By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)
SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS
As the Kurds across Rojava celebrated the first anniversary this week of their victory over the Islamic State (IS) at Kobane in January 2015, YPG units launched an attack on IS positions in Jarablous west of the Euphrates.
Kurdish Forces on the Move to Jarablous?
Attacking from the western countryside of Kobane Canton, the YPG bombed the IS-held town with artillery shells and mortars.
According to reports the YPG assault hit an IS security centre, several IS vehicles and a Sharia Court building, as well as killing 21 x IS Jihadists.
Jarablous, which is thought to be a main route for IS recruits and supplies entering Syria from Turkey is a major target of the YPG, despite Turkey’s objections to a Kurdish presence along a 100 kilometre stretch of the Aleppo/Turkey border, currently controlled by IS.
The US has been requesting Turkey to secure this border against IS infiltration for months but the Turkish authorities, who tend to support Islamist groups, have failed to act effectively.
Strong reports persist the the Syrian Democratic Force, consisting of the YPG and Arab, Turkman and Assyrian Christian units, is about to launch a major campaign in Aleppo province to take Manbij and Jarablous away from IS control.
It is also expected to target Azaz which is held by various Opposition brigades, but which from where the Islamist Al Nusra Front threatens the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
Separately, Assad and his Russian allies are closing in on IS-held Al-Bab, 50 kilometres south-west of Manbij.
Other reports from Jarablous say that Sharia officials brutally beat 30 women there on Wednesday evening in the central market, before arresting them on charges of violating the IS dress-code.
The women are expected to be flogged with 50 lashes in a public display before being released.
By contrast, a number of Kurdish women journalists have launched their own radio station in Hasakah province broadcasting programmes in both Arabic and Kurdish and specialising on topics relevant to the full role of women in society (English sub-titles) here,
In the north-western countryside of Raqqah province this week, IS fired a number of missiles into Ain Issa, though no heavy casualties have so far reported.
Also for the first time, the Assad regime targeted Sheikh Maqsoud, the Kurdish neighbourhood of Aleppo, with barrel-bombs this week. 5 civilians were killed, including 2 children and nine people were injured. 3 of the barrel-bombs hit a crowded market place.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 10 airstrikes in Syria yesterday, Thursday, one hitting an IS tactical unit and a checkpoint near Hasakah, one hitting an IS oil and gas separation plant near Raqqah and 2 strikes near Manbij hitting 2 separate tactical units and destroying an IS building.
A further 5 strikes near Ma’ra in Aleppo province (probably in support of the SDF) hit 4 separate IS tactical units, destroyed 2 x IS fighting positions and disabled an IS vehicle. The tenth strike on Thursday hit an IED explosive manufacturing area in Palmyra in Homs province.
Over in Iraq on Thursday there were 14 airstrikes across the country, all with similar targets to those in Syria.
One of the Coalition’s airstrikes on Thursday evening in Iraq is reported to have killed the Islamic State’s supposed “minister of war”, Jalal Hamdan Al-Naama. The Coalition monitored a convoy which was taking senior IS members to a meeting in a building near Mosul and once everyone was inside, they destroyed it.
Mosul Dam – A Catastrophe Waiting to Happen?
Around 20 x IS Jihadists are believed to have been killed in the operation on the building in the Al- Hadra suburb of Mosul city.
3 senior IS members in charge of security and finance were also reported killed on Wednesday near Tikrit in another Coalition raid.
The US military has also expressed concern over the state of Mosul Dam which has suffered from poor maintenance for a long time.
U.S. Army Lieutenant, General Sean MacFarland, said on Thursday that he had been working with the Iraqi government on a plan to protect civilians should the dam collapse when snow melt water fills the lake behind the dam in early Spring.
A collapse of the dam would send a surge of water down the heavily populated Tigris river valley. The dam was held for some time by IS but was later recaptured by the Kurdish Peshmerga.
An Italian company is negotiating with the Iraqi Government to sign a contract to reinforce the dam. Hopefully this will not be too late as a complete collapse would be catastrophic.
Latest reports from Europe say that the Dutch Parliament has agreed for its military to send jets to join the Coalition strike force in Syria. Further details awaited.