Isis attack on Idlib: Assad’s army leaders ‘slaughtered’ as jihadists nearly take Syrian provincial capital

In a major setback to President Assad, the second city – Idlib – narrowly escapes falling to jihadists as rebels storm provincial governor’s office and set about executing senior regime officers. Robert Fisk reports from Damascus
Syria almost lost its second city to the jihadists of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra last night when hundreds of fighters stormed into the provincial capital, Idlib, captured the newly installed governor’s office and began beheading Syrian army officers. By the time government troops recaptured the building, at least 70 soldiers – many senior officers – had been executed, leaving one of the oldest cities in Syria in chaos. “They were slaughtered,” a message to Damascus said before the army was able to declare Idlib saved.

The eastern city of Raqqa has been in the hands of Isis for months, but Idlib lies strategically placed between Aleppo and the coastal city of Latakia – both of which are still held by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Idlib’s fall would have been a devastating blow to the government.

At one point, the Assad administration was told the city had fallen after police and security officers in the headquarters of governor Kheir Eddib Asayed defected to the rebels. Many did, in fact, surrender the building. But by chance soldiers on the city’s perimeter did not receive this news and continued to fight hundreds of jihadis trying to break into Idlib. They were still holding off the attackers when the governor’s office was recaptured.

Idlib lies scarcely 30 miles from Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, and is home to more than 200,000 people. Its museum is well known to long-ago tourists wishing to see the treasures of the so-called Roman “dead cities” of northern Syria, and it has been in a virtual stage of siege for well over a year. But the shock at its near-collapse was palpable in the capital, Damascus, where the new governor – who was not in his office at the time – managed to call army headquarters just in time to prevent the announcement of Idlib’s fall.

KOBANE UPDATE 10: DESPATCH OF PESHMERGA FORCES DELAYED AS TURKEY’S ERDOGAN ACCUSED OF “STIRRING THE POT”

By Peter Clifford   @    (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)

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

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Since reinforcing their numbers last week, the Islamic State (IS) attempted to gain control of the border area between Kobane and Turkey again yesterday, Sunday, the fourth straight day of pre-dawn mortar attacks.

However, the YPG Kurdish militia have held their ground and even advanced slightly in the central area around the municipal buildings, the Haj Rashad mosque and the Al-Hal Market. Fierce fighting is ongoing, with IS launching at least 17 mortar shells into the area on Sunday and sending in yet another car-bomb.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurds Defending Against Waves of IS Attacks

The car bomb, which got as far as the Haj Rashid mosque was detonated, along with an earlier car-bomb attack and a bomb laden motorcycle, by Kurdish forces.

Two more motorbike bomb attacks have been reported on Monday morning, both thwarted by the YPG.

Heavy fighting continues on the eastern and southern fronts of the city. On Saturday night the YPG carried out an operation against IS near the villages of Pindar and Sosan to the west of Kobane. 2 x IS vehicles were destroyed and 7 IS fighters killed.

There is additionally a report from Opposition sources that Abo Hamza Al-Askare, an important IS commander from Raqqah, was killed over the weekend, plus reports in the British press of the deaths of several young Jihadists from the UK, all killed in fighting in the city.

The Kurds have once again been helped by 5 airstrikes from Coalition forces on Sunday, Kurdish sources saying that at least 30 Islamic State fighters were killed and forcing IS to withdraw, temporarily at least, from some of the southern parts of the city. Kurdish fighters were able to capture weapons and ammunition.

Latest estimated figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) suggest 481 Islamic State fighters and 313 Kurds plus 21 civilians have been killed in Kobane since September 16th, though the number of IS fighters killed in airstrikes is still not certain and could run into “hundreds” according to American sources.

US Central Command also says it destroyed an IS artillery position, 7 vehicles and an IS building over the weekend.

The UK press is carrying an unconfirmed report that some British special forces from the SAS have moved over to the Kobane area from Iraq and are helping to direct US airstrikes with great accuracy.

Situation map for Kobane, courtesy of Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map Kobane 27.10.14

Reports emerging from the Kurdish capital Erbil in Iraq, say that the dispatch of the Peshmerga force to Kobane has been delayed because of “technical details” in the agreement to get the troops across Turkish territory.

A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, Safeen Dizayee, has also said that the Peshmerga are not expected to engage “at the moment” on the frontline but to deploy their heavy and other weapons in support of the YPG. He added that he expected the Peshmerga force to stay in Kobane for “3 months”.

Turkey continues to meddle in this whole affair, President Erdogan of Turkey inflaming Kurdish sensibilities over the weekend by calling Kobane “an Arab town” and saying that the PYD, the political arm of the PYG Kurdish fighters, does not want the Free Syrian Army (FSA – who have offered 1300 fighters for Kobane) in the city. Kurdish sources say that talks between the YPG and the FSA are ongoing.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurds Continue to Resist Islamic State Fury

There have additionally been a number of photographs on the Internet of Turkish soldiers having “friendly chats” and exchanges across the border fence with Islamic State fighters and even unconfirmed claims that Turkey had recently allowed 120 IS fighters to cross the frontier from their side into Syria near Kobane. (EDITOR: All very confusing if true!)

Interesting article about how the US Government’s opinion of the Kobane situation has switched from “not strategically vital” to “symbolically important” in just a few weeks, HERE:

In Kuwait this morning, Monday, the US’s retired General John Allen, meeting with representatives of the Coalition countries, urged them to fight the Islamic State “online” as well.

“It is only when we contest ISIL’s presence online, deny the legitimacy of the message it sends to vulnerable young people… it is only then that ISIL (IS) will truly be defeated,” he said (optimistically!).

And also an interview with one of the YPJ’s Kurdish female fighters in Kobane, giving a lot of insight into the background of how and why these brave women join and continue to fight for a cause they passionately believe in, HERE:

Poster girl for Kurdish freedom fighters in Kobane is ‘captured and beheaded by ISIS killers’ who posted gruesome pictures online

A female Kurdish fighter who became a poster girl for the Kobane resistance movement after a picture of her making a peace sign was retweeted thousands of times on Twitter has reportedly been beheaded by Isis.

The woman, known by the pseudonym Rehana, was celebrated as a symbol of hope for the embattled Syrian border town after a journalist tweeted a picture of her making a ‘V-sign’, claiming that she’d personally killed 100 Isis militants.

The message was retweeted over 5,000 times, but there are now claims Rehana, who fought for the Kurdish YPJ, or Women’s Defense Unit, may have been killed after gruesome pictures began circulating on Twitter of an Isis fighter purportedly holding aloft her head.

A female Kurdish fighter who became a poster girl for the Kobane resistance movement after a picture of her making a peace sign was retweeted thousands of times on Twitter has reportedly been beheaded by Isis

Her death – reported on several sites including 9News.com – however, is unconfirmed and at the time of writing the YPG (People’s Defense Unit) and YPJ have yet to respond to MailOnline’s request for a comment.

Perched on the other side of the Turkish border, the Syrian town of Kobane has been under an intense assault by Isis, or the so-called Islamic State, for more than a month. The town – surrounded on the east, south and west by Isis – is being defended by Kurdish forces in Syria.

Among those fighters are thousands of women, an unusual phenomenon in the Muslim world in which warfare is often associated with manhood.

In April, Kurdish fighters created all-female combat units that have grown to include more than 10,000 women.

Isis launched a ferocious assault on Kobane in mid-September. Picture is an explosion from an allied air-strike on Sunday

Brave: Thousands of Kurdish women are fighting Isis in Syria

Brave: Thousands of Kurdish women are fighting Isis in Syria

Explosions in Kobane as US airstrikes continue

These female fighters have played a major role in battles against IS, said Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria’s Kurdish region.

The Kurdish women now find themselves battling militants preaching an extreme form of Islam dictating that women only leave the house if absolutely necessary.

One Kurdish female fighter, who uses the nom de guerre of Afshin Kobani, used to be a teacher.

Now, the Kurdish Syrian woman has traded the classroom for the front lines in the battle for the town.

A Kurdish Peshmerga female fighter takes up a position during combat skills training before being deployed to fight Isis militants

A Kurdish Peshmerga female fighter takes up a position during combat skills training before being deployed to fight Isis militants

The 28-year-old Kurdish fighter said she decided to join the fight in her hometown when she saw Isis advances in Syria.

‘I lost many friends to this, and I decided there was a need to join up,’ said Kobani, who declined to reveal her birth name. ‘This is our land – our own – and if we don’t do it, who else will?’

After more than a year of fighting, Kobani has risen through the ranks to become a commander of a mixed-gender unit. ‘We are just the same as men; there’s no difference,’ she said. ‘We can do any type of job, including armed mobilization.’

There is nothing new about Kurdish women fighters. They have fought alongside men for years in a guerrilla war against Turkey, seeking an independent Kurdistan which would encompass parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Earlier this month the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors events in Syria, reported Isis militants beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women

Earlier this month the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors events in Syria, reported Isis militants beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women

The campaign for Kurdish independence has been pursued mainly by leftist militant groups that championed gender equality, such as the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey.

Suicide bombings have long been part of the Kurdish women fighters’ battleground repertory.

Early this month, Deilar Kanj Khamis, better known by her military name Arin Mirkan, blew herself up outside Kobani, killing 10 IS fighters, according to Kurdish forces.

Haj Mansour, the Kurdish defense official, recounted that Kurdish fighters were forced to withdraw from a strategic hill south of the besieged town. Khamis stayed behind, attacking IS fighters with gunfire and grenades as they moved in.

Surrounded, she detonated explosives strapped to her body. The Kurds then recaptured the position – but lost it again on Wednesday.

Earlier this month the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors events in Syria, reported Isis militants beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women, captured in clashes near Turkish border.

(Source / 27.10.2014)

Robert Fisk: The 200,000 Syrian child refugees forced into slave labour in Lebanon

While the world obsesses over the atrocities committed by Isis, the  plight of those forced to flee the country has been largely forgotten. Robert Fisk takes a heartbreaking tour of the Sedyanel 7 camp

Eleven-year-old Abdullah was working on a construction site last week when he accidentally swallowed a rusty nail. He was one of up to 200,000 Syrian refugee children – some as young as five – working in Lebanon’s potato and bean fields or picking figs in the Bekaa Valley. Many of them are beaten with sticks in a situation perilously close to slave labour. And when their country’s cancerous war ends, they will be the new men and women who will have to return to rebuild their nation.

But they will be half-educated, having lived through their childhood as labourers, sleeping in some of the filthiest camps in the land.

Abdullah was living with his family in a tent in Tel Ferhoun when he swallowed the nail. He didn’t tell his parents, as he was afraid they would be angry with him. A fatal mistake. Just before the weekend, he died of tetanus poisoning. Newspapers carried not a word of his passing – after all, Isis supporters are in battle with Lebanese soldiers in the north and the army now claims it is fighting a war against “terrorists”. This means that the Lebanese army and the Syrian army and the Egyptian army and bits of the Libyan army and the Algerian army and the Tunisian police are now all claiming they are fighting “terror” – and of course they’re all deploying the very same words George W Bush and his British partner-in-crime used before they started smashing up the Middle East 11 years ago. So much, then, for little Abdullah.

Walking around these tented encampments in the Bekaa with Lebanese and Syrian NGOs of outstanding courage and humanity, one can only wonder how such a tragedy can be resolved. Because most of their fathers are in Syria, their mothers burdened by more and more childbirths – one Lebanese doctor has reported delivering a third child to the same Syrian woman refugee since she arrived here – the families need the money. Each camp runs a vicious system of “shawish”, a network of venal Syrian supervisors who pay some children only 90p per day. Families have to rent one tent lamp for £6 a month, a portable television for another £6. Some even have to pay £60 a month to live there.

The Anti-ISIS Alliance’s Selective Policy Will Harm Syria’s National Interest

Mohammed Qaddah, vice president of the Syrian Coalition, criticizes the US-led anti-ISIS alliance’s policy in Syria and its failure to provide the FSA with military aid in its battle against regime forces that are on the brink of encircling Aleppo. “The US-led anti-ISIS coalition’s singling out of the city of Kobane to receive military support while ignoring the rest of Syrian cities is unacceptable and detrimental to Syria’s national interests. Moreover, this selectivity in dealing with the situation in Syria, while aimed at serving specific international and regional interests, insists on ignoring the demands of the Syrian people for toppling Assad and building a state of law, justice and democracy,” Qaddah said. “We are worried that this strategy will prompt many rebel factions, even the moderate ones, to join the ranks of ISIS though not necessarily out of conviction of its radical views, but because ISIS would emerge as the sole guarantor for the survival of these factions in light of the lack of any significant military support. We reiterate that saving Syria cannot be done through partial solutions, but through supporting the FSA which has proved itself as the only force capable of defeating terrorism and preserving all components of the Syrian society.  We do not exaggerate when we say that failing to support the FSA is tantamount to supporting ISIS.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 26.10.2014)

Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)

Screenshot from YouTube user A3maq News

Screenshot from YouTube user A3maq News

​Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani.

The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on the ground beside.

Although it is unclear what was the bundle shown in the video, the militant explains that “this is some of the military equipment that was dropped by American forces.”

“These are the bombs that the American forces dropped for the Kurdish parties,” he says. “They are spoils of war for the Mujahedeen.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOuPX6z50EM

On Sunday the US said that three of its Air Force C-130 planes successfully delivered 27 bundles of military and medical supplies, which it said were not from the US, but from Kurds in Iraq.

On Monday, however, the US Central Command admitted that originally there had been 28 deliveries, and a “stray bundle” had to be destroyed “to prevent these supplies falling into enemy hands.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile said that the weapons dropped by the US may have ended up in the hands of the militants, AP reports. No independent verification has yet been made of the video showing munitions, hand grenades, and other weaponry.

Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin says that he is not surprised that IS fighters may have gotten their hands on a US air-drop.

“This is not surprising. Because it is necessary to coordinate clearer (action) with the Syrian government and generally act on the basis of the decisions of the Security Council,” Churkin told TASS.

Meanwhile Bashar Jaafari, Syrian envoy to the UN, told the news agency that while he could not confirm that IS has intercepted US weapons, Syria, he says was not notified of US arms drops.

“No, we were not informed (about air drops). They did it only once, when the American permanent representative (Samantha Power) met with me to inform my government through me about the beginning of the military operation,” Jaafari said.

The video itself caused quite a stir on the social media landscape with users“thanking”Washington for delivering the arms into the wrong hands, something the US has in the past vowed to avoid.

White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes meanwhile insisted US cargo always reaches the correct destination and people.

“We feel very confident that, when we air drop support as we did into Kobani… we’ve been able to hit the target in terms of reaching the people we want to reach,” Rhodes told CNN on Monday.

Screenshot from YouTube user A3maq News

Screenshot from YouTube user A3maq News

“What I can assure people is that, when we are delivering aid now, we focus it on the people we want to receive that assistance. Those are civilians in need. Those are forces that we’re aligned with in the fight against ISIL [the government’s preferred acronym for IS], and we take precautions to make sure that it’s not falling into the wrong hands.”

The US-led coalition has conducted over 135 air strikes against IS targets around Kobani, including 4 on Tuesday, this week was the first time Washington had delivered arms to Kurdish fighters via airdrop“intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s attempts to overtake Kobani,” said US Central Command.

Following the delivery, spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighting IS forces, Redur Xelil said that the military assistance dropped by “American planes at dawn on Kobani was good… It will have a positive impact on military operations against Daesh (ISIS) and we hope for more.” Xelil also claimed that the delivery drop was coordinated.

The latest weapons claimed by the Islamic State militants will add to the vast arsenal of US weaponry that IS seized in Iraq in a sudden sweep in June. IS launched its offensive on Kobani on September 16 sparking a massive exodus of some 200,000 refugees into Turkey and worldwide protests of Kurds and their supporters.

(Source / 26.10.2014)

Syrian Coalition: The Failure to Save Aleppo Would Boost Terrorism

Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition, calls on the international anti-terrorism alliance to take immediate action and prevent the Assad regime from encircling Aleppo, warning that any failure to protect civilians and combat terrorism in all its forms would put the credibility of this alliance at stake. “The failure to supply the Free Syrian Army with weapons to counter the terrorism practiced by Assad and ISIS would give a boost to terrorism and also contrasts with the strategy and goals of the international anti-ISIS coalition. Supporting terrorism is not done solely by giving terrorists direct support, but by also failing to support those who resist terrorism. Everyone knows through facts on the ground that the FSA is the only force capable of combating terrorism in all its form.” Nasr al-Hariri, Secretary General of the Syrian Coalition, warns of the grave consequences of the inaction in proving support for the Free Syrian Army in the decisive battle against regime forces and ISIS in northern Aleppo. Activists said that regime forces took control of the village of Jubaila, the cement and glass factories near Aleppo Central Prison, thus linking up with regime forces stationed in the towns of Handarat and Sifat in addition to coming closer to the towns of Nibbul and Al Zahraa’. Hariri said that the Assad regime seeks through this advance to break the siege the rebels have laid on regime forces stationed in these two towns and consequently encircling the entire city of Aleppo and areas controlled by the FSA.” Moreover, he expressed astonishment at the insistence of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition to send ground troops to defend the town of Kobane while failing to provide support for the FSA which has fighting on two fronts against the Assad regime and ISIS. It should be noted that the FSA had expelled ISIS from rural Idlib and most of rural Aleppo in early 2014. We call on all FSA battalions in northern Syria to relieve their comrades in northern Aleppo, where battles are raging between the FSA and regime forces backed by Iranian and Hezbollah militias. We also call on the international anti-ISIS coalition to deliver urgent military support for the FSA in northern Aleppo to help it repel the regime’s attempts to encircle the city.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 24.10.2014)

Why Humanitarians Talk to ISIS

Millions of people now live under ISIS control. Starving them will not defeat the jihadists, and to deliver assistance, you have to deal with those in charge.
In early October, Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, delivered a keynote address at an annual State Department gathering of international humanitarian aid officials in Washington, D.C.

Egeland, a Norwegian politician and former top humanitarian affairs official at the United Nations, is known for his directness, and he used the platform to lambaste his colleagues for their collective failure to do more to help needy Syrians still suffering after more than three years of war—a concern that many of them shared.

Then, Egeland offered a slightly provocative addendum: any aid going into Syria, he said, must include provisions for civilians living in parts of the country now controlled by the so-called Islamic State. The room went notably quiet.

For years, the question of whether and how to supply aid to territories that are under the control of terrorist groups has been one of the humanitarian community’s most fraught debates. It has been subject to political sensitivities and soapbox rhetoric, buffeted by popular disbelief and official omertà.

Last weekend, the topic was reignited when The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer reported that Western humanitarian aid has been falling into the hands of ISIS militants, and that some of those international agencies may have paid bribes to the group. The article also suggested that aid to those areas is assisting ISIS in its state-building ambitions.

In an interview this week, Egeland strongly defended the propriety of delivering aid to unwholesome parts of northern Syria. That aid, he said, must be stepped up, not scared off, and it must be disengaged from any political aims, including counterterrorism, he said.

“We cannot, and will not, pay bribes to any actor,” Egeland insisted in our phone conversation. “And we cannot let any actor direct our aid or take control over our aid.” But, that said, “I don’t think there’s a proper recognition that there are six to eight million people in those areas”—northern Syria—”who need aid. What needs to be done now is a careful examination of how we can maintain some channel of aid and support to the millions of people who will live under the control of the Islamic State. And it’s extremely important that those who now have taken on the Islamic State militarily do not mix in humanitarian organizations or tools in the fight against terror.”

Aid must be stepped up, not scared off, and it must be disengaged from any political aims, including counterterrorism.

Egeland is something of an outlier among the worldwide community of humanitarians because he says this sort of thing out loud. But he’s certainly not the only one who believes it. Several aid officials contacted by The Daily Beast this week shared Egeland’s general sentiment, but few were willing to speak on the record. Sending aid to areas controlled by radical groups is not a popular subject, even if its value in the name of life-saving intervention is little in dispute.

The ambivalence is reflected in U.S. policy, which often has served to complicate aid delivery in conflict zones. American terrorism laws are strict and clear: aid agencies may not provide any form of “material support” to terrorist groups, including humanitarian supplies that fall into their hands. But humanitarian practice is messy and chaotic: in conflict zones, need is urgent, and allegiances are not always evident until much later.

In 2011, these contradictions came to a head when a famine in Somalia threatened to spiral out of control, while American officials withheld aid from parts of the country that were controlled by the terrorist group Al Shabab. Faced with a backlash from international aid groups, the State Department issued a quiet reassurance to the agencies that they would not face prosecution over any “incidental” diversion of aid that ended up in the hands of Al Shabab —including, presumably, checkpoint “taxes” or other unexpected fees. It was too late. By the end of 2011, more than 250,000 people had died from starvation in the county, many of whom, many aid workers believed, could have been saved with a less cumbersome international response.

“The Somali case is clear,” says Joel Charny, the vice president of humanitarian policy for Interaction, a consortium of development and humanitarian aid groups. “It’s undeniable that in response to famine warnings assistance was provided in Ethiopia and Kenya, but was not in Somalia because of fear of diversion.”

Aid groups have continued to work closely with the U.S. government to establish better outlines of what qualifies as “incidental,” and how much responsibility an organization bears for food or medical supplies that are diverted.

On October 17, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) released an extensive new “guidance” on this policy, emphasizing that while the law has not varied, enforcement may: “Incidental benefits [to a terrorist entity] are not a focus for OFAC sanctions prosecution,” the guidance said. In a statement, Interaction applauded Treasury’s effort, but warned the steps still “have not gone far enough to prevent a repeat of the Somalia catastrophe.”

Even more complex, aid workers say, is the situation inside Syria, where millions have been displaced without safe food or water, and the hurdles facing aid delivery are compounded by active warfare and an unprecedented threat to aid workers themselves. (Several of the westerners beheaded or held by ISIS in recent weeks have been humanitarian aid volunteers.) The lack of legal clarity is only one piece of an already frenzied and shifting operating environment.

“The question is, ‘What is the line?’” says Naz Modirzadeh, a specialist in humanitarian law in conflict zones at Harvard. “You’re allowed to talk, but what if they say, ‘Yes you can bring in that convoy, at that specific time.’ Now you might be seen as ‘coordinating.’ Are you texting with someone? Are you calling him? Did he come to meet you with the convoy? What is the point at which you become concerned that there are serious legal consequences?”

Several aid officials working on Syria told The Daily Beast that aid organizations in southern Turkey had collectively agreed to some rules for engagement with ISIS, and, until recently at least, such contacts were fairly commonplace. The purpose of those meetings, the aid officials emphasized, was to lay out a straightforward description of their operations, not offer to negotiate or make deals. (All of the officials interviewed expressed dismay about the possibility that direct payments were made to the group.) Initially, one Turkey-based aid official said in an interview this spring, ISIS was fairly reasonable to work with, and it was possible to ensure appropriate levels of monitoring.

“ISIS is not any more difficult to deal with than any other group,” the aid official said at the time. The leaders of the groups that his organization dealt with, he said, were “quite practical,” and seemed to understand why aid was essential for the people under their control. “People give their word, and you can work with that,” he added.

But the situation has since changed. After ISIS began to escalate its brutality, and especially since the start of the coalition bombing campaign, the humanitarian exchanges have diminished significantly.

A second aid official said, “we’ve had to dramatically reduce the aid that we’ve delivered in north Syria due to the increased danger to our staff and the difficulty in monitoring the aid once it’s been distributed to ensure that it is civilians alone who benefited from this assistance.”

Egeland points to this drop-off, not the prospect of occasional contacts with terrorists, as his greatest concern. “I think there should have been much more cross-border aid deliveries, much earlier,” he said. As for engagement with terrorist groups, this is simply “the name of the game”: “There will have to be contacts, yes, if support will be provided there. You talk to all sides, and that’s how access is provided to those who need it most.”

 

And if fears of crossing an uncertain legal line makes aid groups hesitant to act, he said, that would be the worst outcome of all.

“I have always found that government armed actors and opposition armed actors specialize in scaring us, and we specialize in being scared,” he said. “All we’re thinking of is, ‘Can we lose access? Can something go wrong?’ Instead of doing what we must, because it’s the right thing to do.”

(Source / 24.10.2014)

PYD leader says no agreement on passage of FSA fighters to Kobani

PYD leader says no agreement on passage of FSA fighters to Kobani

PYD leader Saleh Muslim

Leader of the Syrian Kurdish group the Democratic Union Party (PYD) said on Friday that no agreement has been reached on the passage of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters to Kobani, hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the group has agreed to the passage of 1,300 FSA fighters to the town, which has been besieged by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for more than a month.

The PYD controls Kobani, and its fighters have been battling ISIL with the help of air-strikes carried out by US-led coalition warplanes.

“The PYD said that it accepted the passage of 1,300 people from the FSA, and on this topic right now our relevant teams are negotiating what the route of their passage should be,” Erdoğan said during a press conference in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.

“We already established connection with FSA but no such agreement has been reached yet as Mr. Erdogan has mentioned,” PYD Co-Chair Saleh Muslim told Reuters via phone from Brussels, referring to Erdoğan’s comments.

(Source / 24.10.2014)

Syrian Kurd leader sees war of ‘attrition’ in Kobane

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobane near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 24, 2014

The battle for the Syrian town of Kobane will turn into a war of attrition unless Kurds defending it from an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) onslaught get arms that can repel tanks and armored vehicles, a Syrian Kurdish leader told a pan-Arab newspaper.

ISIS insurgents encircled the town near the Turkish border more than a month ago and are using weapons including tanks and armored vehicles seized in Iraq to attack Kurds equipped mainly with light arms.

The United States, which has been leading air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, airdropped weapons to the Kurds in Kobane on Sunday that U.S. officials described as “small arms.”

“(It’s) attrition for both sides unless something in the situation changes,” Saleh Moslem, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published on Friday.

He said the Kurds had recently received information that ISIS wanted to fire chemical weapons into Kobane using mortars. He said the militant group had surrounded the town, whose Arabic name is Ain al-Arab, with around 40 tanks.

Turkish denial

“If we were to receive qualitative (stronger) weapons, we would be able to hit the tanks and armored vehicles that they use – we may be able to bring a qualitative change in the battle,” he said.

Asked about the recent arms air drop and the U.S.-led strikes, he said: “They are not enough to change the balance of power, but if they continue then they can bring about a change. Air raids so far are limited.”

He accused Ankara of supporting the ultra-radical ISIS, saying it had turned a blind eye when 120 ISIS fighters crossed the border from Turkey earlier this week.

Ankara denies aiding militants but has been loath to enable any help for Syrian Kurds who have links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade separatist insurgency in Turkey.

But Turkey has come under U.S. pressure to do more and on Thursday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said an agreement had been reached on sending 200 peshmerga from Iraq through Turkey to help defend Kobane.

A senior official in Iraq’s Kurdistan region said they would be equipped with heavier weapons than those being used by Syrian Kurds already there.

Asked about the prospect of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces joining the battle for Kobane, Moslem said none had arrived yet and talks were continuing on a technical level.

On Friday, Erdogan said the Kurdish PYD had agreed to the passage of 1,300 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters to Kobane to reinforce Kurdish forces there.

(Source / 24.10.2014)