1.4m Syrian refugees only just surviving

More than a million Syrian refugees who have flocked to Turkey are struggling to survive on their own, Amnesty International warned Thursday.

With Turkey’s government-run refugee camps operating at full capacity and hosting half of the 3.2 million refugees who have fled Syria, Turkey is shouldering the heaviest burden of the refugee crisis.

“In three days in September 2014, Turkey received some 130,000 refugees from Syria – more than the entire European Union had in the past three years,” Amnesty said.

It also detailed cases where Turkish border guards had abused or even killed refugees trying to enter the country.

An estimated 1.6 million Syrian refugees have entered Turkey since the war began in March 2011.

Around 220,000 are living in 22 government camps that offer food and essential services.

The remaining 1.38 million – more than 85 per cent – are living outside the camps, mostly in communities along the border.

An estimated 330,000 live in Istanbul.

So far, Ankara has spent £2.5 billion on Syrian refugees and granted free healthcare to all refugees in the country.

But while Turkey has an open-border policy for Syrian refugees, there are just two fully open crossings along the 560-mile border.

Even at those crossings, people without passports are being denied entry unless they have urgent needs.

Other refugees trek into Turkey through dangerous crossing points.

According to Amnesty, at least 17 people were shot and killed by border guards at unofficial crossing points between December 2013 and August.

The report cited 10 other incidents in which 31 people were beaten by border guards.

“Turkey is clearly struggling to meet even the most basic needs of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees,” said Amnesty International spokesman Andrew Gardner.

“The result is that many of those who have made it across the border have been abandoned to a life of destitution.”

The organisation urged Turkey to “radically revise its border practices and end the necessity for refugees to use dangerous irregular crossings.”

Of the United Nations’ funding appeal for $3.74 billion (£2.4bn) in aid, only 51 per cent has been received.

(Source / 20.11.2014)

Egypt militant arrested on return from Syria

Hani Shahine had fought in the ranks of the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria

Egyptian authorities on Wednesday announced the arrest of a jihadist who returned home from the Syrian conflict to train Islamist militants in the use of explosives.

Hani Shahine had fought in the ranks of the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, the interior ministry said.

He was arrested in Al-Gharbiya province, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Cairo, the ministry said on its Facebook page.

It said Shahine’s assignment was to “train Islamist elements in the production and use of explosives”, and that his arrest had led to five terrorist cells being dismantled.

Since the army toppled Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, security forces have repeatedly been the target of deadly attacks by militants who say their aim is to avenge a crackdown by authorities that has left more than 1,400 dead, mostly pro-Morsi demonstrators.

(Source / 19.11.2014)

Isis has enough weapons to carry on fighting for two years, UN warns

ISIS rebel militant soldiers on the frontline

Islamic State (Isis) rebel militant soldiers. According to a UN Security Council report, Isis currently has enough weapons to continue fighting in the middle east for another two years

A new report prepared for the United Nations Security Council warns that the militant group known as the Islamic State (Isis) possesses sufficient reserves of small arms, ammunition and vehicles to wage its war for Syria and Iraq for up to two years.

The size and breadth of the Isis arsenal provides the group with durable mobility, range and a limited defense against low-flying aircraft. Even if the US-led bombing campaign continues to destroy the group’s vehicles and heavier weapons, the UN report states, it “cannot mitigate the effect of the significant volume of light weapons” Isis possesses.

Those weapons “are sufficient to allow [Isis] to continue fighting at current levels for six months to two years”, the UN report finds, making Isis not only the world’s best-funded terrorist group but among its best armed.

Isis, along with its former rival turned occasional tactical ally the Nusra Front, are sufficiently armed to threaten the region “even without territory”, the report concludes.

The report, months in the making, recommends the UN implement new steps to cut off Isis’s access to money and guns.

The Isis arsenal, according to the UN assessment, includes T-55 and T-72 tanks; US-manufactured Humvees; machine guns; short-range anti-aircraft artillery, including shoulder-mounted rockets captured from Iraqi and Syrian military stocks; and “extensive supplies of ammunition”. One member state, not named in the report, contends that Isis maintains a motor pool of 250 captured vehicles.

Much of the Isis weapons stocks, particularly “state of the art” weaponry stolen from the US-backed Iraqi military, was “unused” before Isis seized it, the report finds. But some of the relatively complex weapons “may be too much of a challenge” for Isis to effectively wield or maintain.

Earlier this year, speculation focussed on Isis’s potential ability to produce chemical weapons after it seized Iraqi facilities that had contributed to Saddam Hussein’s illicit weapons programs, but the UN report casts doubt on the likelihood that Isis possesses the “capability to fully exploit material it might have seized”. Nor does the UN report believe that Isis can manufacture its own chemical or other weapons of mass destruction.

But at least one anonymous member state has provided information about “chemicals and poison-coated metal balls” placed inside Isis’s homemade bombs to maximize damage. In October, Kurdish forces defending the Syrian town of Kobani from Isis reported cases of skin blistering, burning eyes and difficulty breathing after the detonation of an Isis bomb.

The UN Security Council is expected to take up consideration of the report on Wednesday.

The report recommends the UN adopt new waves of sanctions designed to disrupt the well-financed Isis’s economic health. Significant among them is a call for states bordering Isis-controlled territory to “promptly seize all oil tanker trucks and their loads” coming in or going out.

While the report warns that Isis has alternate revenue sources, and does not predict that truck seizures can eliminate Isis’s oil smuggling money, it holds out hope that raising the costs to smuggling networks and trucking companies will deter them from bringing Isis oil to market.

To combat Isis’s ability to resupply its weapons stocks and launder money, the report recommends the UN mandate that no aircraft originating from Isis-held territory can land on airstrips in member states, and to prohibit flights into Isis-held territory. Exemptions would be made for humanitarian relief planes.

The report comes on the heels of an October report to the Security Council assessing that 15,000 fighters from 80 countries have flooded into Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Isis and other militant groups.

While still months off, the US has indicated it will intensify its fight against Isis, primarily in Iraq. After doubling the US troop commitment there, defense officials have said the US will bolster 12 Iraqi and Kurdish brigades, and may even join in the Iraqi fighting for key terrain, such as the borderlands between Syria and Iraq or the city of Mosul.

(Source / 19.11.2014)

Syrian Coalition Pays Tribute to Abdul Qadir al-Saleh on the First Anniversary of His Death

On the first anniversary of the death of Abdul Qadir al-Saleh, commander of Al Tawhid Brigade, the Syrian Coalition said that “Saleh made of his body a bridge for the future generations to cross towards freedom and justice, inspired by his bravery and sacrifice. On this day, we bow with full respect to Saleh and his comrades who sacrificed their lives so that other Syrians can live: Colonel Mustafa Shadod, Abu Furat and Hassan and Yasser Al Aboud and Abu Yazan Al-Shami, who joined the train of the fallen heroes of the peaceful movement. Nasr al-Hariri, Secretary General of the Syrian Coalition, said that the sacrifices made by Saleh and other rebels commanders are as great as the ones made by the peaceful protestors who were faced with Assad’s criminal thugs on the first day of the revolution. In commemoration of this day, March 18, 2014 we in the Syrian Coalition proclaim it the Fallen Heroes Day, and reaffirm our determination not to deviate from the demands of the Syrian people.” Hariri also said that “since the first day of the Syrian Revolution, the Assad regime pursued the policy of the elimination of the voices that advocates moderation, coexistence and that rejects extremism, fully aware that these voices will serve as the rallying cry that will unify all Syrians against tyranny and dictatorship. Also we cannot but pay tribute to Colonel Mustafa Shaddoud, who emerged from among Assad’s troops, laid down his weapon, and headed directly to the FSA fighters and addressed them in words that still resonate in the ears of whoever heard them: I am your brother, I am a Syrian just like you, let’s stop killing each other. But the Assad regime and the sectarian militias fighting alongside its side found it hard to accept these words because they threaten its very existence which is based on sowing division and discord among the Syrian people. Few days after this conversation held between Shaddoud and the FSA fighters, Assad’s criminal thugs silenced this voice once and for all, sending a clear message to whoever might get out of the line drawn by Assad. We are quite certain that Shaddoud is one of thousands of pro-Assad soldiers who paid with their lives for dissociating themselves from Assad’s vicious campaign against the Syrian people. Assad is still blind to the fact that what is happening in Syria is a popular uprising against injustice and tyranny, and still under the illusion that he can crush the revolution with force of arms.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 18.11.2014)

KOBANE UPDATE 19: YPG AND ALLIES CAUTIOUSLY ADVANCE AS ISLAMIC STATE STRUGGLES TO HOLD TERRITORY AROUND KOBANE

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

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

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The ongoing clashes reported on Friday have continued over the weekend, with the YPG and their allies make strong gains across the city.

According to reports, the Islamic State (IS) have been largely pushed out of western, southern and south-eastern neighbourhoods but persist in the central municipal area of Kobane and across the eastern districts.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Huge Explosions from Airstrikes Rock Kobane 17.11.14

The fighting has now turned very much into a war of attrition to see who can hold-out last, but the Kurds with Peshmerga, Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Coalition airstrike support are gradually winning the day.

Two streets on the south-eastern front have been recovered by the YPG in the last 2 days and 10 x IS Jihadists killed (including 2 x IS commanders) and another 30 x IS fighters on the eastern front are reported dead in recent fighting and bombing.

7 Coalition airstrikes struck IS positions on Saturday night through into Sunday morning and another 7 or 8 strikes have been reported this afternoon, Monday, and into the evening.

It may be that heavier munitions than usual are being used as people are saying that the ground and vehicles are being shaken by the blasts as far as 20 kilometres away from the city.

The Kurdish Peshmerga are also hitting IS targets with their artillery, with the YPG reporting that the Islamic State are now “less threatening”.

The combined Kurdish/FSA forces have now gone on the attack, rather than just defense, but are moving ahead slowly and cautiously as most buildings and roads vacated by IS are booby-trapped.

The huge Coalition airstrikes today were concentrated on the central and eastern side of the city where the Islamic State still have some substantial territory but IS were forced to relinquish 2 positions in the eastern districts this evening. At the current time, between 60 – 70% of Kobane is probably back under Kurdish control.

Every time IS occupy a building with their fighters inside, the co-ordinates are passed to the Coalition and strikes soon follow. Many French, Uzbek and Chechen jihadists are reported fighting on the Islamic State side on the frontlines, but 5 French Jihadists were said to have been killed in one strike alone.

IS continue to bombard Kobane with mortar shells, but lost a tank between Tahtik and Bozik villages which was destroyed by the YPG who continue to use guerrilla tactics to attack IS vehicles, positions and supply routes into the city.

Interestingly, one YPG unit says it has captured from IS a M-16 rifle fitted with a US-made Raytheon W1000-9 thermal night vision sight, which allows the shooter to separate and target people from their backgrounds even in complete darkness. IS continue to use sniper fire from the tops of any buildings they hold.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that it had now documented 1,153 deaths in the battle for Kobane since the 16th September.

387 Kurdish fighters are reported killed, 16 from the FSA and 27 civilians (17 executed by IS including 2 teenagers). So far the deaths of 712 Islamic State fighters have been documented (23 of them detonating themselves in suicide bombings) but the total could be much higher as IS are very secretive about their causalities.

EDITOR: Not sure how accurate this map is, courtesy of Nathan Ruser @Nrg8000, as it is a very fluid situation, but IS holding the eastern side of the city in “black”, most of the rest now “yellow”, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Kobane Situation Map 16.11.14

Kobane and 2 other Kurdish enclaves near the Turkish border in Syria, make up the independent area known as Rojava. This BBC documentary explains all, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qi9cp_PDUs

BLOODY, ABOMINABLE ISLAMIC STATE BEHEAD US AID WORKER AND 13 OF ASSAD’S OFFICERS & PILOTS IN MAD RAMPAGE:

Once again, the bloody, abominable Islamic State took to video on Sunday to publicise its latest mayhem, the beheading of US aid worker Peter Kassig and 13 pilots and officers from Assad’s military.

Peter Kassig, who had taken the name Abdul-Rahman since converting to the Moslem faith, had exhibited huge compassion in his life, working to supply aid to Syrians in need and even setting up his own charity to train 150 Syrians on how to provide medical assistance. But all that counted for naught in the eyes of the foul, insane and inhuman Islamic State murderers.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Peter Kassig – Murdered by IS – Gently Rest in Peace

Peter Kassig was driving an ambulance with medical supplies to Deir Ez-Zour when he was kidnapped by IS militants in October of 2013 and then held with Alan Henning, David Haines and the 2 US journalists, all of them previously executed in the same way.

He had previously served in Iraq in the US Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, a special forces unit, sent to the conflict zone in 2007, before returning in 2013 after a medical discharge from the military, to set up his humanitarian aid charity.

The video took a different form from previous ones and according to one of the speakers was filmed in Dabiq in Aleppo province, just 6 miles from the Turkish border.

Dabiq, a small village of just 3,000 has huge significance, having been mentioned by Mohammed as the site of an “end of days” conflict with “the invaders”. Dabiq is also the name of Islamic State’s online magazine.

The speaker in the latest video, believed to be the British accented Jihadist knows as “Jihadi John” in the West, says, “Here we are, burying the first American Crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive”.

Much of the IS’s current tactics seem to be about trying to lure Western forces, particularly US ground forces, into direct conflict in the way of another “crusade” between “Christians and Moslems”. BBC Syria news explains more about Dabiq.

The 13 Syrian military men beheaded in the video are seen being dragged along individually prior to the executions wearing dark blue jumpsuits. Their executioners each select a knife from a box before going about their grisly deeds. Two of the executioners, all of which were unmasked except “Jihadi John”, have been possibly identified as one being French and the other a second Briton.

Quite when this video was filmed is unknown, as there is also an unconfirmed report from a nurse at Al-Qaim hospital on the Iraq/Syria border that “Jihadi John” was recently treated there for injuries sustained in the Coalition airstrike on an IS convoy (scroll down -see below) reported earlier.

President Obama said in a statement that Peter Kassig “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity” and “which revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction”.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Inhuman Islamic State Lead Assad Officers to Slaughter

The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, said he was “horrified by the cold-blooded murder” and described the actions of IS as “depravity”.

Burhan Agha, a Syrian who had worked with Peter Kassig in Lebanon wept when talking to the press about the death of his friend.

“If I could apologise to each American, one by one, I would, because Peter died in Syria while he was helping the Syrian people. Those who killed him claimed to have done it in the name of Islam. I am a Muslim and am from Syria … His killers are not Muslims”.

A defector from the Islamic State, who now resides in Turkey, talks on video about the brutality of IS on video to the BBC, HERE:

And one of the Kurdish schoolboys kidnapped by IS but later released, describes his experience with the Jihadists,HERE:

Majority of IS civilian victims in Syria are reportedly Sunnis

IS executed 1,429 people in Syria in five months, says monitoring group

Men fish in a river in the eastern Syrian town of Deir Ezzor on 21 February, 2104

The Islamic State group (IS) has executed nearly 1,500 people in Syria in the past five months, the majority of whom were Sunni civilians, a monitoring group said Monday.

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented the execution of 1,429 people since the IS announced its ‘caliphate’ in June,” the group’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.

The majority of IS’s victims in Syria have been civilians, he said.

“Of the total number of people beheaded or shot dead in mass killings by IS, 879 have been civilians, some 700 of them members of the Shaitat tribe.”

The Sunni Muslim Shaitat tribe, from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, rose up against the group in mid-2014.

Another 63 of the dead were members of other rebel groups including the Al-Nusra Front, which has fought IS in the north and east, Abdel Rahman said.

“Another 483 were regime soldiers, while four others were IS members” accused of corruption or other alleged offences, Abdel Rahman said.

Ghassan Ibrahim, a London-based Syrian commentator who is critical of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, told MEE that IS militants are primarily concerned with fighting Syrian rebel groups.

“The regime casualties at the hands of IS militants are not the result of a consistent policy by the group,” said Ibrahim.

“IS’s clashes with regime forces are infrequent and are usually over capturing energy resourceful areas,” he added, noting that “despite this, the regime often buys oil from IS.”

Syria refugees need help as winter looms

Meanwhile, Syrians forced by nearly four years of war to flee their homes are in desperate need of more aid as winter approaches, a humanitarian group warned on Monday.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said the enormous numbers of Syrians displaced by the war faced plummeting temperatures and heavy rains.

“Vulnerable communities and families without adequate shelter, living in damaged or incomplete buildings, are struggling to prepare for the expected low temperatures in Syria and neighbouring countries,” it said in a statement.

More than half of Syria’s population has been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began in March 2011.

Some 3.2 million have fled beyond the country’s borders, and more than 7.2 million have become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

In its statement, the IFRC urged donors to act quickly in order to help the displaced and refugees.

“From the past experience, we know that getting support to communities on time is vital. Delays now could mean the aid doesn’t arrive when the temperatures drop,” said Michael Higginson, head of the IFRC’s crisis team for Syria.

In past years, countless Syrian refugees and displaced families have had to face snowstorms with little more than a flimsy tents to protect themselves.

The group said it hoped to distribute 50,000 cold-weather kits inside Syria, each containing mattresses and thermal blankets, but needed five million Swiss francs ($5.2 million) to fund them.

Syria’s war began as a pro-democracy movement, but later evolved into a savage civil war after the government unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.

The United Nations has described Syria’s war as “the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century”.

(Source / 17.11.2014)

U.S. targets Islamic militants with more airstrikes in Syria, Iraq: Central Command

An explosion following an air strike is seen in central Kobani in Syria, November 17, 2014. REUTERS-Osman Orsal

An explosion following an air strike is seen in central Kobani in Syria, November 17, 2014

(Reuters) – U.S. military forces conducted 11 air strikes against Islamic militants in Syria and 20 in Iraq since Friday, Central Command said on Monday.

Nine of the Syria strikes were near the Turkish border city of Kobani and destroyed seven Islamic State positions and four staging areas and struck one unit, the command said in a statement. Two near Dayr Az Zawr hit an Islamic State crude oil collection facility and destroyed a tank, it said

The U.S.-led strikes in Iraq were concentrated in the west and north of that country, with five near Baiji, four near Rutba and three near Kirkuk and three around Mosul and the Mosul Dam, Centcom said.

The strikes in Iraq destroyed nine trucks, two excavators, two bulldozers and two front-loaders used by the militants and hit their tactical units and fighting positions, it said.

(Source / 17.11.2014)

Western combat troops may be needed to defeat Isis, says Lord Dannatt

Former army chief says west may have to ‘think the unthinkable’ and engage forces on ground to counter Islamic State

Lord Dannatt

Lord Dannatt also said the UK should think again abou joining in air strikes against Isis targets in Syria

British combat troops could be required to fight in Iraq and Syria to eradicate the threat posed by Islamic State (Isis), a former army chief has said.

Lord Dannatt said western leaders might have to “think the unthinkable” and send in troops if the combination of air strikes and local forces was unable to counter the jihadis.

The former chief of the general staff said the British government should think again about whether to join in air strikes against Isis targets in Syria, but that ultimately bombing missions may not be enough.

In an interview following the release of a video apparently showing that Isis had killed the US aid worker Peter Kassig, Dannatt said more concerted actionwas needed.

He also said there was a personal aspect to the latest Isis killing of a hostage because members of his family knew Kassig.

Dannatt told Sky News that it was essential to get “all means available into the field” to take on the militants.

“Of course it means attacking … from the air, it means attacking them from the air over Iraq and Syria, and our government has got to think about that one very closely,” he said.

“It also means we have got to build up local forces more quickly and more effectively on the ground, to get in there and to not just defend their own villages, towns and cities but to attack Isil [Isis] fighters where they are.

“If that is not enough then we might have to think the unthinkable and possibly engage western forces on the ground. I don’t see that happening in a great rush. There’s no appetite for it, there’s no political appetite for it. But we have got to keep all options open if we are serious about meeting that strategic objective of defeating and destroying Islamic State.

“Nothing is going to be decided very quickly, certainly not in this country. With a general election coming up in May it would be perceived to be extraordinarily unpopular to take any form of decision that placed a significant number of British troops into this operation. There’s no appetite for that currently.

“But I think this has got to be part of a wider discussion and people have got to work out for themselves what is important here and what is not important here.”

Dannatt said he had no desire to see British troops back on the ground after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but action was needed.

He called for national and international debates about the possibility of intervention.

(Source / 16.11.2014)

How would a deal between al-Qaeda and Isil change Syria’s civil war?

Big Question: A secret meeting between al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Isil reportedly led to two major decisions: halt the fighting between Al-Nusra and Isil, and begin to cooperate against their common opponents

Recent developments in Syria seem to confirm rumours that have been circulating for weeks: the al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have been engaged in talks aimed at ironing out their differences.

According to sources cited by The Associated Press, on November 2, representatives of the two extremist Islamist factions secretly met in a city west of Aleppo. The meeting was allegedly organised by a third Islamist group, the Khorasan – a small but influential group of al-Qaeda veterans from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The secret meeting reportedly led to two major decisions: to halt the fighting between Al-Nusra and Isil, and to begin to cooperate against their common opponents.

This does not necessarily mean that a formal alliance or union is expected anytime soon. In fact, Al-Nusra and Isil fighters have spent much of the past year killing each other and a previous attempt to merge the two groups badly failed in spring 2013.

However, the possibility of some kind of cooperation at the tactical level and some local understandings cannot be completely dismissed.

Conversely, there are signs that such a cooperation is already occurring. News outlets have reported that Al-Nusra and Isil forces have recently supported each other in their campaigns against “moderate” western-backed rebel groups like the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Hazm Movement.

Additionally, the two extremist factions are said to have teamed up against President Assad’s and Hizbollah’s forces in areas along the Syria-Lebanon border.

Extremists’ rapprochement could be, at least in part, an unintended consequence of the US-led campaign of air strikes in Syria. In fact, by simultaneously targeting Al-Nusra Front and Isil, while refusing to engage Assad forces, the US strategy may have increased the urgency, among Islamist extremists, of forming an “anti-crusaders” coalition.

Whatever the case, cooperation between Al-Nusra and Isil would reshape an already complex battlefield in Syria and have major implications for the ongoing civil war.

How will this affect Syria’s civil war?

First, it will substantially shift the balance of power among Syria’s opposition groups.

Isil jihadists march in Raqqa, Syria

An Islamist extremist coalition would likely be in the position to overwhelm the relatively weak and disorganised moderate Syrian opposition. Especially given the fact that a stated goal of both Al-Nusra and Isil is to eliminate the moderate opposition as an effective fighting force. Moreover, cooperation between arguably the two most combat-effective rebel factions in Syria would only increase the continued haemorrhage of defectors from moderate opposition groups to extremist ones.

This, in turn, will affect the overall strategy of the United States in the Syrian conflict. Up until now, in fact, the official policy of the US administration has been to use air power to degrade and disrupt Al-Nusra and Isil capabilities and operations while relying on vetted moderate rebels to carry out the fighting on the ground.

However, if the newly-established Islamist extremist coalition were to succeed in its struggle against other opposition groups, there will be no more moderates left for the United States to train and assist. Such an undesirable outcome would inevitably require a significant review of the US strategy in Syria.

Supporters of Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front hold placards in Aleppo

Finally, cooperation between Al-Nusra and Isil will also pose a greater threat to the survival of the Assad regime. Syrian government forces will face a much stronger and organised adversary. Assad will consequently become even more dependent on the critical help coming from his external supporters: Iran and Hizbollah. Shia leaders in Tehran may perceive the formation of this Sunni axis in Syria as an existential threat to their country and therefore decide to increase their involvement in the civil war.

This begs the following question: is it possible that the current need for Iranian cooperation to fight Sunni extremism in Syria, added to the political appeal of reaching a nuclear deal with Tehran by the end of this month, informed the US administration’s controversial decision not to extend the scope of US air strikes to target Assad forces?

(Source / 14.11.2014)

KOBANE UPDATE 18: ONGOING CONTINUOUS CLASHES FOR THE LAST 40 HOURS AS KURDS SLOWLY PUSH JIHADISTS OUT OF KOBANE

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

 

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

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

In continuous fighting for the last 40 hours, clashes are ongoing between the combined YPG/Peshmerga/FSA forces and the Islamic State (IS), with casualties on both sides.

On the 61st day of the battle for Kobane, the YPG are said to have regained more ground on Mishtenur Hill and pushed forward in the municipality area on the eastern side of the city.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

YPJ Plant Tree of Hope in Kobane

The YPG say 4 Jihadists were killed near the Reshad Mosque and another 3 in Azidi (Freedom) Square, plus a good quantity of weapons and ammunition were also taken.

On the south-eastern front, the Kurdish forces came under heavy attack yesterday and all through Thursday night after they took control of the Islamic State’s main supply route to the south.

So far the Kurds remain in control of the Helinj road and 13 Jihadists are reported killed in their failed attempts to get it back.

Several operations on the southern front resulted in the deaths of 7 more IS fighters as the YPG advanced for the first time in the area.

Heavy shelling and Coalition airstrikes have been made on the southern districts, today, Friday.

There are also unconfirmed reports Friday afternoon that “200 Islamic State fighters are under siege” and trapped in the eastern part of the city near the border.

To the west of the city, Kurdish operations have continued around the villages of Minaz and Gire Iza, the YPG destroying an IS vehicle and a motorcycle, killing 8 Jihadists and capturing more ammunition. The YPG report 4 deaths on their side in the last 24 hours but there may be more.

This video report, just released, from inside Kobane gives you an idea of the conditions there, but bear in mind it was filmed over 2 weeks ago before the Peshmerga arrived. The comments of the FSA leader too, now seem at odds with reality, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Elderly Kurdish Fighter Injured – But Recovering

Many of you will remember the elderly Kurdish fighter Apê Nemir, who appeared in a number of videos and interviews.

It seems he has been wounded but is alive and recovering, and in good spirits. He is also now famous in the West, his image appearing on the back of a bus in Germany! (EDITOR: I think that is where it is – See photograph below):

Across the border in Turkey, 19 year old Turkish Kurd Rosa is waiting for final permission from the YPG to cross the border and join the fight, (English sub-titles) HERE:

While other Turkish Kurds patrol the border on a regular nightly basis looking for Jihadists that may be crossing the frontier behind the Kobane lines, HERE:the commander of Kobane’s YPJ, Meryem Kobani (nom de gueurre), describes the current battle situation and the YPG/YPJ’s tactics as they gain more experience, HERE:

The YPG have also withstood 23 Islamic State vehicle bombs since September 15th.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Elderly Kurdish Fighter Becomes Kobane Icon!

AFTER DEATH RUMOURS, ISLAMIC STATE ISSUE THREATENING AUDIO STATEMENT SUGGESTING CALIPH IS STILL ALIVE?:

After many rumours on the Internet that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS), had been killed in a Coalition airstrike last week, and even photographs showing him dead or critically injured on the ground, an audio recording was released by IS yesterday with a message from him to their followers.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Al Baghdadi Killed or Critically Injured? Or Lookalike?

In the 17 minute tape, Al-Baghdadi calls on IS supporters to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere. Light the earth with fire under all the tyrants and their soldiers and supporters”.

In particular he singles out Saudi Arabia which he describes as the “head of the snake and stronghold of disease”, urging people to “draw their swords” to fight and to kill Shia Muslims – referred to pejoratively with the sectarian term “rafidah”.

Some of the Shia who live mainly in eastern Saudi Arabia, were attacked and killed by unknown gunmen 10 days ago.

Baghdadi also called for attacks on the “apostate” Houthis – Shia rebels fighting the Government in Yemen – but refers to the Sunni rebels in Egypt’s Sinai peninsular, who have frequently attacked and killed Egyptian Government soldiers and policemen, as “the people of the Jihad”.

In the recording, which appears to be authentic according to experts, the IS leader claims that the “crusader “ United States-led campaign against IS was “failing” and that “America and its allies are terrified, weak, and powerless.”

He also heaps scorn and abuse on “the Jews”, “the apostates and the “treacherous Arab Muslim leaders who fear the return of the Muslim faithful to the ways of the caliphate”.

Although Baghdadi does not refer to the airstrikes against IS, he does mention President Obama’s decision to send another 1,500 troops to Iraq, an announcement that was made last Friday, the same day as Baghdadi was supposedly killed or injured (scroll down – see below). It is therefore still possible that the recording was made before the Coalition attacked the IS convoy transporting Baghdadi.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Supposed New Currency to be Minted for Islamic State

Finally, Baghdadi says that the media is “lying” in claiming that the Coalition has struck against IS targets.

“Be assured, O Muslims, for your state is good and in the best condition,” Baghdadi declares. “Its march will not stop and it will continue to expand, by Allah’s permission. The march of the mujahidin [Muslim holy warriors] will continue until they reach Rome”.

(EDITOR: Well there’s something for Italy to look forward to!)

Showing some media sophistication the audio broadcast was released on a Jihadi website and followed up with Twitter links to English and Russian translations.

According to another IS missive appearing on the Internet on Thursday, their Shura council had approved the production of its own currency based on gold, silver and copper coins of the “Islamic dinar”, in order to “change the tyrannical monetary system”, based on the economies of western states, that has “enslaved Muslims”.

(EDITOR: Whether they will be come to be used as a functioning currency or merely a “collector’s item”, remains to be seen.)

At the UN the Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its first report specifically on the Islamic State today, Friday, and revealed a horrific catalogue of evidence pointing to massacres, beheading boys as young as 15, amputations and lashings in public squares that residents, including children, were forced to watch, the widespread use of child soldiers, stoning women to death for suspected adultery, and holding women as sexual slaves , sometimes forcing them to bear children for the fighters.

The investigators, who had interviewed over 300 people who had fled IS held areas, as well as watching IS distributed videos, concluded that “The commanders of ISIS have acted wilfully, perpetrating these war crimes and crimes against humanity with clear intent of attacking persons with awareness of their civilian or ‘hors de combat’ (non-combat) status”.

The perpetrators “are individually criminally responsible for these crimes,” said the investigators and called for them to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands, for prosecution.

IRAQ NEWS: IRAQI ARMY MAKES PROGRESS, RE-TAKING OIL CITY AND NEAR TO ADJACENT REFINERY. YEZIDI HOLDING FAST:

According to reports from Iraq, Government troops, backed by Coalition airstrikes, have pushed the Islamic State out of the city of Baiji which is west of Mosul and 200 kilometres (150 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraqi Air Force jets targeted fleeing Jihadists.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

 

Baiji Oil Refinery in Better Times

The nearby Baiji Oil Refinery, lies around 6 kilometres away from the city centre of Baiji, which normally has a population of 200,000. However, the refinery itself may be more difficult to capture completely as the road to it and buildings within the site have been heavily booby-trapped.

Despite throwing almost everything at it, the Jihadists, who overran the area last June, were never able to capture the refinery completely. A group of Iraqi special forces continued to hold-out in an accommodation block, reinforced by regular airdrops, throughout the very long siege.

If the Iraqi Army completes its recovery of the whole of the Baiji area and manages to keep the Islamic State out it will be a significant advance and will cut an important IS supply line to Tikrit, which is also under Jihadist control.

Meanwhile, another 3 bombings across Baghdad today killed at least 19 people and wounded 50.

Up on the top of Mount Sinjar (Shingal) today, the Iraqi Air Force dropped 9 tons of humanitarian aid to the Yezidi still trapped there by Islamic State fighters.

The Yezidi fighters, the HPS, backed by the Kurdish YPG, have put up stiff resistance against Jihadists trying to overrun the Yezidi shrine in the middle of the Sinjar mountain range at Sherfedin, where they are still protecting a large number of civilians.

West of Mount Sinjar, a combined HPS/YPG force has also recaptured the town of Bara, killing 30 IS Jihadists in the process and capturing another 4.

The Iraqi Government is said to have agreed to send the Yezidi fighters more weapons last week but conditions on top of the mountain as winter sweeps in are particularly harsh with zero temperatures at night and snowfalls in the coldest months.

This short film by Nawzad Shekhany, “The Black Massacre”, is a good reminder of the Yezidi story, HERE:

Lastly for today, Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are being helped to explore their dramatic past by being given a 2 week computer and basic animation course where they learn to tell their story. In this one, 13 year old Adib who was forced to work carrying heavy loads while his bullying father stayed at home, recounts what happened to him and his aspirations – at BBC Syria news (recommended viewing – very moving).

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

The Hand of the Displaced – Syrian Kurd Watching Kobane