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TIMELINE 15th NOVEMBER 2013 UPDATED 18.12 GMT:
The majority of the action in Syria in the last 48 hours continues to happen in Aleppo province and around Aleppo International Airport in particular.
Opposition brigades, having issued a “call to arms” earlier this week (scroll down – see below) to defend their gains in Aleppo, rallied in the last 2 days to take on Assad’s invading Army.
Having lost control of Base 80 just north of the airport, yesterday they regained ground by taking over 3 factories on the perimeter, including a plant oil processing plant.
As can be seen from videos, this put them within sight and attacking range of the adjacent Al-Nairab military airport, HERE:
A number of MIG jets can be seen parked near hangers, but they are probably not operational and kept for spare parts. However, in a later video, airfield staff are seen hastily taking a L-39 Trainer jet to a safer place, HERE: and firefighters are called in to put out a number of fires, HERE:
The most successful Opposition strike with Grad missiles and mortars possibly hit one of the aircraft on the ground but certainly, as seen from video sequences, hit fuel storage tanks, starting a major fire on Wednesday evening, HERE: and HERE:
However, a regime air strike on Thursday which struck a meeting of Opposition forces at an airbase they captured a year ago, has killed a senior commander of the Liwa Al-Tawhid Brigade, Yussef al-Abbas, their Intelligence Chief, and injured the brigade’s top commander, Abdelkader Saleh plus another senior commander, Abdelaziz Salameh.
The 2 wounded commanders have been moved to Turkey where they are said to be comfortable. After the attack Liwa al-Tawhid arrested 30 people suspected of being Government informers.
In separate incidents, 2 other leaders of Opposition battalions were killed in fighting near the airport and another commander was killed near Mahin in Homs province where fighters had removed vast stocks of regime munitions from Syrian Army buildings.
Despite these setbacks, it remains to be seen whether the Opposition can sustain their fightback and regain ground around Aleppo and whether Assad’s forces, who appear to have drawn on troops from Hama and Quneitra in the south for the Aleppo assault, can maintain their advance.
Added to Opposition problems is a reported incident (all on video) in which 2 members of the Jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) hold up the cut-off head of what they believe to be a pro-Assad Shiite fighter before a crowd of people in Aleppo.
Unfortunately it turns out the beheaded man was Mohammed Marroush, an experienced fighter with the Opposition group Ahrar al-Sham who had been wounded in fighting near Base 80 south-east of Aleppo.
He was taken to a hospital in Aleppo for treatment but in his drugged state was heard to say the names of Ali and Hussein, two revered Shiite imams. The 2 ISIL men decided he was a Shiite fighter and decapitated him. Both have been arrested and will appear before a Sharia court.
On the western side of Aleppo city, heavy clashes were reported yesterday and the Opposition were filmed using their notorious “hell-cannon” against the Research Centre, HERE:
There are also unconfirmed reports that Opposition fighters yesterday shot down a regime plane near Khanasser, the town which the Government recaptured a couple of weeks ago on the key strategic road between Hama and Aleppo.
Activists are also claiming that there is fierce fighting in the area and the Opposition have recaptured the village of Abeeda, not far from Khanasser, allowing them to once again to interrupt the route to Aleppo.
MORE NEWS FOLLOWS LATER …..
TIMELINE – 13th NOVEMBER 2013 13.32 GMT: Updated 22.15 GMT:
Jihadist groups in northern Syria called for a mass mobilisation yesterday to counter advances by Assad’s forces in the southern approaches to Aleppo around the airport.
As well as re-taking Base 80 to the north-east of the airport, the Syrian Army is also dropping barrel bombs on Tel-Hasel, the last remaining town on the highway from Hama to Aleppo airport. If Tel-Hasel falls, as seems likely, the Assad regime could, in theory, re-open the airport, allowing them to fly in re-inforcements.
The statement from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) acknowledged the losses of Khanasser, Tel Aran and Safira, all key places on the road south of Aleppo, and called on “all brigades and Muslims to arms to face off against the enemy which is attacking Islamic territory.”
ISIL put the losses down to “many rebel units withdrawing from the combat zone.” Their statement follows a similar call to arms issued on Monday by 6 other Islamic groups, including the Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Liwa al-Tawhid.
Undoubtedly, the Opposition’s strength has been undermined by in-fighting and Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia fighters are reported to have moved north from Damascus to fight alongside Assad’s regular troops and take advantage of this perceived weakness on the Opposition side.
The Syrian Army backed by tanks, had taken two high-rise buildings in the northern Ashrafieh and Bani Zeid districts, and advanced into the areas after close-quarter street fighting.
However, renewed clashes are reported around Base 80 to the south-east of the city and on the eastern approaches at the Transport Directorate in Al-Naqqarin where Opposition fighters destroyed another tank.
Opposition fighters also fired this formidable cannon at the Al-Muhrab baracks near the Tishreen district in western Aleppo, HERE: as well as bombing troops inside and around the Aleppo citadel, HERE:
Al jazeera has a video report on the situation in Aleppo, HERE:
Meanwhile, members of the Syrian Red Crescent bravely ventured into the no-man’s land at the Suleiman Al-Halabi crossing between regime-held western Aleppo and the Opposition-held eastern part of the city, to retrieve the dead bodies of numerous people killed by sniper fire.
Pictures have also emerged of children burnt by Assad’s incendiary bombs, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) launched a campaign against this week saying that they are as bad as chemical weapons.
HRW has recorded 56 incendiary attacks by Assad’s forces since November 2012.
Syria is not a signatory to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) or its Protocol III banning the use of air-delivered incendiary weapons in areas with “concentrations of civilians” signed by 107 other countries.
You can read more on this, HERE: and watch HRW’s video, here:
In Damascus, the Syrian Army, supported by Hezbollah and Iraqi fighters, has also today, Wednesday, taken most of the southern suburb of Hejeira, though there are still pockets of Opposition resistance.
Heavy clashes are also being reported at the entrance to the southern suburb of Babbilah, HERE: and Opposition forces are reporting the death of 20 pro-Government fighters in Barzeh.
Opposition mortar shells are reported to have fallen on the districts of Al-Sofaniyyeh and Al-Qaimariyyeh this morning, killing 2 and wounding 30, and an earlier mortar attack this week on Mazraa is reported to have hit the headquarters of the pro-Assad Palestinean group PFLP-GC near the Central Bank injuring 5 of their members.
