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ROJAVA UPDATE 169: MAJOR OPERATION UNDERWAY TO RECAPTURE TISHREEN DAM? ISLAMIC STATE LOOK WEAKER AND LESS ORGANISED SAY KURDS

By Peter Clifford       ©        (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

Few details yet, but a major operation seems to be underway to attack Islamic State (IS) Jihadists around the Tishreen Dam on the Euphrates River south of Sarrin and possibly to capture the dam itself.

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Islamic State Fighters at Tishreen Dam

2 convoys of vehicles belonging to the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) have been seen heading for the western part of Kobane Canton and 3 x IS Jihadists have already been killed in fighting south of Sarrin.

Coalition aircraft are reported as bombing IS positions near the Tishreen Dam and the SDF is already engaging them in battle.

There are also reports that the IS Jihadists are installing explosives on the Tishreen Dam in a last stand move.

However, if the dam blew, there would be a wall of water rushing downstream and the most likely major casualty would be the people in the IS Syrian HQ at the city of Raqqah.

If the SDF can capture the Tishreen dam, they would then be in a strong position to move men and weapons for an attack on IS-held Jarablous nearer the Turkish border, though Turkey is likely to object to the presence of the Kurdish YPG fighters, who make up the major part of the SDF force, on the territory between Kobane and Afrin Cantons.

Moving southwards after crossing the dam, the SDF would also be in a position to attack Raqqah from another direction. However, nothing is clear yet and further information is awaited.

Elsewhere in the Rojava area, IS targeted another YPG checkpoint near Sabe’ Zlam in the Mount Abdul Aziz region and a second checkpoint came under fire near the town of Slouk north-east of Raqqah city with YPG casualties reported.

An exploding IS mine in the village of Twal Al-Aba in the northern part of Raqqah province also killed one person and wounded another.

According to the YPG, the Islamic State appears to be more and more in a desperate state. After losing both territory and hundreds of fighters they are sending in “waves of inexperienced suicide bombers” to try and stem the YPG/SDF advance.

Many of the vehicle bombs are exploded prematurely, caught in anti-VIEBD trenches or destroyed by gun or rocket fire.

In many cases the IS units do not seem to have any longer the ability to outflank the YPG/SDF positions “with experienced, hardened fighters capable of sizing objectives and repelling Kurdish counter attacks”.

And in Raqqah itself, according to a family that has fled, the price of food is going up all the time and Coalition airstrikes are “almost constant”.

You can read more in 2 Sky News reports, SkyNews1 and SkyNews2, where there is an interesting slide-show of makeshift oil production in Idlib province and videos in both.

The YPG has declared Tal Hamis in Hasakah province safe after clearing it of booby traps and mines and for the first time in 4 years some of its predominately Arabic population have been able to return. You can read more,HERE:

In Western Afrin Canton the 2nd Mobile Unit of the YPJ, and now part of the SDF, have been protecting the village of Bene. You can read more, HERE:

Their life may be made easier after an agreement was made between the YPG and Jaish Al-Thuwar and Jaish Al-Fatah, not to keep fighting each other near Afrin and the Sheikh Maqsoud Kurdish neighbourhood of Aleppo city.

How long this will hold is anyone’s guess, and there have already been reports of renewed firing on Sheikh Maqsoud district this morning, Monday. The agreement was brokered by the Shura and Conciliation Council in Aleppo.

Leishmaniasis, the skin disease, sometimes fatal, that is carried by sand flies and causes disfiguring pock marks on the face and body, has broken out in north-east Syria in villages near Qamishli and Hasakah.

Previously, a major outbreak had been reported among Assad’s troops near Palmyra. The latest cases have occured after IS fighters were driven out of Abdul Aziz, Tal Abayd and Tal Hamis, suggesting they may have brought the disease from the Palmyra area in the eastern desert of Homs province.

The Kurdish Red Crescent is treating the infections with injections of appropriate drugs. Video footage with English sub-titles, HERE:

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Turkey Frustrates Kobane Rebuilding Programme

In Kobane city where reconstruction has been underway for some months now, much of the building work has come to a halt after Turkey once again blocked the supply of building materials coming through the border crossing.

Local Kurdish officials are concerned that unless more houses for people to live in are completed this winter, thousands more as refugees will head for Europe.

VOA has a video report, in Kurdish only, but gives you some good visual footage of the regeneration.

Even worse, Turkey is still preventing the repatriation of bodies of YPG/YPJ fighters to the Kurdish communities in Turkey where they were born.

The family of Meliha Curuk, killed fighting IS near Al-Hawl for the YPJ, has been refused entry to Turkey for 41 days. Her family are reported devastated by Turkey’s cruel and inhuman action.

Bound to upset the Turkish Government further, Russian sources are reporting that the Turkish MP leader of the Kurdish HDP Party, Selahattin Demirtas, is due to meet the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, this week in Moscow.

Vice News has videos of a recent interview with Demirtas with English sub-titles.
syria-iraq-news-5Lastly on Rojava, please support the people of the destroyed city of Kobane this Christmas. They desperately need a school bus.

KOBANE CHRISTMAS APPEAL:

An appeal is underway to raise Euros 25,000 to buy a school bus to transport the smallest children to school from around Kobane.

Currently there is only one pre-school in Kobane and many children have to walk an hour each way to attend.

A bus would mean that the number of young children attending school would go up from 150 to 500.

This appeal aims to raise the Euros 25,000 in 25 days. Euros 8,464 so far, – only 7 days to go! Please contribute this Christmas (EDITOR: I have!) to Kobane’s reconstruction, (both USD, Euros and other currencies accepted by credit, debit card via PayPal at a genuine site) go HERE:

Over in Iraq, after US pressure, Turkey has agreed “to continue” its withdrawal of troops near Mosul where it been training Peshmerga and other fighters in battling IS. The Iraq Government, probably egged on by Russia, is insisting they leave immediately.

The Kurdish Peshmerga is claiming that it has killed 250 x IS Jihadists in the last week and also reports a fall in the fighting ability of the quality and ability of Islamic State combatants.

Reports from Mosul city itself say that IS beheaded 10 of its own men yesterday, Sunday, for “high treason” and evacuating their posts when engaged in battles with the Peshmerga. 6 of those executed were identified as Syrians, while the others were of foreign nationalities.

73 of their fighters were earlier executed in November for running away from fighting in Sinjar when the Peshmerga and other Kurdish and Yezidi units recaptured it in just 48 hours.

In preparation for forthcoming campaigns to retake Ramadi and Mosul, the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets on the 2 cities on Sunday.

Civilian residents were advised to leave Ramadi within the next 72 hours as attacks by the Iraqi military and the Coalition will be imminent after that time.

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Iraq Air Force Drops Leaflets on Ramadi and Mosul

 

SAUDI WOMEN TAKE ONE SMALL STEP INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

By Peter Clifford       ©    (www.petercliffordonline.com/saudi-women-take-one-small-step-into-the-21st-century/)

Congratulations to Saudi Arabia as Saudi women take one small step into the 21st century by both voting and standing for council posts in last weekend’s municipal elections.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com

Right across Saudi Arabia from small villages to the largest cities, 20 women were elected to municipal council seats.

Of the 7,000 candidates who stood for election, 979 were women and 2,100 seats were up for the taking in 249 local councils, so 20 female winners represent only 1% of those appointed – but it’s a start when before you have had no representation at all.

The Saudi King also has a quota of 1,050 seats to fill with his appointees, so hopefully he will he will take the opportunity to let in a few more of the women candidates.

4 women were elected in Riyadh, the conservative capital and 2 in the predominately Shia Islam Eastern Province.

Another woman was elected in Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia, perhaps the country’s most cosmopolitan city, while one more gained a seat in the holy city of Medina, the site of Prophet Mohammed’s first mosque.

Another woman was elected in the village of Madrakah, 150 kilometres north of Mecca which over bad roads has the nearest hospital, pointing out that many women in her village ended up giving birth in cars.

Other issues raised by the women candidates were more nurseries to look after children while mothers worked, more community centres for sports and cultural activities, the aforementioned better roads, improved garbage collection and greener cities.

I suspect there might be some more directly feminist issues waiting to surface in the background, but with this tentative level of suppression release it is probably wise to save those for another day. Saudi Arabia’s extreme clerics will be enraged at the changes as it is.

Credit for the policies all go to the new Saudi leader, King Salman, the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef and the Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, plus a coterie of relatively young, well-educated Cabinet members who frequently travel to the West and other countries worldwide.

While I am no great believer in the inalienable rights or abilities of hereditary royals, when it’s all you’ve got and they hold all the power and the purse strings, that’s what you have to work with.

In an attempt to make the elections a more level playing field for women forced to wear the full face-veil the General Election Committee, presumably on orders from the Government, banned all candidates, male and female from showing their faces in promotional posters, advertising boards or online. They were also not allowed to appear on television.

Of the 130,000 women who registered to vote, a 106,000 did so. Of the 1.35 million men registered to vote, less than half actually filled in a ballot paper, around 600,000. Overall turnout was 47%.http://www.petercliffordonline.com

In Jeddah, 3 generations of women from the same family voted for the very first time, the oldest being 94.

Her daughter reflected on how important it was to vote, saying, “I walked in and said I’ve have never seen this before. Only in the movies. It was a thrilling experience.”

That response, while understood, would probably be seen as “sad” in the West.

Especially as Saudi women are still not allowed to drive a car, go out on their own unless accompanied by a male chaperone (usually a close family member), go to a mixed swimming pool, compete in sports, or wear clothes or make-up that “may show up their beauty”.

Interestingly, in a show of support, Uber drivers in some of the major cities drove women to the polling stations in last weekend’s elections, for free (though I can’t help wondering how many men refused to accompany their wives or even let them out of the house?)

There is still a long way to go.

Saudi women who competed in the last Olympic Games were described as “prostitutes” by hardline clerics back home and the Saudi consultant to the Olympic Committee has even proposed this year, 2015, that Saudi Arabia be allowed to host the Games – but with no women at all taking part!

At a recent book fair in Jeddah, where books by female Saudi writers were displayed and women took part in Q and A panels (and even Donald Trumps’ books were on display), 2 men got up and protested when a female poet started quoting poetry from her new book.

One of the men, addressing the audience, asked, “Do you accept that a woman recites poetry?” Fortunately, the audience responded with an unequivocal ‘yes’ and the two men were escorted out.

In Saudi Arabia the roots of all this, on the surface at least, lie in Wahaabism the official religion of the State founded on the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, an 18th century cleric from the remote eastern interior of Arabia.

The main tenets of this religious philosophy is that there is only one God, Allah, and any that do not believe in him are unbelievers or apostates. The sectarian philosophy also does not believe in the worship and revering of clerics or saints and that there should be no shrines or places of worship other than those purely devoted to the “one God” (as defined by them).

This therefore excludes the Shiite Moslems who have numerous shrines and places of pilgrimage. In fact, in the original Wahaabi doctrines, jihad, or holy war against all “unbelievers”, including all other Moslems, was fully permissible.

In its extreme form Wahaabism forbids the “performing or listening to music, dancing, fortune telling, amulets, television programs (unless religious), smoking, playing backgammon, chess, or cards, drawing human or animal figures, acting in a play or writing fiction” and even the keeping or petting of dogs.

As far as women are concerned, they are forbidden to travel or work outside the home without their husband’s permission on the grounds that their “different physiological and biological structure” means they have a different family role to play, and if the husband does give permission to his wife to work outside the home, it can be withdrawn at any time.http://www.petercliffordonline.com

As mentioned before, Wahhabism also forbids the driving of motor vehicles by women and sexual intercourse out of wedlock may be punished with beheading – although sex outside marriage is permissible with a “slave woman” (though probably not a woman with a “slave man” of course?).

(Just as well as Prince Bandar bin Sultan [former ambassador to the US and director of Saudi Intelligence] was the result of a “brief union” between his father, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and a 16 year old “black serving women” – though slavery has since been “formerly banned” in the kingdom.)

In all of this it is easy to see the where the Islamic State gets its basic tenets and “vindication” from, offering a “pure” form of Islam which is “justified” in taking over the world (See last week’s post on The Anatomy of an Islamic State Jihadist).

Wahaabism has been so successful because it formed an alliance with the militarily aggressive House of Saud back in the 18th century, eventually taking over the whole of the Arabian peninsular, and more recently because of the billions of dollars of oil revenue monies used to promote it.

The result however is a bloody and deadly sectarian schism in Islam between the Sunni (of which Wahaabism is a part) and Shia branch descendants of Prophet Mohammad. Until this is sorted the Middle East and many other parts of the Islamic world will remain a mess.

However, the apparent misogynist aspects of Islam, Wahaabi or otherwise, are not restricted to males of the Moslem religion, they are still too common in the rest of the world.

Here in the UK, British boxer, Tyson Fury, who became WBA World Heavyweight Champion in November 2015, recently caused controversy by declaring that “a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back – that’s my personal belief.”

Undoubtedly, he should keep his “personal beliefs” to himself, but I suspect that covertly a lot of men, wherever they are in the world, think the same way.

Such beliefs, in my view, are based on fear, pure and simple.

Again, as I have often written, our values are formed in childhood and if we grow up with bullying mothers, for whatever reason, and/or are encouraged by other males in the absurd notion that somehow men are “superior”, then we are more likely to gravitate to a male ethos that tries to suppress women in adulthood.

In fact it may be that suppression of women in the Islamic world and elsewhere which contributes to the disdain and disrespect that males show as adults towards women, is sometimes started by frustrated women taking out there anger at exclusion from full participation in the world, on their male (and female) children. And so the circle of deprivation and loss continues into the future.

The key to accelerating change is female education, as Malala Yousafzai, the 18 year old Pakistani, Noble Peace Prize winner has championed and to which, unsurprisingly, the Taliban and the Islamic State remain fiercely opposed.

At the Jeddah book fair mentioned earlier, the Saudi Minister of Education and Information Adel al-Toraifi said that an Arab reads six minutes a day, compared to the world average of 36 minutes.

He also said that the Arab world prints 27,809 books a year, which translates into 12,000 Arabs getting one book.

Compare that with China which publishes 440,000 books a year and the United States and the UK which publish just under 500,000 books a year between them.

Hopefully, the spread of and access to the Internet (when its male viewers are not accessing pornography) can help to change all that.

Peter Clifford  – 16th December 2015

http://www.petercliffordonline.com

ROJAVA UPDATE 167: SDF ADVANCING ON ARISHA AND SHADDADI, WHILE YPG DESTROY 2 BOMB-LADEN DRONES OVER KOBANE

By Peter Clifford         ©        (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

 

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

The Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) is currently heavily shelling the Islamic State-held town of Arisha, 33 kilometres south of Hasakah.

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Bomb-Laden IS Drones Shot Down by YPG

In the latest heavy artillery and mortar bombardments over the weekend 4 x IS vehicles were destroyed and 15 x Islamic State (IS) Jihadists killed.

At the same, the SDF is already on to its next target, Shaddadi, reportedly making a big advance towards the eastern outskirts of the town yesterday, Sunday.

Over the last 2 months, the SDF Kurdish-Arabic alliance, which includes Syriac Christians, has recaptured 220 villages and towns across Hasakah province.

Syriac Christian women, taking their lead from the YPJ, have even formed their own fighting brigade with around 50 of them completing training so far, HERE:

However, the IS campaign remain relentless with a suicide bomb attack on Suluk north of Raqqah on Friday and major attacks on Ain Issa and Sarrin over the weekend. With the help of Coalition air support both attacks were repelled.

In the attack on Sarrin 4 x IS Jihadists were killed and an ammunition depot destroyed.

In another interesting development, the Kurdish YPG shot down 2 drones over Kobane Canton, both of which were laden with bomb material. One of them exploded, but no injuries were recorded.

IS has also claimed responsibility for the triple truck bomb attack on Tal Tamar last week, which has now killed 25, more dying of their injuries.

The success of the SDF campaign can be seen in this video report from Sky News.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports that on Friday 5 Coalition airstrikes were carried out in Syria, one strike hitting an IS tactical unit at Manbij in Aleppo province and destroying both an IS building and an IS drone.

4 other strikes on Friday hit 4 separate IS tactical units, damaged 4 x IS buildings and wounded 2 x IS fighters.

Saturday’s Centcom report reports 7 strike targets in Syria, with significant damage at Abu Kamal, Raqqah, Ain Issa, Manbij and Mar’a.

In the last few months, the Coalition has moved to attack what the military call “dynamic targets”, moving vehicles in the open desert, including oil tankers, 400 of which have now been demolished.

“When they move now, the Coalition has a better sense where they [IS] will be moving to and by what routes and stopping points along the way, and it makes eastern Syria a far more target-rich environment,” said an analyst. You can read more (and watch latest Obama video on IS) in USA Today.

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Syriac Christian Female Fighter Plays with Dogs at SDF Training Camp

And on another positive note, the Austrian Parliament has voted to approve a plan to help in the reconstruction of both Kobane in Syria and Sinjar in Iraq, despite the fact that Turkey is almost certain to complain.

Turkey in now in trouble again after it was ordered by the Iraqi Government last week to remove troops stationed at Bashiq to the north-east of Mosul.

The Turkish soldiers were invited there some time ago by the former Governor of Mosul to help train Peshmerga and other fighters for the upcoming battle against IS to retake Mosul city.

Now, probably encouraged by the Russians and the Iranians, the Iraq Government has made a complaint to the UN Security Council about the Turkish “incursion”.

Turkey’s President Erdogan, as usual, is refusing to remove his soldiers, though there were troop movements today, Monday, which suggest they may be located elsewhere, perhaps Iraq Kurdistan which generally has better relations with the Turkish Government.

Reports this morning say that there has been heavy fighting in a western suburb of Mosul over the weekend between Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Islamic State, after IS attacked the Peshmerga HQ west of Mosul with 2 car bombs.

Both vehicles were destroyed before they reached their targets. The Kesk suburb of Mosul is 25 kilometres west of the city centre. At least 5 x IS Jihadists were killed in the fighting, with one Peshmerga fighter dying later from his injuries.

IS were also pushed back after they attacked the village of Mashouq and the Peshmerga claim that as many as 50 x IS Jihadists were killed in Coalition airstrikes on the outskirts of Mosul yesterday, Sunday, near the village of Al-Haytham. 15 Coalition airstrikes were reported in Iraq on Saturday.

There is also a report that 3 journalists from Mosul, who have been in hiding for 3 months after being sentenced to death, have escaped to Iraq Kurdistan after they were smuggled out of Mosul, IS subsequently confiscating their houses.

ASSAD’S FORCES RECAPTURE AIRBASE AFTER 3 YEARS IN OPPOSITION CONTROL, AND ISLAMIC STATE ACCUSED OF MURDERING THE DISABLED:

After a month of intense fighting, Assad’s troops backed by Hezbollah recaptured the airbase at Marj al-Sultan just east of Damascus in the Opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta today, Monday.

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Suspected Russian Cluster Bomb Attack on Douma

While Assad’s forces have control of the base, fighting continues in the nearby town where Opposition fighters are holding out.

The price of the capture has been heavy with at least 14 Hezbollah fighters killed here and elsewhere in Syria in the last 48 hours.

The Opposition fighters have had control of the base for the last 3 years, so a serious defeat for them.

On Sunday Government and Russian airstrikes and rocket fire killed 45 civilians, including 10 children, in the Opposition suburb of Douma, also in Eastern Ghouta.

In retaliation, the Opposition continued their bombardment of Government held areas of Damascus sending 50 shells and mortars into Dahiyat Al-Assad, Jaramana, Al Wafidin, Al Malki and Umawyyin Square in the centre of the capital, killing 8 including a child and wounding 35.

In Aleppo province Russian airstrikes targeted the Islamic State in Manbij and East Aleppo as well as the Al Nusra-Front (ANF) and other Islamic groups near Deir Jamal.

ANF however claimed that it had killed as many 80 pro-Assad Shiite mercenaries as they tried to retake the village of Banes south of Aleppo city.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) took out an excavator in the same area belonging to the Shiite militias with a TOW missile, HERE:  and also hit Aleppo International Airport and the nearby Nairab military airport with a barrage of rockets destroying vehicles and planes over the weekend.

In the northern part of Hama province the Opposition advanced to take the Zor Al-Heisa barrier between Helfaia and Taibat Al-Imam and captured the village of Al-Buwaydah.

This footage shows FSA fighters taking out an Assad ammunition truck with a TOW missile in an enormous blast on the Ghab Plain, HERE:

While in the northern part of Homs province, Opposition fighters destroyed an Assad 23mm gun with another anti-tank missile, HERE:

Just days after the declaration of a significant ceasefire between the Government side and the Opposition (scroll down – see below) IS triggered a bomb explosion in a Government area of the city killing at least 16 people and injuring many more.

The IS bomber set of his car containing 150 kilos of explosive and set exploded himself with a suicide belt, according to information released by IS.

In Idlib province, the Al-Nusra Front and Islamic groups are starting to show their true colours by issuing an order today, Monday, imposing an austere dress code on women in Idlib city.

The order instructs women to start wearing abayas (long over-garments that cover all of the body) which must be “black, dark brown or blue and bear no decorations or embellishments”.

Men are also forbidden to sell women’s underwear and female manikins must only be displayed inside stores with their faces covered and not outside. The decree was wrapped up in religious language with much mention of “honour and chastity”. You can read more, HERE:

Echoing President Putin’s burbling last week (scroll down -see below), the Chief of the Russian Army General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, was quoted as repeating to visiting foreign military attaches on Monday the assertion that the Russian Air Force is making “30 – 40 airstrikes in support of the FSA every day and supplying them with weapons”.

Later in the day this was contradicted by Vladimir Kozhin, Vladimir Kozhin, President Putin’s aide for military and technical cooperation, who said that Russia does not supply the FSA with weapons. EDITOR: Clearly, pandering to Assad’s whims, the Russians don’t know what the hell they are doing!

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The Russian Warship, the Smetlivy

Over the weekend, a Russian warship, the Smetlivy, anchored off the Greek island of Lemnos, shot small arms fire at a Turkish fishing boat that came too close, though the Turkish captain of the vessel claimed  not to have noticed.

The Turkish military attaché was summoned in Moscow, while Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Russia’s reaction was “exaggerated” and Turkey’s patience “has a limit”.

The next scheduled summit between President Erdogan and President Putin has also been cancelled.

If the next rather sensational report is true, the Islamic State has sunk to new depths of depravity.

According to the Opposition activist group Mosul Eye in Iraq, IS has issued an “oral fatwa” authorising its members to “kill newborn babies with Down’s Syndrome and congenital deformities and disabled children”.

Mosul Eye says they have been monitoring the birth of children with disabilities and many have been born to women married to foreign fighters. So far they have recorded the confirmed deaths of 38 babies who have been killed with either lethal injection or suffocation. You can read more, HERE:

The same paper, the Mirror, also carries a report of SAS (UK special forces) action near Mosul. Apparently the UK unit were called in to attack a suspected IS bomb factory. As five men in heavy coats, despite the hot weather came out, a SAS marksman shot one of them from 800 metres, triggering a suicide belt explosion that killed another 2. A second shot to the head killed a 4th Jihadist and a third bullet killed the fifth as he ran back inside. (EDITOR: A good story anyway – but hopefully true!).

Lastly, where does all the Islamic State’s oil go? A map, courtesy of Radio Free Europe and an article by NOW Media, explain the detail – it’s all in the middlemen.

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How Does Islamic State Oil Get on the Legal Market?

 

ROJAVA UPDATE 166: TRIPLE ISLAMIC STATE VEHICLE BOMB ATTACK KILLS AT LEAST 22 IN HASAKAH PROVINCE

By Peter Clifford       ©           (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

On Wednesday evening a combined YPG/YPJ force again attacked a number of Islamic State positions on the west bank of the Euphrates river.

The targets of the attack were sources of mortar shelling which has been hitting the west side of Kobane Canton for several months now, particularly the village of Qereqosaz, killing and injuring a number of Kurds. At least one IS Jihadist was killed in the YPG operation and 2 more injured.

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Kobane Still Strives to Rebuild – 10 Months on

On the eastern side of Rojava south of recently captured Al-Hawl, the YPG dominated Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) has freed 4 more villages in its campaign to clear the whole area from Islamic State (IS) control.

The YPG units rescued trapped civilians from the villages and kept them safe while fighting with IS continued.

In most cases the IS fighters eventually just fled leaving behind weapons and ammunition, HERE:

In a major attack yesterday, Thursday, on Tal Tamar near Hasakah, IS sent 3 vehicle bombs, 2 of them trucks, against Kurdish checkpoints and security stations.

The first hit a YPG checkpoint at the southern entrance to Tal Tamar, followed in quick succession by 2 more explosions, one targeting an Asayish (Kurdish Security) post near a market and another going off outside a hospital killing 4 women and a doctor.

Deaths currently are put at 22, but so many seriously injured that this figure is expected to rise.

More recent reports on Friday are saying between 50 and 50 dead and 80 wounded, but this has not been confirmed. The injured are being rushed to hospitals in both Qamishli and Hasakah. Video report, Kurdish only, from the Asayish, HERE:

There was also an explosion in Tirbê_Sipî yesterday, east of Qamishli.

At the same time, another 25 Assyrian Christians captured in villages near Tal Tamar were released yesterday by the Islamic State, probably after the payment of large bribes to set them free.

All of the hostages released were male, including 2 boys aged 7 and 9. Another 130 Assyrians from the Tal Tamar area are still held in captivity.

West of Rojava in the Kurdish Canton of Afrin near the Turkish border in the north of Aleppo province, heavy battles are taking place between the SDF supported by the YPG and the Al Nusra Front backed by Ahrar Al-Sham.

Fighting continued all day yesterday around the villages of Shawargah and Beyna to the east of Afrin.

The virtual surrounding of Afrin has even provoked comments from President Barzani in Iraq Kurdistan, who called on the international community to come to the YPG’s assistance.

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Surviving in Kobane

Ara News links the fighting, which also continues around the Kurdish quarter in Aleppo city, with the recent breakdown of the relationship between Turkey (who generally support Islamist groups) and Russia (who are more likely to support left leaning groups like the YPG).

For the Turks, the formation of the Syrian Democratic Force (supported by the US) is an added irritant. Video report, with English sub-titles,HERE:

In Kobane city, sources say that US, French and British advisers have arrived this week and met with both the YPG and Kobane Canton officials. Whether the object of their discussions is military or reconstruction, or both, is unknown.

Certainly reconstruction is underway, despite both the devastation and Turkey still refusing to allow cement to cross the border. CNN has an excellent video report.

KOBANE CHRISTMAS APPEAL:

An appeal is underway to raise Euros 25,000 to buy a school bus to transport the smallest children to school from around Kobane.

Currently there is only one pre-school in Kobane and many children have to walk an hour each way to attend. A bus would mean that the number of young children attending school would go up from 150 to 500.

This appeal aims to raise the Euros 25,000 in 25 days. Euros 4,348 so far, 17 days to go. Please contribute this Christmas (EDITOR: I have!) to Kobane’s reconstruction, (both USD, Euros and other currencies accepted by credit, debit card via PayPal at genuine site) go HERE:

ASSAD REGAINS ALL OF HOMS, WHILE TURKEY ACCUSES RUSSIA OF “ETHNIC CLEANSING” AND PUTIN BURBLES ABOUT NUCLEAR WARHEADS “AS A LAST RESORT”:

This Wednesday saw the entire city of Homs returned effectively to Government control after a ceasefire negotiated over 2 years came into place under UN supervision.

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Aid Workers Evacuate the Injured from Al-Wair in Homs

The Opposition held district of Al-Wair had been under siege by the Assad regime for 3 years, but this week 300 hardline Opposition fighters and their families, 700 people in all, were bussed out of Homs to Opposition-held Idlib province further north.

Under the UN supported deal food and humanitarian aid was allowed into the Homs suburb for the first time in 12 months.

Some moderate Opposition fighters will remain with their weapons and keep control over their own districts.

Assad’s police will be allowed into the suburb but not the army.

Originally 300,000 lived in Al-Wair and 75,000 still remain.

35 Opposition fighters held by the Assad regime in Homs have also been released from detention. The BBC has a video report.

60 Kilometres south-east of Homs city, but still within the province, the Assad regime has not done so well with the Islamic State retaking the Al-Hawrin village and the eastern parts of Maheen town.

At least 20 of Assad’s troops were killed in the fighting and IS seized a Government tank and substantial supplies of weapons and ammunition, including heavy machine guns.

The Assyrian community just to the north of Maheen at Sadad is nervous and has asked the regime for heavy weapons to repel any IS attack.

In the north-west of Aleppo city, in the Khalidiya neighbourhood, Opposition fighters blew up a tunnel bomb, completely demolishing an Assad regime building, HERE:

Fed-up with being constantly barrel-bombed, the Opposition in Aleppo are now fighting back by regularly firing shells and mortars into to the regime-held west Aleppo. Unfortunately, where they land and who they hurt is indiscriminate.

In the last 24 hours 12 people have been killed by the bombardment, including 7 children and 3 women.

The Al Nusra Front also detonated 2 vehicle bombs striking pro-Assad Shiite militia in regime-held Al-Eis just south of Aleppo city where the battle ebbs and flows, both sides gaining and losing territory.

In Deir Ez-Zour the Islamic State is once again reported to have executed 4 of its own Jihadists, 2 for “treason” and 2 for fleeing the battle front. One of those executed was a member of IS Islamic police and another of the Al-Husba committee which is responsible for collecting taxes from shop owners in the city.

The 4 were executed in a public square and their bodies left on the ground until midnight as a clear warning to others.

syria-iraq-news-5

Russian Submarine Fires Missiles off Syria

Russia this week also launched cruise missiles for the first time from a submerged submarine off the Mediterranean coast of Syria at targets in Syria.

The missiles from the submarine Rostov-on-Don positioned near Cyprus, hit IS positions in Raqqah according to the Russian Ministry of defence, including “a munitions depot, a factory manufacturing mortar rounds and oil facilities”. Israel and the US had been informed prior to the launch.

Burbling at a press conference about the event, President Putin, in a veiled threat to IS, said that the missiles could also be fitted with nuclear warheads “as a last resort”.

Putin has also ordered his military to strike back in an extremely tough way if any of their troops or facilities come under attack in Syria.

Meanwhile the war of words with Turkey continues. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu accused Russia of “ethnic cleansing” by wanting to drive the Turkmen and Sunni groups living in northern Latakia from their homes with airstrikes.

In more burbling, clearly designed to annoy Turkey, Putin also said that Russia was helping “the Free Syrian Army with air support, weapons and ammunition”.

“The work of our aviation group assists in uniting the efforts of government troops and the Free Syrian Army,” Putin told an annual meeting at the defence ministry.

“Now several of its units numbering over 5,000 troops are engaged in offensive actions against terrorists, alongside regular forces, in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa. We support it from the air, as well as the Syrian army, we assist them with weapons, ammunition and provide material support.”

EDITOR: I don’t think Putin knows what he is talking about here and is clearly not in command of the situation in Syria. It’s more likely he is talking about support for pro-Assad militias rather than a group directly opposed to the Syrian Government.

Also, interesting reports that the Assad regime is now training thousands of volunteers to take over checkpoint and protection duties in their own towns and villages once the Syrian Army has recaptured them, so the full-time forces can move on to continue the campaign.

The “Syrian Defence Factions”, as the new force is called, will help replace Assad’s manpower shortage. You can read more, HERE:

EDITOR: Interesting choice of acronym in English, “SDF”, confusing it with new “Syrian Democratic Force” in northern Syria led by the Kurds and backed by the US.

The meeting of Opposition groups in Riyadh, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, (scroll down – see below) agreed to set up a 32 man committee of which 15 would be appointed to meet with Assad representatives in January. However, Assad has already issued a statement today, Friday, saying he will not negotiate with “armed groups” or “terrorists”, only the political opposition.

Ahrar al-Sham however, reportedly pulled out of the agreement because the conference did not give “real weight to the revolutionary factions”. The Al Nusra Front was not represented at the meeting and the Kurds, including the YPG, were not even invited.

Lastly, a heart-warming tale by UNICEF from the Syrian refugee camp in Za’atari in Jordan where 16 year old Mesh’al misses his regularly schooling and instead works hard to raise a little money for his family. He also dreams of one day having his own hair cutting shop, here:

ANATOMY OF AN ISLAMIC STATE JIHADIST

By Peter Clifford               ©             (www.petercliffordonline.com/)

What is the anatomy of an Islamic State Jihadist?

I don’t mean physically – they come in all shapes and sizes just like the rest of us – male and female.

I mean, what emotional and psychological state turns people, often with a mild, quiet background, into fanatical, ruthless, cold-blooded killers?

After almost 35 years working as a counsellor and psychotherapist I guess I know a little about why people behave the way they do, though I have worked mainly with the victims of extreme behaviour, rather than the extremists themselves.http://www.petercliffordonline.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I am certain of though is that no baby is born as an extremist, a torturer or a murderer with no regard for the value of their own life or anyone else’s.

All of that is learnt behaviour and the big questions are how, why and where?

It is not straightforward, there are at least 6 different types of Jihadists.

1. First there are the religious fanatics. These must be distinguished from the genuine religiously pious who can be found in all faiths, not just Islam.

It’s one thing to be believe deeply in your God, your faith and its religious practices and try to live a good and honest life even if others do not share or understand the depth of your commitment.

It’s very much another, when you start to believe that anyone who does not share your God, your beliefs and your commitment is an “infidel”, opposed to you and your faith and “God” or “your prophet” commands that they be converted to your faith or destroyed.

There are plenty of examples of cults in the West that have almost gone that far, regarding “outsiders”, non-believers as less worthy human beings and a threat to the core structure of the “faith” or organisation.

2. Secondly there is a large body of people who feel disregarded, rejected by their family and those around them and the society in which they live, and for whom feeling lost and of little value is a prospect that is likely to haunt them for the rest of their lives.

People like this can be found in all cultures, within all religions or with none and in all countries. It comes mainly from poor child rearing, the breakdown of family support and structures and a lack of love, attention genuine support and guidance.

Children who are loved, respected, nurtured and encouraged to be themselves and to find and explore their abilities, do not become mass murderers.

Mass murderers are made from people with a grudge, a giant flaw in their being left after years of unloving or neglect, humiliation or suppression and a feeling of powerlessness.

It has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, the more intelligent a mass murderer is, the more dangerous he is.

3. The third group in my view consists of the malleable, the unaware and the damaged.Syria-Iraq-News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of these may have similar backgrounds to Group 2, but they also may be have been emotionally and psychological damaged while growing up (or even physically damaged at birth), resulting in an immaturity, a lack of awareness and/or an inability to think for themselves, and difficulty in independently distinguishing right from wrong and make balanced value judgements.

Normally such people would be cared for, shielded and guarded by family members or by professionals who will look out for their needs.

However, in the hands of manipulative fanatics who quickly recognise their vulnerability and know how to use this and “befriend” them, they quickly become cannon fodder.

A recent example was seen in a video a few months back of an Islamic State suicide bomber, probably 17 or less, who was persuaded to drive his vehicle bomb into the opposition lines.

Despite “encouragement” and promises of some mysterious and unprovable heavenly reward to come, he was in tears and clearly afraid and unsure.

But there was no way out and he carried out the task anyway.

4. The fourth group is perhaps in many ways the most dangerous.

It consists of the disillusioned and the morally lost, who can both be well integrated into society seemingly leading useful lives or at the other end of the spectrum are jobless, hopeless and turning to drugs, alcohol and petty crime to get by.

Either way, they are deeply disappointed with the society/world they see around them and with their role in it. They do not see that they have the power to change it and are drawn to a religious philosophy that says they can live in a different world and raise their families and children in it.

For the jobless and those who have turned to crime, or alcohol or drugs as a way of coping and feeling a smattering of control and “power”, the Islamic State’s strict philosophy of living offers a path to redemption and forgiveness tied to their childhood religious roots.

The wealthy, more middle-class recruits perhaps are disappointed with extreme materialism and the corruption it often engenders. IS offers another solution.

“Follow the rules and we will give you authority, respect and rewards both in this life and the afterlife to come”.

Many foreigners and converts to Islam coming from outside Syria and Iraq will fall into this category. They are given free housing and money when they arrive in the Middle East and as we have seen in Paris, the UK, the USA and elsewhere they wreck murderous havoc on a large scale.

This group may well include intelligent foreign women who are attracted by the “glamour” of following a cause, marrying Jihadists and escaping perhaps the “restrictions” of their own family life back home. They are undoubtedly in for a rude awakening.

5. The fifth group are the politically and tribally motivated, especially Sunnis who see the Sunni aligned Islamic State (IS) as some sort of bulwark against the Shiite dominated government in Iraq and the Shiite associated Alawite sect of President Assad in Syria.Syria-Iraq-News

One of the reasons the Islamic State was able to spread across Syria and Iraq so quickly was because of these tribal alliances – IS knew how to tap into resentments and perceived injustices inflicted, as the locals saw it, by Iran sponsored Shia policies.

Indeed, the very core of the Islamic State when it started in Iraq was probably created by ex-Saddam Hussein military officers, Sunnis, who had lost their status, power and jobs after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some tribes are now regretting their allegiance to the Islamic State – but backing out has turned out to be a bloody and vengeful business both for the tribes and individuals who have changed their minds.

6. And lastly, the sixth group is perhaps the most disturbing – the large number of children that the Islamic State is “educating” and indoctrinating in their awful world view.

Children who will grow up believing that executing people for having the “wrong” faith, world view or sexual preference, or who have transgressed IS rules in some way, is normal.

According to a recent video, IS children were engaged in a gruesome hide and seek game in a castle in Deir Ez-Zour province, hunting for shackled prisoners. Those children who did best were given, literally, “execution privileges”.

One of the young boys involved was a Yezidi, a “slave” taken prisoner when IS invaded northern Iraq, killing thousands of his Yezidi brethren and imprisoning thousands more women as sexual concubines. It shows how quickly young minds can be turned and warped. You can read more about the so-called “Caliphate Cubs”, HERE:

There may well be other groups of potential Islamic State Jihadists that we can describe, but what these individuals all have in common is that they are in need of “new family”.

When your own family, for whatever reason in your view, has “let you down” in childhood then psychologically and emotionally you are programmed to search for another one to which you can belong and become part of. (The only exception to this are those that successfully work through that hurt therapeutically.)

Syria-Iraq-News

IS Tramples on Islam

Cults – and IS is nothing more than a cult, if a deadly one – work on that basis. There is usually a charismatic paternal leader and provided you as an individual “follow the rules”, accept and promote the mantra or philosophy and wear the uniform where there is one, then you will be “loved” and accepted.

The Islamic State craftily justifies its actions with the authority of the Koran, Prophet Mohammed and the promise of entry into Paradise if you die fighting for the “cause”.

For many that will be a no-lose situation which makes the Islamic State, along with its stated ambition to conquer most of the developed and developing world, the largest threat to civilisation since World War ll.

That the Islamic State is medieval – as well as just plain evil – is without doubt. They would love to get thousands of US and other western troops to fight them on the ground to recreate another “Crusade” in which they can finally “defeat the infidel invaders” (which is why President Obama is wisely resisting that move).

But this is not 1098 when starving “Christian” Crusaders slaughtered 8,000 inhabitants in Ma’arat Al Numan(currently an Opposition-held town in Syria’s Idlib province) and ate them after pot-boiling the adults and spit-roasting the children – Islamic fighters would have some justification in wanting revenge for that.

This is the 21st Century, when the rights of all individuals and religions that reciprocally respect others must also be respected.

The Islamic State, and the individual Jihadists that choose to make it their home, ignorantly fail to do that, leaving us no choice but to fight them to destruction.

Syria-Iraq-news

Back to the Stone Age with Islamic State

 

ASSAD ACCUSES COALITION OF ATTACK ON HIS ARMY BASE, 3 DEAD – BUT LOOKING MORE LIKE ANOTHER RUSSIAN MESS-UP

By Peter Clifford            ©             (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

4 jet aircraft launched 9 missiles yesterday, Sunday, evening against one of the Assad regime’s army bases at Saequa near the town of Ayyash in Deir Ez-Zour province.

3 of Assad’s soldiers are reported killed and 13 wounded. In addition 3 armoured vehicles, 4 other military vehicles, two heavy machine guns and a weapon and ammunition depot were also destroyed.

SYRIA NEWS

Coalition Aircraft Prepares for Bombing Raid in Syria

The Syrian Government immediately claimed it was an attack by the US-led Coalition and lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.

However, Colonel Steve Warren, the Coalition spokesman has denied that it was anything to do with them and said, “We’ve seen those Syrian reports but we did not conduct any strikes in that part of Deir Ez-Zour yesterday. So we see no evidence.”

The nearest Coalition strikes on Sunday were 55 kilometres (34 miles) to the east where they hit well-heads in the Omar Oil Field.

“There were no human beings in the area that we struck yesterday,” Warren added.

The co-ordinates of all Coalition airstrikes would be carefully logged – so it should be obvious where their planes struck.

The UK made its second run of bombing in Syria on Friday, this time using Typhoons.

President Assad just before last Wednesday’s vote in the UK Parliament to allow the RAF to operate in Syria, said in an interview with the Sunday Times about the proposition, “It will be harmful and illegal and it will support terrorism as happened after the coalition started its operation a year or so [ago].”

“You cannot defeat ISIS through airstrikes alone,” Assad said. “You cannot defeat them without cooperation with forces on the ground. You cannot defeat them if you do not have buy-in from the general public and the [Syrian] government.”

EDITOR: This is feeling very much like a “set-up” or an attempt to cover-up another Russian mistake. At least twice already Russian aircrew have been accused of bombing pro-Assad Hezbollah and Shiite militias and Assad’s troops. But the Syrian Government says nothing about that.

And it may all be part of a clever Assad strategy to get the Coaltion to co-ordinate their attacks with the Assad Government, so it would then appear as if the 2 sides are working in “partnership”.

Already, Assad and the Russians have got the West to change the narrative from ” Assad must go” to “let him stay in place during a transition to elections”. And lately, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has even been heard to state that Syrian Opposition fighters should be persuaded to work with the Assad regime to defeat the Islamic State first.

All of this smacks of an attempt to legitimise President Assad – the biggest killer of civilians in Syria bar none, and the murderer of more people than all the other groups put together.

Meanwhile, Erbil Airport, the main base for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been closed again for 2 days until Tuesday night on orders of the Iraqi Government, to allow the overflight of Russian missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea.

There is also an unconfirmed report that a Russian cruise missile has hit one of Assad’s defence factories at Al-Safira near Aleppo.

Russia additionally continues to get up Turkey’s nose after the downing of a Russian jet by the Turkish Air Force. On Thursday in a “state of the nation” address in Russia, Putin said, “Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason.

“But, if they expected a nervous or hysterical reaction from us, if they wanted to see us become a danger to ourselves as much as to the world, they won’t get it. … We are not going to rattle the sabre. But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.”

Immediately after the broadcast Russia cancelled a major gas pipeline project to Turkey, leaving millions of dollars worth of specialised pipes designed to go under the Black Sea sitting uselessly on the dockside.

SYRIA NEWS

Soldier With Missile Launcher Stands on Deck of Russian Ship Off Turkish Coast

Turkey also reacted on Sunday, summoning the Russian ambassador to Ankara to complain of “provocation” after pictures appeared of a Russian landing ship, the Caesar Kunikov, passing through the Bosphorus near Istanbul on Friday with a soldier apparently standing on deck holding a shoulder held ManPad type missile launcher.

Why he would need to do this, other than to provoke a reaction, is unclear.

(EDITOR: When I first saw these pictures they looked staged and Photoshopped to me, but my Turkish correspondents, some of whom took the pictures, assure me they are real.

As I said at he time, perhaps they had orders to look out for Erdogan!)

In Homs province, reports say that Russia has launched its first airstrikes from its new airbase at Shayrat not far from Palmyra (EDITOR: Perhaps they are the ones that got lost and bombed Assad’s base at Deir Ez-Zour by mistake?), while from Damascus it is reported that a new contingent of Iranian Shiite militia has been flown in from Basra in southern Iraq.

From Hama province comes this video of the terrifying moment Assad’s troops launch a barrage of rockets against Opposition fighters on Al-Ghab Plain, here:

In Aleppo province various battles are still underway, though the ceasefire between the Syrian Democratic Forces and other Free Syrian Army units appears to be holding with just occasional outbreaks of gunfire.

This has allowed the northern Aleppo Opposition to concentrate more on fighting back the Islamic State (IS), even on Friday night taking back 3 villages around Yarn and a strip of territory along the border with Turkey running towards the east.

However, the Opposition fighters now say that many of their attacks are at night to avoid the added hazard of bombs dropped by the Russian jets on behalf of Assad.

South of Aleppo city, pro-Assad Shiite militia have seized Qal’ajiyah but lost 3 tanks in battles with Opposition fighters this morning, Monday. This footage shows one of the tanks destroyed recently with a TOW missile – watch out for the man on the roof trying to put out the potential fire, HERE:

In Daraa province, where things have slowed down after an unsuccessful attempt to capture Daraa city, a coalition of 12 Opposition forces in the Southern Front announced a new campaign to capture Sanamayn where the Assad regime bases its 7th and 9th Divisions.

Their campaign has been strengthened this time by another coalition of a dozen local tribes who are being backed, financed and armed by Jordan under the name of The Army of Free Tribes.

The current thrust is to take over the artillery base at Jidyah, from where the regime regularly shells the Opposition forces in the surrounding area. Sanamayn is a major defensive front for the regime on the road between Daraa province and Damascus.

Fighting around the Jidyah base has so far not gone terribly well with a number of Opposition casualties reported  on Friday, but further more positive news is awaited. You can read more, HERE:

And from the good people of Kanfranbel in Idlib province comes their comment on John Kerry’s recent proposals, here:

SYRIA NEWS

Message to John Kerry About “Working with Assad and Russians”

ROJAVA UPDATE 165 – YPG CONDUCTS OPERATION ACROSS EUPHRATES TO JARABLOUS TO SILENCE ISLAMIC STATE MORTARS:

The YPG reported on Sunday that last Friday evening a combined force of the YPG/YPJ conducted an operation across the Euphrates River to the west bank to an area south of IS-held Jarablous.

SYRIA NEWS

Picture of the Year 2015 in Germany – The Liberation of Kobane

The operation was to try and put a stop to the regular barrage of IS mortar shells that has been falling on an almost daily basis on towns and villages in Kobane Canton for the last month.

An IS vehicle used to transport ammunition was targeted and destroyed along with its occupants and 2 other vehicles were damaged. IS casualties at this point are unknown.

At around midday on Saturday IS tried once again to attack the southern part of Kobane Canton near Ain Issa. Further details of the battle still awaited.

Also on Saturday, the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) attacked YPG positions in the Kurdish neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqmoud with mortars once again, this time injuring 4 civilians.

The YPG retaliated driving back ANF, injuring or killing 2 of their men.

A video of YPG operations in Rojava can be seen, HERE:

Currently the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Front are between 30 and 40 kilometres from Raqqah where Coalition airstrikes killed at least 35 x IS Jihadists and wounded many more according to medical sources in the city.

15 civilians are also reported killed in the strikes as IS is now establishing its operational buildings in among residential districts.

This video from CNN compliments an earlier written report about the all-female units now fighting IS.

KOBANE CHRISTMAS APPEAL: Kobane city this last week saw the start of the first polio vaccination campaign since the liberation from IS and an appeal is underway to raise Euros 25,000 to buy a school bus to transport the smallest children to school.

Currently there is only one pre-school in Kobane and many children have to walk an hour each way to attend. A bus would mean that the number of young children attending would go up from 150 to 500.

The appeal aims to raise the Euros 25,000 in 25 days. Euros 21,500 so far, 20 days to go and if you would like to contribute this Christmas (EDITOR: I have!), (both USD, Euros and other currencies accepted by credit, debit card via PayPal at genuine site) go HERE:

Lastly, tomorrow, Tuesday, Saudi Arabia is hosting a 3 day meeting of Syrian Opposition groups in Riyadh to hopefully come up with a joint approach to any future negotiations with the Assad Government or the UN in finding a solution to the war in Syria.

Sadly though, it appears to be a gathering of Sunni groups only and no invitation has been extended to the YPG or its political arm the PYD despite indicating that they “would love to attend”. You can read more, HERE:

ROJAVA UPDATE 164: US BUILDING SUPPLY AIR STRIP IN NE SYRIA? WARRING ALEPPO OPPOSITION GROUPS AGREE CEASEFIRE:

By Peter Clifford             ©               (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

Interesting (but as yet unconfirmed) reports that the US is preparing an air strip in north-west Syria in order to ferry supplies to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Force (SDF).

SYRIA NEWS

US Black Hawk Helicopters in Syria?

The existing airfield in question is located south-east of the town of Rimelan, which is in the extreme north-east of Syria not far from the borders with both Turkey and Iraq.

Formerly an Assad agricultural airstrip used for crop-dusting, recent information from both Kurdish and Lebanese (Assad regime connected) sources suggests that US technicians have been working there for one and a half months increasing the runway length to 2500 metres and the width to 250 metres, enough for larger warplanes and cargo carriers.

The US experts are apparently supervising a Kurdish workforce who are doing the ground preparations and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used to test the facility.

An earlier report in Rojava that unidentified helicopters (thought to have been Turkish at the time – scroll down and see the report of 27th November, Rojava Update 162) were overflying the area, is now said to have been US aircraft bringing in 8 x US military specialists and their equipment.

Rimelan is 70 kilometres east of Qamishli with a mixed Arab, Kurd and Assyrian population of around 11,500 and is known for nearby oil production facilities.

This is the same ethnic make-up as the SDF and therefore Rimelan would serve as an excellent base for their operations as they press on to take Shaddadi and Raqqah. It could also be a base for the 50 US special forces personnel that President Obama said recently would be sent to Syria, and in fact other US sources have now indicated may rise to around 100.

Unconfirmed reports from Rojava also say that some US special forces operatives arrived in the region yesterday, Thursday, evening.

The SDF are currently reported close to the IS-held town of Arishah and advancing on it from 2 directions. UK ITVhas an interesting video report on SDF “advance on the road to Raqqah”.

The Kurdish YPG, a significant part of the SDF force, also attempted yesterday to “open the path to Raqqah” by pounding an IS HQ near Ain Issa with artillery shells. 12 x IS Jihadists are reported killed with many more wounded and 1 taken prisoner.

13 AK-47s were captured, plus ammunition, 12 home-made mines and other equipment.

Meanwhile the Islamic State continues to attack YPG positions on the eastern bank on the Euphrates in Kobane Canton, all the way from the Turkish border down to Sarrin, hitting a number of Kurdish checkpoints on Wednesday near Qara Qozak village with heavy weapons and mortars.

SYRIA NEWS

YPG Kurdish Fighter on the Anti-IS Front South of Hasakah

However the YPG responded strongly, completely destroying a number of IS security buildings in the northern parts of Raqqah province.

Within the SDF is an all female unit, HERE: and the former Canadian model who fights with the YPJ says that the IS Jihadists are not all they are cracked up to be,HERE:

Interesting report too by a foreign journalist working for Al-Arabiya journeying from Kobane back to Erbil in Iraq via Qamishli – in a hurry!

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 20 airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, 6 near Deir Ez-Zour hitting an IS gas and oil separation plant and 2 near Abu Kamal hitting an IS well head.

4 strikes near Ain Issa hit 4 x IS tactical units and destroyed 2 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle, as well as injuring at least 1 x IS fighter.

Near Mar’a, 8 strikes hit 7 separate IS tactical units and destroyed an IS tactical vehicle, 4 x IS staging areas, an IS fighting position, an IS vehicle bomb and an IS compound as well as wounding 4 x IS fighters.

On the previous day, Tuesday, Centcom reported another 14 strikes with similar targets.

On Wednesday, the British Parliament debated for over 10 hours on whether to bomb the Islamic State in Syria. Within an hour of a clear majority decision to do so, 4 Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornados were in the air lifting off from the UK’s base at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus each fitted with 3 x 500lb Paveway IV laser guided bombs (designed for precision bombing of static targets).

They returned at 3.00am in the morning having apparently destroyed 6 well heads in the IS controlled Omar oil field south-east of Deir Ez Zour. 8 more jets, 2 more Tornados and 6 Typhoons, are also on their way to join the 8 existing existing Tornados at Acrotiri. A small but significant force. The BBC has more (and see map below).

Up until now, Britain has previously carried out 380 precision strikes on targets in Iraq without, it claims, any reports of civilian casualties.

SYRIA NEWS

The German Frigate Sachsen is Expected to Support the French Aircraft Carrier

Today Friday, the German Parliament also approved the sending of non-combat forces to join the Coalition fighting IS in Syria, consisting of Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate and 1,200 soldiers.

Both the UK and German moves are in solidarity with France which suffered its worst IS attack last month in Paris.

President Hollande also landed by helicopter today aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle off the Syrian coast.

The Netherlands is apparently under pressure to act militarily in support of the Coalition as well.

Back in Aleppo province, some sort of common sense seems to have prevailed in the deadly dispute between opposing units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)and the Kurdish allies of at least some of them in the SDF (scroll down to read the full complicated story).

Apparently a written and signed truce has been agreed in the norther part of Aleppo province between the Kurdish YPG and the Islamist units fighting with the FSA, though the Jaish Al-Thuwar brigade, who regularly fight alongside the Kurds, have refused to sign.

Under the terms of agreement, a ceasefire will be in operation from Thursday, all sides will return to their previous positions and a committee with members on both sides will be set up to mediate outstanding disputes. EDITOR: How long the ceasefire will hold is anyone’s guess!

Lastly, to show how the Assad regime continues to live in la-la-land the Syrian Government is still promoting “happy-holidays in Syria” – and apparently getting some takers. The Telegraph has more detail.

Map courtesy of UK Ministry of Defence and the Institute for the Study of War, here:

SYRIA NEWS

UK Base in Akrotiri, Cyprus Sends RAF Jets to Attack IS-Held Omar Oil Fields

ROJAVA UPDATE 162: YPG DANGEROUSLY THREATENS TO SHOOT DOWN TURKISH AIRCRAFT OVERFLYING ROJAVA, WHILE TURKEY PREVENTS RETURN OF DEAD FIGHTERS FOR BURIA

By Peter Clifford                    ©              (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

The combined Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), made up of more than 20 Kurdish (YPG), Arabic and Assyrian Christian units, has now cleared over 1,000 square kilometres south of Hasakah from Islamic State (IS) control.

YPG Spokesman Threatens Turkey

YPG Spokesman Threatens Turkey

During a 3 week campaign, the SDF (EDITOR: Also known from its Arabic initials as QSD – in case you are confused!) say they were faced with 43 car bombs, 7 or 8 of which were destroyed by close Coalition air support, some destroyed before impact with AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades and some which got through.

The SDF estimate they killed 200 members of IS during the last 3 weeks and another 195 died following Coalition airstrikes.

Only 15 members of IS were captured alive during this 3 week period and their own SDF losses were put at 33 dead.

Following this huge success, there have been several unverified reports that US special forces advisers have arrived in Kobane to train members of the YPG/SDF, however, the Kobane Canton Defence Minister, as of yesterday, Thursday, said that this has not happened.

Also yesterday a joint YPG/YPJ group of mine-clearing specialists started a security operation to clear the rural area between Mount Abdul Aziz near Hasakah and Ain Issa in Kobane Canton of IEDs planted by IS.

Marking the site of IEDs as they go, the unit aims to clear 350 square kilometres of the explosive devices and make it safe for civilians to return to their homes.

However, the Islamic State continues to target the south-western and the south-eastern sections of Kobane Canton with heavy weapons and mortars, hitting the Kobane village of Ain Issa on both Tuesday and Wednesday with mortar shells.

South of Ain Issa, IS cannon fire hit Filihe village on Thursday and simultaneously heavy weapon fire struck the village of Rabha to the east of Ain Issa.

Additionally, firing across the Euphrates from positions near Jarablous, IS, also on Thursday, targeted the Kurdish village of Qereqozax.

After the Turkey/Russia incident on Tuesday, with the shot down Russian bomber, the YPG has also warned Turkey about its aircraft overflying Rojava.

SYRIA NEWS

Turkish Military Helicopters Overflying Rojava?

2 unidentified helicopters, but thought to be Turkish, were seen overflying the Alyan area of northern Qamishli on Wednesday and showing interest in the oil-rich town of Rumelan and the petroleum stations at Tel Adas (Gir Ziro)and Gir Ziyaret.

Turkish border guards north of Qamishli have also been observed in a state of mobilisation since Tuesday.

YPG spokesman, Redur Khalil, warned that, “If this irresponsible action (Turkish breach of Syrian Kurdish airspace) were repeated, we will take the necessary procedures to target any violation.”

(EDITOR: A brave/foolish move that would undoubtedly provide an excuse for the Turkish military to attack Rojava in general and the YPG in particular.

There have even been some rumours that the Russians, with whom the YPG has friendly relations, are prepared to supply Manpads, shoulder launched ground to air missiles. That would be a disaster if true!)

At the same time, Saleh Muslim, the co-Chair of the PYD (the YPG’s political arm) said in an interview on Wednesday that Turkey had “no right to intervene” to create a proposed “safe zone” between the Aleppo province towns of Azaz and Jarablous, adding that the “percentage of Kurds in the area was more than 50%”.

However, Muslim would not say if the YPG or SDF were prepared to launch an attack on IS-held Jarablous and move westwards towards the Kurdish Canton of Afrin. The Kurds would like to join up their Cantons across the north of Aleppo province but Turkey is resolutely opposed.

Sporadically, Turkish troops across the frontier continue to shell YPG positions in Rojava, though casualties so far have not been significant.

But in a particular low form of anti-Kurdish feeling, the Turkish authorities are currently preventing the bodies of Turkish citizens who died fighting for the YPG from returning to their families in Turkey.

Aziz Guler, whose family live in Istanbul, was a student at Istanbul Yildiz Technical University, but joined the YPG to fight the Islamic State, dying in the process. His family went to Kobane to collect his body, but were denied entry to Turkey with it, the dead fighter remaining in the Kobane morgue for 59 days.

The family had to go to the European Court and the UN before Turkey granted a “visa” on November 19th for the return of the corpse for burial.

Another 150 – 200 bodies of Turkish Kurds are also thought to have been denied entry, all party of the ruling Turkish party, the AKP’s anti Rojava/Kurdish policies. You can read more in Al-Monitor.

SYRIA NEWS

Respectful Burial for Canadian YPG Fighter John Gallagher – But Not Allowed by Turkey for Turkish Kurds

WHILE THE ISLAMIC STATE THREATENS TO ATTACK 60 COUNTRIES, TURKEY AND RUSSIA CONTINUE TO TRADE WORDS:

Meanwhile, the war of words between Russia and Turkey continues, with President Putin demanding an apology from Turkey and President Erdogan saying there is nothing to apologise for.

According to Erdogan he tried to telephone Putin on Tuesday night but his call was not accepted and has not been replied to since. Erdogan has now requested a meeting with Putin in Paris next week on the sidelines of the international climate change conference.

Russia continues in the meantime to draft a wide-ranging list of economic sanctions to apply against Turkey, including a pause in joint investment projects such as a gas pipeline and a nuclear power station that Russia is building for Turkey in the south, as well as restrictions on food imports.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also announced the end of visa-free travel arrangements with Turkey from January 1st 2016.

Syria-Iraq-News

Presidents Putin and Hollande Enjoying each Others Company

Yesterday, Thursday, President Hollande of France was in Moscow and the 2 men agreed to work on joint efforts to attack and destroy the Islamic State, though both still disagreed on the fate of President Assad, with Hollande insisting that the dictator much go, at least after a transition period to another government.

According to Laurent Fabious, the French Foreign Minister who accompanied Hollande to the talks, Putin asked for a map of “forces that are not terrorists and are fighting the Islamic State, committing not to bomb them once we’ve provided that”.

(EDITOR: If he believes that, he’ll believe anything!)

The Islamic State this week made it’s intentions very clear, issuing a video threatening to make similar attacks to the one in Paris in dozens of countries around the world.

Listed were 60 countries in the footage which burbled on about “the flames of war … in the hills of death” and under a banner saying “No Respite” talked of preparing thousands of children to expand its caliphate under the rule of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. An earlier video this week warned of forthcoming attacks on Washington and New York.

The countries which were threatened in the latest offering were: Australia, Bahrain, Albania, Denmark, Belgium, China, Croatia, Austria, Egypt, Czech Republic, Greece, Canada, Estonia, France, Finland, Iraq, Jordan, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Lebanon, Kosovo, South Korea, Kuwait, Israel, Iran, Italy, Japan, Qatar, Luxembourg, Sweden, Russia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Slovakia, Switzerland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Taiwan, U.S., U.K. United Arab Emirates, Spain, Turkey, Oman, Ukraine, Tunisia, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, Portugal, Morocco, Moldova, and Malta.

Syria-Iraq-News

Turkmen Fighters and Dog in Training in Northern Latakia

Since the downing on the Russian jet in northern Latakia, the territory there held by the anti-Assad Turkmen has been of specific interest to the Russian military with the Russian Air Force blasting a way through for Syrian forces to initially take a strategic hill at Al-Zahiya.

However today, Friday, the Turkmen stormed the hill again and got it back under their control and captured 2 tanks, (caution dead body) HERE: andHERE:

It is very likely that the Turkmen are being supplied with arms and ammunition from Turkey, while at the same time Russia wants to keep these Opposition groups at least 30 kilometres from its bases in Latakia and ideally drive them out of the province altogether.

In north west Aleppo fighting continues between the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and the YPG/YPJ Kurdish forces guarding the Sheikh Maqsoud Kurdish neighbourhood of the city.

In clashes around the Shukef and Kastillo areas 2 armoured ANF vehicles and 2 x ANF fighters were killed.

Meanwhile, south of Aleppo city, the Opposition coalition Jaish AL-Fatah continues to make progress capturing at least 3 villages today, destroying a Government T-72 tank, a BMP armoured vehicle and a pick-up with a mounted 23mm gun. According to some unverified reports they also killed 40 pro-Assad fighters.

In this footage they blow-up the T-72 tank, HERE:

And north of Aleppo city the Opposition are also reported to have taken control of Kashtaar and Mezre villages.

While Russia continues to cause havoc by bombing border crossings into Turkey, at Azaz in the north of Aleppo province, near both the Turkish border and the Kurdish Canton of Afrin, there have been some complicated confrontations between both pro-Kurdish and anti-Kurdish Free Syrian Army (FSA) units and the Al Nusra Front.

PILOT OF DOWNED RUSSIAN PLANE SURVIVES BUT TURKMEN BLOW UP RESCUE HELICOPTER, KILLING MARINE

By Peter Clifford                  ©       (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

The scenario that many dreaded (EDITOR: Including me. Below is my best interpretation of events compiled from many conflicting reports) happened yesterday, Tuesday, with the downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber over Syria by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet.

SYRIA NEWS

Stricken Russian Su-24 Before it Plunges to Earth

Turkey said the Russian plane had been warned “10 times” not to invade their airspace, while Russia said their plane had been shot down over Syrian airspace.

Both statements seem to be correct.

While engaged in bombing raids (the Free Syrian Army [FSA] says the Russian plane had just bombed civilians in Jisr Al-Shughour in Idlib province) the Su-24 had passed several times over a “peninsular” along the Turkish border that sticks out into Syria.

As the Su-24 can fly as fast as 815 mph, to cross this peninsular (see map below) would take 17 seconds or less.

After warnings were ignored, the Turkish F-16 then fired an air-to-air missile, probably from Turkish airspace, which struck the Russian bomber over Syria, bringing it down on the Syrian side a few kilometres from the Syrian/Turkish frontier, HERE:

The pilot and the navigator, who sit side by side in the Su-24 cockpit, ejected from the stricken aircraft as it plunged towards the ground and as they parachuted earthwards, local Turkmen militia, who are anti-Assad and aligned to the FSA, fired upon them killing one, thought to be the navigator, HERE:

While the Turkmen produced video of the dead navigator, Lieutenant Colonel Peshkov, the whereabouts of the pilot, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, was at the time unknown.

The Russians sent 2 helicopters on a search and rescue mission over the Turkman mountains in northern Latakia province, but these in turn were fired upon by the local militia causing one of them to crash land.

The FSA 2nd Coastal Division then took out this M1-8 helicopter as it was parked on the ground after a forced landing with a (US-made) TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:

A Russian marine in the helicopter was also killed, though it is not clear whether he was shot from the ground or died when the helicopter exploded. The rest of the crew were later rescued.

The Turkmen claimed at one point that they had both the Russians from the downed Su-24, and while this may have been the case for a while, this was not verified.

Latest reports today, Wednesday, say that Russian and Syrian special forces mounted a 12 hour operation on Tuesday night that penetrated 4.5 kilometres into Opposition territory in the Turkman Mountains, rescuing the pilot, Captain Muraktin, and returning him to his base near Latakia, “safe and well”.

Speaking from Hmeymim airbase Wednesday afternoon, where his plane was based, the rescued pilot said that they had received “no warning”, though that is contradicted by Colonel Steve Warren, an American military spokesman in Baghdad, who says that recorded communication between the Turkish and Russian pilots showed that the Turks did warn the Russian plane 10 times before they shot it down.

This map shows the Turkish border (in turquoise) and the flight of the Russian Su-24 (in red), here:

SYRIA NEWS

Border Area Where Russian Jet Crossed into Turkey

While the whole incident had the potential to escalate completely out of hand, with Turkey calling in its NATO partners and then facing up against Russia, it is most likely to turn into a war of words, economic sanctions by Russia on Turkey and lots of military posturing.

President Obama, President Holland and Chancellor Merkel called for “restraint”, while Putin burbled on about a “stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists” and promised “serious consequences”.

Putin also claimed that their plane was attacking “Islamic State terrorists”, though there are no known IS Jihadists anywhere near Jisr Al-Shughour where the plane had recently bombed or the Turkman Mountain area.

The Russian Ministry of Defence has said that in future its bombers will be accompanied by defensive fighter jets, it will be sending its advanced S-400 air defence system to Syria to protect its airbase, and the missile cruiser “Moskva” will be deployed off the Syrian coast to “destroy any targets threatening Russian planes”.

Sergie Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, also cancelled a planned visit to Turkey’s capital, Ankara, scheduled for today, Wednesday, saying that the incident “really looks like a planned provocation” but adding, “We do not plan to go to war with Turkey, our attitude toward the Turkish people has not changed.”

Not the feelings of some Russians apparently.  Around a 1,000 attacked the Turkish embassy in Moscow today, Wednesday, smashing all the windows and generally doing their best to wreck it.  The Russian police did not intervene.

Russians have also been told to avoid visiting Turkey, one of their favourite package holiday destinations,  where they “may not be safe”.

SYRIA NEWS

Opposition Fighter in Northern Latakia

The Turkmen are of Turkish decent and have lived in this region since the 11th century.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, many of them have been trained and armed by Turkish special forces.

In Latakia, the Jabal al-Turkman Brigade, which was formed in 2013, comprises of 12 armed units, and its their 2nd Coastal Division, which was formed in 2015 and backed by the FSA, which is involved in the latest incident.

Assad’s and Russian planes regularly bomb the Turkmen villages and kill their civilian population, many of whom now live in tents in the mountains.

Hardly surprising then that they will fire at Russian military helicopters and Russian bomber crew, given the opportunity.

The BBC has more detail on the Turkmen Opposition.

