Syrian residents recount anti-IS attacks

Article Summary
Syrian activists are reporting both jihadist and civilian casualties to An-Nahar as US-led operations against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra begin.

The United States has finally hit the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, with the support of the following Arab states: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan. The [countries] have made their decision to eradicate terrorism, although some of their citizens who are affiliated with either or both parties might be present in the targeted locations.

At the break of dawn on Sept. 23, aircraft belonging to the anti-terrorism international alliance began to hover in the Syrian skies — the first time in decades that American and Arab air forces have entered Syrian airspace. Without prior permission, the aircraft launched over 50 raids on IS and Jabhat al-Nusra locations in the following regions: Raqqa and its countryside; Abu Kamal in Deir ez-Zor; Aleppo's west countryside; and Kfar Daryan in Idlib countryside.

Rumors in Raqqa

At 4 a.m., Raqqa residents awoke to the sounds of missiles striking IS locations. According to opposition Syrian activist Ahmad Abu Bakr, who is in Raqqa: "Seven air raids targeted the municipality building in Raqqa city, al-Furousiya checkpoint north of the city, al-Maqas checkpoint and Tala’eh camp in the south, as well as the former state security building. Seven other raids targeted Tabaqa city in the western countryside of Raqqa, hitting the military air base and its surroundings from the eastern side as well as the installations near the Euphrates dam. In northern Raqqa countryside, three air raids targeted the Brigade 93 army base and its surroundings in Ain Issa village, while three other raids fell on the eastern countryside and targeted IS locations in Maadan city."

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IS members waited for the first morning hours to start redeployment and reorganization operations to avoid massive gatherings in their locations. Many inhabitants resorted to the countryside where IS is not present, while some headed to the northern countryside and the Tal Abyad district along the border in an attempt to enter Turkey. Many remained in Raqqa, according to Abu Bakr, who said, “Raqqa citizens are estimated between 700,000 or 800,000, and there are more than 600,000 displaced people.”

IS has anti-aircraft machine guns in Raqqa, but according to Abu Bakr, “these weapons cannot shoot down the fast US planes, which attack from a very high altitude. IS has obtained anti-aircraft missiles at the Tabaqa military airport, but this won’t affect the US aircraft either.” No one expected Arab and US aircraft to shell IS, leaving many in shock.

“The inhabitants are hopeful that IS will be destroyed, especially since no civilians have been wounded yet,” Abu Bakr said. IS casualties are still unclear, as the organization recently evacuated its locations for fear of a military strike.

The military aircraft returned to their positions and were replaced with reconnaissance aircraft amid fears of new raids.

Rumors claimed that one aircraft crashed in Raqqa after hitting the communications tower. Some people circulated photos, allegedly showing parts of the aircraft. However, Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi denied the news, saying, “A missile hit the communications tower, and the photos that were circulated showed parts of it.”

Mysterious situation in Abu Kamal

The situation in Abu Kamal in Deir ez-Zor remains mysterious. IS cut off most inhabitants from the Internet and forbade Syrian activists from working. Accessing information is now almost impossible, but according to Maher Hamdan, a Syrian activist in the Syria Press Agency, 30 air raids targeted IS locations in Abu Kamal, despite IS members attempting to escape the town for a week. It was confirmed that more than three members were killed and dozens were wounded.

“The air raids focused on three vital and main IS hubs, in addition to several checkpoints: al-Suwa'iya, al-Ziraa, al-Nasawia, Aqroub and Hajin. The regions that were hit are considered to be the backbone of the organization, some of which were evacuated. The militants ran with their weapons to Mayadeen city, and some escaped to neighborhoods in the city,” Hamdan said.

The checkpoint of al-Ziraa school — a pooling point for many IS fighters — was shelled. Hamdan said, “The school is like a central prison, where they lock up whoever they find guilty of apostasy and infidelity. Most of the detainees are innocent civilians, moderate Free Syrian Army fighters, news channel correspondents and activists.” Hamdan also said, “A bus transporting citizens was targeted, killing everybody on it.”

Four Jabhat al-Nusra hotspots in Idlib

The big surprise was in Idlib. Jabhat al-Nusra thought it was off the hook. But, along with other spots in Syria that the alliance’s aircraft shelled, it targeted five spots in Kfar Daryan in Idlib and hit four Jabhat al-Nusra farms east of the village, two of which are ammunition and arms’ warehouses.

Syrian activist Mourad al-Ayham told An-Nahar, “The farms were shelled with five missiles (probably Tomahawks) and were completely destroyed. The targets were very accurate and led to a blast in the arms’ warehouse. A two-story building inhabited by displaced people was also shelled.”

Ayham added that this blow claimed the lives of at least 30 Jabhat al-Nusra members, but also killed 10 civilians and wounded around 30 others.

The Syrian regime took advantage of the blow and raided Khan al-Sibl in Saraqib suburbs and Tamana village, which is near Khan Shaykhun town. Meanwhile, the Syrian and Kurdish opposition forces took advantage of the attacks near the Turkish border to detain IS members who tried to flee from regions near Kobani city.

Syrian activist Wahid Tamo said, “Three raids targeted IS locations in Karak, Jalabiya and Khan Mamid in the eastern side of the Kobani suburbs near the Turkish border. In retaliation, IS members attacked the city.”

Targeting Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaish al-Muhajireen in Aleppo

In the western Aleppo countryside, the raids targeted the locations of Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaish al-Muhajireen in al-Mohandeseen countryside, Khan al-Assal and Urum al-Kubra town, according to media activist Bahaa al-Halabi, who confirmed that “15 Jabhat al-Nusra members were killed.”

Head of the civil defense department in al-Bab city, Abu Ahmad, said, “The raid targeted buildings that are very far from Jabhat al-Nusra’s hotspots. This reminded us of erratic shelling. Many civilians died as a result.” Abu Majd al-Halabi talked about conflicting information regarding Jabhat al-Nusra members who died.

“Some sources confirm that more than 40 members died, while others claim that the number is exaggerated. It is up to Jabhat al-Nusra to confirm, but as usual, the movement resigns itself to silence. In the Aleppo eastern countryside, where there are IS hotbeds, we noticed that the members of the organization have been decreasing in numbers for 15 days. They seemed to be re-deploying themselves or getting ready to withdraw from the regions,” Halabi said.

AFP cited the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as stating that the strikes launched by the US-led international alliance on the jihadist locations in east and north Syria killed at least 120 jihadists.

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Found in: united states, syria, jabhat al-nusra, islamic state
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