By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
Despite escalated help from US-led Coalition airstrikes and brave resistance from the Kurdish YPG and YPJ (Women’s Protection Force), the fight to clear the Islamic State from Kobane goes on, with no sign that the Jihadists are going to give up their assault.
In the last 2 days, the Islamic State have shelled and re-shelled an area to the north of Kobane city near the border crossing to Turkey and an area around the Al-Haj Rashad Mosque, 16 plus shells falling.
Brave Fighters of the YPJ in Kobane
Heavy fighting still continues around the central “security zone” in the city and on the eastern and southern sides of Kobane.
Last night, Thursday through Friday, Islamic State fighters attacked areas regained by the YPG Kurdish militia 2 days ago and this was followed by 6 Coalition airstrikes on the district of Kani Erban on the eastern side of city.
The Jihadists are also attacking houses controlled by YPG fighters in the street that extends along the western area of the security zone and which was in the hands of the YPG yesterday.
The Islamic State have additionally mounted another attack on Al-Hurreyyi Square.
Latest reports from Kobane on Friday evening say that a new convoy of Islamic State fighters has arrived from the IS town of Manbej in Aleppo province and there is fierce fighting around the border gate area to the north-east of the city.
While spirits among the Kurdish defenders are high after their gains over the last few days, amid reports of hundreds of bodies of dead Jihadists lying in the streets, they are still out-gunned and out-numbered with the Islamic State sending wave after wave of fighters into the battle-zone.
Kobane is clearly far from safe yet.
On Wednesday, Mr. Nassan, deputy head of Kobane’s foreign relations committee, said “Maybe in the few past days [Islamic State] was controlling about 40% of the city of Kobane, but now… less than 20% of the city is under their control”.
Many outside observers would rate that as unduly optimistic, still estimating that between 40 – 50% of the city remains in IS hands, though the situation is much more fluid than before.
West of Kobane, the Jihadists have been pushed back several kilometres from the city limits, though they are using their heavy weaponry to continue to bombard vacated areas. South-west of Kobane the Kurds have also regained territory and a YPG patrol engaged the Islamic State (IS) on the road to Aleppo, killing 8 of them at a loss of 3 of their own.
US Central Command (Centcom), now naming the Coalition operation in Syria and Iraq “Inherent Resolve” (EDITOR: I wonder who thought of that gem of a mouthful? I bet it translates into Arabic “really well”!), bombed IS positions 14 times on Wednesday and Thursday and attacks are ongoing on Friday.
The Coalition tally for the 2 days is given as 19 x IS buildings, 2 x IS command posts, 3 x IS fighting positions, 3 x IS sniper positions, 1 x IS staging location, and 1 x IS heavy machine gun. Centcom adds, “Indications are that airstrikes have continued to slow IS advances, but that the security situation on the ground in Kobane remains tenuous”.
The Coalition have carried out over 100 airstrikes around Kobane since September 27th, while in Iraq Coalition activity has subsided, mainly due to heavy sandstorms affecting flight operations.
Happy Young Kurdish Supporters of the YPG
Following the first direct talks between the US and the PYD (the Kurdish movement’s Syrian political wing) at the US embassy in Paris, it has been confirmed that the YPG on the ground are directly co-ordinating with the Coalition to direct in-coming jets to target specific buildings housing Jihadist units.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is now putting the recorded death toll for Kobane since the 16th September at 662, 374 Jihadists and 268 YPG/YPJ plus 20 civilians, though these figure do not include Islamic State fighters killed in airstrikes – therefore the final toll will be much higher.
Latest reports from Kobane on Friday morning suggest there is an ongoing combined Free Syrian Army (FSA) and YPG operation to retake the radio tower hill knows as Mishtenour, just south of the city.
The BBC Syria news service has a video report from Kobane recorded on Thursday.
There is additionally this morning an unconfirmed report that the senior IS commander known as Hisem Bin Ebdallah has been killed in combat.
If true, then this will be no great loss to the world – Ebdallah has appeared on the Internet physically beheading his victims with a knife.
However, the Kurds are still in dire need of weapons, ammunition and food, though supplies are trickling in despite Turkish intransigence, and the Islamic State has destroyed almost all of their medical facilities.
There was a terrible report from the Turkish border that a Kurdish ambulance was prevented from crossing and YPG fighters could do nothing to help 3 wounded colleagues who slowly died without help or treatment over a 3 hour period who could have, they believe, been otherwise saved. Many Turkish authorities see all Kurdish fighters as “terrorists”.
There have been persistent reports that civilians crossing from Kobane into Turkey in recent days, after the earlier mass exodus, have been detained in secure centres and searched by Turkish troops looking for mobile phone images of YPG fighters.
After returning 72 people to Kobane this week (scroll down – see earlier report below), it is now said that the Turks are planning to return another 170 detained Kurds to the war zone, many of whom have been on hunger strike in protest against the conditions in which they have been held. You can read more about this, HERE:
This and other ambivalent reactions by the Turks to the crisis in Kobane, may be why Turkey yesterday failed to gain one of the revolving seats on the UN Security Council.
Until recently, Turkey was thought to have letters of support from 160 countries in the ballot for the seat, needing only a minimum of 130, but support has clearly faded away in the last few days and in the end Turkey received only 60 votes, the seat going to Spain.
This is a tremendous blow to Turkish pride and prestige. New Zealand, Venezuela, Angola, Malaysia also got elected to non-permanent regional seats, which become active on January 1st 2015. You can read more in Newsweek Syria news.
ISLAMIC STATE JETS SEEN FLYING FROM CAPTURED FORMER ASSAD REGIME AIRBASE:
In a worrying development, there is an unconfirmed report from Opposition activist sources that MIG-21 and/or MIG-23 jets have been seen flying from Al-Jarrah military airbase in Islamic State territory east of Aleppo city.
To avoid detection by radar they are flying at low altitude and not straying far from the airfield perimeter. It is said that the Jihadist pilots are being trained by former members of Saddam Hussein’s air force.
Islamic State Taking to the Skies with Captured Jets?
The Ba’ath Party to whom these airman belong, is currently in alliance with the Islamic State in Iraq and fighting alongside them trying to regain some of the Sunni dominating power it once had under the former dictator.
Witnesses claim that they have seen 3 jets in flight so far, though it is not clear whether they are armed with missiles or not.
The Islamic State also control 2 other airfields in Syria, Al-Bukamal near the border with Iraq and Tabqa in Raqqah province.
Al-Jarrah is just 70 kilometres from the Turkish border and so far US Central Command, asked for a comment, says it has not seen any Islamic State jets in flight.
No doubt, should these reports be confirmed the Coalition, or indeed Assad’s Air Force or missile defence systems will destroy these aircraft as soon as possible.
If they manage to get through to any target with a suicide payload of bombs, the consequences could be catastrophic.
There are also reports that the Islamic State have also executed 2 of the own fighters at Al-Bukamel, one for“banditry and robbing Muslims’ money” and the 2nd for allegedly dealing with the Assad regime” and “putting down electronic chips” so their units could be tracked.
Elsewhere in Syria, the Opposition have launched a new campaign to remove Assad’s checkpoints on the Damascus to Jordan main highway.
The Opposition also brought up their heavy fire-power, HERE:
The checkpoints, about 4 kilometres from the frontier, protect the Naseeb border crossing to Jordan, a now remote outpost of the Assad regime. Jordan have now closed their side of the crossing while fighting persists.
In Hama province, heavy fighting continues around Mork, the former Assad tank battalion base changing hands again twice in the last 24 hours, believed currently held by the Opposition.
In Idlib province, the Opposition are attacking Ma’ar Hattat on the highway to Aleppo, HERE: and the good citizens of Kafranbel are determined that the world does not forget that the battle is still against Assad, HERE:
Medical Supplies Reach Yarmouk After A 12 Month Wait
In Deir Ez-Zour city there has been fierce fighting between the Islamic State and the Assad regime in the Hawija district, 9 IS fighters reported killed but a Syrian Army vehicle destroyed and troop losses as the Jihadists advanced.
In Hasakah province 3 civilians, including a child, were reported killed after Coalition planes targeted a oil refining facility at the village of Kabiba in the Al-Shadai area.
In Damascus, for the first time in 12 months, the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent were allowed to distribute medical supplies in the Yarmouk Refugee camp in the southern part of the capital.
IRAQ NEWS: LATEST ISLAMIC STATE BOMBINGS IN BAGHDAD KILL 50, 162 DEAD SINCE SUNDAY:
In another wave of bomb attacks in Baghdad, mainly in Shiite areas, yesterday, Thursday, at least 50 were killed and dozens injured.
This brings the total killed since last Sunday in Baghdad alone to more than 162. The map below shows the horror of all the car bomb explosions in Baghdad since the Americans arrived in 2003.
IS have claimed responsibility for yesterday’s deadliest attack in the northern Dolaie commercial area of the city. 2 parked cars exploded simultaneously killing 14 and wounding 34.
Local residents, angry at the failure of the security services to protect them, pelted the police cars that arrived to deal with the blast with stones, forcing them to withdraw.
Map of Every Car Bomb Explosion in Baghdad Since 2003
In the eastern Baghdad district of Talibiyah, a suicide bomber rammed his exploding car into a police checkpoint, killing 7 policemen and 5 civilians. 4 other bombs also went off in Baghdad yesterday or nearby with similar destructive power and results.
In northern Iraq west of Mosul, the Islamic state are reported to have launched another series of suicide car bomb attacks against the Iraqi special forces defending the Baiji oil refinery.
Since the sandstorms over subsided in the last 24 hours over Iraq, the Coalition have made 5 airstrikes on Islamic State targets, mainly in Anbar province where a night-time curfew has been imposed in Ramadi to prevent IS movements in and out of the city.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, has met with a delegation from Anbar province, which is currently in great danger of being totally overrun by the Islamic State, and attempted to persuade local Sunni tribes to work with the Iraqi security forces to push IS back.
Italy has announced it is joining the Coalition against IS by sending 200 advisers and 3 reconnaissance planes to operate out of Erbil in Kurdish Iraq.
Lastly, like many of us you may be having trouble keeping up with and working out all the complications of the situation in Iraq and Syria.
Despite all the horror, something of an “explanation” to cheer you up over the weekend from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, here: