Da’esh/Lone Wolf Attacks – ISIS has called for lone-wolf attacks on commuters, queuing pensioners, children playing in the park and even market vendors in a ranting magazine threat it was reported on the 6 Sep 16. The terror group used the chilling examples as it urged its followers around the world to target non-believers in a 38-page booklet published in different languages. It even features a picture of what appears to be a British market vendor along with the caption: 'Even the blood of a merry crusader citizen selling flowers to passers-by'. In other warped extracts, it encourages fanatics to slaughter soft targets including commuters, young people playing in parks and 'the old man waiting in line'. On the front page of 'Rumiyah' is a picture of Abu Mohammed Al Adnani, the ISIS propaganda chief recently killed in an air strike. A foreword warns that ISIS will not die with the death of its leaders, Foreign Desk News reports. It also includes a four-page tribute to an Australian jihadist convicted over a 2005 plot to bomb the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Ezzit Raad, who travelled to the Middle East after serving time in jail, died fighting for ISIS in Manbij near the battleground city of Aleppo in northern Syria. The group describe how Raad's chest was 'torn open by shrapnel' and call for terror attacks on 'kuffar', or non-believers, in Australia. 'Light the ground beneath them aflame and scorch them with terror,' said the chilling message, which was shared online by the counter-terrorism researchers. 'Kill them on the streets of Brunswick, Broadmeadows, Bankstown and Bondi. 'Kill them at the MCG, the SCG, the Opera House, even in their backyards.' SITE Intelligence Group Director Rita Katz said the group's new magazine was 'clearly... highly important to #ISIS as it has now been published in 7 languages'. Elsewhere, the magazine features an article called 'The Kafir’s blood is Halal for you. So shed it' which attempts to justify killing non-believers who are not fighting on the front line. These included English, Russian, Pashto, Turkish, French, German and Indonesian.
Da’esh/United States – The U.S. on the 12 Sep 16 destroyed an ISIS chemical manufacturing facility in Iraq, which posed a “significant chemical [weapons] threat.” CNN reports that footage of Monday air strikes showed twelve aircraft hitting a sprawling industrial site in Mosul. The hits were followed by huge explosions in multiple buildings and storage facilities. The buildings were quickly engulfed by flames, and heavy plumes of dark smoke rose into the air. ISIS released a propaganda video, claiming that U.S. jets had destroyed the “only pharmaceutical company in northern Mosul.” U.S. and Iraqi defence officials dismissed the jihadists’ claims, saying ISIS had converted the factory to a production facility for chemical weapons. Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command said the facility posed a “significant chemical threat to innocent Iraqis.” “Intelligence had indicated that Da’esh converted a pharmaceutical plant complex into a chemical weapons productions capability,” he added, saying fifty individual targets were hit. “This represents just another example of Da’esh blatant disregard for international law and norms. “The enemy is using innocent civilians as shields against our values and respect for human life.” CNN notes that UN investigators have confirmed that ISIS had used mustard gas in both Syria and Iraq. The group has also been accused of using chlorine gas. Most of ISIS chemical attacks were against Kurdish fighters and civilians. Speaking from the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Lt. Gen. Harrigian said the U.S. Air Force would continue efforts to “dismantle Da’esh” and accelerate ground operations to drive Isis out of Mosul and Raqqa. “We will continue to shape the battle space, going after their revenue streams, killing their leaders and creating organizational dysfunction,” he added. “We will seek to use the weight of air power to remove Da’esh’s legitimacy, shatter their vision, and enable taking back the territory and resources they have stolen.”
Da’esh/Iraq/United States – ISIS militants are “dead set” on using chemical arms and are likely to try them again as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul, a Pentagon spokesman said on the 26 Sep 16 a week after a rocket with a possible chemical agent landed near US troops. The shell initially tested positive for a mustard agent, but two subsequent tests have been inconclusive and the device is undergoing further tests, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. “We fully recognize this is something that ISIS has done before. They’ve done it many times, at least a couple dozen that we know of where they have launched crude makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent,” Davis said. An air strike by the US-led military coalition destroyed an ISIS chemical weapons factory on the 23 Sep 16 near Qayyara, the second attack against a chemical arms facility this month. Davis said ISIS’s ability to weaponize mustard agent has been rudimentary. The group typically uses a chemical powder bound together with oil, which leaves behind a telltale oil trace. “It’s not generally in a lethal concentration. It’s more of an irritant than anything else, but again, not something we view as militarily significant,” he said, noting that the gas form of mustard agent used in the First World War was far more lethal. Even though ISIS has not perfected the ability to weapon-ize chemicals, US and Iraqi forces still have to be prepared for a chemical attack, Davis said. “We recognize this is real. They’re dead set on it. They would love to be able to use chemical weapons against us, against the Iraqis as they move forward,” Davis said. “We are making every effort to make sure that we’re ready for it.” He said US troops deployed to the region have the training and equipment they need to defend against chemical attacks and are working to ensure the Iraqis are prepared and properly equipped as well. Davis said the United States has provided more than 50,000 respirators to Iraq, with about 40,000 going to Iraqi security forces.
Gaza Strip/HAMAS – Hamas spends an annual $100 million on its military infrastructure in order to prepare for its next war against Israel, Avi Issacharoff of The Times of Israel reported on the 8 Sep 16. Roughly $40 million is spent on employing around 1,500 diggers to build the Iran-backed terror organization’s network of tunnels. Wages for the excavators range from $250 to $400 a month, a high salary for Gaza, which has a high unemployment rate. Diggers also receive bonuses for meeting deadlines, and more experienced diggers are paid higher salaries. Despite the financial hardships experienced by Gaza residents, Hamas, which in 2014 had a budget of around $530 million, is intent on increasing its military spending. It hopes to upgrade its capabilities, which were degraded during its war with Israel two years ago, and is seeking to develop more precise rockets that could evade Israel’s Iron Dome defensive shield. To support this effort, Hamas, which Issacharoff observed is “an Islamist terror group avowedly committed to destroying Israel,” has improved its smuggling network to obtain weapons and rocket materials. This May, Israeli authorities uncovered a smuggled shipment of four tons of ammonium chloride concealed in 30 tons of salt. The compound can be employed both as a fertilizer and in the production of rockets. The Israel Tax Authority stated that those four tons could have been used to make hundreds of long-range rockets. “This case underscores the activity of Gaza-based terrorist organizations in smuggling dual-use materials disguised as goods destined for the civilian population and reconstruction projects,” the authority concluded. Later that month, Israel intercepted another shipment of materials that could be used in the construction of rockets and terror tunnels. Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold announced in May that Hamas is confiscating 95% of cement that enters Gaza. “From our own investigations we found that out of every 100 sacks of cement that come into the Gaza Strip [from Israel], only five or six are transferred to civilians,” he stated. Hamas uses the cement to build and expand its network of tunnels. The IDF uncovered two Hamas tunnels that breached Israeli territory in the spring. Hamas used its network of tunnels during the 2014 war to infiltrate into Israel and has continued its efforts to rebuild and expand its infrastructure. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters in May that the discovery of the tunnels was a sign that Hamas was preparing for another war against Israel. He added that the tunnel digging means that “they definitely invest a lot in making the necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels.” While Hamas smuggles most of its materials through Israel, it also uses smuggling tunnels from the Sinai and shipping by sea. Egyptian authorities uncovered a 2.5-kilometer (1.5 mile) tunnel in the Sinai Peninsula. Hamas is working with top officials of ISIS’s Sinai affiliate to facilitate its smuggling operations. The ISIS official in charge of coordinating the effort currently lives in Gaza under the protection of Hamas’s main militia, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. In “Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels,” which was published in the April 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine, Dan Feferman observed that the people of Gaza pay the price for Hamas’ efforts to rebuild its tunnels. There is a tragic side to Hamas’ tunnel strategy. Roughly 9,000 homes were destroyed during Protective Edge, and very few have been rebuilt. This is not Israel’s fault, as building supplies flow regularly into Gaza. But according to declassified intelligence reports, these supplies are routinely stolen by Hamas in order to serve the group’s terrorist purposes. Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels. Estimates are that one tunnel can cost a million dollars to build and uses around 50,000 tons of concrete. Close to a million tons of concrete were poured into the terror tunnels before 2014. The tunnels, in this sense, are a zero-sum game. If the same materials were put into reconstruction, the Gazan people would be better off and, lacking this crucial asymmetric warfare capability, Hamas would be less tempted to attack Israel. On the other hand, with the same limited materials going to terror tunnels, the people of Gaza continue to live in ruins while Hamas rebuilds its war machine. While Hamas appears to be deterred in the short term, it continues to believe that the tunnels are its only strategic weapon. While it may not be interested in another war, the tunnels continue to be dug for a reason. Once used, however, they lose their effectiveness, as the IDF knows their locations and can thus destroy them. Hamas is well aware of this dilemma. The tunnels essentially leave Israel and Hamas in an arms race—with Israel racing to develop a technological solution before Hamas decides to launch another round of fighting.
This article is published courtesy of The Tower
361 COMMENT: With successive defeats against Israel this might be the start of something completely different. Yes the terrorist group have used tunnels in the past but there appears to be a lot more though going into these tunnels. Not only can they launch attacks, kidnappings but once the ground war has started then Hamas could send in their terrorists to create a fifth column working in the rear in the hope that IDF will have to use soldiers to patrol Israel and thus weakening them on the front. COMMENT ENDS
Iran/United States – A vessel from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 100 yards of a US military ship in the central Gulf on the 4 Sep 16 two US Defence Department officials said on the 6 Sep 16. The officials said the Iranian vessel sailed directly in front of the USS Firebolt, a 174-foot (53 m) coastal patrol vessel, forcing the US ship to change course in a manoeuvre they described as “unsafe and unprofessional.” The incident comes after a similar occurrence in late Aug 16. A US Defence official said in August that four vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “harassed” a US destroyer by carrying out a “high speed intercept” in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran also detained 10 US sailors on Jan 12 after their boats entered its territorial waters because of what they said was a navigational error. The US military’s concerns about Iran’s behaviour in places like the Strait, one of the world’s most important oil shipping channels, have persisted despite the nuclear deal signed in Apr 15 under which Tehran curbed its disputed atomic program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Iraq – A blast caused by a fire at a weapons storage in eastern Baghdad on the 2 Sep 16 set off rockets that hit neighbouring districts, killing at least four people and injuring a dozen others, police and hospital sources said. A column of smoke was seen over Obaidi, a Shia neighbourhood close the industrial zone where the weapons depot is located. The storage belongs to one of the Shia paramilitary groups of the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), a coalition of militias that is taking part in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group.
Iraq/Da’esh – At least nine people were killed in Baghdad late on the 5 Sep 16 in a car bomb attack claimed by ISIS near a hospital in a central district, police and hospital sources said. A suicide bomber had targeted a gathering of Shiite Muslims in the Karrada district, according to a statement circulated online by the Amaq news agency, which supports the ultra-hardline militant group. The police and hospital sources said 20 people were also injured in the blast and they expected the death toll to rise.
Iraq/Da’esh – Iraq has put out fires at six more oil wells in the Qayyara region, which Iraqi forces recaptured from ISIS late last month, but at least three fires are still blazing, the oil ministry said on the 6 Sep 16. The militants sabotaged much of Qayyara’s oil infrastructure before fleeing ahead of the government advance, sending black smoke into the sky for days and oil pouring into main thoroughfares. The authorities said last week they had already put out fires from four wells, but a Reuters correspondent visiting the city afterwards saw around a dozen separate plumes of smoke and a military officer in the area said on the 4 Sep 16 the fires were still raging. “The firefighting consisted of removing explosives from these wells, putting out the fires and preventing crude oil from leaking into the river to prevent pollution,” ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said. Responders also built dirt walls and trenches to prevent oil from reaching residential neighbourhoods, he added. Jihad said three wells that remain outside the control of the security forces would be extinguished as soon as they were recaptured. The Qayyara region produces heavy sour crude and has a small refinery to process some of the oil. The oil ministry has said it does not expect to resume production from the Qayyara region before security forces recapture Mosul, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq. The two main fields, Qayyara and Najma, used to produce 30,000 barrels per day of heavy crude before the takeover by Islamic State.
Iraq/Da’esh/United States Troops – ISIS militants on the 20 Sep 16 fired a shell that may have contained a mustard agent onto a military base in northern Iraq used by US and Iraqi troops, CNN reported on the 21 Sep 16 citing several US officials. No US troops were hurt or have displayed symptoms of exposure to a mustard agent, CNN said. One official said the agent had “low purity” and was “poorly weaponized,” CNN reported. A second official called it “ineffective,” the network said. A US defence official said troops had gone out to look at the shell after it landed on the base, which is being used to prepare an attack to retake Mosul from ISIS, CNN reported. Two field tests were conducted after the troops saw what they thought was a suspect substance. The first test came back positive but the second test was negative, the network said. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Iraq/Da’esh/Tikrit – At least 11 people were killed in Iraq after attackers hit a police checkpoint and then detonated a car bomb at the entrance to the city of Tikrit. Iraqi police and military officials said on the 24 Sep 16 there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the city, which is 150km north of Baghdad. Tikrit was retaken from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Apr 15. The attack came days after Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Shirqat, 100km north of Tikrit, from ISIL in preparation for a move on the northern city of Mosul later this year. One of the attackers was killed at the checkpoint after shooting dead four police officers at around 0500 hrs local time (0200 hrs GMT), according to police and sources from Salahuddin Operations Command, which is responsible for security in the area. Two other assailants continued about 7km to the city limits and detonated the explosives in their pickup truck, killing eight people and injuring 23, sources said. A provincial spokesman said the attack was a triple suicide bombing. Colonel Mohammed al-Jabouri said three assailants rammed their explosives-laden vehicles into the checkpoint. Al-Jabouri said 12 security officers were killed and 34 others were injured. He said the attack occurred as the local police chief and head of the provincial security committee were visiting the site. Both escaped unharmed.
Iraq/Da’esh – A suicide bomber blew himself up in a commercial street of Baghdad on the 25 Sep 16 killing seven and wounding 28, police sources said, as ISIS steps up attacks in Iraq. The ultra-hardline Sunni group claimed the attack in Iskan, a mostly Shi’ite district in the west of the Iraqi capital. The militants’ Amaq news agency said the bombing targeted members of the Badr Organization, the most powerful Iraqi Shi’ite militia, which is backed by Iran. ISIS has intensified bomb attacks in government-held areas of Iraq this year as it loses territory to US-backed Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias. It claimed a truck bombing in Jul 16 that killed at least 324 in the Karrada shopping area of Baghdad, in the deadliest single attack in Iraq.
Iraq/Da’esh – A suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in a predominately Shiite Muslim district of Baghdad on the 27 Sep 16 killing at least nine people and injuring 30, police and medical sources said. The blast targeted a commercial street in the eastern Baghdad al-Jadida area of the Iraqi capital, they said, adding that the death toll could climb further. ISIS has intensified bomb attacks in government-held areas of Iraq this year as it loses territory.
Iran/Yemen – Yemen plans to complain to the UN Security Council over what it says are Iran’s weapon transfers to Houthi allies fighting the internationally recognized Yemeni government, the foreign minister said on the 24 Sep 16. In an interview with Reuters, Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi also said he hoped a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire would take effect “early next week.” Yemen and Saudi Arabia - which intervened in the country in March 2015 to prevent the Houthis and forces loyal to the former president from taking over - blame Shi’ite Iran for supplying weapons to the Houthis. The Iranian mission at the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest accusation. “There are new weapons coming from Iran,” Mekhlafi said in New York where he was attending the annual UN gathering of world leaders. “It is impossible to hide that weapons-smuggling is still taking place from Iran. Some of these weapons have been found on the Saudi-Yemeni border and they are Iranian weapons,” he said. Mekhlafi said his government was in the process of filing a complaint to the Security Council, with evidence including documents and pictures. UN-sponsored talks to try to end 18 months of fighting that has killed at least 10,000 people collapsed last month. The foreign minister said President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi had met with US and UN officials this week and had agreed in principle to a 72-hour ceasefire. “He (Hadi) asked that the ceasefire be taken advantage of by lifting the unjust siege of Taiz and for food to enter simultaneously,” Mekhlafi said, referring to a city in the country’s highlands. The government was waiting for the UN envoy to speak with the Houthi side to secure those guarantees, he added. Asked about the civilian casualties, he said “We do not say that there are no victims in this war. This is a war, it’s not a war of angels, it’s a war of people. There are many victims and there are mistakes and this is normal,” he said, adding that less attention was given to attacks against civilians by the Houthi side. Mekhlafi defended the Yemeni president’s move to appoint a new central bank governor and move the bank’s headquarters to Aden, where Hadi’s government is based. “This was a necessary step ... Even our allies, and the international institutions, have reached the conclusion that it was the necessary last step to save the Yemeni economy,” he said. He said the central bank in Houthi-controlled Sanaa was down to its last $700 million in foreign reserves and there was no longer any local currency liquidity. The bank also had not paid the interest on external debt since May, or public sector salaries for the last two months. The government in Aden has accused the Houthis of squandering some $4 billion on the war effort from central bank reserves. The Houthis said the funds were used to finance imports of food and medicine. Mekhlafi said the government had made clear to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and American and British officials that the new central bank would pay public sector salaries for everyone, including those in areas under Houthi control. He said the bank’s new administration was in the process of agreeing with a Russian company to print additional Yemeni notes.
Iran/United Arab Emirates – Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan pointed to Iran’s “expansionist regional policies, flagrant violations of the principles of sovereignty and constant interference in the internal affairs of its neighbouring countries.” He told the UN General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting on the 24 Sep 16 that regional countries hoped last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers would change Tehran’s “hostile approach,” but those hopes were “quickly thwarted.” “Iran wasted no time in continuing its efforts to undermine the security of the region, through aggressive rhetoric, blatant interference, producing and arming militias, (and) developing its ballistic missile program,” Al Nahyan said. Iran has been backing Syrian President Bashar Assad and Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the UAE minister said its interference in Iraq’s internal affairs “has exacerbated ... division among its people.”
Israel/West Bank – A Palestinian man was shot on the morning of the 18 Sep 16 after allegedly stabbing an Israeli army officer in a settlement in the occupied West Bank. "A terrorist carried out a stabbing attack in Efrat and injured an officer," the Israeli army's Twitter account said. The alleged assailant, identified as by the army as Palestinian, was shot by soldiers at the scene shortly after stabbing a reserves company commander in the settlement of Efrat between Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank, the army said. Both were evacuated to the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, which said the alleged attacker suffered a gunshot wound to his head. The soldier was stabbed in the armpit. It was the fifth attack on Israeli security forces or civilians since the 16 Sep 16 after a three-week lull in a nearly year-long wave of violence. The Efrat settlement is a short distance from the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, where on the 17 Sep 16 a Palestinian allegedly stabbed a soldier before he was shot dead. On the 16 Sep 16 two Palestinians in a car allegedly tried to run over Israeli settlers at a bus stop adjacent to the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron before nearby soldiers shot and killed one of the assailants. The same day, a Jordanian allegedly stabbed a police officer in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem before he was shot dead.
The Israeli army announced on the 17 Sep 16 it was sending an additional battalion to reinforce the Hebron area following the uptick in violence around the city. A wave of violence since last October has killed 227 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, one Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to a news agency count. Israeli forces say most of the Palestinians killed were allegedly carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. Others were shot dead during protests or killed in Israeli air raids on Gaza.
Saudi Arabia – Two Saudi policemen were fatally shot in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam by unknown assailants, Al Arabiya television reported on the 18 Sep 16. The policemen were on patrol in the country’s Eastern Province, known to be the oil-producing area, as well as home to the Shi’ite population of the. The shootings have been occurring as of late as Shi’ite militants have begun voicing their concern with what they say is repression within the country.
Saudi Arabia/Da’esh – Saudi authorities have arrested three cells linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) it was announced on the 19 Sep 16. Following months of monitoring terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia, security forces have arrested three cells which are affiliated with ISIS and which consist of 17 people. They were planning four attacks and have reached advanced stages of preparing for these suicide attacks which aimed to target citizens, religious scholars, security forces and military, security and economic facilities in different areas as well as religious sites in al-Ahsa and security headquarters linked to the defence and interior ministries. The 17 detainees include 13 Saudis, an Egyptian, a Yemeni, a Palestinian and a woman who participated in implementing terrorist schemes. Saudi authorities also confiscated 20 kilograms of explosives, explosive belts which weigh 8 kilograms, weapons and ammunition. They also confiscated 600,000 Saudi Riyals which were in possession of one of the cells. Investigations revealed that one of the apprehended cells had provided refuge to those who carried out the explosion of Imam al-Rida Mosque in al-Ahsa and had also been involved in blowing up a military personnel's car in Riyadh, assisting in the assassination of a Saudi officer and targeting a security post on al-Haer road in Riyadh.
Syria – At least 38 people were reportedly killed and dozens injured in a series of bombings across mostly government-controlled areas of Syria, state media reported on the 5 Sep 16. Monday morning's blasts hit the coastal city of Tartus, the central city of Homs, the suburbs of the capital Damascus as well as the north-eastern city of Hasaka, which is mostly controlled by Kurdish forces but where the government maintains a presence. State media said a number of people had been killed and others injured in a double bomb attack just outside Tartus, in the coastal province of the same name, which is a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad's government. "Two terrorist blasts on Arzuna bridge, the first a car bomb and the second a suicide bomber who detonated his explosive belt when people gathered to help the wounded," state television said. State media also reported five people killed in Hasaka, in the northeast of the country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Britain-based monitor, said the blast hit a checkpoint belonging to the Kurdish Asayesh security forces. And state media also reported a car bomb at the entrance to the Al-Zahra neighbourhood in Homs, which is controlled by the government. State media also reported another bomb attack on a road west of the capital Damascus, but gave no immediate toll in the blast. After the bombings there had been no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts.
Syria/Jund al Aqsa – Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group in Syria, has released a video showing one of its small drones dropping a bomb on Syrian regime forces in Hama province it was reported on the 2 Sep 16. The unguided bomb doesn’t appear to have been especially effective, but the video is noteworthy because it documents the Sunni jihadis’ further experimentation with explosives. Iran’s chief terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, was reportedly an early adopter of drones for use in its operations. Over the past year, Al Qaeda-linked groups and others have increasingly used commercial drones and similar technology to record their propaganda videos. The Long War Journal has previously noted that, in addition to Jund al Aqsa, jihadi groups such as Al Nusrah Front (now known as Jabhat Fath al Sham), the al Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (see here and here), the Mujahideen Shura Council in Derna, the Islamic State and multiple others have used drones to record propaganda scenes. The overhead footage can provide a dramatic look at the battles being waged, including the use of suicide bombers. The jihadis are also probably using the drones for surveillance purposes, as they can get a better perspective on the targets they seek to assault. Jund al Aqsa is playing a major role in the rebel offensive in Hama. The group led the charge by dispatching a pair of suicide operatives against Syrian regime positions in late August. In the days that followed, Jund al Aqsa has claimed the capture of various regime checkpoints and towns. One map posted on the organization’s Twitter feed provided an update on the fighting in Hama province. Other groups are taking part in the Hama operations as well. According to Reuters, “factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA),” including Jaysh al Nasr, are allied with Jund al Aqsa during the battles. Jund al Aqsa remains loyal to al Qaeda’s senior leadership and supports Al Nusrah Front’s relaunch as Jabhat Fath al Sham (“Conquest of the Levant Front”). In a carefully worded statement released on July 31, members of Jund al Aqsa’s “general command” said they were optimistic about Al Nusrah’s “new garb,” or new appearance. According to the statement’s authors, Al Qaeda’s emirs and clerics must have carefully deliberated the move, determining that it was in the best “interest” of both the people and the jihad in Syria. In so deciding, Jund al Aqsa’s men said, al Qaeda’s leaders have once again proven their “sacrifice” in service of the ummah (worldwide community of Muslims). The jihadists “can [use] any name” they want, the statement continued, so long as they stay true to the principles of the “prestigious first generation of mujahideen” and follow the Prophet Mohammed’s “methodology.” Jund al Aqsa’s leadership wrote that they hoped Al Nusrah’s rebirth as Jabhat Fath al Sham would lead to the creation of a new “Islamic authority” that governed according to sharia law, protected the lives of the people, and yet remained truly “independent.” The al Qaeda-linked group did not say that Jabhat Fath al Sham was such a government, but instead that it would hopefully be a “prelude” to the creation of one.
Syria – The Syrian government has denied claims that it dropped barrels of chemical weapons on an opposition-held neighbourhood in Aleppo city that has caused at least one death and dozens of cases of suffocation it was reported on the 7 Sep16. A video obtained by Al Jazeera shows what activists say is the aftermath of an attack in the rebel-held al-Sukkari neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo. The activists say that the Syrian government used a helicopter to drop two barrel bombs loaded with gas on residents, killing at least one person and injuring more than 100. Rescue workers also said government helicopters dropped suspected chlorine bombs on the neighbourhood on the 6 Sep 16. The Syrian Civil Defence and the Syrian American Medical Society posted videos and photos on social media showing children doused in water using oxygen masks to breathe. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks daily developments in the Syrian war, said that more than 70 people in Sukkari were left choking and needing treatment after the dropping of barrel bombs by Syrian government helicopters. Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep near the Syria-Turkey border, said: "Activists on the ground are saying that victims that were rushed to the hospitals are experiencing breathing difficulties. "They say that symptoms are the same that they have experienced in the past and this led them to believe that this is a chlorine gas attack." The opposition Aleppo Media Centre also charged on its Twitter account that Sukkari was the target of a chlorine attack. The Syrian government has vigorously denied using chemical bombs. Last month, an inquiry by the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that Syrian government forces were responsible for two toxic gas attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine. The Syrian Civil Defence accused the government of another chlorine attack in August. The UN said it was investigating this allegation. "Accusations by the opposition that the Syrian government dropped chlorine gas in a barrel bomb on Aleppo are likely to further increase tension in the city that is now besieged by government troops," our correspondent said. "The UN said that they have been investigating reports of what they believed to be chlorine gas dropped on Aleppo; they say if those accusations are confirmed that would amount to war crimes."
Syria/Russia/United States – US-led coalition air raids reportedly killed dozens of Syrian soldiers on the 17 Sep 16 endangering a US-Russian brokered ceasefire and prompting an emergency UN Security meeting as tensions between Washington and Moscow escalated. The US military said the coalition stopped its strikes against what it believed to be ISIL positions in the eastern city of Deir Az Zor on the 17 Sep16 after Russia informed it that Syrian military personnel and vehicles may have been hit. "We are investigating the incident," US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told journalists as the emergency Security Council meeting, called by Russia, got under way in New York. "If we determine that we did indeed strike Syrian military personnel, that was not our intention. And we of course regret the loss of life." If confirmed, it would mark the first known direct American strike on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia said 62 Syrian soldiers were killed and at least 100 more injured in strikes by "warplanes from the international anti-jihadist coalition". The Russian military said two F-16 and two A-10 jets flew into Syrian air space from neighbouring Iraq to carry out the raids. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group gave a toll of 83 soldiers killed, as it confirmed the strikes were US-led coalition raids. A US military official speaking to a news agency also appeared to confirm the attack, saying "we believe about a half-dozen vehicles, including what we think was a tank, were struck as well as personnel who were out in the open". The Australian Department of Defence said on the 18 Sep 16 that its planes had participated in the strikes and offered condolences to the families of Syrian soldiers killed or wounded in the incident. Power accused Russia of pulling a "stunt" by calling for an emergency Security Council meeting to demand an explanation from the US. She said Moscow should instead demand a meeting with the Syrian government to press for peace. "Russia really needs to stop the cheap point scoring and the grandstanding and the stunts and focus on what matters, which is implementation of something we negotiated in good faith with them," Power told reporters before the meeting. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin responded by accusing the US of violating agreements that it would not target Syrian positions and said the action was a "bad omen" for a US-Russian deal on halting the fighting in Syria. Washington and Moscow reached an agreement in Sep 16 that calls for a ceasefire, the delivery of aid and the joint targeting of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The ceasefire came into effect on the 12 Sep 16 and has largely held, despite dozens of alleged violations. A senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said Moscow used the incident to underline the importance of communication between Russia and the US in military operations in Syria. "What the Russians are saying today is you - the Americans - because you don't want to coordinate on the ground these sorts of mistakes are going to happen more often. It's quite foggy in terms of coordination on the ground. With the various violations of the ceasefire, you're going to see more friendly type fire going on," Bishara said. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are due on the 21 Sep 16 to attend a special Security Council meeting on Syria, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. Syria's army said the US-led strikes, which took place at around 1700 hrs local time (1400 hrs GMT), were "conclusive evidence" of US support for ISIL, calling them "dangerous and blatant aggression". The US military said in its statement that Syria was a "complex situation" but that "coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit". ISIL said via its Amaq news channel it had taken complete control of Jebel Tharda, where the bombed position was located, which would have allowed it to overlook government-held areas of Deir Az Zor. The city's airport and some districts have been entirely surrounded by ISIL since last year, with the airport providing their only external access. However, Russia and Syrian state media said the Syrian army later recaptured positions it had lost. Earlier on the 17 Sep 16 Russia and Syrian rebels cast doubt over the prospects for the increasingly shaky ceasefire, with Moscow saying the situation was getting worse and a senior rebel warning the truce would "not hold out". While the ceasefire has reduced fighting, low levels of violence have persisted across Syria. Meanwhile, there has been little movement on promised aid deliveries to besieged areas and both sides have accused the other of bad faith. Russia's defence ministry said conditions in Syria were deteriorating, adding that it believed the ceasefire had been breached 199 times by rebels and saying the US would be responsible if it were to collapse. After the Deir Az Zor attack, it said Moscow had told the US to rein in the Syrian opposition and make sure it did not launch a new offensive, adding that it had informed Washington about a concentration of rebels north of Hama. Rebels say they only reluctantly accepted the initial deal, which they believe is skewed against them, because it could relieve the dire humanitarian situation in besieged areas they control, and blamed Russia for undermining the truce. "The truce, as we have warned, and we told the (US) State Department - will not hold out," a senior rebel official in Aleppo told a news agency on the 17 Sep 16 pointing to the continued presence of a UN aid convoy at the Turkish border awaiting permission to enter. Rebels have also accused Russia of using the ceasefire to give the Syrian army and allied Shia militias a chance to regroup and deploy forces ready for their own offensives. Both sides have accused the other of being responsible for aid deliveries being stuck far from Aleppo, where army and rebel forces were supposed to pull back from the Castello Road, a key route into leading they city's besieged, rebel-held eastern districts. Two convoys of aid for Aleppo have been waiting at the Turkish border for days. The UN has said both sides in the war are to blame for the delay of aid to Aleppo, where neither has yet withdrawn from the Castello Road.
Yemen/Iran – Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalak Al-Makhlafi said that Iran is continuing with its interferences in his conflict-torn country, and urged Tehran to stop, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on the 17 Sep 16. Makhlafi stressed Yemen’s desire for peace during his address at a preparatory meeting for the Non-Aligned Movement summit which kick started on the 17 Sep 16 in Venezuela. Leaders from the 120-nation group have gathered for two days on the Caribbean island of Margarita, where Venezuela will take over the movement’s rotating presidency from Iran. The minister said Yemen had to seek help from the Saudi-led Arab Coalition after Iran-backed Houthi militias and allied forces loyal to deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh attempted a coup in Sep 14. In a related story, the Yemeni Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Nasser al-Taheri said in an interview published on the 17 Sep 16 by the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat that light and medium weapon shipments were seized on the borders, coming from Iran.