By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS
In the eastern part of Hasakah province, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), the new alliance of Kurdish YPG and Arabic forces, has made good advances against the Islamic State, seizing a gas extraction station and a 6 villages near Al-Hawl yesterday, Tuesday.
SDF in the Hasakah Countryside Prior to the Battles Against IS
Backed by Coalition airstrikes, the SDF has liberated the villages of Hilul, Rabiaa, Al-Eli, Beit Hussein, Safiyah and Horrem and reports say at least 13 x IS Jihadists were killed in the fighting with many more injured.
In fact other reports say that the hospitals at both IS-held Al-Hawl and Shaddadi are crammed with injured IS fighters.
IS are doing everything to try and keep control of Al-Hawl, sending out 5 vehicle bombs on Monday alone.
One car bomb killed 3 SDF fighters and another 2 were killed in other battles in the area.
Latest information says that the SDF are in control of the Hasakah – Al-Hawl road and of the Syria/Iraq border east of Al-Hawl.
Other reports say that SDF have also taken over a 2nd gas extraction station and a strategic hill overlooking the nearby Lake Khatoneh east of Al-Hawl.
North of Al-Hawl, the SDF seized a store containing 500 x IS mines and found the bodies of 6 x IS Jihadists along with their weapons.
More recent unconfirmed reports say that the SDF have now liberated the villages of Xizela and Wensa as well.
On Monday at least 8 x IS Jihadists were killed in fighting but IS managed to detonate a suicide bomb near a SDF convoy of nearly 70 vehicles full of fighters moving into the combat zone south of Tel Brak. The car bomb was loaded with an estimated 20 tons of explosive and a number of vehicles were destroyed.
In an attempt to confuse Coalition aircraft, IS set fire to a small oil well east of Al-Hawl producing clouds of black smoke. However, this was ineffective.
After seeming to withdraw from major operations over Syria until an agreement to avoid collisions with Russian aircraft was in place, the Coalition has this week returned to action, making 10 airstrikes in Syria on Monday and 7 on Tuesday.
On Monday there was one Coalition strike near Al-Hawl which destroyed one of the IS vehicle bombs and 2 strikes near Hasakah destroying 5 x IS fighting positions, an IS rocket, 2 x IS vehicles and wounding an IS fighter, as well as hitting 2 x IS tactical units.
Near Raqqah, 1 strike hit another IS tactical unit, destroyed an IS vehicle and wounded 3 x IS fighters. There were also 3 other strikes further south in Aleppo province at Mar’a.
On Tuesday, 3 airstrikes near Hasakah hit 3 separate tactical units and destroyed 6 x IS fighting positions. The other strikes were at Mar’a again and at Deir Ez-Zour where 2 strikes hit an IS oil pump and destroyed 2 x IS front-end loaders, 3 x IS cranes and an IS pump truck.
Kurdish Fighter Behind Barricade on the Banks of the Euphrates Opposite IS
Reports from Russia say that live tests have been run between US and Russian pilots flying over Syria and safety protocols are now working. Al Jazeera has more information.
The Russians have also said they are receiving co-ordinates from the “Syrian Opposition” for attacking IS targets, but have not said from whom.
The general consensus is that this is most likely to be from the Kurdish YPG who are well practised in providing this information accurately to the Coalition.
Their were reports of 2 dozen airstrikes on the Syrian IS “capital” of Raqqah yesterday, Tuesday, at least 10 of them from Russian aircraft, leaving many 14 x Jihadists dead and 10 injured.
8 civilians were also reported killed and inevitably there will be many more civilian deaths until Raqqah is abandoned.
Reports late in the afternoon, today, Wednesday, say that the National Hospital in Raqqah has now been closed after being bombed by Russian aircraft.
Interesting article in the New York Times which claims that the SDF exists in name only, though recent reports from ground suggest otherwise.
However, it may just be a device created by the US to allow the main and most effective fighting force, the Kurdish YPG, to operate on nominal Arab territory without the usual cries of dissent. If if drives out the Islamic State, who cares who is the driving force behind it?
Lastly form northern Syria, there is an unconfirmed report from Kobane that a number of Asayish (Kurdish Security Police) have resigned because of “corruption issues” in the city. More information awaited.
Meanwhile, over in Iraq, the Islamic State are reported to have sent reinforcements to Sinjar in response to a renewed campaign by the Kurdish Peshmerga to retake both the city and the Sinjar region. The Coalition have made 9 airstrikes on IS positions in Sinjar in the last 2 days.
OPPOSITION RETAKE MOREK IN HAMA PROVINCE AFTER FAILED REGIME CAMPAIGN, BUT ASSAD’S FORCES REOPEN HAMA-ALEPPO HIGHWAY:
In Hama province, the Opposition continue to gain ground after the failed Assad regime campaign to “regain territory”.
Yesterday, Tuesday, Opposition fighters re-captured Tell Othman and several barriers nearby on the North Hama Plain, seizing 3 tanks and other supplies, HERE: and HERE:
Going with the momentum, the Opposition are now advancing on Morek and there are unconfirmed reports Wednesday evening that they have taken control of the main “Aboud” barrier just south of the town, an Assad convoy from Aboud has fled south and Opposition units are now inside the Morek suburbs. More news awaited.Breaking: 19.57 GMT Wednesday – Opposition have regained Morek after losing it 12 months ago, and seized lots of weapons and ammunition.
A MIG 21 also came down between Kafr Nabudah and Suqaylabiyah, the Opposition claiming to have shot it out of the sky and the Assad regime media confirming the death of the pilot. (Just in Wednesday night – claims that 2nd Assad jet has been downed near Morek – EDITOR: Have the Manpads arrived?)
Bored Assad Troops Turn to Pinky and the Brain
In the northern part of Damascus province there are reports Wednesday evening that heavy clashes are taking place between the regime and the Islamic State at the entrances to Qarah city.
Unconfirmed information says that the Assad authorities have closed the road from Damascus to Homs as a result – serious if true.
In Damascus itself, the Government and its allies have launched yet another campaign to try and take the Opposition-held suburb of Darraya, hitting it with more than 1,600 barrel-bombs so far this year.
Heavy regime attacks and more bombing and shelling started again yesterday, Tuesday. You can read more,HERE:
The cartoon in the photograph (right) was discovered near Darraya. Soldier Pinky: “What do we do today?” Officer Brain: “What we always do, try to take over Darraya”.
In Latakia, Opposition fighters carried out this deadly attack on a regime convoy with a TOW missile, HERE:
In Aleppo province, south-east of the city, the regime and their allies have made something of a comeback, re-opening the Aleppo – Hama highway between Khanaser and Athriya and taking it away from Islamic State control.
The regime are reported to have killed at least 7 x IS Jihadists and beheaded 4 of them. (EDITOR: Clearly a disciplined army!)
Citizens of Aleppo will be relieved at the lifting of the siege which IS had in place since October 23rd resulting in a surge in the price of fuel, food and other commodities in the regional capital. You can read more, HERE:
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Having Doubts About Fighting in Syria?
However, the regime and particularly their Iranian allies are paying a price.
Yet another senior Iranian officer, this time Colonel Ezzatollah Soleimani who commanded the elite Quds special forces 44th Hazrat Bani Hashem Brigade, has been killed near Aleppo.
This makes at least 20 Iranian officers and men killed in the last month in Syria and an Italian newspaper said on Monday that Iran has lost 60 generals to fighting in Syria since 2011. You can read more , HERE:
Latest reports from Iran suggest they may now withdraw top-ranking officers and send more middle-ranks, plus that some Revolutionary Guards are refusing to serve in Syria at all or applying to retire early to avoid service there. This is unheard of in Iran until now.
After a rising number of men asked to leave the Revolutionary Guards, especially among the younger generation, the military was forced to review its former more lenient policy of allowing members to make other choices.
Members now have to “go to Syria or face court-martial with the possibility of being charged with insubordination and treachery,” a unnamed source says. You can read more, HERE:
In the eastern part of Daraa province, Opposition fighters have attacked a IS enclave in the Lejat district and captured a village, HERE:
Interesting article pointing out that the US is sending F-15Cs to Turkey for the war in Syria, but that these aircraft are designed for air-to-air combat and normally only carry air-to-air missiles, in the use of which the pilots are carefully trained – and IS does not have an air force.
Similarly, the Russians sent a flight of Su-30s to Syria, which again are primarily designed for air-to-air combat. So who are the 2 sides anticipating a fight with? The Daily Beast has more.
Lastly, it was widely anticipated that the UK would shortly send jets to bomb Syria, as it has done in Iraq. However, this is now in doubt. Any such move requires a majority vote of the British parliament and currently such a majority is probably unlikely. Watch this space.
This photograph shows the only Syrian allowed to attend the international “peace talks” on Syria held in Vienna last week – the waiter!
The Only Syrian to Attend Austrian “Peace Talks” – The Waiter!