By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
First snow, then snow-melt, rain and mud and finally heavy cloud have bogged down Assad’s assault on Opposition held positions in the northern parts of Daraa and Quneitra provinces.
According to several sources, the Government force, primarily led by Hezbollah and Iranian Quds special forces troops have suffered heavy losses, losing at least 43 men (some reports say 110), including 12 officers, in the first few days of last week’s new campaign to reclaim lost ground in the south of Syria.
Photo ID of Iranian Officer Killed by Opposition in Daraa Province
There was also a report that 13 Syrian Army soldiers, including a lieutenant, had been executed for “treachery” by the Iranians at the 9th Division base near Sanamayn, after being accused of passing military co-ordinates to the Opposition.
The Opposition in turn claimed to have killed several Iranians, including an officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard identified as Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Abdullahi, displaying his picture and ID online.
Urban fighting continues in Daraa city, HERE: andHERE:
Heavy cloud prevented Assad’s forces receiving air support for 5 days, but improvements in the weather on Sunday meant the bombing and barrel-bomb attacks on Opposition positions restarted throughout the province and also in adjacent Quneitra, where fierce fighting is reported at Mas Hara.
If you can stand the “over the top” music (EDITOR: I recommend turning the sound off!), this is a recently published visual record of the Opposition’s considerable success on the “Southern Front” over the last 12 months, here:
The Syrian Army at the weekend also repositioned troops normally based in Hama province and sent a large armoured column to Aleppo. Reports this morning, Tuesday, say that these troops have succeeded in closing the ring around Opposition territory in eastern Aleppo and blocked their last supply road north to the Turkish border.
However, later reports on Tuesday morning, in a very fluid situation, say Opposition fighters have already retaken the villages of Rityan, Bashkuy and Hardatnin to the north of the city and hit a bus at Ramouseh carrying Assad’s troops with a mortar shell, killing and wounding many of those on board and capturing others.
Other reports say the Opposition have also started another assault on the Alawite enclaves in the Aleppo countryside of Nubul &and Zahra and there are renewed clashes to the south-east of Aleppo city at Azizia.
Aleppo Situation Map for 16.02.15 courtesy of @archicivilians, here:
Situation Map in Aleppo 16.02.15
HIDEOUS ISLAMIC STATE MURDERS 21 EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS AND IMPOSES EVEN HARSHER RULES ON WOMEN:
The hideous Islamic State added yet further to its appalling reputation at the weekend by posting a video of the execution on a beach in Libya of 21 immigrant Egyptian workers of the Christian Coptic faith, as a “signed with blood” warning to the “nation of the cross”.
Tens of thousands of poor Egyptians, many of them Copts which make up 10% of Egypts population, seek work in Libya. Unconfirmed reports say that another 45 have since been taken hostage.
Peshmerga Fighters Paraded in Cages by IS
Egypt’s retribution was swift and fast with a series of F16 air attacks early on Monday morning on Islamic State storage warehouses and training facilities near the pro-Islamist town of Derna on Libya’s coast.
This was followed by a second raid later in the day yesterday.
The attacks were co-ordinated with Libya’s Air Force, whose own planes went on to attack other targets in Sirte and Ben Jawad.
The Libyan authorites later claimed that between 40 and 50 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the air raids.
Sources in Derna said that several civilians had also been killed, including women and children, and vowed vengeance.
Egypt already has an Islamic State problem in the Sinai peninsular and Libya is often a starting point for illegal migrants heading for Europe, raising the prospect of IS infiltration into the EU.
Back in Iraq, the Islamic State paraded 17 Kurdish Peshmerga prisoners through the streets in Hawija in cages similar to that used to burn to death the Jordanian pilot.
There were hopes that these Peshmerga fighters would be exchanged for Islamic State fighters held by the Kurds, but latest reports suggest IS is “not interested” in having their fighters back.
The Poster Urges Women to Wear the Hijab
Information from both Iraq and Syria suggests that IS is imposing even harsher rules on women than before, insisting that they can’t go anywhere without a recognised male guardian, known as a “Mahram”, and that they must wear double-layered veils, loose abayas and gloves.
Universities in IS held territory have been closed because the constant escorting of female students is impractical and the rules, including their imposition on small girls, are rigourously enforced by female religious police known as “Hisbah”.
One Mosul resident said, “I went once with my wife to one of the old souqs to do some shopping, and after a short while I lost her among the crowd. The problem was that all the women were wearing veils and it was hard to know who was my wife.
I was utterly scared to make a mistake and go for the wrong woman. It would be a disaster to fall into Hisbah hands. I could not even use my mobile as the network was down.”
Eventually he called out his wife’s name loudly in the souq until she heard him and they were reunited.
You can read more in the Guardian Syria news.
KOBANE UPDATE 55: KURDS NOW CONTROL 2,000 KILOMETRES OF ALEPPO PROVINCE AND PUSHING TOWARDS TEL ABAYD IN THE EAST:
TIMELINE – 16th FEBRUARY 2015 14.40 GMT:
The Kurdish YPG and YPJ, backed by units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Peshmerga and pushing out from Kobane, now control around 2,000 square kilometres of the northern Aleppo countryside.
Their reach now stretches 30 kilometres to the west of the city, between 34 and 50 kilometres to the south and south-west and around 40 kilometres to the east where the YPG are on the borders of Raqqah province.
Kobane Before and After Islamic State Destruction
By last Friday, YPG fighters had liberated the villages of Toraman and Qelha Kon Eftar south of Kobane and on Saturday they pushed back Islamic State (IS) Jihadists from Qelha Kon Eftar Hill, killing 7 of them, destroying an IS vehicle and capturing AK-47s and ammunition.
Another 9 x IS Jihadists were reported killed in battles to the south-west of Kobane, where the Kurds are pressing the Islamic State for control of the entrance to the Euphrates bridge at Qara Qawazk and are attacking IS positions near the village of Jaadah.
Information from yesterday, Sunday, says that the YPG attacked an IS checkpoint on the M4 highway to the south that connects Aleppo and Hasakah, killing 10 x IS fighters and capturing 1.
To the west of Kobane, higher up the Euphrates, the YPG now hold a number of strategic hills on the outskirts of Al-Shuyukh and have taken the village of Çariqli, Şehid Hogir hill and the ponds near Çariqli village. At least 11 x IS Jihadists were killed in this operation and RPG rockets as well as other ammunition captured.
East of Kobane there is heavy fighting around the villages of Solanê and Dêrfilît and the YPG appear to have some IS fighters cornered around the village of Bexdike, not far from the Turkish border, after capturing a strategic hill nearby. The YPG also seized an IS military vehicle, a heavy machine gun, shells, rocket-launchers and good supplies of ammunition. IS deaths are put at 23.
There are also unconfirmed reports that Coalition jets destroyed an IS convoy of 7 vehicles heading west of Tel Abayd towards Kobane on Sunday. The only report from US Central Command says they struck a “large tactical unit” sometime in the 24 hours prior to 8.00am Monday.
Estimates put IS deaths over the weekend at 35+, including an IS commander originating from Kosovo, with 4 killed on the YPG side. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) now puts the total deaths in the Kobane campaign at 1835 since September 16th 2014, 1271 x IS fighters plus another 49 who detonated themselves in suicide bombing attacks.
SOHR puts Kurdish YPG/YPJ deaths at 502 plus 39 Kurdish civilians and 21 from the FSA backing the YPG.
The Islamic State is clearly worried that its town of Tel Abayd (Gere Sepi in Kurdish), east of Kobane is now under threat and has imposed a curfew from 11.00pm to 6.00am, shooting at anyone who moves outside during those times.
Peshmerga forces have been shelling IS positions in Tel Abayd since last Wednesday and the Turks, anticipating a flood of IS refugees from a town once populated by 80,000 people, have sent in tanks and reinforcements to their side of the border there at Akcakale.
Control of Tel Abayd would enable the Kurds to link up Kobane Canton with Jazira (Kurdish, Cizere) Canton in the east and also give them an “official crossing” at Tel Abayd into Turkey.
The frontier gate at Kobane is not considered to be an “official” one by the Turks and at the moment they only allow small amounts of humanitarian aid through and no building materials to repair the city. The returning Kurds are also faced with deadly booby-traps and bombs in houses and even hidden in kitchen appliances.
3 people were killed on Saturday in the Miktala neighbourhood of south-east Kobane by one such device and, more explosive and de-mining experts are urgently needed.
This is the Kobane Canton Situation map as of yesterday, 15.02.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
Kobane Canton Situation Map 15.02.15