 x IS vehicles in Hasakah province and struck 3 x IS tactical units.

Within Kobane city itself things improved again with the arrival of modern medical equipment including an endoscope to examine internal injuries or problems and 2 more schools have opened in villages just to the south.

In the Kurds Cizire province to the east, the YPG are reporting similar successes with as many as 58 x IS Jihadists killed since April 8th, 40 of them on the road between Tel Tamer and Hasakah city, along with 3 x IS vehicles destroyed.

This brings the total of IS Jihadists killed by the Kurds across 2 Cantons in the last 5 days to 88.

The latest Kobane Canton map showing the situation near the Lafarge plant, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer is here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 12.04.15

YEZIDI COMMANDER FREE AT LAST, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE IN ITS MADNESS DESTROYS 3,000 YEARS OF HUMAN HISTORY:

In Iraq, Heydar Shesho, the commander of the Yezidi militia, the HPS, was released by Kurdish security this morning, Monday.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Yezidi Commander Released by Kurdish Security

The exact reason for his detention (scroll down – see below) is still not clear but appearing on TV today Commander Shesho said, “The HPS will remain and our resistance continues … I will continue to defend the Yezidis and Shingal [Sinfar] until the last drop of my blood”.

Despite the tensions caused by Shesho’s arrest, the HPS and the Peshmerga have continued to work together in the Sinjar region battling the Islamic State.

In the east of the Sinjar region over the weekend IS attacked Kurdish/HPS/YPG positions in Hardan but were repelled with 18 x IS Jihadists killed.

In west Sinjar IS also attacked Gabara, both events seen as an attempt to recapture part of the road that runs from Syria to Iraq.

In Sinjar city itself there still seems to be a state of stalemate and many Yezidi are confused as to why the Peshmerga advance, so successful last year has stalled and not moved forward since December 2014.

There also seem to be ongoing tensions between the Peshmerga and the YPG, both representing different military factions of Kurdish political groups. A report from Al-Monitor, HERE:

The Islamic State has also released new footage of its fighters inside the Baiji oil refinery west of Mosul, but the Iraqi Army insists that it still has a substantial presence there. Further information awaited.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Mad IS Destroying 3,000 Years of History at Nimrud

Another IS video shows IS fighters insanely destroying 3,000 of history with sledgehammers and power tools at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq.

Nimrud was already a major city in 1250 BC but IS in their ignorant madness have completed its destruction by blowing the site up.

Irreplaceable artifacts destroyed include intricately carved stonework and the large winged Lamussu statues with human heads that guarded the city.

The Lamussu were protective deities with the bodies of a lion or bull, eagle’s wings and a human head. You can read more about Lamussu, HERE:

There are also reports that they have burnt to the ground a library in Mosul containing 8,000 ancient and rare documents.

You can read more in The Independent Syria news report, HERE:

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) IS has recruited 400 children into its ranks between January 1st this year and March 23rd, known as “Ashbal al- Khilafah or “Cubs of the Caliphate”.

IS is persuading children and inducing their guardians to send children to its training camps to take part in Sharia and military courses. The Islamic State sent 140 children under 18 to fight in Kobane, where at least 6 of them were killed.

At the same time, SOHR says that recruits to IS from abroad are at their lowest in the first quarter of 2015 at 120 members since the “caliphate” was first announced in June 2014.

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YARMOUK DISSOLVES INTO POLITICAL AND MILITARY TURMOIL AS CIVILIANS FACE DEATH BY BOMBING OR STARVATION:

TIMELINE – 10th APRIL 2015 14.20 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 22.05 GMT:

As if conditions in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp were not bad enough already, things have got considerably worse over the last week since the Islamic State invaded the southern half of it.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Grim Reality of Yarmouk

The Assad regime, as usual, has played its part in what Ban Ki-Moon, the UN General Secretary has described as “The blackest hole of hell”.

The Syrian Air Force dropped 11 barrel-bombs on the camp on Wednesday, bringing the total number of barrel-bombs falling on the camp to 36 since 4th April.

On Thursday morning, yesterday, a barrel-bomb destroyed the Palestine hospital, the last semi-functional medical facility in Yarmouk, the last 2 doctors remaining there somehow managing to work for a year without medicine or antibiotics.

There are still believed to be between 16,000 and 18,000 Palestinians resident in the camp, including 3,500 children.

Civilians have survived until now by scavenging for plants and roots growing on waste ground on the margins of the camp and the very occasional UN relief delivery.

With fighting ranging around them they have not been able to leave their homes for 9 days, except at the risk of getting shot. There has been no running water in the camp since September 2014.

The International Red Cross has demanded instant access to the camp but so far this has not been allowed and they have had to deliver tons of food supplies to Yalda, a nearby suburb, itself in danger of being taken over by the Islamic State.

Following an agreement between Ahmad Majdalani, a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Syrian Government, Assad’s regime has said it will supply ammunition to the Palestinian fighters of Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis inside the camp, who had formerly opposed him, to fight IS.

A contingent of the Assad militia, the National Defence Force (NDF), led by pro-Assad Palestinians, some of whom were born in the camp, has entered to join the fight against the IS Jihadists.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Hell Hole of Yarmouk 9th April 2015

However, a statement released late Thursday from the PLO headquarters in Ramallah in Palestine, seemed to back away from any military involvement and any local agreements, making it clear that its traditional position of non-involvement had not changed.

“We refuse to be drawn into any armed campaign, whatever its nature or cover,” the statement said, “And we call for resorting to other means to spare the blood of our people and prevent more destruction and displacement for our people of the camp.”

Quite where this leaves the Palestinians of Yarmouk remains to be seen.

While the rest of the world, whatever their view, stands by and watches helplessly, the Palestinians remain mired in hopelessness.

The pro-Assad Palestinian fighter group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), that was driven out of the camp after its headquarters was burned down last year, claimed this morning, Friday, that IS had already lost control of two-thirds of Yarmouk – but this has not been confirmed as yet by any other source.

This report from the Telegraph describes how a falling bomb separated 2 children in a playgroup from their Mother, as well as all the other complications, HERE:

And for another interesting take on the situation, from someone who has lived there, read, HERE:

KURDS RISK WORLDWIDE CONDEMNATION AS PROTESTS AGAINST DETENTION OF YEZIDI COMMANDER GROW.

Protest is starting to grow around the world over the controversial detention of the Yezidi commander Heydar Shesho, leader of the HPS militia, by the Kurdistan Government of Massoud Barzani in Iraq.

Barzani’s party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), is now in conflict with it’s rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who have called for Shesho, who is also a member of the PUK, to be released immediately.

The Yezidi Flag Upsets the Kurds?

The Yezidi Flag Upsets the Kurds?

Agreement to release the Yezidi commander was reached between the 2 Kurdish parties on Tuesday, but does not seem to have been put into effect.

Partly the problem is one of KDP paranoia about the HPS receiving money to pay its fighters from the Shia-led Government in Baghdad, and partly some sort of resentment towards the Yezidi people generally.

Barzani’s Kurdish security force, the Asayesh, seem to be down on the Yezidi. 

On March 23rd 2015, Yezidis in several locations in northern Iraq expressed their solidarity in support of demonstrations around the world for the Yezidi people, but Kurdish security violently dispersed them.

A number of Yezidi human rights activists who organised the demonstrations were arrested by Kurdish security and are still in prison without trial. One man was beaten and arrested for just wearing a T-shirt displaying the Yezidi flag.

There are now several dozen Yezidi held in President Barzanis’s prisons without explanation and reportedly members of his KDP party have threatened Yezidi in Europe “with death”, notably in Germany where there is a large Kurdish/Yezidi population.

Heydar Shesho has in fact lived in Germany with his family for many years, only returning when IS attacked northern Iraq, and travels on a German passport. Germany’s influential Green Party has already called for his release.

EDITOR: The Yezidi have clearly suffered more than enough being displaced from their homeland and thousands of their number either killed by the IS Jihadists or kept as sexual slaves. President Barzani risks losing all the Western goodwill built-up towards the Kurds in recent months if he is just going to add to their persecution.

In February, Vice News interviewed Heydar Shesho’s Father, Qasim, known as the “Tiger of Mount Sinjar” after he also returned from Germany to lead the defence of the sacred Yezidi shrine at the top of the moutain, HERE:

Islamic State brutality obviously knows no bounds. This 15 year old Yezidi girl, pictured below, was held captive by IS for 7 months – they killed her father and brother infront of her, on her birthday.

ITV Syria news released this video report on the displaced Yezidi in March, which wonders where, after a tradition of thousands of years, their future lies now, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

IS Executed Her Father and Brother Infront of Her on Her Birthday

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 75: KURDS MAKE PROGRESS IN SOUTH-EAST, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE DEMAND $30 MILLION FOR ASSYRIAN CHRISTIAN PRISONERS:

On the southern Kobane Canton front the YPG over the last few days has been attacking Islamic State positions around Sabta village, killing at least 2 x IS Jihadists, and targeting their defences at Ninifi Kor, Jalabi and Khwedanki.

However, good news today, Friday, if confirmed, that the YPG/YPJ have captured Chelibi in the south-east after taking higher ground at Dar Flit and near Chelibi itself on Wednesday.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

War and a Moment of Peace in Kobane Canton

On the eastern front it has been largely stalemate for this week but today the village of Gul Tepe fell back under Kurdish control.

In the south-west the Islamic State, fed by reinforcements into Sarrin have broken across the M4 highway near Mitras and the Grain Silos and at Nur Ali and Hamadoun just a little further east.

On the other bank of the Euphrates, directly opposite Kobane Canton, local people report that a 50 strong vehicle convoy full of weapons, ammunition and fighters arrived from Raqqah on Thursday at the IS-held town of Jarablous.

Quite where these fighters are headed is unclear, but it obviously spells trouble for either the Kurds in Kobane or Opposition fighters in Aleppo province.

On Wednesday through to Thursday am, Coalition planes made 2 airstrikes near Kobane, destroying 2 x IS fighting positions and hitting an IS tactical unit. And on Wednesday, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) made its first attacks in Syria on behalf of the Coalition, hitting an IS garrison near Raqqah.

Until now RCAF has confined its strikes to Iraq and only surveillance work in Syria, but the bloody terrorist attack in Ottawa last October has changed all that, the Canadian Parliament granting permission for Syria strikes a week ago.

The Coalition also destroyed 5 x IS vehicles and an IS tank, and hit an IS tactical unit and 2 more vehicles near Hasakah during the same time period mentioned above.

Nearer Kobane city itself at Sheran, just 8 kilometres south, local people are reported busy preparing another school and bringing it back into operation (scroll down – see earlier reports).

The Kobane Canton Situation Map for 09.04.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer is, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 09.04.15

Further east in the Kurdish Canton of Cizire, heavy fighting continues. On Wednesday morning the Islamic State used tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy weapons to launch a major attack between Hasakah city and Tel Tamer.

IS targeted the Xerîta bridge, the only one on the Xabur River, as well as the villages of Tel Baz, Tel Cezîrê, Xerîta, Tel Tal, Tel Necmê and a nearby poultry farm. The YPG/YPJ put up strong resistance along a 9 kilometre front, killing 23 x IS Jihadist at the cost of 6 of their own fighters.

The YPG/YPJ also thwarted an IS attack coming from Xebîsh and destroyed an IS military vehicle en route from Tel Tamir to Alya, leaving an unspecified number of IS casualties.

This morning, Friday, the Kurds had another success when IS resistance in the village of Tel Riman completely collapsed and they were able to enter, HERE:  An IS “Emir” or commander of Indonesian origin was also reported killed in the village.

This footage shows Coalition airstrikes on IS positions in Cizire this week, HERE:

According to Assyrian Christian sources, the Islamic State is now asking a $30 million ransom for the 250 – 300 local people it has captured from the Cizire area in Hasakah province, amounting to around $100,000 for each person.

Assyrian sources said that IS knows full well that they cannot come up with this kind of money but that it is hoping that other Christian people or countries will.

This is a situation map for Cizire province, dated 09.04.15 courtesy of @_paulo34, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Cizire Canton Map 09.04.15

Elsewhere is Syria, IS has captured another 50 people from the village of Al-Mabouga in Hama province and a very, very sinister video showing IS women training as fighters has emerged.

The video, since taken down, was clearly filmed infront of St. Simeon, one of the world’s oldest Byzantine churches, near Aleppo, but was described as taking place at the “Camp of the Women of Victory and Empowerment”.

Since Opposition fighters, led by the Al-Nusra Front, captured Idlib 2 weeks ago, the city has been hit by 200 Assad regime airstrikes, killing 236 people including 54 children and 39 women.

Reports from Deraa province in the south however, if correct, may put an end to some of this.

In capturing the town of Kafr Shams last week, the Opposition have found a store of 200 Igla anti aircraft missiles. The Igla is a Russian made, man portable infra-red-homing surface to air missile launcher. Hopefully it will soon be put to good use against Assad’s barrel-bombing helicopters.

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KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 74: SCHOOLS REOPENING AT RAPID PACE, HOSPITAL ON ITS WAY AND ISLAMIC STATE PUSHED BACK ACROSS M4 HIGHWAY:

TIMELINE – 8th APRIL 2015 14.02 GMT – UPDATED 19.47 GMT:

Latest figures from recovering Kobane city say that 80 civilians have been killed by Islamic State mines and booby-traps and more than 100 injured.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Children Returning to School in Devastated Kobane

The Danish Government has however sent a de-mining team and this is training local people and YPG/YPJ fighters with improved techniques to locate and defuse the bombs.

1,000 children have now been enrolled in the first 2 schools to re-open in the city and another 4 schools are being repaired as quickly as possible.

1,000 voluntary teachers, who will work without pay, have also been signed up by the Kurdistan Teacher’s Union (KTU) to work in the schools as they come on-stream.

Yasir Beyro from the KTU said that many of the children are clearly traumatised and will need additional help.

Some sing “war songs” in school and draw pictures of fighting, killing and beheadings.

Within another 2 weeks they hope to have 4,000 children back at school. You can read more, HERE:

The really good news for the city is Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF – Doctors Without Borders) have started constructing a hospital.

Outside the city, on the original borders of the Canton, the Kurdish YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters continue their battle to push back the Islamic Front (IS).

IS continues to ferry men, ammunition and weapons into the area from Aleppo province, via the Tishrin Dam. The Kurds and their allies seem to have pushed the IS Jihadists back across the M4 highway between Nur Ali and Demercik, and there are unconfirmed reports that the IS fighters in the Lafarge Cement Plant are once again trapped and surrounded.

US Central Command (Centcom) says that on Monday through to Tuesday of this week 2 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed 6 x IS fighting positions.

Latest Kobane Canton Situation Map courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 07.04.15

Map of villages liberated by the Kurds in Kobane Canton so far, courtesy of @_paulo34, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Liberated Kurdish Villages in Kobane Canton 06.04.15

On the western edge of the eastern Kurdish Canton in Syria, Cizire, heavy fighting still continues around Tel Tamer with the YPG launching several simultaneous attacks against Islamic State positions on Monday night.

3 x IS Jihadists were killed near the Tel Tamer – Aleppo road at Alya and another 8 were killed near Tel Kanzir. 2 more IS Jihadists were killed in Tel Baz, and one other in Tel Fyeda, while at Xebish, the IS fighters burned tyres to try and hide their positions.

IS attacks on the villages of Tel Shamiran and Tel Nasir were repelled with YPG mortars and heavy weaponry.

AFTER BOMBING AND SHELLING YARMOUK FOR YEARS, ASSAD OFFERS TO “HELP”, AS CIVILIANS STARVE OR ARE KILLED BY SNIPER FIRE:

Despite Islamic State control of most of the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, the anti-Assad Palestinian militia, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, together with Opposition allies is fighting back.

Islamic Opposition group Jaysh Al-Islam claimed that they and their allies had killed 80 IS fighters “in the last 2 days”. Jaysh Al-Islam normally operates in Douma and the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus province, but has come to the aid of the besieged Palestinians.

IS is also reported to be trying to take over the district of Yalda, just to the south-east of the Yarmouk.

Palestinians Barely Surviving in Yarmouk

Palestinians Barely Surviving in Yarmouk

The Opposition set fire to an IS position, HERE:  and a scene from the fierce fighting can be seen, HERE:

The main danger for civilians, apart from bombs and mortar shells, is sniper fire.

Zaynab Daghistani, a 12 year old Palestinian girl was killed by sniper fire yesterday outside her  home.

There is no clean drinking water and almost no food. Most Palestinian residents of the camp were previously reported to be barely existing on 400 calories a day, even before fighting with IS began.

Ahmed Majdalani, a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), has arrived in Damascus to discuss with the Syrian Government what can be done to help.

Majdalani says that 25 Palestinians have been killed since fighting began and between 75 and 200 abducted by IS, though this is so far unverified.

After meeting with Majdalani, Assad’s “Reconciliation Minister”, Ali Haider, said “The priority now is to expel and defeat militants and terrorists in the camp. Under the present circumstances, a military solution is necessary”, though it is not clear whether he means troops, weapons or both.

Assad’s Air Force continued air raids throughout Tuesday and dropped 9 barrel bombs after midnight, ostensibly on Islamic State positions but just as likely to hit civilians. The fear is that if Assad’s troops are allowed into the camp to fight IS, they will never leave again.

This afternoon, Wednesday, there are unconfirmed reports that members of Assad’s National Defence Force have entered the camp.

Another Palestinian group, the Palestinian Network accused both the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front of stealing UN relief supplies in the camp.

BBC Syria news Arabic Service, has a video report from inside the camp, (English translation, though faulty – translator says “1,300” when he means “13,000”), here:

Elsewhere in Syria, the Islamic State carried out 2 deadly suicide bomb attacks against Opposition groups in a northern part of Aleppo province.

The first bomb struck the headquarters of the “Joint Force for Repelling Injustice”, an Islamic Front Opposition coalition group in Marea, killing 2 commanders and as many as 16 others according to reports today, Wednesday.

The second suicide bomb was at a base of an Opposition group affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) near Hur Killis and is credited with killing between 30 – 40 people, many of them civilians. 3 or 4 buildings were “levelled to the ground” said onlookers.

The Al-Nusra Front released yesterday 300 Kurdish men and boys that it had kidnapped as they journeyed with their families on Sunday from the Kurdish town of Afrin to Aleppo city and towards Damascus.

The men were originally taken prisoner at Tuqad village, 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of Aleppo and then moved to Al-Dana town in Idlib province.

Although the men have been released all their cars, buses and other vehicles have not been returned. (EDITOR: So much for Sharia Law and the penalties against theft!)

In Aleppo Old City, Opposition fighters have this week seized another Hamman (steam and public bath house) after clashes with regime troops, HERE:

DISPUTE SEES YEZIDI COMMANDER ARRESTED BY PESHMERGA, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE RELEASE ANOTHER 280 PRISONERS:

In Iraq, there is anger among the Yezidi community after the supreme commander of the HPS, Heydar Shesho, was arrested by the Peshmerga on Monday and despite promises, at the time of writing, has yet to be released.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Heydar Shesho, Yezidi Commander, Held By Peshmerga

The HPS is a Yezidi militia of around 3,000 men which normally fights alongside the Kurds against the Islamic State.

Shesho seems to have raised the Kurdistan Government’s ire by agreeing to accept weapons from Shia military in Baghdad, to whom legally and technically the Shingal/Sinjar region belongs.

Rumours had it that Shesho had agreed to be bound by arrangements for weapons and other materials from the Peshmerga and come under their control, but as of Wednesday evening this has not been confirmed and Shesho, according to his family is still imprisoned.

Feelings between the Yezidi and the Peshmerga have not been good since the Kurds fled in the face of the Islamic State advance last August and left the Yezidi to their fate, thousands of whom, particularly women and girls, are still in captivity.

Having said that, IS released 280 Yezidi on Monday, mainly elderly women and children that had been held captive in Mosul. They were released to Peshmerga forces near Kirkuk and after a medical inspection taken to Lilash.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Hand Emerges from Mass Grave in Tikrit

Meanwhile, forensic experts have begun examining the sites of 12 mass graves in Tikrit, recently recaptured from the Islamic State.

The graves are believed to contain the remains of as many as 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, mostly from the Shia sect, who were singled out for execution when IS overran the Camp Speicher airbase not far from Tikrit in July 2014. You can read more, HERE:

A report from IS-held Mosul says that IS have also just executed a number of officers and men belonging to the Naqshbandiyah Order. If true, there could be even more trouble ahead for the Islamic State.

Until now, the Naqshbandiyah Order, run by former soldiers in the Sadam Hussein Baathist regime, and like IS of the Sunni sect, had worked alongside the IS Jihadists in plotting and implementing attacks on the Shia-led Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The origins of the dispute appear to be over who had the authority to impound oil tankers in the area and/or a refusal by the Baathists to lay down their weapons and pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. You can read more, HERE:

Another sign of the pressures on IS, after losing Tikrit and being pounded by Coalition airstrikes, is a report that through local tribal clans and intermediaries, IS fighters in northern Iraq are requesting a ceasefire with the Kurdish forces – “if you don’t fire at us, we will not fire at you”.

Hopefully, the Kurds, who do not trust IS anyway, will not take this seriously. The Kurds have now regained around 90% of the territory they lost to the IS Jihadists in their rapid advance last summer.

Lastly, 2 stories of despair and hope.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Syrian Children Begging on the Streets of Beirut

The BBC’s Michael Downey reports of finding very young, sick Syrian refuge children begging on the streets of Beirut in Lebanon and when he tries to get medical treatment for them, even offering to pay, is turned away and blocked by the authorities at every turn, HERE:

Finally, the dreadful story of Amel, 18, and Jwan, 17, 2 Yezidi girls who were kidnapped by the Islamic State and given to an IS commander who regularly raped them, while both were in the same room together.

After stealing a mobile phone, they phoned their families and arranged for a driver to come to Mosul to find them, breaking the lock on the door while the IS Jihadist was out fighting.

6 months later, having been accepted back into the Yezidi community, they are on their way to Germany where the State of Baden-Württemberg will take care of them, give them an education and create a new future. You can read the whole moving story, HERE:

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THOUSANDS TRAPPED IN YARMOUK CAMP AS ISLAMIC STATE TAKE CONTROL OF MOST OF IT:

TIMELINE 6th APRIL 2015 13.54 GMT – UPDATED 20.18 GMT:

Thousands of civilians remain trapped in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in the south of Damascus while fighting rages around them.

Some Palestinians manage to Excape From Yarmouk

Some Palestinians manage to Excape From Yarmouk

According to latest reports, the Islamic State control as much as 90% of the camp, while the remaining Opposition groups, including anti-Assad Palestinians, are sandwiched in the northern sector with Assad’s forces behind them and IS infront.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) said that around 2,000 civilians escaped during a short-lived ceasefire, but this is not borne out by the UN.

Chris Gunness spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said that 94 civilians, including 43 women and 20 children, made it out of the camp on Sunday via 2 regime controlled roads into the Zahira district, and were being provided with humanitarian support.

Between  16,000 – 18,000 civilians remain inside the camp according to latest estimates.

Meanwhile, IS has posted video of executions and beheadings, particularly of members of Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), an anti-Assad group of Syrians and Palestinians who were effectively running the camp until last week.

The reason for the sudden change in power balance is that according to reports, ABM was close to signing an agreement with the Assad regime to allow a ceasefire and a lifting of the siege on the camp which has seen its inhabitants without proper supplies of food, water and medicines for 700 days. Some sources claim that as many as 200 Palestinians have starved to death.

The Al-Nusra Front (ANF) apparently disagreed with this decision to negotiate with the Assad regime and allowed the Islamic State to cross their territory to get into the camp. At the same time ANF have prevented Opposition fighters going through their territory to fight against IS, particularly those groups with whom they have recently been in conflict in the Damascus area.

ANF have issued a statement claiming they are “impartial” in the fight, but this is clearly not the case if they allow some fighting groups to pass through adjacent areas they control and not other groups with whom they have disagreements.

Assad’s Air Force has been dropping barrel-bombs on the Islamic State in the camp, but it will also not hesitate, along with its pro-Assad Palestinian allies, to shoot any Opposition fighters in the north of the camp trying to escape.

While Assad will not want IS so near the centre of Damascus, destroying anyone who opposes him is an opportunity he cannot resist and if civilians are killed in the process that is a price, judging from his actions elsewhere, that he is prepared to pay.

26 people are reported killed so far, mainly civilians, and 7 of those are said to have been IS executions.

Al Jazeera Syria news has a report, here:

BBC Syria news too has a video report, HERE:

Map of Situation in Yarmouk 04.04.15

Map of Situation in Yarmouk 04.04.15

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kafranbel Comment on Yarmouk

 KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 73: MORE MACHINERY ARRIVES IN KOBANE TO AID CLEAN-UP, WHILE FIGHTING AND AIR STRIKES CONTINUE:

Last Friday, the YPG reported that they had gone beyond the old Kobane Canton boundaries in some areas and were now driving the Islamic State (IS) out of Arabic villages.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Heavy Machinery Entering Kobane to Aid Clean-Up

Two villages were a case in point, Hadid and Sabtah, which IS tried to retake at the end of last week, bringing up reinforcements to do so.

However, this proved ineffective and the Kurdish YPG repelled the attacks, reportedly killing 22 x IS Jihadists.

In the south-west part of the Canton, the Islamic State is pushing out from Sarrin to the north and the north-west towards Qara Qwazak, though the YPG continue to hold the higher ground in the area.

The IS surge has cut the M4 highway between Dar Al-Kharab and Mitras and allowed IS to reinforce their positions at the Grain Silos positioned near the road.

From Friday am through to Saturday morning, US Central Command (Centcom) has reported 5 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, striking 3 x IS tactical units and destroying 9 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle and an IS building.

On Saturday through to Sunday am there were 3 more airstrikes in Syria, but around Hasakah and Raqqah, where 5 x IS fighting positions were destroyed plus an armoured personnel carrier and another vehicle, with a hit on another tactical unit.

The Kurd majority dominated municipalities in Turkey have at the weekend sent more diggers and other machinery into Kobane to aid and speed the clean-up and one of the oldest pharmacies in Kobane is also now back in operation.

Reconstruction work is spreading too, to the villages outside the city where schools, houses and community areas are being repaired and restored.

However, there are still many problems for the returning Kurds to deal with. This video shows how the Islamic State leave ordinary homes booby-trapped to explode on the unwary, attaching bombs to a cushion or other every day item which kills when it is casually moved, (originally published in February 2015) here:

The latest Kobane situation maps, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer and @MarkMonmonier, are here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton SW Situation Map 03.04.15

SYRIA and  IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 03.04.15

In the Kurdish Canton of Cizire, further to the east, heavy fighting between the YPG/YPJ and the Islamic State continues around Tel Tamer, with the YPG bombing IS positions near Tel Khanzir.

The YPG also took the village of Tel Khaton killing 16 x IS Jihadists in the process as well as seizing ammunition and weapons. In fighting near the villages of Tel Samiran and Xebis, it is claimed that some of the fleeing IS fighters stepped on their own mines.

The Kurds are also in control of higher ground near Manajir at Fattune Hill.

True to form, on Easter Sunday, one of the most important Christian festivals of the year, IS blew up parts of the Christian Assyrian Church of the Virgin Mary in the town of Tel Nasri. Attempts by the YPG and Assyrian militia to enter the town have been slowed by mines and IED roadside devices.

Situation map for Cizire Canton courtesy of @MarkMonmonier, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Cizire Canton Situation Map 04.04.15

OPPOSITION FIGHTERS HELD BACK IN IDLIB PROVINCE BUT ADVANCE YET AGAIN IN DERAA:

Elsewhere in Syria, Opposition fighters were forced to withdraw to the periphery of Mastouma village south of Idlib city, where they were hoping to capture a regime army base. 5 Opposition fighters were reported killed.

Assad’s Air Force has pounded Opposition positions with barrel-bombs and rockets and the Syrian Army has sent in reinforcements to stop the Opposition advance in Idlib province.

In Salqin and Kafar Takharim, 17 people, including 2 women and 5 children, were also reported killed by regime barrel-bombs on Saturday.

However, near Jabal Arbaeen the Free Syrian Army (FSA) hit a BMP armoured vehicle with a TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Colonel Riad Al-Asaad Comes to Idlib

The founder of the FSA, Colonel Riad Al-Asaad, who has survived 2 assassination attempts, losing both his leg and his son, put in a surprise appearance in Idlib province at the weekend.

And in Homs province, Opposition fighters are said to have killed 20 x IS Jihadists in the desert near Al-Ulayyaniya and Al-Halbah south of Palmyra.

In Aleppo province on Sunday, the Kurds mediated an exchange of prisoners between the regime and an Islamist Opposition faction, Jaish al-Mujahideenn.

10 children and 15 women from the besieged Alawite towns of Nubl and Al- Zahraa were exchanged yesterday for Yousef Zawah, a commander in the Islamist group who had strayed into Alawite territory by mistake.

In Deraa province, the Al-Nusra Front has been persuaded to withdraw from the Nassib border crossing with Jordan and to release all but 2 of the Lebanese truck drivers they were holding. Negotiations to free these men are ongoing.

Lebanon, which uses Nassib as an important export crossing to Jordan lost 30 truckloads of food in the fighting, most of which went past its expiry date. The Opposition have held a meeting to draw up rules on operating the frontier crossing with a civilian authority under their control.

To the north of Daraa city and Nawa, heavy fighting is ongoing around Jaddiyah and Kafr Shams. Near Jaddiyah, the Opposition seem to have hit a regime rocket depot with a shell, sending off missiles on their own accord, HERE:

At Kafr Shams, opposition fighters have taken over the Khasi Barrier at the southern entrance of the town and seized an Assad armoured personnel carrier, HERE:

Deraa Situation Map courtesy of @Syria_Rebel_Obs, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map Northern Deraa Province 06.04.15

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4 comments to SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

  • 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.

Come on! Feel Free to Say Something!

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