In the Qalamoun neighbourhood to the north-west of the capital, the government has carried out airstrikes following an Opposition attack on one of its convoys heading for Homs.
4 Christian children and their bus driver killed in an Opposition mortar attack on Monday, were buried on Tuesday. The BBC has a moving video report of their funeral, HERE:
However, following in-fighting among Opposition groups, all is not well among pro-Assad fighters either according to the Saudi paper, Al-Watan.
The Saudi daily reports that members of Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Abu Al-Fadl Al-Abbas Brigade, many of whom are Shia fighters from Iraq, have been killing each other, following disputes over “duties” and “theft”.
The main “duty” of the Abu Al-Fadl Al-Abbas Brigade is to protect the Sayyida Zeinab shrine in the southern part of Damascus, a location that is sacred to Shia Moslems all over the world. They have been under enormous pressure recently from Opposition fighters led by the Al-Nusra Front, who are just yards from the shrine.
On the political front the provisional prime minister elected by the Opposition Syrian Nationa Coalition last September, Ahmed Tomeh, announced a provisional government yesterday to administer Opposition held areas.
Pro-Saudi Asaad Mustafa was named as defence minister, while the economist Ibrahim Mero was chosen as finance minister. Tomeh, optimistically, said his government would be one of “work and not words…and will have as its top priorities establishing security and civil order in the liberated zones of Syria and to respond to vital needs.”
In an unconnected move, Kurdish groups also announced yesterday, Tuesday, that they are establishing a “”transitional civil administration” in areas of north-east Syria directly under their control.
The Kurdish militia have been particularly successful in driving out extreme Jihadist groups like ISIL from the area, capturing more than 20 towns and villages formerly under Jihadist control in recent weeks and securing border crossings to Turkey and Iraq.
However, in retaliation, a suicide bomber blew himself up on Monday outside the headquaters of the Syrian Red Crescent in the Kurdish city of Kobani in Aleppo province, just as schools were turning out in the afternoon. At least 11 people were killed, including a nurse and several children.
This is a children’s drawing of life in Syria:
TIMELINE – 11th NOVEMBER 2013 17.54 GMT:
A massive battle is reported in the northern Homs countryside between Homs city and Rastan to the north, illustrated by this video, HERE:
Rastan itself has also come under consistent and repeated bombardment in recent days as, supported by Hezbollah and its other Shia allies, the Assad regime is trying to free the Homs countryside of Opposition fighters in order to protect its link between Damascus and Latakia.
Most of the fighting is concentrated around Talbiseh and the village of Al-Ghantoo, which today has suffered a number of airstrikes, including the dropping of cluster bombs, HERE:
The Syrian Air Force has also, belatedly, carried out a number of air strikes on villages in eastern Homs province around Mahin, where as reported previously (scroll down, see below), the Opposition gained massive amounts of ammunition after taking a large weapons compound there.
Opposition fighters have already put their newly acquired weapons to good use, successfully taking out this Syrian Army vehicle with a guided anti-tank missile, HERE:
In Hama province, north-east of Hama city, Opposition fighters took control of the A’alaf Checkpoint, destroying one tank in the process, HERE: and capturing a tank and a Shilka armoured vehicle, HERE:
South-east of Aleppo, Opposition fighters are not doing so well as Base 80, recently held by them until Friday, has now changed hands 3 times over the weekend.
In a surprise early morning attack on Friday, regime forces re-took control of parts of the Base but were driven out again on Saturday by an Opposition counter attack.
In turn, the Syrian Army backed by Hezbollah, threw massive resources at the battle, apparently taking complete control of the Base yesterday.
The avowed intention of the Syria Army is to “re-open nearby Aleppo International Airport”, which has been closed since repeated Opposition attacks last year.
However, the story may not be over yet. Continued heavy fighting is reported in the area of Base 80 today, Monday, and Opposition fighters are still within striking distance, destroying a truck full of soldiers, 2 tanks, a BMP armoured vehicle and a self-propelled tank-howitzer, all part of an Army convoy entering the Base, with anti-tank missiles.
The Opposition skilfully destroy a tank and then the truck following it, HERE:
Assad’s forces, moving up from Safira, which they now control, have also taken Tel’Arn and are now at Tel Hasel and are almost in a position to reopen the road from the south all the way to Aleppo Airport.
Elswhere in Aleppo, Opposition fighters have been more successful, capturing a huge power plant due east of the the city not far from Quwaires airbase, HERE: and also the Transport Directorate, from where they were able to fire on the incoming Army convoys from the south using a 122mm self propelled tank howitzer and the anti-tank missiles described above, HERE:
In Deraa in the south of Syria, heavy clashes are reported in the eastern half of the city, HERE: , with Opposition fighters attacking the Government compound and the Political Security branch in the north-eastern Kashef neighborhood.
This video also shows the virtual complete destruction by the Opposition of the Army’s military housing complex near Tafas, also in Deraa province, HERE:
Video uploaded this evening, shows a captured Army base at Al-Harak-Take, north-east of Deraa city, where the Opposition also took a number of prisoners (caution – dead body), HERE:
In central Damascus, Opposition mortar fire reportedly killed 5 children this morning, Monday, at the St. John of Damascus school in the majority Christian area of Qassaa and wounded a further 27. According to Government sources, a second mortar hit a school bus in the Bab Touma district, injuring another five children.
After a rare agreement between Government officials and opposition fighters, food has been allowed into the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya where people have been without proper supplies for weeks.
At the same time Assad’s militia, known as Local Committees in the capital, has been accused of repeated theft, abductions and property seizures. Targeting houses when most people are at the mosque, one group of armed men, saying they were “State Security”, told an elderly resident still at home, “To bring all the home’s valuables and place them on the kitchen table – so as to ensure her belongings were safe while the men freely inspected her home”.
By the time she had made them tea, they had vanished with all “the jewellery belonging to herself and her daughters, and all the family cash – a sizeable sum in times when civil war has left people wary of banks”. You can read more, HERE:
This video shows fighting due south of Damascus at Hejira, HERE: and due north of the capital Opposition fighters are reported to have fired missiles at the Sidnayah prison.
For the first time 3 Opposition rockets have also this evening, Monday, hit the normally peaceful city of Latakia, though no casualties are reported. According to Opposition sources the missiles were “manufactured locally” and fell on the Zaqzaqiya district in the eastern part of the Alawite heartland’s regional capital.
On the political front, after a 3 day meeting in Istanbul, the Opposition Syrian National Council has agreed to attend the Geneva 2 “peace talks” but only provided certain conditions are met. Firstly, they still insist that any talks must lead to the forming a transitional government that excludes Bashar Al-Assad and any of his henchmen with blood on their hands.
Secondly, that aid agencies such as the International Red Cross must have immediate and continued access to besieged areas. And thirdly, that all detainees, particularly women and children, be released.
The Syrian Government continues to insist that Assad’s position is not negotiable.
After 3 weeks of fighting, Opposition fighters have captured a huge complex of more than 30 buildings at Mahin in the desert of eastern Homs province.
The complex is reputed to be the 2nd largest munitions store in the whole of Syria and was used to supply the Assad regime’s forces to the north and around Homs city. Video footage shows the seizing of vast quantities of ammunition, rockets, mortars, vehicles including trucks, and anti-tank missiles and launchers.
The complex was captured earlier this week but the Opposition preserved a news black-out until yesterday, Thursday, while they removed all the ammunition from the buildings. This rather long video tells the story, HERE:
At least 50 Opposition fighters were killed in the operation. Assad personnel losses are not known, but at least 25 soldiers are shown dead in a video and there are unconfirmed reports of dozens of soldiers captured. A second video (including some dead bodies), HERE:
Unconfirmed reports also say that the Opposition fighters took control of 4 million litres of diesel fuel used by the Syrian Army to power its tanks, trucks and armoured vehicles.
This is probably the largest haul of Syrian Army munitions that the Opposition has captured in one go. Serious questions to be asked are why the Assad regime, perhaps lacking man-power, failed to defend this vitally important site properly and why it failed to attack the munition stores with jets once the Opposition had taken control?
Perhaps part of the answer lies in this article which claims that Hezbollah, preparing for major battles around the Qalamoun mountains on the border with Lebanon, is now leading the fight against the Opposition in Syria and the Syrian Army, which is still paranoid about Sunni defections, is, in many places, merely playing a supporting role, HERE:
Nor is fighting over in Homs city itself, with heavy clashes and explosions hear around the Homs Citadel on Tuesday, HERE:
Heavy fighting is also being reported around Aleppo as the Syrian Army steps up its offensive to retake Aleppo’s largest city. At 3.30 GMT, very early this morning, Assad’s forces attacked Opposition positions at the captured Base 80 to the south-east of the city and just north of the International airport.
The attack started with the heaviest artillery barrage that Aleppo’s residents had heard for at least a year. Base 80 was originally used by the Assad regime to protect the airport but fell into Opposition hands months ago. Opposition forces say that they have called up urgent reinforcements.
Further to the south, heavy clashes are also reported around Tel Arn, a town just to the north of Safira, recently re-captured by the regime, and Khannaser, re-captured earlier. This is all an attempt by the Syrian Army to re-open its supply routes to Aleppo and then to its few remaining bases in northern Syria.
Latest reports from Tel Arn suggest that after 5 days of fighting, Opposition fighters have repelled the latest attacks and Assad’s troops and units of Hezbollah have retreated from the entrance to the town after losing 30 of their number. There is video footage of the defence of Tel Arn in the mist, HERE:
Within Aleppo city itself, Opposition fighters have attacked the Military Academy with Grad Missiles this week, where burning buildings have been reported, and this latest footage of the fight to take Aleppo Central Prison, now much the worst for wear, was published on Wednesday, HERE:
This recent map shows the positions of both parties in Aleppo (not including this morning’s attack on Base 80). Click HERE to see a larger version:
In the Damascus countryside Opposition fighters liberated a small Syrian Army base in the mountainous area of Jabal Sheikh on Wednesday, HERE:
On the same day 25 Opposition mortars are reported to have landed on central Damascus, some near the Presidential Palace and the up-market, pre-dominately Alawite area of Al Malaki, and a larger number hitting the area around the Al-Hijaz Railway Station, killing 6 and injuring dozens more.
On Tuesday, a similar Opposition mortar attack hit the Vatican Embassy, also in the Al-Malaki area.
In the southern suburb of Sbeneh, where the Assad Army made inroads this week, the Opposition are still fighting back, destroying this Government tank, HERE:
In Sweida city to the south-west of Syria near the Jordan border, an area mainly populated by the Druze community and until now largely untouched by the conflict, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Air Intelligence headquarters, apparently killing the colonel in charge and 7 other intelligence officers.
On the refugee front, the UN estimates that 9.3 million refugees inside Syria are now in need of help, approximately 40% of the population – up from a figure of 6.9 million in September (total population of Syria around 23 million). Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:
With winter rapidly approaching, the situation is only set to get worse. Touchingly, there is a report from the UK that a 92 year old lady from Swindon called Doris has knitted 400 pullovers to keep Syrian children warm:
The International Red Cross also has some good images in this short video, here:
While President Assad deplores the use of “foreign terrorists” in Syria, yet extensively relies on Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon (plus Shia fighters from Iran and Iraq) to keep him in power, Saudi Arabia is apparently prepared to invest millions of dollars to build a “national army” to remove Assad from power.
Disgusted by the lack of decisive action by the United States and its allies to topple the Assad regime, the Saudis have apparently called on Pakistan to supply them with training officers to quickly build a new “moderate Islam” fighting force of 5,000 to 10,000 men (and eventually as many as 50,000) by next Spring.
The recent Opposition grouping of more than 40 fighting groups in the “Army of Islam” is the start of this, but it will exclude the State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and the Al-Nusra Front, both seen as extreme Jihadist organisations.
Meanwhile, you may like to follow Karl Sharro @KarlreMarks, who has come up with some “Jihadist cartoons” (EDITOR: If that is not a contradiction – and a brave but dangerous pastime Karl!). Here the Jihadists, Abu A and Abu B, discuss the “subjugation of women”:
TIMELINE – 4th NOVEMBER 2013 14.34 GMT:
Rather depressing news all round today as reports of malnutrition are increasing and Opposition groups continue to divide and bicker.
With winter rapidly approaching, there are increasing reports of people, and especially children, starving in not only the besieged Opposition areas of Syria but Government held areas as well.
Despite the fact that the UN World Food Programme is delivering enough food for 3 million people a month, they can track only what is delivered to central depots in various cities, not how widely or fairly it is distributed from there.
Lack of medical care and clean water makes the problem worse. So does the fact that Syrians have little experience diagnosing or treating malnutrition. Particularly troubling, say aid workers, are reports of mothers who stop breast feeding, unaware that it is the best way for even a malnourished mother to keep her child alive.
Aid workers say, the fact that military blockades are preventing people in such acute need from receiving aid is in itself a human-rights violation. Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers and residents have observed signs at checkpoints around the Damascus suburb of Moadhamiya and other Opposition held districts which read, “Kneel or starve.”
“It’s very strange to know that the food is only five minutes away from you,” said Qusai Zakarya, a spokesman for a rebel council in Moadhamiya, who said he recently spoke on the phone to a friend who was eating a cheeseburger in the wealthy neighbourhood of Mezze just a few miles away.
Abu Hazem, 43, a taxi driver in Moadhamiya, said he fed his five children a dwindling supply of lentils, sometimes mixed with grass, and once shot a dog for food “because there are no birds flying over Moadhamiya.”
The UN target is to feed 4 million people a month inside Syria and they supplied enough food for 3.3 million in October. However, despite this referrals to 2 hospitals in Damascus for moderate and severe acute malnutrition are increasing rapidly.
A spokeswoman for UNICEF, Marixie Mercado, said that the upward trend of rising child malnutrition was confirmed by its partner aid agencies in Hama, Homs, Aleppo, Rural Damascus, Quneitra, Deir al-Zor, rural Deraa and Idlib.
This video of a Syrian child dying of malnutrition in the 21st century shows how dreadful this is, HERE:
Clearly the Syrian Government has important issues like the starvation of its people in hand, SANA, the Assad regime state media, putting out this “useful” Tweet yesterday:
“SANA Tweet: SANA English @SANA_English 20h Free safety glasses will be distributed to citizens nationwide as #Syria’s Astronomical Society stresses the need for a safe eclipse viewing.”
In Aleppo, a significant brigade commander, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, resigned yesterday, Sunday, from the Aleppo Revolutionary Military Council, because of “some people’s refusal to heed calls for unity” and accusing “warlords” and the international community of “conspiring” against the people.
Colonel Okaidi defected from Assad’s army in May 2012 and in July of that year led the attack on Aleppo that captured large areas of the city from the regime. Commenting on the infighting between other Opposition commanders, he said, “Stop… racing each other for power and for your kingdoms… Go back to how you were” at the start of the revolution.
The tipping point for Okaidi appears to have been the loss of Safira, after holding it for months, which now potentially leaves the whole of the eastern Opposition-held suburbs of Aleppo open to regime attack.
Writing on his Facebook page, Okaidi said, “The Safira front needed men to fight, but the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other battalions failed.”
On the ground, Opposition fighters took control over the weekend of a cross roads near Ashrafieh south of Aleppo city, HERE: but infighting continued with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) Jihadists pushing an FSA brigade, Shuhadaa Bader, out of the Shqayyef industrial area.
Much of the current Opposition gains seem to be in the eastern part of Homs province, where fighters are attempting to gain control of an enormous spread-out compound at Mahin containing numerous buildings full of ammunition, seen HERE:
Clashes around the village of Mahin are being reported this morning.
Also there is this video of members of the Opposition Islamic Front in Homs province manufacturing rockets in vast quantities, HERE:
A explosive-laden truck was reported to have blown up this morning, Monday, at the entrance to the Shiite village of Sabtiyeh, not far from Homs, killing 6, including 3 children, and wounding at least 37 others.
It appears to be purely a sectarian attack as there as been no fighting around the village and Sabtiyeh is thought to generally have good relations with its Sunni neighbours.
Certainly some parts of the Opposition are getting their act together, while others are losing it. One unconfirmed report from the Israeli press says that the Army of Islam now has two captured L-39ZA Albatros fighters ready for take off.
If true this could be a useful asset for Opposition forces. The Albatross, a jet trainer, has been widely used by the Assad regime for attacks on the Opposition, though it is no match for combat against MIG jet fighters.
The Albatross has 2 machine guns with 150 rounds and can be fitted with air-air missiles and ground attack munitions. The 2 planes in question were captured at the Al-Jarah airbase in Aleppo province in February. Whether the Opposition has sufficient pilots and experienced ground crews to run and maintain them remains to be seen.
There is also, currently, an unconfirmed report that “a Syrian pilot has turned his warplane against his fellow soldiers and attacked regime positions”, though whether this is somehow connected with the above is also not clear. Further detail awaited.
In the Damascus countryside, the Opposition Martyrs of Yarmouk Brigade have paraded a significant amount of captured regime armoury, including T-72 tanks, BMP armoured vehicles and field-guns, HERE: and HERE:
In Hama on Saturday, the Syrian Army lost another T-72 tank to direct-hit Opposition fire, HERE: and in Deraa province to the south Opposition fighters killed 15 Government soldiers in clashes in the northern Atman district of the city.
Around Damascus Assad forces with the support of Hezbollah and Iranian and Iraqi Shia fighters are attempting to break the Opposition stranglehold on the southern suburbs, while at the same time the Opposition have dropped a mortar shell on the Damascus citadel area in the very heart of the capital.
Concern continues to be expressed over the destruction of Syria’s rich cultural heritage as this series of before and now shots of rich historical assets, courtesy of Rachel E. Davidson, shows:
UNESCO has implored both sides to respect these priceless buildings but the urgency of war overtakes such niceties.
Associated Press is reporting this morning that thieves have raided a storehouse over weekend at the Herqla archaeological site Raqqah province.
Artifacts were stolen by armed men from the storehouse, which contains mosaics and pottery, while villagers stood back helplessly restrained at gun-point.
The raiders were reported to have sped away towards the Turkish border immediately afterwards.
On the diplomatic front, US Secretary of State, John Kerry is busy trying to pacify the Saudis who are upset at the lack of US action against Assad, the pro-Assad press has called the UN Syrian envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, “one eyed and two-tongued” after his recent visit to Damascus, and the Syrian National Coalition has confirmed that it will not attend “peace talks” in Geneva unless there is an agreed timetable for Assad’s departure.
On the chemical weapons front, everything seems to be going more or less according to plan. The BBC’s Lyse Doucet has an excellent video report, with good footage, HERE:
And lastly, if like me, and clearly some others, you have been wondering why the pro-Assad nun Sister Mariam Agnes looks like a man in drag, here is some “evidence” (courtesy of @Fsa_Media_Hub and Monty Python) of her life before she took holy orders! It made me smile on a painful day, anyway! Here:
On Tuesday of this week, in a rare ceasefire agreement between Opposition fighters and the Assad regime and brokered by the International Red Cross, as many as 1800 people were allowed to go free from the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamiyah. (Scroll down -see earlier report).
However, latest reports from activists still inside the suburb, say that at least 230 men from the group of civilians allowed out have been arrested and bussed away to an Airforce Intelligence compound and a school turned into a makeshift detention centre.
Ahmad al-Mouadamani, an alias for an activist still inside Moadamiyah, has said, “The regime’s forces violated the deal as soon as it was executed.
They separated the males when they arrived at the entrance of the town and arrested them. A few were released on the spot but 230 were put in buses and taken away, some of them are amputees and mentally disabled”.
The Syrian League of Human Rights said in a statement that 20 wounded people were among those arrested and that the organisation “is highly concerned that the detainees will be tortured.”
Earlier reports, including those from the BBC, said that initially most males between the age of 13 and 45 had been separated for questioning but by 17.00 on Tuesday had been returned to rejoin the female evacuees at a temporary hostel. This now seems to be in doubt.
Meanwhile since Tuesday, the Syrian Government has escalated its bombardment of the southern suburbs of Damascus in an attempt to separate the fighters from their rear bases in the Damascus province countryside.
Reports today, Friday, say that the Syrian Army is advancing on the suburb of Sbeineh and has taken parts of it. On Thursday, a Government rocket attack on the district of Al-Hajad Al-Aswad killed at least 8, immediately following on from a similar attack the previous day which killed 7, including 5 members of the same family.
Activists say many houses have been destroyed, and that more than 20 rockets and dozens of mortar rounds have fallen on the neighbourhood.
Commenting on the attacks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said, “The regime’s bombardment is arbitrary. Troops fire rockets at buildings, without knowing who is in them. Such attacks do not distinguish between civilians and combatants and therefore constitute a war crime.”
At the same time there are reports that 1 woman was killed and 12 children injured by an Opposition mortar shell that fell on Al-A’basiyeen Square today.
Government forces have attempted to storm the town of Beit Sahem near the road to the Damascus International airport today, but were repelled by Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, while in the Sunni suburb of Darraya, which has been under siege for a year now, they continue to hold out and fight back, HERE:
Interesting “anniversary” in the Sunni suburb of Arbeen – it has been for a whole year now, since 1st November 2012, without electricity.
SOHR also announced yesterday, that according to its documentation, the number of deaths in the 32 month Syrian conflict has passed 120,296 since the first demonstrator was shot in Deraa on the 18th March 2011.
Of those 120,000 deaths, 42,945 are civilians (including 6,365 children and 4,269 women), 20,324 Opposition fighters and defected soldiers, 48,632 Syrian Army and pro-Assad militias and the rest either unidentified casualties or foreign fighters from both sides.
These figures do not include the tens of thousands who have disappeared into Assad’s detention centres or at least 3,000 regular soldiers held by Opposition groups.
SOHR estimates that there could be as many as another 40,000 deaths that have gone unrecorded and has requested that the International Criminal Court investigates war crimes so that those responsible are brought to justice.
In Aleppo province, in a serious blow to the Opposition’s position, Assad’s forces yesterday retook the large town of Safira after 3 weeks of intense fighting. The town is near a suspected chemical weapons research and storage facility which has been held by the regime all along.
However, crucially, Safira is on the highway leading to the eastern edges of Aleppo and if under Government control it may lead to the reinforcement of the Quwaires airbase which Opposition fighters have been besieging and attacking for more than 6 months.
Allowing the Syrian Army to re-open their supply routes could lead to them recapturing the whole of Aleppo. Under heavy fire the Opposition fighters withdrew from their positions in Safira last night.
The failure of the Opposition to hold Safira has largely been put down, not to lack of ammunition, but ongoing infighting between the various factions, particularly the Jihadists and their fights over territory with more moderate Opposition groups.
Such disputes continued yesterday with fighters from the extremist State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) brigade fighting another Opposition group for control of a checkpoint on the Al-Kastilo road and detaining 7 of their fighters.
ISIL fighters are also reported to have attacked the town of Hayan and detained Opposition fighters from yet another battalion, arresting them in their rest houses.
EDITOR: “Divide and rule” – Assad must love it; the quickest and most foolish way for the Opposition to lose this war.
Reports for US officials late on Thursday suggest that Israel made another strike against the Assad regime on Wednesday night, attacking a Syrian missile defence base near the Mediterranean city of Latakia.
There had earlier been reports of massive explosions there, with an unknown cause, from activist sources. The US information went on to suggest that the Israelis destroyed another consignment of Russian made surface to surface missiles or S-125 anti aircraft missiles, destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Neither Israel, in line with its normal policy, or the Syrian Government has made any comment.
At the same time the Assad regime met a key deadline in the destruction of its chemical weapons capability, the UN inspectors managing to destroy all the apparatus used to produce such weapons and placing 1,290 tons of chemical weapons and agents used to make them under seal.
A spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the seals were “tamper proof”, though there is now speculation that the toxic agents may be moved out of Syria for destruction abroad. Norway was approached about allowing this work on their territory but declined earlier this week to get involved.
Lastly, to lift the spirits, the citizens of Kafranbel, in a breath of fresh air, from Idlib province, came out today in support of Syria’s Christians with a series of banners and, in an interesting contrast, one demonising the monster Assad in a “costly” Halloween outfit.
The video of their demonstration is here:
In a touching move the people of Kafranbel attempted to heal the statue of the Virgin Mary destroyed by the ignorant Islamist shown in the video earlier (HERE):
And then joined in the grim “fun” of Hallowen:
TIMELINE – 30th OCTOBER 2013 12.44 GMT:
During an agreed cease-fire and under the supervision of the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent Society, the Assad regime allowed between 1,500 and 1,800 people to leave the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyah yesterday, Tuesday.
The suburb, to the south-west of the capital, had suffered not only chemical attacks, but had been under siege for months with credible reports and pictures of some children and adults who had starved to death.
The Syrian Government says that only “terrorists” remain in Moadamiyah, but some activist sources say that thousands of civilians still remain, too terrified to leave.
Initially yesterday, the men leaving the suburb were separated from the women and searched separately but later, by 17.00 GMT, most of them arrived at the same shelter as the women, where they are expected to be able to stay for as long as a month.
One of the women released from the siege told the BBC that, “We didn’t see a piece of bread for nine months. We were eating leaves and grass.” Those too weak or exhausted to walk were carried out on stretchers.
The pro-Assad nun, Sister Agnes Mariam, reported previously on this page over chemical weapons “evidence”, was involved in organising the release of the civilians from the suburb. The BBC has a video report, HERE:
The UN has estimated that more than 1 million people are trapped in areas where no aid is getting through, at least 500,000 of those is rural Damascus not far from the capital and another 310,000 in Homs.
An Assad security official, known as Abu Haider, was overheard to say at a central Damascus checkpoint that it was all part of Government policy, describing it as “Our Starvation Until Submission Campaign”.
Syrian Army soldiers conduct vehicle and body searches to prevent “smuggling” of bread, baby milk and medicine into besieged areas, imprisoning those who violate their rules. Reuters has a comprehensive report, HERE:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that at least 10 of the 22 suspected cases of polio are indeed wild polovirius type 1, causing paralysis. Most of the victims are under 2 years of age, the first cases recorded in the country since 1999.
WHO is stepping up its immunisation programme, particularly in the Deir El-Zour area where most of the cases seem to be clustered.
There has been speculation that the virus has been reintroduced into Syria by “foreign fighters”, many carriers, particularly adults, remaining unaffected by the disease. Polio remains endemic in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. WHO has a posted statement, HERE:
Meanwhile, fighting has continued in other parts of both Damascus and Deir El-Zour. One Opposition rocket fell on Masa Plaza in the Malki neighbourhood of Damascus and another on Al-Jahez park in the Abu Rummanah district, both up-market areas mainly populated by Alawites.
South-west of Damascus, Opposition fighters are reported this morning to have taken over the regime’s Brigade 137 base in Khan Al Shih, killing numerous soldiers in the process.
In Deir El-Zour, a huge column of smoke was seen rising from the military airbase, HERE: while just outside the perimeter of the regime airfield, Opposition fighters kept up their attacks on the district of Jaffra, HERE:
Unknown gunmen have also assassinated the leader of the Omar bin al-Khattab Opposition battalion in Deir El-Zour city centre, his body being found riddled with bullet holes on Hassan Taha Street. Some activists have suggested the killing is a result of Opposition group rivalry, rather than a regime attack.
In Aleppo, a young child was shot dead by an Assad sniper as he used one of the main crossings in the city, his mother being wounded too, HERE: while this 13 year boy fights with the Opposition after his father was shot dead, here:
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) continues to target the Kuwaires airbase in the Aleppo countryside with increasingly heavier weapons, HERE: and there is video footage of the Opposition Ahrar al- Sham Brigade taking over the headquarters of the Kurdish YPG militia in the village of Jabul, (reported below), HERE:
In Hama province the Opposition advance continues with the fighters destroying 2 tanks and other vehicles at a barrier near Suqaylabiyah due north of Hama city and capturing the “offices barrier” near Souran, HERE:
In Homs province while there are ongoing clashes around Sadad in the desert, HERE: there is also heavy fighting in the Al-Waer district of Homs city.
Assad’s forces tried to penetrate the district yesterday, Tuesday, following an intense bombardment and setting fire to buildings, HERE: but Opposition fighters drove them back, re-occupying a block of flats formerly held by the Syrian Army. 8 civilians, including a 6 year old child, were killed in the shelling onslaught and 50 wounded.
There are also reports today, that Jihadist units have taken the Government checkpoint at Shallouh in Homs province, killing 6 soldiers and 11 residents of the nearby Alawite village. Further information awaited.
In Hasakah province fighting continues between the YPG Kurdish militia and the jihadist groups, with the YPG announcing definitive control of the villages of Tal A’lo Ghamer, Abu Hajar, Kari Fati, Karhouk, al-Yusufiya, al-Jneidiya, the Al-Sawame’ area, and the Dajla oil company and nearby oil fields.
However, this morning, Wednesday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham have launched a heavy 3-pronged attacked on YPG positions in Ras Al-Ain, the strategically important frontier town on the border with Turkey.
This video footage of religious desicration and in tolerance, which appeared on the Internet recently, does nothing to enhance the reputation of the Islamists and has been deplored by several Opposition groups, HERE:
On the chemical weapons front the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reports good progress in Syria and cooperation from the authorities, having visited 21 or the 23 sites identified by the Assad Government.
The 2 sites remaining are in contested areas of fighting where the UN appointed inspectors would find it unsafe to go at present. Within the 23 sites there are at least 41 actual chemical weapons facilities.
On the diplomatic front, Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint UN/Arab League Syria envoy is reported to have met with President Assad this morning in Damascus, though how that went is anyone’s guess as Brahimi has been reported on several occasions saying, in one form or another, that “Assad must go”.
Assad also issued a degree yesterday, Tuesday, dismissing his Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Qadri Jamil, for being “absence without authorisation from his post” as well as “activities and meetings outside the country without authorisation from the government.”
The real bone of contention appears to be a meeting between Jamil and the former US ambassador to Damascus, the much hated by the regime, Rober Ford, in Geneva. Ford while still in Syria went to Hama and other cities supporting the “revolutionaries” in their peaceful demonstrations in 2011.
Jamil is part of the Assad “tolerated” Opposition in Syria and a leading member of the “People’s Will Party. He had been allowed into the Government, for what that’s worth – not a lot it seems – and there are reports that both he and his family have been living in Moscow in recent weeks, a city where he originally studied economics.
A perhaps a more pleasant picture of the war in Syria as Opposition fighters sit down for a meal together in the green of the Idlib countryside:
TIMELINE 28th OCTOBER 2013 13.00 GMT:
After 3 days of fighting the Kurdish militia, the YPG, took control on Saturday of the Syrian border crossing to Iraq in Hasakah province at Al Yarubia.
The Al Nusra Front (ANF) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), who had previously held the crossing, claimed that the YPG had attacked them from the Iraqi side and had been assisted by the Iraqi Army, a charge which the Government of Iraq denied.
Fighting around the town of Yarubia continues as the YPG continue to wipe out pockets of resistance still held by the Jihadists. Control of the crossing will give the Kurds, in theory, the power to export oil from the wells in the region.
The north-eastern province of Hasakah has over 1 million people, 70% of whom are Kurdish and 30% Arabic. This video was released of victorious Kurdish fighters at the border crossing, HERE:
Also in Hasakah province but on the Turkish border, a stray shell crossed into Turkey striking a house there and killing a 35 year old man as similar battles between the Kurds and the Jihadists for control of the border town of Ras Al Ain continued.
In Aleppo province, where there is also a sizeable Kurdish population, the roles were reversed when ISIL yesterday took control of the village of Jalbul and drove out the YPG militia.
ISIL is additionally reported to have clashed with a Free Syrian Army Brigade in Eastern Aleppo when it stormed the Sakhour district, closing the exit roads and detaining Opposition fighters and one of their commanders.
SANA, the Assad state media, and Syrian TV had claimed on Friday that Abu Mohammad al-Golani, the leader of the Jihadist Al Nusra Front, had been killed in Latakia, but ANF has issued a statement to say he is in “good health” and SANA has since with drawn the report.
In Damascus province in the Eastern Ghouta region, Opposition sources claimed that 15 Hezbollah fighters had been killed in clashes and video appeared showing dead combatants with Hezbollah patches on their uniforms.
However, further north in the province at the Christian town of Sadad, the Syrian Army seems to have regained control this morning, Monday, after a week of fighting. Opposition fighters had earlier captured a checkpoint and the western half of Sadad last week in the hopes of controlling the main highway that runs to the north not far from the town itself.
In the same area, a massive car bomb went off on Friday at Suq Wadi Barada, just before the end of Friday prayers, bringing down the entrance to the mosque.
Activists say that as many as 40 were killed by the explosion, including 7 children. The town in under Opposition control but regime troops are stationed just outside it.
Nearer the centre of the capital, the Opposition Liwa al Tawheed Brigade is said to have liberated large parts of the Assad stronghold near Tishreen military Hospital.
In Deir El-Zour Opposition fighters are still on the offensive, currently fighting to take control of the south-eastern district of Jaffra, which borders the edge of the military airport, where the regime still has a significant presence.
And in Idlib province, Opposition fighters have taken over Al-Arbaain Mount near Ariha, an important strategic point for control of the local area.
In Deraa province in the far south, the Opposition advance also continues with the capture on Saturday of the town of Tafas, due north of Deraa city. Before the conflict Tafas housed a population of 30,000 +.
Opposition fighters can be seen here celebrating by dancing, singing and putting their shoes on a bust of President Assad’s father, Hafez Al-Assad, HERE:
This video gives a tour of the Syrian Army bases on the edge of Tafas which the Opposition also captured along with large quantities of military hardware and ammunition, HERE:
In Homs there have been heavy clashes and tank shelling the Al-Waer district over the weekend. At least 3,000 civilians are still thought to be trapped in Opposition held parts of the city living on dwindling supplies of stored food. 500 of those remaining are thought to be over the age of 70.
The Opposition also took out a T-55 tank behind a barrier in Usmud, HERE: and for the second time captured the Al-Makatib checkpoint near Souran, seizing large amounts of ammunition.
On the political front, Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint UN/Arab League envoy on Syria, is on a tour of Middle East trying to persuade all parties to take part in the Geneva 2 peace talks.
Brahimi has visited Iraq, Egypt, Kuwait and Qatar, Jordan on Wednesday and officers of the FSA, including General Idriss, in Turkey on Thursday. On Sunday he met President Rouhani of Iran and this morning, Monday arrived in Beirut to travel overland to Damascus.
His reception in Damascus is not clear as after his last visit he supported the idea of Assad stepping down and the forming of a transitional government.
The situation is further complicated by a video statement issued at the weekend by 19 Islamist groups saying that anyone who attended Geneva 2 would be “tried for treason” and saying that they considered the talks, “Just another part of the conspiracy to throw our revolution off track and to abort it.”
Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:
With chemical weapons, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, (OPCW) whose inspectors have now visited 23 sites in Syria, say that the Assad regime submitted documents laying out the disposal and destruction timetable on time and in accordance with the the agreed procedures.
Sharif Shehada, who was prominent in the Assad regime’s media apparatus and a former deputy in the Syrian Parliament, has apparently defected and asked for asylum in Belgium.
Some of today’s photographs are from an article in the Telegraph where 5 photographers talk about the pictures they have taken in Syria, HERE:
EDITOR: Lastly, I just love this Syrian woman who has the guts to stand up to ISIL after they complained about her “non-regulation” clothing. She is determined to stand her ground after wearing pants/trousers at home for the last 30 years.
Video with English sub-titles, courtesy of @jenanmoussa, here: The Lady Who Wears Pants
I think Syrians should elect her as President immediately! A sane and courageous voice of reason.
Yesterday, Thursday, Government troops, backed by Hezbollah, took control of most of the south-eastern Damascus suburb of Hatetat al-Turkman.
The suburb is very near the International Airport road and has been crucial in supplying Opposition fighters with food, weapons and ammunition in other Sunni suburbs forming a crescent that surrounds the Syrian capital on 3 sides.
After a 3 day assault, with Assad’s forces coming from 5 directions, Opposition fighters withdrew from at least 70% of the suburb leaving at least 17 fighters from the Jihadist groups the Al Nusra Front (AFN) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) dead on the ground.
Estimates of Government troops killed are around 25, though that may not include Hezbollah loses.
Reports this afternoon, Friday, say that following this move between 20 and 40 more Opposition Jihadists were killed by Government troops in an ambush in the nearby Obeida area.
On Wednesday night there were dramatic scenes near the Damascus International Airport at Al-Haijaneh, south-east of the capital, when an Opposition bomb or shell destroyed a gas pipeline that supplied energy to drive the turbines at a powerstation.
The fire led to widespread electricity blackouts in Damascus and in other parts of Syria, including Aleppo and Homs. There is video footage of the fire, HERE:
However, it was confirmed late Thursday that power had been restored to some areas after the Government found ” an alternative source of fuel”.
On Thursday, Opposition fighters also fired mortars once again into central Damascus, hitting both Umayyad and Abbasiyeen Squares. One shell landed not far from the Sheraton Hotel. The explosions are reported to have killed 2, including a well known singer of Christian religious songs, and wounded 22.
East of the capital just north of Mleha, Opposition fighters destroyed a Government tank in their successful battle to take the Tameko Phamaceutical factory, which the Syrian Army was using as a base, HERE:
Today, Friday, there have been violent clashes between the 2 sides on the perimeter of the factory compound, as well shelling and jet attacks from Assad’s forces.
To the the south-west of Damascus, where the Opposition are still putting up a brave fight in the besieged, gassed and destroyed suburb of Mouadamiya, activists claim that 40 + Assad troops were killed as they tried to break into the district.
As updated on Wednesday night, 62 Syrian women prisoners (some reports say 61) have so far been released as part of the complicated Qatar/Turkey/Lebanon/Palestinian Authority/Syria deal over Lebanese Shia pilgrims and Turkish airline pilot hostages.
The actual number of female prisoners released may be distorted by announcement that Tal al-Mallouhi, a teenage blogger from Homs who was jailed in 2009 for 5 years after writing about the Palestinian situation and calling for Assad to expedite reforms, is also to be released from jail having completed two-thirds of her sentence.
According to activist sources, a decree formalising her release has been agreed by the security services but still has to be signed by the attorney-general before it can be activated. Al-Mallouhi, as well as writing social comment, also published her poetry on her blog prior to her arrest.
(EDITOR: Makes me humbly acknowledge how privileged we are in the West to write almost anything we want, when we want.) Sources say that more women prisoners should be released by the end of the week (hopefully).
Two more deaths of senior Syrian Army figures have been reported. Yesterday the funeral of Brigadier General Ali Suleiman, who was killed alongside 20 of his men in the Republican Guard in clashes with the FSA in Damascus, was buried in the village of Tallin near Banias City in Latakia province.
Colonel Fadi Mohammad Alhoash, who according to his ID was born in Lebanon, was also killed yesterday with a car-bomb in Hama province.
Although it has only been able to document the deaths of 30,000 Syrian Government soldiers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London, believes that the actual number killed in fighting against the Opposition is more like 50,000 since the armed conflict began.
Activists have also claimed that in the recent battles in the desert area that stretches from east of Homs to Deir El_Zour, referred to as the “Liberation of the Desert” campaign, as many as 300 Assad’s soldiers have been killed – though there is no independent confirmation of this.
Certainly, successes in Homs rural area and Deir El-Zour continue, with Opposition fighters attacking and capturing an army base and munitions depot at Hagana in the eastern part of Homs province, HERE:
Hagana is just to the south-west of the town of Mahin, which Opposition fighters captured earlier this week (scroll down – see below), seizing this tank from Government forces (unusually, good shots of the inside), HERE:
A car bomb exploded in the heavily guarded and predominantly Alawite district of Nozha in Homs city this week, killing 3 and wounding as many as 60.
And it seems that Deir El-Zour is the centre of the suspected polio outbreak reported earlier by the World Health Organisation (WHO). There is no cure for polio, a transmittable virus that can cause paralysis within hours.
However, immunity to the disease can be obtained by taking a 3 part oral vaccine. There are 22 suspected cases under investigation in Syria at the moment, most of them in Deir El-Zour province where there are 100,000 under 5’s, the segment of the population most at risk.
Until now there had been no new cases of polio in Syria since 1999. Worldwide, cases of polio decreased from an estimated 350,000 when the campaign to eradicate it began in 1988 to 223 reported cases in 2012, according to the WHO. So far this year, not including the cases in Syria, there have been 296 cases. You can read more, HERE:
The Huffington Post has this photo-journalism piece with pictures of Syrian children who are refugees, “innocence amid trauma”, playing with toys donated to them, HERE:
In Deraa province, Opposition fighters detonated a huge car bomb in Deraa city at the “Awad Crescent” barrier, HERE: and attacked and killed Assad’s troops at the Al Tablin barrier near Tafas.
Near Nawa, an Opposition captured tank, disabled a Government Chilka armoured vehicle on a nearby hilltop, HERE:
And north of Hama city, Opposition fighters wiped out the Lahaya checkpoint, capturing large stocks of ammunition, HERE:
As winter approaches, a disturbing turn of events this morning, Friday, is that another humanitarean crisis is looming in northern Aleppo province where it is reported that up to 130,000 people have fled Al-Safira this month following prolonged Government bombing since October 8th.
The report comes from Medicins Sans Frontiere (MSF) which says tens of thousands are arriving in areas that already host many displaced refugees.
New arrivals in the town of Manbij — to the northeast of Al Safira — were being crammed into nearby farms, a makeshift camp on a parking lot that only has one latrine, or unfinished buildings that have no doors or windows.
MSF also deplored the Assad regime’s attacks on medical facilities, saying that on October 21st a field hospital was destroyed by a barrel of TNT thrown from a helicopter. 76 people have died within the town itself, which is not far from the regime’s chemical and weapons research establishment.
Lastly, fighting between the Jihadists and the Kurdish militia continues with clashes ongoing today and all week in both Aleppo and Hasakah provinces.
In Aleppo province fighting around villages near Azaz and Efrin has resulted in both the death of an ISIL commander (a Jordanian natonal apparently) and loses from the Kurdish YPG.
In Hasakah province near the Iraqi border the YPG, after intense fighting, has taken over the villages of Mazra’a and Siha, which are near the town of Tel Kojar and lead to the border crossing of Al-Ya’rubiya, currently controlled by ISIL and its Jihadist allies. The YPG captured military vehicles, weapons and ammunition in the battle.
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