By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS
On Wednesday evening a combined YPG/YPJ force again attacked a number of Islamic State positions on the west bank of the Euphrates river.
The targets of the attack were sources of mortar shelling which has been hitting the west side of Kobane Canton for several months now, particularly the village of Qereqosaz, killing and injuring a number of Kurds. At least one IS Jihadist was killed in the YPG operation and 2 more injured.
Kobane Still Strives to Rebuild – 10 Months on
On the eastern side of Rojava south of recently captured Al-Hawl, the YPG dominated Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) has freed 4 more villages in its campaign to clear the whole area from Islamic State (IS) control.
The YPG units rescued trapped civilians from the villages and kept them safe while fighting with IS continued.
In most cases the IS fighters eventually just fled leaving behind weapons and ammunition, HERE:
In a major attack yesterday, Thursday, on Tal Tamar near Hasakah, IS sent 3 vehicle bombs, 2 of them trucks, against Kurdish checkpoints and security stations.
The first hit a YPG checkpoint at the southern entrance to Tal Tamar, followed in quick succession by 2 more explosions, one targeting an Asayish (Kurdish Security) post near a market and another going off outside a hospital killing 4 women and a doctor.
Deaths currently are put at 22, but so many seriously injured that this figure is expected to rise.
More recent reports on Friday are saying between 50 and 50 dead and 80 wounded, but this has not been confirmed. The injured are being rushed to hospitals in both Qamishli and Hasakah. Video report, Kurdish only, from the Asayish, HERE:
There was also an explosion in Tirbê_Sipî yesterday, east of Qamishli.
At the same time, another 25 Assyrian Christians captured in villages near Tal Tamar were released yesterday by the Islamic State, probably after the payment of large bribes to set them free.
All of the hostages released were male, including 2 boys aged 7 and 9. Another 130 Assyrians from the Tal Tamar area are still held in captivity.
West of Rojava in the Kurdish Canton of Afrin near the Turkish border in the north of Aleppo province, heavy battles are taking place between the SDF supported by the YPG and the Al Nusra Front backed by Ahrar Al-Sham.
Fighting continued all day yesterday around the villages of Shawargah and Beyna to the east of Afrin.
The virtual surrounding of Afrin has even provoked comments from President Barzani in Iraq Kurdistan, who called on the international community to come to the YPG’s assistance.
Surviving in Kobane
Ara News links the fighting, which also continues around the Kurdish quarter in Aleppo city, with the recent breakdown of the relationship between Turkey (who generally support Islamist groups) and Russia (who are more likely to support left leaning groups like the YPG).
For the Turks, the formation of the Syrian Democratic Force (supported by the US) is an added irritant. Video report, with English sub-titles,HERE:
In Kobane city, sources say that US, French and British advisers have arrived this week and met with both the YPG and Kobane Canton officials. Whether the object of their discussions is military or reconstruction, or both, is unknown.
Certainly reconstruction is underway, despite both the devastation and Turkey still refusing to allow cement to cross the border. CNN has an excellent video report.
KOBANE CHRISTMAS APPEAL:
An appeal is underway to raise Euros 25,000 to buy a school bus to transport the smallest children to school from around Kobane.
Currently there is only one pre-school in Kobane and many children have to walk an hour each way to attend. A bus would mean that the number of young children attending school would go up from 150 to 500.
This appeal aims to raise the Euros 25,000 in 25 days. Euros 4,348 so far, 17 days to go. Please contribute this Christmas (EDITOR: I have!) to Kobane’s reconstruction, (both USD, Euros and other currencies accepted by credit, debit card via PayPal at genuine site) go HERE:
ASSAD REGAINS ALL OF HOMS, WHILE TURKEY ACCUSES RUSSIA OF “ETHNIC CLEANSING” AND PUTIN BURBLES ABOUT NUCLEAR WARHEADS “AS A LAST RESORT”:
This Wednesday saw the entire city of Homs returned effectively to Government control after a ceasefire negotiated over 2 years came into place under UN supervision.
Aid Workers Evacuate the Injured from Al-Wair in Homs
The Opposition held district of Al-Wair had been under siege by the Assad regime for 3 years, but this week 300 hardline Opposition fighters and their families, 700 people in all, were bussed out of Homs to Opposition-held Idlib province further north.
Under the UN supported deal food and humanitarian aid was allowed into the Homs suburb for the first time in 12 months.
Some moderate Opposition fighters will remain with their weapons and keep control over their own districts.
Assad’s police will be allowed into the suburb but not the army.
Originally 300,000 lived in Al-Wair and 75,000 still remain.
35 Opposition fighters held by the Assad regime in Homs have also been released from detention. The BBC has a video report.
60 Kilometres south-east of Homs city, but still within the province, the Assad regime has not done so well with the Islamic State retaking the Al-Hawrin village and the eastern parts of Maheen town.
At least 20 of Assad’s troops were killed in the fighting and IS seized a Government tank and substantial supplies of weapons and ammunition, including heavy machine guns.
The Assyrian community just to the north of Maheen at Sadad is nervous and has asked the regime for heavy weapons to repel any IS attack.
In the north-west of Aleppo city, in the Khalidiya neighbourhood, Opposition fighters blew up a tunnel bomb, completely demolishing an Assad regime building, HERE:
Fed-up with being constantly barrel-bombed, the Opposition in Aleppo are now fighting back by regularly firing shells and mortars into to the regime-held west Aleppo. Unfortunately, where they land and who they hurt is indiscriminate.
In the last 24 hours 12 people have been killed by the bombardment, including 7 children and 3 women.
The Al Nusra Front also detonated 2 vehicle bombs striking pro-Assad Shiite militia in regime-held Al-Eis just south of Aleppo city where the battle ebbs and flows, both sides gaining and losing territory.
In Deir Ez-Zour the Islamic State is once again reported to have executed 4 of its own Jihadists, 2 for “treason” and 2 for fleeing the battle front. One of those executed was a member of IS Islamic police and another of the Al-Husba committee which is responsible for collecting taxes from shop owners in the city.
The 4 were executed in a public square and their bodies left on the ground until midnight as a clear warning to others.
Russian Submarine Fires Missiles off Syria
Russia this week also launched cruise missiles for the first time from a submerged submarine off the Mediterranean coast of Syria at targets in Syria.
The missiles from the submarine Rostov-on-Don positioned near Cyprus, hit IS positions in Raqqah according to the Russian Ministry of defence, including “a munitions depot, a factory manufacturing mortar rounds and oil facilities”. Israel and the US had been informed prior to the launch.
Burbling at a press conference about the event, President Putin, in a veiled threat to IS, said that the missiles could also be fitted with nuclear warheads “as a last resort”.
Putin has also ordered his military to strike back in an extremely tough way if any of their troops or facilities come under attack in Syria.
Meanwhile the war of words with Turkey continues. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu accused Russia of “ethnic cleansing” by wanting to drive the Turkmen and Sunni groups living in northern Latakia from their homes with airstrikes.
In more burbling, clearly designed to annoy Turkey, Putin also said that Russia was helping “the Free Syrian Army with air support, weapons and ammunition”.
“The work of our aviation group assists in uniting the efforts of government troops and the Free Syrian Army,” Putin told an annual meeting at the defence ministry.
“Now several of its units numbering over 5,000 troops are engaged in offensive actions against terrorists, alongside regular forces, in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa. We support it from the air, as well as the Syrian army, we assist them with weapons, ammunition and provide material support.”
EDITOR: I don’t think Putin knows what he is talking about here and is clearly not in command of the situation in Syria. It’s more likely he is talking about support for pro-Assad militias rather than a group directly opposed to the Syrian Government.
Also, interesting reports that the Assad regime is now training thousands of volunteers to take over checkpoint and protection duties in their own towns and villages once the Syrian Army has recaptured them, so the full-time forces can move on to continue the campaign.
The “Syrian Defence Factions”, as the new force is called, will help replace Assad’s manpower shortage. You can read more, HERE:
EDITOR: Interesting choice of acronym in English, “SDF”, confusing it with new “Syrian Democratic Force” in northern Syria led by the Kurds and backed by the US.
The meeting of Opposition groups in Riyadh, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, (scroll down – see below) agreed to set up a 32 man committee of which 15 would be appointed to meet with Assad representatives in January. However, Assad has already issued a statement today, Friday, saying he will not negotiate with “armed groups” or “terrorists”, only the political opposition.
Ahrar al-Sham however, reportedly pulled out of the agreement because the conference did not give “real weight to the revolutionary factions”. The Al Nusra Front was not represented at the meeting and the Kurds, including the YPG, were not even invited.
Lastly, a heart-warming tale by UNICEF from the Syrian refugee camp in Za’atari in Jordan where 16 year old Mesh’al misses his regularly schooling and instead works hard to raise a little money for his family. He also dreams of one day having his own hair cutting shop, here: