By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS
The combined Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), made up of more than 20 Kurdish (YPG), Arabic and Assyrian Christian units, has now cleared over 1,000 square kilometres south of Hasakah from Islamic State (IS) control.
YPG Spokesman Threatens Turkey
During a 3 week campaign, the SDF (EDITOR: Also known from its Arabic initials as QSD – in case you are confused!) say they were faced with 43 car bombs, 7 or 8 of which were destroyed by close Coalition air support, some destroyed before impact with AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades and some which got through.
The SDF estimate they killed 200 members of IS during the last 3 weeks and another 195 died following Coalition airstrikes.
Only 15 members of IS were captured alive during this 3 week period and their own SDF losses were put at 33 dead.
Following this huge success, there have been several unverified reports that US special forces advisers have arrived in Kobane to train members of the YPG/SDF, however, the Kobane Canton Defence Minister, as of yesterday, Thursday, said that this has not happened.
Also yesterday a joint YPG/YPJ group of mine-clearing specialists started a security operation to clear the rural area between Mount Abdul Aziz near Hasakah and Ain Issa in Kobane Canton of IEDs planted by IS.
Marking the site of IEDs as they go, the unit aims to clear 350 square kilometres of the explosive devices and make it safe for civilians to return to their homes.
However, the Islamic State continues to target the south-western and the south-eastern sections of Kobane Canton with heavy weapons and mortars, hitting the Kobane village of Ain Issa on both Tuesday and Wednesday with mortar shells.
South of Ain Issa, IS cannon fire hit Filihe village on Thursday and simultaneously heavy weapon fire struck the village of Rabha to the east of Ain Issa.
Additionally, firing across the Euphrates from positions near Jarablous, IS, also on Thursday, targeted the Kurdish village of Qereqozax.
After the Turkey/Russia incident on Tuesday, with the shot down Russian bomber, the YPG has also warned Turkey about its aircraft overflying Rojava.
Turkish Military Helicopters Overflying Rojava?
2 unidentified helicopters, but thought to be Turkish, were seen overflying the Alyan area of northern Qamishli on Wednesday and showing interest in the oil-rich town of Rumelan and the petroleum stations at Tel Adas (Gir Ziro)and Gir Ziyaret.
Turkish border guards north of Qamishli have also been observed in a state of mobilisation since Tuesday.
YPG spokesman, Redur Khalil, warned that, “If this irresponsible action (Turkish breach of Syrian Kurdish airspace) were repeated, we will take the necessary procedures to target any violation.”
(EDITOR: A brave/foolish move that would undoubtedly provide an excuse for the Turkish military to attack Rojava in general and the YPG in particular.
There have even been some rumours that the Russians, with whom the YPG has friendly relations, are prepared to supply Manpads, shoulder launched ground to air missiles. That would be a disaster if true!)
At the same time, Saleh Muslim, the co-Chair of the PYD (the YPG’s political arm) said in an interview on Wednesday that Turkey had “no right to intervene” to create a proposed “safe zone” between the Aleppo province towns of Azaz and Jarablous, adding that the “percentage of Kurds in the area was more than 50%”.
However, Muslim would not say if the YPG or SDF were prepared to launch an attack on IS-held Jarablous and move westwards towards the Kurdish Canton of Afrin. The Kurds would like to join up their Cantons across the north of Aleppo province but Turkey is resolutely opposed.
Sporadically, Turkish troops across the frontier continue to shell YPG positions in Rojava, though casualties so far have not been significant.
But in a particular low form of anti-Kurdish feeling, the Turkish authorities are currently preventing the bodies of Turkish citizens who died fighting for the YPG from returning to their families in Turkey.
Aziz Guler, whose family live in Istanbul, was a student at Istanbul Yildiz Technical University, but joined the YPG to fight the Islamic State, dying in the process. His family went to Kobane to collect his body, but were denied entry to Turkey with it, the dead fighter remaining in the Kobane morgue for 59 days.
The family had to go to the European Court and the UN before Turkey granted a “visa” on November 19th for the return of the corpse for burial.
Another 150 – 200 bodies of Turkish Kurds are also thought to have been denied entry, all party of the ruling Turkish party, the AKP’s anti Rojava/Kurdish policies. You can read more in Al-Monitor.
Respectful Burial for Canadian YPG Fighter John Gallagher – But Not Allowed by Turkey for Turkish Kurds
WHILE THE ISLAMIC STATE THREATENS TO ATTACK 60 COUNTRIES, TURKEY AND RUSSIA CONTINUE TO TRADE WORDS:
Meanwhile, the war of words between Russia and Turkey continues, with President Putin demanding an apology from Turkey and President Erdogan saying there is nothing to apologise for.
According to Erdogan he tried to telephone Putin on Tuesday night but his call was not accepted and has not been replied to since. Erdogan has now requested a meeting with Putin in Paris next week on the sidelines of the international climate change conference.
Russia continues in the meantime to draft a wide-ranging list of economic sanctions to apply against Turkey, including a pause in joint investment projects such as a gas pipeline and a nuclear power station that Russia is building for Turkey in the south, as well as restrictions on food imports.
Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also announced the end of visa-free travel arrangements with Turkey from January 1st 2016.
Presidents Putin and Hollande Enjoying each Others Company
Yesterday, Thursday, President Hollande of France was in Moscow and the 2 men agreed to work on joint efforts to attack and destroy the Islamic State, though both still disagreed on the fate of President Assad, with Hollande insisting that the dictator much go, at least after a transition period to another government.
According to Laurent Fabious, the French Foreign Minister who accompanied Hollande to the talks, Putin asked for a map of “forces that are not terrorists and are fighting the Islamic State, committing not to bomb them once we’ve provided that”.
(EDITOR: If he believes that, he’ll believe anything!)
The Islamic State this week made it’s intentions very clear, issuing a video threatening to make similar attacks to the one in Paris in dozens of countries around the world.
Listed were 60 countries in the footage which burbled on about “the flames of war … in the hills of death” and under a banner saying “No Respite” talked of preparing thousands of children to expand its caliphate under the rule of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. An earlier video this week warned of forthcoming attacks on Washington and New York.
The countries which were threatened in the latest offering were: Australia, Bahrain, Albania, Denmark, Belgium, China, Croatia, Austria, Egypt, Czech Republic, Greece, Canada, Estonia, France, Finland, Iraq, Jordan, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Lebanon, Kosovo, South Korea, Kuwait, Israel, Iran, Italy, Japan, Qatar, Luxembourg, Sweden, Russia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Slovakia, Switzerland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Taiwan, U.S., U.K. United Arab Emirates, Spain, Turkey, Oman, Ukraine, Tunisia, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, Portugal, Morocco, Moldova, and Malta.
Turkmen Fighters and Dog in Training in Northern Latakia
Since the downing on the Russian jet in northern Latakia, the territory there held by the anti-Assad Turkmen has been of specific interest to the Russian military with the Russian Air Force blasting a way through for Syrian forces to initially take a strategic hill at Al-Zahiya.
It is very likely that the Turkmen are being supplied with arms and ammunition from Turkey, while at the same time Russia wants to keep these Opposition groups at least 30 kilometres from its bases in Latakia and ideally drive them out of the province altogether.
In north west Aleppo fighting continues between the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and the YPG/YPJ Kurdish forces guarding the Sheikh Maqsoud Kurdish neighbourhood of the city.
In clashes around the Shukef and Kastillo areas 2 armoured ANF vehicles and 2 x ANF fighters were killed.
Meanwhile, south of Aleppo city, the Opposition coalition Jaish AL-Fatah continues to make progress capturing at least 3 villages today, destroying a Government T-72 tank, a BMP armoured vehicle and a pick-up with a mounted 23mm gun. According to some unverified reports they also killed 40 pro-Assad fighters.
In this footage they blow-up the T-72 tank, HERE:
And north of Aleppo city the Opposition are also reported to have taken control of Kashtaar and Mezre villages.
While Russia continues to cause havoc by bombing border crossings into Turkey, at Azaz in the north of Aleppo province, near both the Turkish border and the Kurdish Canton of Afrin, there have been some complicated confrontations between both pro-Kurdish and anti-Kurdish Free Syrian Army (FSA) units and the Al Nusra Front.