By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)
SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS
As last preparations came into force for the agreed “cessation of hostilities” in Syria at midnight on Friday, the Islamic State (IS) launched a massive attack in nothern Aleppo province against towns and villages held by the Kurdish YPG and the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF).
The main target was Tal Abyad (Gire Spi in Kurdish) on the Turkish border. Following reported shooting from the Turkish military across the frontier, IS launched a 2-pronged attack on the town, striking from the south and the north.
Tal Abyad Under Attack From IS
The attack from the north hit the eastern side of the town, several car bombs reputedly being driven from the Turkish side of the border and hitting YPG checkpoints. The southern attack started with mortar shells fired from Raqqah and then battles gathered pace with sleeper cells inside Tal Abyad.
Some reports suggest that the IS sleeper cells had been inside Tal Abyad for more than a month and consisted mainly of “Caliphate Cubs” or young fighters under the age of 18. Other IS fighters are said to have entered the town wearing SDF or YPG uniforms.
IS fighters also attacked YPG positions in villages near to Tal Abyad at Sharghrat, Kantari, Nastleh, Ghuwera and Qantrah.
Kurdish forces, with heavy air support from the Coalition, fought back throughout Saturday for 16 hours and into Sunday when the IS Jihadists were finally defeated. Around 70 x IS fighters were reported killed near Tal Abyad and 20 members of the YPG, with many injured on both sides. 10 civilians were also reported killed in the fighting, one of them beheaded.
Retreating IS forces captured the villages of Hamam al-Turkman and Mastal near Tal Abyad and further south staged attacks on Suluk and Ain Issa, plus the surrounding villages.
By Sunday evening, the fighting was reported virtually over. An unconfirmed report says that another 100 x IS fighters were wiped out in 20 Coalition airstrikes on the village of Al-Khazali, due north of Raqqah and south-east of Ain Issa, where IS reinforcements from Raqqah had gathered.
While all this was going on, an IS car bomb hit a YPG security checkpoint at Ajila village near Ras Al-Ain (Sere Kaniya in Kurdish) in the far north-east of Hasakah province on Saturday. 2 YPG fighters were killed and 4 injured.
Islamic State Attacks SDF/YPG in Northern Syria
After Coalition jets pinpointed an IS unit holed up in the village of Hafayer south-west of Hasakah, 13 dead IS Jihadists were found dead there following a direct hit.
The Al Nusra Front (ANF) and their allies the Ahrar Al-Sham Movement, took advantage of the situation at the weekend and bombarded the Kurdish villages of Pashmera, Gunde Mazin and Basufan in the countryside of Kurdish Afrin Canton, reportedly killing and injuring many civilians on Sunday.
ANF and their allies also launched homemade mortar and bomb attacks on the Kurds in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood of Aleppo city over the weekend, some of the bombs, in a chilling message, “signed” Enver Pasha, the name of the Armenian genocide perpetrator on behalf of Turkey in World War 1.
The SDF have consolidated their hold on Shaddadi and have now moved further south towards Raqqah. Currently they are fighting around the village of Dashisha, north of Markadah, their next main target. Ironically Markadah was a major site for those Armenian genocides. The BBC has a video report from the area.
Interestingly, Anonymous, disgusted with Turkish treatment of the Kurds, have issued a video threatening to disrupt Turkish government and financial websites, HERE:
The Rebuilding of Kobane Continues
Meanwhile, a small local battalion, Kazem Aref, has joined the SDF and construction and redevelopment goes on in Kobane city. A completely new district is being built with 15 multi-occupancy buildings which will house 500 people each.
The new neighbourhood will also include a children’s home, 4 schools, a health centre, council administration buildings, markets, shops and parks.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 24 airstrikes in Syria on Saturday and Sunday and the same number in Iraq.
Most of the airstrikes in Syria were directly in support of the Kurds, 14 strikes hitting IS at Tal Abyad and 3 at Ain Issa.
Strikes on those targets hit 7 separate IS tactical units and destroyed 33 x IS-held buildings, an IS tanker, an IS tactical vehicle, 7 other IS vehicles and suppressed 3 x IS tactical units, an IS mortar position, 9 x IS fighting positions, an IS heavy machine gun position, and an IS rocket fire position.
Strikes on Abu Kamel, Raqqah, Ma’ra and Manbij, and across Iraq, hit similar targets. The Kurdish media are reporting that one strike in eastern Mosul hit an IS convoy as it arrived at an IS weapons storage facility on Sunday, killing at least 30 x IS fighters. The Coalition had tracked the weapons delivery convoy all the way from Raqqah to its destination.
This Coalition released video shows a strike on an IS fighting position near Hasakah on 20th February 2016, here:
And another in a similar location on February 21st, here:
An interesting interview with US aircrew flying the B1 bombers that supported the fight back at Kobane city has been published. The Americans were sceptical at first but as the Kurds gave them accurate co-ordinates they were able to track the frontline and see it move eastwards as the Islamic State were driven out of the city, HERE:
Elsewhere across Syria, the “ceasefire” is generally considered to have held so far over the last 3 days, but Russia and the Assad regime have not desisted from bombing and there have been plenty of violations.
France has called for a meeting of the task force overseeing the “ceasefire” to discuss these violations this afternoon, Monday.
However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors deaths in Syria, says there has been a marked decrease in deaths in areas where the Islamic State are not present.
Around 21 people died on Saturday and a similar number on Sunday. This compares with 144 on Friday, before the “ceasefire” began, and an average daily toll throughout February of 120.
The UN aims to take advantage of the scaling down of fighting by rolling out deliveries of aid to 150,000 people over the next 5 days, HERE: