Syria Direct: News Update 9-15-15

The Islamic State’s serial car bomb attacks on Al-Hasakah city

The Islamic State (IS) launched as many as eight car bombs against Kurdish and regime positions inside Al-Hasakah city on Monday and Tuesday, in what appears to be a renewed advance on the city’s center as well as an attempt to halt Kurdish advances east of the provincial capital, local journalists, pro-opposition and regime media reported on Tuesday.

At least one of the bombs on Monday targeted the YPG headquarters in north Al-Hasakah city, Majid al-Majid, a Hasakah-based journalist told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

The second explosion on Monday hit a school by a train station in the city’s center, “which regime National Defense Forces (NDF) had previously converted to their headquarters, killing dozens,” said al-Majid.

IS claimed responsibility for both of Monday’s attacks, stating that it had killed “tens of PKK participating in a graduation ceremony,” and had turned the NDF headquarters in the city’s center “into rubble, killing and wounding dozens.”

Although three bombs went off Monday, regime forces have reportedly seized and disabled as many as five additional, unexploded car bombs in Al-Hasakah city, reported pro-regime Al-Hasakah National News on Facebook Monday.

Following IS’s bloody failure to capture Al-Hasakah city in late July, this week’s car bomb campaign may prelude a renewed assault on the city, reportedly announced last Thursday by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself from the IS-held town of a-Shadadi, 48km southeast of the provincial capital.

Regime launches campaign to break Kweiris siege

Syrian forces reached within six kilometers southwest of Aleppo’s Kweiris military airport on Tuesday in the second day of a campaign to break the Islamic State’s more than year-long encirclement of the base, reported pro-regime media outlets.

The regime is using a massive force “backed by various Iraqi and pro-regime militias,” Abu Walid, an opposition activist from the regime-controlled town of Safira, 14km from the airport where the offensive was launched, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Ground forces supported by airstrikes from regime warplanes moved northwest from Safira to attack three IS-controlled villages, capturing the village of al-Sabiha, which puts them within six kilometers of the airport, reported pro-regime website Breaking News.

“They are worried that the airport will fall into IS’s hands the way Abu a-Duhur fell to Nusra,” said Abu Walid.

The campaign comes one month after relatives of soldiers encircled in the military airport protested for the regime to take action, and a week after the fall of the Abu a-Duhur military air base in Idlib.

Turkey reopens only border crossing with Syria

Turkish border authorities reopened the only official border crossing between Turkey and Syria on Tuesday after closing it last Thursday when a member of a Turkish border patrol was killed gunfire from the Syrian side of the border.

Ankara attributes last Thursday’s incident to smugglers opening fire from Syrian territory. Turkish border officials and rebel representatives who control the Syrian side of the border subsequently met for several days of talks, the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing Administration, the Syrian bureau that runs its side of the border, posted to their Facebook page on Sunday.

Turkish border authorities began to allow trucks carrying commercial goods and aid to cross into and out of Turkey on Monday morning, also allowing humanitarian cases and the ill who have documents documenting their health status to receive treatment in Turkish hospitals, Ammar Abu Yasser, a Syrian spokesman for the Bab al-Hawa crossing told Zaman al-Wasl.

Transit travelers and those with interviews in foreign embassies in Turkey were also allowed through on Monday.

Coinciding with the reopening, Bab al-Hawa administrators announced that border personnel and security forces would tighten security measures at all crossing facilities in order “to preserve the safety of our Syrian brothers, travelers and workers and employees and hajj pilgrims.”

Turkish authorities previously closed all ground border crossings with Syria except for Bab al-Hawa this past March, although there are reports of unofficial movement at the Bab al-Salama crossing in Aleppo province as well.

 Travelers at Bab al-Hawa on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing Administration.