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SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 94: KURDISH FORCES CONTINUE TO GIVE ISLAMIC STATE A BEATING ACROSS NORTHERN SYRIA DRIVING THEM FROM KEY POSITIONS:
TIMELINE – 27th MAY 2015 11.15 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 14.30 GMT:
Last Friday the YPG/YPJ Kurdish forces launched another new operation in Cizire Canton 29 kilometres to the south-west of Serêkaniyê and quickly managed to liberate the villages of Wedahiyê, Xircir and Tuwecil, destroying 2 Islamic State (IS) tanks, 3 other vehicles and killing 10 more of their fighters.
At the same time the YPG have continued their mopping up operations between Mount Abdul Aziz and Tel Tamer and Hasakah city.
IS were again engaged at Makhluja, 23 kilometres to the south of Tel Tamer on the slopes of Mount Abdul Aziz and Tel Hemam 11 kilometres south of Tel Tamer.
A clash with a small unit of IS fighters resulted in the death of 3 or them and the capture of 4 others.
The other hazard is the thousands of mines left in the area by IS, which are not only a danger to the YPG but returning civilians.
One YPG de-miner, who had previously cleared hundreds of mines himself, was killed by them this last week.
IS is also using local people as human shields in Cizire province to try and discourage the YPG from attacking their village strongholds.
Where possible the Kurds have tried to extract local people from “hot” fighting zones and have so far rescued 30.
But IS, no respecter of innocent human lives, also exploded a suicide vehicle bomb among a group of civilians killing a number of them plus 2 members of the YPG/YPJ.
Yesterday, Tuesday, the Kurdish forces liberated the 2 villages of Shara and Til Qlea, around 35 kilometres south of Serêkaniyê and have surrounded the town of Mabroukah, including capturing a hill overlooking it.
Reports late yesterday say the town has been entered from the south by the Kurds and fierce fighting has ensued supported by Coalition airstrikes. Further news awaited.
During Sunday through to Monday, US Central Command (Centcom) reports 7 airstrikes in support of the Kurds near Hasakah destroying 4 x IS fighting positions, an IS checkpoint, an IS excavator, an IS vehicle bomb and one other IS vehicle. 2 large and 4 small IS tactical units were also hit.
The Coalition also made strikes near Raqqah during the same time period, destroying another IS excavator and a tank, and near Deir Ez-Zour where they destroyed a multiple rocket launching vehicle.
Another series of 7 Coalition airstrikes near Hasakah on Monday through to Tuesday am hit 4 x IS tactical units, an IS natural gas production plant and an IS headquarters as well as destroying 4 x IS fighting positions, 2x IS vehicles and an IS mortar position.
In Kobane Canton on Sunday night the Kurdish forces on the eastern front liberated the villages of Demircikê, Mizxanê and Kerquling and captured a vehicle that was rigged as a bomb and about to be used imminently in a suicide attack.
Over the weekend 2 Coalition airstrikes destroyed an IS fighting position and hit an IS tactical unit, believed to be near Sarrin. No other strikes have been officially reported in the Canton since.
According to Opposition sources, on the south-western front of Kobane Canton, the IS fighters still inside the Grain Silo site north of Sarrin and the enclave of Khirbat Al-Burj continue to make forays into the surrounding countryside to attack Kurdish positions. It also seems that somehow they are also being resupplied overland from Sarrin.
Near Kobane city the authorities have put back the Shohan Assyrian Lion carvings, which date back 4,000 years, after they were attacked and damaged by IS and after careful consideration they have also reduced the proposed museum space in the city from 82 to 25 hectares. This area will include the “security box”, Qada Azadi and Dibistana Resh.
Sadly, 4 more civilians have been killed by left-over IS mines in the Kobane countryside in the last few days.
Sunday’s situation map for south-west Kobane Canton, courtesy of @ChuckPFarrer, here:
In northern Iraq, IS launched another determined attack on Kurdish Peshmerga and Yezidi militia (HPS) positions in Sinjar city from several directions on Saturday morning, but were heavily repelled with claims that around 40 x IS Jihadists had been killed in the confrontation and many more wounded.
The Kurdish forces also made a very nice long distance strike against an IS tanker convoy near Sinjar, here:
Rudaw English reports that Yezidi boys captured in this area earlier by IS have been drafted into fighting and several have been killed. Even some young boys that have escaped the clutches of IS with their families appear to be indoctrinated and have difficulty returning to the lives they had before. You can read more, HERE:
INCREASING SIGNS THAT ASSAD REGIME IS PREPARING TO WITHDRAW FROM DEIR EZ-ZOUR:
Reports coming from local people in Deir Ez-Zour suggest that the Assad regime is starting a planned withdrawal from the city.
While the Syrian Government still hold around half of the city, since the Islamic State gained control of Palmyra there is now no viable land route between the it and Damascus. This means that all supplies for the remaining pro-regime residents and the military and their families are having to be flown in and in the long term this is unsustainable.
IS already control much of the city, having earlier driven out other more moderate Opposition groups, and have frequently attacked the military airport – it is only a matter of time before it falls.
According to local activists, the Assad regime is already emptying the museum of all its statues and artefacts and removing vast quantities of weapons and ammunition from storage at Ayash in the north-west of the city.
People who have worked there say there is enough weaponry and ammunition, including that stored underground, to fuel the whole of the Syrian conflict.
There are also reports, amid reports of arguments between the security services and the Army, that those in the military with connections are buying a flight out of the city with bribes.
Should Deir Ez-Zour be abandoned, this would fit with Assad’s doomsday Alawite scenario of retreating to and protecting the province of Latakia and the cities of Damascus, Homs and Hama, though even some of those might not be safe.
After the capture of Palmyra, the taking of Deir Ez-Zour by the Islamic State would be an enormous coup, not only giving their resurgence a boost in some people’s distorted eyes but allowing them access to oil and gas fields right across the desert into Iraq.
You can read more from NOW Media.
In Palmyra, IS have captured a number of regime soldiers who were left behind by their Government’s hasty retreat and there are unconfirmed reports that “hundreds” (possibly 400) of people from the military, but including civilians and members of the Shaitat tribe, have been slaughtered.
The Assad regime claims that is has carried out dozens of airstrikes on the Palmyra area, “hitting 160 IS targets and killing 50 x IS Jihadists”. However, this has not stopped IS advancing towards Damascus and taking the Khnaifess phosphate mines, one of the last sources of foreign exchange income for Government. Even though sales were down 2 million tons to 500,000 in 2014 in 2014, they still produced a revenue of $30 million.
The Syrian Government says it is going to launch a “counter-attack”, but don’t hold your breath. So far the ancient roman remains in Palmyra appear to be intact, but there are no guarantees on how long that will remain the case. This recent video from Palmyra shows the regimes’s abandoned and empty “security zone”, HERE:
Palmyra is also the site of another potential environmental disaster with the threat of exstinction of the last small colony of migrating Bald Ibis in the world. The breeding colony of the critically endangered species was found just north of the city in 2002, but only one female returned from wintering grounds in Ethiopia in the spring of 2013.
Other birds are kept in captivity at the site but the guards have now fled and any young reared would need the last surviving female to show them the migration path. The birds were previously thought extinct in the Middle East until 7 birds were found nesting near Palmyra.
The only other Bald Ibis in the northern hemisphere are in Morrocco but they do not migrate and spend all their time at the same site in the Atlas Mountains (EDITOR: Wise birds!). The BBC has the full story.
All in all, another bad week for Assad. In Latakia city his military even managed to “attack” his keenest supporters on Monday morning, killing 3 adults and 1 or possibly 2 children.
The site of the “attack” has been cordoned off, but all indications are that it was a misfire by the Syrian Navy.
Originally the Assad authorities said it was a “bomb blast”, then the “fall of an unknown object”, followed by “hit by a missile” and a “drone had been shot down” and then the Fire Department saying 2 buildings had been struck, one with apartments bursting into flames.
Experts say that the signature orange smoke and pictures of the fins of the remains of the rocket indicate that it is a Russian made P-15 anti-ship missile, 2 of which, say local activists, appear to have been fired by mistake. There is mobile phone footage, HERE:
North of Aleppo city, Opposition fighters seem to have cut the main supply road again from the Sheikh Najer industrial area to Aleppo Central Prison, HERE: as well as killing 11 of Assad’s troops in Ameria and taking over the villages of Rashadiyah (with a Kornet anti-tank missilie store) and Sheik Mohammed south-west of the city.
A helicopter has also crashed this week at Quweires Air Force base in the province: “technical problems” say the regime but a claimed “kill” by the Islamic State.
In Idlib province at the battle of Jisr Al-Shughur, estimates suggest that at least 208 of Assad’s soldiers died in what the Syrian Government is trying to portray as a “victory” and the “great escape”. In fact, only 14 or 15 of their men made it through to Government lines.
Opposition fighters say they have collected 154 bodies so far between the orange orchards and the banks of the Orontes river, as well as removing them from the remains of the hospital building and killing another 6 soldiers trying to escape from a hiding place on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights says that altogether in the last month Assad lost 261 men fighting for Jisr Al-Shughur, including 76 officers.
Of these 1 was a major general, 11 were brigadier generals and 11 were colonels. Several notable officers have also been captured alive, including Brigadier General Abdul Khaliq Mansour, HERE:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!