Russia will have to retaliate somewhere and the Turkmen are now their most likely target, indeed latest reports suggest that the Russians have fired 4 cruise missiles at their northern Latakia bases this morning, Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air support advanced into the Latakia Turkman territory at Rashwan Hill and the villages of Katf al-Ghader, Ain Samoukh, Jib al-Ahmar and Ruwysat al-Mallouha.

Both the BBC and Al Jazeera have video summaries of all the events.

SYRIA NEWS
Map of Northern Latakia Showing Turkish Border

ANOTHER REPORTED ISRAELI ATTACK ON HEZBOLLAH AND ASSAD POSITIONS IN SYRIA’S QALAMOUN, WHILE DRUZE RESIST CONSCRIPTION:

As if all the above were not enough, on Monday night it is alleged that Israel once again bombed Hezbollah and Syrian Army positions in the mountainous Qalamoun region between Damascus and Lebanon.

According to reports, after several hours of reconnaissance flights above the area the Israeli Air Force (IAF) made 2 attacks on a joint Hezbollah/Assad position in the Ras Al-Maara mountains, immediately followed by a 3rd raid on another position in the Qara mountains.

A 4th raid hit a Hezbollah position on Flita mountain. 8 Hezbollah fighters and 5 Syrian troops are said to have been killed in the attacks, as well as injuring dozens more who were rushed to Yabrud and Nabk hospitals, several of them critically injured.

Syria News

French Nuclear Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Also on Monday, France moved its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle into combat position off the Syrian coast and launched a series of bombing raids against Islamic State positions in Tal Afar in Iraq.

The Charles de Gaulle, which is powered by 2 nuclear reactors, carries 26 attack aircraft, tripling France’s capacity to bomb IS targets in Syria and Iraq.

In Aleppo province, heavy fighting continues between the Opposition coalition and pro-Assad forces south of Aleppo. The Opposition have re-captured 10 villages this week in a counter-offensive, driving back an enemy composed mainly of Iranian militia. Latest reports say opposition fighters have captured Banes.

Footage of a successful Opposition TOW strike against a regime communications station on Tel Eis, HERE:

North of Aleppo, Opposition fighters have also struck back at regime positions in Bashkoi, reportedly destroying a total of 10 rocket launchers, tanks and armoured vehicles.

SYRIA NEWS

Turkish Tanks Being Brought by Train to the Syrian Border

In what may well be a retaliatory strike following yesterday’s loss of a jet bomber, Russian planes this afternoon bombed Azaz in northern Aleppo province just 4 kilometres from the border with Turkey, hitting a number of trucks, many of which are probably Turkish, HERE:

As tensions grow, there are additionally reports of an increased concentration of Turkish tanks along the Syrian/Turkish border and overflights of Turkish helicopters 3 to 4 kilometres into Rojava, Kurdish territory, north of Hasakah.

In southern Suweida province, which is predominately Druze, a resistance to compulsory conscription gathers pace.

More than ten Druze communities have refused to allow the Assad regime to compulsorily register their young men for military conscription and have said they will fight the authorities if they attempt to take the men by force.

With an increasing lack of manpower, and increasing dependence on foreign militia, the Assad regime was thought in May to have at least 70,000 young men in provinces it wholly or partially controls skipping conscription.

Lastly, there are still people in the world that care and act on the hell that is Syria, this time in the US, HERE:

ROJAVA UPDATE 160: KURDISH YPG READY TO TAKE ON ISLAMIC STATE ACROSS SYRIA, BUT CONTINUE TO BE ATTACKED BY BOTH IS AND TURKEY

By Peter Clifford               ©                (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

The Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) have continued their advance and are currently involved in heavy fighting to take the IS-held former Assad Base 121 south of Hasakah.

IS Truck Bomb Contained 20 Barrels of Explosive

IS Truck Bomb Contained 20 Barrels of Explosive

Dozens of bodies are reported across the battlefield and experienced Kurdish YPG snipers are hunting down the remaining IS Jihadists. Plans are already in hand to take the next IS stronghold at Shaddadi, which will clear the road towards Raqqah.

Pictures have emerged of an IS armour plated truck to be used as a massive suicide bomb against SDF forces near Al-Hawl. The truck was captured before it could be detonated but estimates of the explosives on board put them at the equivalent of 10 tons of TNT.

Hussein Kocher, a leading Kurdish commander SDF, has been quoted as saying their forces are determined to “liberate the whole Syrian soil from Deash (ISIS) terrorists” and that Opposition groups should link together to carry this out.

Macer Gifford, the English City Finance worker who gave up his job to fight with the YPG has recently been interviewed by CBS in the US. He says that there are now more men from the USA and Europe who are keen to fight IS in Syria and Iraq, especially since the attacks in Paris.

You can watch a video interview and read more at CBS.

In the western part of Kobane Canton, IS once again fired mortars from their positions across the other side of the Euphrates River, hitting the Kurdish village of Bouraz. A father and his daughter were reported killed and the mother seriously injured.

35 kilometres east of Kobane city, the Turkish Army, for reasons best known to themselves, again attacked YPG positions near the village of Sibiqran with heavy weapons from across the Turkish border. No casualties were immediately reported.

South-east of Rojava at Raqqah, the outskirts of the city were hit by 3 Russian cruise missiles.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 13 airstrikes on Syria on Wednesday, 4 of them hitting Raqqah where they struck 3 x IS HQ buildings and a bivouac. 3 strikes hit IS positions near Al-Hawl, 4 near Hasakah and 2 more struck oil and gas separation plants at Abu Kamal.

Coalition airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq are co-ordinated in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Careful checks are made to avoid hitting their own forces and civilians. You can read more, HERE:

In Sinjar in Iraq, recently recaptured by Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga have found an elaborate system of underground tunnels which IS used to try and avoid being hit by Coalition airstrikes. The Wall Street Journal has a series of pictures.

Sinjar is essentially a Yezidi city but many Yezidi are reluctant as yet to return, especially as IS is only a few kilometres away and the city is still within mortar range. Those that have come back have found there houses destroyed and belongings looted. You can read more in Al Jazeera.

IRAQ NEWS

Kurdish Troops Enter Destroyed Sinjar, Iraq

IRANIAN JETS NOW SEEN FLYING WITH RUSSIA OVER SYRIA, WHILE FATAL SKIN DISAESE AFFECTS ASSAD’S TROOPS OUT IN THE DESERT:

A proposed initial 15 day ceasefire between Assad’s forces and Opposition fighters in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, organised by the Russians appears to have come to nothing after the regime pounded the district of Douma with 12 airstrikes on Thursday, killing the city’s only remaining coroner. The 15 day ceasefire was meant to lead to a possible truce.

In IS-held Manbij in Aleppo province, where locals have been demonstrating against the presence of the Islamic State, more trouble brewed when a young man killed an IS Sharia “judge” of Tunisian origin and 2 of his guards, before killing himself.

The “judge” had had 3 members of the young man’s family beheaded, including a brother. Since then IS has increased security, setting up checkpoints throughout the town and imposing a curfew. Several residents taking part in anti-IS demonstrations have been shot and others arrested.

Interesting article in The Daily Beast with the confessions of an IS spy who has now defected.

According to Opposition sources a Russian cruise missile hit the Hayyan industrial area north-west of Aleppo city this morning, casualties unknown.

There are also reports today of a clash between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and IS in Aleppo province near the Turkish border, due north of Aleppo city and north-east of Azaz. Perhaps the start of a new campaign to oust IS from this northern part of Aleppo province against the Turkish frontier.

Turkey has once again been talking to the US about some sort of protected zone along this part of the Syrian/Turkey border. You can read more, HERE:

SYRIA NEWS

A 1917 Case of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in the Middle East

From Homs near IS-held Palmyra come reports that there is a severe outbreak of leishmaniasis among dozens of Assad’s troops facing up to IS in the desert area. Leishmaniasis is spread by a parasite carried by sand fleas who distribute it with their bite.

Around 2 million people a year worldwide are infected. It has several forms, initially causing skin sores but can also infect the intestines and internal organs. Between 20,000 – 50,000 people die from it each year.

Assad’s soldiers have been pleading for appropriate medical treatment or to be transferred to somewhere where they can receive treatment. At the moment, according to reports, they are corralled together in the desert so as not to infect other military units.

As seen in the photograph from World War l, the disease was known as “Jericho Buttons” by soldiers affected by it around the city of Jericho.  You can read more, HERE:

In Daraa province on Thursday the Assad regime bombed an olive oil plant in Sheikh Miskin where local people were processing their harvest. At least 25 people were killed, including children and many others injured.

In Latakia province there are reports that Assad is targeting Turkman villages near the border city of Kasab with the help of Russian airstrikes. Turkey has summoned the Russian ambassador to Ankara to protest against attacks on what it sees as its fellow countrymen.

According to Israeli Intelligence around 55 Iranian military personnel have been killed in recent fighting in Syria, while Hezbollah has lost between 1,000 and 2,000 men over the last two years.

Syria NEWS

Iranian F-14 Tomcats

Interestingly, The Aviationistmagazine, after analysing video released by the Russian Ministry of Defence, has spotted that ancient Iranian F-14 Tomcat jets were seen escorting a Russian TU-95 bomber over Syria while it was making a strike.

This is the first time the Iranian Air Force (apart from cargo planes) has been seen in action over Syria.

Russia fired a whole new series of cruise missiles yesterday, Thursday, and this morning, Friday, both from long range bombers and ships.

Some landed randomly but others were targeted at Syrian Opposition groups and the Islamic State.

One cruise missile even managed to hit the regime-held village of Khattab in northern Hama.

Others fell on Ariha, Abu Al-Dhuhur, Hish, Basanqul, Mount Zawiya and Joseph in Idlib province, 200 kilometres away from IS-held territory.

One missile hitting Mir’ian village in the province killed 2 children and their mother.

Deir Ez-Zour has also been hit by 50 airstrikes in the last 24 hours, though it is not clear if they are from the Assad regime, the Russians or a combination of both.