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Syria Direct: News Update 10-28-14

IS claims Kobani battle ‘nearly over’ The Islamic State is […]

28 October 2014

IS claims Kobani battle ‘nearly over’

The Islamic State is close to capturing the besieged Kurdish city of Kobani, according to a propaganda video IS released Monday featuring kidnapped British journalist John Cantlie reportedly from inside the city, even as a Kobani-based journalist told Syria Direct Tuesday that Kurdish forces continue to hold out. 

“IS controls the southeast area of Kobani, where they’ve been for the past 15 days,” said Mustafa al-Abdi, a Kurdish journalist in Kobani. “Kurdish forces control the southwest, and a collection of FSA-affiliated groups dominate the west.”

The IS propaganda video, however, claims that the militant organization is close to victory.

“The battle for Kobani is coming to an end,” Cantlie says in the video. “It is not an all-out battle here, it is nearly over.”

Cantlie was captured in November 2012 along with American journalist James Foley, who was executed earlier this year.

Meanwhile, 150 Iraqi Peshmerga fighters have reportedly flown from Irbil to Turkey to join the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani, reported Kurdish news agency Rudaw. This came after two days of negotiations between Kurdistan and Turkey over the route the Peshmerga fighters would take to enter Kobani.

Cantlie Kidnapped British journalist John Cantlie in IS video. Photo courtesy of Ajel Syria and Iraq.

Jabhat a-Nusra, SRF at war in rural Idlib

Jabhat a-Nusra captured seven villages in Idlib province Monday from the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), led by Jamal Maruf, in an escalation of hostilities between the two rebel groups that began over the weekend, reported pro-regime Al-Hadath news.

SRF fighters entered the town of Al-Bara in the southern outskirts of Idlib city on Sunday to detain SRF-affiliated individuals wanted by the local sharia court–on charges raised by Nusra of “looting and assaults on civilians”–when dozens of Nusra fighters opened fire on the SRF squad, according to a statement released by the SRF on October 26.

Nusra denied those claims in a statement released the same day, claiming that Nusra had never raised charges against SRF-affiliated individuals, and that the SRF “stormed the village of [al-Bara] raining down a barrage of mortars on the sky and people” and then advanced on a neighboring town, at which point Nusra intervened to stop further bloodshed.

This, while media activist Al-Muataz Ballah Mohammed—living in the outskirts of Idlib—told Syria Direct Tuesday that the SRF came looking for some of its former fighters who had joined Jabhat a-Nusra in order to capture the men and take their weapons.

After the SRF was driven back, they fired 70 mortar shells on Al-Bara from Deir Sanabel, the hometown of Jamal Maruf, Mohammed added.

In related news, a group of religious scholars and students launched an initiative Monday, widely circulated on social media and Arabic-language news sites, called “Don’t Fight,” which calls for the immediate cessation of combat between Nusra and the SRF, and a mutual release of prisoners.

Lebanese army squashes Tripoli rebellion

Residents of the embattled northern Lebanese city of Tripoli began returning to their homes Tuesday after the Lebanese army secured a mosque inside the city Monday that had reportedly been used as a stronghold for radical Sunni militants, reported Lebanon’s The Daily Star.

The Lebanese army “broke” an attempt to establish an Islamic State presence in Tripoli, said one unnamed military source Tuesday, as quoted by National Liberal Party-affiliated news outlet Ahrar News Portal.

The relationship between IS and the Lebanese Islamist militants could not be confirmed.

The army captured the mosque after four days of fighting that killed 42 and injured over 150 others.

Jabhat a-Nusra has a strong presence along the Syrian-Lebanese border in the Qalamoun Mountains, occasionally crossing into Lebanon. In August, Nusra raided the Lebanese town Arsal, capturing a number of Lebanese soldiers and setting off a wave of anti-Syrian sentiment throughout the country.

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