PHOTO: Islamic State fighters in the Yarmouk camp in southern Damascus



The Diplomatic Fight Over “Who is a Terrorist?”

The Islamic State is reportedly leaving areas south of Syria’s capital Damascus after months of control, following a deal with the Assad regime.

Activists from both the regime and opposition sides said on Thursday that dozens of buses have arrived in al-Hajar al-Aswad to transport militants to northern Syria, where the Islamic State is under increasing pressure from Kurdish-led forces. ISIS is also battling Syrian rebels on a frontline in northern Aleppo Province.

The reports said 4,000 fighters will begin the journey on Saturday, followed by their families.

ISIS established their position in al-Hajar al-Aswad in early 2015. In April, they moved into the nearby Yarmouk refugee camp, where more than 15,000 residents remained, after clashes with rebels. They occupied part of the area in a de facto arrangement with the Syrian military, which had besieged Yarmouk since July 2013.

Before the conflict, Yarmouk was home to about 200,000 people, most of them displaced Palestinians and their descendants, but the siege, regime bombardment, and fighting forced more than 90% to flee. The remaining residents were subjected to shortages of food, medicine, and essential services, with more than 100 starving to death in the winter of 2014-2015.

The regime has pursued what it calls “reconciliation” agreements in the Damascus suburbs. Critics say the Syrian military has pursued “starve or surrender” tactics to break the opposition and rebels.

LCC: 97 Killed Amid Russian & Regime Airstrikes on Thursday

The opposition Local Coordination Committees documented 97 deaths, including 13 children and seven women, across Syria on Thursday.

The LCC said 53 people were killed in ‎Aleppo Province‬, most of them from Russian bombing north of Aleppo city. Another 33 died in Damascus suburbs such as ‎Hamouriya‬ and ‪Erbin‬.

Russian airstrikes have continued on Friday, including attacks on Azaz in northwest Syria near the Turkish border. Photographs showed black smoke rising, possibly from a car garage hit in the assault.

Iranian-Backed Iraqi Militia: Turkey is Supporting Islamic State

The latest promotion of the Russian-Iranian line that Turkey is supporting the Islamic State comes from the Tehran-backed Iraqi militia Badr Brigades.

Both Iranian and Russian State media headline the remarks of Badr spokesman Karim al-Nouri that Ankara is providing ISIS members with shelter.

Nouri declared, “Turks are clearly helping Daesh,” adding that the process is “obvious” and “does not require additional evidence”:

The problem of Daesh has not appeared out of nothing. It did not arise from the ground or fell from the sky. Someone lets them travel through different countries. They use the airports, hospitals. Where are the leaders of Daesh treated? They are treated in the hospitals of Turkey….

Turkey recruits and sends them to Iraq and Syria. It is clear as daylight and needs no proof. It is always hard to explain the obvious things.

“We have a lot of documents that prove that the greatest logistical support and supply routes are provided by Turks. The militants even return to their countries through Turkey.

He asserted that Islamic State fighters went to Turkey after the mass killing of up to 1,700 Shia member of the Iraqi military in June 2014, following ISIS’s rapid advance that included the capture of the cities of Mosul and Tikrit.

The outlet of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Fars News, is also proclaiming this morning that US forces are evacuating Islamic State leaders from the city of Ramadi in western Iraq, which the Iraqi military is trying to recapture.

“The delay in operations to liberate Ramadi and Fallujah cities in al-Anbar province is the result of the US interference,” a commander of an Iranian-supported Iraqi militia said.

The allegation comes as US-led coalition aircraft support the Iraqi army and Shia militias, who have moved into parts of Ramadi but are facing ISIS resistance.