Archive for the ‘Redactie’ Category
Palestinian girls walk past rubble of a heavily damaged building on April 15, 2015 in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya which was destroyed during Israel’s 50-day war
The Palestinian Health Ministry has warned of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip due to Israel’s crippling blockade on the impoverished coastal enclave.
The ministry says a shortage of drugs and medical supplies at hospitals and medical centers has been critically aggravated over Israel’s blockade on the coastal sliver for the past eight years.
According to Ashraf Abu Mahady, the director general of pharmacy in the ministry, Gaza now lacks 118 kinds of medicines and 334 types of medical disposals.
The official urged international bodies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization, to exert pressure on the Israeli regime to lift the blockade and open Gaza crossings.
The Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007. The blockade, which has cut off the territory from the outside world, has led to an economic and humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated enclave.
In March, the UN expressed concern about the economic situation in the Palestinian territory, saying the lifting of the Israeli siege is the “prerequisite” for reviving its economy.
“We, in the UN, have always been in the forefront in calling for an end to the blockade as a prerequisite for a stable, functioning economy in Gaza,” said Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process.
The UN official further noted that the blockaded area suffered destruction during the latest Israeli onslaught in 2014, saying Gaza’s rehabilitation process would “take years.”
Last summer, Israel unleashed a war on the territory, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and left over 11,100 others injured. The 50-day war ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce
(Source / 24.04.2015)
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 81: ISLAMIC STATE SEND SUICIDE MISSIONS ACROSS EUPHRATES IN VAIN ATTEMPT TO DISTRACT YPG/FSA FROM ATTACK ON SARRIN
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
A determined Islamic State this morning, Friday, crossed the Euphrates River and attacked the villages of Tel Ahmer, Zer Kotek and Tel Eber in the south-west of Kobane Canton.
YPJ/YPG Fighters Resting in Kobane
Tel Ahmer lies on a promontory that sticks out into the Euphrates and Zer Kotek is just to the north of Tel Ahmer.
All the villages are around 35 kilometres from Kobane city.
Some reports say that a number of the Asayish (Kurdish security police) have been killed by the attackers in Tel Eber and Zer Kotek and other reports suggested that 10 members of the YPG/FSA combined force had been killed or captured, though this has not been confirmed.
Latest information received Friday lunchtime says that fighting is still ongoing in Tel Eber and Tel Ahmer and 8 YPG/FSA have been killed, though further clarification awaited.
However, what is clear is that this must be a suicidal mission to try and distract the YPG/FSA force from its attack to the south on Sarrin.
Latest information say that Kurdish units have moved swiftly to isolate the IS Jihadists, who have no back-up, and repel their advance.
This is not the first attempt by IS to cross the Euphrates this week. Earlier, the YPG and FSA repelled an IS boat attack near the broken Qara Qwazak bridge which was preceded by Islamic State shelling of the Kurdish positions on the eastern bank of the river, HERE:
Another attempt by the Islamic State to cross the Euphrates by boat also failed after 7 x IS Jihadists were killed and 2 captured.
Fighting around Sarrin continues to be very heavy with the Coalition making repeated attacks on IS positions and also striking IS on the west bank of the Euphrates at Jarablous.
At the Grain Silos just north of Sarrin, up to 50 foreign Jihadist snipers with plentiful ammunition are reported to holding out against combined YPG/FSA attacks. This video, published Wednesday, shows the YPG/FSA moving towards the silos, plus airstrikes and Kurdish attacks on IS positions, here:
Coalition airstrikes yesterday, Thursday, are said to have targeted 10 sites in the centre of Sarrin but IS still seem to be receiving reinforcements and supplies from Manbij both by boat and across the Tishreen Dam.
Earlier in the week there were clashes on Tuesday night around the village of Dikan on the southern Kobane Canton front and 10 x IS Jihadists were killed at the cost of one member of the YPG.
Also on Tuesday night a YPG unit attacked an IS convoy near Sarrin, destroying an IS vehicles and a motorcycle and killing 2 members of the Islamic State.
In the early hours of Wednesday, IS attempted an attack on the liberated village of Mitras but after a series of heavy clashes IS retreated, leaving 3 of their number dead.
More and More Children Return to School in Kobane Canton
On the eastern Kobane Canton Front it has also just been reported that the YPG have captured Agbash, just 25 kilometres west of the IS stronghold of Tel Abayd.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton on Tuesday through to Wednesday morning destroying no less than 14 x IS fighting positions and an IS vehicle, and hitting another 5 x IS tactical units.
During the same time span, the Coalition also destroyed a further 5 x IS fighting positions and an IS vehicle in Hasakah province and hit another tactical unit.
On Wednesday this week through to Thursday, there were 4 Coalition airstrikes in Kobane Canton, destroying 2 x IS fighting positions and hitting 4 more tactical units.
Another 3 x IS fighting positions were destroyed in Hasakah province and one more tactical unit hit.
Back in Kobane city, the Kurdish Peshmerga have announced that they have come to the end of their mission in the Canton to support the YPG and will return to Iraqi Kurdistan next week.
And signs that Kobane city is returning to some sort of normality can be seen in the video below. More and more children are beginning to enjoy school once again, which the teachers see as a very good way of keeping them away during the day from areas of the city still full of unexploded IS bombs and booby-traps, here:
It has also been announced that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has asked its members to support the reconstruction of Kobane. (EDITOR: We will see what happens!)
Recent maps from @ChuckPfarrer show the Islamic State’s attempts to get across the Euphrates, here:
SW Kobane Canton Situation Map 23.04.15
In Cizire, the eastern Kurdish Canton in Syria, there has been continued heavy fighting in the southern sector near Tel Tamer in the villages of Tel Nasri and Tel Hafean. One IS fighter was killed at Tel Hafean.
There were also clashes around the town of Tel Barrek, with reports that some YPG fighters had been killed. A mine also exploded near Tel Tamer, killing 2 more people and an IED exploded in Al- Jawadiyyi injuring a member of the Kurdish security force, Asayish.
OPPOSITION FORCES AIM TO CUT LAST REMAINING ASSAD CORRIDOR INTO IDLIB PROVINCE
The huge Opposition attacks across Idlib and Hama provinces seem to be making progress.
With a force of between 10,000 and 13,000 men, the Opposition grouping, made up of the Al Nusra Front (ANF), various Islamic factions and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is successfully attacking the Assad regime along a front that stretches around 100 kilometres.
Opposition Fighters Firing Mortars at Qarmeed Army Base
The regime territory now under extreme pressure stretches south of Ilib city from Ariha in the east westwards to Jisr Al-Shughur and then down to Hama province’s Al-Ghab plain that goes all the way to Assad’s supposed “stronghold” in Lattakia.
The Opposition fighters have been focussing their attention on the regime’s bases at Mastouma and Qarmeed and the Sunni town of Jisr Al-Shughur where they know they have a lot of sympathisers.
Latest reports today, Friday, suggest that the Opposition have taken control of Tel Hamakah, which if true, means they have almost cut the M4 highway west of Mastouma and the Qarmeed army base and brick factory, effectively isolating them both from Idlib and Ariha and both routes north and routes west and south to Latakia and Damascus.
A report of 30 + air attacks on the Hamakah area this morning alone indicates that the reports may well be true.
Friday evening, Assad regime sources were claiming that that they had retaken Hamakah hill after hitting it with 44 airstrikes and multiple rocket attacks – though this also is yet to be confirmed.
Ariha, was supposed to be the Assad regime’s jumping off point to “retake” Idlib city just 10 kilometres to the north.
According to reports on Thursday, Opposition fighters had captured 5 Government checkpoints near the Qarmeed base and killed pro-Assad fighters and destroyed a tank south of the Mastouma, where the Army houses at present it’s largest concentration of troops in Idlib province.
Opposition Objective is to Severe Regime Corridor Here
Opposition fighters also entered the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughur yesterday, destroying a number of Assad checkpoints on the way and are said to be fighting at the central roundabout. In this footage ANF are hitting the town with a 57mm truck mounted gun, HERE:
The Opposition approached Jisr Al-Shughur from the north and quickly seized the Zelito, Saqiya, and Ain Al-Sabeel checkpoints outside the town, capturing three soldiers. Ain Al-Sabeel checkpoint was destroyed with a rigged BMP armoured vehicle, the “operative returning safely after the vehicle was parked”, according to an ANF statement.
An Opposition T-55 tank fires at a regime BMP armoured vehicle, HERE:
This is footage from near Jisr Al-Shughur this morning, Friday, HERE:
Assad’s Air Force is hitting the whole front with dozens of missiles and bombs to try and stem the Opposition advance, but so far with no effect. 30 + blasts are said to have hit Opposition positions near Jisr Al-Shughur this morning alone.
The fighting on the Ghab Plain is mainly led by a coalition of Islamist and FSA groups. A vehicle bomb was detonated at Sarmaniyah and Assad’s checkpoints are under attack along the whole of a 63 kilometre stretch of plain against the coastal mountain range separating it from Lattakia province.
Heavy fighting can be seen and heard on the Ghab Plain yesterday, HERE:
Altogether 45 Opposition groups are said to be involved in the current 3-pronged assault on Assad’s military. The Syrian state media, SANA, is making no mention of any of this today, Friday, though did claim that its military had killed “scores of terrorists” in Idlib province yesterday.
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
As a combined Kurdish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) force moved to surround the Islamic State (IS) held town of Sarrin, they liberated 4 villages to the north and east of the city.
Kurdish Fighter in Combined YPG/FSA Force in South-West Kobane Canton
The freed villages are Jol Bek, Mitras, Alkana and Kolkan, though reports suggest that IS is preventing people leaving the blockaded town of Sarrin if they wish to and has arrested a number of those trying to escape by the only road that remains open.
Despite being in a precarious position after 3 days of intense fighting, Sarrin’s IS Jihadists still found time this week to go around burning supplies of cigarettes and tobacco.
YPG commanders said they were just 1 kilometre from the gates of Sarrin on Tuesday evening and although IS had left the approaches heavily mined, they were still advancing.
Sarrin occupies an important strategic position east of the Euphrates, being the only major town between Kobane and Raqqah, 95 kilometres to the south-east, passing through an area of semi-desert.
At the moment, IS are still able to receive supplies and reinforcements from Aleppo province via the road across the Tishreen Dam.
The Coalition have refrained from bombing this for humanitarian reasons, the tidal wave of water if the dam was broken likely to take many civilian lives.
At the same time, IS have learnt to travel in smaller convoys and usually at night, especially in bad weather when Coalition aircraft are unable to bomb with any accuracy and may not fly at all.
Initial reports said that the combined YPG/FSA force had taken the grain silos north of Sarrin city completely but later information says that there remains a sniper nest of around 50 x IS Jihadists holding out and possibly causing heavy Kurdish casualties.
Sarrin Grain Silos Now Surrounded by YPG
In the operations in the south-west sector of the Kobane Canton front, at least 20 x IS Jihadists have been killed since Monday, plus several IS vehicles destroyed, and the Kurds are now in control of around 40 kilometres of the important M4 highway, mostly now challenging IS in villages below it.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 10 airstrikes in Syria in the 24 hours from Sunday morning through to Monday morning this week.
7 of those airstrikes were in Kobane Canton, destroying 2 x IS vehicles, an IS fighting position, an IS mortar tube, an IS anti-aircraft gun and hitting a further 7 x IS tactical units.
The other 3 strikes were in Hasakah province (Cizire), hitting an IS tactical unit, another IS mortar and destroying an IS fighting position.
On Monday morning through to Tuesday, 2 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed an IS vehicle and 2 x IS fighting positions as well as hitting an IS tactical unit.
4 more airstrikes in the same time period in Hasakah province destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles, as well as hitting 2 other IS tactical units and an IS checkpoint.
In Kobane city itself, resistance to the idea of turning 40% of Kobane into a “museum” is growing daily. The plan was originally floated by members of the PYD, the political party behind the YPG/YPJ.
A Facebook page opposing the plane has been started, with some local people suggesting the “museum” idea was intended to “prevent them returning home”.
Latest Kobane Canton maps by @ChuckPfarrer, here:
Kobane Canton Situation Map 21.04.15
Close-Up Map for SW Kobane Canton 21.04.15
In the Kurds eastern Canton in Syria, Cizire, fighting around villages in the Tel Tamer area continues, with several IS Jihadists killed near Menacir and Xerita and an IS bulldozer destroyed.
Early yesterday morning, Tuesday, YPG units attacked IS at the village of Xêbiş, destroying 2 x IS vehicles. In another operation at the village of Xîzêla, south of Tel Hamis, the YPG targeted an IS tactical unit and killed 2 x IS Jihadists as they desperately tried to blow up mines and explosives.
This video, mainly covering events last week, with English voice over and sub-titles, gives you an idea of YPG/YPJ action in both Cantons, (caution , many dead bodies) here:
EDITOR P.S: For some reason the way the voice over pronounces YPG/YPJ is extremely amusing!
MASSIVE SIMULTANEOUS OPPOSITION ATTACKS LAUNCHED AGAINST ASSAD ACROSS IDLIB AND HAMA PROVINCES – IS THE TIDE TURNING AT LAST?
Elsewhere in Syria, President Assad and his military are now coming under enormous pressure from multiple directions.
The attempt in Deraa province to take Busra Al-Harir away from the Opposition was clearly a disaster, with claims now that as many as 200 pro-Assad fighters have died in the 3 day regime campaign.
Well-Armed Opposition Fight Back in Busra Al-Harir
Many of those killed on the regime side appear to Afghans brought in via Iran.
They seem to have been sent in by Assad from the north towards Busra Al-Harir without any heavy support or back-up and just ended up as “cannon fodder”.
A number of Afghan mercenaries have also been captured.
Dead too are members of Hezbollah and some Iranians, including an officer, though Assad in his latest series of interviews with the European media says there are “no Iranians fighting in Syria”
(EDITOR: As someone said on Twitter – “They must be tourists!”)
In this video, Opposition fighters say they destroyed an entire column of Iranian military vehicles, HERE:
Retreating pro-Assad militia are said to have executed 26 civilians in the Lajat area and killed a man trying to leave Busra Al-Harir through a checkpoint, beating the little 5 or 6 year old girl with him to a pulp (shown here). She was later rescued by Opposition fighters.
Opposition loses in the latest Deraa battles are put at around 50 fighters.
Tiny Girl Beaten to a Pulp by Pro Assad Militia
But Deraa is not the end of Assad’s woes. Today, Wednesday, Opposition fighters together with the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) launched numerous attacks in Hama and Idlib provinces.
South of Opposition-held Idlib city there was very heavy fighting as the Opposition launched attacks on regime positions at Mastouma, the Brick Factory and the nearby Qarmeed barracks, HERE:
This afternoon a ANF suicide bomber drove an exploding vehicle into the Brick Factory barrier and an Opposition tank fired shells into regime positions at Mastouma, HERE: Reports of a T-72 tank burning at Mastouma and parts of the Brick Factory on fire.
In another simultaneous assault at Jisr Al-Shugour, also in Idlib province, Opposition fighters destroyed 2 Government tanks and shelled the Sugar Company army base south-east of the city with heavy artillery. 3 suicide bombings are also reported at Jisr Al-Shughour this evening.
Also today another Opposition campaign was launched not far away on the Al-Ghab Plain which separates Idlib and Hama provinces from Assad’s stronghold in Lattakia.
Fighting on the northern Al-Ghab Plain can be seen, HERE: and a huge explosion hit the regime barrier at Al-Sirmaniyah today, with latest reports this evening saying that the Opposition have taken it over, seizing weapons and a tank.
Opposition fighters are also using heavy artillery to shell Assad’s supply routes imto Idlib from the Ghab Plain and the army checkpoints along the way, HERE:
In these 3 simultaneous campaigns launched across Idlib and Hama today, as many as 12,000 Opposition fighters are said to be involved.
Clearly this is planned and they seem to be well equipped and have sufficient ammunition.
Maybe – just maybe – Assad is about to get his come-uppance.
And just to add to Assad’s fear, Opposition fighters, despite barrel-bombs and 21 Smerch rockets raining down on them today, made significant advances this week overrunning regime positions in the Jobar district of Damascus, seizing machine guns and ammunition as well as killing regime soldiers, (caution dead bodies) HERE:
Lastly, 100 years ago yesterday, in the First World War, chlorine gas was used for the first time in warfare by German forces in Belgium and the world was outraged. As @WilliamsJon said on Twitter, now it is used in Syria all the time and the world looks the other way.
EDITOR: In memory of all the gassed victims, especially those attacked with sarin gas by the Assad regime in Damascus in August 2013, CBS Syria News has produced this programme in its 60 Minutes series. Sarin has no colour, no smell.
Its heavy viewing, which one viewer described as “heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, nauseating, but necessary.”
US Intelligence estimates 1,429 were killed in this sarin attack attributed to the Assad regime, 426 of them children. No one has so far been charged for what is nothing less than a “crime against humanity”.
Please watch. ( EDITOR: Sorry about the CBS Viagra ads!)
You can view the programme and red the transcript, HERE:
KOBANE /CIZIRE UPDATE 78: YPG LIBERATE YET MORE VILLAGES ON THE SOUTHERN FRONTS, WHILE TALK OF TURNING KOBANE INTO A “MUSEUM” OFFENDS SOME
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
Battles against the Islamic State continue in the sectors to the south and south-east of Kobane city, with a YPG/YPJ operation on Wednesday night targeting the Jihadists near the village of Xane. An IS vehicle was destroyed and 5 x IS fighters killed.
Destroyed Petrol Station With Lafarge Plant in Background
Having taken Hamdoun and then Khan Mamed, the YPG are in a position to isolate the IS Jihadists still within the Sal/Lil salient north of the M4 highway, by crossing the M4 and cutting them off by moving westwards.
The attempted suicide car bomb attack on the YPG at Gocekmetê reported earlier (scroll down – see below) resulted in the killing of 9 x IS Jihadists when the YPG blew up the suicide vehicle while it was still surrounded by IS fighters.
Further to the west, the combined YPG/FSA force has been making attacks on IS positions 10 kilometres north-west of Sarrin, supported by Coalition attacks on IS in the centre and on the outskirts of Sarrin town.
Just east of Sarrin, the Kurdish forces have also once again crossed the M4 highway and have advanced towards Ras Al Ayn, supported by Coalition airstrikes.
In the battle for the Lafarge Cement Plant, 2 FSA fighters died and 3 from the YPG, their funerals held together in Kobane earlier this week.
The YPG has produced this video of the battle for Lafarge and the surrounding villages, (EDITOR: I’ll forgive them the over-dramatic music!) here:
Latest reports today, Friday, say that last night, Kurdish forces on the southern Kobane front liberated the villages of Bîrhemlî, Gewande, Dafiya and Girê Şehîd Hecî and 6 x IS Jihadists were killed.
On the eastern front of Kobane province, YPG are additionally reported to have moved even nearer to IS-held Tel Abyad, liberating villages less than 20 kilometres from the IS stronghold, though further detail still awaited.
Stairs But No House Left in Kobane
Within Kobane city itself, 9 truckloads of food aid have arrived from the Municipality of Bedlîs in northern Kudistan, Iraq, 6 containing flour and 3 more other food supplies.
There also appears to be a proposal, coming from whom is not yet clear, that half of Kobane should be left as it is and turned into a “museum”.
Some Kobane citizens have already expressed their horror at this idea, though given the worldwide interest in the struggle for Kobane, it could in fact bringing tourists from all over the world and help to fund the rebuilding of a new modern city.
US Central Command (Centcom) reports 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton from Tuesday am through to Wednesday destroying 6 x IS fighting positions and hitting 2 tactical units.
2 further airstrikes near Hasakah during the same time period destroyed another 6 x IS fighting positions, an IS vehicle bomb, an IS tunnel and an IS bunker, plus hitting 2 more tactical units.
From Wednesday am through to Thursday morning, yesterday, 4 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed another 6 x IS fighting positions and hit 2 tactical units.
Kobane Canton Situation Map for 16.04.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
SW Kobane Canton Situation Map 16.04.15
In Cizire Canton, unconfirmed local reports suggest that the Islamic State is sending its elite forces to the province, perhaps now seeing it as a “softer target” than Kobane.
On Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, IS Jihadists attacked the small village of Ennabiya Sudan, 7 kilometres south-east of Tel Tamir. After a long and heavy battle, the YPG prevailed, killing 4 x IS fighters and wounding another 5.
The bulk of the IS attacking group then retreated to the village of Derxam, 1.5 kilometres away, where they later hit by a Coalition airstrike, killing another 15. The same night, Coalition planes targeted another IS group in Lilan, 6 kilometres to the south-west of Tel Tamer, destroying a pick-up with a heavy machine gun and killing a further 3 x IS fighters.
IS training Younger and Younger Children to be its “Next Generation”
Meanwhile, IS appear to be increasingly training younger and younger children to fight for them, in the hope that by brainwashing them earlier they can induce them to be “life-long members” of the IS Jihadist cause.
Children are taught religion and Sharia, as well as Arabic, hand to hand combat techniques and military training. Some are even given dolls on which to practice “beheading” and one video features a real-life executioner who is probably no more than 10.
But IS, in its backwardness, sees philosophy, science, history, art and sport to be incompatible with Islam, and instead seems to be committed to raising a generations of unfeeling individuals who are likely to be locked into “ long-term loyalty” and who will become a “cadre of fighters that will see violence as a way of life”.
You can read more in The Guardian Syria news HERE:
ESTIMATES PUT THE REAL NUMBER OF DEAD IN SYRIA SINCE 2011 AT MORE THAN 310,000, WHILE RUMOURS SWIRL OF A PLANNED COUP AGAINST ASSAD:
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) yesterday said that its records indicate that 220,271 have been killed in Syria between 18th March 2011 and 14th April 2015.
104,629 (47.50%) are civilians, including 11,021 children (10.53%) and 7,049 women (6.73%).
Another 39,848 (18.09%) killed in that time are Opposition and Islamic fighters (including defected soldiers and officers), while 28,253 are from the Islamic State (IS), the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and other extremist organisations.
Putting all the pro-Assad fighter deaths together (regular soldiers and National Defence Force militia), amounts to 78,189 or 35.49% of the total. (EDITOR: So no wonder the Alawite community is getting restive – see below)
They have also logged 3,162 unidentified dead, which are included in the total, and 3,526 pro-Assad Shiite militia fighters.
However, SOHR estimates that there are another 20,000 at least who have disappeared into Assad’s prisons and 14,500 from various groups held by the IS and ANF. The true death total for these two secretive groups for their own fighters may be more like 86,000 than the 28,253 recorded above.
SOHR also estimates that during the last 4 years, as many as 1.5 million have been wounded.
Young Victim of Assad’s Chlorine Attacks
The reality of some of this hit home this week when video footage was shown to the UN Security Council on the alleged chlorine attack by the Assad regime on the village of Sarmin in Idlib province last month on March 16th as Opposition fighters prepared to overrun Idlib city.
Assad’s military believed that Sarmin was one of the Opposition fighters “command and control” centres.
Some of the doctors from Sarmin who treated the injured, led the presentation and answered questions.
The bombing came just days after the Security Council passed a resolution condemning the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in such attacks.
3 children under 4 died in the regime raid, after the doctors were unable to revive them, plus the mother of one of them and a grandmother.
Many of those present at the UN were in tears as the evidence emerged and while the session was underway, another 5 barrel-bombs were dropped on Sarmin by Assad’s helicopters, some allegedly containing more chlorine and causing distress yesterday, HERE:
You can read more from BBC Syria news, HERE:
The huge death toll may also be getting to Assad’s main backers, the Shia orientated Alawite community.
There were reports this week that another of Assad’s cousins, Munther al-Assad, was arrested after a big security lockdown in Lattakia city.
Munther, who reportedly had gone into hiding, was, according to some sources under suspicion of preparing a coup, along with President Bashar Assad’s exiled uncle, Rifaat Al-Assad who attempted to take control from his brother, Hafez (Bashar’s father) in 1984, but failed and retreated to France where he has remained ever since.
After being flown to Damascus for an “interview” with the President, Munther was apparently returned to Lattakia. You can read more of this mysterious saga, HERE:
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Deployed in Syria
There are also reports that after suffering heavy losses in the last few months, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, of whom there are thought to be around 6,000 deployed in Syria, have withdrawn from many far-flung combat zones and re-deployed in locations around Damascus in defence of the capital.
You can read more on this, HERE:
Units of Syria’s Opposition fighters, fed up with the behaviour of the Islamic State around Damascus, yesterday stormed their HQ in the suburbs of Qaboun and Barzeh districts, killing 20 of them and capturing another 30, (caution – gruesome towards the end) HERE:
Meanwhile, fighting inside the Yarmouk camp between the Palestinians and extreme Islamists continues.
Reliable sources are saying the Al Nusra Front, in conjunction with the Islamic State, still control around 80% of the camp and the desperate situation for the civilians trapped there remains unresolved.
HRW: Palestinian children pass out, vomit, from farming with illegal pesticides on Israeli settlements
Bad pay, hard labor, nasty skin rashes, and poor sleep in constructions sites are just the tip of work conditions found in Israeli agricultural settlements, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report released Monday. The 74-page “Israel: Settlement Agriculture Harms Palestinian Children” is a devastating look into underage Palestinian laborers farming for Israeli companies. Minors as young as 11 are interviewed about their work as farm hands in the Jordan Valley, a bread basket in the West Bank—rather a “date basket” as dates are the top export from the region, and Israel is the highest supplier of dates in the international market.
Children working on these farms are exposed to toxins that cause serious illness. “They handle pesticides that cause nausea, dizziness and skin rashes, and over the long-term, are associated with cancer, neurological problems, and infertility,” said the report. While no Israeli child would be given a backpack full of neurotoxins in order to spray a damp layer over produce, Palestinian children are. HRW noted Israel ruled back in 1992 these chemicals are illegal for minors to handle.
A 15-year old named Saleh who left school to work on an agricultural farm described the job:
My shoulders are numb from carrying the backpack that I spray the pesticides with – it’s a 15-liter tank. I spray for half an hour each time, then I refill the tank. I need to do this 15 times before I’m done, on the days I’m spraying. I don’t do it every day – the older guys spray every day.
HRW also found three teenagers who claimed to have vomited after spraying pesticides, among other ailments. “I have had rashes on my hands, sore eyes, and I’ve thrown up after spraying it. The boss tells us to go home until we get better,” said a 16-year old who worked in the settlement of Tomer.
During the summer months when schools are out of secession, more children are employed on the farms. One 16-year old who said he dropped out at age 14 described being fired from pepper picking and pesticide spraying after passing out five days in a row. At the time he was working in a greenhouse. “I took myself home when it happened the next day. On the third day, I took myself home, then to the hospital in Jericho, where they gave me headache pills and said it was heatstroke,” said the child.
The extreme heat inside these produce facilities can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Incidentally, Israeli law forbids minors from working in temperatures above 104 degrees.
The labor force in the Jordan Valley settlements are almost entirely sourced from a black market enterprise. Palestinian middlemen, subcontractors who–for a price–assemble lots of workers for hire on settlements, are notorious for turning a blind eye to underage workers. They do not get their laborers binding employment contracts, and therefore Palestinians do not receive the benefits that are guaranteed to them by Israeli law.
By comparison Palestinians who are employed in settlement factories generally have work contracts. Often industrial zones are located inside of a settlement’s guarded gates. Workers must present documentation in order to enter. Because these workers are on the books, they have the ability to access certain labor protections enshrined under Israeli law. Israel allows workers to sue their settler employers for lost wages if they fall ill, or seek medical care inside of Israel free of charge for work related injuries. However, the farmers must pay for their own treatment in a lesser quality Palestinian hospital and do not get back-pay for sickness or injury, because they are undocumented workers.
Another testimony from a second Palestinian child aged 15 detailed employer pressures to not take breaks, including bathroom breaks. The young worker claimed if he did not keep up with the arduous pace outlined through daily quotas, he feared “black listing,” a practice where middlemen refuse to hire a worker, or the worker’s family in the future:
If you sit down while you’re working with peppers or grapes the supervisor will come and tell you to stand up and not take a break. We don’t get bathrooms – we get permission from the supervisor to go out in the fields. They are always yelling at us, not insulting us but saying, ‘Work faster, you’re too slow.’ There’s no respect for me there. The middleman will fire people in the morning, without giving them their pay for the day, like if they damage the fruit for example. You can’t switch middlemen, they would talk to each other and force you to go back to the first one you tried to quit on.
Amongst Palestinians, settlement jobs are plentiful and coveted—even with the labor abuses and transport fees. While Palestinian child date farmers on settlements earn almost half of what Israeli minimum wage dictates, the pay is still higher than the average salary in a Palestinian owned farm. For an eight-hour shift, HRW said, underage Palestinians are given an average of $19 per day. Many workers said their take-home pay was much lower, as Palestinian workers pay for their own travel to and from the farms. They often must ride in expensive taxis from their villages to the Israeli controlled areas.
Responding to the publication of the report, David Elhayani from the Jordan Valley Regional Council and previously a settler farmer told AFP, “They’ve made up lies. The entire goal of this organization [HRW] is to sully Israel’s image.” While Elhayani dismissed the overall findings, he did suggest that oversight is lacking when it comes to farms hiring Palestinians through middlemen. “If some child infiltrates [works on a farm through a contractor], I have no way of knowing,” he said, again to AFP.
As HRW noted, Israel has consistently said it is the Palestinian Authority that must investigate labor abuses experienced by Palestinians, including child workers. Yet the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction over settler agricultural tracts in the West Bank.
Research groups and governments do not document the exact number of minors working as farm hands, because most of the labor is unregulated. HRW estimates a few hundred to one-thousand are employed during high season. It’s worth mentioning HRW is not the first group to investigate Palestinian minors in Israeli settlements, or the health hazards they are exposed to. Ma’an Development Center has published extensively on the topic. HRW is, however, the first international non-government organization to conduct a lengthy, four-year inquiry.
(Source / 16.04.2015)
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 77 – LATEST KURDISH OFFENSIVE SEES 20 VILLAGES LIBERATED AND MORE THAN 60 ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS KILLED
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
The YPG have confirmed that they have successfully completed an operation on their southern and south-eastern front on Tuesday which began on April 8th to drive back the Islamic State (IS).
YPG Preparing for Battle Once More
During that period the YPG/YPJ, with support from Free Syrian Army (FSA) units, have captured as many as 9 villages, the Lafarge Cement Plant (scroll down – see below) and 2 quarries near Celebi.
The villages captured included Bocak, Xirab Hişk and Derfilît.
IS have continued an attack on the village of Gocekmetê, which the YPG had captured earlier, and attempted to penetrate the Kurdish defences with a suicide car bomb.
The YPG managed to detonate the car while it was still surrounded by Islamic State fighters.
Two other suicide bomb attacks were also repelled and 31 x IS Jihadists killed during this operation at a cost of 3 Kurdish fighters.
20 x AK-47s, a 120 mm mortar and 24 rounds, 8 Katyusha rockets, a military vehicle, 1 scope and 2 radios were also recovered.
Since these reports came in, latest information suggests that a combined YPG/FSA force has liberated another 6 villages including Hamdoun, with claims that as many as 60 x IS fighters have been killed in the Hamdoun area. This video footage shows parts of the battle at Hamdoun and (caution) a large number of bloody IS corpses at the end, HERE:
Along with Hamdoun, Khan-Mamed, Xorxori, Girek, Dafiye and Xwedan, all 40 – 50 kilometres from Kobane city, were freed by the YPG/FSA force late on Tuesday or earlier today.
Between Sunday am and Monday morning, US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Kobane Canton, which destroyed 12 x IS fighting positions and 2 x IS vehicles as well as hitting an IS tactical unit.
From Monday morning through to Tuesday am, 3 more airstrikes by the Coalition destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions and 1 x IS vehicle, as well as hitting 2 x IS tactical units.
This video declassified by Centcom shows a Coalition strike on an IS fighting position on April 6th (not even time to say prayers), here:
To the east in the Kurdish Canton of Cizire, numerous battles with the Islamic State continue along its western edge, with a YPG operation near Tel Xenzir destroying an IS vehicle and all its occupants.
A joint Kurdish/Arab fighting force is being trained to defend the Canton and recently went into action after passing out, (sub-titles) HERE:
Cizire Canton Situation Map courtesy of @MarkMonmonier , here:
Cizire Canton Situation Map 14.04.15
OPPOSITION FIGHT IN ALEPPO HOTS UP AND MODERATE FIGHTERS IN THE SOUTH REJECT COOPERATION WITH THE AL NUSRA FRONT:
In the north-western district of Aleppo city this week, Opposition fighters did a thorough job of finally demolishing the regional headquarters of Assad’s Air Intelligence, where hundreds, if not thousands have been tortured and/or imprisoned.
At the weekend the Opposition completed mining a tunnel under the Air Intelligence building, HERE: followed by the grand finale, here:
The result caused widespread celebrations in Opposition held parts of the city, HERE:
Since destroying Assad’s security building, Opposition fighters have gone on to take over the Al-Basheer Mosque nearby and an orphanage and have moved into the Al-Zahraa district below it, attacking regime-held positions,HERE: and using their homemade “Hell-Fire” cannon to good effect, HERE:
Rumours have circulated that some senior Assad officers and their families have left Aleppo in the face of the renewed Opposition offensive, but this has been denied by the Syrian Government’s Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi – though this probably does not mean a lot as he is frequently seen as Assad’s chief “Minister of Propaganda”.
The Opposition’s current strength in Aleppo has certainly persuaded Syria’s Grand Mufti, Ahmad Hassoun, to apparently issue a Fatwa allowing Assad to barrel-bomb Opposition-held areas of the city out of existence.
Assad’s murderous regime has been quick to follow through with shell, rocket and barrel-bomb bombardments, with more than 100 killed in Aleppo province in air attacks in the last few days.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has already recorded 1709 airstrikes by Assad’s forces all around Syria in April 2015 alone, including 984 barrel-bombs. 260 civilians have been killed in the first half of this month by these attacks, including 81 children and 51 women, and an estimated 1500 wounded.
Assad airstrikes in Idlib province yesterday, Tuesday, killed 11 in Idlib city and another 12 in Saraqeb, HERE:
Situation Map for Aleppo courtesy of @PetoLucem, here:
Aleppo Situation Map 14.04.15
In Damascus, barrel-bomb attacks and clashes between warring sides have also continued in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, though latest reports from local people suggest that the bulk of the Islamic State fighters have withdrawn to their stronghold in nearby Hajar al Aswad.
Some IS fighters remain in the south-west of the camp, while Palestinian factions – both pro and anti-Assad – are controlling most of the eastern and northern sections of the camp.
This leaves the largest fighting group inside the camp as the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), who allowed the Islamic State to enter the Camp in the first place. Both of the extremist groups loath the Palestinian Opposition force, who were until recently running the camp, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.
Palestinians Have Suffered Chronic Food Shortages for 2 Years in Yarmouk
Hopefully, ANF will allow in more aid, so desperately needed by those trapped inside, some of whom demonstrated yesterday to bring their plight to world attention, HERE:
Al-Qaeda aligned ANF have fared less well in southern Deraa province, where the “Southern Front”, an alliance of FSA and more moderate Islamic Groups, has pushed them away from the border crossing at Nassib to Jordan and now attacked a number of their HQs.
The Southern Front issued a strong statement rejecting ANF’s ideology, refused any cooperation with it, and declaring themselves the “sole military force representing the Syrian revolution” in the south.
“We can’t go from the rule of Assad to Zawahri and Nusra,” said a spokesman referring to the Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
He then went on to invites ANF members to defect and join their more moderate ranks.
KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 74: SCHOOLS REOPENING AT RAPID PACE, HOSPITAL ON ITS WAY AND ISLAMIC STATE PUSHED BACK ACROSS M4 HIGHWAY
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
Latest figures from recovering Kobane city say that 80 civilians have been killed by Islamic State mines and booby-traps and more than 100 injured.
Children Returning to School in Devastated Kobane
The Danish Government has however sent a de-mining team and this is training local people and YPG/YPJ fighters with improved techniques to locate and defuse the bombs.
1,000 children have now been enrolled in the first 2 schools to re-open in the city and another 4 schools are being repaired as quickly as possible.
1,000 voluntary teachers, who will work without pay, have also been signed up by the Kurdistan Teacher’s Union (KTU) to work in the schools as they come on-stream.
Yasir Beyro from the KTU said that many of the children are clearly traumatised and will need additional help.
Some sing “war songs” in school and draw pictures of fighting, killing and beheadings.
Within another 2 weeks they hope to have 4,000 children back at school. You can read more, HERE:
The really good news for the city is Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF – Doctors Without Borders) have started constructing a hospital.
Outside the city, on the original borders of the Canton, the Kurdish YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters continue their battle to push back the Islamic Front (IS).
IS continues to ferry men, ammunition and weapons into the area from Aleppo province, via the Tishrin Dam. The Kurds and their allies seem to have pushed the IS Jihadists back across the M4 highway between Nur Ali and Demercik, and there are unconfirmed reports that the IS fighters in the Lafarge Cement Plant are once again trapped and surrounded.
US Central Command (Centcom) says that on Monday through to Tuesday of this week 2 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroyed 6 x IS fighting positions.
Latest Kobane Canton Situation Map courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:
Kobane Canton Situation Map 07.04.15
Map of villages liberated by the Kurds in Kobane Canton so far, courtesy of @_paulo34, here:
Liberated Kurdish Villages in Kobane Canton 06.04.15
On the western edge of the eastern Kurdish Canton in Syria, Cizire, heavy fighting still continues around Tel Tamer with the YPG launching several simultaneous attacks against Islamic State positions on Monday night.
3 x IS Jihadists were killed near the Tel Tamer – Aleppo road at Aleeah and another 8 were killed near Tel Kanzir. 2 more IS Jihadists were killed in Tel Baz, and one other in Tel Fyeda, while at Xebish, the IS fighters burned tyres to try and hide their positions.
IS attacks on the villages of Tel Shamiran and Tel Nasir were repelled with YPG mortars and heavy weaponry.
AFTER BOMBING AND SHELLING YARMOUK FOR YEARS, ASSAD OFFERS TO “HELP”, AS CIVILIANS STARVE OR ARE KILLED BY SNIPER FIRE:
Despite Islamic State control of most of the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, the anti-Assad Palestinian militia, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, together with Opposition allies is fighting back.
Islamic Opposition group Jaysh Al-Islam claimed that they and their allies had killed 80 IS fighters “in the last 2 days”. Jaysh Al-Islam normally operates in Douma and the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus province, but has come to the aid of the besieged Palestinians.
IS is also reported to be trying to take over the district of Yalda, just to the south-east of the Yarmouk.
Palestinians Barely Surviving in Yarmouk
The main danger for civilians, apart from bombs and mortar shells, is sniper fire.
Zaynab Daghistani, a 12 year old Palestinian girl was killed by sniper fire yesterday outside her home.
There is no clean drinking water and almost no food. Most Palestinian residents of the camp were previously reported to be barely existing on 400 calories a day, even before fighting with IS began.
Ahmed Majdalani, a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), has arrived in Damascus to discuss with the Syrian Government what can be done to help.
Majdalani says that 25 Palestinians have been killed since fighting began and between 75 and 200 abducted by IS, though this is so far unverified.
After meeting with Majdalani, Assad’s “Reconciliation Minister”, Ali Haider, said “The priority now is to expel and defeat militants and terrorists in the camp. Under the present circumstances, a military solution is necessary”, though it is not clear whether he means troops, weapons or both.
Assad’s Air Force continued air raids throughout Tuesday and dropped 9 barrel bombs after midnight, ostensibly on Islamic State positions but just as likely to hit civilians. The fear is that if Assad’s troops are allowed into the camp to fight IS, they will never leave again.
This afternoon, Wednesday, there are unconfirmed reports that members of Assad’s National Defence Force have entered the camp.
Another Palestinian group, the Palestinian Network accused both the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front of stealing UN relief supplies in the camp.
BBC Syria news Arabic Service, has a video report from inside the camp, (English translation, though faulty – translator says “1,300” when he means “13,000”), here:
Elsewhere in Syria, the Islamic State carried out 2 deadly suicide bomb attacks against Opposition groups in a northern part of Aleppo province.
The first bomb struck the headquarters of the “Joint Force for Repelling Injustice”, an Islamic Front Opposition coalition group in Marea, killing 2 commanders and as many as 16 others according to reports today, Wednesday.
The second suicide bomb was at a base of an Opposition group affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) near Hur Killis and is credited with killing between 30 – 40 people, many of them civilians. 3 or 4 buildings were “levelled to the ground” said onlookers.
The Al-Nusra Front released yesterday 300 Kurdish men and boys that it had kidnapped as they journeyed with their families on Sunday from the Kurdish town of Afrin to Aleppo city and towards Damascus.
The men were originally taken prisoner at Tuqad village, 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of Aleppo and then moved to Al-Dana town in Idlib province.
Although the men have been released all their cars, buses and other vehicles have not been returned. (EDITOR: So much for Sharia Law and the penalties against theft!)
In Aleppo Old City, Opposition fighters have this week seized another Hamman (steam and public bath house) after clashes with regime troops, HERE:
DISPUTE SEES YEZIDI COMMANDER ARRESTED BY PESHMERGA, WHILE ISLAMIC STATE RELEASE ANOTHER 280 PRISONERS:
In Iraq, there is anger among the Yezidi community after the supreme commander of the HPS, Heydar Shesho, was arrested by the Peshmerga on Monday and despite promises, at the time of writing, has yet to be released.
Heydar Shesho, Yezidi Commander, Held By Peshmerga
The HPS is a Yezidi militia of around 3,000 men which normally fights alongside the Kurds against the Islamic State.
Shesho seems to have raised the Kurdistan Government’s ire by agreeing to accept weapons from Shia military in Baghdad, to whom legally and technically the Shingal/Sinjar region belongs.
Rumours had it that Shesho had agreed to be bound by arrangements for weapons and other materials from the Peshmerga and come under their control, but as of Wednesday evening this has not been confirmed and Shesho, according to his family is still imprisoned.
Feelings between the Yezidi and the Peshmerga have not been good since the Kurds fled in the face of the Islamic State advance last August and left the Yezidi to their fate, thousands of whom, particularly women and girls, are still in captivity.
Having said that, IS released 280 Yezidi on Monday, mainly elderly women and children that had been held captive in Mosul. They were released to Peshmerga forces near Kirkuk and after a medical inspection taken to Lilash.
Hand Emerges from Mass Grave in Tikrit
Meanwhile, forensic experts have begun examining the sites of 12 mass graves in Tikrit, recently recaptured from the Islamic State.
The graves are believed to contain the remains of as many as 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, mostly from the Shia sect, who were singled out for execution when IS overran the Camp Speicher airbase not far from Tikrit in July 2014. You can read more, HERE:
A report from IS-held Mosul says that IS have also just executed a number of officers and men belonging to the Naqshbandiyah Order. If true, there could be even more trouble ahead for the Islamic State.
Until now, the Naqshbandiyah Order, run by former soldiers in the Sadam Hussein Baathist regime, and like IS of the Sunni sect, had worked alongside the IS Jihadists in plotting and implementing attacks on the Shia-led Iraqi government in Baghdad.
The origins of the dispute appear to be over who had the authority to impound oil tankers in the area and/or a refusal by the Baathists to lay down their weapons and pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. You can read more,HERE:
Another sign of the pressures on IS, after losing Tikrit and being pounded by Coalition airstrikes, is a report that through local tribal clans and intermediaries, IS fighters in northern Iraq are requesting a ceasefire with the Kurdish forces – “if you don’t fire at us, we will not fire at you”.
Hopefully, the Kurds, who do not trust IS anyway, will not take this seriously. The Kurds have now regained around 90% of the territory they lost to the IS Jihadists in their rapid advance last summer.
Lastly, 2 stories of despair and hope.
Syrian Children Begging on the Streets of Beirut
The BBC’s Michael Downey reports of finding very young, sick Syrian refuge children begging on the streets of Beirut in Lebanon and when he tries to get medical treatment for them, even offering to pay, is turned away and blocked by the authorities at every turn, HERE:
Finally, the dreadful story of Amel, 18, and Jwan, 17, 2 Yezidi girls who were kidnapped by the Islamic State and given to an IS commander who regularly raped them, while both were in the same room together.
After stealing a mobile phone, they phoned their families and arranged for a driver to come to Mosul to find them, breaking the lock on the door while the IS Jihadist was out fighting.
6 months later, having been accepted back into the Yezidi community, they are on their way to Germany where the State of Baden-Württemberg will take care of them, give them an education and create a new future. You can read the whole moving story