ISIS fighters shot and beheaded some 700 members of the Shueitat tribe in eastern Syria over the past two weeks, crushing a local uprising against the jihadi forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. Tribesmen expelled ISIS fighters from the villages of Kishkiyeh, Abu Hamam and Granij in Deir el-Zour governorate earlier this month before the jihadists launched their counter-offensive. "They considered all members of the Shueitat tribe apostates because they rose against them," said a Turkey-based activist who is from the region and in touch with residents there. "Some men were taken out in the fields and beheaded while others were shot in the head." Syrian warplanes are bombing ISIS positions in an attempt to halt the militants' advance on an army base in the area. (AP, Aug. 18)
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)
After a day of fighting, jihadist forces that infiltrated from Syria will withdraw from the village of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and turn over captured security personnel under a 24-hour ceasefire brokered by the local Committee of Muslim Scholars. In return, the militants demanded a statement be issued by Lebanon's army assuring that Syrian refugees in Arsal would be safe from any "revenge" attacks after their withdrawal. Clashes in the village left at least 17 soldiers dead, with several more reported missing. The fighters appear to be from both ISIS and the Nusra Front. The fighting was sparked by the Lebanese army's arrest of Syrian militant Imad Jomaa, who had recently switched allegiance from Nusra to ISIS. Reports indicate that the Nusra militants have already started to withdraw, while it is uncertain that ISIS forces will honor the deal. Saudi Arabia has pledged an emergency $1 billion in aid to Lebanon to help fight the jihadists, with the money to help cover a new $3 billion arms deal with France. (Al Jazeera, Daily Star, Lebanon, Aug. 6)
Today's depressing news that some 10,000 joined a "New York Stands with Israel" rally at the UN (overseen by Chuck Schumer, of course) was compounded for me by a demoralizing encounter outside St. Mark's Church. I was biking down Second Ave., and saw the "FREE PALESTINE" banner outside the church, and stopped to check it out... To my disappointment it was the highly problematic group "If Americans Knew." It is obvious from its name that this is basically a right-wing nationalist formation with (at least) an anti-Semitic streak. Right, "Americans" are pure and righteous (never mind Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and "shock & awe"), but are being hoodwinked into supporting atrocities by those wily Jews... I nonetheless took one of their flyers just to see what it said, and was dismayed to find it was a big quote from the vile Gilad Atzmon, a peddler of the most rank anti-Semitic garbage...
More than 700 were killed in Syria over the course of July 18-19, in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) called the bloodiest 48 hours in the conflict to date. SOHR president Rami Abdul Rahman compared the violence to the gas attack in Ghouta last year, which he said killed some 500. The dead were mostly from fighting between ISIS and pro-government forces in clashes over the Shaar gas field near Homs. Reports of ISIS atrocities in Syria continue to mount. ISIS militants reportedly carried out the stoning of a woman charged with adultery in the stadium of Tabqa city July 18. SOHR said residents resisted ISIS pressure to participate in the stoning. (Asharq Al-Awsat, July 20)
Residents of Aleppo, the northern Syrian city under siege and bombardment by regime forces for months now, held a candle-light ceremony July 14 expressing their support for the residents of Gaza, now under Israeli bombardment and invasion. (PMOI, July 15) The Assad regime's "barrel bombs"—oil drums packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives and metal fragments—have killed thousands in Aleppo and other rebel-held areas of Syria this year. Fears of the city's fall to regime forces have risen after the army made gains in the last two weeks, taking the Sheikh Naijar industrial zone in the northeast—seen by some as a "turning point" in the war. (DW, July 15) The same claims were heard when Homs was surrendered to regime forces two months ago.
Iraq's government warned the UN July 10 that ISIS-led Sunni militants have seized 40 kilograms nuclear materials used for research at a university in Mosul. The letter appealed for international help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad." US officials reportedly played down the threat, saying the materials were not believed to include enriched uranium. In a similar letter two days earlier, Iraqi officials said ISIS have taken control of a former chemical weapons facility at Muthanna northwest of Baghdad, where remnants of 2,500 rockets filled decades ago with the nerve agent sarin are stored along with other chemical agents. The US government again played down the threat from the takeover, saying it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to use the seized material for military purposes. (BBC News, July 10; AP, July 8)
We have already pointed out that Bob Dreyfuss is an intellectually dishonest coward. But his latest in The Nation is actually refreshingly honest, if utterly repugnant. The stateside Bashar Assad fan club rarely plays its hand so openly as he does in his new exercise in dictator-shilling, unabashedly entitled "US Should Back Syria's Assad Against ISIS"! Dreyfuss favorably quotes former US ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker's obscene remarks in the New York Times a few months back that "Assad Is the Least Worst Option." He also similarly endorses recent comments to the same effect from Leslie Gelb in the same NY Times that "leftists" once derided as an organ of the imperial elite. He writes with wide-eyed credulity that Assad has "wrongly been accused of covertly supporting ISIS." That's pretty hilarious. This is the same Bob Dreyfuss who has been arguing for years (see, e.g. his Jan. 26, 2006 performance on Democracy Now!) that Israel covertly backed Hamas as a stratagem against Fatah before things got out of control. But he summarily dismisses the notion that Assad similarly backed the jihadists as a stratagem against the secular opposition before things similarly got out of control. However, there are more fundamental faults here...