By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)
SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS
Reports from Aleppo province say that the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) has taken control of more of the road between Aleppo and Turkey near Kafr Atun, just south of the Menagh military airbase.
And today, Wednesday,there are unconfirmed reports that the SDF has taken over the Menagh base itself, which was until now held by Opposition fighters since they seized it from the Assad regime. Whether this take over is by force or agreement is not yet clear.
If by agreement, the presence of the SDF will presumably stop the Russian Air Force bombing there and at the same time allow the Opposition fighters to concentrate on stalling the Assad regime advance near Aleppo.
Kurdish sources are are also reporting that 221 young Arab men from villages recently liberated from the Islamic State (IS) near the Tishreen Dam have in the last month enlisted in the SDF. 50 Turkmen who have completed training at Tal Abyad have additionally joined the YPG.
Electricity generated at the Tishreen Dam is now reaching Kobane for the first time in 4 years.
Thousands of displaced refugees from Aleppo are currently resident in camps, schools and other public buildings across Kurdish Afrin Canton, while an estimated 35,000 are camped near the Turkish Border at the Bab Al-Salman gate.
While Turkey continues to refuse to open the frontier, despite requests from both the UN and the EU, they have allowed ambulances across to bring back to Turkey the sick and the injured for treatment and supplied truck loads of food, blankets and other humanitarian supplies.
Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) says that all the camps for displaced persons along the Syrian/Turkish border are full to capacity and that in and around the Syrian border town of Azaz, families are sleeping on the ground in what is still winter weather.
To make matters worse, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that it has recorded 506 deaths from Russian bombing in and around Aleppo since February 1st, dozens of the victims civilians and 23 of them children.
Meanwhile Turkey’s President Erdogan is furious at both the recent visit of US President Obama’s anti-IS Coalition envoy Bret McGurk to Kobane city and a statement from a US State Department spokesman that the US does not regard the YPG as a terrorist organisation.
Late yesterday, Tuesday, the US Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to explain the remarks.
Both Erdogan and his Prime Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, have said that the US must decide who it is partnering in the fight against IS: Turkey or the YPG (which it sees as a mere offshot of the PKK with whom it is fighting in southern Turkey). You can read more, HERE:
Over in Iraq, reports coming out of Mosul, the IS “capital” say that the Jihadists executed by firing squad on Sunday no less than 300 Iraqis, mostly civilian activists and former members of the Iraqi Army and security services. The men were shot at various locations across the city and buried in mass graves.
Yesterday, Tuesday, IS are also reported to executed Wathiq Abdulwahab, reporter of the local Hadbaa newspaper in Mosul, after he was accused of taking photographs of a detention centre.
The Iraqi Army however, is reporting complete control now over Ramadi after weeding out the remaining IS fighters from pockets across the city.
Also from Iraq comes the heart-warming story of a Kurdish counter-terrorism commander who has not only offered one of his kidney’s for the daughter of a Peshmerga fighter, but said he will pay for the operation itself.
15 other Peshmerga turned up at the hospital with similar offers after the story of the girl’s suffering from kidney failure went viral on social media. You can read more, HERE:
OPPOSITION PULLING IN MORE REINFORCEMENTS AND FIGHTING BACK IN ALEPPO PROVINCE:
In addition to the earlier contingent of Opposition fighters allowed to cross through Kurdish Afrin Canton (scroll down – see below), activist sources are reporting sight of a 100 vehicle convoy carrying men, weapons and ammunition leaving the northern countryside of Idlib province on Tuesday and crossing towards Aleppo province.
Assad’s forces, supported by recently liberated gunmen from the Allawite villages of Nubl and Zahraa, have so far failed in their campaign to take nearby Dahrat Al-Qar’aa. 5 confirmed deaths of Assad’s fighters and militiamen were reported, though more casualties on both sides are likely.
From Daraa province in southern Syria, Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) is reporting yet another Russian airstrike on one of its medical facilities at the town of Tafas.
3 people were killed and 6 injured, including a doctor on his way into the hospital who was knocked unconscious and wounded by shrapnel.
In what appears to be a deliberate policy by the Russians, MSF say that 13 of its medical centres in Syria have been hit by bombs since January 1st 2016. You can read more in the Guardian.
As well as in Aleppo province, with the help of Russian bombing, the Assad regime appears to making advances in Daraa province in southern Syria. On Monday it was reported that the Syrian Army had agreed a local truce with the villagers of Ibtaa and Dael, 2 villages that lie on the A5 highway running south from Sheikh Miskeen to Daraa city.
Under the agreement, 22 detainees will be released, local men will be allowed to keep their weapons and the Army will stay beyond the periphery of the villages as long as they have free passage to and from Daraa.
The Opposition fighters in Daraa province were doing well until the Military Operations Centre (MOC) in Amman, Jordan, called in the commanders of the Free Syrian Army units operating in southern Syria and told them to stop directing their fire power towards Assad and his allies and to direct it against the Islamic State instead.
The commanders, whose supply of weapons and ammunition had virtually dried up in recent months from the MOC who had effectively been directing the southern campaign against Assad, were promised more and better equipment if they complied with this request. Reluctantly, most FSA groups seem to have done so.
In Damascus on Tuesday, a suicide car bomb exploded outside a police officer’s club in the regime Masaken Barzeh district and near a busy vegetable market. 20 people are reported killed including 5 police officers, and many more injured. IS has claimed responsibility.
At Madaya in Damascus province, the town formerly under chronic siege by the Assad regime, vehicles of the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent have come under fire as they evacuated people sick from malnutrition on Tuesday night. However, no casualties were reported and the affiliation of the gunmen is unknown.
President Assad’s mother, Anissa Makhlouf Al-Assad, is reported to have died in Damascus on Saturday aged 86. She was also the wife of former Syrian dictator Hafez Al-Assad.
It maybe that the Opposition decided to give her a rousing send-off. Unconfirmed reports say that four missiles hit Qardaha, the Assad family home and site of the Assad family burial mausoleum in the Latakia mountains on Tuesday while the funeral was in progress.
Reliable sources say 3 of those present were killed and 13 injured, including family members.
Other than Assad supporters, few will mourn the mother and wife of several monsters.
On Monday, UN human rights investigators published a report on Syria and in particular on thetreatment of civilians in detention by the Assad regime, which it described as operating “a government policy of extermination — a crime against humanity”.
The report was based on the testimony of 500 survivors of detention. At least 200 had seen fellow detainees killed, usually at the hands of the security forces.
“Children as young as 7 years old were among those who died in Government custody. The parents of a 13-year-old boy arrested during a 2011 protest in Sayda next saw his body when it was returned to them dead and mutilated.
A survivor who was detained in Homs recalled watching an elderly man die after prison guards burned his eyes with a cigarette, stabbed him with burning metal, and hung him from his wrists. It took three hours to kill him. Others were starved to death or died from untreated pre-existing conditions”.
The report also mentioned ill-treatment by Opposition and Islamist groups, but overwhelmingly the Assad regime is by far and away the main violator of human rights in Syria. You can read more about this sickening regime, HERE: