Assad Will Have No Role In In Any Transitional Phase

Spokesman for the Syrian Coalition Salem al-Meslet stresses that Assad will not be part of any political solution or in any transitional phase no matter how long it takes or whatever shape it takes. “The true place for war criminals like Assad and his aides is in the international courts and they cannot not participate in the process of transforming Syria to a new state.”

“After the start of the Syrian revolution, some regional and international powers tried to help Assad consolidate his grip on power in defiance of the aspirations of the Syrian people. The will of the rebels however and the spectacular gains they have lately made against regime forces have foiled the efforts of those forces, which are still trying to float the Assad regime by introducing it as a partner in the transitional phase.”

“The Assad regime’s industrial crimes against the Syrian people, using all weapons including internationally forbidden ones along with mass executions of detainees centers and the widespread havoc it wreaked in Syria are all enough reasons why the international community or any parties must not seek to reproduce it or present it as a partner in any process aimed at re-stabilizing Syria and the region as a whole.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 19.05.2015)

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 91: IN LAST 4 DAYS ANOTHER 27+ VILLAGES RECAPTURED AND 80 ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS KILLED ACROSS 2 CANTONS

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

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

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

On Friday, combined YPG/FSA forces on the eastern front of Kobane Canton launched an operation which regained the Guris Cement Plant and no less than 10 more villages.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Jubilant Kurdish Fighters Infront of Recaptured Cement Plant

The villages liberated include Edîfê, Diçkiram, Şerebanî, Korpiling, Bîrxas, Bîrnasir, Gocekmêt, east and west Sefêriyê and east and west Yedûkî. The village of Sulûxke was also freed from Islamic State control, as well as 3 strategic hills in the area.

Initial reports said that 17 x IS Jihadists had been killed and large amounts of equipment gained. As well as binoculars, night vision equipment, 4 radios and 2 vehicles, the Kurdish led force also recovered 14 AK-47s, RPG rockets and launchers, mortar rounds and thousands of bullets.

Advancing further on Saturday, 4 more villages were also freed; Sheshê, Girikê Hemêr, Korik and north Bîrnasir and another 13 x IS Jihadist reported killed.

2 x IS military vehicles and a motorbike were seized this time, along with more rockets and launchers, hand-made mines, hand grenades and more AK-47s plus stocks of ammunition.

EDITOR: I have often reported on this page on YPG blowing up IS suicide vehicle bombs before impact. This is how it is done with concentrated fire until they get a result, here:

https://youtu.be/Sg8WiTwSTfQ

To give you some idea of the booty recently recovered from the Islamic State, take a look at this, at least 500 mortar shells, HERE:

Joint operations by the YPG/YPJ and the FSA on the eastern front in Kobane Canton can be viewed, HERE: and more with co-ordinated Coalition airstrikes on IS positions, HERE:

In Cizire, the Kurds eastern Canton, they launched a major operation in memory of Rubar Qamishlo, one of their experienced commanders who was killed recently in fighting near Tel Tamer.

By Sunday night, yesterday, they had seized the villages of Um El Mesamîr Ereb, Um El Mesamîr Rojava, Heci Qedrî, Hiwêce, Tel Hemam and El Mesamîra, all within 10 kilometres of Tel Tamer, and hemming in an Islamic State force.

23 x IS Jihadists were killed in this operation and many more wounded. In another operation near Tel Hemam village a further 3 x IS Jihadists were killed and 2 of them captured alive, with an IS tank and 3 x IS military vehicles destroyed.

16 kilometres north-west of Hasakah city on Saturday at Tel Hirmiz, a major battle with IS resulted in another 20 of their fighters killed.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

YPJ Fighters on the Frontline

Once again this follows a successful operations in Cizire on Friday night through to Saturday morning retaking Gozeliyê and Şiwêş, with 4 x IS Jihadists killed, and another on Saturday night capturing Lîlan, Emriya, Rêhaniyê Rojava and Abu Heyya Remo Farmlands (12 kilometres to the west of Tel Tamer) as well as Til Fîtêtat and Hûda villages, killing a further 6 x IS fighters

Total number of YPG/YPJ fighters killed across Cizire in all these engagements reported as 5.

EDITOR: This brings, by my reckoning, the number of villages recaptured in the last 4 days to 27+ and around 80 x IS fighters killed across the 2 Cantons.

DETAILS EMERGE OF US SPECIAL FORCES ATTACK IN SYRIA, AND ASSAD REGIME’S ELECTRICITY/GAS SUPPLIES UNDER THREAT:

In Idlib province, the demolition of Assad’s last defences in the province continues, with a major attack on Mastoumah base still underway and nearby villages falling to the Opposition.

The Al-Nusra Front set off another vehicle bomb near the camp and had quickly taken Mastoumah Hill by Sunday night and the village of the same name just to the north of the military base. You can see the explosion on this video at around 1.20, HERE:

13 of Assad’s troops were reported killed as the Opposition surrounded and took over Mastoumah school, also capturing an ammunition depot in the village.

A recent video of the entrance to Mastoumah camp is, (Arabic only) HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Opposition Destroy Assad Armoured Vehicle Near Kufayr

To the south-west of Matoumah, Opposition fighters captured the village of Muqbalah after Assad’s forces retreated under attack, HERE: and they are now attacking Nahlaya, both just north of Ariha.

Journalist/activist Hadi al-Abdallah watched the fighting over the weekend,HERE: but almost came a cropper himself, bullets whizzing overhead, HERE:

The Assad regime attempted to send reinforcements from Ariha to Mastoumah but it came under Opposition fire and was stopped according to Opposition sources.

Similar sources also reported that a Syrian Army officer, Colonel Asef Suleiman, was executed by the regime in Jorin for refusing to lead a convoy to rescue Masoumah.

A good supply of anti-tank missiles and launchers is clearly helping the Opposition considerably. So far 5 regime tanks have been destroyed in the assault on Mastoumah.

Near Kufayr the Opposition destroyed an armoured vehicle, HERE: and in the same area, a second one, HERE:

Near Al-Fanar just above Ariha, a T55 tank was destroyed, HERE:  and another tank near the Sawmill Barrier not far from Jisr Al-Shughur, HERE:

The Assad regime did not have much luck sending in supplies to its troops still trapped in Jisr Al-Shughur National Hospital either. Five packages containing water, cigarettes and other supplies fell straight into Opposition hands,HERE:

The only way the Assad regime can effectively strike back at the moment is using its air power. 96 people are reported killed across Syria in airstrikes on Saturday alone, including 18 children and 12 women. 56 of the deaths were in Idlib province.

Courtesy of ‏@archicivilians, this is a situation map for the area around Masoumah Syrian Army camp, here:

SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

 

Situation Map of Area Around Mastoumah

In Aleppo, Assad’s Air Force “helpfully” dropped a barrel-bomb on a major depot operated by the Syrian Red Crescent.

In Deir Ez-Zour province more detailed reports have started to emerge of US Special Forces ground attack on a compound at Al-Amr in the Omar Oil field. The compound was formerly home to oil-field workers but is now occupied by Islamic State officials and pro-IS civilians.

In the early hours of last Saturday morning a team from the US Delta Force flew under cover of darkness from Iraq in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

Coalition aircraft passed over over the target compound at around 1.00am without shelling, as they had done for the last 10 days, and the helicopters arrived at around 3.00am.

Fighting broke out immediately and 19 IS fighters, including 12 foreign fighters were killed almost immediately. One of the main targets of the strike, Abu Sayyaf, a Tunisian in charge of managing the Islamic State’s oil revenues and other finances, and who they hoped to capture alive, was also killed in the clashes.

However, his wife Umm Sayyaf, was arrested and brought back to Iraq, along with a freed Yezidi woman who had been used as a slave. Dogs were used by the special forces troops and 2 woman at the compound were reported bitten.

There are around 50 houses in the compound, which includes a swimming pool and tennis courts and approximately 1,000 people live there.

The operation lasted around 20 minutes and all of Delta Force left the area unhindered and with no reports so far of casualties. Coalition aircraft bombed the nearby oil-fields shortly after.

According to local sources, IS were stunned by how the Americans knew exactly in which house to find Abu Sayyaf. Since the raid all the civilians have been removed from the compound and checkpoints set-up around it.

There have been some suggestions that the real target of the operation was Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the chief Islamic State spokesman, as he and Abu Sayyaf were often know to be together.

Syria state media, Sana put out a stupid statement that it’s “commandos” had killed the Islamic State “Oil Minister” but later withdrew the claim.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Regime Troops in Palmyra Fire Artillery at IS

Over in Palmyra in Homs province, the regime also claimed that that it had stopped the IS advance into the city and pushed them out of the northern suburbs, but latest reports suggest that this is little more than a regrouping after as many as 30 regime airstrikes.

Street fighting is reported near the main hospital and at the Bkhitan Barrier and IS has released several hundred inmates from the prison.

A barrage of IS rockets falling on civilian areas in Palmyra today, Monday, is also said to have killed 5 people.

2 of the rockets landed in the garden of the archaeological museum, but did not destroy any antiquities.

The Assad regime is reported to have lost at least 150 men in fighting at Palmyra and nearby gas fields (including Brigadier General Haidar Ali Asaad, the head of the regime’s Palmyra operations and 2 more of Assad’s cousins, Brigadier General Mou’tadh Deeb and Colonel Muhammad Makhlouf) where IS also took over large stocks of ammunition and weapons.

The gas fields which finally fell to IS control late Sunday are north-east of Palmyra at Al-Hail and Arak, 40 and 25 kilometres (25 and 15 miles) respectively from the city and are vital for the Syrian Government’s generation of electricity to supply areas under its control.

In Iraq, a total of 500 men were reported killed on both sides in the battle for Ramadi, which is now almost completely under Islamic State control, the Syrian Army reportedly having fled once again obligingly leaving large amounts of military vehicles and equipment behind.

A force of several thousand Shiite militia has been assembled to try and get Ramadi back and to stop IS marching on Baghdad. IS now controls continuous territory all the way from Aleppo province to the Iraqi capital, though its overall territorial hold is actually shrinking.

Germany Reaffirms Support for the Syrian Coalition

Representative of the Syrian Coalition in Germany, Bassam Abdullah, said that Germany is continuing to support the Syrian Coalition considering it to be the strongest partner in the Syrian opposition. He also stresses that Germany will not accept any role for Bashar al-Assad to play in the future of Syria.

Germany is also seeking to improve its relationship with the Syrian opposition, most notably the Syrian Coalition and the interim government, adding that Germany will increase its support for them in the coming period. Furthermore, Germany recognize the interim government.

Germany calls for the expansion of the Syrian Coalition’s consultations with the UN envoy to Syria, stressing that that the Syrian Coalition should is the most eligible opposition body to express the Syrian opposition’s vision of a political solution in Syria. Germany sees the Syrian Coalition as the strongest political opposition body and is irreplaceable in any political talks on Syria’s future.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 18.05.2015)

Syrian Coalition Welcomes Political Initiatives That Ensure Syria’s Unity

The Syrian Coalition welcomes any initiative aimed at reaching a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian conflict, saving the blood of the Syrians, preserving state institutions and opening the way toward transition to a unified Syria where all components of Syrian society peacefully co-exist and where their rights are ensured.

Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Hisham Marwa stresses that a political initiative must ensure the departure of Assad’s ruling and his clique, recognize the rights of all citizens regardless of differences in background, and develop the concept of citizenship as the basis for the new Syria.

Marwa points out that all components of the Syrian social fabric have made sacrifices during the revolution, adding that they affected by the barbaric oppression of the Assad regime which have always falsely claimed that it is protecting them.

“New Syria can be achieved only through the cooperation of all its sons and daughters to topple the murderous Assad regime and build a civil pluralist democratic state that enjoys constitutional life and the rule of law. A state that redresses the grievances of its people, provides justice to victims, and holds to account perpetrators of crimes and corruption before fair courts and on the basis of personal responsibility. A state that provides equal opportunities for all its citizens based on the standards of efficiency and competence. It seeks to separate powers, establish an independent judiciary, and respects the will of the people in representative institutions that are established through free and fair periodic elections.

“The current phase of the Syrian revolution requires political and national awareness from all political currents and military forces. It also requires a departure from the concept of narrow interests to the concept of the state, which includes all components of the Syrian society, including the Alawite sect and ensure their rights.”

“Furthermore, the current phase also requires courageous re-evaluation of the current situation by the honorable and wise people in the various social components that the Assad regime is taking as hostages and claims to protect them. All components must recognize the inevitability of the downfall of the Assad regime and avoid the disastrous consequences of continuing to support it or keeping silent about its daily crimes,” Marwa added.

“The Syrian Coalition has adopted and ratified The Document of Basic Principles for a Political Settlement in Syria” which is made up of 13 items representing a roadmap of a political solution in Syria based on the of Geneva communiqué and the UN Security Council resolutions. The document was also approved by other opposition blocs, a number of rebel factions and political currents including The National Coordination Commission and Building the Syrian State Movement.”

Marwa pointed out that freedom, justice and dignity are the main objectives of the Syrian revolution for which rebels have paid dearly to consolidate it among all the Syrian people regardless of race, religion or sect.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 16.05.2015)

Syrian War Set To Re-Explode

The Syrian war stalemate appears to be over. The regional powers surrounding Syria – especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan – have re-ignited their war against the Syrian government. After over 200,000 dead and millions of refugees, the U.S. allies in the region recently recommitted to deepening the war, with incalculable consequences.

The new war pact was made between Obama’s regional darlings, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who agreed to step up deeper military cooperation and establish a joint command in the occupied Syrian region of Idlib.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are now openly backing Islamic extremists under the newly rebranded “Conquest Army.” The on-the-ground leadership of this “new” coalition consists of Jabhat al-Nusra – the “official” al-Qaeda affiliate – and Ahrar al-Sham, whose leader previously stated that his group was the “real al-Qaeda.”

The Huffington Post reports:

“The Turkish-Saudi agreement has led to a new joint command center in the northeastern Syrian province of Idlib. There, a coalition of groups – including Nusra and other Islamist brigades such as Ahrar al-Sham that Washington views as extremist – are progressively eroding Assad’s front. The rebel coalition also includes more moderate elements of the Free Syrian Army that have received U.S. support in the past.”

The article admits that the Free Syrian Army – that Obama previously labeled as “moderates” and gave cash and guns to – has been swallowed up by the extremist groups.

This dynamic has the potential to re-engulf the region in violence; deep Saudi pocketbooks combined with reports of looming Turkish ground forces are a catastrophe in the making.

Interestingly, the Saudi-Turkish alliance barely raised eyebrows in the U.S. media. President Obama didn’t think to comment on the subject, let alone condemn it.

The media was focused on an odd narrative of Obama reportedly being “concerned” about the alliance, but “disengaged” from what two of his close allies were doing in a region that the U.S. has micromanaged for decades.

It seems especially odd for the media to accept that Obama has a “hands off” approach in Syria when at the same time the media is reporting about a new U.S. program training Syrian rebels in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

It’s inconceivable that Obama would coordinate deeply with Turkey to set up a Syrian rebel training camp on Turkish soil, while at the same time be “disengaged” from the Turkish-Saudi war coalition in Syria.

One possible motive behind the fake narrative of “noncooperation” between Obama and his Turkish-Saudi allies is that the U.S. is supposed to be fighting a “war on terrorism.”

So when Turkey and Saudi Arabia announce that they’re closely coordinating with terrorists in Syria – like al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham – Obama needs an alibi to avoid being caught at the crime scene. He’s not an accomplice, simply “disengaged.”

This is likely the reason why Obama has insisted that his new “moderate” rebels being trained in Turkey will fight ISIS, not the Syrian government. But this claim too is ridiculous.

Is Obama really going to throw a couple hundred newly-trained “moderate” Syrian rebels at ISIS while his Turkish-Saudi allies focus all their fire on the Syrian Government? The question answers itself.

The media has made mention of this obvious conundrum, but never bothers to follow up, leaving Obama’s lame narrative unchallenged. For example, the LA Times reports:

“The White House wants the [U.S. trained rebel] proxy force to target Islamic State militants, while many of the Syrian rebels – and the four host nations [where Syrian rebels are being trained] – want to focus on ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad.”

The article simply shrugs its shoulders at the irreconcilable. The article also fails to mention that Obama’s “new” training camps aren’t new at all; he’s been arming and training Syrian rebels since at least 2012, the only difference being that the “new” training camps are supposedly meant to target ISIS, compared to the training camps that were openly used to target the Syrian government.

Here’s the LA Times in 2013:

“The covert U.S. training [of Syrian rebels] at bases in Jordan and Turkey began months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.”

This is media amnesia at its worse. Recent events can’t be understood if the media doesn’t place events in context. In practice this “forgetfulness” provides political cover to the Obama administration, shielding his longstanding direct role in the Syrian war, allowing him to pretend to a “passive,” “hands off” approach.

When it was reported in 2012 that the Obama administration was funneling weapons to the Syrian rebels, the few media outlets that mentioned the story didn’t bother to do any follow up. It simply fell into the media memory hole. After the weapons funneling report came out, Obama incredulously stated that he was only supplying “non lethal” support to the rebels, and the media printed his words unchallenged.

Consequently, there was no public discussion about the consequences of the U.S. partaking in a multi-nation proxy war against Syria, a country that borders war ravaged Iraq.

In 2013 when Obama announced that he would be bombing the Syrian government in response to a supposed gas attack, the U.S. media asked for no evidence of the allegation, and strove to buttress Obama’s argument for aggression.

And when Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh wrote an article exposing Obama’s liesover the aborted bombing mission, the article didn’t see the light of day in the U.S. media. Critically thoughtful voices were not welcome. They remain unwelcome.

In 2015 direct U.S. military intervention in Syria remains a real possibility. All the conditions that led to Obama’s decision to bomb Syria in 2013 remain in place.

In fact, a U.S. intervention is even more likely now that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are fighting openly against the Syrian government, since the Saudi-Turkish alliance might find itself in a key battle that demands the special assistance that only the U.S. Air Force can offer.

Unsurprisingly, there has been renewed discussion of a U.S. enforced “no fly zone” in Syria. ISIS doesn’t have an air force, so a no fly zone would be undeniably aimed at the Syrian government to destroy its air force. The new debate over a “no fly zone” is happening at the same time as a barrage of new allegations of “chemical weapons” use are being made against the Syrian government.

If a no fly zone is eventually declared by the Obama Administration it will be promoted as a “humanitarian intervention, that strives to create a “humanitarian corridor” to “protect civilians” – the same rhetoric that was used for a massive U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign in Libya that destroyed the country and continues to create a massive refugee crisis.

As the Syrian war creates fresh atrocities the Obama administration will be pressured to openly support his Saudi-Turkish allies, just as he came out into the open in 2013 when he nearly bombed the Syrian government.

History is repeating itself. But this time the stakes are higher: the region has already been destabilized with the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and the regional conflicts have sharpened between U.S. allies on one hand, and Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Russia on the other.

Such a volatile dynamic demands a media willing to explain the significance of these events. The truth is that Obama has been a proxy war president that has torn apart the Middle East as badly as his predecessor did, and if the U.S. public remains uninformed about developing events, an even larger regional war is inevitable.

(Source / 16.05.2015)

ISIL advances on Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra

Governor of Homs province, where city is located, says army has sent reinforcements and is bombing fighters from air.

According to satellite imagery, 290 of Syria’s cultural heritage sites have been damaged by the ongoing war

Fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have advanced on Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, one of the Middle East’s most famous UNESCO heritage sites, with fierce clashes taking place close to the city’s historic citadel.

Photos circulating on social media sites on Saturday appeared to show intense clashes near the 13th century citadel of Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma’ani as ISIL fighters engaged the Syrian military.

Talal Barazi, the governor of central Homs province, where the city is located, said on Friday that the “army has sent reinforcements and it is bombing the [ISIL] positions from the air”.

Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old desert oasis, is believed to be home to some 100,000 people, including displaced Syrians who fled there after their home towns were engulfed in violence.

The city is also home to the notorious Tadmor prison, where extensive human rights abuses, torture and summary executions have taken place.

Irina Bokova, the head of the UN’s cultural body UNESCO, called on Syrian troops and ISIL to spare the city, saying it “represents an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people and the world”.

“Palmyra must be saved,” Bokova said at a two-day conference in Cairo on protecting the region’s archaeological sites.

Bokova said it was important to work “against extremism, against this strategy of eradicating … our collective memory.”

Nicknamed “the pearl of the desert”, UNESCO has described Palmyra a heritage site of “outstanding universal value”.

The historical city stood on a caravan route at the crossroads of several civilisations, and its first and second century temples and colonnaded streets house a series of old and beautifully decorated tombs.

However the ancient city, which has previously been a frontline in the four-year-long Syrian conflict, has already been deeply affected by the conflict.

One of its masterpieces, the Temple of Baal, was damaged by artillery exchanges prompting UNESCO to include it in a list of World Heritage sites in danger.

ISIL, which controls large swaths of territory, has ransacked and demolished several ancient sites, including Muslim shrines, in order to eliminate what it views as heresy, whilst selling artefacts on the black market in order to finance its campaign.

At least 73 soldiers, in addition to 26 civilians, have been killed since the group began its offensive on Tuesday.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which monitors the conflict through a network of local activists, said the families of government officials were among those killed in the village of Amiriyeh, just north of Palmyra.

The Syrian conflict, which began as a peaceful uprising against Assad’s rule more than three years ago, has become a bloody and protracted sectarian war killing more than 200,000 people.

 Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old desert oasis, is believed to be home to some 100,000 people

(Source / 16.05.2015)

Maleh Meets With de Mistura in Geneva

The Syrian Coalition’s envoy to bilateral consultations currently being held in Geneva Haitham al-Maleh met with the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura on Thursday. Maleh handed in a letter from the Syrian Coalition to the UN envoy along with the “Document of Basic Principles for a Political Settlement in Syria” as wells as a memorandum of understanding signed with the Kurdish National Council.

During the meeting Maleh reaffirmed the Syrian Coalition’s commitment to a political solution based on the Geneva communique, stressing that Iran is by no means a neutral party in any political process. “Iran is part of the problem and a partner of the Assad regime’s daily massacres in Syria, let alone it has not yet announced its endorsement of the Geneva communique.

De Mistura expressed his understanding of the Syrian Coalition’s role in trying to reach a political solution, and informed Maleh of his acceptance of the Syrian Coalition’s invitation to a meeting in Istanbul as soon as possible.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 15.05.2015)

Syrian Coalition Welcomes de Mistura’s Remarks About Meeting Maleh

Vice-President of the Syrian Coalition Hisham Marwa welcomes the remarks made by the UN envoy to Syria Stefan de Mistura who said he is looking forward to meeting head of the Syrian Coalition’s Legal Committee Haitham al-Maleh.  Maleh will hand de Mistura a letter from the Syrian Coalition.

Marwa stresses that the Syrian Coalition is keen to continue consultations with the United Nations to conduct serious discussions that include mechanism for the enforcement of the Geneva communique and roadmap for a political settlement. Marwa points out that the Syrian Coalition and the interim government are in the process of developing a detailed vision on how to address the post-Assad and the power vacuum that might ensue through the provision of security and essential services to the population and mechanisms to counter terrorism.

Marwa’s remarks come ahead of Maleh’s meeting with de Mistura later today in Geneva. Maleh was delegated by the Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly to submit a letter containing documents clarifying the Syrian Coalition’s position on political solution based on the Geneva communique issued on June 30, 2012. The letter also contains an invitation to de Mistura to a meeting with an expanded delegation from the Syrian Coalition next month.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 14.05.2015)

Yarmouk interview: I have enough Nakbas to deal with

A Palestinian refugee from the Yarmouk camp in Syria is still clinging to his right of return despite acknowledging the absence of a unified identity and representation

A man walks in a street inside the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus on 6 April 2015

Abdullah Khatib is a young activist and refugee living in Yarmouk, which used to be the largest refugee camp for Palestinians in Syria. The camp used to be home to 160,000 Palestinians in addition to Syrians, but has been reduced to a shadow of itself since the Syrian government began shelling it in December 2012. A crippling siege has claimed the lives of almost 300 people in the camp that died from starvation and thea lack of medical care.

Tens of thousands have fled Yarmouk, leaving an estimated 18,000 people in the camp. Last month, the Islamic State group  (IS) entered the camp, which lies in southern Damascus, and fierce gun battles between different opposition armed groups and Palestinian allied government forces ensued. The Syrian army also continued to shell the camp from above, a primary source of mass carnage and devastation. 

Most of the Palestinians in Yarmouk are refugees and descendants of refugees who originally came from the northern Haifa and Acre districts. They were forcibly displaced in mass droves in 1948 in what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.

As the 67th Nakba Day anniversary approaches, Middle East Eye spoke with Abdullah about Yarmouk and what the right of return means to him.

What village are you from?

I am from the village of Balad al-Shaykh in the Haifa district.

What does the right of return mean to you? Do you want to return to your origins or would you prefer to stay in Yarmouk?

Dreams are usually about the future, but for me, like other Palestinians, I dream of the past and of returning to a country I have never seen before, to Palestine. I know the country through the tales of my grandfather and the stories of the elderly in the camp, and I read about it in Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry and the stories of Emile Habibi [Palestinian writer]. It’s true that the camp is closer to me than Palestine, but I dream of returning to Palestine not for the sake of longing but for the desire to achieve victory over defeat.

Today there is no longer a refugee camp for me to live in anymore. I will look for another place where I can live, however I want. I don’t know where that place is, but I will find it until the right moment comes to realise the right of return, even if it is presented to me as an individual choice.

What does Yarmouk mean to you? Is it just a camp, a temporary stop for refugees, or has it become like another homeland?

[Mahmoud] Darwish once wrote: loyalty to birth wherever it is found.

I was born in the camp and naturally I belong to it, regardless of its symbolic status among the Palestinian refugees and how everyone considers the refugee camp to be the capital for the Palestinian Diaspora.

The camp is the place that brings together all of the contradictions inside of it. The rich and the poor. The educated and the illiterate. The Islamists and the leftists. The patriots and the nationalists. The Palestinians and the Syrians.

According to the residents of the camp, Yarmouk is like an independent republic. We view it as a miniature Palestine. We have streets named after cities and towns. Haifa street, Jerusalem street, Loubiya street, Saffuriya road, The Sarafand neighbourhood. I haven’t come across the same sense of belonging to Palestine by Palestinians in Yarmouk anywhere else.

Has the Nakba become just another day in the calendar? That is, has it become stripped from its meaning in light of the lack of concrete action to end the plight of refugees?

The answer may differ from camp to camp. What I know is that in 2011, on the day of the Nakba, thousands of Palestinians from Yarmouk stormed the Syrian-Israeli border to reach Palestine. I believe this illustrates clearly what the Nakba means to us in Yarmouk.

In your opinion, who is the real representative of Palestinians?

The Palestinian people are like orphans because they have no representative. There is no point in discussing this through the lens of romanticism. We must talk about the Palestinians who are dying all over the world in silence; on death [migrant] boats; in Syria; in the refugee camps in Lebanon; in prisons; in any place where Palestinians are. There is no one to represent them or demand their rights for them. The refugees are the weakest link and the most affected from the lack of a true and Palestinian representative.

Are you in touch with Palestinians inside Palestine? Do you believe that Palestinians – despite the diaspora and the political differences and geographic fragmentation – are truly one people?

I have friends in Gaza and in villages in the West Bank and in the ’48 territories [modern day Israel]. Some of them I met in person through conferences and summits and others I only know through social media.

We are not one people in the literal sense of the word. What unites us is “Palestine” and what divides us is the thousands of kilometres between us and the many undeveloped political projects and the different political affiliations.

The Palestinian in Syria feels more affiliation for Syria than Palestine. It’s the same case for Palestinian refugees in Jordan. We need to reconstruct the collective Palestinian identity.

What is your opinion regarding the reaction of Palestinians within the country to the events in Syria in general, and on the siege, killing and displacement of residents in Yarmouk in particular?

I think that there is a massive lack of awareness on understanding the nature of the current events in Syria, such as whether it is a civil war or a revolution. I have explained at length to my friends in Palestine on what is happening inside Yarmouk camp. Their reaction is not fitting for the ongoing events. It is disappointing, but I don’t blame them. Most of the activists in Yarmouk camp hold the Palestinians within Palestine to a responsibility beyond their capacity. They ask them to mobilise in support of the residents of the camp.

[But] whoever is following the Palestinian scene closely would realise that the magnitude of the political, economic and social problems in Palestine prevents a significant mobilisation to support Yarmouk camp.

Personally, will you commemorate the Nakba this year?

On a personal level I have enough Nakbas to deal with. There is the first Nakba, [the ongoing bombardment] of the camp, and the second Nakba of the camp, when the Islamic State entered it. There’s the Nakba of losing friends one after the other, the Nakba of the siege on the camp, the Nakba of the perpetual hunger, and the Nakba of nostalgia.

The most important thing for me is to feel that the life of a Palestinian is a constant Nakba since 1948 in the sense that we must commemorate the anniversary on a daily basis until we obtain our legitimate rights in Palestine.

(Source / 13.05.2015)

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 89: VILLAGE AFTER VILLAGE FALLS TO KURDISH FORCES AS THEY CLEAR THE ROAD TOWARDS HASAKAH

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

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

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Most of the major action so far this week in Rojava has been in the Kurds eastern Syria Canton of Cizire.

Syria and IRAQ NEWS

 

YPJ Female Fighters Lead the Advance in Cizire Canton

On Monday, the Islamic State (IS) counter-attacked at Alya after the Kurdish forces took control of the M4 highway in that area over the weekend (scroll down – see below), but they failed to make any progress.

The attack lasted for hours with an unverified number of IS Jihadists killed or wounded.

On Sunday evening the YPG/YPJ launched another attack to gain the IS-held village of Salihiye, which IS tried to stop with a suicide vehicle bomb.

The bomb was detonated before impact and after several hours of heavy fighting the village was liberated.

As previously reported more than 30 x IS Jihadists were killed in operations in this area and lots of useful equipment recovered.

14 kilometres west of Hasakah, the YPG/YPJ also freed the villages of Tel Teyr, Bueda, Upper Ezam and later on Monday, Mişêrfa and Aşra on the same front.

14 x IS Jihadists were killed in Mişêrfa and more deaths are expected as mopping-up operations continue in the area.

Weapons seized include a 23.5 mm heavy machine gun, 7 AK-47, 1 RPG rocket launcher and 13 rockets, plus 4 x IS vehicles, 2 of them armed, being destroyed.

On Monday evening another operation targeted and captured the villages of Xanat and Emero, just 9 kilometers west of Hasakah. The YPG at Emero came under counter-attack with battles lasting to 2.00am in the morning. Yet more weapons and ammunition were taken, as well as number of IS fighters killed.

Around the Alya area, Kurdish fighters went on to liberate Lîfaf and 4 small inhabited parts of Ehmedê Kino, Mala Ehmet Xelef, Mala Ebû Xelef and Mala Naîf Xelîl.

Nearby, the YPG also attacked IS positions at the village of Şêx Recûm (EDITOR: No comment! I have checked the spelling!), destroying an Islamic State vehicle with all its occupants.

Hîlal village in the same area was liberated on Tuesday and fighting continues to free Hewşa Nasir, where the YPG have already destroyed an IS tank.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Spring Near Kobane – A Poppy For Every Drop of Blood, Perhaps?

Estimates of IS Jihadists killed in this week’s operations total around 46, with another 25 thought to have been killed by Coalition airstrikes.

US Central Command reports 5 airstrikes in Syria on Monday through to Tuesday am. In Kobane Canton the Coalition destroyed an IS fighting position, near Raqqah they hit an IS tactical unit and near Hasakah they destroyed 6 Fighting positions, 2 x IS vehicles and an IS tank, plus hitting 2 more tactical units.

On the eastern front in Kobane Canton, the Kurds seized more equipment on Sunday, including 24 Ak-47s, a RPG rocket launcher with 5 rockets and 4 hand grenades.

Joined by the FSA brigade, Thwar al-Raqqa, on Monday, the combined force liberated Kartel village on the eastern front, as well as a nearby strategic hill.

On the south-eastern front near Qilhaydê, 5 more IS Jihadists on Sunday were found dead and 4 AK-47s acquired along with substantial amounts of ammunition.

The death of just 1 YPG fighter is reported in the most recent operations.

Interesting interview, made back in October, with a YPJ female fighter, HERE:

And a song dedicated to the YPJ fighters (“Your hair is the ray of the sun of the night, You are a willow and the bird knows the willow dies standing…”), here:

https://youtu.be/HxHcvPMQGCI

Back in Kobane city itself, another small advance with the Kurdish Red Crescent re-opening its Center there, yesterday.

From Iraq today, Wednesday, come reports that the number 2 in the IS chain of command, Abu Alaa al-Afari, has been killed in a Coalition airstrike on Tal Afar. Also hit were a number of other IS leaders, including a senior IS judge, after intelligence information reported a gathering of Islamic State leaders at the Martyrs’ Mosque in Tal Afar’s Al-Ayadiya district.

Al-Afari had a $7 million bounty on his head for information leading to his capture. He was believed to have taken over day to day running of the Islamic State after Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the IS leader, was seriously hurt in a Coalition airstrike on a convoy travelling from Syria to Iraq late last year.

WELL EQUIPPED OPPOSITION FORCES SLOWLY DRIVING ASSAD’S ARMY COMPLETELY OUT OF IDLIB PROVINCE AND IS ATTACKING THEM IN THE DESERT:

The rout of Assad’s Army in Idlib province continues apace, with the Opposition now concentrating their attack on Ariha and Mastoumah base to the north.

Yesterday, the combined Opposition fighters took Musabeen (Musbin) and a number of high level checkpoints which overlook Ariha, thereby making it an easy target. This unfortunate Syrian Army soldier must have been sleeping on the job to get caught by the advancing Opposition fighters, ( caution, dead body) HERE:

This is the view from the Al-Jamayat checkpoint above Ariha, (Arabic only), HERE:

Al-Fanar Checkpoint Hit with Tunnel Bomb in Idlib Province

 

Al-Fanar Checkpoint Hit with Tunnel Bomb in Idlib Province

A similar high level checkpoint at Al-Fanar was captured after the Opposition detonated a tunnel bomb, HERE:

Orient News, who are following Opposition progress closely in the field, say that the 700 metre tunnel took 150 men 11 months dig and the subsequent bomb contained 55,000 pounds of explosive.

After the bomb went off the Opposition fighters stormed the Fanar checkpoint,HERE:

The Al-Nusra Front also exploded a suicide bomb in the Tel Mastoumah area and are bombarding the Mastoumah camp and village.

If Ariha falls, Mastoumah will be cut off from the south and Assad’s routes from Damascus and Lattakia to Idlib and Aleppo will be totally compromised.

Near Jisr Al-Shughur the Opposition took back Tel Sheikh Khatab which overlooks the M4 highway and which they had lost earlier to Assad’s forces.

A defector from the remains of Assad’s Idlib Army is reportedly saying that there are as many as 400 Government troops trapped inside the National Hospital building.

The Opposition have strengthened their positions around the National Hospital and other Government sources have apparently said that Assad has expended the lives of 400 of his troops trying to get there to mount a rescue, so far without success. No less than 188 pro-Assad fighters are reported killed in the last 24 hours alone.

Not far from Jisr Al-Shughur at Kufayr, the Assad commander of the regime’s southern front in Idlib was reported killed in an Opposition assault on the village and an ambush there had Government forces running in all directions,HERE:

Out on the Ghab Plain, Opposition fighters continue to have similar success, destroying a SUV with a mounted anti-aircraft gun, HERE:  and a 122 mm howitzer with anti-tank missiles.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Is The Assad Regime Falling to Pieces?

Using his air power, Assad as usual is retaliating with rockets and barrel-bombs, not only trying to hit the Opposition fighters near Ariha but killing 55 people near the Al-Hajj roundabout in Aleppo, with Assad’s military firing artillery shells on the rescuers.

Another 40 civilians were reported killed in a barrel-bomb attack today, Wednesday, on a market in at Al-Eis, south-west of Aleppo city.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Assad has now conducted 12,560 airstrikes so far in 2015, dropped 6,686 barrel-bombs, killed 1,820 civilians, including 428 children, and possibly injured as many as 15,000.

The Guardian reports that Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), made up of investigators and legal experts who formerly worked on war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda on behalf of the international criminal court (ICC), have now smuggled out of Syria sufficient documents to make a prosecution case against Assad and his higher ranking cronies. (EDITOR: Hopefully the day of prosecution will come soon!)

A dangerous business, the work was carried out by 50 Syrian investigators, one of whom has been killed, one severely injured and several imprisoned and tortured by Assad’s security services. You can read more HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

This Boy Just About Surviving in Douma, Kilometres from Assad’s Palace

Somehow this young boy just about survived the Assad siege of the Damascus suburb of Douma, HERE:

To counter the reports that Assad’s Intelligence chief, Al Mamlouk, was under house arrest (scroll down – see earlier report), the Syrian Government wheeled him out to sit next to President Assad in a meeting (ironically) with Alaedin Boroujerdi, the head of security and foreign affairs in the Iranian Parliament.

Probably a complete set-up and Mamlouk is already back in custody.

Firstly, Mamlouk, as head of Intelligence would not normally be photographed in public at all and the apparent reason for his disaffection with the President is the all-encompassing control of Syria by Iran (EDITOR: Nice touch that, Bashar – but you are not fooling anyone!)

The Assad regime is also in trouble out in the eastern desert north-east of Damascus where the Islamic State are reported to have captured 30% of Palmyra today and the T-3 oil pumping station, but they are having some success, for the moment at least, in the Qalamoun region where Hezbollah have captured several mountain tops from Opposition forces. Another complication is that Opposition fighters in the Qalamoun area have simultaneously declared war on the Islamic State who have been attacking their positions.

BBC Syria news has an overview of the current situation.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Hope, Joy and Laughter – “I Can Walk Again!”