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

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

SYRIA NEWS: MODERATE OPPOSITION TURN TABLES ON ISLAMIC STATE SOUTH OF DAMASCUS, FORCING THEM TO SURRENDER:

TIMELINE – 23rd JULY 2014 12.57 GMT:

In villages just south of Damascus, there has been an ongoing battle (scroll down – see below) between moderate Opposition fighters and members of the Islamic State (IS -formerly ISIS).

Yesterday, Tuesday, this culminated in the surrender of around 75 IS fighters after the last group of extreme Jihadists believed to be in Damascus province was completely surrounded by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their allies.

SYRIA NEWS

Humanity Becoming Deaf and Blind to the Plight of Syrians?

The surrender was negotiated by the other Jihadist group, the Al-Nusra Front. 20 of the captured IS fighters were reported to be only aged between 14 and 18 years old.

Shortly before the surrender, the leader of the Islamic State fighters in Damascus province, known as Abu Dujani Al-Kuwaiti, blew himself up with a suicide belt. Following this the FSA removed several IED explosive bombs from the captured Islamic State headquarters, HERE:

Elsewhere in Damascus province, the fighting between the Opposition and the Assad regime continued yesterday along the edges of Jobar and the central area of the capital not far from Abbasiyeen Square, with the Government bringing in regular troops and Hezbollah militia to reinforce their positions and the security police headquarters.

The Syrian Army deployed tanks in Abbasiyeen Square and shelled Opposition districts, while the Syrian Air Force pounded Jobar from the air. Opposition fighters in turn fired mortar bombs into regime areas, wounding 18 according to Government sources.

Fighting was concentrated around the Arfe checkpoint, which some reports said had been recaptured by Assad troops, though the current picture is not at all clear. More information awaited.

The Assad regime has also used barrel-bombs and to bombard Hamoryiah, Erbeen, al-Moleha, Saqba, and Beit Jin, all in Damascus province.

In Aleppo, the Government attacks on Opposition areas of the city continue, with many people killed or injured. This video footage shows a child who was trapped under a table along with her mother, but was eventually rescued, (after a short, stupid ad) HERE:

While the Opposition fighters continue to monitor the movements of Assad’s troops in the Najjar industrial area to the north-east of the city, HERE: , Assad’s Air Force has also turned its attentions to the Islamic State (IS), bombing their positions in the IS-held town of Al Bab.

6 children, all from the same family, 3 boys and 3 girls, were also reported killed in an Assad air raid on the village of Wahshiyeh in Aleppo province.

Bashar Al-Assad’s Government has additionally demonstrated a systematic policy of destroying medical facilities, particularly hospital buildings and field hospitals in Opposition-held areas. This interesting animated time lapse map, courtesy of @GinaSBS, shows the widespread destruction of medical centres since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, HERE:

SYRIA NEWS: ASSAD’S TROOPS CAPTURED BY OPPOSITION IN DARAA PROVINCE, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE STARTS TRANS-NATIONAL BUS SERVICE:

In southern Daraa province, Opposition fighters captured around 23 Syrian Army soldiers on the frontline for the battle for Nawa, HERE:

Many of Assad’s troops have also been killed by IED explosive devices laid by Opposition brigades near Sheikh Meskin as the Government soldiers tried to re-inforce their colleagues on the Nawa front.

East-south-east of Nawa, the Opposition destroyed a Government tank on a hill at Harfouch with a TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:

SYRIA NEWS

Enough Suffering!

In Hama province, the Syrian Army failed yet again to take Morek after storming it again yesterday, HERE:, while to the north-west of Hama city, Opposition fighters retook Tel Salba, killing 20 of Assad’s soldiers in the process.

There appears to be a well organised system in Hama province to keep the Opposition frontline troops well fed, (Arabic only), HERE:

In Latakia province, perhaps indicating the pressures that the Assad regime is now under for manpower, thousands of young men who had already completed their military service have been contacted by the military police in Tartous and told to report to the regular army for additional service.

In Hasakah province, ongoing battles between the YPG Kurdish militia and the Islamic State (IS) continue to be reported from the Tal Ma’rouf area and near Terba Sabi, with IS attacking YPG checkpoints with mortars and heavy machine guns.

However, not everyone is “happy” to be under Islamic State control, with demonstrations taking place against IS in the Deir Ez-Zour border town with Iraq of A-Bukamal.

A youth movement called Liwa Qadisiyah (Popular Resistance) called on IS to leave the city, but the demonstration was dispersed after IS fighters opened fire.

More moderate Opposition brigades, who were driven out of the city by the Islamic State, are said to be attempting to exploit the situation.

With the Islamic State in control of many of Syria’s oil wells, particularly in Deir Ez-Zour province in the eastern part of the country, Assad’s Oil Minister, Suleiman Abbas, admitted yesterday that since the outbreak of hostilities 3 years ago the country has lost $21.4 billion in infrastructure damage, lost oil and lost profits.

Optimistically, asked about a new gas project that is due to become operational in August near the Islamic State-held city of Tabaqa, Suleiman said the site was “secure”. Reuters has more on the Islamic State’s hold on Syrian oil supplies.

But that is not the only source of revenue for the Islamic State. Now they even have a bus service that runs from Tal Abayd in Aleppo province in Syria to Anbar province in Iraq – no passport required.

The service runs on Sundays and Wednesdays, a Jihadist flag on top of the bus and a constant stream of Jihadi music inside. Women sit separtely at the back, men in the front. One 26 year old Chechen Jihadist apparently took his new Syrian wife on “honeymoon” to Anbar.

Fares vary depending on the destination and vehicles with armed fighters accompany the bus on its journey. You can read more, HERE:

In Idlib province there is a suggestion that the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) is attempting to carve out territory of its own to form a “state” or “emirate”. After weeks of clashes between ANF and more moderate Opposition groups, ANF have taken control of the northern town of Haram.

Haram, which like a number of towns controlled by ANF in northern Idlib, is not far from the Turkish border and there are fears that the Al-Qaeda aligned group, though not as extreme as IS, will impose its own form of harsh Sharia law on territory which it controls.

There are also reports from Yemen that another Al-Qaeda aligned group has declared an “emirate” there (EDITOR: Clearly the latest fashionable thing to do).

Politically, the Syrian Opposition continues in turmoil, with the sacking of the head of its “interim government”, Ahmad Tohme, and his entire team.

The dawn vote at the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) Generally Assembly sacked Tohme for “poor management”, though it may be as much to do with his closeness to Qatar, while the new SNC President, Hadi al-Bahra, is aligned, like his predecessor, to Saudi Arabia.

The Opposition fighting brigades known as the Islamic Front, also called yesterday for a new SNC backed “Supreme Military Council”, further adding to Opposition confusion.

MORE NEWS FROM IRAQ TO FOLLOW LATER ….

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SYRIA NEWS: OPPOSITION FIGHTERS BREAK OUT OF JOBAR AND GIVE ASSAD A FRIGHT BY ATTACKING CENTRAL DAMASCUS:

TIMELINE – 21st JULY 2014 12.59 GMT:

In a surprise move, Opposition fighters broke out of the suburb of Jobar on Sunday and launched their first major assault in the capital for months, attacking Assad regime checkpoints and advancing towards central parts of Damascus.

Heavy regime losses were reported by Opposition activists as the Opposition fighters threatened Abbasiyeen Square and the Mukhabarat security services headquarters.

The Opposition, who are holding the Arfe checkpoint, are seen firing rocket grenades just 1 kilometre from Abbasiyeen Square, HERE:

Opposition Fighter Readies his Machine Gun Near Idlib

Opposition Fighter Readies his Machine Gun Near Idlib

While is is unlikely the Opposition fighters will remain in the regime normally-held areas, it will undoubtedly draw Assad reinforcements from other positions where they are already known to be short of manpower.

Interestingly, the Opposition in the Ghouta region have also announced the “readiness of an air defense system after tests”.

Quite what this is, is currently unknown, though Opposition fighters did capture a SA-8 Gecko mobile surface to air missile launcher 2 years ago and little has been seen of it since.

South of Damascus, the Opposition are additionally reporting that over the weeekend they have cleared the Islamic State (IS) from the villages of Beit Sahem, Yalda and Babila and as a result the extreme Jihadists fled to Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Tadamon and Qadam where they have a stronger presence.

At dawn today, Monday, the moderate Oppositon fighters, determined to drive them out of the whole Damascus area, attacked Al-Hajar Al-Aswad and Qadam, saying that they are sick of IS abuses, even extending to IS killing their fighters and commanders when they were asleep.

In Raqqah city, where the Islamic State are in complete control, they have been trying to “win hearts and minds” during Ramadan by handing out Zakat, or alms, amounting to 2,000 Syrian pounds (around $12 at current rates) per person, with a total of 20,000 SYP per family.

However, the “gift” comes with conditions. Everyone who takes the money must swear allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and gets an IS date stamp on their identity card. This can be a problem for some, especially those who have to travel to Government held areas to get their civil service wages.

IS has also launched an FM radio station in Raqqah, but the evil of its extreme Islamic “law” was portrayed last Thursday when a widow was accused of “adultery” (probably raped) and stoned to death.

In Hama province, Opposition fighters are reported to have taken a military checkpoint at Al-Salba, killing 20 regime troops, while losing 2 of their own.

Al-Saba is east of Morek, where heavy fighting continues amid reports of the capture of a significant number of pro-Assad fighters and Hezbollah.

In Idlib province, regime forces tried to invade the Opposition-held village of Qmenas, south-east of Idlib city, but were repelled, while further south in the province Opposition fighters used an enormous 200 mm artillery mortar against the Wadi Deif Army base, HERE:

Opposition Break Out of Jobar into Central Damascus

Opposition Break Out of Jobar into Central Damascus

SYRIA NEWS: FOLLOWING HUGE NUMBERS KILLED IN FIGHTING OVER SHAAR GAS FIELD, SYRIA 2 DAY TOTAL REACHES 700 DEAD:

In the desert landscape of eastern Homs province 3 days of fighting have followed the capture of the Shaar gas field by the Islamic State, with latest reports saying that the Government side lost 60 troops in the battles.

Additionally another 270 are thought to have been killed in battle or executed by the Islamists, mainly members of Assad’s National Defence Force, civilians and security guards. At least 40 Islamic State Jihadists have died in the fighting.

SYRIA NEWS

Inhuman Animals of Islamic State Stone A Woman to Death

These extreme numbers bring the total of deaths in Syria last Thursday and Friday to over 700, the highest 2 day figure since records began in March 2011.

In the south of the country in Quneitra province the Opposition forces have advanced on regime forces stationed in Majduliyah village, HERE:  and in adjacent Daraa province figters have shown off the Kornet Anti-tank missile launchers they captured at Sheikh Saad (scroll down – see below).

Dozens of Opposition brigades have also announced this morning, Monday, that they are coming together to finally eliminate the Assad regime from Daraa province.

In Aleppo’s Old City parts of it were still burning Saturday after a heavy airstrike, HERE:, while 7 Opposition fighters and their commander were killed in a barrel-bomb attack on their headquarters in Al-Ansari Al-Sharqi.

At the same time, the Opposition have been attacking Assad’s forces stationed at a cement factory south-west of Aleppo city, HERE: and have resisted an attack by the Islamic State at Akhrareen, where 17 were reported killed yesterday.

The citizens of Aleppo on all sides are continuing to suffer water problems which have been going on for 90 days. Much damage to the system was caused by barrel-bombs, while all involved parties have shown incompetence at getting the pipes, valves and pumps running again. As a result, many of the older wells which people have been relying on have run dry or are contaminated.

IRAQ NEWS: ISLAMIC STATE SEEKS TO CONTROL WATER AND ELECTRICITY IN IRAQ AND EVICTS MONKS FROM NORTHERN HOLY CHRISTIAN SHRINE:

In Iraq, the Islamic State offensive continues with no sign of it abating or being driven back by the failing Iraqi Government forces.

Overnight, 16 people died in 2 Iraqi cities as mortar bombs rained down on Mahmoudiya, 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Baghdad on Sunday night, killing 11 civilians and wounding 31, and in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib where a roadside bomb struck an army patrol, killing two soldiers and three volunteers.

The Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for 2 suicide bombings on Saturday carried out by a German and a Syrian they say, killing 24 in the process near checkpoints in the capital.

An earlier suicide bombing last Thursday near a Baghdad mosque, killing 3 and injuring dozens, was apparently carried out by an 18 year old Australian, a report which authorities in the Australian capital Canberra described as “deeply disturbing”.

As in Syria, the Islamic State in Iraq is carefully trying to seize strategic points such as border crossings and to control supplies of crucial resources such as oil, electricity and water.

In Mosul, residents fled when the Islamic State (IS) cut off water and electricity, but many returned when it was switched back on after the Jihadist take over.

Iraq’s 32 million people rely on the water from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, both of which arise in Turkey and flow southwards across what is now IS controlled territory. IS already have the dams at Falluja and Mosul under their power and are trying to capture the dam at Haditha, which is crucial for the hydro-electricity supply to Baghdad.

Water from the 2 great rivers is vital to life in southern Iraq, while water from Mosul dam is crucial to the survival of Kurdistan in the north. By controlling these resources, IS know that they can manipulate cooperation from their enemies in the long run and support from their friends in the short term. You can read more, HERE:

There are also reports today, Monday, that Iraqi businessmen are sending tanker trucks across the border to the IS controlled oil-fields in the Deir Ez-Zour province of Syria to buy oil at $20 to $40 a barrel – on the international open market it sells at over $100.

IRAQ NEWS

Mar Behnam Monastery, Northern Iraq

The expulsion of Mosul’s Christians by IS over the weekend on pain of death if they remained and did not convert, has been widely condemned throughout the world.

Today, Monday, it has been followed by an Islamic State assault on the 4th century monastery at Mar (Saint) Behnam near Qaraqosh in northern Iraq on Sunday.

According to reports the 5 monks were told, “You have no place here anymore, you have to leave immediately,” and despite pleading to be allowed to take holy relics with them they were denied and forced to leave on foot with nothing but their clothes.

The monks walked several miles along deserted roads and were eventually picked up by Kurdish Peshmerga militia who drove them to Qaraqosh.

Mar Behnam is a major Christian landmark in Iraq and was built by the Assyrian King Sennacherib II as a penance for having his children Behnam and Sarah killed because they had converted to Christianity.

Local people traditionally visit the shrine to pray for healing and fertility.

The United Nations said on Friday that at least 5,576 Iraqi civilians have been killed this year and 11,665 wounded. In June alone, as the Islamic State swept across the country, 1,531 civilians died. More than 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced within Iraq and there are now 2.9 million Syrian refugees living outside Syria, many on Iraqi soil.

Although Iraqi President Jalal Talabani returned from Germany on Saturday after a long spell of illness, the post comes up for re-election soon. Traditionally given to a Kurd to spread the ethnic balance, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has chosen Fuad Masum as its candidate.

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IRAQ NEWS: CHRISTIANS IN MOSUL ORDERED TO CONVERT, LEAVE OR DIE, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE INVADE PERIMETER OF CAMP SPEICHER:

UPDATED 19th JULY 2014 14.59 GMT – ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED TIMELINE – 18th JULY 2014 13.12 GMT:

After Friday prayers in Mosul, the Islamic State issued an ultimatum to Christians in the city, saying that they must either convert to Islam, pay a tax on non-Muslims known as Jiziya, or give up their possessions and property and leave the city. Failure to comply would result in the death penalty as “a last resort”.

The statement was issued after Christian leaders failed to respond to a summons to attend a meeting with the Islamic State. As a result, most of the Christian population of the city, estimated at around 3,000, are said to be leaving as quickly as possible.

Some reports say that the property of those who have already fled has been confiscated and Christian families being stopped at Islamic State checkpoints on the way out are being relieved of money and jewellery.

IRAQ NEWS

Islamic State Destroy the Oldest Church in Mosul

Most of the families affected are heading for relative safety of Dohuk and Erbil in neighbouring Kurdistan.

The main Catholic Church in Mosul was set on fire this morning, Saturday, and completely destroyed.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Consular building in the city is apparently being used as the headquarters of the Islamic State in Mosul, the whereabouts of the Turkish Consul-General and 48 of his staff and their families still unknown.

Both US and Iraqi forces have confirmed that as many as 52 X 155mm M198 artillery howitzers fell into IS hands in their rapid advance across Iraq and hundreds of Humvees. Each of the sophisticated artillery guns is equipped with GPS and have a range of 20 miles. Cost? Around $500,000 a piece!

There are also reports that the Islamic State is giving up the eastern part of Mosul to Naqshbandi forces (former Ba’ath Party members who followed dictator Saddam Hussein), while retaining control over the western half of the city, thereby releasing more of their fighters to travel south to their base at Tikrit.

The extent of the Islamic State’s complete rout of Iraqi Government forces in their attempt to retake Tikrit last week is only now becoming clear, with dozens of soldiers killed, many fleeing and the only support helicopter running out of fuel. A Shia fighter said the “doors of hell” opened as Government troops prepared to raise the Iraqi flag over state buildings.

“The bullets rained on our heads from everywhere and the suicide bombers were throwing themselves from the windows and detonated themselves in the air.” This second failed attempt to regain Tikrit has confirmed the view of military analysts that the Iraqi military on its own will never be able to retake western and northern Iraq.

Courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War, this is the latest visual and detailed ground situation report from Iraq on July 18th:

IRAQ NEWS

Iraq Situation Report July 18th 2014

On Thursday Islamic Front fighters penetrated nearby Camp Speicher, snipers and suicide bombers clearing a path all the way to the runway. Pilots flew out helicopters from the base to save them from destruction, but a Russian model failed to take off and was destroyed. The Government side claim that they killed at least 35 attackers.

IS claim that they had killed many pilots and soldiers, shot 2 helicopters out of the air and burned several aircraft on the ground as well as destroying army vehicles, fuel reserves and communications equipment.

Fighting for complete control of the base is ongoing and its loss would put a severe dent in the Iraqi Government’s already limited capabilities to launch attacks against the Islamic Front in the north of the country.

Elsewhere in Iraq, the Islamic State have launched another attack on Dhuluiya, north-west of Baghdad and to the north-east of the capital clashes are reported around Muqdadiyeh.

South of Baghdad fighting is also reported near Babel with deaths on both sides and an IS suicide bomber killed 6 policemen and wounded 3 more near the Balad airbase not far from the capital.

Unconfirmed reports say that up to 400 Iranian Revolutionary Guards have arrived in Iraq to protect Shia shrines, many of which have already been attacked or destroyed in IS controlled territory.

On the political front, the Iraqi parliament eventually got its act together this week and elected a Speaker, Salim Jabouri, and in a surprise move it was announced that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, who has been in Germany for long term medical treatment since December 2012, is returning home today, Saturday 19th July, to “resume his duties”.

Finally, the new “Caliph” is said to be anti-smoking in all its forms, including the Sheesha water pipe and has ordered its destruction.

Mass Destruction of Sheesha Pipes by IS

Mass Destruction of Sheesha Pipes by IS

SYRIA NEWS: ISLAMIC STATE SEIZE GOVERNMENT GAS FIELD NEAR PALMYRA, WHILE ASSAD ACCUSED OF YET ANOTHER GAS ATTACK

In an audacious move, the Islamic State (IS) Jihadists, using their new found fire power captured in Iraq, yesterday, Thursday, attacked and took control of the Shaar Gas Field in the eastern part of Homs province not far from Palmyra.

As many as 90 – 100 pro-Assad militia, civilian security guards and employees were initially reported killed in the take over with another 340 unaccounted for. Another 30 militia are said to have escaped to the nearby Hajjar field.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Islamic State Fighters Parade in Raqqah, June 30th 2014

25 of those killed are reported to be civilian workers at the plant, while most of those guarding it were members of Assad’s National Defence Force or contractors working for Syria’s Oil Ministry. Gruesome video on the Internet shows the desert landscape at the site littered with dead bodies, some of them mutilated.

The Government state website, SANA, has made no mention of the attack.

The Islamic State, who are said to have lost 12 men in the fight, neutralised 8 checkpoints around the site with suicide bomb attacks before moving in and taking control of the whole gas field.

Latest reports on Saturday, say that IS have killed as many as 270 in fighting or by execution. A counter attack this morning by Government forces is said to have killed 40 IS Jihadists with the loss of another 11 pro-Assad fighters, but they have regained some ground. At least 100 are still missing.

In southern Damascus, there have been protests against the actions of the Islamic State, HERE:, while nearby at Al-Qadam, not far from the Yarmouk camp, there there have been clashes between Opposition  and Government fighters.

According to unconfirmed activist reports, all Opposition fighting groups in Ghouta, east of the capital, will unite into one army and command next week, with other unconfirmed reports claiming that 200 members of Hezbollah have been killed since the start of Ramadan.

In a suburb of Malieha to the north-east of Damascus, Al-Nusra Front carried out a suicide bombing attack using an armoured personnel carrier while at the same time the Assad regime is reported to be raining down a new type of rocket on the town called an “earthquake” or alternatively an “elephant”, HERE:

On Wednesday, Bashar Al-Assad was sworn in as President of Syria for a third 7 year term, telling Western and Arab governments that they will pay a heavy price for “supporting terrorism”.

The much publicised “amnesty” of  “thousands” of political prisoners announced by Assad shortly after his “re-election in early June, has  turned, not unsurprisingly into a bit of a farce. A lawyer working with political detainees in Damascus said releases has not exceeded 1,300 people including ordinary criminal detainees.

Those  released included about 400 people who went before the Anti-Terrorism court, 200 from Sednaya prison, 200 from the security branches, and 150 others from other governorate prisons. Some judges had apparently sent the files of some detainees due to be released under the amnesty back to the public prosecutor, requesting a change to the charges so that would then fall outside the scope of the general amnesty. You can read more from Human Rights Watch.

Yesterday, Opposition fighters repelled yet another attack from Government forces on the town of Morek (Mork) in Hama province, which is key to the route from Hama to Idlib. Following a ground attack the Opposition were hit with 15 airstrikes with significant losses on both sides and the frontline moving backwards and forwards almost hourly.

Trying to destroy the Opposition and their positions in surrounding towns and villages, the Syrian Air Force also hit Kfar Zita for at least the 3rd time with barrel-bombs containing a chlorine like substance that caused severe breathing difficulties in the local population, HERE:

Chlorine, being a widely used chemical in industry, was not listed as part of Assad’s declared stock chemical weapons arsenal, most of which, apart from a few unexplained discrepancies, has now been removed from the country. 200 tons of Syria’s neutralised chemical weapons arrived in the UK earlier this week for final destruction at specialised facilities.

SYRIA NEWS: OPPOSITION DESTROY MORE CHECKPOINTS AROUND LAST REMAINING ASSAD BASES IN IDLIB AND CAPTURE BASE IN DARAA PROVINCE

In Idlib province, the Opposition have moved forward yet again, destroying the Dabaan checkpoint protecting the Wadi Deif Army base and the Hajanak military checkpoint inside the Hamadiya Base, both of which have been under siege for over a year.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The Children of Kafranbel Expression Their Simple Dreams

The resupply of these bases is connected with the fight at Morek (see above), a very slim physical corridor now remaining to the Assad Government between the bases and territory it controls in Hama city (see map below).

Opposition fighters have additionally shelled with mortars the “poultry-barrier” at Camp Alhamdeh, HERE:

In Daraa province in the south, the Opposition have also captured the base of Battalion 26 and the Infantry Brigade 61 at Sheikh Saad, south of Nawa and north-west of Darra city. This video footage give a tour inside the base, one of the largest in Syria, HERE:

The fighters seized truck loads of weapons and ammunition, HERE:, including anti-tank missiles, HERE:

Sheikh Saad is seen as strategically important as it lies close to Al-Sanamayn and Izraa, two districts in Daraa which were seen as the first defence line for the capital Damascus.

North-east of Aleppo city the Islamic State are trying to invade the city of Akhtareen, while in Latakia the Opposition have repelled an Assad regime attack on Utiyraa village, south-east of Kassab.

A regime helicopter is reported to have dropped a TNT barrel-bomb on their own forces by mistake at Kafr Sagheer, killing 21.

In Deir Ez-Zour, the Islamic State (IS) are reported to have clashed with Government forces just a few hundred metres from the military airport, while IS following recent advances are estimated to be in control of 35% of Syria.

In the north of Raqqah province the Kurdish YPG militia lost 3 villages near Tal Abyad to the Islamic State, while 2 Belgian fathers came looking for their sons.

Both the sons were fighting with the Islamic State, one needing 4 insulin injections a day for diabetes, but the pair refused to return home. Video Report from the BBC’s Syria News service.

In Raqqah city itself there is now an all-female Islamic State Brigade that keeps “other women in order” and makes them dress, behave and follow the “faith” appropriately. You can read more, HERE:

At the same time there are also reports that a woman in Raqqah province has been stoned to death by the Islamic State for adultery, the first reported case in Syria. The appalling act of stoning took place in a public square in Tabaqa on Thursday evening. The victim was a 26 year old widow.

From Jordan, Save the Children Fund now says that the number of child marriages among Syrian refugees has now almost doubled since 2011, when it represented 13% of all weddings. Now it is over 25% in 2013 with the figure reaching 32% in the first quarter of 2014.

48% of the underage women were forced into unions with men at least 10 years their senior under laws which allow such marriages with the courts permission. Girls who marry before 18, says Save the Children Fund, are more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later, and they have much more limited access to sexual and reproductive health, putting severe strains on their very young bodies. You can read more, HERE:

From Turkey there are reports that the Government there is to take extreme action against the 1 million Syrians refugees living and begging on the streets of Istanbul, forcibly deporting them back to camps near the Syrian border if necessary.

800 Kurds from the Turkish side of the border are additionally said to have crossed the frontier to aid the Kurdish militia in their struggle to resist attacks from the Islamic State who are trying to get control of the border region of Ain al-Arab (Kobani in Kurdish).

A unanimous vote at the UN Security Council on Monday, Russia and China for once not exercising their veto, has ensured that cross border aid deliveries can be made to Opposition held areas of Syria, whether the Assad Government “gives its permission” on not.

The deliveries will come in via 2 border crossings from Turkey, 1 from Iraq and 1 from Jordan. The mandate lasts for 180 days and then will have to be renewed.

In this map, courtesy of @, note how vulnerable some regime outposts are now around Daraa city, Idlib, Deir Ez-Zour, Aleppo, Raqqah province, Hassakah province and Qamishli, with very narrow entry and exit points, here:

Syria Situation Map 15.07.14

Syria Situation Map 15.07.14

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IRAQ: PARLIAMENT STILL DITHERS, WHILE SADDAM’S FORMER VP URGES SUNNIS TO “LIBERATE” THE COUNTRY AND PRAISES ISIS:

TIMELINE – 14th JULY 2014 12.58 GMT:

After 3 attempts, Iraq’s Parliament failed to elect a Speaker yet again on Sunday and has deferred another meeting until Tuesday.

The Sunni bloc put forward Salim al-Jabouri, a moderate Islamist, as their candidate for speaker but Nouri Al-Maliki effectively torpedoed this proposal by linking it to their acceptance of his own bid for a third term.

IRAQ NEWS

Islamic State Flag Flies Above Government Buildings in Dhuluiya

While Parliament dithers and the country continues to be run by a caretaker administration, the Islamic State insurgents are battling Government troops just 70 kilometres (43 miles) from the capital.

Heavy fighting is reported around Dhuluiya, just east of Haditha where battles are ongoing for control of the dam.

Approximately 80 Islamic State (IS) fighters arrived at Dhuluiya in 50 to 60 vehicles, taking control of the mayor’s office, municipal council building, and the police station. 4 policemen, 2 IS fighters and 2 civilians were reported killed.

Reports say that local police and tribal fighters were continuing to resist yesterday, Sunday, as IS bombed a bridge linking Dhuluiya to the nearby town of Balad to the west.

At Haditha, IS, having failed to get an agreement from local tribesmen to enter the town without a fight, launched their second attack in 2 days at the weekend. In a battle lasting 4 hours, 13 IS fighters were reported killed and 5 of their vehicles destroyed.

Above Muqdadiyah in Diyala province, IS is reported to have shot down a Government helicopter.

The Iraqi Army stationed outside Fallujah has shelled the town, killing 7, including a woman and child, and wounding 14.

While IS has shot and beheaded unknown numbers of captured soldiers, police officers, Shia religious minorities and members of militias who tried to resist them, the Iraqi Army has also been accused by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of summary executions and the killing of 255 Sunni prisoners.

Since 9th June HRW has documented 5 massacres in Mosul and Tal Afar, in northern Nineveh province, in Baaquba and Jumarkhe, in Diyala, and in Rawa in Anbar province. In some cases the prisoners were shot but in others prisoners were reportedly set on fire and in another, hand-grenades were thrown into locked cells. You can read more, HERE:

Meanwhile, 72-year-old Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was Saddam Hussein’s vice-president when US led coalition forces invaded Iraq in 2003, and is still a fugitive, issued an audio statement urging Sunnis to join the insurgency to “liberate” the country.

He also praised IS as “heroes and knights” and urged fighting groups to put their differences aside in the interests of unity to defeat the government of Nouri Al-Malik.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Situation Map July 13th 2014

IRAQ: AS MANY AS 70,000 MEN SAID TO HAVE ABANDONED ARMY IN LAST 3 WEEKS, WHILE USA ESTIMATES IRAQIS CAN BARELY HOLD BAGHDAD AGAINST ISIS

According to US estimates, as many as 70,000 men, 1 tenth of Iraq’s army of 700.000. may have abandoned their uniforms and deserted over the last 3 weeks. Some Iraqi estimates put the figure even higher at 90,000.

One deserter described how they were completely abandoned while they were defending the Baiji oil refinery, the officers, including a brigadier general, all getting in a mini-bus and leaving the facility, having first negotiated safe passage with local tribes.

The conscripts were not surprised as corruption is widespread among the officer class, some of them taking half some men’s salaries in return for allowing them to not show up for duty at all. The Washington Post has the details.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Shia Volunteers Training with Iraqi Army Last Week

The United State also seems to be having deep doubts about the ability of the Al-Maliki Government to resist the Islamic State invasion, believing that it may be possible to defend some parts of Baghdad but stands no chance of driving them out of the rest of the country.

The Army, having lost so many Sunni conscripts is now dependent on Shia volunteers and Shia militia.

The US assessment additionally indicates that the Iraqi Army is so badly infiltrated by Sunni informers and Iranian personnel that their own military advisers may be at risk.

The US dilemna is whether to get further embroiled in a battle they do not want or to stand back and let Al-Maliki fall. Echoing comments already made on this page, one American official said, “It’s a mess”. You can read more in the New York Times.

Similarly, Iran is faced with a dilemna too. Get involved in another quagmire like Syria or stand back and be on the same side as the Americans, or lose control of Iraq and its routes to Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

According to an article in the Independent, Prince Bandar, the former security chief in Saudi Arabia, predicted all this.

Many years ago, before 9/11, Bandar said in a chilling conversation with Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of Britain’s MI6 spy agency, “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.” More in the London Independent.

(EDITOR: Based on that, and the fact that the Saudi Government made no attempt to stop rich Saudis sending seed money to ISIS, today’s severe and mindless Sunni/Shia conflict is no surprise)

SYRIA: ISLAMIC STATE DRIVE OUT RIVALS TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE WHOLE OF DEIR EZ-ZOUR CITY & PROVINCE, EXCEPT REGIME AREAS

North-east of Damascus the Syrian Army is once again trying to enter Mlieha, the gateway to the Opposition-held stronghold of Eastern Ghouta.

Assad’s forces have been trying for months to take the town, even briefly reaching the town centre in May but being repelled and driven out again and ambushed with heavy loss of life.

In the latest attack, activists report fierce clashes on all the town’s fronts and surface to surface missiles hitting the central area. Reports this morning, Monday, suggest that the siege of the area has been broken, the supply road to Eastern Ghouta is open and Assad’s Shia militia have suffered heavy casualties.

In the Qalamoun area of Damascus province, the Al-Nusra Front yesterday ambushed a Hezbollah convoy and reportedly killed at least 20 of the pro-Assad Lebanese militia.

Fighting also took place between the same 2 sides near the Lebanese village of Youneen on Sunday, ending at dawn this morning, Monday, with 7 Hezbollah fighters dead and 17 Opposition fighters.

Within Damascus city itself, 13 Syrian Red Crescent trucks were allowed into Moadamiyeh today, carrying 1,000 food parcels for the 31,000 people still inside the suburb.

Islamic State Take Control of Deir Ez-Zour City and Province

Islamic State Take Control of Deir Ez-Zour City and Province

Having taken control of most of rural Deir Ez-Zour province, including the oil fields, the Islamic State have today, Monday, expelled their Opposition rivals from Deir Ez-Zour city.

According to reports, fighters from rival Islamist groups, in particular the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar Al-Sham, have either pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) or fled the province altogether.

IS is now in control of the whole of Deir Ez-Zour province all the way eastwards to Iraq, apart from some areas of Deir Ez-Zour city still controlled by the Assad regime and the city’s military airport.

An Opposition spokesman said that the influx of heavy weapons and armoured vehicles from Iraq had tipped the balance in the favour of the Islamic State.

Just across the border in Iraq at Al-Qaim, IS is also reported today, Monday, to have publicly executed 4 men who they called “spies for the Assad regime”. The men, their hands bound, were brought to the town’s main street in a convoy of trucks and shot in the head.

In Aleppo, more than 30 barrel-bombs were dropped again on Opposition-held areas on Sunday, causing widespread death and destruction.

On Friday, a video appeared on the Internet of Aleppo’s civil defence team pulling out a live little baby from the rubble of one such attack after 16 hours work on June 18th/19th. They also rescued his Mother, who was injured, but it was too late for the Father and another daughter.

The moving rescue of the 2 month old can be seen, here:

Aleppo’s Opposition have also issued a video of the tunnel they dug under the city to blow up a regime building between the Orphanage and the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in the north-west of the regional capital, HERE:

North-east of the city in the countryside, IS have advanced to Masoudieh, south of Akhtareen, while more moderate Opposition fighters have taken away the village of Khalfatli on the border with Turkey from IS control.

According to activists, a Syrian Army convoy has additionally arrived at Quwaires air base, which has been under siege for more than 12 months, apparently passing through IS controlled checkpoints unhindered, further adding to the belief that somehow the Assad regime and IS are working together.

Further to the rumour that the Al Nusra Front (ANF) want to establish their own Islamic State or Emirate in Syria (scroll down -see below), the group have issued a statement saying that they will do so when “honest mujahedeen and the religious scholars agree with us”.

In support of this ANF and the Islamic Front are carrying out a campaign against groups accused of “smuggling” and “looting” across both Aleppo and Idlib provinces as they seek to impose a system of Sharia based law.

In southern Quneitra province heavy clashes are reported between Opposition fighters and Assad’s forces around the village of Majduliyah east of the border with Israel and video from the Opposition captured Base 90 reveals large amounts of ammunition including rocket grenades, HERE:

In Hama province where Opposition fighters took control of Rahjan village in the eastern countryside, they gained field guns and armoured vehicles, (caution graphic, Arabic only, with dead bodies) HERE:

In Latakia city, a very large explosion shook the city on Sunday, but from unknown sources, while reports from the International Red Cross say that the province now hosts 1 million refugees, a 50% increase on its normal population.

In Idlib province 10 Syrian Army soldiers are said to have defected to the Opposition from a checkpoint near the Wadi Al-Deif military base, while in Raqqah province fighting continues between the Kurdish militia and the Islamic State near the Turkish border at Ayn Al-Arab (Kobani to the Kurds). 12 Kurdish fighters have been missing since Saturday.

In Jordan, where the CIA has been training vetted Opposition fighters for Syria for over a year, there is apparently reluctance in some quarters to see that training expanded after President Obama announced an extra $500 million funding for the programme.

There is also a report from Jordan’s capital, Amman, that Maher Rahal, 27, who headed the Syrian Opposition Liwa al-Mujahideen Brigade fighting in Daraa province, was shot dead on Friday night while visiting family members. The reason is not obvious, but it may have been part of a long running family feud from Inkhil in the southern province.

Lastly, a defector, terrified for his family and himself, has told the BBC of the brutal life as a fighter for the Islamic State.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Hope – 2 Month Old With His Civil Defence Rescuer

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ISLAMIC STATE REPORTED TO HAVE TAKEN ANOTHER ARMY BASE NEAR RAMADI AND NUCLEAR MATERIALS FROM MOSUL UNIVERSITY:

by Peter Clifford
TIMELINE – 11th JULY 2014 12.55 GMT – UPDATED 15.58 GMT:

IRAQ: In renewed fighting around Ramadi in Anbar province this morning, Friday, the Islamic State Jihadists (IS) and their allies are reported to have taken control of the Brigade 8 headquarters west of the city.

Additionally, 11 Iraqi police officers have been killed and 24 injured as the insurgents try to strengthen their grip on Anbar province, which borders Syria, and on the provincial capital of Ramadi in particular.

Iraq News

IS Capture Field Artillery Guns

IRAQ NEWS

US-Made Truck Seized At Base Near Ramadi

In seizing Brigade 8, IS have once again taken over vast military stores, including operational vehicles and field artillery guns.

Many pictures have also emerged on the Internet of a destroyed Iraqi Army convoy, including US-made M-1 Abrams tanks and M113 armoured personnel carriers.

The Iraqi Government has also admitted that its troops are surrounded within the Baiji oil refinery west of Mosul, but disputes news reports that its force only contains 75 commandos.

According to the Iraqi Government it still has “1,500 special forces inside the refinery” which they are reinforcing with air dropped supplies. This does not explain how therefore they are unable to defeat a Islamic State force said to be of just 500 surrounding the installation.

The troops are “responsible for protecting the refinery only” and there has been no “concerted effort to clear the area”, said a government spokesman lamely.

Video from both the towns of Baiji and Tikrit, both under IS control, suggests, apart from insurgents firing rifles in the air, that all is much as normal, HERE:  and HERE:

There were also reports yesterday that the Islamic State has also gained 40 kilos of nuclear material which was held in a research facility within Mosul university. The material is un-enriched, so could not be used for a nuclear weapon, but could be used for a “dirty bomb” spreading dangerous material over a wide area.

IS Destroy Iraqi Army Convoy

IS Destroy Iraqi Army Convoy

IRAQ NEWS

IS Destroy Iraqi Army Tanks

North-east of Baghdad near Mukdadiya in Dijala province, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the capital, the Islamic State are said to have breached the perimeter of yet another military base, though exact details remain sketchy.

Local tribal chiefs were said to be trying to “negotiate a truce”.

In Baghdad itself early this morning, Friday, heavy gunfire from an unknown source was heard coming from near the Umm Al-Qura Mosque.

Jeremy Bowen has an interesting audio report from a major mortuary in Baghdad, where the military and civilians compete for body space in the freezers, while the temperature outside hovers near 50 degrees C. From the BBC.

South of Mosul, the Iraqi military has hit back with an airstrike on the Qayyarah refinery. Across Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State are said, according to unconfirmed reports, to be selling 100 tanker loads of oil a day, bringing them a net daily revenue of $1 million.

The Kurds in northern Iraq, in a long running dispute over an agreed share of oil revenue with the Iraqi Government, have also been accused of taking over oil facilities at Kirkuk and Bai Hassan. The combined output of the 2 fields is 400,000 barrels a day.

Things came to a head between the Kurds and the Government on Wednesday when Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki accused them of “harbouring Islamic State” fighters in their capital Irbil. The Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani called Al-Maliki “hysterical” and suggested he stood down. Kurdish MPs have also been recalled from the Parliament in Baghdad.

The Kurds are dealing with a huge influx of Iraqi refugees fleeing from assault by the Islamic State. In Sinjar 58,000 have arrived so far, flooding the town after Tal Afar fell to the insurgents and overwhelming its meagre resources, particularly sewage, electricity and food. You can read more HERE: 

According to the France 24 website, the “Caliphate Passport” story reported on Wednesday was false and the picture of the actual passport design photoshopped in 2012 or 2013.

A representative of ISIS has reportedly said they have no intention of producing passports but instead want to create a caliphate stretching across 7 existing countries (EDITOR: Allah/God help us all! My thanks to @shaan for pointing this error out.)

DEATHS IN SYRIA EXCEED 171,000, ALMOST 38% PRO-ASSAD FIGHTERS, 27% OPPOSITION FIGHTERS AND 33% CIVILIANS:

In Syria, recorded deaths have now reached 171,509. Of this total 56,495 (32.9%) were civilians, including 9,092 children.

65,803 (38.4%) of the dead were regime troops and pro-Assad militia, including 39,036 regular troops, 24,655 members of pro-regime militias, 509 fighters from Hezbollah, and 1,603 other non-Syrians fighting on Assad’s side.

SYRIA NEWS

A Boy Dives into a Bomb Crater in Aleppo

On the Opposition side 46,301 (27%) fighters are recorded killed, including 15,442 non-Syrians who have entered Syria to join Jihadist or local Islamist groups.

2,910 victims remain to date unidentified. All information from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as of 6th July.

But the real figures may be much higher.

Another 20,000 people held by the Assad regime remain completely unaccounted for, as well as 7,000 regime troops held by Opposition fighters.

Another 3,500 people are thought to be held by the Islamic State.

The UN has also reported that so far 8,300 separated and unaccompanied children from Syria have now been registered outside of the country.

Also according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (different from SOHR above), despite much regime publicity at the time, only 694 people out of the 215,000 estimated to be in Assad’s prisons were released after the “presidential election”, far short of the numbers promised under an “amnesty”.

OPPOSITION ATTACK ASSAD DEFENCE MINISTER’S HOME VILLAGE AND IN JIHADIST RIVALRY, RUMOURS OF AL NUSRA FRONT ALSO “DECLARING AN ISLAMIC STATE”:

Across Syria, despite it being the holy month of Ramadan, barrel-bombs still fall and fighting and killing continue.

In Aleppo, Opposition fighters are seen shelling suspected Assad regime troops hiding in the ruins of an apartment block, HERE:

And north of the city an Islamic Front brigade is seen firing at Jihadist Islamic State positions with heavy caliber weapons, HERE:

North-east of Damascus at Mesraba in Eastern Ghouta Opposition fighters are reported to have killed 50 Islamic State followers in heavy fighting, HERE:  and HERE:

And after forcing the Jihadists out of the area, the Opposition managed to dismantle 2 prepared car bombs as well, HERE:

In the Damascus suburbs of Saqba and Kafr-Batna this morning regime jets unloaded their deadly cargo, HERE:

SYRIA NEWS

Car Bomb Goes Off at Rahjan, Defence Minister’s Village

In Hama province reports say the Opposition fighters blew up one of the Government’s largest checkpoints at Rahjan in the north of the region with a car bomb, capturing part of the village and apparently killing as many as 18+ troops and militia.

The village is the family home of Assad’s Defence Minister, General Fahd Jassem al-Freij.

Footage has also been released of the Opposition blowing up the Dahman checkpoint in Idlib province reported earlier (scroll down – see below), HERE:

An interesting rumour on the Internet that the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) chief in Syria, Al-Jolnai is going to declare an “Islamic State” as well, but no details yet.

One of the brigades in Aleppo has apparently pledged allegiance to ANF, which remains, unlike the Islamic State”, firmly allied with the worldwide AL-Qaeda network.

Based on flash-drives captured in Mosul before it fell, the structure of the Islamic State and how it is run is known and analysed, HERE:
And in the Telegraph as well.

And from Asia comes a report that Tehreek-e-Khilafat, a terrorist group normally associated with the Taliban on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, has sworn allegiance to the new “Caliph” and wants to fly the Islamic State flag, HERE:

Depressingly, much of Syria’s ancient heritage is being destroyed by all sides in the conflict, especially as the country has thousands of sites. An excellent report from Diana Darke via the BBC with lots of photographs.

The BBC is also reporting that 2 x 16 year old girls of Somali origin, but living in Manchester in the UK, have disappeared and are now thought to be with Jihadists in Syria.

Assad's Barrel-Bombs Continue to Kill the Innocent

Assad’s Barrel-Bombs Continue to Kill the Innocent

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OPPOSITION BRIGADE DEFECTS TO ISLAMIC STATE, WHO EVEN MAKE ASSAD NERVOUS, BUT OPPOSITION GAIN IN IDLIB AND QUNEITRA:

by Peter Clifford

UPDATED TIMELINE – 10th JULY 2014 10.05 GMT: SYRIA NEWS ADDED (AFTER POWER CUT!)

ORIGINAL TIMELINE – 9th JULY 2014 12.33 GMT:

On the Syrian side of the Syria/Iraq border (or not if you are a member of the Islamic State), the Islamic State extreme Jihadists (IS) continued their machinations to persuade local tribal leaders and Islamic fighters to come over to their side and swear loyalty to “Caliph Ibrahim”.

Reportedly 12 Opposition battalions along the Euphrates valley have now given their loyalty to the Islamic State and, even worse for the Opposition, the Liwa Dawud brigade drove all the way from Idlib province to Raqqah to join them.

SYRIA NEWS

Arsenal of Liwa Dawud Brigade Delivered to Islamic State

Interestingly, the Liwa Dawud convoy of over 50 vehicles for part of its journey crossed Assad controlled territory, but was not harassed or attacked according to activist reports.

Part of the convoy stopped in Al Bab in Aleppo province to reinforce IS positions there but the rest travelled on to the provincial capital controlled by the Islamic State in Raqqah province.

According to information, Liwa Dawud, who have belonged to ISIS before but then left to join the Islamic Front, delivered to the Islamic State 2,500 men, 10 or more tanks, 3 BMP armoured vehicles and 10 mortars. A severe blow to the moderate Syrian Opposition.

However, Opposition fighters remaining in Idlib province seem to be making a good job of moving closer to Hamadiyah Army base, attacking it with heavy weapons.

Having taken one checkpoint earlier this week (scroll down – see below), the Opposition yesterday, Wednesday, took the Al-Duman barrier and also destroyed a tank with a recoilless cannon at the nearby Wadi Deif Army base, HERE:

Fighters are seen inside the Al-Duman barrier with captured armoured vehicles, (caution some dead bodies) HERE:

In this video footage, Opposition fighters can be seen advancing on both the checkpoint and the barrier using their own substantial mechanised armoured vehicles as infantry protection, HERE:

And in this footage they wipe out a tank on the Hamidiyah base with an anti-tank TOW missile, HERE:

In Quneitra province, near the border with Israel, the Opposition are also on the advance, working rapidly to destroy the last regime outposts in the province.

Opposition fighters have this week taken control of Majduliya and are now advancing on Naba Sakher, as well as pounding Assad’s 90th Brrigade base north-east of Quneitra city, HERE:

In Aleppo things are less certain, with the Assad regime and its Hezbollah and Shia militia allies stepping up their concentration of troops around the Sheikh Najjer industrial complex in an attempt to isolate Opposition-held east Aleppo from its supply routes to the Turkish border.

However, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamic Front (IF) are aware of this and have increased their own number to hold the line.

The Syrian Government once again targeted Opposition medical facilities yesterday, bombing field hospitals at Dar Al-Shifa and Al-Dakak and killing around 40 people.

In northern Aleppo province there is a fierce fight going on between the Kurdish YPG militia and the Islamic State for Ayn Al-Arab or Kobane as the Kurds call it. The Kurds claimed that they had killed as many as 200 IS Jihadists last week but have since retreated from a number of villages in the area after IS rained 3000 mortar bombs down on their positions.

Man Rescued After Barrel-Bombing in Aleppo - AFP

Man Rescued After Barrel-Bombing in Aleppo – AFP

Loss of Ayn Al-Arab would hand a major border crossing into Turkey to the Islamic State. Kurds on the Turkish side of the frontier staged a demonstration by walking towards the border in their hundreds.

There is also major fighting between the 2 sides in Raqqah province where hundreds of Kurds are still being held prisoner in Jarablous and Tal Abyad. 9 IS fighters were reported killed by the YPG to the south-west of Tal Abyad.

To the credit of the Kurds, following a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW)  on the use of children in war, the Kurds have demobilised 149 child soldiers under 18 and vowed to stop using them.

“We undertake to no longer use any under-18 children in hostilities, including for combat, spying, guarding tasks or supplying combatants, and we won’t admit any under-18s as combatants in our ranks,” Kurdish defence official Abdulkerim Sarukhan said in a statement.

The “love-affair” between the former Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) seems to be on the wane since they attacked Mosul in Iraq. Since 10th June there have been Government air raids on Islamic State (IS) positions every day.

Early yesterday, Wednesday, Government jets hit an IS training base in Raqqah, killing 20 fighters and destroying 14 vehicles. (EDITOR: Clearly even Assad is nervous of IS sweeping across Syria and taking control)

According to a poll conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB), an organisation that specialises in research in conflict areas, only 4% of 1,014 people interviewed in 12 of Syria’s 14 provinces felt that the Islamic State/ISIS “represented their interests”. Deir EZ-Zour and Quneitra provinces were not covered.

In Damascus, Palestinian activists now estimate that 151 people have died from starvation in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in the southern part of the capital.

Despite a “truce agreement” being signed with the fighters inside the camp, no food has been allowed in for over a month.

According to Assad’s Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs, Ali Haidar, cringingly sucking up to a Palestinian delegation from the PLO, the lack of progress at Yarmouk is “all the fault of the Israeli Zionists”. (EDITOR: What an idiot!)

North-east of Damascus city, fierce battles are reported between the moderate Islamic Front Opposition and the Islamic State Jihadists at Mesraba, further draining Opposition attempts to depose the Assad regime.

And in the Qalamoun region, a MIG jet is reported destroyed and the pilot killed as it crash landed at Dumayr airbase.

In Hama province, an Opposition attack, though not clear exactly by whom, is reported on the Sunni village of Khatab, 10 kilometres north-west of Hama city. The villagers were accused of collaborating with the Assad regime and 14 civilians were reported killed in the shooting.

A number of Government troops were either killed or taken prisoner, while the Assad regime called it an “atrocity” and reported it to the UN.

In bad news for civilians in Opposition-held areas, the FSA has reported that the Syrian Air Force has taken delivery of new helicopters that can carry as many as 10 or 11 TNT barrel-bombs, whereas the older, smaller models could only carry 4 or 5.

SYRIA NEWS

Assad Stole Her Leg But Not Her Smile

However, the Syrian military may be more overstretched than we know. Recent documents found with a killed Iranian officer detail the infighting between the 4 Syrian Intelligence branches all reporting directly to Assad but keeping information from each other, and distinct manpower shortages. You can read more, HERE:

Meeting in Sile near Istanbul in Turkey, representatives of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) elected Hadi El-Bahra as its new President early yesterday, Wednesday, to succeed Ahmad Jarba.

Jarba failed to unite the Opposition or to get significant Western military aid for the Opposition. El-Bahra was born in Damascus but has spent most of his adult life in Saudi Arabia, where he managed several hospitals and businesses.

He fronted the Opposition delegation to the failed Geneva 2 talks between the Opposition and the regime in Switzerland earlier this year. His appointment was welcomed by the US, the UK and other Opposition supporter nations. (EDITOR: Hopefully he can end the internal feuding.)

The UK also admitted yesterday that hundreds of chemical substances, used in diverse but normal industrial processes, exported to Syria between 1983 and 1986 could have been used by the Assad regime to make Sarin nerve gas.

In a letter to the UN Security Council on Monday, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, said that “2 abandoned cylinders found by the Assad regime in a captured Opposition area” had contained Sarin, confirmed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. (EDITOR: Who placed them there is another matter!)

Also at the UN, Staffan de Mistura, a veteran Italian-Swedish diplomat who has served previously in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been appointed as the new UN special envoy to Syria, replacing the resigned and unsuccessful Lakhdar Brahimi.

ISLAMIC STATE “HONEYMOON” WITH OTHER SUNNIS ENDS AS IT STARTS TO ELIMINATE POTENTIAL THREATS TO ITS SUPREMACY:

US Intelligence sources have confirmed that the cleric who led last Friday’s prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, was indeed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS) and self-appointed “Caliph Ibrahim” (scroll down -see video and report below).

It has also been reported, and condemned by the UN, that 13 Sunni clerics in Mosul have been executed since IS took over Iraq’s second largest city, including the Imam in charge of the Grand Mosque where Al-Baghdadi preached last week. Clearly IS is intent on eliminating any possibility of clerics preaching against them.

IRAQ NEWS

Islamic State Jihadists at a Captured Army Checkpoint in June 2014

A resident of Mosul who used to work at the Great Nurridin Mosque (Grand Mosque) said that IS is now dictating the content of Friday sermons in Mosul.

But IS has not stopped there. According to other reports from Mosul, in the last week IS Jihadist militants have arrested between 25 and 60 senior members of the Ba’ath Party, all of them senior officers or members of former Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein’s army and administration.

Their support was crucial in masterminding and carrying out the Sunni uprising that swept across Iraq driving out Al-Maliki’s Army in a lightening advance.

Now that IS are in control, they are forcing their former allies to swear allegiance to Caliph Ibrahim or pay the ultimate price for not doing so.

General Waad Hannoush, a Special Forces commander under Saddam Hussein and Saifeddin al-Mashhadani, a Ba’ath Party leader who was on the US Army’s “most wanted list” during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, are 2 of the most high-ranking Sunnis detained.

Most Ba’ath Party supporters would choose a secular state rather than a religiously controlled one.

IS is well out-numbered by their Sunni allies by a factor of 3 to 1, but by taking pre-emptive action they are stopping these groups moving against them. Some estimates say that IS have already recruited 2,000 new fighters since they took over Mosul.

ISLAMIC STATE ISSUES “CALIPHATE PASSPORT” AND NOW IN COMPLETE CONTROL OF FORMER CHEMICAL WEAPONS BASE:

There are additionally reports that IS have “issued an Islamic State passport”. Circulating pictures of the alleged passport show it having the words “”State of the Islamic Caliphate” at the top and below it “The holder of the passport if harmed we will deploy armies for his service.”

IS has said it will distribute it to 11,000 citizens living within the borders of its caliphate and allegedly has started printing them at a former Government document processing centre built in Mosul in 2011. The new “Identification and Passport Center” was scheduled by the Al-Maliki’s government to start issuing new ID cards next week, according to the Iraqi media.

Alleged "State of the Islamic Caliphate Passport"

Alleged “State of the Islamic Caliphate Passport”

At least 300 civilians have already been killed in Iraq in July alone and yesterday, Wednesday, Iraqi Police said they found the bodies of 53 men near Hilla, the provincial capital of Babel province south of Baghdad.

All the men had been bound and shot in the head and chest at least a week ago, in what seemed to be a typical and brutal sectarian killing. (EDITOR: If the Islamic State is allowed to take over, then this will become “the norm”)

Elsewhere in Iraq, IS and its allies are reported to have shot down an Army helicopter north-west of Ramadi in Anbar province and to now have completely overrun Saddam Hussein’s former chemical weapons base at Muthanna south of the city of Samarra and just 56 kilometres north-west of Baghdad.

Armed Jihadists originally entered the site on June 11th and detained the soldiers of Al-Maliki’s Protection force. Although most of the weapons were neutralised in the 1990′s, two bunkers numbered 13 and 41 contain tons of degraded weapons that, while not viable as usable arms, remain highly toxic.

Bunker 13 originally contained 2,500 sarin-filled 122-mm chemical rockets produced and filled before 1991 and about 180 tons of sodium cyanide.

Bunker 41 originally contained 2,000 empty 155-mm artillery shells contaminated with the chemical warfare agent and nerve gas mustard, 605 one-ton mustard containers with residues, and heavily contaminated construction materials.

Experts say the remnants do not include intact chemical weapons and “it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely use this for military purposes or to even move it”. (EDITOR: Frightening all the same when you have suicidal Jihadists in charge.)

Unconfirmed reports say that soldiers of the 6th Division of the Muthanna Brigade have fled the battlefield leaving everything behind and leaving the Abu Ghraib area extremely exposed to an IS advance.

Also north of Baghdad, clashes are being reported today, Wednesday, at Tarmiyah, with heavy losses to Al-Maliki’s Army and to Shia militia and volunteers. IS are additionally said to be advancing on the Iraqi Army’s Brigade 20 in Diyala province.

Iraq’s Air Force is said to have bombed oil tankers near Mosul this morning and in air attacks on the city of Falluja, now controlled by IS, 519 civilians are reported killed since the beginning of June and 1821 injured.

IS has additionally claimed responsibility for 2 car bombings inside the capital, Baghdad on Sunday and Monday, which killed 12, including 4 policemen and 8 civilians. The suicide bombers, according to IS, were from Libya and Lebanon.

The Iraqi Parliament, still in complete disarray and unable to choose a new Speaker, had put off on Tuesday it’s next session until 5 week’s later on August 12th, but after coming under both internal and international pressure it has agreed to meet again this coming Sunday.

Courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War, the latest situation map for Iraq:

Iraq Situation Report July 8th 2014

Iraq Situation Report July 8th 2014

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