Syria Direct: News Update 3-25-15

IS seeks to isolate Turkish border crossing

The Islamic State [IS] attacked a YPG-controlled town in Al-Hasakah province on Tuesday, as it seeks to isolate the nearby border crossing with Turkey, a Kurdish citizen journalist told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

IS “aims to control Tel Khanzir and close the door on YPG” forces holed up in the border crossing of Ras al-Ain, said Roman Yusef, the Al-Hasakah-based activist.

Tel Khanzir is located on the highway between the joint YPG and rebel-controlled town of Tel Abyad and the YPG-controlled border crossing of Ras al-Ain.

By winning control Tel Khanzir, IS hopes to cut off the supply line between Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, which IS has attacked for the past month.

The YPG staved off the assault on Tel Khanzir, killing and injuring an undisclosed number of IS members in the fighting, said Khalid Iskef, a Syria-based correspondent for the Lebanese pro-regime news channel Al-Mayadeen.

YPG forces, aided by the regime, have been battling IS for control of key parts of Al-Hasakah province for the past month.

YPG clashes with IS in four villages southeast of Kobani

YPG forces are battling Islamic State (IS) fighters for control of four villages in the southeast Kobani countryside.

“Clashes between YPG and IS remain ongoing as of now in the villages of Aqbash, Ahmadia, Mamad Khan and al-Jarn al-Aswad, 35 kilometers south of Kobani,” Mustafa al-Abdi, senior correspondent with the Iraqi Kurdish Arta FM radio station based in Kobani told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“This comes after YPG forces clashed with IS in the southeast Kobani countryside on Tuesday, with the help of coalition air strikes that targeted IS positions on the front line,” al-Abdi added. The YPG captured five villages from the Islamic State on Tuesday after fighting that reportedly led to the deaths of 43 IS fighters.

The offensive is part of a new YPG military campaign that began Monday under the rubric “Revenge for the Martyrs of Hasakah,” reported pro-Kurdish Adar Press. Last Friday, unknown assailants launched car bomb attacks on Kurdish Nowruz celebrations in Al-Hasakah city that killed at least 45 people.

YPG forces captures 27 IS corpses and large stockpiles of weapons and ammunition in the aftermath of the fighting, reported the pro-Kurdish ANHA news outlet on Tuesday.

YPGWeapons YPG fighters seize weapons cache from IS on Tuesday. Photo courtesy @pyd_rojava.

As rebels close in, Idlib regime company defects to opposition

A contingent of regime forces fearing a rebel assault on its position in the southeastern Idlib countryside defected to the opposition on Tuesday.

The regime contingent–reportedly consisting of five officers and 45 soldiers–defected as its distracted leadership was fortifying Ma’amal al-Qarmeed, a brick factory turned regime military base 7.5km southeast of Idlib city, for an expected rebel attack, reported the pro-opposition news site All4Syria on Tuesday.

The defecting regime officers and soldiers joined the newly minted Operation Room for the Liberation of Idlib, also known as Jaish al-Fatah, a rebel coalition including the Islamist groups Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham. Jaish al-Fatah announced its formation this Tuesday, reported the pro-opposition Orient News on Tuesday, the same day it launched a offensive to take regime-controlled Idlib city.

The campaign to capture Idlib is particularly significant to Nusra, which reportedly wants the city as part of its plan to eventually carve out an al-Qaeda emirate in northern Syria.

Nusra may have contributed up to 3,000 men to the fight, in addition to US-manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles, likely looted from the US-backed, now-dissolved Harakat Hazm last month.

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