By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)
SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS
For the second Friday running, the Al Nusra Front showed its true face and intervened in towns in Idlib province under it’s control to stop popular demonstrations against the Assad regime.
In Ma’arat Al Numan a group of masked men arrived on motorcycles and inserted themselves into an anti-Assad protest of around 200 people, at first displaying their own trademark black flags and then attempting, unsuccessfully, to take over the microphone.
Al Nusra Front Attempt to Take Over Anti-Assad Protest
The Al Nusra fighters eventually managed to disperse the demonstrators and then patrolled the streets to prevent local people from reassembling. You can read more and watch video, HERE:
Over the weekend, things escalated when the Al Nusra Front and other Islamist groups stormed the HQs of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigade known as Division 13, who in the past have had US backing, in Ma’arat Al Numan, Khan Sheikhoun and Al-Ghadafa.
40 members of Division 13 have been arrested and 7 were killed in the fighting and 20 wounded, while others are missing. 4 members of Al Nusra are reported dead.
Al Nusra went on to seize warehouses belonging to Division 13, including large stocks of weapons and TOW anti-tank missiles. Until now Division 13 and the Islamists had worked together as an “army of conquest” to fight Assad and take over Idlib province.
Clearly, local people are angry at the weekend’s events. Latest reports say protesters attacked the Al Nusra HQ in Ma’arat Al Numan today, Monday, freed 10 prisoners and burnt the building down.
Al Nusra HQ Burns in Ma’arat Al Numan as Locals Revolt Against Islamic Rule
EDITOR: As world powers attempt to impose “peace talks” in order to get some sort of resolution in Syria, if only a federal state, it looks as though new battle lines are being drawn as all the warring factions from every side jockey for position to take sole control of the central part of the country.
Many other anti-Assad demonstrations did take place right across Syria on Friday. In Atarib in Aleppo province they were dancing in the streets, HERE:
Meanwhile in other Syria News, having regained ground in Latakia, the Assad regime and their allies are pushing into Hama province, claiming to have killed 40 Opposition fighters as they recaptured 3 checkpoints and a number of buildings.
Though it was not all one way. Opposition fighters shot down an Assad MIG-21 just after it had bombed the village of Kafr Nabudah. The pilot parachuted towards the ground and unconfirmed reports say he has been captured. Video footage, HERE:
The Opposition also took out an Assad T-72 tank at the Hamamiyat barrier, HERE:
In Homs province on Saturday, Assad’s Air Force and Russian jets bombed IS positions in Palmyra more than 40 times and dropped a dozen barrel-bombs. The pro-Assad forces are said to be less than 5 kilometres from the northern and western entrances to the city.
The latest reports on Abu Omar Al-Shishani, the senior IS Chechen commander reported possibly killed last week after his convoy was attacked by the Coalition (scroll down – see below), say that he still “alive” but very seriously wounded and “clinically dead”, breathing at all only with the aid of machines.
2 of his companions survived the attack according to reports, but another 10 died and a specialist surgeon had been brought in to try and help Shishani.
What exactly Shishani’s role has been is not clear. Described as a top commander and involved in all the major battles, he is apparently not a member of the Islamic State’s political elite.
The New York Times, in a horrific report, describes how IS has been pushing its sex slaves and rape victims into forced birth control. Recommended reading.
Friday’s Demonstration in Wa’er District in Homs
IS continue lose ground as well in Syria, this time to Opposition fighters north of Aleppo city who captured Qizil Mazra’ah, the 4th village to fall to their fighters in 5 days.
“Peace talks” got underway again today, Monday, in Geneva with all sides taking strongly opposing positions. The Opposition called for a transitional government without Assad and his cronies, the UN mediator Staffan de Mistura said there should be presidential elections in 18 months, and the Syrian Government said Assad was not going anywhere and it was nobody else’s business who their president was. The BBC has more.
However, in an interesting twist today, Monday, President Putin after meeting his advisors, announced that Russia is to start a withdrawal of its main forces from Syria, starting tomorrow, Tuesday, and to concentrate on the “peace talks”. In his statement, Putin said, “The mission set for the Defence Ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished”. Apparently Putin has already phoned Assad and told him the “good news”.
Once again, the Kurds, by far and away the most successful group fighting the Islamic State, were excluded from the talks. Undoubtedly another suicide bomb explosion in Ankara yesterday, Sunday, which killed 34 and wounded around 130, will be blamed on the Kurds and used as an excuse, especially by Turkey, to “demonise” them.
Last weekend also marked 5 years since this dreadful war began. The BBC has commentary, video and analysis, HERE:
ROJAVA UPDATE 196: AL NUSRA USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST KURDS IN ALEPPO AGAIN, WHILE 32 ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS DIE IN ATTACK ON TISHREEN DAM
The Al Nusra Front and its Islamist allies, once again launched shell attacks, some laced with chemical weapons, on the Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo on Sunday.
This is the second time in a week that chemicals have been used (scroll down – see below).
The bombardment left dozens of casualties in its wake, including women and children and some of whom lost consciousness after inhaling fumes of what are thought to be phosphorous and chlorine agents.
The Effects of Chemical Weapons
The groups accused of the attacks as well as Al Nusra, include the Sultan Murad Brigade, the 16th Brigade, Noureddin Zanki and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement.
On Saturday, the Islamic State (IS) also launched another major attack on the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) between Jarablous and the Tishreen Dam
No less than 5 vehicle bombs were launched by IS against the Kurdish/Arab fighters, but all were destroyed before they reached their targets.
Subsequently fighting broke out near the Tishreen Dam in which 32 x IS Jihadists were killed and 4 from the SDF, with 7 SDF fighters wounded.
Welcome back to @ChuckFarrer (who has been busy writing a new book since September, “Phillip Nolan – The Man Without a Country” to be published on April 15th) and his useful maps, here:
SDF Pushing Towards Manbij From Tishreen Dam
Not for the first time in Hasakah, tensions overflowed in the city on Sunday between the Kurdish Asayish (Kurdish security) and Assad’s remaining forces still stationed there.
The clashes, including gunfire, broke out in the centre of the city between the Marshu roundabout and Al-Ra’eis Square, though so far casualties are unknown.
From the Turkey/Syrian border near Ras Al-Ain in Hasakah province, it is reported that 3 men were beaten by Turkish security after they attempted to cross the frontier from the Syrian side and ended up in hospital.
There are also unconfirmed reports from activists that Turkey is enabling the movement of “hundreds” of Islamist fighters from Ahrar Al-Sham and Failaq Al-Sham into the northern part of Aleppo province between the Kurdish Canton of Afrin and Jarablous to create a “central force” that will hold the territory against a SDF/Kurdish advance as they drive IS from the area.
The International Red Cross also managed to deliver 26 truck loads of humanitarian aid into the Afrin and Azaz area yesterday, Sunday, hopefully to benefit as many as 10,000 families.
Article reporting views of German participant in YPG fight against IS – he came to Syria to “change the world”, HERE:
Latest reports from US Central Command (Centcom) say that the Coalition made 6 airstrikes in Syria on Saturday and 12 in Iraq. In Syria the targets were all around Hasakah, Raqqah and Manbij where the Coalition made 4 strikes hitting 3 separate tactical units and destroying an IS artillery piece, 3 x IS vehicles, an IS mortar position and an IS fighting unit.
Over in Iraq, where the Peshmerga have also suffered chemical attacks from IS, the Kurdish fighters destroyed a main IS chemical weapons facility in northern Iraq near Qabousiyah in Sinjar province, with a barrage of heavy shelling on Sunday resulting in “massive explosions” according to reports. Other suspected IS chemical weapon storage and manufacturing centres are also being targeted.
According to the UN, 409 civilians have been affected by mustard gas and other chemicals falling on the town of Taza Khurmatu just south of Kirkuk from shells fired by IS and resulting in tumours and skin bubbles on people’s faces as well as burning in noses and throats and running eyes.
IS Burn Hundreds of Christian Books in Mosul
According to activists in Mosul, IS collected hundreds of Christian books from churches and schools in Mosul last week and burnt them all as the “books of infidels”. Mosul once had a large Christian population, but not any more as most have fled the city and many have left Syria altogether.
Others are determined to remain to retain a Christian presence in the Middle East. Interesting article, HERE: