Kurdish council declares canton elections by November and regional vote by January 2018


Trying to consolidate autonomy in northern Syria, a Kurdish-led administration has set dates for local council and regional assembly elections.

A Constituent Council meeting in Cezire, one of the three Kurdish cantons, set dates of August 22 for commune elections; November 3 for administrations of villages, towns, districts, and cantons; and January 19, 2018 for regions and a northern Syria “people’s conference”.

The arrangements cover all three Kurdish cantons: Cezire in northeast Syria, Kobani in north-central Syira, and Afrin, separated from the others in the northwest.

The Assad regime and its allies, Iran and Russia, are opposed to any Kurdish autonomy that leads to a federal Syria. Turkey is bitterly opposed because it considers the leading Kurdish forces, the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Party (PYD) and its YPG militia, to be connected to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

However, the US has helped the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces take much of northern Syria from the Islamic State since autumn 2015. The SDF, backed by American airstrikes, is now trying to complete the capture of Raqqa, ISIS’s central position in Syria.

Report: US Steps Up Aid to Kurds-Led SDF

The SDF says the US has stepped up support to finish the Raqqa operation.

An SDF spokesman said, “100 vehicles carrying military equipment from the US-led coalition have entered Hasakah Province in the past few days.”

ARA News, citing “local sources”, said a total of 180 US military vehicles have entered northern Syria in the past week.

Russian Journalist Killed in ISIS Shelling in Homs Province

A journalist with Russia’s State outlet RT has been fatally wounded by Islamic State shelling during a pro-Assad offensive in Homs Province.

Khaled al-Khateb, 25, was struck during filming. Cameraman Muutaz Yakoub was lightly wounded.

Pro-Assad Strikes Renewed on North Homs and Near Damascus

Defying supposed “de-esclation zones”, pro-Assad forces have renewed their airstrikes on opposition areas in northern Homs Province and near Damascus.

Sunday’s attacks on Houla, northwest of Homs city (see map), are the first since the Assad regime’s ally Russia proclaimed the zones in early May.

Houla was the site of a mass killing by pro-Assad attackers in May 2012, killing 108 people, including 34 women and 49 children.

Near Damascus, the pro-Assad bombing and rocketing — including 12 surface-to-surface missiles — resumed on Ein Tarma, where regime forces and their allies have been trying for weeks to break rebel resistance.

The Assad regime has resorted to attacks with “toxic gas”, probably chlorine, on Ein Tarma and nearby Jobar. The areas have been held by the opposition since 2012.