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Seeking safe haven: A Syrian Kurdish man stands next to other refugees taking cover from the rain. 

The eyes of this man say it all. Bring him & his kind to the western countries for resettlement & let the scum that is IS devour itself.

Isis is eating itself to stay alive. So let them do it & there is only one outcome. Their own destruction. Get the innocents out of harms way.

Urfa, Turkey: Dozens of men have been swept up in a campaign of retribution by Islamic State militants, who appeared determined to make the local population of eastern Syria pay the price for United States-led airstrikes against the Sunni insurgents.

At least 150 people – fighters and civilians – have been arrested over the last three days in the city of Deir al-Zor and there are fears they will not make it out alive, warned Abu Ziad, an activist from the Ahl al-Athar Brigade, a group of mostly tribal fighters dedicated to the overthrow of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The last group who were arrested yesterday will surely be killed by Da’esh tomorrow,” Abu Ziad, 28, said late on Thursday, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIL or ISIS.

Syrian Kurds take cover from the rain after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey image

Misery: Syrian Kurds take cover from the rain after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey.

The eastern Syrian province – an IS stronghold and the target of many international air strikes over thepast10 days – is reeling from the impact and citizens say they are now dreading the onset of winter.

The US airstrikes, far from driving Islamic State militants out of the towns and cities they control, have instead pushed them further into civilian areas, he said.

“This makes them less vulnerable to US attacks but it means they have moved from checkpoints outside towns to inside the centre, even inside houses.”

Syrian Kurds takeSyrian refugees arrive at the Turkey-Syria border near Suruc image

Sanctuary: Syrian refugees arrive at the Turkey-Syria border near Suruc. 

And while many of the air strikes have targeted oil wells controlled by the Islamic State – a key source of wealth for the insurgents that some analysts say earns them up to $US3 million per day – they have also destroyed much of the civilian oil reserves as well.

“In many towns there is no fuel at all for cooking or for cars, in other places prices are so high it is almost unaffordable,” Abu Ziad said.

“Winter is coming and we are not sure how people will survive

Border watch: A Turkish soldier stands guard near a vehicle on the border as smoke billows from the Syrian town of Kobane. Photo: Getty

Just under 300 kilometres to the south-east, Islamic State fighters tightened their hold on the Kurdish Syrian border town of Kobane, with local commanders warning it could be just a matter of hours before the insurgents entered the centre of town.

As terrified refugees continued to flee across the border into Turkey, it is clear two weeks into the campaign of air strikes that civilians were paying a high price for an international military intervention that was having little impact against the group it is trying to crush.

“There is no balance between us and IS,” Kurdish military commander in Kobane Ismet Sheikh Hassan said by phone, as the militants advanced on the eastern side of the town that is also known as Ayn al-Arab.

“They are hitting us with heavy weapons, all we have is Kalashnikovs … once they reach the centre we will be fighting them street by street.”

It was, he said, a desperate situation – one that was likely to end in a massacre.

Across the border in Iraq, extremists had seized most of the town of Hit in Anbar province, where they also control many of the surrounding villages. They announced their assault with three car bombs that caused mass casualties.

The United States, along with its Arab allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, launched an air-campaign against Islamic State militants on September 22.


Other Western countries including Australia, Britain, Germany, France and Denmark have delivered weapons and provided training and other logistical support to Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting IS militants in Iraq.

And with Turkey’s parliament voting overnight on Thursday to both join the international coalition and allow its territory to be used for staging military operations across its borders into Iraq and Syria, the US-led campaign broadened again.

But many Syrians – both those aligned with the Free Syrian Army along with other rebel groups fighting against the Assad regime – say the intervention is too little, too late, and too narrow in its focus.

“How is it possible that the US watched for the last three-and-a-half years while more than 200,000 Syrians were murdered by Assad … and 5-6 million displaced and it is only now that they are acting, and not against Assad but against the Islamic State,” asked one senior tribal leader who asked not to be named.

“Assad used chemical weapons against his people, we were desperate for the West to help and they did nothing,” he told Fairfax Media, echoing the frustrations of many Syrians.

Describing the policies of the US and its allies – including Australia – as “misguided”, the tribal leader said the actions of the international community had resulted in only one change for Syrians: “now we are being bombed by both the Assad regime and the US.”

“We are not radical, we know and respect that people have different religious beliefs, we ourselves believe in democracy, in a civilian government and the power of the vote – why has this not been enough to gather the international support to force Assad to give Syria back to its people?”

And despite the brutality of the Islamic State and the violent campaign of terror it has been waging across much of Syria and Iraq, some Syrians warned the US-led airstrikes were pushing formerly moderate or less radical rebel fighters into the arms of IS.

“We are afraid people are looking at Da’esh with different eyes, wondering if they are less dangerous than the US air strikes,” said one FSA-aligned official.

“They know IS are killers but they have also seen civilian casualties from the US air strikes and they are wondering which is worse.”

Already 200 men from Raqqa City had left more moderate brigades to join IS, while in Aleppo, some fighters from groups such as Ahrar al-Sham have defected to Jabhat al-Nusra, said Abu Aws, an activist from the group, known as the al-Nusra Front in English.

“The US coalition made a big mistake when it attacked Jabhat al-Nusra, and later Ahrar al-Sham [another hard-line Islamist rebel group] in Idlib,” he said.

“We are fighting the Assad regime, we are not fighting against other Muslims, we are not fighting America and we are not aligned with ISIS.

“But what the Syrian people see is the planes of America and the planes of Assad attacking them – one bomb is the same as the next.”

Hassan Hassan, an analyst with the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi, described the attacks on the Nusra Front as a “blunder”.

“There was an opportunity to draw a deeper wedge between [IS} and other jihadist groups,” he wrote in the Abu Dhabi-based National. “Weeks before the air strikes in Syria, it was clear that Jabhat al-Nusra tried to send signals that it was different from [IS], through the release of kidnapped peacekeepers and an American hostage.”

To many Syrians, Jabhat al-Nusra has been the most efficient force against the regime, he wrote, and to target it while sparing the regime invited people to conclude the air strikes were aiding President Assad.

Henry Sapiecha


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