Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Deutsche Welle – 2015-01-02 23:49:10
Dozens Killed as US Escalates Strikes Against ISIS in Syria
Jason Ditz / AntiWar
(January 2, 2015) — Exact death tolls are unclear, but dozens of people were reported killed today as the US escalated its airstrikes against the ISIS capital of Raqqa and the contested city of Kobani.
The US launches daily airstrikes in both places, of course, but reports today are that the number of attacks are the highest since before December 24, when a Jordanian pilot involved in the air war was shot down and captured.
Raqqa is the de facto capital city of the ISIS caliphate, and indeed ISIS controls materially the entire Raqqa Province. In Kobani, ISIS is continuing to fight against Kurdish militias which hold much of the city.
ISIS reportedly lost an allied Saudi cleric today in Kobani, though there are conflicting reports as to whether he was killed in an airstrike, or in fighting with the Kurdish militias.
Airstrikes, Rival Shelling Kill Dozens in Syria
(January 2, 2015) — Three groups monitoring Syria’s conflict say US-led coalition warplanes have staged heavy airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Raqqa and Kobani. Casualty figures have not emerged.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights and two other monitoring groups said Friday that the air raids since Thursday night had the heaviest since IS captured a Jordanian pilot on December 24.
At least 13 coalition strikes had occurred from Thursday into Friday said the anti-IS activist group which calls itself Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered.
Raqqa is the IS’ de facto capital in northeastern Syria, part of a swathe of territory seized by the jihadists across Syrian and northwestern Iraq last year in a bid to establish an Islamic caliphate.
The US-coalition’s Combined Joint Task Force said its aircraft had destroyed IS vehicles, and fighting positions near Raqqa, al-Hasakah and Kobani.
The news agency Associated Press said Friday it had information suggesting that a Saudi cleric aligned with IS and named as Othman al-Nazeh al-Assiri had been killed during the airstrikes on Kobani.
The town near Syria’s border with southern Turkey has for months been the scene of intense clashes between IS jihadis and Kurdish gunmen.
Further Bloodshed in Aleppo
The Syrian Observatory said Syrian rebel fire on Syrian government-controlled parts of Syria’s northern city of Aleppo have claimed the lives of at least 19 people.
Those killed included at least five children, three of whom were killed with their mother when a rocket hit the car in which they were travelling.
Thursday’s rocket attack on Aleppo’s west has also left at least 32 people wounded.
Three other people, including a pregnant woman, had been killed by a ground-to-ground missile fired by government forces at a rebel district in eastern Aleppo, the Observatory added.
Aleppo, once Syria’s economic hub, has been ravaged by fighting that begin in 2012.
Economic Hub Now Divided
The city is divided, with government forces controlling its western areas and rebels control the east.
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011 when Syria’s complex conflict began. Last year was the deadliest so far.
2014 Deadliest Year So Far in Syrian Conflict: Monitor
(January 2, 2015) — A group monitoring the civil conflict in Syria says more than 76,000 people there were killed in violence in 2014, the highest annual toll so far. Iraq also had its worst death toll in seven years, the government says.
Syria’s conflict killed at least 76,021 people in 2014, making it the deadliest year so far in nearly four years of fighting, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 17,790 of this total were civilians, including 3,501 children.
At least 22,627 government or pro-government forces were also killed, the group said, while more than 15,000 rebels fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad also lost their lives.
The toll also includes nearly 17,000 militants from jihadist groups, such as the “Islamic State” and the al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate.
The figure for 2014 represents an increase of more than 2,500 over the previous year. More than 200,000 people in all have been killed, and millions displaced, since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-Assad protests.
The initially peaceful demonstrations gradually shifted to all-out civil war after a violent government crackdown.
Rare Assad Visit
Assad, who is also the Syrian military’s commander in chief, marked the end of 2014 with a rare visit to troops in a combat zone in the eastern district of Jobar in the capital, Damascus, where at least 25 combatants were killed on Wednesday before the visit, according to the Observatory.
“If there is still a bit of joy in Syria, it is thanks to the victories you are winning against terrorism,” he was quoted as saying.
Jobar was captured by anti-Assad forces in 2013. Government forces are still battling rebels on the outskirts of the city, the center of which is in government hands.
High Iraqi Toll
Government figures from neighboring Iraq released on Thursday also showed 2014 to have been one of the most violent years since that country’s internal conflict began in the wake of a US-led invasion in 2003.
They said more than 15,000 civilians and security personnel were killed and 22,000 wounded, making the year the deadliest since sectarian bloodshed reached a peak in 2007 with an estimated 17,956 deaths.
In 2013, an estimated 6,522 were killed.
Much of the bloodshed in 2014 was caused by the advance of the jihadist “Islamic State” group, which captured large swathes of territory in a summer offensive.
Large parts of the country remain in the hands of the militants, despite recent successes by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by Shiite militias and Sunni tribesmen.
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