“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 109: ISLAMIC STATE ATTEMPT TO REGAIN TAL ABYAD BUT BEATEN BACK AT HASAKAH:
TIMELINE – 1st JULY 2015 13.19 GMT:
While several Islamic State (IS) fighters have been apprehended in the vicinity of Kobane over the last few days, the city once again appears to be calm and secure.
However, there is great deal of anger and pain felt by those whose families were annihilated in last Thursday’s attack, and from some a call for vengeance.
YPG fighters patrol most streets but one confirmed report says that a discovered IS Jihadist was strung up and hung by local people before security services could get to him.
Residents still fear IS sleeper cells.
After the first explosion early on Thursday morning, many citizens went out on the streets to see what was happening and saw a group of men in YPG uniforms coming towards them – except they were IS and not Kurdish YPG.
They went into houses and shot people at point blank range or while they slept.
One Kobane resident said, “I started running, and I could hear them shooting after me.
My neighbour – he was just 14 or 15 – was running beside me. He said he thought he was wounded and when I looked at him he was covered in blood. He died.”
Another young YPG fighter ran back to the house when he realised what was happening to get his gun and managed to fire off about 10 bullets before he himself was hit in the shoulder.
“They were just 15 metres away. They were wearing YPG uniforms. They didn’t say anything,” he said. “Most of my neighbours were slaughtered.”
172 victims of the attack, including 40 children, are, as of yesterday, still in Suruc hospital across the border in Turkey. Many are now too afraid to return.
You can read more in Middle East Eye.
The Kobane administration meanwhile has established a committee to investigate the masacre that took 233 lives and has called on the UN to recognise the massacre as “genocide”. Kurdish security, the Asayish, have established a temporary nightly curfew from 8.30pm in Kobane city.
South of Kobane city, the YPG arrested 2 more IS fighters in hiding yesterday in the village of Hamsawa, as well as one more in the city on 48th Street on Sunday. 4 more IS Jihadists were also killed near Hamsawa on Saturday night and AK-47s recovered.
On the south-western Kobane front, a YPG operation concluded on Sunday night near Upper Shiukh village saw 17 more AK-47’s claimd as well as machine guns, grenades and RPG rocket launchers.
Three nights running there have also been attempted IS boat crossings across the Euphrates, but these have been thwarted by both the Coalition and the YPG with at least 8 vessels sunk, some reports saying 10.
Over in Tal Abyad, the Islamic State staged another surprise attack yesterday, Tuesday, though the group appears to be small.
At first they managed to secure a foothold in the eastern part of the city in the Mashur al-Fawqani district, but were quickly surrounded in a school and eliminated.
However, there are still IS units in surrounding villages, one of them taking Ber A’sheq village east of Tal Abyad today, Wednesday.
Further south the YPG continue to strengthen their hold over the Raqqh – Tal Abyad road, killing another 2 x IS insurgents.
Over in Cizire Canton, IS carried out an attack on the YPG’s Public Affairs Office in Serekaniye on Sunday but the suspected IS bomber fled the area, exploding his motorbike some distance from the target, but still causing light injuries to 2 YPG fighters.
While searching for the bomber, a 2nd motorbike packed with explosives was discovered and defused.
In Hasakah, after initially losing ground to the latest IS attack, Assad’s forces have made something of a comeback in the last 2 days following a series of Syrian Air Force attacks on IS positions.
IS have retreated from Gweiran Industrial area towards the Al-Zuhour neighbourhood, allowing the YPG to regain all of the eastern Al-Azizyah district, HERE:
In a 24 hour period, IS fired 15 mortar shells into the Salhiyah and Azizyah districts but around half of them failed to explode, but they also exploded a vehicle bomb at Al-Basel roundabout on the outskirts of Gweiran. Casualties are reported on all sides.
Further south, the YPG have captured the IS-held town of Al-Hishah, just 50 kilometres north of Raqqah.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 9 airstrikes in Syria on Monday through to Tuesday am this week, mainly near Hasakah where they destroyed 4 x IS vehicles, an IS armoured personnel carrier and an IS tank, plus hitting 5 x IS tactical units. The other strikes were near Raqqah and Deir Ez-Zour.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 108: ISLAMIC STATE FINALLY ELIMINATED FROM KOBANE CITY, BUT 233 CIVILIANS KILLED, WHILE TURKISH FORCES MASS ON THE SYRIAN BORDER:
TIMELINE – 29th JUNE 2015 18.07 GMT:
By yesterday, Sunday, the YPG had succeeded in curtailing what had become a bloody Islamic State suicide attack on the citizens of Kobane, although a remaining IS insurgent was spotted by residents in the city and eliminated by Kurdish security this afternoon, Monday.
Altogether, the attack, which started in the early hours of last Thursday, claimed the lives of 233 people and injured a further 273. 210 of the victims died within Kobane city itself and a further 23 at Berkhbotan village to the south.
14 members of the Kurdish security, the Asayish, as well as others who took up arms died in an attempt to hold back the IS Jihadists.
Of the Islamic State attacking force, which was estimated to be between 80 and 100, all of them were eliminated apart from 7 who escaped across the border into Turkey.
Of 8 x IS Jihadists who fled towards the south, 2 were killed in the Termik area and the final 6 at Korpîngarê. One IS fighter of Egyptian origin was captured alive, seen surrendering, HERE:
On Thursday, Kobane was in complete chaos and its citizens who thought they had returned to a secure and safe city, found themselves in a place of terror. Imagine if this was your street? (Some disturbing and distressing images), HERE:
The bulk of the fighting ended after the last group of IS Jihadists were cornered at the unoccupied Rash Secondary School and attacked with Kalashnikovs and grenades HERE:
After directing Coalition aircraft to the scene, the school was largely blown to pieces, HERE:
Rudaw Kurdish media has a report from the scene with English sub-titles, HERE:
At least 60 x IS Jihadists have been confirmed killed, while further bodies are still being discovered.
YPG sources have confirmed that most of the IS attacking force came from the Sarrin area in the south-west part of the Canton and having shaved their beards and donned YPG/FSA uniforms, they were able to pass through YPG and Asayish checkpoints to reach the city.
Other reports though persist in saying that a smaller number of attackers also came across the border from Turkey.
Several reports also say that some of the attackers were dissident Kurds and spoke the language, possibly originating from Kurdish areas of Turkey or Iraq.
In the west of Kobane Canton local reports suggest that as well as the main attack on Kobane city, the Islamic State attempted several boat crossings across the Euphrates river but these were foiled by Coalition airstrikes and Kurdish artillery.
A build up of IS fighters at Jarablous, on the west bank of the Euphrates was also targeted, as well as IS forces coming from Manbij and heading for the road across the Euphrates above the Tishreen dam.
To the east of Kobane over the weekend, the combined YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army force, Burkan al-Firat, consolidated their positions south of Tal Abyad and strengthened their control of the Tal Abyad to Raqqah road.
In clashes with the IS Jihadists, 2 x IS tanks were destroyed and 38 x IS fighters killed, as well as AK-47s, machine gun and rocket launchers captured. 6 Kurdish fighters died in the battles.
Of major concern is a build-up of Turkish troops along the Rajavan border.
President Erdogan of Turkey has made it clear that he will not tolerate a Kurdish state along his border separating Turkey from Syria and linking the 3 Kurdish Cantons of Afrin, Kobane and Cizire.
Reports suggest that as many as 18,000 Turkish troops are massing to establish a 110-km long and 28-km wide buffer zone stretching from Karkamış to Öncüpınar, on both sides of the Syrian border.
However, Erdogan’s party failed to succeed in getting an overall majority in recent elections, and both his Foreign Minister and the Turkish military are reluctant to pursue such a plan.
Ostensibly set up as an attempt to fight IS, for which a regular army is ill-equipped in the first place, it could easily turn into a battle with the Kurds and attract international condemnation as well as air attacks from Assad’s air force.
A statement of intent is expected this evening, Monday, after a meeting of Turkey’s National Security Council which convened this afternoon, a day earlier than usual. You can read more, HERE:
A Kobane Canton situation map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, is here:
EDITOR: Perhaps what is most surprising (or perhaps not considering the numbers of people who turn to this blog for Kobane news – now approaching 70,000 visitors a month), is the failure of international media to report on events in Kobane and northern Syria.
Last Friday, when IS struck in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, BBC news reports and other leading channels and press ignored the deaths of 200+ people in Kobane city and just reported these other stories. None the less terrible in their brutality, but no more worthy of coverage than the murder of dozens of Kurdish civilians.
Over in Hasakah the picture of the fight between Assad forces and the YPG, who are both defending the city, and the Islamic State who are attacking them is less clear.
Reports over the weekend suggested that Assad’s forces were losing ground in the south of Hasakah and handing over their positions (and weapons) to the YPG who hold the north of the city.
On Saturday, the Syrian Army was reported to have withdrawn from a number of checkpoints and its headquarters, allowing IS to penetrate parts of the Kurdish districts of Aziziyah and Al-Ghazl. Kurdish units subsequently took control of the National Hospital in the Aziziyah neighbourhood and the nearby School of Nursing.
Pro-regime forces have however been constantly shelling IS positions from the Jabal Kawkab base 10 kilometres east of Hasakah in an attempt to cut off their supply routes from Shaddadi and yesterday are reported to have regained the Nashwa Gharbiya neighbourhood. As a result, the Kurds have also blocked the infiltration of Aziziyah and Al-Ghazl.
IS still controls the Villat Homr area which overlooks the IS-held district of Geweran in the south-east of the city, while Assad’s air force continues to bomb them from the air and 30,000 civilians flee to the north.
Since last Thursday the Coalition has also been very active in the air across northern Syria, US Central Command (Centcom) reporting 51 airstrikes between Thursday morning and today, Monday am.
27 of those airstrikes were in Kobane Canton, 7 near Tal Abayd, 7 near Raqqah, 3 near Hasakah and the rest in Aleppo and Deir Ez-Zour provinces – all hitting and destroying the usual range of Islamic State fighting units, vehicles, weapons and equipment but including 8 x IS boats.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 107: BATTLE AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE IN KOBANE CITY HAS CONTINUED WITH RISING DEATH TOLL, MAINLY CIVILIANS:
TIMELINE – 26th JUNE 2015 13.53 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 17.07 GMT:
As of midday local time today, Friday, the Kurdish YPG were still fighting enclaves of Islamic State fighters embedded in Kobane City.
The death toll had also escalated with as many as 146 dead and 200 injured (some sources putting it even higher), the vast majority civilians including the elderly, and women and children.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) described it as the second worst IS massacre in Syria since they declared their “Caliphate”. Many of the injured remain critical.
Latest reports say that 80 Kurds trapped in the districts of Şehid Moro, Mektele and Kaniya Kurda have now been freed and the last remnants of the IS Jihadist attacking force are holed up in buildings that were damaged in battles last winter.
However, the IS fighters are still holding hostages at 3 locations: a house near Mishtenur Hospital, a house near the town’s cultural centre and a home close to the Mahdathe school.
Some Kurdsih hostages held in a 4th location, a restaurant, have been released and their IS captors killed.
Reports on the original attack are still confused, with many still accusing Turkey as complicit in the attack or allowing it to happen – though there is no definitive proof of that.
The attack started at around 4.40am Kobane local time when 5 vehicles entered the centre of the city from the west and one of them exploded near the Mursitpinar border crossing into Turkey, the site of a similar attack some months ago.
The explosion was captured on CCTV footage from a camera on the Turkish side of the border, here:
The reason that this IS force was able to penetrate into the heart of Kobane is that they had shaved off their beards and were wearing YPG and FSA uniforms. Their vehicles were also decked out with Burkhat Al-Firat, YPG and FSA flags. Burkhat Al-Firat (“Euphrates Volcano”) is the combined force fighting the Islamic State.
Following the primary suicide bomb attack at the frontier gate, the IS Jihadists then attempted to take control of the Kaniya Kurda neighbourhood, the Doctors without Borders Hospital, the Botan district and the Reshad Mosque.
With the Jihadist group were many snipers who then proceeded to shoot randomly at anybody on the street and who also broke into a number of homes wiping out entire families.
The YPG/YPJ quickly surrounded the attacking IS fighters and kill their core group but other individuals and bands of attackers managed to establish footholds in previously destroyed buildings and Mishtenur Hospital.
While fighting was taking place another vehicle bomb was exploded near the frontier gate and there are also unconfirmed reports of a third.
Estimates suggest the IS attacking force numbers 30 or 40 men. There are also unconfirmed reports that 300 Jihadists who escaped from Tal Abyad are now in Jarablous, west of the Euphrates, and some of the attackers may be a remnant of that force.
Many of the civilians wounded in Kobane have been shipped across the border to hospitals in Turkey, while hundreds of others (uninjured) slept on the ground near the frontier, too terrified to return home, here:
Concurrent with the primary attack on Kobane early on Thursday morning, the IS Jihadists attacked the village of Berxbatan (Barkh Butan), at 5.30am on Thursday morning, as reported previously, on Kobane Canton’s southern frontier.
The death toll there is now reported as 33 villagers, many of them having been beheaded, and at least 15 wounded. The nearby village of Zerik and a hill at Sevê were also attacked, but as many as 30 x IS fighters were reported killed in the ensuing gun battles with the YPG in the area.
Many are now seeing the IS attack as revenge for the capture of by Kurdish forces of Tal Abyad and Ain Issa and for getting “far too close” to their “Syrian capital” of Raqqah.
(EDITOR: I doubt if the Kurds will be deterred. With the help of the FSA and the Coalition they will, hopefully, be spurred on to wipe this dreadful evil from the Earth.
IS related attacks have also been reported today, Friday, in France, Kuwait and Tunisia.)
Between Ain Issa and Raqqah the YPG have also confirmed that they have control of the main road and have liberated 2 villages near the Belikh water tower.
6 x IS Jihadists were killed and weapons and ammunition captured in the clashes.
France24 has a report and commentary on events in Kobane over the last 24 hours.
In Hasakah city, the Islamic State are reported to have taken control of the “petroleum barrier” to the east of the city as well as the southern districts they took hold of yesterday.
There are also unconfirmed reports that they have been aided by defectors from Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF), who cleared the way for the Jihadists entrance into the city. (Reports of armed conflict between elements of the NDF and Assad’s regular troops have been reported on several occasions.)
Between 50,000 and 60,000 local residents in Hasakah are said to have fled the city, 10,000 of them heading northwards towards the Turkish border. All of which makes a nonsense of the Syrian Government’s claims, published on state media, that “Hasakah is safe” and the situation there is “stable”.
You can read more, HERE:
So far the Coalition has not got involved in helping the Assad regime defend against the Islamic State, but if Government areas in the Hasakah fall, will they come to the aid of the YPG defending the northern Kurdish districts in the city? Time will tell.
In the very south of Syria, the Opposition coalition, the Southern Front, have launched a major campaign to try and capture the city of Daraa, where the Syrian revolution began in 2011 when some children were arrested and tortured after putting up anti-Assad graffiti.
Due to have been launched early on Wednesday, it was delayed 24 hours to let more civilians flee the city.
Currently the campaign, called “Southern Storm”, is targeting Assad regime forces inside the city with mortar rounds and artillery and directing heavy fire on troop concentrations near Atma a few kilometres north of the city.
A direct hit on a power station to the north of Daraa has cut electricity supplies.
Assad’s Air Force has retaliated with between 60 and 70 barrel-bomb attacks in the last 36 hours on Opposition-held villages in the province.
3 shells also landed in the Jordanian border town of Ramtha, killing 1 man and injuring 4 more.
Reports yesterday said that the Opposition had taken 5 checkpoints and were very near the National Hospital in Daraa and a key roundabout, but they have met stiff resistance.
34 Opposition fighters and a similar number on the regime side were reported killed in the first 24 hours, including 2 brigadier generals.
However, the Opposition, a coalition of 51 brigades, many aligned to the FSA, seem very well equipped and prepared for a long battle if necessary.
They prepare for battle, [EDITOR: Commander has very nice hair! :)] HERE:
Lastly, more footage of heavy fighting but with the funniest/most over-produced intro of the year! HERE:
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 106: ISLAMIC STATE IN NEW ATTACK ON KOBANE CITY OVERNIGHT – MANY DEAD AND WOUNDED:
TIMELINE – 25th JUNE 2015 08.48 GMT – UPDATED 11.59 GMT:
In an audacious attack on Kobane city last night, just after midnight, Islamic State (IS) Jihadists exploded a suicide vehicle bomb near the border crossing with Turkey and then penetrated the Garmarg district of the Kobane Canton capital.
Information is currently sketchy and confused, but 15 people are reported dead according to medics and 70 injured.
Fighting has continued this morning, Thursday, and there are still bodies in the streets.
Some reports say that the vehicle bomb crossed from Turkey (though the border crossing would have been closed at that time of night).
Turkey has denied this and says they came from Jarablous – though that begs the question “how did they get across the Euphrates”?
Other reports say that Kobane city was attacked from 3 sides and the main IS force was wearing stolen FSA and YPG uniforms from the combined Burkan al-Firat brigade that has been so effective in attacking the Islamic State.
One report says there were 3 vehicle bombs but the YPG destroyed 2 before they exploded.
Around 3,000 Kurds are reported to have been expelled from the IS HQ at Raqqah yesterday, Wednesday, and there are suggestions that some IS fighters had disguised themselves among the crowd of refugees moving northwards towards Kobane.
However, the Islamic State have no supply chain or available reinforcements to sustain this attack and it will be seen as a PR stunt to try and show that IS are an “effective” fighting force and still capable of surprises. The YPG are fully expected to have the situation under control very soon.
Simultaneously, IS also launched an attack last night on Hasakah city, mainly hitting Assad’s forces in the southern half of the city. Latest reports suggest that the regime has lost control of the south-western districts of the city at Al- Nashwa and Al- Shari’ah. 30 Assad troops are reported dead in the fighting and 20 from IS. YPG fighters in the north of the city remain on high alert.
In later reports midday GMT Thursday, IS fighters are also said to have entered the village of Barkh Butan, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Kobane, and executed 23 villagers. including women and children. The YPG and Coalition aircraft have reacted to the invasion and 5 x IS Jihadists are said to have been killed in clashes with local people.
Meanwhile, the genuine combined YPG/FSA force is now reported south of Ain Issa at Khirbit Hadla, just 35 kilometres north of Raqqah.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 105: YPG/FSA LIBERATE AIN ISSA FROM ISLAMIC STATE CONTROL – NOW JUST 50 KILOMETRES FROM RAQQAH
TIMELINE – 24th JUNE 2015 12.26 GMT:
Having captured Brigade Base 93 on Monday (scroll down – see below), the combined Kurdish YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) force drove the Islamic State out of the nearby town of Ain Issa yesterday afternoon, Tuesday.
The attack was led by combined units coming from Kobane Canton and along the way they took over numerous villages in the Ain Issa area, including Şêradê, Eğlik, Hoşên, Şerdik, El Manad, El Imad, Masura, Xalidiyê, Sersûh, Ewidiyê and Ewidana (two distinct locations).
In the battles an IS pick-up with a mounted heavy machine gun and 6 unarmed IS vehicles were destroyed and at least 15 x IS Jihadists killed.
A cache of 7 x AK-47s and 6 RPG rocket launchers was also seized.
YPG units coming from Cizire Canton simultaneously removed IS from some grain silos at Elî Beceliyê, 8 kilometres to the north-east of Ain Issa, as well as capturing another nearby village.
At the village of Til Hemama Tirkmena, IS attempted a suicide vehicle bomb attack but the VBIED was detected before it could be fully deployed and destroyed by the YPG, killing 2 of its IS operatives.
However, the vehicle was packed with so much explosive the ensuing blast injured 2 members of the YPG, even though they were some distance away.
The same Cizire Canton based YPG units also liberated another 4 villages in the same area, but the villages are so far unnamed.
Reports say that some fighting in the town of Ain Issa continues after a band of IS Jihadists came out from their hiding place to attack the Kurdish fighters. Skirmishes and de-mining operations are also underway on the perimeter of the town and in surrounding villages. Footage of the capture of Ain Issa is, HERE:
The capture of Ain Issa puts the YPG/FSA force just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the so-called IS capital in Syria, Raqqah.
However, whether the Kurds want to take on that battle remains to be seen, even with Coalition airstrike assistance.
Raqqah is a large, well-defended city and recently more ditches and banks have been added to the northern defensive line.
Other reports say that Kurdish residents of Raqqah have been given 72 hours to leave in the direction of Homs or Palmyra, though later information suggests that, ominously, the women have been separated from the men as they leave the city.
The main prize for the YPG in taking Ain Issa is that their presence there blocks the main highway and IS supply route between Aleppo and Hasakah provinces.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 7 airstrikes in Syria on Sunday through to Monday am, 5 of them in the Tal Abyad area.
3 x IS fighting positions were destroyed as well as an IS vehicle and 1 large plus 4 small tactical units hit.
Unofficial local reports say that 26 x IS Jihadists were killed by Coalition airstrikes at Base 93 on Monday.
3 further Coalition airstrikes on Monday through to Tuesday am hit another 3 tactical units, an IS fighting position, an IS heavy machine gun and an IS vehicle, all near Tal Abyad.
This video shows recent YPG operations against the Islamic State in Kobane Canton, (though you will have to forgive the over-dramatic music!) HERE:
Over in Kobane city itself, a Kobane police force wearing a new uniform has appeared and for the first time citizens have been invited to return.
In Hasakah city, where both the Assad regime and the YPG have a presence, 3 x IS suicide bombers blew themselves up near a Syrian Army barracks yesterday, killing 10 pro-Assad fighters and injuring many more. A similar IS attack in the north of the city also targeted YPG areas, though casualties are currently unknown.
Map of the Ain Issa area and northern Syria against the Turkish border, courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War, here:
Also a Ain Issa/Rojava Tactical Map from @Chuckpfarrer dated 23.06.15, just before the fall of the town, here:
KOBANE/CIZIRE NEWS 104: TURKS AGREE TO OPEN 2 BORDER CROSSINGS, WHILE YPG/FSA MARCHES ON IS IN AIN ISSA:
TIMELINE – 22nd JUNE 2015 18.40 GMT:
Near Cizire Canton, moving south-west of Silûk, joint YPG/FSA forces liberated the village of Demîşliyê yesterday, Sunday, but Islamic State (IS) fighters remaining in the area triggered a roadside bomb against a passing civilian vehicle, killing 1 and injuring 4 more.
And on Saturday, a YPG unit neutralising mines and IEDs in the Til Hemam area had two of their men injured in another explosion, though both the villages of Til Hemama and Til Hemam Tirkmena were liberated.
The operation to drive IS as far away as possible from Tel Abyad (Girê Spî) continued this morning, Monday, with Kurdish forces capturing the villages of Zenbaq and Elî Beceliyê, as well as 5 nearby farms.
In another operation south of Tel Abyad on Saturday, YPG and FSA units coming eastwards from Kobane Canton liberated the villages of Etşanê, Ebûneytûnê, Kulêh, Girana Biçuk and Maharâ Şerki, although 1 FSA fighter was killed, as well as 4 IS Jihadists.
4 AK-47s, 1 RPG rocket launcher, 4 ammunition vests, a radio and an IS truck were also seized in the encounter.
On Friday night to the south of Silûk, YPG/YPJ units from Cizire Canton freed the village of Khatun and 5 nearby farms from IS control and by Saturday morning the village of Um El Beramîl as well.
On the same evening YPG units from Kobane Canton freed Ebû Hiseynî, Mahîrê and Rawya, seizing another rocket launcher and rockets, plus other weapons.
Also on Friday night IS launched an attack on the southern front in Kobane Canton against the village of Sina but were eventually forced to withdraw with the death of at least 1 x IS fighter.
Latest fighting, today is around Ali Bajila, 16 kilometres south of Tal Abyad and north and west of Ain Issa. The FSA brigade, Liwa Thuwwar Al-Raqqah also announced today that it had secured Brigade Base 93 from IS control
Base 93 lies to the south-west of Ain Issa, leaving the IS-held town surrounded on 3 sides. This and rapidly rising prices since the fall of Tal Abyad has caused thousands to quickly evacuate the town in the face of the impending clash between the Islamic State and the YPG/FSA force. Ain Issa is just 56 kilometres from Raqqah.
At the weekend, members of the Kobane Executive Assembly visited Tal Abyad and after talks with local people said they would do all they can to help the people of Girê Spî (Tal Abyad) lead a life in peace and safety.
“We will enable them to establish their own assemblies and institutions. All peoples will live together and in fraternity in this town”, said Enwer Muslim, President of the Executive.
At the same time, the Turkish authorities have today opened the border crossing and 2,000 citizens of Tal Abyad are said to have already returned to their homes.
The Arab citizens who returned on Friday seemed pretty happy to be able to come back home so quickly, HERE:
CNN has also published video footage of a report from an IS security building in Tal Abyad (if you can stand the short Ad!), and a report today, Monday says that the YPG have discovered an incomplete 400 metre tunnel near the town running under the Turkish border, perhaps explaining why foreign IS fighters have been able to get into (and out of!) Syria from Turkey so easily.
Despite opening the border crossing, The Turkish Government continues to act angrily to the Kurdish victory in Tal Abyad, warning the YPG not to “cross Turkey’s red lines in Syria” (EDITOR: Whatever they are?). The pro- Government Turkish press, across a number of publications, even proclaimed that the YPG’s political arm, the PYD, was “even more dangerous that the Islamic State”!
But perhaps this is more posturing than real anger or fear. Over in Kobane city it has also been announced that the Turks will also be opening the frontier there on Mondays and Thursdays to allow people to cross from both sides. Civilians from Rojava will need an ID or a passport to cross the frontier as well as Kobane security force approval.
Other signs of progress are the opening of the first of a chain of clinics in Shiran yesterday, Sunday, to provide health services across Kobane Canton and the arrival of yet more heavy military equipment from Cizire to support the Kobane YPG in their fight against IS.
Also another familiar figure, the former YPJ fighter with the cheeky face known as Dijle, seen here with a T-shirt with her image on it, is now working for the Kobane Administration.
The Coalition continue to support the YPG/FSA advance, especially south of Tal Abyad, with US Central Command (Centcom) saying they have made 9 airstrikes in Syria between last Friday and Sunday morning.
In locations not far from Tal Abyad 5 x IS fighting positions were destroyed during this time frame and an IS heavy machine gun and 6 x IS tactical units hit.
2 airstrikes near Raqqah destroyed 2 x IS vehicles and a motorcycle and 3 x IS fighting positions were destroyed near Hasakah.
In Hasakah province fighting has broken out again between the YPG and Assad’s forces in Qamishli.
Heavy shelling is reported in the Arbewya neighbourhood and clashes in the industrial sector of the city and near the Al-Bashir mosque. An IS suicide bomb attack is also reported on the headquarters of the Asayish, Kurdish Security.
EDITOR: Lastly, I have just come across this YPJ marching song on video, even though it was apparently published last February. Enjoy!
OPPOSITION ADVANCE IN QUNEITRA, ALEPPO AND IDLIB, WHILE ASSAD DEMOLISHES 500 HOMES TO DEFEND DAMASCUS:
TIMELINE – 19th JUNE 2015 18.32 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.37 GMT:
This week, two of Syria’s Opposition groups launched new campaigns against the Assad regime in southern Quneitra province.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) aligned Southern Front has attacked regime positions not far from Quneitra city at Tel Al-Buzaq, Tell Kroum, Jaba and Tel Shaar.
Quneitra city is largely empty after it was abandoned following the 7 Day War with Israel and the Opposition will be turning their attention to Ba’ath city, the new provincial capital, the town of Khan Arnba and the Liwa 90 Army base.
Capturing all of these would effectively remove the Assad regime from the province.
The Syrian Government claims it has beaten back the assault, “killing 200 terrorists”, but this does not square with reports on the ground or from Israel where the Iraeli Defence Force (IDF) are able to watch events from the Golan Heights.
To the north of Quneitra province near Mount Hermon, a second Opposition grouping of Islamic brigades and including the Al-Nusra Front, have surrounded the Druze village of Al-Hadar and captured a nearby hilltop.
After taking control of Tulul Al-Humur the Opposition also gained a stock of regime SA-7 Manpads ground-to-air missile units.
This area of Quneitra is seen as the first line of defence for Damascus city and if the Opposition overrun it, it will mean that it can supply the areas they still control in Western Ghouta, south of the Syrian capital.
In Aleppo city, Opposition fighters have this week captured all of western Al-Rashidin district and parts of the Al Jazira area which surrounds Assad’s Aleppo Military Research Centre. A report from the area, (Arabic only) is, HERE:
Latest reports suggest that the Opposition are also advancing in Aleppo’s western Khalidiya district, HERE: and once again attacking regime positions due north of Aleppo city in the village of Bashkoy.
And in Idlib province the Opposition took the village of Ziyadah Qibliyah earlier in the week from where they are in a good position to attack the regime positions around the Thermal Power Plant on the Ghab Plain, HERE:
In the south-west of Idlib province, this footage shows interesting action with a night-camera, HERE:
In Latakia province, the Opposition made this fine hit on a regime outpost with a recoilless gun, HERE:
While in Damascus there are even more signs that the Assad regime is preparing for retreat from outlying provinces and for the defence of the capital. On Monday and Tuesday around 500 homes in Darraya near the Mezze airbase were demolished.
Activists said the homes were destroyed in the neighbourhoods of Khaleej, Corniche Al-Jadeed and Mashraq and the destruction included the demolition of 5 mosques.
50,000 people used to live in the quarter, where the Al-Sadeq al-Amin mosque and the Sharaf Specialized Surgical Hospital, as well as several nurseries and schools, were.
Residents have been evicted en-masse and sent outside Damascus or have fled abroad.
Darraya district, which is still controlled mainly by the Opposition though under siege for 2 years, is 8 miles to the south-west of the capital and very near a cluster of Army bases. You can read more in NOW Media.
NOW also reports on how the Druze minority in Syria now find themselves, as a Shia offshoot sect, between “ a rock and a hard place”. If they don’t follow Assad’s Shia Alawites who will defend them? If they do follow Assad he is most likely to just use them as “cannon-fodder”. You can read more, HERE:
The BBC reports on how many Afghan families are in distress not knowing what has happened to their loved-ones. Many travel to Iran looking for work but end up being paid to go to Syria and fight Assad’s war – and never return.
At the UN General Assembly yesterday, Thursday, more than 70 countries signed a letter to the UN Security Council demanding an end to Assad’s use of barrel-bombs and in Cairo on Wednesday Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is reported to have told a visiting delegation from Lebanon headed by their Prime Minister, Tammam Salam, to “brace themselves” and be ready “for the fall of Assad”.
(EDITOR: We all sincerely hope so – as soon as possible!)
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 103: YPG/FSA PUSH ON FURTHER SOUTH TO SECURE ROJAVA, WHILE LINK-UP ALLOWS MAJOR SUPPLIES TO ARRIVE IN KOBANE CITY:
In an operation to make Cizire and Kobane even more secure from Islamic State (IS) incursion, the YPG launched an operation on Wednesday evening from 2 directons going southwards from Silûk to tighten its hold on the M4 highway and roads coming northwards from Ain Issa and Raqqah.
Yesterday the YPG liberated the village of Qantariyê and further to the west Faraj and another unnamed village.
An IS military vehicle was destroyed in the operation and 5 x IS Jihadists were killed.
Also in the last 48 hours the Combined YPG/FSA force has liberated the villages of Sekhra, Khazuga, Til Tewîla, Ca’fer, Bîr Etîyê, Genterî, Tirwazîye, 15 more unnamed villages and an electricity sub-station on the M4 highway.
25 x IS fighters are recorded killed in these battles and 4 members of the YPG/YPJ.
12 kilometres to the south of Silûk near Nevala Hutê the YPG have also discovered a mass grave of IS executed victims.
IS launched an attack on YPG positions at Sikêniyê, south-east of Tel Berak on Thursday night but after a counter-attack 2 x IS Jihadists were killed and the rest driven back.
Not surprisingly, morale among IS fighters is reported to be low and while they are taking defensive measures, for example digging in along the canals north of Sharakak, it is clear they are not the fighting force they were once thought to be.
The Huffington Post interviewed former residents of Tel Abyad, now resident in Turkey, at least temporarily, about life under the Islamic State and their mixed responses are interesting and worth reading.
In this video an FSA commander of the Liwa AL-Tahrir brigade fighting with the Kurds in their joint YPG/FSA force responds to the accusations of “ethnic cleansing”, (English subtitles), here:
There is also an interview with a YPG commander, Bilal Rojava, on the same subject, HERE:
Al-Monitor has a long but interesting interview with a Turk who got drawn into fighting for the Islamic State but was recently injured and captured by the YPG. He goes into great detail about the whole IS operation, HERE:
Between last Monday and this morning, Friday, US Central Command (Centcom) reports 21 airstrikes in Syria, 14 of them near Tal Abyad, Hasakah or in Kobane Canton.
Altogether in those locations the Coalition destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions, 6 vehicles and an excavator, 2 x IS tunnel systems, 2 x IS antenna arrays, 1 heavy machine gun, 1 x IS mortar position and an IS weapons manufacturing building.
The Coalition also hit 3 large IS tactical units and 7 others of varying sizes.
The unification of Kobane and Cizire Cantons led to more celebrations and a big parade in Kobane this week, with more YPG fighters meeting old friends from the opposite Canton, HERE:
The clearing of roads between Cizire and Kobane has also led to a convoy of trucks and tankers driving to Kobane city bringing fuel and food supplies, HERE: plus some heavy armoured vehicles and tanks captured from IS in Cizire Canton.
For more excellent photographs by Maryam Ashrafi of the YPJ like the one on this page, go HERE:
Rojava Situation Map for 18.06.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 102: YPG/FSA TURN THEIR ATTENTION BACK ON SARRIN, WHILE YPG CLASH WITH ASSAD REGIME IN QAMISHLI:
TIMELINE – 17th JUNE 2015 16.17 GMT:
In Kobane city and across the 3 Kurdish Cantons in northern Syria of Afrin, Kobane and Cizire, citizens celebrated yesterday the joint YPG/YPJ and FSA victory in Tal Abyad.
Footage from Kobane city shows celebratory gunfire and YPG/YPJ fighters welcomed back into the city, HERE: and YPG fighters from both Kobane and Cizire met in several places now that there is free passage across the 2 Cantons.
In fact it only took 5 weeks to link the 2 Cantons across a 110 kilometres, remarkable when you consider how close Kobane city came to falling into the hands of the Islamic State (IS).
Effectively, the Kurds now control an uninterrupted 400 kilometres along the Turkish frontier.
The YPG were aided in their devastating fight back against IS by the support of units of the FSA and Coalition airstrikes.
A US Pentagon spokesman said that the Tel Abyad advance was “a great example of the combination of airpower – devastating airpower – along with seasoned, trained and capable ground forces”.
The spokesman went on to point out that IS fighters had just cracked at the end and no longer seemed interested in fighting, which seems to have been the case.
Some of the IS fighters just surrendered after 3 days of clashes, some ran across the border into Turkey and others fled into the villages west and south-west of Tal Abyad.
As a result, the YPG asked the people of the villages of Doghanit Amshan, Doghanit Al- Sadiq, al- Manara, Hamam Al- Turkman Shmali, Hamam Turkman Janobi, Kormazat, Jahjah, Al- Bouz, Al- Zanabeq and Al- Qaysariyya to evacuate their homes while the Kurdish fighters cleared any IS Jihadists still hiding there and neutralised any mines or booby-traps.
Latest reports, today, Wednesday, say that YPG/YPJ units have found 15 more dead IS Jihadist bodies in the Tal Abyad (Girê Spî in Kurdish) countryside and recovered 36 Ak-47s, 3 PK machine guns, a rocket launcher and rockets, 20 hand grenades, radio equipment, 2 military vehicles and a large supply of ammunition.
Altogether, around 23,000 people, mainly Arabic and Turkmen families, fled to Turkey in the face of fierce fighting between the YPG/FSA and IS.
This, and an incident at the village of Mankali, where some residents seem to have been unnecessarily displaced, have led to accusations from some quarters of “ethnic cleansing”, forgetting that Kurds were driven out of their homes in the very same villages in the 1960’s.
Nisrin Abdullah, a YPG commander, has said that any YPG forceably removing villagers from their homes will be punished, and all those from the villages mentioned above have been promised that they can return home once their houses have been confirmed as “IS free”.
200 Arab residents of Tal Abyad, who earlier fled to Turkey, were in fact allowed back across the Turkish border this morning, Wednesday, saying they would rather go home than live in a foreign country as refugees.
Bizarely, now it is almost completely over, Assad regime warplanes were also reported yesterday bombing west of Tal Abyad, but no casualties have so far been recorded.
(EDITOR: No doubt SANA, the Syrian state media, will now say they “helped the Kurds drive out the Islamic State from Tal Abyad”!)
Recent video footage from Tal Abyad, putting up the flags (Kurdish only), HERE:
Jaysh al-Thuwar, one of the FSA brigades involved in the capture of Tal Abayd, have now withdrawn some of their fighters and sent them to reinforce the FSA positions near Ain Issa in Raqqah province.
Joint YPG/FSA forces have also reinforced their positions around Sarrin in south-west Kobane Canton, where IS are still holding the town and also the grain silos to the north and the village of Dhar Al-Khab. IS are said to still be bringing in supplies and men from Raqqah and across the Euphrates, even though the YPG/FSA force have the town surrounded on 3 sides.
The latest Situation Map from south-west Kobane Canton, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, is here:
The BBC in an article asks if Tal Abyad and other recent successes are a turning point for the YPG or whether its association with the PKK, still listed as a “terrorist organisation” by some countries, including the US, the EU and Turkey, will continue to hold it back?
In the north-east sector of Cizire Canton at Qamishli in Hasakah province, tensions errupted on Monday through into Tuesday when Kurdish security, the Asayish, arrested 20 of Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF) members who had penetrated the Kurdish part of the city.
The regime military, who still have an isolated presence in the city, retaliated by arresting a number of Kurds, leading to heavy clashes and the YPG seizing the railway station, an army barracks, 2 prisons and YPG fighters stamping on regime flags removed from buildings.
Fortunately, no-one was hurt and things seem to have calmed down again, but it is indicative of the uneasy presence that the Assad regime still has in Qamishli and Hasakah cities.
(EDITOR: Surely, especially as the YPG is often working closely with the FSA to expel IS from the north of Syria, it is only a matter of time before Assad’s forces are driven out too?)
ROJAVA UPDATE 101: YPG/FSA NOW IN CONTROL OF ALL OF TAL ABYAD UP TO BORDER GATE – MOPPING UP OPERATIONS CONTINUE:
TIMELINE – 16th JUNE 2015 07.57 GMT:
The combined Kurdish YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) force have now taken control of the whole of Tal Abyad, though mopping up operations continue to find any Islamic State (IS) Jihadists still in hiding.
Jubilant fighters, flying the Syrian Opposition flag, were seen at the frontier crossing into Turkey, HERE:
(EDITOR: The reason why the YPG/YPJ and their flags are not present, may be a deliberate diplomatic move to placate the Turks who continue to have a problem with the YPG and its political wing, the PYD, having direct access to its frontier.)
A substantial number of IS fighters were captured by the Kurds in the town but some others escaped either across the border into Turkey or southwards towards Ain Issa.
However, reliable reports say that at least 40 were killed when their convoy was attacked by Coalition jets.
Others are reported to have made it through to Ain Issa, where the Kurds have now turned their attention.
The Kurds have now also stepped up the campaign to capture Sarrin in south-west Kobane Canton and the grain silos to the north of the town.
In addition, the YPG has brought in reinforcements from both Kobane and Cizire Cantons to harden the blockade of the road between Raqqah and Tal Abyad and to prevent any attempt by the Islamic State to reopen what was one of their major supply routes.
The hero of the day, Binhari Kendal, who commanded a Kurdish/FSA force of 4,000 men and women to capture Tal Abayd. Respect!:
The BBC has an expanded report.
UPDATE 100: KOBANE AND CIZIRE CANTONS LINKED FOR THE FIRST TIME AS JOINT YPG/FSA FIGHTING FORCE ARRIVES 1 KILOMETRE FROM TURKISH BORDER AT TAL ABAYAD:
TIMELINE – 15th JUNE 2015 13.22 GMT – UPDATED 16.47 GMT:
In an historic moment, Kurdish forces from the YPG and YPJ, supported by units of the Free Syrian Army (Burkan Al Firat ), met south of Tal Abyad in northern Syria yesterday, effectively joining the Cantons of Kobane and Cizire for the first time. The meeting – the video, HERE:
Over the weekend, the Kurdish forces coming from Kobane Canton in the west and Cizire Canton in east both made rapid gains driving out Islamic State units from villages from around Tal Abyad and Siluk.
Siluk was surrounded on Saturday and since then the main IS force has retreated from the completely, while the YPG search for the last remnants of IS Jihadists hiding in tunnels beneath the town.
Reports say that more than 40 x IS Jihadists have so far been killed in fighting for control of Siluk and surrounding villages.
Thousands of people, mainly Sunni Arabs, have also fled to the Turkish border in the last 10 days as both the Kurdish fighters and Coalition airstrikes get closer to the frontier.
Turkey has alternately kept the border crossing at Tal Abyad deliberately closed and then opened it for short periods, but sometimes using water cannon and pepper spray to hold back people desperate to get away from the fighting. So far around 20,000 have been allowed to cross.
Both the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and 13 Islamic brigades fighting Assad have accused the YPG of “ethnic cleansing” but there is so far no evidence for this. Erdogan is nervous about Kurdish settlement all along his border as he sees the YPG as part of the YPD, which in turn is aligned with the Kurdish PKK which has fought Turkey for years for independence.
What seems to be happening is that Arab families, mainly Sunni, that have been living under IS control, fled towards Turkey, abandoning their homes and villages, while IS fighters have been photographed near the border trying to turn them back to Tal Abyad.
The YPG, which is supported by FSA (Sunni Arab) units, has said that local people have nothing to fear and are entitled to remain in their homes. Video footage shows thousands waiting near the border fence to get across into Turkey where many have families and relatives, HERE:
Despite IS leaving a large quantity of mines at Siluk and destroying or booby-trapping 2 bridges over the Salola River on the approaches to Tal Abyad, the advance of the YPG has been relentless.
The rivers were shallow enough for them to wade across and over the weekend the Kurdish units liberated more than 45 villages from IS control.
This map was published over the weekend, courtesy of @KovanDire, before the YPG closed the gap completely:
Yesterday, Sunday, YPG forces from Cizire Canton entered Tal Abyad from the east and this morning, Monday, 3 Kurdish tanks positioned themselves in the eastern suburbs.
Latest reports say the Cizire force, after fighting throughout the night, is just 1 kilometre from the border crossing into Turkey and the Kobane YPG force just 2 -3 kilometres away coming from the west. From Turkey smoke has been seen rising from Tal Abyad across the border, HERE:
(EDITOR: Rather a neat twist on similar scenes from Turkey when the Islamic State besieged Kobane!)
Footage of the YPG on the outskirts of Tal Abyad is HERE:
Kurdish forces are also fighting at Ain Issa further south in order to completely cut the Islamic State’s route from Tal Abyad to Raqqah. Tal Abyad has been a useful conduit for for IS bringing in foreign fighters and supplies and exporting illicit oil into Turkey. For the moment at least IS can still use a border crossing in Aleppo province when Tal Abyad falls, though some unconfirmed reports say that as many as 600 IS fighters are still trapped in Tal Abyad itself.
The first joint operations of the YPG from both Kobane and Cizire Cantons are now taking place around Tal Abyad and they are communicating with one another on the radio. Airstrikes from the Coalition have also been useful, one reportedly hitting an IS ammunition depot in Tel Abyad, an enormous blast followed by secondary explosions.
As they pull out of Tal Abyad, IS are destroying some Kurdish houses (12,000 Kurds lived there at one time), including this Kurdish Culture House, (villain runs away, followed by long wait and Boom!) HERE:
Since the beginning of May, the YPG/YPJ have wrested back more than 200 Kurdish and Christian towns in north-east Syria from IS control.
On Friday through to last Saturday, north and east of Siluk the YPG liberated Derdo, Rezakî, Qellaç, Rafah, Qnêtra, Xwêtla, Dara, Renî and 8 farms.
In that operation 9 x IS Jihadists were killed and weapons, ammunition and a motorcycle captured.
Fighting in Cizire Canton also took place on Friday at Um Rus to the south of Til Hemis, with 6 more IS Jihadists killed and stocks of weapons and ammunition seized.
On the south-eastern front of Kobane Canton on Friday the YPG took control of the hill at Girê Dibis and killed another IS fighter in operations on the eastern front at Xirabê Rovî.
As momentum built up on Saturday around Siluk, the Cizire Kurdish forces took the villages of Seîdo, Khashamn, Til Eshq Seîde, Bêjing, Kevok, Enzê, Mishêrfa Shêikh, Îsawî, Ayn al-Arus, plus 20 farms.
Moving from the west at great speed the Kobane Canton YPG on Saturday took control of Frêhan, Hêmira Kurda, Hemira Ereba, Boxa ya Mezin, Boxa ya Biçuk, Rafî, Sikêrat, Im Hiwêş, Nihit, Ebu Zihur, Bedrîa, Ebu Xireze, Xirbet Ebid, Xirbê Elwe, Curîl Xet, Gundê, Cihişa, Seddê, Faris, Eribet Ecil a Mezin, Eribet Ecil and Biçuk û Mebdece.
While many IS fighters were killed in clashes as they retreated, only 1 x YPG death is reported as a result of an exploding IED device. YPG footage from Saturday, here:
US Central Command (Centcom) reports from Syria for the last few days are not location precise but a number of the Kobane/Raqqah strikes are thought to have been in support of the YPG offensive on Tal Abyad.
For Thursday through to Friday am Centcom are reporting 4 airstrikes near Raqqah destroying 3 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle and an IS rocket system, plus hitting a tactical unit. 2 more airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed another IS fighting position and an IS mortar battery, as well as hitting 2 tactical units.
Friday through to Saturday am saw 3 airstrikes in Kobane Canton which destroyed an IS fighting position and hit 3 more tactical units.
Further updates on airstrike activity since then still awaited (though the Coalition have been very busy in Iraq).
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 99: KURDS ADVANCING FROM EAST AND WEST LIBERATE 33 VILLAGES AND 24 FARMS IN 48 HOURS – EASTERN SILUK PENETRATED:
TIMELINE – 12th JUNE 2015 15.15 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.11 GMT:
As the YPG and their allies closed on Silûk on Thursday, Islamic State controlled mosque loudspeakers were heard to tell the remaining residents to evacuate the town, though local reports suggest most have already done so.
Reports are thin on the ground, but latest information suggests that the Kurds have taken around 25% of the town, entering it from the east, north-east and south and driving IS out to the western suburbs.
Silûk lies 15 kilometres south-east of Tel Abyad and the Turkish border in between the Kurdish Cantons of Kobane and Cizire. The “Euphrates Volcano” combined YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces, coming from the west, are now only 27 kilometres from Silûk and 18 from Tel Abyad.
