New massacres in Iraq; Hezbollah joins the fray
A survivor who managed to escape by feigning death described a general massacre at the ISIS-occupied Yazidi village of Kojo 20 kilometers south of Sinjar. The village was surrounded by ISIS fighters 12 days ago, with residents ordered to convert on pain of death. On Aug. 15, the fighters moved in, and rounded up the villagers, separating the men from the women and children. The men were lined up and machine-gunned. Up to 80 are believed to have been killed. (BasNews, AP, Reuters) ISIS forces have reportedly brought Sunni Arabs into the cleansed Yazidi town of Sinjar in response to US air-strikes on nearby Arab villages. Yazidi homes are being given to the Arab families. (BasNews) The Kurdistan Regional Government's Peshmerga forces have joined with PKK-aligned Kurdish militias to form the Sinjar Defense Units, to take back the town. (Rojava Report) The KRG's Peshmerga Ministry issued a statement naming several villages where "IS militants" suffered "heavy losses" under US bombardment. Peshmerga forces backed by US air-strikes have also opened an operation aimed at recovering the ISIS-held Mosul Dam. (BasNews, Rudaw)
Hezbollah charged with massacre of Sunnis
Social media sites in Iraq published a graphic video purporting to show Hezbollah militants torturing and executing Sunni Arab civilians in the area of Jurf al-Sakhr, Babil governorate, on the first day of Eid al-Fitr. The video was recovered from a mobile device found with one of the Hezbollah militiamen who was later captured by ISIS. The area has seen fighting for months between ISIS and Iraqi government forces, but Hezbollah appears to have joined the fight against ISIS in recent weeks. Hezbollah commander Ibrahim Haji was reportedly killed in fighting in Iraq in late July. (IraqiNews.com, Aswat al-Iraq)
The elected council of Anbar governorate (see map) issued a resolution stating that Sunni Arabs will only join the fight against ISIS if Iraq's new premier Haider al-Abadi meets their demands and ends their marginalization. Demands include release of prisoners and the return of usurped properties to Sunnis. "There must be balance and equity in government establishments in all levels and the judiciary must be safeguarded against factional and political interference," the statement read. (Azzaman) Iraqi government troops in Anbar succeeded in wresting control of Ramadi town from ISIS forces. (Rudaw)
Kurdistan in arms
Thousands of Kurdish volunteers have been rushing to the frontlines to aid the embattled Peshmerga forces. The Peshmerga number some 200,000 troops, but are outgunned by ISIS forces, who seized heavy artillery when the Iraqi military fled Mosul in June. Rival factions in Iraqi Kurdistan are closing ranks in the struggle against ISIS. Jamal Muhammad, a leader of the Change movement (Gorran), an opposition party that broke from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said their supporters are ready to be deployed to the frontlines. The Peshmerga are made up of the combined forces of the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), but other Kurdish factions are now demanding to be armed. (Rudaw)
Air-strikes on ISIS in Syria next?
The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions against six individuals for recruiting foreign fighters for ISIS, the latest move to break the organization's international networks. The statement "deplores and condemns" ISIS and its "violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law."
Dr Najib Ghadbian, the UN envoy of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, praised a "useful step to tackling the threat" from ISIS, but added: "The Syrian Coalition calls for targeted airstrikes in Syria. We are seeing their impact in Iraq. But they will not succeed in defeating the threat if ISIS is allowed to grow, train and regroup in Syria. Moderate forces need the means to hold ground, protect the civilian population, govern and provide services. Moderates are the credible alternative to extremist rule." (Rudaw)