By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
At end of last week and over the weekend, the Islamic State (IS) launched multiple attacks against the Kurdish forces and their allies, from Sarrin in the west to Qamishli in the north-east.
In Kobane Canton on Thursday, IS targeted with mortars from the west bank of the Euphrates YPG/FSA-held hilltops west of Sarrin but received a heavy response in return.
YPG Fighter Wisely Arrests IS Jihadi in His Underpants
Further north, Turkey is said to have shelled IS positions near Jarablous, while IS again fired shells across the Euphrates into west Kobane.
A lone IS fighter was also discovered in the south of Kobane Canton and, after being stripped to ensure he carried no suicide belt, he was led away in this underpants.
In Cizire Canton, IS attacked south of Tel Hamis targeting the YPG and the YPJ.
The fighting at the village of Abu Hamal near Khizela, lasted well into the night but IS withdrew after it was clear they were not going to make any headway and one of their vehicles was destroyed.
6 x IS Jihadists were reported killed in the clashes and a heavy machine and hand grenades seized.
Fighting was also reported again yesterday, Sunday, in the Qamishli countryside, IS hitting targets near Tel Brak and Tel Hamis.
Most of the IS mortars were directed against YPG HQs in several villages, but the attacks were repelled with the death of 9 x IS Jihadists and the wounding of 3 YPG.
On this occasion 2 x IS vehicles were destroyed and more ammunition and weapons taken.
90 members of a newly formed Asayish (Kurdish Security) rapid intervention force passed through Qamishli at the weekend after completing 4 months of specialist training.
600 Metre IS tunnel Discovered at TalAbyad
Near Tal Abyad, the FSA discovered yet another tunnel under the border into Turkey, this one 600 metres long, which IS had been using to smuggle weapons, ammunition and people.
Over in the west in Afrin Canton, the Al-Nusra Front once again attacked Kurdish villages near Deir Balut, subjecting them to heavy machine gun fire. In the YPG retaliation, 2 members of Al-Nusra were killed. Sporadic fighting continues.
In a statement today, Monday, the Al-Nusra Front (which is thought to have close relations with the Turkish Government) has said that it is withdrawing from its positions in northern Aleppo province.
The area runs between Afrin Canton in the west and Kobane Canton to the east and contains a number of IS-held towns and villages, notably Jarablous.
Al-Nusra says that “it is against its religion to join the US-led Coalition or be aided by it”. A number of positions, including some border crossings, have already been passed to other anti-Assad Opposition groups.
Turkey hopes to establish a “safe zone” in this part of northern Syria and bring back Syrian refugees currently in camps in its own country.
It would also seem to be part of a Turkish plan to keep Afrin and Kobane firmly separated and to prevent the Kurds from estabishing one continuous state along the Turkish border.
In support of these moves, the US has just announced that 6 x F-16 Fighting Falcons have been moved to the Incirlik airbase just across the Turkish border to operate from there as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
US Central Command reports 16 airstrikes in Syria between Thursday and Saturday of last week. 10 of thsoe were near Hasakah destroying 11 x IS fighting positions and hitting or destroying IS vehicles, a weapons cache, an IS bunker and a recoiless rifle firing position.
In Kobane Canton 1 airstrike hit an IS tank, another 3 in Aleppo province destroyed 2 x IS vehicles and 2 anti-aircraft artillery pieces and 2 more in Deir Ez-Zour and Raqqah hit specialist equipment vehicles.
And in another sign of a return to normality, Kobane has formed a new football team:
Kobane Forms a Football Team
OPPOSITION UP ATTACKS ON ALAWITE ENCLAVES, WHILE ALAWITES IN LATAKIA PROTEST AGAINST ASSAD COUSIN ACCUSED OF MURDER:
Opposition fighters advanced in both Idlib and Hama provinces over the weekend, pushing back Assad’s positions on the Ghab Plain.
Increasingly it is looking as though Assad could lose Hama city as well as Idlib which is already under Opposition control.
Opposition Fire Grad Missiles at Assad Positions Around Joureen
Opposition forces have taken Ziyara, Zaizoun, Mansoura, Tal Waset and Zyadia in Hama province and pushed Government forces back to their bases around Joureen.
If Joureen falls then the cities of Tartous and Latakia in Latakia province, Assad’s heartland, will be vulnerable to attack.
In Idlib province, Opposition fighters are said to have launched another 1,000 shells and missiles again on the surrounded Alawite enclaves of Fu’ah and Kafraya,” to give them a taste of what it is like in Zabadani”, the Opposition-held town in Damascus province under attack by Assad’s troops and Hezbollah. Casualty figures are unknown.
The Opposition also triggered a remote BMP vehicle bomb at Deir Al-Zaghab village near Fu’ah, HERE: and a tunnel bomb under Assad troop positions at Fu’ah, (Arabic only) HERE:
Preparations for the tunnel bomb and the aftermath from several angles are, HERE:
Opposition fighters attacking the outskirts of the enclaves can be seen, HERE:
In Aleppo province, the Islamic State has intensified its attacks on the Kweires Syrian Air Force base, hitting it with 3 booby-trapped vehicles. Government deaths were 18 including 12 officers, 2 of them generals and a captain. IS deaths are put at 26.
The devastating vehicle bombs were also used by IS in northern Aleppo province against the anti-Assad Opposition near Umm Housh, where 4 Opposition-held villages on the route from Aleppo to the Turkish border came under attack on Saturday night.
A suicide bomber with a belt and another with a car bomb started an assault on Saturday night that continued throughout Sunday. 37 Opposition fighters were killed in the action and another 20 are missing. IS deaths are put at 10.
With US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meeting in the Gulf recently and better relations established between the US and Iran after the conclusion of the nuclear talks, there is much speculation that the “endgame for the Assad regime” is approaching.
Clearly, Assad cannot win the war, despite the vast amounts of energy, money and resources Russia and Iran have thrown at the problem of Syria. Are there now diplomatic moves underway to find a formula to get Assad out of the way? Middle East Briefing discusses the angles.
Resentment towards President Assad is beginning to show among the Alawite community. On Saturday night more than a 1,000 people took to the streets in Latakia to protest the murder of Colonel Hassan al-Sheikh in an apparent road-rage incident on Thursday night.
The accused killer, Suleiman Assad, is a first cousin of the President. According to eyewitnesses, Colonel Sheikh is said to have refused to give way in a traffic jam and Suleiman Assad got out of his car and killed him in cold-blood. President Assad is now reported to have told the widow that he will ensure justice is done.
Kurdish Fighters of the PKK in the Mountains of Iraq
Meanwhile, a Turkish official is claiming that in their attacks on Kurdish PKK bases in Iraq, the Turkish Air Force has killed 390 fighters, including 30 female combatants, and wounded another 400, though there is no way of verifying this.
Cemil Bayik, a leading PKK figure, has said in a video interview with theSyria and Iraq news of the BBC that he believes President Erdogan wanted the Islamic State to succeed in order to prevent the Kurds making any gains of territory in Iraq and Syria.
After a disastrous start to their expensive $500 million “train and equip” programme for vetted Opposition fighters to engage against the Islamic State, it is reported that 2 more classes of applicants are undergoing training.
Of the first batch of qualifiers of 54, many were killed, kidnapped by the Al-Nusra Front (scroll down – see below), or just disappeared. You can read more, HERE: