By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)
SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS
Work continues by the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) to push back the Islamic State (IS) south of Shaddadi and completely out of Hasakah province.
This morning, Friday, the SDF took control of the village of Semendor which is 50 kilometres west of Mount Abdul Aziz. Recent SDF operations have liberated another 35 square kilometres.
Funerals Held for YPG/ YPJ Fighters Killed in Tal Abyad Battles
Current fighting is around “Area 47”, not far from Shaddadi. Voice of America has a video report from Shaddadi itself.
In the north-east of Hasakah province, the Asayish (Kurdish security) arrested members of an IS sleeper cell on Wednesday in the Suwediya district of the city of Derik.
The 5 pro-IS gunmen had explosives and ammunition in the building in which they were living and were believed to be preparing for attacks in the area.
YPG members also found an IS fighter still alive under some rubble at Ain Al-Aroush who turned out to be a Turk from Adana.
In comments on the recent heavy battles with IS over Tal Abyad, official YPG Spokesman, Redur Khalil, accused Turkey of allowing “IS terrorists to move freely across its borderline with Syria to facilitate its attacks on the Kurdish positions” and trying to help IS retake the Tal Abyad border crossing “to assist the terror group export its oil to the black market via Turkey”.
Khalil also described the fighting as the most difficult since the defence of Kobane. Video of the news conference with English sub-titles, here:
Funerals for the YPG/YPJ fighters killed this week in the fighting around Tal Abyad and other battles with IS were held in Tal Abyad, where 21 were buried and another 14 in Kobane.
However, overall the security situation in northern parts of Syria held by the Kurds is considered good enough for a number of Syrian Kurds who fled to Iraq to decide to return home. The BBChas a video report.
However, clashes continue in Aleppo province between the YPG and the Al Nusra Front (AFN) and their allies both near Afrin Canton and on the outskirts of the Kurdish district in Aleppo city, Sheikh Maqsoud. 3 female civilians were reported killed in the latest AFN bomb attack on Sheikh Maqsoud.
3 members of the SDF were also reported shot by IS snipers in the region of the Tishreen Dam, probably in retaliation for the YPG sniper attack reported earlier (scroll down -see below) which killed 13 x IS Jihadists at Jarablous.
DESPITE NUMEROUS BREACHES OF THE AGREED “TRUCE”, DEATHS WELL DOWN IN SYRIA:
The YPG has accused the Opposition of being in cahoots with Al Nusra and breaching the “cessation in hostilities” agreed by world powers, while the Opposition has accused the Kurds of doing the same.
Thousands Demonstrated Across Syria Against Assad for the First Time in a Year
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) is reporting 100 breaches of the ceasefire by the Russians and the Assad regime, while the Russians are reporting far fewer.
In general, despite the violations, the truce is seen as holding. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says that it has documented 118 deaths in areas where there is supposed to be a truce over the last 5 days, including 24 civilians. 6 of the civilian dead were children and 5 of them women.
Despite the continuing grim statistics, this is far less than what has become “normal” in Syria on a daily basis, the average of 120+ deaths a day.
European leaders, Cameron, Hollande, Merkel and Italian PM Matteo Renzi, held a telephone conference call with Russia’s President Putin this morning, Friday, and called on him to help use the “truce” to move onto “peace talks” that would include a more durable peace and a “transition away from President Assad”.
Syrians across the country in Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa and Homs provinces took advantage of the relative calm of the current “truce” to go out on the streets after Friday prayers and resume, for the first time in more than a year, demonstrations calling for the fall of the Assad regime. Thousands demonstrated under the banners “The Revolution Continues!” and “Long live Syria, may Assad fall!”
Almost the whole of Syria, in all provinces, was hit by a nationwide electricity blackout yesterday, Thursday, for unexplained reasons. Normally most areas only get between 2 and 4 hours a day, but yesterday everything went down across the board, including Internet connections. You can read more, HERE:
However, in Aleppo water from the Al-Furat river has reached the Al-Nairab and Suleiman Al-Halbi pumping stations and will be piped again directly into the city after being cut off for 3 months.
Amnesty International issued a report yesterday, Thursday, accusing the Russian and Syrian Governments of deliberately targeting medical facilities and of specifically targeting 6 hospitals in Aleppo province in the last 12 weeks. The attacks killed 3 civilians, including a medical worker, and injured 44 others.
Physicians for Human Rights says that 315 of the 346 attacks on medical facilities that have taken place in Syria over the last 5 years were conducted by Syrian or Russian forces. According to their records 705 medical workers have been killed so far.
On the positive side 236 UN and Syrian Red Crescent aid trucks had reached 115,000 people over the last 3 weeks and they hope to reach another 20,000 in Eastern Ghouta near Dasmascus this weekend.
In the Yarmouk refugee camp in the southern part of the capital, an Al Nusra ambush on the Islamic State yesterday, Thursday, killed an IS Emir, Abu Khidir, who was in charge of IS operations in area, and 4 of his compatriots.
And in Qunietra province, a car bomb, which no-one has so far claimed responsibility for, on Wednesday, killed 18 people including the leader of the Opposition Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF). The explosion destroyed the SRF’s finance office where a meeting was taking place. You can read more, HERE:
Fighting on the borders of Hama and Aleppo provinces continues between the Assad regime and the Islamic State for the control of the Aleppo – Khanaser road, which is vital to Assad to keep supplies and troops travelling to Aleppo city.
So far at least 130 x IS fighters have been killed in the battles and 94 from the pro-Assad side including a senior commander from Hezbollah and 8 of his men. Clashes between the same 2 sides are also continuing in Deir Ez Zour in eastern Syria, mainly around the north-western districts of the city.
A regime rocket attack is also reported on Khan Shakour in Idlib province today, Friday, killing 3 women and wounding many other civilians.
Lastly, interesting article on Muhammed Faris, the only Syrian to have gone into space as a cosmonaut to the Mir Space Station in 1987 and who has schools and roads named after him but now lives in Turkey as a refugee. You can read more in the Guardian.
Muhammed Faris (Centre) on the Mir Space Station 1987