“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.
TIMELINE – 3rd APRIL 2015 14.30 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 23.05 GMT:
Despite the Islamic State (IS) reinforcing its lines from Aleppo province, the Kurdish YPG have stepped up their campaign on the whole of the southern and eastern fronts in Kobane Canton and are reported to be making a general advance.
IS have a real problem in resupplying their fighters since they first blew up part of Qara Qwazak bridge on the Euphrates and then Coalition aircraft completed the job by making it impassable.
Now their fighter, weapons and ammunition convoys have to make a 67 kilometre journey from Manbij in Aleppo province southwards to the Tishrin Dam, cross the Euphrates and then travel north again to their main centre on the frontline at Sarrin, all the time potentially exposed to Coalition airstrikes and Kurdish commando attack.
The Coalition are reported to have struck several IS positions north and north-east of Sarrin this week, where heavy fighting continues around the IS-held Grain Silos and along the M4 corridor running east. IS are also still in control of the Lafarge Cement Plant.
On the eastern front, Coalition airstrikes are reported west of IS-held Tel Abayd in support of the Kurdish advance there, slow but sure, isolating villages and slowly taking them over.
US Central Command (Centcom) confirms the strikes with a report for the period of Tuesday 31st March through to am on Wednesday 1st April, saying Coalition aircraft destroyed 3 x IS fighting positions, and struck 3 x IS tactical units and 3 x IS vehicles.
Further east in the same period near Hasakah city, 4 more airstrikes destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and hit another 4 tactical units.
For Wednesday 1st April through to am on Thursday April 2nd, there were another 3 airstrikes on IS in Kobane province, destroying 3 fighting positions and hitting 2 tactical units, one of them large.
The latest Kobane Canton Situation Map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, is here:
In the eastern Kurdish Canton in Syria, Cizire, very heavy fighting is still reported around Tel Tamer with a combined force of the YPG/YPJ and the Assyrian militia, MFS, capturing the villages of Tel Nasri and Tel Hayfan and killing as many as 25 x IS Jihadists. Tel Tamer and the surrounding villages formerly had a majority Assyrian Christian population.
Reports from Iraq this week say that around 150 x IS Jihadists were killed in the Iraqi Army led battle for Tikrit. A spokesman for the Iraqi Federal Police said that they had also defused 520 landmines and booby-traps while taking control of the city and discovered 13 factories used for bomb making.
Tikrit was considered safe enough on Wednesday for the Iraqi President, Haider Al-Abadi, to inspect the city centre, though since then Iraqi Shia Militia men have been accused of looting liberated shops. To his credit, Al-Abadi today, Friday, has ordered his security forces in the city to arrest anyone found looting or breaking the law.
In an act of bravado, probably to hide their loss of face in losing control of Tikrit, the Islamic State paraded tanks, armoured cars and other heavy weapons through the streets of its Iraqi headquarters in Mosul yesterday, Thursday.
Kurdish and Iraqi Government sources have already said that IS-held Mosul is likely to be their next target for recapture.
In what appeared at first to possibly have been an “April Fool” joke, but is probably true, there was a report on Wednesday that the self-styled Caliph and leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, had married a German girl in a court in Nineveh, not far from Mosul.
It is not known whether the “happy couple” remained in Nineveh for their “honeymoon” or moved on to another location.
Nineveh, on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, was once the capital of the ancient Assyrian empire and for 50 years the largest city in the world. It is still full (if IS has not destroyed them) of important historical remains. You can read more, HERE:
In the north of Iraq at the battle for Sinjar city, Peshmerga snipers killed 2 x IS Jihadists on Wednesday, but fighting still seems to be bogged down without making substantial progress in any direction.
Heydar Shesho, the commander of the HPS, Yezidi militia, is quoted as saying that, “If we want liberate Shingal (Sinjar), all forces have to work together like in Kobane”. A major obstacle to progress in northern Iraq has been infighting among differing political and military Kurdish forces.
The Kurdistan Regional Government based in Erbil in Iraq, says that since last June when the fight with IS started, around 1,500 Kurdish Peshmerga, police and security forces have been killed and a larger number (thought to be over 5,000) injured, some of them receiving medical treatment abroad.
Back in Deir Ez-Zour, the eastern province of Syria, the Islamic State is said to be strengthening its defences around key points, including digging a trench and earth mound near Mayadeen which, when finished, will be 15 kilometres long.
IS in the area has been suffering a series of mysterious attacks in the last few months, with a number of their fighters assassinated or killed and injured at checkpoints in the middle of the night.
In another bizarre move in Mayadeen, IS patrols have been arresting men with “thick moustaches” and thinning them with an electric shaver as well as confiscating goods to the value of 50 million Syrian pounds ($250,000), including bread, salt, tea, coffee and men’s socks, because these items were “no longer useable”.
None of this is guaranteed to endear them to the local population or contribute to their long term security in an area where they are already reported to have executed 700 members of the Shaitat tribe for “treachery”.
Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in southern Damascus, remains in chaos tonight, Friday, as fighting for control continues with almost every side piling into the action.
The 18,000 residents, including 3,500 children, hide indoors unable to risk going out to look for food, water or even medicine.
According to the latest reports, the Islamic State currently controls around 70% of the camp with the Islamic Front (IF), the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Palestinian militia who previously ran the camp, Aknaf Beit Al-Maqdis, lined up against them, with the Assad regime firing shells into the area from outside and the pro-Assad Palestinians firing their guns too.
On Thursday the defending Opposition forces pushed the IS Jihadists back, but appear to have lost ground again today, Friday.
Chris Gunness, a spokeman for the UN refugee Agency UNRWA, who have been trying to getting aid into the camp for 2 years, descibed as a “hell-hole that shames the world”.
You can hear him talking on BBC Radio 4 Syria news, ( click and it will play automatically) HERE:
The Islamic State got into the camp through the adjacent Hajar Aswad district, where members of the Al Nusra Front appear to have switched sides and joined IS.
In Deraa province, Opposition fighters completed their take over of the Nassib border crossing into Jordan, now holding the Industrial Free Zone and military border posts as well as the civilian ones.
Assad’s troops retreated back to Daraa city to the west of the crossing, where they are now looking extremely vulnerable to attack by Opposition fighters. Assad’s Air Force retaliated for the loss with 26 airstrikes yesterday morning on Opposition-held villages and towns across the province.
SANA, the Assad regime media outlet, still in fantasy land, put out a statement on its website saying that, “The Government closed the border crossing Nassib in response to unilateral actions of the Jordanian regime”.
It is likely however that they will open another border crossing to compensate nearer Daraa city which they still hold.
There have been protests on Opposition media after some vehicles near the crossing were looted, the finger being pointed at members of the Al Nusra Front (ANF) who joined the battle long after the FSA had begun it.
Other reports say that as well as taking over the crossing, Al Nusra has also seized 8 Lebanese trucks and their drivers, removing all the goods from the vehicles.
Al Nusra, which is already holding a dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen since last August, may be holding the drivers to exchange them for ANF members held by the authorities in Lebanon.
Video footage from the fight for the frontier crossing and the aftermath, (Arabic only) can be seen, HERE:
This map shows Opposition (green) and Government (red) control of Daraa province, courtesy of @VivaRevolt,here:
In Idlib province the battle by ANF for Mastouma Army base just south of Idlib city got even fiercer today, Friday, with latest reports saying the Al-Qaeda affiliate has taken Mastouma village and large parts of the military encampment as well, while Assad’s Air Force dropped barrel-bombs to try and hold them back.
Opposition fighters can be seen destroying one of Assad’s tanks, HERE:
Yesterday, Al Nusra’s fighters destroyed 2 Government tanks inside the Army base and hit an officers headquarters with an anti-tank missile, killing all inside. The bodies of 4 Assad officers, including a Brigadier General, and 10 soldiers killed at Mastouma are said to have been transported to the National Hospital at Jisr al Shoughur.
Heavy clashes in the province, south-west of Idlib city are also reported around the Abu Al-Dhuhur airbase.
In Aleppo, Opposition fighters launched their new 4 barrelled digger field gun against Assad’s forces still in Bashkuy village just north of Aleppo city, HERE:
TIMELINE – 1st APRIL 2015 13.30 GMT – UPDATED 19.05 GMT:
Heavy fighting continues north-east of Sarrin town in the last 24 hours and at the nearby Grain Silos, where the Islamic State (IS) were able to reinforce their base , having previously been completely surrounded by the Kurds prior to a recent IS counter-attack.
However, the Kurdish line is generally holding firm and the YPG has sent reinforcements to the area.
Latest unconfirmed reports say the YPG is advancing again.
Further to the east on the southern and south-eastern fronts, the YPG/YPJ are reported to have made gains and advanced into new territory in the area near Jalabiya.
Reports also say that the YPG launched a special operation last Sunday which attacked a meeting of IS commanders in the village of Binder-Khan, 20 kilometres west of IS-held Tel-Abayd, killing a number of them.
While there were no Coalition airstrikes in Syria on Sunday, Coalition aircraft destroyed an IS fighting position on Monday and hit another IS tactical unit.
In the last 10 days, another 5,520 Kobane refugees are reported to have returned to the city as clearing-up and rebuilding continues.
As a reminder perhaps of all that the people of Kobane went through, the UK’s Channel 4 Syria news has released this video report filmed under bombardment in the last week of driving the Islamic State from the city, here:
Latest Kobane Canton Situation Map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, is here:
Further to the east in the Kurdish Canton of Cizere, concentrated battles are continuing around Tel Tamer.
US Central Command (Centcom) has also released video of a Coalition strike on March 15th on an IS fighting position near Hasakah city, here:
In Iraq, more fierce fighting is reported in Sinjar city between the Peshmerga/HPS (Yezidi militia) and the Islamic State, with unconfirmed reports that IS has recovered some ground after a series of suicide bomb attacks.
Coalition airstrikes on Monday am through to Tuesday morning this week around Sinjar, destroyed an IS building, hit an IS tactical unit and generally suppressed IS movements.
Centcom have also released another cockpit video showing the destruction of an IS fighter staging area on March 26th near the IS-held city of Mosul, here:
There are also unconfirmed reports that Mosul Dam is in danger of crumbling. The dam, which has a reputation for being badly built in the first place, requires constant maintenance and it is not getting this under current circumstances. If it breaks completely the consequences will be disastrous for those downstream, including the citizens of Baghdad.
The Iraqi Government is also saying it has captured the centre of Tikrit and expects to drive the last Jihadists, mainly snipers, completely out of the city today, Wednesday.
The turning point, after 3 weeks of stalled advances, may have been Coalition attacks like this one on March 26th on an IS fighter staging post, here:
With the inability of IS to capture Kobane and now the loss of Tikrit, it may be that the reputation of the Islamic State is starting to fall, perhaps putting off the desire of foreign fighters, some of their fiercest soldiers, from joining and making other already there want to leave.
This article speculates on the latest situation within IS, HERE:
ISLAMIC STATE TAKE OVER YARMOUK CAMP, 4 KILOMETRES FROM HEART OF DAMASCUS AND MURDER ANOTHER 45 CIVILIANS IN HAMA:
In Damascus, the Islamic State have today, Wednesday, moved in and taken control of most of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, where an estimated 18,000 Palestinians still live. This puts the Islamic State just 4 kilometres from the centre of the Syrian capital.
IS entered the west side of the camp this morning and a gun battle ensued between them and Aknaf Beit Al-Maqdis, a Palestinian group opposed to Bashar Al-Assad.
The fighting started after Aknaf Beit Al-Maqdis, which is closely associated with Hamas, arrested IS members operating within the camp.
As if the people in the camp did not have enough problems without control by IS.
The Assad regime has had the camp under siege for more than a year, starving the people of food, medicine and clean water, as well as regularly raining bombs and mortar shells.
Yesterday, Tuesday, a Government shell hit an ambulance outside the Palestinian hospital injuring several paramedics.
Opposition fighters who previously were inside the camp withdrew in February 2014 under a deal that left the anti-Assad Palestinians in charge. Today’s events have changed all that.
Latest reports Wednesday evening say that a gun battle has ensued between the Islamic Front, the FSA and the Palestinians on one side and IS on the other. Further news awaited.
It is also reported that a roadside bomb in the Damascus countryside near Mezzeh military airport blew up a bus transporting a contingent of Assad’s newly created female commando and sniper unit. One female and one male commando were killed and at least 8 injured.
And in Hama province the Islamic State is said to have executed 45 people, including 2 children and 7 women, by shooting, beheading or burning in the village of Al-Mabojah.
The village, which is inhabited by members of the Alawite and Ismaili sects, both of which IS would see as “apostates”, was attacked 24 hours ago. 6 member of Assad’s forces were also killed and many other people are missing, their whereabouts currently unknown.
In and around Idlib city, 55 civilians have now been killed in the last 48 hours from regime bombardments of rockets, shells and barrel-bombs.
Having warned the Assad regime of retaliation at the beginning of the week (scroll down – see below), the Opposition fighters now controlling the city have formed another joint command to conquer the 2 Alawite enclaves just to the north of Idlib city, Kafarya and Al-Fuah.
The Opposition have also cut off electricity to the 2 Alawite towns, while the Assad regime has disconnected telephone lines to Idlib. The Opposition are said to have replaced the telephone lines with a wireless system.
Idlib’s Opposition fighters are also still pursuing the Assad regime from the province, destroying a Syrian Army rocket launcher on the road from Mastumah to Ariha and and making inroads into Assad’s defensive positions at Mastumah camp just south of the regional capital.
SANA, the Assad Government’s main media outlet, clearly living in a fantasy world of its own making, put out online today “In Idleb city, army units carried out an operation, killing many Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and injuring others”.
In the south of Syria, Opposition fighters have attacked Assad’s troops in Salakhed, in the Lejat area of Druze sect majority province of Sweida, HERE: and launched a major assault this morning on the last Assad controlled border crossing into Jordan at Nassib in Deraa province, HERE:
The regime retaliated with barrel-bombs on Opposition positions and the Jordanian authorities closed the crossing from their side.
Lastly, a Syrian Palestinian mother of 5, who has already lost 2 sons while living in exile in Lebanon and whose husband is extremely sick, describes what it like to live with these hardship on BBC Syria news, HERE:
And BBC Newsnight got Syrian children to describe what it is like to live in exile. 4 million Syrians have now fled the 4 year conflict in Syria – half of them are children. Hear their story, here:
Meanwhile, this week in Kuwait international donor countries pledged $3.6 billion, less than half the $8.4 billion the UN was seeking to support more than 10 million displaced Syrians.
KOBANE UPDATE 70: ISLAMIC STATE COUNTER-ATTACK LINKS UP WITH TRAPPED JIHADISTS BUT KURDS FIGHTING BACK TO REGAIN FRONTLINE:
TIMELINE – 30th MARCH 2015 15.44 GMT – UPDATED 22.00 GMT:
Following on from reinforcements arriving at the end of last week, Islamic State (IS) fighters broke through the Kurds M4 highway defensive line on Saturday, reaching trapped IS Jihadists at both the Grain Silos north of Sarrin and the Lafarge Cement Plant.
Heavy fighting has taken place at both locations since then and fierce fighting is reported near the Grain Silos between YPG/FSA and IS this morning, Monday, with mutual shelling.
The YPG are reported to be shelling IS in Sarrin itself as of yesterday.
IS were able to reinforce their fighters across the Euphrates by bringing men and supplies all the way south from Manbij in Aleppo province and cross along the top of the Tishrin Dam before turning north again towards Sarrin.
According to reports, IS have booby-trapped positions on top of the dam and the streets leading to it, but Coalition jets still targeted IS near the dam over the weekend.
On Saturday night, 11 x IS Jihadists were reported killed by the YPG/YPJ on the south-eastern front at Sepeta Ereban and the villages of Boxê, Şêx Omer, Kazan and Çelebî were liberated in the east. The YPG were reported over the weekend to be “closing in” on the villages of Kherab-Ishk and Jelebiya, around 55 kilometres south-east of Kobane city, with Coalition aircraft flying overhead.
4 Coalition airstrikes Friday am through to Saturday morning in Kobane Canton destroyed 2 x IS anti-aircraft artillery machine guns, 3 x IS vehicles, an excavator and damaged 2 x IS tactical units and an IS fighting position. On Saturday through to Sunday morning another strike hit an IS tactical unit and destroyed an IS vehicle.
Reports from Aleppo province say that the Islamic State has arrested many people returning to IS-held Jarablous, who fled the city in anticipation of the Kurdish forces crossing the Euphrates and attacking. The charge is that they were “trying to escape” when they should have stayed and helped the Jihadists defend the city.
In the event, the Kurds stopped their advance once they had reached the Euphrates River at the western edge of Kobane Canton. 200 people, mainly young men, have also been arrested in the last 2 days by IS in Manbij.
IS have of course left their dreadful legacy in Kobane city. An estimated 40 people have been killed in Kobane by mines and booby-traps in the 2 months since IS retreated from the city, and dozens more wounded.
In particular, returning citizens have been warned not to touch the bodies of dead IS fighters, most of which have been rigged to explode on being moved.
Despite this, progress is reported in Kobane city with 15 shops and a restaurant and a second school, the Tishrin School in the eastern neighbourhood of Miktalah, re-opened and big efforts to clear and cleanse the streets underway.
Some clearance work is being hampered though by a fuel shortage for the second week running.
In Cizire Canton further to the east of Kobane, at Xebis near Tel Tamer on Friday, 2 x IS vehicles were destroyed and 10 x IS Jihadists killed in one of the Coalition airstrikes and heavy clashes were reported between both sides west of Tel Tamer over the weekend.
AFP Syria news photographer Yasin Akgul, whose fine pictures have been published on this blog recently, reports from his most recent trip back to Kobane, HERE:
Interestingly, Israel yesterday became the first country in the world to call at the UN for the setting up of an independent Kurdistan.
This map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, shows the Kobane Canton situation as of yesterday, Sunday 29.03.15, here:
OPPOSITION FIGHTERS SET UP ADMINISTRATION IN IDLIB BUT WARN OF RETALIATION AGAINST ALAWITE ENCLAVES IF BOMBS FALL:
As was predictable, the Assad regime bombed Idlib on Monday in an attempt to kill Opposition fighters.
4 barrel-bombs were also dropped on the city on Sunday, 2 of which failed to explode but which some thought contained chemicals such as chlorine.
People’s fears may have been heightened by Opposition intelligence reports that the Syrian Army is preparing Scud missiles armed with chlorine gas to “destroy Idlib”. The same sources said pro-Assad forces were also preparing explosive barrels containing chlorine in Hama military airport.
Ahrar Al-Sham, one of the main Islamic groups at the forefront of the capture of Idlib, yesterday urged the other victorious factions to unite in the administration of the city in the same way they had effectively come together on the battlefield.
However, they also warned Assad, that should he bomb civilians in the city then they would in turn bomb the surrounded Alawite enclaves of Al-Fuah and Kafrayya just to the north.
The same Islamist alliance also rejected a call by the Turkey based “mainstream political opposition” to let an interim government set up its HQ in Idlib, saying pithily that it preferred to be ruled “by those in the trenches and not those in hotels”.
Opposition sources estimate, contrary to earlier reports, that 170 people were killed in the battle for Idlib, 126 of them Opposition fighters.
The death toll on Assad’s side is much lower than expected, partly because according to some sources the Syrian Government withdrew its fighters and removed anything of use to the Opposition in anticipation of losing the city, though pictures have emerged of a major funeral procession of Alawite fighters in Tartous on Sunday.
This video footage shows Assad’s forces under attack as they drove away from Idlib, with some evidence that soldiers mixed with civilians in order to escape, HERE:
The Assad regime has accused both Turkey and Jordan of aiding the Opposition fighters in the capture of Idlib by providing them with “advanced communication equipment” among other things. SANA, the main media website for the Assad regime, has yet to mention the loss of Idlib at all.
On Saturday there were joyous scenes at Assad’s Political Security HQ on Saturday as Opposition fighters took control and released 53 prisoners who had not been killed as previously thought, HERE:
However, the joy was tempered with the discovery of the dead bodies of 15 people in another cell, including one woman, who had been executed before Assad’s men fled.
The statue of President Assad’s father, Hafez Al-Assad, which was smashed in the face with hammers by invading Opposition fighters on Saturday, was yesterday, Sunday, completely destroyed using a digger, here:
In Latakia, Bashar Assad’s cousin, Fawaz Jamil al-Assad, died on Friday of liver disease. Fawaz Assad was known for his cruelty to civilians and for the sexual harassment of women, exploiting his links with the ruling family, and will not be missed.
President Assad himself was interviewed recently by CBS News and, while still denying the existence of barrel-bombs, for once appeared hesitant and not at all sure of himself. You can read or watch the interview, HERE:
It is perhaps not without significance that SANA, the Syrian State media channel, has published Assad interviews in the last few days with South American TV, TeleSur, and Chinese and Italian TV but given the US interview a complete miss.
Lastly, BBC Syria news has been asking “what would take with you” if you had to flee your country?
Huthaifah, born in Aleppo in 1979 was raised in several countries after his father was imprisoned and his mother fled Syria, eventually making a new life for herself in the UK.
By then Huthaifah had returned to Aleppo age 18 to study at the University and eventually got a good job, married and thrived. He bought a pair of nice shoes, but vowed he would not wear them until he saw his Mother again and kept them in a bag in the cupboard.
In 2011 he joined the protests against the Assad regime but after a close friend was killed by the security police, he knew it was time to leave before the same fate befell him and he smuggled his family to Turkey.
Then, leaving his wife and child in a rented house, he set off for Europe, still with the special shoes in a bag, never letting them out of his sight despite being trafficked by people smugglers across Africa and then back to Turkey and across Europe to the Netherlands.
Eventually he was granted asylum and finally he was able to fly to London to meet his Mother.
When he got off the plane he put on the “special shoes” and went out into Arrivals to hug his Mum.
It had taken 11 years.
You can read the whole heart-warming story, HERE:
IDLIB UPDATE: ASSAD’S FORCES IN HUMILIATING COLLAPSE – CITY NOW TOTALLY UNDER OPPOSITION CONTROL:
TIMELINE 28th MARCH 2015 16.38 GMT:
Today, Saturday, Assad’s National Defence Force, charged with defending Idlib, completely collapsed and the last quarter in the south of the city has now fallen to an alliance of 8 fighting groups formed from the Al Nusra Front, the Islamic Front and Free Syrian Army (FSA) aligned battalions.
Early this morning, after seizing almost threequarters of the city yesterday, the attacking forces quickly gained control of the Palace of Justice, the National Hospital, the Provincial Museum, Al-Mehrab roundabout and checkpoint, Idlib Military Security HQ, the Air Force Security HQ, the Municipal Hall, the Governor’s building, the Traffic Police building, the Criminal Police building, the Faculty of Law, the Central Bank building, the City Council Hall, the main Secondary School and Idlib City Prison.
What’s left of Assad’s forces have fled to the south leaving the Syrian Government humiliated after a battle that lasted just 4 days from beginning to end.
Normally Idlib is a city of 100,000, though many anticipating Assad’s barrel-bombs and rockets have gone to Opposition held territory to the north, HERE:
Most residents seem pretty happy with the outcome, Idlib normally being a Sunni majority city, (jump to 0.17) HERE:
Idlib is only the second provincial capital to fall into opposition hands after Raqqah and anti-Assad forces now virtually control the whole of Idlib province. The 2 Alawite enclaves of Al-Fuah and Kafrayya, just to the north of Idlib city must be feeling very vulnerable.
A large Assad regime convoy, consisting of 20 tanks, 50 technicals (armed pick-ups) and 50 cars was spotted at Mahmpal, south-west of Idlib city early this morning, but its destination is unknown.
As of 15.45 GMT this afternoon, SANA, the main Syrian Government media outlet, was not admitting to any loss in Idlib but putting out the myth that “The army is re-positioning forces and units in southern Idlib city in preparation to face thousands of terrorists crossing border from Turkey” and had been “killing hundreds of them”.
More reliable sources say that around 150 have been killed in the fighting, mainly on the Government side.
Unconfirmed reports say that up to 60 “high security” prisoners were executed in the Political Security Branch before Assad’s military vacated it and ran.
Interesting to see what happens now as Idlib province, with a population in peacetime of 1.5 million abuts both Turkey and Assad’s key Alawite province of Latakia. (Scroll down for yesterday’s action news reports and videos)
Latest reports this afternoon, Saturday, say that Opposition forces are now pressing and taking barriers on the road south to Al-Mastouma (see 2nd map below).
This was the situation in Idlib last night, courtesy of @Conflict_Report, here:
And this is situation map now, courtesy of @PetoLucem, with Alawite enclaves to the north completely isolated, here:
And finally, comment from the good people of Kafranbel (EDITOR: Where have you been, we have missed you!):
KOBANE UPDATE 69: BODIES OF ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS STILL COMING OUT OF RUBBLE IN KOBANE CITY, AS FURTHER IS ATTACKS REPULSED:
TIMELINE: 27th MARCH 2015 15.00 GMT – UPDATED (scroll down) 21.12 GMT:
Two months after the liberation of Kobane city, they are still finding the rotting bodies of Islamic State (IS) fighters under the rubble of collapsed and destroyed buildings, but additional aid and help to rebuild has started to trickle in.
Fighting continues to the south-west of the Canton, to the south along and just below the M4 highway line and to the east towards the IS-held town of Tel Abayd.
On the south-western front, IS attempted another infiltration by boat across the Euphrates River near Qara Qwazak but this was detected by the YPG and their snipers repulsed and neutralised the attack.
However, further downstream on the Euphrates, IS managed a boat crossing from and into their own territory, sending reinforcements, weapons and ammunition to the defence of the town of Sarrin.
Repeated attempts by the Islamic State to recover ground north-east of Sarrin have been pushed back by the YPG/YPJ and the IS fighters inside the grain silo complex remain trapped and surrounded.
Coalition airstrikes continue in support of the Kurdish forces.
Recent strikes have targeted IS command and control centres on the west bank of the Euphrates plus vehicles and fighter groups.
Latest reports from US Central Command (Centcom) say that from Wednesday am through to yesterday morning, Thursday, they carried out 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, destroying 2 x IS fighting positions and hitting 5 others, plus 2 x IS tactical units.
The Coalition are also reported to have struck an IS military garrison near Raqqah, one of their key cities.
In the other other Kurdish Canton to the east, Cizire, the YPG have advanced on the western front, destroying an IS military vehicle and killing 2 x IS fighters near Tel Tamer.
Somehow, some of the Kurdish spirit to survive, whatever the odds, seems to have blessed a Kurdish football team based in Sweden. All 29 members of the Dalkurd FF team, which plays in the Swedish 3rd Division and was set up by Kurdish immigrants 11 years ago, were due to return together after training in Spain on the ill-fated Germanwings Flight 4U 9525.
However, at the last minute they decided to split into 3 groups and take other flights to Sweden via Germany and Switzerland, rather than have a 10 hour stopover in Dusseldorf. That decison saved their lives. One of their flights left at the same time as the plane that crashed into the French Alps. You can read more, HERE:
(EDITOR: Terrible decision of murderous, suicidal co-pilot of Germanwings aircraft if true. Very sad, so many wasted lives. My condolences to all the families concerned)
BATTLE FOR SINJAR CITY CONTINUES, WHILE YEZIDI WONDER WHY THE WORLD HAS FORGOTTEN THEM:
In northern Iraq, the YPG, along with the Peshmerga and Yezidi militia, continue the fight to try and push the Islamic State completely out of Sinjar city. Territory in the city is still split approximately 50/50.
After 2 attacks by Islamic State fighters on Kurdish positions on Wednesday were repulsed, IS were hit with 7 Coalition airstrikes and around 35 of them were killed.
Last Sunday, in their continuing destruction of everyone’s heritage, IS Jihadists in Sinjar blew up the ancient minaret of the Saljuqid mosque, a city landmark, as well as a number of houses.
At the headquarters of the EU in Brussels this week and in other cities around the world, members of the worldwide Yezidi community demonstrated to once again try and bring attention to the plight of their comrades and relatives in Iraq.
Apart from the hundreds of Yezidi killed by the Islamic State, thousands of captured young Yezidi women and girls are still missing after 8 months, and no-one seems to be doing anything about it.
As a result of Coalition airstrikes on Islamic State positions, an estimated 150 bodies of IS fighters were reported to have been transferred yesterday to the main mortuary in IS-held Mosul city.
The fighters were said to have been killed over the last 2 days in airstrikes on Kaske Kask, Kalak, Khorbasad and in Mosul’s Arabi neighborhood.
A Kurdish source said, “Mosul inhabitants have started buying tents and renting houses outside the city in fear of the battle for Mosul. They want to keep themselves away from clashes in the city”.
As Spring approaches, it is anticipated that the Coalition, the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga will launch a joint operation to retake Mosul, where there are thought to be only 2,000 Islamic State fighters remaining.
Families who have escaped the city say that people still living there are suffering a reign of terror as IS struggles to maintain to control of a large area. One estimate suggests that IS have only the support of about 5% of the population.
IS maintains its position by imposing severe penalties for what it sees as transgressions of its “laws”, according to some even cutting off the hands of children accused of theft. Stoning and executions are not uncommon. You can read more, HERE:
Further south, where the Iraqi Army and Iraqi militias have made progress against the Islamic State around Tikrit, the Coalition joined the fight for the city by carrying out 17 airstrikes on Wednesday am through to Thursday morning.
The airstrikes, according to US Central Command, hit multiple IS buildings, 2 x IS bridges, 3 x IS checkpoints, 2 x IS fighter staging areas, 2 x IS berms (defensive banks), an IS roadblock and an IS command and control facility. The attack on one of the bridges and nearby targets can be seen, here:
Although the Iraqi Government requested Coalition air support from the US, the action had not pleased everyone. Some of the Iraqi militias sponsored by Iran, with as many as 30,000 men, have threatened to pull back from Tikrit, claiming that the US is trying to “hijack victory”.
The attempt to retake Tikrit, after initial advances, has been stalled for more than 2 weeks, with the Iraqis unable to unseat a relatively small group of Islamic State fighters holding the centre. You can read more, HERE:
AL-NUSRA CONTINUE RAPID ADVANCE INTO IDLIB CITY, TAKING CONTROL OF KEY POINTS AND EXIT ROUTES:
The Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and the Islamic Front have continued their rapid advance into Idlib city in Syria with, it seems, little effective resistance from Assad’s Syrian Army or his supporters, Hezbollah and other Shia militias.
Latest reports today, Friday, suggest that advancing in through the countryside and the industrial zone from the east, ANF and their allies are now in control of a large complex of grain silos, an olive oil factory, the Cardamom Market, the Idlib Antiquities Museum and were at the Mehrab roundabout military checkpoint at sunset this evening, HERE:
This car tour shows the industrial zone firmly in the hands of ANF and Islamic Opposition units, (Caution, some dead bodies) HERE:
South-east of Idlib city, ANF have captured the “Brick Factory Checkpoint” also knows as Qameed Camp after, as reported earlier (scroll down – see below), Assad’s troops defected, HERE:
There are also unconfirmed reports that columns of Assad’s forces have withdrawn from the city to the Baath Vanguards Camp just south of Idlib at Al-Mastouma.
Reports late this afternoon, Friday, say that the Al-Nusra fighters have also captured the Nara North district to the north-east of the city, and together with their control of the uncompleted “Youth Housing” project taken yesterday, they have effectively completely cut the regime from any routes north of the city.
Footage of yesterday’s battle for the “Youth Housing” is, HERE:
In a fast moving situation, ANF are also claiming control of the main western road into the city and the Idlib Municipal Stadium.
As dusk approached this evening, Friday, ANF units pounded Government positions, HERE:
As always, when in danger of losing ground, the Assad regime this evening launched 4 or 5 Scud missiles from Damascus, which have landed on the villages of Saraqib and Sarmin in Idlib province, thought by the Syrian Army to be the centres of ANF’s operations.
Just to add to a bad day for President Assad, the Islamic State Jihadists, it has just been reported, launched an attack today on the Al-Tayfur military base in Homs province with 2 suicide bombs.
Very latest unconfirmed reports in on Friday night say that ANF forces are now attacking Assad’s Political Security Branch in Sabaa Bahrat Square. More news awaited.
In a rapidly changing situation, this map, courtesy of @archicivilians, shows the Idlib position of ANF and its allies as of yesterday – since then they have advanced even further, as detailed above:
KOBANE UPDATE 68: KURDS RECAPTURE 2 MORE STRATEGIC LOCATIONS AND REPEL ISLAMIC STATE ATTEMPT TO CROSS EUPHRATES RIVER:
TIMELINE – 25th MARCH 2015 14.03 GMT – UPDATED 17.28 GMT:
Current successful operations by the Kurdish forces have been at Qertel Hill, 50 kilometres south of Kobane city, where the strategic point was recaptured and 12 Islamic State (IS) fighters killed.
The YPG attack started on Tuesday night around 3.00am and lasted for 2 hours. 7 x IS fighters were killed fighting on the ground, while the other 5 were destroyed along with their vehicle as they tried to escape.
50 kilometres south-east of Kobane city, a joint force of the YPG/YPJ and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) also retook the village of Al-Jalabiyya in Raqqah province after heavy fighting. 35 x IS Jihadists were reported killed.
To the south-west of Kobane Canton at the remains of Qara Qwazak bridge, the Islamic State mounted an operation by boat across the river on Monday night, but this was repelled by the YPG leaving 24 x IS Jihadists dead. 4 x YPG fighters were also killed in the clash.
Six Coalition airstrikes are reported to have targeted IS positions and vehicles in the mountains on the west side of the Euphrates River overlooking Qara Qwazak.
However, another IS convoy was reported to have crossed over the top of the Tishreen Dam further to the south on the night of the 22nd/23rd March, to reinforce their positions in the battle for Sarrin. Difficult to strike them without damaging the dam which could have devastating consequences for those living below it.
Situation map for south-west Kobane Canton courtesy of @Chuckpfarrer, here:
This video gives a flavour of YPG operations in rural Kobane, HERE:
IS fighters remain trapped in the Lafarge Cement Plant just south of the M4 highway, but as can be seen from this map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, they are going to be difficult to dislodge, here:
US Central Command (Centcom) reports that strikes against IS in and around Kobane Canton have been escalated in the last few days.
From Sunday am through to Monday morning this week, the Coalition destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and hit a large IS tactical unit, plus 4 smaller ones and another fighting position.
From Monday am through to Tuesday, the Coalition destroyed 3 x IS fighting positions, an IS checkpoint and an IS vehicle, plus hits on 4 more tactical units and 1 fighting position.
From Tuesday am through to this morning, Wednesday, Coalition aircraft have made 6 airstrikes, destroying another 6 x IS fighting positions and hitting 3 x IS tactical units and 1 fighting position. (EDITOR: Not a bad start to the week!)
The Canadian Government yesterday, Tuesday, also announced that its air force, already part of the Coalition over Iraq, will from now on target Islamic State targets in Syria as well.
Within Kobane city itself the big clean-up continues, with some families trying to move back into derelict buildings or restart businesses.
Trucks have also arrived from Turkey carrying camping equipment to set up tents in or near the city.
These pictures give you a flavour of the terrible conditions that remain in the city (more can be found, HERE:)
OPPOSITION DRIVE ASSAD FORCES FROM ANCIENT CITY IN DARAA PROVINCE AND STORM SUBURBS OF IDLIB CITY:
After 4 days of fighting in southern Daraa province, Opposition fighters have today, Wednesday, completely taken control of the ancient city of Busra Al-Sham east-south-east of Daraa city. The Syrian Government called their defeat a “strategic withdrawal”.
At the heart of Busra is a castle with a Roman amphitheatre inside it. Nearby are the remains of a Roman Circus where they would have had chariot races.
In the 2nd century city was once the capital of the Roman province of “Arabia” and a stopover on the caravan routes to Mecca.
Fortunately, the historic remains, a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, remain largely intact.
85% of the fighters involved in the capture of the city were from mainstream FSA groups with the other 15% from Islamic units. The Al-Nusra Front was not involved.
Busra is just 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the Syrian border with Jordan and sits on high ground overlooking the plains that run out from Damascus.
Currently Busra is a town of around 19,000 inhabitants but there have been as many as 30,000, mainly Sunni.
A number of Assad’s troops were captured, including officers and 21 FSA fighters were reported killed in the assault. This footage shows part of the battle infront of the ancient Roman gate, HERE:
FSA fighters burned a captured Hezbollah flag in the city centre before filming this drive-by today, HERE:
The Daraa Opposition fighters, unified as the Southern Front, have also launched attacks at Al-Jaddiyah, 80 kilometres north-west of Busra, and at Qeita village west of Sanamein.
In Idlib province, Idlib city is virtually surrounded by the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), who, having announced their campaign against Assad’s forces in the city beforehand, have made spectacular gains in the first 48 hours.
Attacking the city from 3 directions and using car bombs driven by Islamists from the Gulf and US-made TOW missiles, ANF have succeeded in overrunning 12 checkpoints, including the Al-Mahlaj Factory barrier HERE: and the Sadkop Factory Barrier HERE: , both on the edge of the eastern industrial zone.
Today, Wednesday, they have captured a slaughterhouse, an olive oil factory and an electrical sub-station, also all in the east, but adjacent to the outer ring road.
ANF also detonated another bomb this morning using an armoured vehicle, in the north of the city and seemed to have cut the regime’s exit route going towards Aleppo, holding both Idlib University buildings and the “Youth Housing” area.
In addition, 5 of Assad’s officers and 40 of his soldiers are reported to have defected from the “Brick Factory Barrier” (Qarmeed Camp), not far from the city.
Another 36 of Assad’s troops have been reputedly executed for “giving Opposition fighters information” helping them with the assault on the city.
The southern entrance to the city is still open at present to the regime and reinforcements have been seen making their way from Latakia province. The battle for the southern entrance can be seen, HERE:
In an attempt to stem the Opposition advance, Assad’s Air Force has dropped yet more bombs on Sarmin, the target of a chlorine bomb attack a few days ago (scroll down – see below), HERE:
This map, courtesy of @archicivilians, shows how vulnerable Idlib city is to Opposition attack, surrounded strongly on 2 sides, even before the latest battle started, here:
In Aleppo, Opposition fighters have launched another attack against regime troops in Hamadaniya, (interesting video production – Arabic only) HERE:
A drone video shows us what it looks like inside the almost surrounded Aleppo citadel, still held by the Syrian Army, HERE:
According to a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Islamic State has trained more than 400 children to fight on its behalf since January. Children as young as 8 have been seen in videos loading and firing guns.
Once they turn 15 they are given the option of becoming fully fledged fighters with a salary, but also tempted with weapons and training to drive vehicles. At least 10 children have been used by IS as suicide bombers and one 12 or 13 year old recently appeared in a video as an executioner. You can read more, HERE:
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 67: KURDISH YPG SURROUND ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS AT GRAIN SILOS, BUT IS HIT BACK WITH MURDEROUS ATTACK IN HASAKAH:
TIMELINE – 23rd MARCH 2015 14.44 GMT – UPDATED 18.23 GMT:
On the south-western front in Kobane Canton, the Kurdish YPG and Free Syrian Army (FSA) allies have continued their advance towards Sarrin, despite many attacks on their positions.
23 Islamic State (IS) fighters were reported killed yesterday on the Sarrin front alone.
As well as still surrounding IS Jihadists at the Lafarge Cement Plant, the YPG now say they have completely encirlcled IS fighters at the grain silos on the M4 highway just north of Sarrin.
Coalition airstrikes have disrupted any attempt by IS to send reinforcements to the grain silos, as well as targeting Sarrin city itself.
Although one span was already damaged, blown up by IS at the the western end, a Coalition aircraft also blew up another another section of the Qara Qwazak Bridge on Thursday to make absolutely sure once again that IS could not send reinforcements to Sarrin front.
On Sunday, following airstrikes, the YPG carried out a counter-attack on a strategic hill near Qara Qwazak village still held by IS on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
As the YPG/YPJ moved towards Sarrin they liberated Tel Kharab, killing 6 x IS fighters in the process and capturing a large amount of ammunition. Another operation on Friday at Akbesh and Tel Kazan villages saw another 21 x IS Jihadists killed in combat.
In a joint FSA/YPG operation at the Sina/Sarrin crossroads a further 8 x IS fighters were killed. 1 FSA fighter died in the clashes.
More than 40,000 people have returned to Kobane city and emergency aid and supplies via trucks is starting to trickle in.
Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, there is an updated situation map for the south-western part of Kobane Canton, here:
From Friday am through to last Saturday morning, US Central Command (Centcom) reports that its bomber aircraft conducted 3 strikes in Kobane Canton, destroying 9 x IS fighting positions, 1 x IS vehicle and 2 x IS machine gun posts.
From Saturday am through to yesterday morning, Sunday, Coalition bomber and remotely piloted aircraft destroyed 3 x IS fighting positions and struck 1 x IS tactical unit and 3 x IS vehicles
In a statement, Centcom reports that since Coalition strikes started against IS on August 8th with Operation Inherent Resolve, 5,314 x IS targets had been hit in both Syria and Iraq. The total cost so far is reported as $1.8 billion, working out at $8.5 million a day.
IS targets hit in the 2 countries so far include 73 tanks, 282 Humvees, 408 staging areas, 736 buildings, more than 1,000 fighting positions and 87 oil collection points.
On the eastern front of Kobane Canton, 13 x IS Jihadists were killed in the countryside west of Tel-Abayd by Coalition bombs.
Further east in the Kurdish Canton of Cizire, the YPG targeted 4 x IS positions near Tel Berak and Tel Hamis in separate operations on Friday, as well as undertaking attacks on IS at Kharitah village between Tel Tamer and Hasakah city. An undetermined number of IS fighters were killed.
On Saturday, 2 x IS fighters were killed and 3 injured west of Tel Tamer at the village of Nasri.
In a dreadful attack on Friday, IS set off twin suicide car bomb attacks as thousands of Kurds with their families were gathering in Hasakah city for the Newroz, Kurdish New Year, celebrations.
At least 45 were killed, including children, and 120 civilians injured.
Similar celebrations planned for other cities over the weekend were called off as a result.
ASSAD LOSES BOTH A HELICOPTER FULL OF BARREL-BOMBS AND 74 PRO-GOVERNMENT FIGHTERS IN IDLIB PROVINCE:
In what appears to be an attempt to raise morale after defeats in both Syria at Kobane and in Iraq at the hands of the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Islamic State has launched major attacks against the Assad regime in both Homs and Hama provinces.
74 of Assad’s supporters were reported killed in the attack in Hama province in a 3 day battle over the weekend near Sheik Hilal, where IS appeared to be attempting to cut the main road running north from Hama to Aleppo.
In Homs province the IS Jihadists killed another 20 of Assad’s forces, and today continued the battle by attacking today, Monday, Assad’s military airport at Tadmur. Conversely, the Assad regime claimed to have killed 19 x IS Jihadists in Deir Ez-Zour province today.
More grief for Assad occurred yesterday, Sunday, when one of his helicopters was forced to make an emergency landing near the village of Frikah, 10 kilometres north of Ma’arat Al-Numan, also in Idlib province.
Of the crew of 6, one is said to have escaped, 1 was summarily executed by local people and 4, including the pilot were taken prisoner.
The crew had jettisoned their load of barrel-bombs (which Assad denies using) without lighting the fuses before impact, in order to avoid an explosion.
The helicopter can be seen in this video on Facebook, HERE:
The anger of local people was because the call sign of the helicopter was identified as “Bravo – 17”, the same as had been picked-up last week from the helicopter that had last Monday dropped barrel-bombs containing chlorine on the Idlib village of Sarmin.
The chlorine gas was hidden in cooking gas cylinders within the barrels and released on impact. 18 people are reported to have died from asphyxiation, including several children. You can read more and see a video, HERE:
The attack on Sarmin may well have been an attempt at a pre-emptive strike on the Al-Nusra Front who have announced a campaign to drive the Assad regime from Idlib city. Sarmin was possibly one of their command and control centres for the attack. This video footage shows the first Opposition shelling of Government positions on the edges of Idlib city, HERE:
In Daraa province, Opposition fighters have launched a major attack against Assad regime positions in Bosra, south-east of Daraa city, despite air attacks to prevent their advance.
Reports say that the Opposition fighters killed an Iranian in the clashes, General Ali Hashemian, as well as 20+ members of Assad’s combined National Defence Force (NDF), Hezbollah and Druze fighter army.
Fighting has also spilled over into the adjacent Druze dominated Suweida province, which is usually pretty quiet, with clashes between the Al-Nusra Front and Assad’s fighters at the village of Bakka. NDF video, HERE:
In Aleppo province, despite recent Assad regime claims that they had recaptured all of Handarat village, heavy fighting continues in the area with high numbers of deaths on the Government side reported and the exact territorial gains and losses at this stage unclear.
Within the Old City of Aleppo virtual house-to-house fighting continues on a daily basis, with the Assad forces still inside the Aleppo Citadel now looking extremely vulnerable, as this map, courtesy of @archicivilians, shows, here:
KOBANE UPDATE 66: ISLAMIC STATE GEAR UP TO ATTACK KURDS FROM THE WEST BUT LOSE MORE TERRITORY TO YPG IN THE EAST:
TIMELINE – 19th MARCH 2015 14.44 GMT:
Having liberated almost the entire western sector of Kobane Canton to the shores of the Euphrates River, the Kurdish forces are now involved in heavy fights with the Islamic State on the southern front along the line of the M4 highway.
In the last few days, the Kurdish YPG/YPJ captured a significant hill overlooking the town of Sarrin and the biggest battles are now here and near the grain silos just to the east.
Coalition aircraft have been pounding IS positions in the area.
Directly opposite Sarrin on the other side of the Euphrates, the Islamic State is reported to be massing vehicles and fighters at Najem Castle.
The nearest crossing point is across the top of Lake Tishrin Dam.
A combined YPG and Free Syrian Army (FSA) force has also recovered the village of Mejbil on the Aleppo – Hasakah road, just south of Qara Qwazak bridge and village.
To the east of Sarrin, it is still not clear whether the YPG have successfully countered the Islamic State surge across Kurdish lines to Jil and Sal. Some maps are showing Sal now back in YPG hands.
More to east again, IS fighters are also still reported to be holding out in the Lafarge Cement Works further along the highway, but remain completely surrounded, so unless IS can rescue them, their situation is pretty hopeless.
On Wednesday the deaths of 25 x IS fighters were reported around Bir Hiso on the southern front, while 2 more were killed on the eastern front by YPG/YPJ snipers at the village of Sero.
The Kurds have additionally moved the eastern front in the Canton yet nearer to IS-held Tel Abayd, liberating the villages of Aghbash, Bendir-Khan and Shewiti as well as moving closer to Beer-Arab and Jern Al-Aswad.
Within Kobane city itself the big clean-up continues, dozens of bodies of IS fighters still being discovered under the rubble. 2 members of a YPG de-mining team were also injured on Wednesday when removing an Islamic State explosive device.
This damage assessment map for Kobane from UNOSAT shows 3,247 affected structures and 979 craters, here:
This article relates what the conditions are like right now, with 40,000 people already back in the city and inadequate facilities to care for them, (good pictures) HERE:
This Voice of America video gives you an even better idea, HERE:
The Kurds of Kobane did find time this week though to celebrate Newroz, Kurdish New Year, which for 2015 will have added significance in terms of victory and joy and loss and heroic sacrifice.
While the father of former UK Royal Marine, Konstandinos Eric Scurfield, was collecting his son’s body from Kobane after he was killed fighting alongside the YPG, and honoured by them with a full guard of honour, his mother gave a brave and emotional speech at a gathering in the British Parliament. Worth listening to, here:
This Kobane Canton Map, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, shows the current situation, here:
This map, courtesy of @deSyracuse, shows the progression of the Kobane Canton campaign, here:
KOBANE UPDATE 65: DEFEATED IN SOUTH-WEST OF KOBANE CANTON, ISLAMIC STATE BLOW UP WESTERN SIDE OF MAJOR BRIDGE:
TIMELINE – 16th MARCH 2015 18.15 GMT:
By last Friday, the YPG were claiming that they had killed 33 Islamic State fighters in recent battles on the south-western front near Qara Qwazak and over the weekend, another 12.
So even to the IS fighters it was becoming clear that their position on the east bank of the Euphrates was hopeless and after the YPG had taken Qara Qwazak village and nearby Ber Haso, what was left of the Islamic State in the area either fled, surrendered or were killed by airstrikes.
At the same time the Islamic State blew up the western end of Qara Qwazak bridge in attempt to halt any Kurdish invasion of their territory on the west bank, while they themselves retreated to the Hamam mountains overlooking the Euphrates river valley.
This video shows the bridge explosion shortly after it occurred, as well as ongoing YPG and Free Syrian Army (FSA) operations in the area, HERE:
The Kurds now control the whole of the area around the bridge, including the land, Turkish territory, on which formerly stood the Tomb of Suleyman Shah.
Prior to blowing up the bridge, some IS fighters had gathered at a house not far from the river.
This Coalition airstrike on that building (0.55) probably concentrated IS minds on retreating from there immediately, here:
US Central Command (Centcom) reports that it made one airstrike in Kobane Canton during the 24 hours from 13th March through to 8.00am on the 15th, hitting an IS tactical unit, and 4 more strikes on the 14th through to the 15th. The latter hit an IS tactical unit and destroyed 9 x IS fighting positions and an IS vehicle.
Unconfirmed reports on Sunday also say that the Coalition targeted 2 x IS night-time convoys heading for the Qara Qwazak bridge area from Manbij and Al Bab.
Latest reports say that additionally Kara Cossack, on Kobane’s western front, has fallen into YPG hands as well.
Footage of other YPG operations in rural Kobane is, HERE:
Courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, this is a close-up of the bridge situation, here:
On the south-eastern front, the Kurds killed 5 x IS fighters in an ambush near Mênîfê Kor and on the eastern front they are ploughing on, determined to get to Tel Abayd, a major crossing and supply route for IS from Turkey.
Ronahi TV reports from Bexdik, just 25 kilometres from Tel Abayd, (English sub-titles), HERE:
25 kilometres west of Kobane, the Turks have already built a new, more modest tomb to the memory of Suleyman Shah, at the village of Ashme, inside Syria just yards from the Turkish border.
While in Kobane itself, the first new buildings are going up after the arrival of concrete blocks and Ahmed Qader, a dentist opened the first new dental clinic.
And from Turkey come reports that the Turkish Municipalities Union, headed by Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Kadir Topbaş, have decided to help Kobane city rebuild, extending whatever help is requested.
Officials estimate that 1200 houses were completely destroyed in the fighting and another 3,000 damaged.
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