The YPG has reported today, Friday, that their force coming from Cizire Canton to the east has liberated in the last 24 hours the villages of Tabxan, Hos, Daman, Mefer Esala Rojava, Bîr Me’alcê, Mixtar, Semalk, Xanik, Gamiş, Til Saxîr, Til Qilec Xanik, Semal, Za’zu, Ubeyd, Zerawî, Şerîf, Zarafî, Arbîd and 8 farms.
The number of IS Jihadists killed is not clear at the moment but 7 met their deaths when the YPG destroyed 2 vehicles loaded with ammunition and a pick-up truck when they tried to withdraw from the Silûk area.
On Wednesday through to Thursday another 8 villages, Resim, Gulê, Berkevir, Çêlek, Hawiz, Heşîşiyê, Meqer, and Eastern Esal, and 16 farms had also been freed from IS, so clearly the situation is very fast moving. The YPG also seized AK-47s, a machine gun and rockets.
Reports from local sources suggest that the Coalition has attacked 3 x IS sites within Silûk, successfully destroying heavy artillery and made at least 6 airstrikes on IS positions around Tal Abyad, as well as obliterating an IS convoy between Ain Issa and Sharakak heading north towards Tal Abyad.
Elsewhere in Cizire Canton, early this morning, Friday, the Islamic State staged an attack on YPG positions south of Til Berak at the villages of Elî and Ebû Xezalê.
According to local reports the IS Jihadists infiltrated from Assad regime territory near Hasakah and retreated there with their dead and wounded after their incursion had been repulsed. Nearby Haydar and Xizêla came under IS heavy weapons fire but with no casualties immediately reported.
Thousands of people, mainly Arabs rather than Kurds, that normally live in the area between the 2 Cantons have fled across the border into Turkey because of the heavy fighting. Al Jazeera says that Turkish authorities have registered 8,800 refugees, for whom there are no places in camps, in the last week.
On Kobane Canton’s eastern front on Thursday, combined YPG/FSA forces killed 2 x IS Jihadists at Bîrerep and recovered ammunition, weapons and equipment. An earlier fight near the same village on Wednesday had resulted in the death of an estimated 20 x IS fighters and the destruction of an armoured personnel carrier.
On Kobane Canton’s south-eastern front the combined force had liberated by Wednesday evening the villages of Fêleh, Hêymir, Ebû Sirê, Suwahan, Lûtka, Bozê Kerzê and Girê Kêlê and on the southern front IS attempted assaults on Qirat and Sina villages were driven back with the death of 4 more IS Jihadists.
On Kobane’s western front on Wednesday a YPG unit targeted a moving IS vehicle in IS territory on the west bank of the Euphrates River and managed to destroy it, including its occupants.
Local reports also say that IS mosque loudspeakers in Raqqah, IS’s Syrian “capital”, have been urging residents to store food items because of the “circumstances of the war with the FSA.”
US Central Command (Centcom) officially reports 5 airstrikes in Syria on Tuesday through to Wednesday am, one hitting an IS fighter staging area near Hasakah and 3 near Raqqah destroying 3 x IS fighting positions and an IS armoured vehicle as well as hitting 2 x IS tactical units. The fifth strike was on a IS crude oil collection point near Deir Ez-Zour.
On Wednesday through to Thursday am, yesterday, 4 airstrikes destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions in Kobane Canton, plus 2 x IS vehicles, an IS building and an IS mortar firing position. Another 3 x IS tactical units were hit.
During the same time period 4 additional crude oil collection points were hit at Deir Ez-Zour and 7 airstrikes near Raqqah destroyed 7 x IS improvised rocket-assisted munitions, 2 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS resupply points, 2 x IS vehicle bombs, an IS vehicle and an IS vehicle bomb warehouse. 6 x IS tactical units were also hit in the same area.
And over near Hasakah another IS fighting position and a heavy machine gun were destroyed and a further IS tactical position hit. (EDITOR: All in all, a good week’s work Coalition! Well done!)
In Kobane city itself, celebrations on Sunday night over the advance of the Kurdish party, the HDP in the Turkish elections, where they crossed the critical 10% of the vote threshhold and got themselves 80 seats in Parliament, were overshadowed on Thursday by the funeral of Keith Broomfield, 36, from Massachusetts in the US, the first American to join the YPG and who was killed on the battlefield a week ago.
Hundreds of Kurds turned to out honour him for his participation in their war and to send his body back on its journey to his family in the United States. An estimated 400 men from Europe, Australia and North and South America have joined the YPG to fight the Islamic State in the last few months.
The BBC has just interviewed some of them who have completed a tour of duty and are returning to their previous lives. First an interview with “Harry”, a former London city trader – BBC .
Along with Harry from Cambridge in the UK, the BBC also interviewed Jac Holmes from Bournemouth who arrived back in the UK yesterday, Thursday, from Istanbul to be detained by UK police for 3 hours but later released. BBC Syria News.
And interviews with more foreign fighters, HERE:
Lastly, the latest Situation Map for Kobane and Cizire Cantons, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
OPPOSITION ATTACK ON AL-THA’LAH AIRBASE IN SUWEIDA STALLS AFTER CONFLICTS ARISE WITH DRUZE COMMUNITY – ASSAD JET SHOT DOWN:
In southern Syria in Deraa and Suweida provinces, the Opposition having captured the base of Assad’s Brigade 52 are now attacking the Al-Tha’lah airbase, though it is not used as such but as a staging post for Assad’s troops to attack Opposition fighters in Deraa province.
However, the situation seems to have been complicated by the mobilisation of the Druze community, the majority sect in Suweida province. Though the Druze are no great lovers of Assad and their young men will do almost anything to avoid conscription, they also have no wish to be overrun and dominated by another religious sect.
Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese Druze leader who backs the uprising against Assad, has urged the Druze of Suweida to reconcile their differences with the Syrian opposition, while another Druze leader, Sheikh Waheed Balaous, accused the Assad regime of deliberately dropping mortar shells on Suweida city, just at the eastern edge of the airbase, in order to provoke the Druze into attacking the Opposition.
Just to complicate things further, a dispute broke out in north-western Idlib province on Wednesday at the village of Qalb Lozeh, when a Al Nusra Front (ANF) commander tried to commandeer a house belonging to a local Druze leader.
In the subsequent argument an ANF fighter was shot dead and Al Nusra fighters opened fire killing between 20 and 24 Druze villagers including women and children.
While some Druze leaders have described it as an “isolated incident”, the large Druze population in Israel, which is well integrated into the Israeli society and military, is demanding that the Israeli Government arm their brethren in Syria.
As a result of some of these conflicting emotional currents, which the Assad regime will undoubtedly try to exploit, some young Druze men signed up to help Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF) as they sought to hold Al-Tha’lah airbase on the Suweida/Deraa border, thereby stalling the Opposition advance.
Yesterday, came the news that one of Assad’s MIG jets was downed this week in Deraa province near Busra Al-Harir. One of the Opposition brigades is equipped with a Manpad ground to air missile launcher, but it remains unclear whether the plane was brought down by a missile or anti-aircraft fire, HERE: