ROJAVA UPDATE 178: RUSSIA DENIES AIRBASE PLANS AS ISLAMIC STATE LAUNCHES NEW ATTACKS ACROSS HASAKAH

By Peter Clifford           ©          (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)

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

SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

In a motorcycle bomb attack in Quamishli or Friday evening, 4 are reported killed and 9 wounded.

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IS Bomb in Qamishli Causes More Destruction

The Islamic State (IS) have already claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in the predominately Christian Assyrian area of Wista in the central part of the city.

This follows 3 similar bomb attacks on December 30th.

Yesterday, Sunday, IS also launched several other attacks across Hasakah province.

In the first IS used car-bombs and mortar shells against a headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Al-Hawl. 2 SDF fighters were killed and 5 others wounded.

The attack came from the IS-held town of Shaddadi which is a current target of the SDF advance.

The other IS attacks on Sunday were on villages and security posts around Mount Abdel Aziz in Hasakah province, using suicide bombs and heavy machine guns.

4 x IS Jihadists were killed in these clashes, with one Kurdish fighter killed and 2 more injured.

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Location of New US Base in NE Syria

Further to the previous report of preparations for a US airbase in north-east Hassakah province on an old agricultural crop-spraying airfield, the BBC has more information.

The size of the runway has been increased from 700 metres to 1.3 kilometres, long enough now to take Hercules transport aircraft.

In a rather tentative statement a spokesman for the US Department of Defence has justified the airfield by saying its small team in Syria needed “occasional logistical support”. You can read more, HERE:

Further to other reports (scroll down – see below) that the Russians were considering an airbase in Hasakah province as well, just 30 miles away from the American one, these were denied this morning, Monday, by Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s Ministry of Defence.

However, this is probably as reliable as recent Russian statements that they “are driving IS out of Latakia” (there are no Islamic State units in Latakia) and the Russian officer at the Russian airbase in Lattakia in the video below saying “Russian planes have not killed any civilians” (at the last count civilian deaths caused by Russian bombs were estimated from several sources as in excess of 1,000).

The BBC has returned to Russia’s main airbase in Syria, 2 months after its previous visit. Russia now claims to have made 6,000 sorties across Syria, HERE:

Off the coast, Russia, in an attempt to prove that it is a serious world power, has also now established an extensive well-armed battle force, HERE:

In Iraq, a new campaign is expected to be launched soon by the Kurdish Peshmerga south of Kirkuk in order to protect the oil rich town further. Joining them for the first time will be units of the Turkmen Popular Mobilization Forces who have been trained and equipped by the Coalition.

An Iraqi Government spokesman has also announced that launching a battle to retake Mosul is their next aim, “within the first half of 2016”. US Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, has also recently expressed the strong view that removing the Islamic State from both Raqqah and Mosul are now priorities.

RUSSIAN BOMBING KILLS ANOTHER 200 CIVILIANS OVER THE WEEKEND AS PEACE TALKS STUMBLE:

Russia’s “civilian friendly airstrikes” are credited with killing as many as 160 people, the majority civilians, in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ez Zour over the weekend, where IS militants are closing in on the remaining regime held areas of Deir Ez Zour city.

Activists say that the dead included 35 children and 9 women. As many as 90 civilians were reported dead in the town of Khasham and 55 in Al-Tabyiya.

A Russian missile on the Idlib town of Salquin on Sunday is additionally reported to have killed and injured dozens more, bringing the total of Russia-caused civilian deaths to over 200 in 2 days.

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Pro-Assad Forces Capturing Opposition Strongholds in Latakia

In Latakia province, Russian fire power has enabled the Assad regime with its allies to retake the Opposition stronghold of Rabi’ah, first surrounding the town on 3 sides and capturing the villages of Daroshan and Al-Rawda.

Slowly, the Opposition are being forced out of Latakia province, having recently lost Salma as well after holding it for 3 years, and may have to retreat to Idlib and Hama provinces. The BBChas more.

International peace talks on Syria due to start in Geneva this morning, Monday, appear to have stumbled with all sides still diagreeing over which groups should be allowed to take part.

UN special representative on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected to give a press conference this afternoon, while US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is still confidently predicting that everything “will be sorted out in the next 24 to 48 hours”.

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Coalition and Russian Airstrikes Across Syria

Meanwhile, the Islamic State continues to produce “delightful” videos, the latest one glorifying the IS killers who attacked 130 innocent people in Paris in November.

The video then goes to on to threaten the UK, showing its well-known landmarks and pictures of rifle crosshairs across the faces of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. TheGuardian has more.

However, IS may be beginning to feel the financial pinch. A leaked memo from the Islamic State’s
bureaucratic powers has warned fighters that they’re going to get a 50 percent pay cut across all positions “on account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing.”

What exactly they mean by “exceptional circumstances” is unclear, but certainly their oil distribution business has been severely disrupted recently and the US now claims that they have bombed and destroyed 9 x IS cash distribution and storage facilities across Syria and Iraq, exploding and burning the equivalent of millions of dollars in notes.

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