Syria

Will world betray Kobani?

The main Kurdish armed group in Syria on Oct. 3 again called on Kurds across the region to help prevent a massacre in Kobani as ISIS forces closed their ring around the town and pummeled it with artillery fire. The statement issued by the YPG vowed "never ending" resistance to ISIS in its advance on Kobani. "Every street and house will be a grave for them." It urged: "Our call to all the young men and women of Kurdistan...is to come to be part of this resistance." Turkish soldiers meanwhile lined up on the neaby border—but rather than intervening to stop the ISIS advance, used armored vehicles and water cannons to prevent Kurdish PKK fighters from crossing to come to the aid of besieged Kobani. Turkish forces also prevented Kurds fleeing Kobani from crossing into Turkey. Refugees who had managed to escape from ISIS-held territory told reporters at the border the usual tales of torture, beheadings and rape. The sad spectacle came on Eid al-Adha, an important festival day in the Muslim calendar. (The Guardian, Reuters, Oct. 3)

New York Kurds stand with Kobani

A group of local Kurdish Americans gathered in New York's Union Square Oct. 3 to show their support for Kobani, the Kurdish town in northern Syria now besieged by ISIS. A Kurdish flag was held along with black-background signs reading "KOBANE IS NOT ALONE." The vigil demanded international solidarity for the People's Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia force that is defending the canton of Kobani, home to some half million people. Their statement asserted that since US air-strikes on the ISIS capital of Raqqa, the jihadists have moved their fighters and weapons into the Kurdish areas to the north. "Therefore, we are here to ask your help in demanding the Obama Administration to immediately bomb ISIS positions around Kobane and give Kurdish forces...military assistance so that Kurds can better defend themselves... [W]e also urge the international community to immediately provide...humanitarian assistance to the people of Kobane."

Syria: first Alawite protest against regime

Members of Syria's Alawite sect took to the streets in the city of Homs on Oct. 2 to protest the horrific twin bombing at an elementary school the previous day.  Although the Alawites have generally been staunch supporters of Bashar Assad, now for the first time they took up anti-regime slogans. Demands included the resignation of the Homs governor and much of Assad's cabinet, if not Assad himself. A Syrian state TV reporter covering the protest was attacked by the angry marchers, who chanted "Liar, Liar, the Syrian media is a liar."

Turkey prepares military action in Syria

The Turkish government on Oct. 1 submitted a motion to parliament to expand authorization to act against security threats in Iraq and Syria. Turkish forces are currently authorized to operate across the Iraqi border to fight the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In recent weeks, 160,000 refugees have crossed the border into Turkey fleeing the ISIS advance on the Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria. (PUKMedia) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile denied claims by Abu-Omar al-Tunisi, head of ISIS Foreign Relations, that the extremist group has opened a diplomatic consulate in Istanbul. (IraqiNews.com)

ISIS advances on Kobani —and Baghdad

Iraq's military has halted ISIS forces just 40 kilometers outside of Baghdad. Iraqi government air-strikes Sept. 28 held the jihadist fighters at Ameriyat al-Fallujah, a strategic town west of Baghdad and south of ISIS-controlled Fallujah. But panic spread in the capital as rumors circulated of ISIS attacks in the capital's immediate suburbs. Reports indicate some 1,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the offensive over the weekend. (Rudaw) Meanwhile, ISIS advanced to within three kilometers of the Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria. Kobani official Idriss Nassan appealed to the outside world for urgent assistance: "We need help. We need weapons. We need more effective air-strikes. If the situation stays like this, we will see a massacre. I can't imagine what will happen if ISIS gets inside Kobani." (CNN)

Kurdish guerillas kill Iranian army commander

Guerillas affiliated with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) have for the past days been clashing with Iranian military forces in the area of Shino (Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan province), leaving a senior army commander dead.  Iran's official media on Sept. 26 confirmed the killing of the commander, named as Sajad Takhti, by the guerilla force known as the Peshmerga of Iranian Kurdistan. The PDKI also confirmed that one of their fighters has been killed  in the area. Fighting is also reported in the Kurdish city of Mariwan (Kordistan province) on the border of Iran and Iraq's Kurdistan Region. (BasNews, Sept. 27)

Syria: first US air-strikes on ISIS at Kobani

The US-led coalition launched its first air-strikes targeting ISIS positions on the outskirts of the besieged Kurdish town of Kobani on Sept. 27, according to local officials. The strike follows a week-long ISIS offensive that has driven over 140,000 Syrian Kurds across the Turkish border. Ahmed Sulaiman, an official of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Kurdish news agency Rudaw that the mission targeted ISIS forces based at several villages east of Kobani, including Jim-Hiran, Ali-Shar, Mirde Smill and Sheran. The PKK-aligned People's Protection Units (YPG) are defending the town, and have issued a statement vowing to "make Kobani the graveyard of ISIS fighters." (Rudaw, Sept. 27)

US air-strikes fueling growth of ISIS?

The Sept. 23 US air-strikes on the so-called "Khorasan Group" near Aleppo on Sept. 23 killed 50 al-Qaeda militants and eight civilians—including three children and a woman—according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Pentagon said the strikes on the Khorasan Group "were undertaken only by US assets," while strikes against ISIS elsewhere in Syria included warplanes from Arab coalition members. (Daily Star, Sept. 23) The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reports that ISIS has recruited more than 6,000 new fighters since the US air-strikes began. One of Washington's favored rebel factions, Harakat Hazm, part of the Free Syrian Army alliance and a recipient of US missiles, issued a statement on Twitter denouncing the "external intervention"—meaning the US-led bombing campaign—as "an attack on the revolution." The group is demanding "unconditional arming" of the Free Syrian Army as an alternative to the air raids. (LAT, Sept. 23; Haaretz, Sept. 19)

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