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221 items tagged "Syria"

Results 1 - 221 of 221

Jihadists Using Cruise Ships to Reach Syria, Warns Interpol

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 06:05
cruiseshipWould-be jihadists have been travelling on cruise ships to reach conflict areas in the Middle East, Interpol said Thursday, according to the BBC.
 
The international police body said some of those trying to join groups in Iraq and Syria had used cruise lines to get to countries including Turkey.
 
It said checks to passenger lists should be extended from airlines to cruise operators before the issue became more of a problem.
 
No figures were put on how many militants had travelled in this way, noted the BBC.
 
Speaking in Monaco, Interpol's outgoing chief, Ronald Noble, said countries should conduct checks on all passengers using airports "and, more and more, cruise lines".
 
The Turkish authorities say they have deported hundreds of suspected foreign jihadists in recent months after detaining them at airports and bus stations.
 
Interpol's director of counterterrorism, Pierre St. Hilaire, told The Associated Press (AP) that this had led prospective fighters to make alternative travel arrangements in an effort to avoid detection.
 
"Because they know the airports are monitored more closely now, there's a use of cruise ships to travel to those areas," he said.
 
Regular stops at ports in the region would allow prospective fighters to disembark undetected and make their onward journey to Syria or Iraq untracked by security agencies.
 
"There is evidence that the individuals, especially in Europe, are travelling mostly to [the Turkish coastal town of] Izmit and other places to engage in this type of activity," St. Hilaire told AP.
 
Interpol officials said the jihadist use of cruise ships had emerged only in the "past three months or so".
 
A recent United Nations report estimated there were 15,000 foreign jihadists from more than 80 countries fighting with the Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.
 
Although the report itself did not mention the names of the countries from which foreign fighters are coming, it has been widely published that recruits are coming mainly from countries like France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Twin Car Bombs Kill 18 in Syria's Homs

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 07:34
Car bomb illustrationTwin car bomb explosions in the central Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday killed at least 18 people, mostly children, and wounded 40 others, AFP reported, citing the state news agency SANA.
 
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the same toll in the double bombing in the Akrameh neighborhood of Homs.
 
The group said the death toll could rise as body parts were still being collected from the scene and several of the wounded were in serious condition.
 
“Two terrorist explosions near the Akrameh al-Makhzumi school and the Zaim hospital caused deaths and injuries,” Syrian state television reported.
 
The neighborhood is home to a majority of Alawites, members of the same offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar Al-Assad belongs.
 
The district has been targeted more than once before, including on June 19, when at least six people were killed in a car bomb attack.
 
In April, two car bombs in Homs killed at least 25 people, including women and children, this time in the neighborhood of Karam al-Luz, which is also mostly made up of Alawites.
 
Homs was once dubbed “the capital of the revolution” against Assad. Most of the city, except the battered district of Waar, has returned to regime control after two years of bombardment and siege.
 
Some 1,400 civilians were able to leave the area earlier this year under UN supervision.
 
Over the past few months, focus has shifted away from the civil war in Syria and onto the “Islamic State” (IS or ISIS), which has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq.
 
A coalition led by the United States, having already launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, has also begun airstrikes against the group’s targets in Syria.
 
Speaking to the UN General Assembly this week, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem appealed to the world to fight back against ISIS.
 
Muallem said that his country supported all efforts to fight terror, adding that any attacks on the Islamists needed to ensure that Syrian citizens remained safe.

Head of Al-Nusra Front Warns West: You Will Pay

Category: News
Created on Monday, 29 September 2014 10:38
Head of Al-Nusra FrontThe head of Syria's Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front on Sunday said U.S.-led air strikes will not defeat Islamists in Syria and warned against retaliatory attacks against Western countries, Reuters reports.
 
Abu Mohamad al-Golani, in an audio message posted on pro-Nusra jihadi forums, urged European and U.S. citizens to denounce the U.S. actions if they wanted to keep out of the war.
 
"Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed. Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price," he said, warning that the battle would be brought "to the hearts of your homes".
 
"You should protect yourselves from this war by standing against the decisions of your rulers and stop them from bringing you the woes (of war)," he added, according to Reuters.
 
The United States has been carrying out strikes against “Islamic State” (IS) fighters in Iraq since August 8. It opened a new front on September 23, launching airstrikes in neighboring Syria.
 
Al-Golani’s threats came a day after a spokesman for Al-Nusra denounced U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria and threatened to retaliate against Western and Arab countries that took part.
 
"We are in a long war. This war will not end in months nor years. This war could last for decades," group spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri said.
 
"It's not a war against Nusra Front, it's a war against Islam,” he added.
 
IS and the Al-Nusra Front share the same ideology and rigid Islamic beliefs, but they fell out during a power struggle and have been battling each other this past year.
 
Nusra Front is now coming under pressure from its own members to reconcile with Islamic State and join forces to fight what they describe as a "crusader" campaign against Islam.
 
Al-Nusra Front, whose leader pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, has been heavily involved in the fighting in Syria as well as in neighboring Lebanon, where it has claimed responsibility for several bombings and has also threatened local Sunnis.
 
Most recently, members of the group kidnapped 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers and threatened to try them under Islamic law before ultimately releasing them.
 
At least 50 fighters from the group were killed in the first wave of U.S.-led attacks in Syria last Tuesday, a British-based monitoring group said, according to Reuters.
 
The air assault is also believed to have killed Mohsin al-Fadhli, the leader of another al-Qaeda linked organization, the Khorasan group, which worked in league with the Al-usra Front.
 
Golani did not directly mention Fadhli, but said the air attacks had killed fighters whose "loss would be felt on the whole war, not just on the Front", making clear that they had suffered a significant setback.

Al-Nusra Front Threatens Western Countries

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 28 September 2014 19:54
FlagThe Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebel group Al-Nusra Front on Saturday denounced U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria and threatened to retaliate against Western and Arab countries that took part, Reuters reported.
 
"We are in a long war. This war will not end in months nor years. This war could last for decades," group spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri was quoted as having said.
 
"It's not a war against Nusra Front, it's a war against Islam,” he added in an audio message published on the group's social media network in its first reaction since the launch of the U.S.-led strikes on Tuesday.
 
The airstrikes that include some Gulf and European nations killed scores of Al-Nusra fighters in an attack on a base in a rebel held area of northwestern Syria on the first day of the military campaign, according to Reuters.
 
"These countries have done a despicable act that will put them on the list of those targeted by jihadist forces all over the world," the spokesman said.
 
The United States has been carrying out strikes in Iraq since August 8 and in Syria, with the help of Arab allies, since Tuesday. It says the campaign is aimed at "degrading and destroying" Islamist terrorists who have captured swathes of both countries.
 
Al-Nusra Front, whose leader pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, has been heavily involved in the fighting in Syria as well as in neighboring Lebanon, where it has claimed responsibility for several bombings and has also threatened local Sunnis.
 
Most recently, members of the group kidnapped 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers and threatened to try them under Islamic law before ultimately releasing them.

One of Oldest Known Synagogues Seized by ISIS in Syria

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 19:26
Wall fresco Dura Europos synagogue in SyriaIslamic State (ISIS) jihadists not only threaten the current Middle East - according to antiquities officials in Iraq and Syria, the terror group threatens to erase 5,000 years of history and relics in upper Mesopotamia, including one of the earliest Jewish synagogues.
 
Much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria, which is rich in the archaeological remains of numerous ancient civilizations, is now under the iron fist of ISIS which has been destroying pagan idols as well as selling relics on the international black market to raise funds, reports Associated Press (AP).
 
Syrian Director-General of Antiquities and Museums Maamoun Abdulkarim says looting from archaeological sites in the country has gone up tenfold since early 2013, with ISIS seizing numerous important ancient sites.
 
Aside from destroying pagan statues from the Assyrian period in Tell Ajaja, Abdulkarim noted the 2,300-year-old city of Dura Europos has come in for particularly intense looting.
 
The ancient city lies near the Iraqi border on a cliff overlooking the Euphrates River, and has fallen into ISIS hands; satellite imagery from April shows numerous holes from looter digs littering the site.
 
Images show hundreds of people, including gunmen, taking part in the excavations from dawn until night in many cases. Abdulkarim notes dealers are present, and "when they discover an artifact, the sale takes place immediately. They are destroying entire pages of Syrian history."
 
One of the earliest known Jewish synagogues is located at Dura Europos along with numerous pagan temples and churches, making the digging particularly troubling.
 
The fate of the synagogue, which was discovered in 1932 and dated by an Aramaic inscription to 244 CE, remains unknown.
 
Meanwhile in Iraq Qais Hussein Rashid, head of the country's Museums Department, reveals that ISIS captured 1,800 of Iraq's 12,000 registered archaeological sites when they seized the northern city of Mosul and Ninevah province in June. They have since captured even more as they pushed south to Baghdad.
 
ISIS has control of four ancient cities, Ninevah, Kalhu, Dur Sharrukin and Ashura, which were capitals of the Assyrian Empire that arose around 2,500 BCE. In Kalhu, reliefs in the grand palace of Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II from the 9th century BCE have been heavily looted to be sold on the black market.
 
Other casualties of the brutal Islamic group in the Mosul area were the tombs of the Jewish Biblical prophets Jonah and Daniel in July; Jonah's tomb reportedly dated from the 8th century BCE.
 
After destroying Jonah's tomb, thieves are thought to have dug into an unexcavated palace in Ninevah that was located underneath the tomb, according to Rashid who cited local antiquities officials still in Mosul.
 
The UN's cultural agency UNESCO has been taking steps to try and guard Iraq's relics, with Nada al-Hassan of UNESCO's World Heritage Center telling AP "we are very, very, very concerned that the situation could be aggravated in a way that causes more and more damage."

Islamic State Conquering Syria's Turkish Border

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 19:09
Islamic State terroristThe brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group has been conquering massive swathes of Syria and Iraq, and recently extended a foothold in Lebanon - now the push of the group's over 30,000 jihadsts has brought them to the very gates of Turkey in Syria's north.
 
Fierce fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces Thursday night ended with the jihadists conquering 21 northern Syrian villages in 24 hours.
 
The ISIS fighters also beseiged the Kurdish city Ayn al-Arab (Kobani in Kurdish) located a mere 12 miles from the Turkish border, reports Al Jazeera as cited by Walla!.
 
The reported added that ISIS conquered large parts of the nearby city Jarabulus, also located right by the Turkish border on the Euphrates River.
 
In conquering the villages IS reportedly attacked with heavy weaponry including tanks, according the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
In response to the encroaching ISIS jihadists around 3,000 Syrian Kurds, mostly women and children, fled to the Turkish border on Thursday night, where they were left waiting Friday on the Syrian side opposite the Turkish village of Dikmetas near Ayn al-Arab, reports Reuters.
 
Their fears of the approaching ISIS terrorists are well founded, given the brutal torture the terrorists have been subjecting women and children to in the region.
 
"We're ready to help our brothers who are building up at the borders regardless of their ethnicity, religion and sect. But our priority is to deliver aid within Syria's borders," said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday night, noting his aversion to letting in the Kurdish refugees.
 
Hours later on Friday Turkey finally relented, letting hundreds of Syrian Kurdish refugees into the country. Their entry was reportedly broadcast on Turkish TV.
 
The decision to temporarily keep out the Kurds may raise eyebrows given the fact that Turkey reportedly let 21 Gaza residents wounded in Operation Protective Edge into the country Thursday night for medical treatment, according to the Turkish Anatol as cited by Walla!.
 
Several senior Turkish officials reportedly were presented at the airport in Turkey to greet the wounded.
 
Some of Turkey's opposition to letting in the Syrian Kurds may be due to the fact that Kurds in Turkey have been at odds with the government, pushing for their own state through the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which Turkey has labelled a terrorist organization.
 
On Thursday night the PKK called for Turkish Kurds to help defending the Kurdish towns in northern Syria, but apparently they were denied access on the border as well.
 
It is worth noting that Turkey has recently been mulling a buffer zone with Syria so as to prevent ISIS incursions.

UN: Assad Responsible for More Atrocities in Syria Than ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 21 September 2014 15:56
United NationsDespite the high-profile and shocking nature of the so-called "Islamic State" and its push through Iraq and Syria, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is still responsible for the majority of war crimes being committed in that country, according to the author of a special UN report into the Syrian civil war.
 
With no end in sight to the three and a half year conflict, a special United Nations panel presented its findings Tuesday in a depressing 17-page report.
 
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who led the four-person panel, said he had "run out of words to depict the gravity of the crimes committed inside Syria."
 
He noted that the Islamic State, which recently beheaded three western hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines, has similarly subjected countless other Syrian civilians to similar public executions and brutal punishments.
 
The report is based on eyewitness testimonies from Syrians interviewed by the team, hailing from across the country.
 
Pinheiro also highlighted the mass-killings of prisoners of war - as occurred after IS's recent capture of Tabqa airbase in northern Syria - as well as of dissenters and political opponents.
 
Women are particularly vulnerable to abuse at the hands of the Islamist terror group, with several already being stoned to death based on accusations of adultery, or publicly flogged for minor offenses such as walking in the street without a male chaperone.
 
Nevertheless, Pinheiro pointed out that the regime of Bashar al-Assad "remains responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily."
 
Civilians are being slaughtered at the hands of the regime in a variety of ways - from indiscriminate shelling, air raids and "barrel bombings", to shootings and summary executions at the hands of soldiers and pro-government militiamen.
 
Those captured or arrested by the regime were subjected to horrific torture and denied food or water for prolonged periods of time. Female prisoners were regularly raped or otherwise sexually abused.
 
Pinheiro said that the inaction on the part of major world powers to intervene - via the UN Security Council or otherwise - has helped fuel the conflict. It's most recently "beneficiary", he said, was the Islamic State - but the Syrian government has been able to escape justice for its massacres for longer still.

Canadians Held US Journalists Hostage in Syria

Category: News
Created on Friday, 12 September 2014 07:07
Journalists HostageAt least three Canadians who joined Islamic State (IS; formerly known as ISIS) and other Al Qaeda-offshoot groups in Syria were directly involved in abducting and interrogating two US journalists, CBC News confirmed earlier this week.
 
Sources told the Canadian news outlet that the three took part in the imprisonment of Theo Curtis and Matt Schrier, who were held in captivity together between 2011 and 2013. Curtis was abducted in Antakya, Turkey in October 2012 and released last month; Schrier escaped last year. 
 
According to the latest CBC report, the Canadian captors allegedly forced the hostages to hand over their PINs and passwords, draining their bank accounts and then using their emails to callously write letters to the mens' families in their names. 
 
The report also contests a recent Canadian government statement claiming that some 130 citizens have become jihadists in the highly contested region; new data suggests the number is closer to 2-300. 
 
That threat was recently illustrated as two brothers from Calgary were identified as members of the Islamic State's (IS, formerly ISIS) group of foreign fighters in Syria. The two are recent converts to Islam.
 
The report surfaces just days after IS terrorists killed Jewish-American journalist and Israeli citizen Steve Sotloff in a brutal decapitation tape entitled "A Second Message to America." 
 
The tape not only vows death on another journalist - British civilian David Haines - but also threatens the US over its action against the terrorists. 
 
The incident has sparked a worldwide scramble to suppress terrorism in Syria and Iraq, where IS has been taking large swaths of land over the past several months and committing genocide against thousands of ethnic minorities. 
 
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that at least 67 journalists have been killed in Syria where Curtis was being held since the bloody conflict broke out there four years ago, leaving nearly 200,000 dead according to a recent UN report.

Senior Leaders of Islamic State Eliminated in Airstrikes

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 07 September 2014 20:23
Senior Leaders of Islamic State EliminatedThe leadership of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group in Syria and Iraq took a sharp blow on Thursday, as roughly 20 senior figures, including a top aide to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were killed in airstrikes according to the Iraqi defense ministry.
 
In airstrikes on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where IS began its blitz conquest of Iraq in June, Baghdadi's top aide was killed along with a senior IS military commander, Abu Alaa al-Iraqi, according to Iraqi sources cited by BBC.
 
It remains unclear if the airstrike was conducted by local US-trained Iraqi forces, or by the US, which has been engaged in a series of targeted airstrikes on IS terrorists in Iraq since last month.
 
IS took a blow in eastern Syria as well, where 18 foreign jihadist senior leaders of the group, including an American jihadist, were killed by an airstrike in the IS-held city of Raqqa according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The top IS leaders were in the municipal building of Gharbiya, which has been used as a headquarters for the extremist group, when the strike occurred.
 
In yet another airstrike in the eastern Syrian city of Abu Kamal near the Iraqi border on Thursday, an as yet unknown number of IS terrorists were killed according to the human rights group. 
 
During the two airstrikes and the ensuing disorder, a total of 13 IS-held captives were able to escape according to the group.
 
However, IS was not deterred in its campaign of terror, abducting 40 men from the northern Iraqi Sunni town of Hawija in Kirkuk province on Thursday. Residents of the town said they were uncertain why the men were captured, since IS had captured the town without resistance last month.
 
The recent airstrikes in Iraq, if conducted by the US, illustrate the increasing seriousness with which America is considering IS after two US journalists, Steven Sotloff and James Foley, were brutally beheaded in executions filmed and broadcast to the world.
 
After the second journalist was murdered, US Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday warned IS, saying "they should know we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside."

Syrian Jets Hit Rebels Close to the Israeli Border

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 August 2014 11:42
Syrian Jets Hit RebelsSyrian jets shelled rebel positions near a border crossing close to the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, rebels and residents told Reuters overnight Wednesday.
 
Al-Qaeda's Syria wing, the Al-Nusra Front, alongside moderate rebel groups who had launched the attack early on Wednesday on the border post were "holding ground" despite the heavy bombardment, according to a source in the Islamist Beit al Maqdis brigade, whose fighters were involved in the fighting.
 
Abu Iyas al Horani, a spokesman for another rebel group operating in the area, told Reuters that at least six rebels were killed in the latest spillover of violence in the area that lies almost 20 kilometers west of the town of Quneitra.
 
The reports of the aerial attacks come hours after two incidents on Wednesday in which fire from the civil war in Syria spilled over to the Israeli side.
 
On Wednesday morning, six mortar shells careened into Israeli territory from the Quneitra area, lightly-to-moderately wounding an IDF officer and causing damage to several vehicles.
 
In response to the mortar shells, IDF artillery fired at a Syrian military position.
 
Later in the day, one Israeli was lightly wounded by tank fire in the area, after a possibly errant shell struck an Israeli community in the region.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 Syrian soldiers and 14 rebel fighters were killed in the clashes between the sides. The organization gathers information from all sides in the Syrian war.
 
The United Nations referred to the shells fired from Syria which hit the Israeli side of the Golan Heights and called on all sides to “exercise restraint”.

ISIS Issues a 'Passport' for its 'Caliphate'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 13 July 2014 10:30
Caliphate PassportThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) declared itself an Islamic "caliphate" last Sunday, and now apparently has begun issuing "passports" to further establish its Jihadist state.
 
ISIS members this week circulated photographs of the supposed passport, which reads "State of the Islamic Caliphate" at the top and at the bottom states "the holder of the passport if harmed we will deploy armies for his services," reports Al Arabiya.
 
Regardless of the likelihood that the passport will be accepted by foreign states after ISIS conquered vast portions of Iraq and Syria, ISIS has said it will distribute the document to 11,000 citizens living in cities near the border of the two countries.
 
ISIS fighters already control a large corridor along the Euphrates River in Syria stretching from the Iraq border, along with Raqa in the north, as well as parts of neighboring Aleppo province. In Iraq, ISIS has captured sizeable territories in the north and west of the conflict-torn country in a lightning offensive last month.
 
With the reports of the passport, ISIS stated its goal is to have a caliphate spreading from Aleppo in Syria's north to Diyala in eastern Iraq.
 
The passport is reportedly being printed in a government facility in Iraq's Mosul, the second largest city in the country which ISIS captured at the start of its blitz offensive. The facility was scheduled by the Iraqi government to start issuing new ID cards next week before being taken over by ISIS, according to reports.
 
An ISIS spokesman on Monday revealed that his organization intends first to deal with "Muslims who have become infidels," and then attack Israel.
 
ISIS last Friday captured a Syrian oil field in the Deir el-Zour province in the east of the country near Iraq, after seizing Syria's largest oil field last Thursday in the same region.
 
It has already amassed great assets in Iraq, seizing Iraq's largest oil refinery, a chemical weapons facility, and becoming the "world's richest terrorist organization" by looting 500 billion Iraqi dinars ($425 million) from banks in Mosul.

Britain's Secret Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels Revealed

Category: News
Created on Monday, 07 July 2014 16:48
Syrian RebelsThe United Kingdom drew up plans to train and equip a 100,000-strong Syrian rebel army to defeat President Bashar Al-Assad, the BBC reported on Thursday.
 
The secret initiative, put forward two years ago, was the brainchild of the then most senior UK military officer, General Sir David Richards.
 
It was considered by Prime Minister David Cameron and the National Security Council, as well as U.S. officials, but was deemed too risky, according to the BBC.
 
Insiders told the BBC that Richards, then chief of the defense staff but since retired from the military, warned Downing Street there were only two ways to end the Syrian civil war quickly - to let Assad win, or to defeat him.
 
With ministers having pledged not to commit British "boots on the ground", his initiative proposed vetting and training a substantial army of moderate Syrian rebels at bases in Turkey and Jordan, according to the report.
 
Cameron was reportedly told the "extract, equip, train" plan would involve an international coalition. It would take a year, but this would buy time for an alternative Syrian government to be formed in exile.
 
Once the Syrian force was ready, it would march on Damascus, with the cover of fighter jets from the West and Gulf allies.
 
The plan envisaged a "shock and awe" campaign, similar to the one that routed Saddam's military in 2003, but spearheaded by Syrians.
 
Throughout the civil war in Syria, there have been calls on the West to arm the rebels in order to help them fight Assad’s forces. Small-scale weapons aid and some military training has already been supplied to select rebel groups, along with "non-lethal" aid such as medical supplies and other equipment. More extensive assistance has been ruled out, due to fear that jihadist rebel groups, such as the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, might get their hands on these weapons.
 
Last week, officials in Washington said that the Obama administration has proposed a $500 million program to train and equip the moderate opposition fighting in Syria, a plan which the BBC noted was similar to the British plan.
 
A leading Syrian opposition figure recently said that western states could send desperately-needed arms to rebel groups in Syria "within weeks" and a recent report indicated that Obama is close to authorizing a military-led mission to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the regime and Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

Lebanon is Denying Entry to 'Palestinians' Fleeing Syria

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 06 July 2014 08:14
Syrian refugeesAn Amnesty International report released on Tuesday reveals that Lebanon has been implementing a discriminatory practice, blocking entry for "Palestinians" - descendants of Arab residents who left Israel in 1948 - who are fleeing the bloody conflict in Syria.
 
The report notes that while "Palestinian refugees" from Syria need to meet conditions for temporary residence in or transit through Lebanon, the same conditions are not required from regular Syrians fleeing the war.
 
While the conditions were put in place this May, the human rights watchdog reports that even prior to that date there were different discriminatory conditions for entry.
 
“The Lebanese authorities have displayed a chilling disregard for the rights of refugees who are fleeing a bloody conflict. Absolutely no-one seeking refuge from a conflict should be denied entry; by doing so Lebanon is flouting its obligations under international law,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International.
 
In fact, Lebanon apparently is blocking "Palestinian" entry from Syria regardless of the conditions it purports to set as allowing entry.
 
The report revealed a leaked document, apparently issued by Lebanese security services, ordering airlines flying into the Beirut airport not to transport any "Palestinian refugees" from Syria to Lebanon, regardless of the documents they have.
 
Reports show that the discriminatory practice in Lebanon has been in place for a long time. In May, it was reported that 41 "Palestinian refugees" were deported back from Lebanon into the war zone of Syria, where "Palestinian refugee" camps, primarily the Yarmouk camp, have been hit by the violence and by army sieges blocking off food supplies, leading to mass starvation.
 
Lebanon is not alone in its policies; the new Amnesty report notes that Jordan has also barred "Palestinian refugees" since last January, and cited testimony from last year indicating that entrance to Turkey was also harder for them than for regular Syrians.
 
“Unfortunately the new restrictions in Lebanon are only the most recent example of policies that discriminate against Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria”, said Sherif Elsayed–Ali.

Syrian Forces Bomb Sunni Targets in Iraq

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 02 July 2014 07:27
Bombing in Aleppo - ReutersIraqi officials accused Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces of taking advantage of the crisis near Baghdad Wednesday, saying that Syrian warplanes struck several border areas in Anbar province Tuesday. 
 
At least 57 Iraqi civilians were killed and 120 wounded in the attacks, local officials told CNN, in cities controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). 
 
This is not the first time this week Syrian forces have fired into a neighboring country. On Sunday, Syrian forces lobbed a mortar shell into the Golan Heights, killing a 13 year-old boy and seriously wounding a Ministry of Defense civilian subcontractor. Israel responded with airstrikes. 
 
If true, the report would indicate an even broader spillover of the Syrian Civil War, which has mushroomed since 2011 from a statewide dispute into an all-out Islamic holy war between Sunni and Shi'te groups. 
 
Sabah Karkhout, the head of Iraq's Anbar provincial council, told CNN that Tuesday's airstrikes hit markets and fuel stations in Rutba, al-Walid and Al-Qaim Karkhout said he was certain the warplanes were Syrian because they bore the Syrian flag.
 
"Also, the planes flew directly from Syrian airspace and went back to Syria," he added. 
 
Nickolay Mladenov, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, confirmed Wednesday that the 
 
warplanes that bombed the Iraqi cities were not Iraqi jets, but told reporters he did not have information beyond that.
 
State-based media in Syria called the reports "completely baseless," blaming them on "malicious media outlets." 
 
Meanwhile, the Iraqi military continue to hold the entire area between Samarra and Baghdad, according to several international media outlets, despite constant skirmishes with advancing ISIS forces.
 
The ISIS has already controlled the Iraqi city of Fallujah for five months, and has also led one of the strongest rebel movements fighting Assad in Syria. 
 
This month's offensive has seen the ISIS claim an unprecedented number of victories in a lighting-fast takeover of the flashpoint region. 
 
So far, the Islamists have made a systemic advance from northern Iraq and southward. Several weeks ago, ISIS leaders seized Mosul; just 48 hours later, Tikrit - birthplace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein - fell to the terrorists.

Susan Rice Hints U.S. Providing Weapons to Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 June 2014 16:04
Susan RicePresident Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, hinted on Friday that the United States was sending weapons to the Syrian rebels, when she said Washington was taking important steps in Syria by offering both "lethal and non-lethal" aid to the moderate opposition.
 
The comments were made in an interview Rice gave to CNN.
 
“The United States has been the single largest contributor of humanitarian assistance, providing over 1.7 billion dollars,” she said.
 
“That's why the United States has ramped up its support for the moderate vetted opposition, providing lethal and nonlethal support where we can to support both the civilian opposition and the military opposition,” added Rice.
 
The comments appear to confirm recent speculations that Washington was ready to arm the Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
Small-scale weapons aid and some military training has already been supplied to select rebel groups, along with "non-lethal" aid such as medical supplies and other equipment, but both Congressional caution and a hesitant White House have prevented anything further, mainly due to fear that the jihadist rebel groups would get their hands on any weapons.
 
A leading Syrian opposition figure recently said that western states could send desperately-needed arms to rebel groups in Syria "within weeks" and, last week it was reported that Obama is close to authorizing a military-led mission to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the regime and Al-Qaeda-linked groups.
 
CNN noted that in a speech last week at West Point, Obama said he wanted to increase support to rebels “who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.”
 
Following that speech, officials said they were working with Congress to approve the increased support. They said lawmakers’ approval might be required under the War Powers Act.
 
Rice said on Friday the United States was working with Syria’s neighbors to help alleviate the dire situation of refugees, as well as working to confront an increasing threat that Syria’s becoming a hotbed for terrorists.
 
“We're working on the counterterrorism challenge because as we have seen there are increasingly emanating from Syria the threat of terrorism to the neighbors and beyond,” she told CNN.
 
“Our efforts are increasing and why we'll remain very much engaged, both in trying to support the Syrian people and trying to support the Syrian opposition,” she continued.
 
Critics have cited Obama’s record in Syria as evidence of a failed foreign policy, saying his decision to forgo air strikes after Assad deployed chemical weapons displayed weakness to rivals.
 
Rice countered those claims by pointing to still-strong alliances between the U.S. and partner nations.
 
“I don't think the criticism has been fair,” she said. “I think the fact of the matter is we're living in complex times, there are many different challenges that the United States and the world faces. But our leadership is unmatched. Our role is indispensable.”

Assad Wins Third Term

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 18:07
assad obamaSyria's ongoing major civil war, which has pitted the country's population against each other, has apparently not affected the popularity of President Bashar al-Assad, apparently. Assad has been reelected as President of Syria in an overwhelming electoral victory, with nearly 90% of Syrian voters choosing him for another term.
 
Elections took place for Assad's third term took place Tuesday. Results were announced Wednesday by Syrian election officials, who said that Assad had gotten 88.7% of the vote. According to the officials, 73.4% of Syrians participated in the elections. Out of the 15.85 million eligible voters in Syria, Assad got 11.63 million votes, they said.
 
US Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the announcement, calling the elections – and Assad - “a big zero.”'
 
"It's a coronation of Assad, it's a celebration of his ability to survive the violent storm and basically go on the offensive," Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, told CNN Tuesday.
 
The New York Times added that observers at the scene include representatives from Syria's allies, many of which are no more democratic than Syria itself - including Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
 
France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, spoke about the elections in Syria and indicated that the whole ordeal is one big “tragic joke.” Fabius said that “Syrians, and only those who live in areas under the government’s control, have a choice to vote for either Bashar or Bashar.”
 
“The reality is exactly what we already knew before the elections began- Syria is a state at war. Above all, Bashar Assad was named by the United Nations Secretary General as one who commits crimes against humanity. A man like Assad cannot represent the future of his nation,” the Foreign Minister told the France 2 television channel. 

Syrian 'Elections' Begin

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 20:52
Syrian ElectionsPolling stations in Syria opened for presidential elections Tuesday, as political analysts predict that President Bashar Assad will win for a third consecutive presidential term against the backdrop of a bloody civil war. 
 
Six other candidates have now announced their intentions to run against Assad, including the first female presidential candidate; this is the first election in Syria since 1970 to have more than one candidate. 
 
Analysts remain pessimistic over the outcome, however - noting that Syria has a long history of rigged elections, and that Assad won his first term in 1999 with a 99% vote - and maintain that the competition is merely a veneer for legitimacy. 
 
"It's a coronation of Assad, it's a celebration of his ability to survive the violent storm and basically go on the offensive," Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, told CNN Tuesday. 
 
The New York Times added that observers at the scene include representatives from Syria's allies, many of which are no more democratic than Syria itself - including Russia, Iran, and North Korea. 
 
Rigged or real?
 
Assad announced the elections just days after stating that he believed his forces were gaining ground in the war, which so far has killed at least 150,000 people and displaced over one million Syrians. 
 
Assad has consistently insisted that the elections are democratic, despite criticism from rights groups and the EU. 
 
"The Syrian presidency... maintains an equal distance from all candidates in order that Syrians can choose their... president freely and transparently," Assad maintained, in a statement translated by AFP in April. 
 
Syria's Foreign Ministry also responded sharply to the criticism, claiming the decision to hold the election was a "purely sovereign" one and that foreign interference would not be tolerated. 
 
"If these countries, foremost among them the Western nations, are calling for democracy and freedom, then they should listen to the views of Syrians and who they choose through the ballot box," state television quoted the ministry as stating. 
 
On Monday, Syria’s interior minister, Major General Mohammad al-Shaar, called on all Syrians to vote “to express the Syrian people’s aspiration for life and stability and to confront terrorism and sabotage.”
 
He also denied rumors that identification cards and passports would be stamped to create a record that their holders had voted, and reassured a nervous public that the voting would take place in private booths. 
 
Local dissent
 
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels have maintained that the elections are "pointless" - and a distraction from the real issues in Syria and the "tyranny" of Assad's regime.
 
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Syrian refugees - now numbering into the hundreds of thousands and spread in camps throughout Lebanon and Jordan - agree. 
 
"Where are the people who will vote for him?" one Syrian refugee, a resident of a northern Jordan camp, told CNN Monday. "Will the people he killed vote for him? Will the hundreds of thousands he has detained, who have disappeared [vote for him]?"
 
"[Assad] has reduced us to beggars," Hiba, a refugee holding a two-month old baby, added. 
 
Syrians stranded in Lebanon enthusiastically told the Times that they would vote for Assad - some emphatically pledging their loyalty, some musing he was "the lesser of two evils" when compared with Islamists, and others whispering rumors that they would be killed if they returned and had not voted. 
 
Others expressed doubts, however, vowing to boycott the elections based on a simple fact: that polling stations were open in the "no-man's land" at the Syrian-Lebanese border. Many potential voters, wary of being killed or injured after the long journey to refugee camps abroad, decided to stay home. 

State Department Confirms U.S. Citizen Carried Out Syria Attack

Category: News
Created on Friday, 30 May 2014 20:56
A fighter from the Al Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front fires a mounted machine gun - ReutersThe United States confirmed on Friday that it believes an American citizen carried out a suicide bombing within Syria, AFP reported.
 
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not provide any details about the suspect, who had been identified in a New York Times report as a man in his 20s from Florida and of Middle Eastern descent.
 
"I can confirm that this individual was a U.S. citizen," Psaki said, adding that he was "involved in a suicide bombing inside Syria."
 
According to a video released by supporters of the rebel Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, the American, who was identified by the name Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, carried out a suicide truck bombing in the Syrian town of Idlib.
 
The video, reported by the private terrorism watchdog SITE Intelligence Group, depicts a huge explosion as well as footage of a young, bearded man cradling a cat and identified as the attacker.
 
The bombing is thought to have taken place on Sunday. The New York Times report cited U.S. officials as saying they thought it was the first such suicide attack to have been carried out by an American.
 
Western powers have expressed concern that some of their citizens have traveled to fight in the civil war in Syria, some of them joining extremist groups that might one day seek to strike their home countries.
 
In February it was estimated that at least 50 U.S. citizens are fighting in Syria against Assad, and are liable to bring terrorism back to their home country once the war is over.
 
Other published statistics say that over 75,000 foreign nationals have been fighting in the Syrian civil war. While the majority are from Muslim countries, there are also Russians, Germans, Canadians and French citizens taking part in the fighting.

American Citizen May Have Carried Out Syria Suicide Bombing

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 29 May 2014 11:43
american bomberAn American citizen carried out a suicide bombing in Syria on behalf of an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group on Sunday, the first time a U.S. citizen has carried out such an attack in the Syrian civil war, NBC News reported on Wednesday.
 
Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials who spoke to NBC on condition of anonymity, confirmed the suicide bombing and said they have identified the American. They declined to release his identity or hometown.
 
Word of the American’s death in the suicide bombing first surfaced Tuesday in tweets from the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda-linked group fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
The head of Al-Nusra Front has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the group has been blacklisted as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and the United Nations.
 
According to NBC, the tweets identified the bomber only by his Arabic nom de guerre, “Abu Hurayra al-Amriki,” (Abu Hurayra the American) and said he carried out one of four suicide bombings of Syrian government sites in Jabal al-Arbaa'in in Idlib Province, the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks and months.
 
The tweet included an image of a young, bearded and smiling Caucasian man holding a cat, as well as images of the bombing it said he had carried out. Another tweet, this one in Arabic, included a photo showing the same light-skinned man sitting on the ground wearing what appeared to be a suicide vest.
 
Separately, a video circulating on jihadi forums showed what appears to be the same man loading artillery shells into a truck bomb and then the bomb exploding in the city.
 
Syrian rebel sources based in London told NBC News that other jihadi tweets suggest the American was of Palestinian Arab descent.
 
The incident is believed to be the first suicide bombing by a U.S. citizen in the Syrian civil war. Three Americans were confirmed to have carried suicide attacks in Somalia on behalf of another Al-Qaeda linked group, Al-Shabaab, between 2009 and 2011.
 
Foreign fighters entering Syria and fighting alongside the rebels has been a great concern for several countries.
 
In February it was estimated that at least 50 U.S. citizens are fighting in Syria against Assad, and are liable to bring terrorism back to their home country once the war is over.
 
Other published statistics say that over 75,000 foreign nationals have been fighting in the Syrian civil war. While the majority are from Muslim countries, there are also Russians, Germans, Canadians and French citizens taking part in the fighting.

Syria Death Toll Tops 160,000 and Counting

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 08:15
Muslim TerroristThe death toll in Syria’s three-year conflict has exceeded 160,000 and no end is in sight, an activist group said Monday, according to The Associated Press (AP).
 
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it has documented 162,402 deaths since the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad’s government began in March 2011.
 
The figure includes civilians, rebels and members of the Syrian military, the Observatory said.
 
It also includes militiamen, such as Lebanese Hezbollah members, who have been fighting alongside Assad’s forces, and foreign fighters battling with the rebels for Assad’s ouster, according to AP.
 
The Observatory remains the sole organization providing a reliable tally of Syria’s dead, after  the UN stopped updating its own tally of the Syrian dead, saying it can no longer verify the sources of information.
 
The Observatory bases its tally on information it gets from a network of activists on the ground in Syria. The figures are based on the names of those killed, collected by activists who document the dead in hospitals, morgues and identify them from video materials.
 
The updated tally comes a month and a half after the Observatory said that the death toll had topped 150,000.
 
As the civil war continues, Syria is preparing for a presidential election to take place in June.
 
Campaigning for the June 3 election began last week. Assad, who is competing for his third seven-year term, will face Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri, a 54-year-old lawmaker from Damascus, and 43-year-old Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, a lawmaker from the northern city of Aleppo.
 
Opposition activists and Western countries have condemned the elections as a sham as voting is expected to be held only in government-controlled territory.
 
Assad has dismissed the claims, saying, “The Syrian presidency... maintains an equal distance from all candidates in order that Syrians can choose their... president freely and transparently.”

Huge Tunnel Bomb Kills 30 in Syria

Category: Media
Created on Thursday, 08 May 2014 07:22
40 tons of explosives killed at least 30 Syrian troopsSyrian insurgents attacked a regime checkpoint with 40 tons of explosives on Monday, killing at least 30 Syrian troops, including two officers.
 
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Videos and images posted by opposition supporters online showed an enormous plume of smoke and earth shooting into the air near a small town as men shouted "Allahu akbar".
 
Rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad regularly carry out guerrilla attacks against his forces, but the size of the blast, which occurred on Monday, was unusual.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast took place outside the town of Ma'arat al-Nu'man in the northwestern Idlib province.
 
To carry out the detonation, 60 fighters dug a 300-meter (325-yard) tunnel, over 50 days, under the Sahaba checkpoint in Wadi al-Deif. Four buildings were destroyed, reported EA Worldview.
 
The operation was carried out by three brigades from the Islamic Front and fighters from the Shields of the Revolution Council, which is linked to the Free Syrian Army.
 
Tunnel bombs by insurgents have destroyed a series of regime positions over the past year, notably in Aleppo. Sources claims that the Syrian military in Aleppo and some areas of Damascus is digging up streets and drilling wells to counter the tactic.

Clashes Erupt Between Jordan, Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 24 April 2014 08:02
Syrian tank file -ReutersJordanian air forces destroyed a number of armored vehicles on Wednesday as they crossed the border from war-torn Syria, increasing fears of the sectarian conflict spilling into new territory after more than three years of civil war. 
 
"Royal air force jets fighters today at 10:30 am (0730 GMT) destroyed a number of vehicles that attempted to cross into Jordan from Syria," the Jordanian army said, noting the vehicles had been warned before the attack. 
 
"The camouflaged vehicles tried to enter from an area with rugged terrain.The fighter jets fired warning shots, but they were ignored, promoting them to destroy the vehicles," it continued. "The army will not tolerate such actions." 
 
A military official told AFP that the rogue Syrian vehicles were "three-wheeled vehicles which tried to enter the kingdom" near Ruwaished, in northern Jordan.
 
According to Al-Arabiya, this is not the first border-related clash between Jordan and Syria. Over the past several months, Jordan's border guards arrested several refugees fleeing the war-torn country and seeking new life in the Hashemite kingdom.
 
Damascus, meanwhile, frequently accuses Jordan of assisting rebel forces - which Amman denies.

Obama May Provide Syrian Rebels with Manpads

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 30 March 2014 17:09
Moderate Syrian RebelsThe Obama administration is considering allowing shipments of new air defense systems to Syrian rebels, a U.S. official said Friday, according to The Associated Press (AP).
 
President Barack Obama’s possible shift would likely be welcomed by Saudi Arabia, which has been pressing the White House to allow the man-portable air-defense systems, known as “manpads,” into Syria.
 
Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday for meetings with King Abdullah.
 
Allowing manpads to be delivered to Syrian rebels would mark a shift in strategy for the U.S., which until this point has limited its lethal assistance to small weapons and ammunition, as well as humanitarian aid.
 
The U.S. has been grappling for ways to boost the rebels, who have lost ground in recent months, allowing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to regain a tighter grip on the war-torn nation.
 
A report in January said that the U.S. had been supplying “moderate” rebel groups with light arms and that Congress had approved funding for months of further deliveries.
 
There has been pressure to arm the Syrian rebels for quite some time, particularly since the U.S. government confirmed that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, thus violating the “red line” set by President Obama.
 
However, lawmakers were concerned that weapons could reach factions like the Al-Nusra Front, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
 
Islamist rebel factions such as Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)  have performed atrocities during the ongoing civil war, including publicly beheading those accused of collaborating with the Assad regime, and even executing members of rival rebel groups.
 
According to Friday’s AP report, if Obama does indeed decide to supply rebels with manpads, the actual manpad shipments could come from the Saudis, who have so far held off sending in the equipment because of U.S. opposition.
 
The president is not expected to announce a final decision on the matter during his overnight trip to the Gulf kingdom, according to the report. U.S. and Saudi intelligence officials have been discussing the possibility of injecting manpads into the crisis for some time, including during a meeting in Washington earlier this year.
 
Rebels said back in June of 2013 they had received Russian-made “Konkurs” anti-tank missiles supplied by Saudi Arabia. Other reports said that the Central Intelligence Agency had begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month.
 
Earlier this week, Syria's opposition called for "sophisticated" arms at an Arab summit in Kuwait. At the same summit, Saudi Arabia stressed the need for a change in military balance to "end the impasse".
 
The Syrian rebels recently suffered a series of setbacks, particularly after Assad’s troops captured the key town of Yabroud on the Lebanese border from rebel groups.
 
The more moderate rebel groups have also been dealing with attacks from the jihadist rebel groups, who consider fighting the moderates “more important than fighting Jews and Christians

IDF Eliminates Terrorists Near Syrian Border

Category: Press Releases
Created on Friday, 28 March 2014 20:08
Israel-Syria border archive - ReutersIDF soldiers were able to prevent two terrorists from infiltrating into Israel in the Golan Heights, near the border with Syria, on Friday night.
 
According to the IDF, the soldiers identified two suspects tampering with the security fence along the border. It is believed they also tried to place an explosive device. The troops open fired, hitting the two terrorists.
 
"The IDF will continue to protect the border and prevent attacks,” said the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit in a statement quoted by Channel 2 News.
 
Friday’s incident comes only one day after the IDF Northern Command announced that it was changing its orders regarding opening fire in areas along the Golan border fence. Anyone from the Syrian side who comes near the fence should expect to be shot, the IDF said.
 
Previously, soldiers would fire in the air to warn off and ward off suspicious figures. As per the new orders, soldiers will immediately open fire in the direction of suspicious looking characters.
 
There have been heightened tensions along the Israel-Syria border in recent weeks. Last week, an explosive device went off on the Golan Heights, as an IDF jeep was passing by.
 
Three soldiers were wounded in the attack and were taken to the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. One of them sustained serious injuries in the explosion.
 
The Israel Air Force (IAF) retaliated several hours later, striking several targets on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights which had aided and abetted the attack against the soldiers.
 
Two weeks ago, also on a Friday night, an explosive device went off as IDF soldiers patrolled near the Lebanese border. No one was injured in that incident, although three soldiers were treated for shock at Ziv Hospital in Tzfat.
 
The following day, Saturday, IDF soldiers identified several individuals approaching the border in a suspected attempt to set another explosive. The soldiers fired on the suspects, who fled.

Hezbollah Suffers Severe Losses in Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 15 March 2014 22:15
HezbollahfuneralThe Lebanese-based terror group Hezbollah has been active in Syria, fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad. However, that support, which was reportedly forced on Hezbollah by its backer Iran, has come with heavy costs for the terror organization.
 
Over the last several weeks, the fighting for the rebel-held town of Yabroud has left over 120 Hezbollah fighters dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The Lebanese Daily Star quotes a Hezbollah source saying a total of 500 Hezbollah fighters have died since the group joined the Syrian war, noting that the Yabroud battle marks a drastic increase in losses.
 
Yabroud is located in an important strategic area, as it is the last town giving rebels access to supply lines in Lebanon. The town is in the Qalamoun Mountains, a crucial point of conflict given as it is held by the rebels and is a corridor to the Lebanese town of Arsal.
 
Hezbollah second-in-command Sheikh Naim Qassem in February highlighted the religious sectarianism fueling his group's involvement in Syria, when he attacked Syrian rebels as "takfiris" - a derogatory word for Sunni Muslim extremists.
 
Qassem further pledged his group's ongoing military involvement, signifying that despite the heavy losses the terror organization is likely to continue its military presence in Syria.
 
On another front, two weeks ago Hezbollah threatened revenge against Israel after a transfer of missiles from Syria was destroyed in an air strike. In the threat, Hezbollah warned it would strike at "the appropriate time, place and means."
 
The missiles, destroyed in the strike near the Syrian-Lebanese border, reportedly could carry warheads heavier and more dangerous than almost all of Hezbollah's current massive arsenal.

Head of Syrian Jihadist Group Gives Rivals an Ultimatum

Category: News
Created on Friday, 07 March 2014 04:37
A fighter from the Al Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front fires a mounted machine gun - ReutersThe inter-rebel war in Syria is heating up, after the leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group in Syria on Tuesday gave rival jihadists an ultimatum to accept arbitration by clerics or be expelled.
 
The BBC reported that Abu Mohammed al-Golani of the Al-Nusra Front warned the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) that it would be driven from Syria and "even from Iraq" if it did not comply within five days.
 
The threat came after Sunday’s killing of an Al-Qaeda emissary, Abu Khaled al-Suri, at the hands of ISIS rebels.
 
Al-Suri, a commander from the Ahrar al-Sham group who fought alongside Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack carried out by ISIS members.
 
Al-Suri had reportedly been sent to end the clashes between ISIS and other rebels, reported the BBC.
 
The civil war in Syria has attracted many jihadist rebel groups which have been fighting the more moderate rebel groups in what has turned into a second war.
 
In recent weeks, the infighting between rebels has worsened, as three powerful rebel alliances – among them Islamist groups - have teamed up to fight ISIS, which they have warned is even worse than Assad’s regime.
 
ISIS has been accused of several human rights abuses, including torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
In an audio message produced by Al-Nusra's media arm and posted on jihadist websites on Tuesday, Al-Golani said Al-Suri had been a "man who solved problems, not one to create conflicts" and that they had seen each other a few days before his death.
 
"We say to his killers: may your hands perish and your deed be damned. You, those who give you your orders, and those who write your fatwas are wretched, O deceived ones," he said, according to the BBC.
 
Without naming ISIS, Al-Golani denounced those attacking fellow rebels in Syria, using a derogatory term for President Bashar Al-Assad's Alawite sect.

Is Hezbollah About to Withdraw from Syria?

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Sunday, 02 March 2014 07:55
Hizbullah posterHezbollah's military involvement in Syria is now a subject of heated domestic debate in Iran. This debate is being waged against the backdrop of the international refusal to let Iran take part in the Geneva 2 talks on Syria's future, in light of Iran's opposition to the principle of a transitional period leading to Bashar Assad's removal from power.
 
On one side of the debate is the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which is backed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and favors ongoing military involvement in Syria as one way of advancing Iran's regional ambitions. Those ambitions entail making Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon a sphere of Iranian influence, to which Bahrain and Yemen are eventually to be added.
 
Against the Revolutionary Guards and Khamenei stand President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, who are supported by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and see the Syrian involvement as an albatross that hampers Iran's efforts at rapprochement with the West – efforts which are primarily aimed at vitiating the sanctions regime that is seriously damaging the Iranian economy.
 
An echo of the struggle in Tehran could be heard at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where Zarif denied that Iran had dispatched Hezbollah to Syria – "We are not sending people, Hezbollah has made its own decision.” Zarif, however, refused to call for Hezbollah's removal from Syria, though he agreed to call on all foreign forces to leave the country. His words, in any case, provoked the rage of the Revolutionary Guards. They are well aware of the Hezbollah leadership's difficult straits in light of the growing military entanglement in Syria and, even more, the recent Salafi bombing attacks on the organization's home base, the Dahiya quarter of Beirut.
 
Although Hezbollah's leaders claim it is fighting in Syria in order to protect Lebanon, Lebanese Shiites are not convinced and Hezbollah's supporters are dubious. Hezbollah has now lost almost 350 men in Syria, not all of whom have been brought back to Lebanon for burial, while the number of wounded has passed a thousand.
 
This puts into question Hezbollah's ability to keep sacrificing its fighters in Syria when its target of jihad is Israel. Moreover, the devastating Salafi terror attacks in Beirut, including an attack on the symbolically charged Iranian embassy, have left Hezbollah helpless to respond.
 
Even more critically, Hezbollah has trouble functioning as a movement when its leaders, operatives, and supporters are busy trying to survive and searching for car bombs. Indeed, Hezbollah is losing the public and popular support that is so important for a movement of its kind.
 
The question of Hezbollah's continued involvement in Syria will not be decided in Lebanon. The heads of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, who are aware of the organization's intensifying plight, will have to ponder which is worse – the loss of Hezbollah's power and influence in Lebanon or its removal from Syria, which at this stage would not influence Assad's ability to continue slaughtering his opponents in the Syrian revolt.
 
Above all, the Revolutionary Guards and Khamenei want to preserve Hezbollah's power and status so that it can pursue its principal mission of anti-Israeli jihad. At the end of the day, Hezbollah's entire raison d'être is to be Iran's spearhead in its struggle against Israel.
 
Hence, it appears that the more Hezbollah is battered, the greater will be the pressure on Khamenei to order his representative in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, to significantly scale back the organization's involvement in Syria. Nasrallah will humbly and unquestioningly obey.
 
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
 
Brig-Gen.Ret. Dr. Shimon ShapiraBrig-Gen.(Ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Bin Laden's Associate Killed by Syrian Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Friday, 28 February 2014 19:04
Syrian JihadistsA Syrian rebel commander who fought alongside Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack on Sunday, Reuters reports.
 
The Observatory for Human Rights in Syria said Abu Khaled al-Soury, also known as Abu Omair al-Shamy, a commander of the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham was killed along with six comrades by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
 
The Observatory said al-Soury had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
 
Al-Soury's death will fuel the infighting among jihadists fighting President Bashar Al-Assad, a violent rivalry that has killed hundreds of fighters in recent months, rebels said.
 
Two rebels told Reuters that five ISIS members had entered Ahrar al-Sham headquarters in Aleppo, engaged its fighters and then one ISIS fighter blew himself up.
 
"Sheikh Abu Khaled was an important jihadi figure, he fought the Americans in Iraq and in Afghanistan. They (ISIL) gave the Americans a present, a free gift, by killing him," a Syrian rebel close to the group told the news agency.
 
The civil war in Syria has attracted many jihadist rebel groups, such as the Al-Nusra Front and ISIS. In addition to fighting Assad’s forces, these groups have been fighting the more moderate rebel groups in what has turned into a second war.
 
These Al-Qaeda-linked groups have been heading to war-torn Syria from many other countries since fighting broke out in 2011.
 
In recent weeks, the infighting between rebels has worsened, as three powerful rebel alliances – among them Islamist groups - have teamed up to fight ISIS, which they have warned is even worse than Assad’s regime.
 
ISIS has been accused of several human rights abuses, including torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 

Syrian rebels mourning al-Soury posted his picture on social media accounts. A fighter called for revenge, saying that ISIS had "pushed it too far this time."
 
Al-Soury was born in Aleppo in 1963. A senior rebel source said he had been based in Afghanistan but was sent by Zawahiri to Syria a few months ago on a mission to try to end the infighting, reported Reuters.
 
Sources said that, by killing al-Soury, ISIs had taken the war between jihadist factions to a new level, and that the decision to kill him must have been taken by the high command of ISIS, most probably its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who fell out last year with Zawahiri and the leader of the Al-Nusra Front.

Syrian Jihadists Tell Women: Cover Your Faces or Else

Category: Islam
Created on Sunday, 23 February 2014 09:59
Muslim womenIslamist rebels in eastern Syria have ordered women to put on the Islamic veil, warning that anyone not doing so would be held to account, Reuters reports.
 
According to the report, an organization calling itself the Islamic Law Council of Deir al-Zor said in a statement released Wednesday that women have until Saturday to don the face veil.
 
The group did not say what punishment would befall women who fail to comply with the order.
 
Armed Islamist groups have become the most powerful force in the almost three-year-old uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
"Given that sins are the main reason delaying victory, the legal council in the town of Deir al-Zor is obliged to promote virtue and prevent vice," said the statement posted by an activist on Facebook and also reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The civil war in Syria has attracted rebel groups with links to Al-Qaeda, such as the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). In addition to fighting President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, these groups have been fighting the more moderate rebel groups in what has turned into a second war.
 
These Al-Qaeda-linked groups have been heading to war-torn Syria from many other countries since fighting broke out in 2011.
 
In recent weeks, the infighting between rebels has worsened, as three powerful rebel alliances – among them Islamist groups - have teamed up to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which they have warned is even worse than Assad’s regime.
 
ISIS has been accused of several human rights abuses, including torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
Last month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch reported that ISIS and another jihadist group, Al-Nusra Front, were enforcing their strict interpretation of Islamic law by requiring women to wear head scarves and full-length robes.
 
Several months ago, ISIS members raided a wedding party in a suburb of Aleppo, which Islamist rebels have declared to be an independent Islamist state, and ordered that music and singing be stopped.
 
The groups’ leader reportedly asked the man in charge of the wedding to memorize a verse of the Quran and attend several religious courses at Al-Qaeda’s center in Maskana, near Aleppo.
 
Some of the Islamist groups have attempted to soften their image in an attempt to win hearts and minds - holding stand up comedy shows and handing out toys to local children.

More than 75,000 Foreign Nationals Fight in Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 03 February 2014 13:20
Free Syrian Army fighters pose with their weaponsDisturbing statistics have surfaced from Syria Sunday: over 75,000 foreign nationals have been fighting in the Syrian Civil War, according to a local website. 
 
The majority are from majority-Muslim countries or regions - where foreign nationals have been stirred to join by government forces, national-cultural ideologies, and religious fervor. According to the site, 14,000 hail from Chechnya; 12,000 from Saudi Arabia; 11,000 from Iraq; 5,600 from Turkey; 4,400 from Libya; 4,000 from Tunisia; 1,900 from Pakistan; 1,600 from Yemen; and 1,200 from Afghanistan.
 
Statistics show that Israel may be caught up in the effect the foreign nationals - who are being trained to bring terror home with them - could have on the Middle East. Among Israel's neighbors, 9,000 Lebanese, 2,600 Egyptians, and 2,400 Jordanians have joined the war; as have at least 5,000 Palestinian Arabs. 
 
Among Europeans, 750 Russian nationals, 660 Germans, and 450 French citizens have reportedly joined the fight.
 
It is not entirely clear how the statistics were compiled, but they do more or less reflect the kinds of numbers estimated by Western security agencies. On Saturday, French Prime Minister Francoise Hollande claimed that both France and Great Britain had seen up to 700 Muslim citizens each leaving their shores to fight in Syria.
 
While Western countries - especially the US and United Kingdom - have backed the rebel forces during the three year conflict, western states have become uneasy over the growing influence of radical Islamist elements among the rebel movement.
 
Recently, funding for some "extremist" rebel groups has been revoked, but foreign nationals - including many western citizens - continue to pour into Syria, and western security services are concerned about what this means for their own countries' future security. 
 
The West has become so concerned, in fact, that they have reached out to Assad's regime forces over the issue - but no progress has yet been made.
 
In the meantime, eyewitness accounts have confirmed what analysts have long suspected: that Al Qaeda is training Western nationals in the war-torn country to bring fundamentalist Islam - and terrorism - back home with them. 

Junior Jihad: Syrian Rebels Present Four-Year-Old Fighter

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 01 February 2014 18:13
Child in Islamic Jihad summer camp in GazaIn the latest alarming evidence of child soldiers being used by Syrian rebel forces, an Islamist brigade linked to Al Qaeda released footage of a four year old it claimed as its youngest recruit.
 
In the video (below), the child - who can barely hold the AK-47 rifle he is firing - lets off two shots to cheers of "Allahu Akbar". The tiny boy is clad in a black ski mask and is forced to rest the barrel of the rifle on what appears to be a section of a roadblock to prevent himself from falling over.
 
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Britain's Daily Mail reported that the child is believed to be the son of an Albanian jihadi, one of thousands of foreign Islamist fighters who have flocked to fight on both sides of the Syrian civil war, which is increasingly being waged as a sectarian conflict between Islam's Shia and Sunni sects.
 
In December, a video by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) illustrated the numerous cases of young Syrian children - often orphans who parents were killed by the Assad regime - fighting among the ranks of the country's various rebel factions.
 
The video comes as French Prime Minister Francois Hollande claimed that both France and the UK had seen up to 700 foreign Islamist fighters from each of their countries leave to fight in Syria.
 
"We have young people who live in our respective countries who are being manipulated, and they are going off to the combat areas," he said after a press conference with his British counterpart David Cameron. "Today we were exchanging figures – 600 to 700 young people are involved in each of our countries."
 
Western security officials are concerned that some of the scores of fighters from Europe and North America could eventually return - radicalized and well-trained - to their native countries and commit attacks there.
 
Earlier this month a report revealed how an Islamist network led by British Muslim extremist Anjem Choudary was actively recruiting young British Muslims to fight in Syria, under the noses of British authorities.

Congress Approves 'Light Weapons' to 'Moderate' Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 23:48
Moderate Syrian RebelsLight arms supplied by the United States are flowing to "moderate" Syrian rebel factions in the south of the country, officials said on Monday, according to Reuters.
 
American funding for months of further deliveries has been approved by Congress, U.S. and European security officials cited in the report said.
 
The weapons, most of which are moving to non-Islamist Syrian rebels via Jordan, include a variety of small arms, as well as some more powerful weapons, such as anti-tank rockets, according to Reuters.
 
The deliveries do not include weapons such as shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADs, which could shoot down military or civilian aircraft, the officials said.
 
The weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30, two officials said.
 
The apparently steady weapons flow contrasts with the situation last summer, when lethal U.S. aid to the Syrian rebels dried up for a time due to congressional reservations.
 
Congressional committees held up weapons deliveries for months over fears that U.S. arms would not prove decisive in the rebels' efforts to oust President Bashar Al-Assad and his government and could well end up in the hands of Islamist militants.
 
A U.S. official familiar with recent developments said national security officials and members of Congress are more confident that weapons delivered to southern Syria are going to, and remaining in, the hands of moderate rebels rather than militant jihadist factions.
 
Congress approved funding for weapons deliveries to the Syrian rebels in classified sections of defense appropriations legislation, two sources familiar with the matter said. It was not clear when the funding was approved, but unclassified defense funding passed Congress in late December.
 
There has been pressure to arm the Syrian rebels for quite some time, particularly since the U.S. government confirmed that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, thus violating the “red line” set by President Obama. This confirmation came even before the major chemical attack near Damascus in August, which killed hundreds
 
The U.S. said at the time that it will increase the “scope and scale” of its assistance to rebels in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.
 
However, lawmakers were concerned that weapons could reach factions like the Al-Nusra Front, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
 
Islamist rebel factions such as Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)  have performed atrocities during the ongoing civil war, including publicly beheading those accused of collaborating with the Assad regime, and even executing members of rival rebel groups.
 
In recent days, the fighting between ISIS and other Syrian rebels has escalated, with hundreds having been killed in the fighting between rival groups.
 
Officials who support providing U.S. arms to the rebels acknowledged that the latest approval of arms has not greatly increased U.S. expectations of victory by anti-Assad forces, whether moderate or militant.
 
"The Syrian war is a stalemate. The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad; the regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides' external allies... are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future," said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and sometime foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama.
 
Both U.S. and European officials said that "moderate" rebels had recently consolidated their positions in the Syrian south, where they are pushing out elements linked to al-Qaeda. More militant factions remain dominant in the north and east.
 
Rebels said back in June of 2013 they had received Russian-made “Konkurs” anti-tank missiles supplied by Saudi Arabia. Other reports said that the Central Intelligence Agency had begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month.
 
A White House spokeswoman had no comment on Monday’s report. Other U.S. agencies did not respond to requests for comment.
 
As for "non-lethal" aid like communications and transportation equipment, the United States hopes to resume deliveries to moderate groups in Syria soon, a U.S. official said on Monday, according to Reuters.
 
The United States and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to northern Syria in December after reports that Islamist fighters seized Western-backed rebel weapons warehouses, highlighting fears that supplies could end up in hostile hands.
 
Non-lethal aid was resumed to civilian groups in that region in late December.

Syria: ISIS Executes Members of Rival Islamist Groups

Category: Islam
Created on Friday, 17 January 2014 16:10
Rebel-Jihadist WarThe Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has executed dozens of rival Islamists over the last two days, activists told Reuters on Sunday.
 
The executions took place as the group recaptured most territory it had lost in the northeastern Syrian province of Raqqa, according to the activists.
 
One of the activists, who spoke from the province on condition of anonymity, said that up to 100 fighters from the Nusra Front, another Al-Qaeda affiliate, and the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, captured by ISIS in the town of Tel Abyad on the border with Turkey, the nearby area of Qantari and the provincial capital city of Raqqa, were shot dead.
 
There was no independent confirmation of the report.
 
"About 70 bodies, most shot in the head, were collected and sent to the Raqqa National hospital," the activist told Reuters.
 
"Many of those executed had been wounded in the fighting. The fact that Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham are ideologically similar to the ISIS did not matter," he added.
 
In recent days, the fighting between ISIS and other Syrian rebels has escalated. Earlier Sunday it was reported that close to 500 people had been killed in the fighting between rival groups.
 
Three powerful rebel alliances – among them Islamist groups - have teamed up to fight ISIS, which they have warned is worse than Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
 
The fact that ISIS executed rivals it caught should come as no surprise. The group has been accused of several human rights abuses, including torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
The Al-Qaeda linked group has vowed to “crush” other rebel groups in Syria.
 
The group’s growth has alarmed Western nations, who are pushing the opposition to attend peace talks in Switzerland later this month, and has helped Assad to portray himself as the only secular alternative to Islamist extremism.
 
ISIS regrouped and recaptured much of its stronghold in Raqqa city on Sunday, activists told Reuters, dealing a blow to rival rebel groups backed by Gulf Arab and Western states.
 
Among those reportedly executed on the weekend was Abu Saad al-Hadram, Nusra Front's commander for Raqqa province who was captured several months, opposition sources said.

Syrian Rebels Exchange Insults

Category: Media
Created on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 07:50
Members of the Free Syrian Army perform prayers in Damascus ReutersFighting the “moderate” rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) takes precedence over fighting Jews and Christians, according to a rebel from the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
 
In a two-way radio conversation between ISIS and FSA fighters, which was posted on the internet on Monday and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), rebels from rival Syrian groups can be heard exchanging insults.
 
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In recent days, several groups of Syrian rebels united for the purpose of launching a new “revolution” against the Al-Qaeda-affiliated ISIS, which is part of a group of jihadist rebels that declared Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state and have summarily executed members of the Western-backed rebel groups.
 
In the video, one ISIS fighter is seen and heard speaking with an FSA fighter and saying that members of the FSA are not Muslims.
 
When the FSA fighter on the other side says that ISIS does not belong in Syria and should go fight Israel, the ISIS member replies, “Fighting apostates takes precedence over fighting original infidels. Fighting apostates, like you people, who curse Allah and His Messenger, and violate the honor of Muslims, takes precedence over fighting the Jews and the Christians. All imams concur on that.”

Iran Not Invited to Syria Peace Talks

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 07:03
Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei R meets Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Tehran Dec. 15 2009.Iran will not be part of the planned Geneva II peace conference on Syria, despite President Bashar Al-Assad’s wish to have his key ally attend, Al Arabiya reported on Monday.
 
According to the report, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday started sending out invitations to the peace conference, but Iran was not on the first list.
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on January 13 in a bid to decide on whether Iran should take part in the conference due to be held on January 22, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told Al Arabiya.
 
American officials in Brussels have said that Iran could participate in the talks if it helps put an end to the Syrian regime’s bombardment of Aleppo and improve humanitarian access to trapped civilians.
 
“There are also steps that Iran could take to show the international community that they are serious about being a positive player,” a senior State Department official told reporters travelling with Secretary of State John Kerry.
 
“Those include calling for an end to the bombardment by the Syrian regime of their own people, it includes calling for encouraging humanitarian access,” the official said, according to Al Arabiya.
 
One U.S. official said Washington still believed it was ‘less likely than likely’ that Iran would play any role at the peace conference, even on the sidelines.
 
Another official said Iran and the United States had not discussed the matter directly. All the officials declined to be named.
 
Washington has long opposed Iranian participation in the talks without it signing up to a June 2012 accord calling for a transitional government to replace the Assad regime.
 
Ban last month launched a fresh appeal for Iran to take part, but UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said that the United States was blocking this from happening.
 
"It's no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced" that "Iran's participation is the right thing to do," he said.
 
Kerry on Sunday opened the door to possible involvement by Tehran in the conference.
 
“Could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways, conceivably, to weigh in? Can their mission that is already in Geneva be there in order to help the process? It may be that there are ways that can happen,” Kerry said.
 
“We’re happy to have Iran be helpful,” he added.
 
Throughout the civil war in Syria, Iran has provided Assad with military support during his fight against the rebels.
 
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
 
An Iranian parliamentarian recently boasted that his country sent “hundreds of battalions” to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s troops.

Syria: Rebel-Jihadist War Claims at Least 50 Lives

Category: News
Created on Monday, 06 January 2014 19:42
Rebel-Jihadist WarAt least 50 Syrian rebels were killed on Sunday as the country’s “second civil war” between moderate and jihadist rebels continued, AFP reported.
 
The latest deaths came one day after several groups of Syrian rebels said they had united for the purpose of launching a new “revolution” the Al-Qaeda-affiliated the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP the rebels were killed in fighting, car bombings and summary executions by forces loyal to the jihadist group.
 
Sunday's deaths came on day three of fighting that began when rebels, including Islamists, attacked checkpoints and bases manned by ISIL, which is accused of horrific abuses in areas where its fighters operate.
 
ISIL has been taking key roads and checkpoints from its rivals, and some opponents of President Bashar Al-Assad have even accused it of serving regime interests.
 
At least nine fighters from the jihadist group were also killed on Sunday, the Britain-based Observatory said.
 
Most of the non-ISIL fatalities were in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, where the fighting began on Friday.
 
Among the dead were "seven who were summarily executed by ISIL", AFP quoted the group as saying.
 
Clashes also erupted in Raqa and Hama provinces on Sunday, in a sign the fighting was spreading.
 
Scores of fighters on both sides have been killed in the past three days, the Observatory says.
 
"The rebels have made significant gains (since Friday) in the west of Aleppo province, in the north of Idlib and east of Maaret al-Numan (Idlib)," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The Observatory also said ISIL fighters were laying down their arms and withdrawing from some areas, without elaborating.
 
The Islamic Front, the country's biggest rebel alliance, issued a strong warning to the jihadists.
 
"We fight against whoever attacks us and whoever pushes us to battle, whether they are Syrian or foreign," said the alliance grouping tens of thousands of anti-Assad rebels.
 
Meanwhile, an ISIL statement similarly warned the rebels to stop pressuring them, or they would withdraw from the front lines in Aleppo city and let in Assad's forces.
 
The Islamic Front on Sunday said it was "thankful to the foreigners who came to help us" but "we will not accept any group that claims to be a state".
 
ISIL is one of several jihadist rebel groups operating in Syria and which at one point split off from the Western-backed Syrian National Council opposition force, declaring Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state.
 
In addition to its involvement in the Syrian war, the Al-Qaeda affiliate seized the city of Fallujah in neighboring Iraq on Saturday, and claimed a suicide bomb attack in a Beirut stronghold of Hezbollah, the movement fighting alongside Assad's forces.

Syria: 25 Lashes for Failing to Pray

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 04 January 2014 18:12
Preparing to be floggedSyria is undergoing an accelerated process of Islamization, which is led by extremist Islamist rebel groups that follow sharia courts, and who operate a morality police force that enforces law and order Islam-style.
 
In Haleb, two men were convicted of failing to take part in the Friday prayers, and were sentenced to 25 lashes each, to be delivered publicly.
 
The two convicted men were brought to the city square, where they were flogged on their bare backs. The crowd that had gathered watched the scene quietly.
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This is not the first time that the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist organization carried out flogging sentences in public. The Islamic organizations' religious court has even meted out sentences of capital punishment in the past.

Syrian Mufti's Aide Gives Army Permission to Rape

Category: Islam
Created on Friday, 03 January 2014 12:13
fatwa-on-sexual-jihadHuman rights groups report that thousands of women have been raped by Syrian army soldiers in the ongoing war, which is now in its third year and has left 130,000 dead. That trend appears likely to only increase, as a deputy to the Chief Mufti (Islamic scholar) of Syria has given religious permission to rape.
 
On Thursday, Sheikh Abd al-Rahman Ali al-Dala, aid to the chief mufti of Syria, who is loyal to President Bashar Assad, gave an interview to Sham FM, a radio station that supports Assad.
 
In the interview, Al-Dala said Syrian army soldiers have permission to "marry" unmarried and married women, sisters and mothers of the rebel fighters, without any official marriage agreement. He clarified that the rape is intended as a punishment for not reporting the rebels to the goverment forces.
 
In making his statement, the Sheikh placed his religious authority behind the rape of women and girls by soldiers, as part of their fight against the rebels.
 
According to testimony taken from captured soldiers and captains before they were put to death by rebels, rape has been employed as a common practice by the army, well before Al-Dala's official religious support was stated.
 
While particularly attractive women are reportedly brought to senior commanders, rape victims include religious muslim women dressed in face veils and full-body cloaks (niqab).
 
It must be noted that for their part, the rebels have publicized religious permission for their fighters to do as they please with women who fall into their hands. Rebels from Al Qaeda have also apparently have been forcing Syrian Druze communities to convert to Islam.
 
A study in November found that Syria was the fourth worst country in the Arab world in terms of women's rights. Egypt was found to be the worst.
 
On December 31, Syria missed the deadline to transfer its most lethal chemical weapons out of the country for destruction.

Al Qaeda Opens Syrian Jihad School

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 January 2014 07:47
Syrian jihad schoolJabhat Al Nusra, an Islamist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, maintains an infrastructure of governance as one of the central opposition forces. Aside from managing religious courts based on Islamic sharia law, the group has opened new schooling programs emphasizing Islam and jihad.
 
In the southern Syrian town of Daraa, a school established by the organization teaches roughly 30 students ranging in age from 10 to 15 to believe in Allah, follow Islam, and aspire to jihad holy war.
 
Video footage from the school shows students learning by rote passages from the Koran, reading "our path is the path of jihad."
 
The use of child soldiers by rebel forces, including the more "moderate" Free Syrian Army (FSA), has been documented, and shows how the lessons learned in the school may quickly be turned into action.
 
On the walls of the classroom hang posters featuring verses from the Koran, including one praising jihadist "martyrs," explaining that they aren't "dead" but rather "living" with Allah.
 
One of the teachers explains that the students learn how to use weapons and are prepared to become jihadists. Video can be seen here:
 
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The Islamist nature of the Syrian opposition forces has been a point of contention, with Russia recently claiming the West understands Syrian President Bashar Assad is "better" than the rebels.
 
The Russian comment came after Islamic Front battalions, which call for an Islamic state, took over warehouses held by the more secular FSA in early December, leading the US and Britain to suspend military funding to rebel factions.
 
Geneva II peace talks, aiming to end the 3 year conflict that has claimed over 100,000 lives and created over 2 million refugees, are set for January 22.

Al Qaeda Forces Syrian Druze to Renounce Faith

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 24 December 2013 16:31
JihadistsSyrian rebels from Al-Qaeda are systematically forcing Syrian Druze communities to convert to Islam - or die, Walla! reported Monday.
 
Syrian opposition forces have reportedly declared to the Israeli daily that at least 14 Druze villages have been forced to convert to Islam by the Islamist group so far.
 
The information has apparently leaked from representatives of the villages, who declared that they had no choice but to convert and had been threatened with death. 
 
The specific group responsible for the attack is the Al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS). The group has seized large sections of Northern Syria and has reportedly been implementing Sharia law there. 
 
ISIS officials have openly declared that they plan to turn Druze places of worships in mosques and change the entire region to a fundamentalist Islamist state. 
 
Israeli Druze leaders stated Monday to the daily that they have been aware of ongoing issues with Islamists near their Syrian communities, and that they have pledged to help Syrian Druze as much as possible. 

Again: Russia Vetoes Resolution on Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 December 2013 17:42
UN Security CouncilIn what has become routine since the start of the Syrian civil war, Russia on Thursday night once again blocked a UN Security Council statement on Syria.
 
This time, the U.S.-drafted resolution condemned the Syrian government's increasing military offensive on the city of Aleppo, according to AFP.
 
The move heightened diplomatic tensions ahead of a key Russia-U.S.-UN meeting in Geneva on Friday on organizing an international Syria peace conference.
 
Russian diplomats refused to allow any mention in the statement of President Bashar Al-Assad's tactics, diplomats said.
 
In the face of the obstacles, the United States decided to withdraw the draft which needs the approval of all 15 Security Council members to be released.
 
A spokesman said that Washington was "very disappointed" at the Russian blocking.
 
The United States wanted the statement to express "outrage at the use of air strikes by the Syrian government, in particular the use of heavy indiscriminate weapons, including Scud missiles and 'barrel bombs,' which were dropped on Aleppo" this week.
 
The Doctors Without Borders group says at least 189 people have been killed and nearly 900 wounded in the Aleppo bombings since Sunday.
 
The statement would have expressed concern at the general "escalating level of violence in the Syrian conflict and condemned all violence by all parties," reported AFP.
 
Russia, a close ally of Assad’s, has used its power as a permanent member of the Security Council to veto at least three western proposed resolutions which sought to increase pressure on the Syrian leader.
 
Russia supplies Assad with ground-to-surface interceptor missiles as well as warplanes and helicopters and other heavy machinery meant for national self-defense.
 
"We are very disappointed that a Security Council statement expressing our collective outrage at the brutal and indiscriminant tactics employed by the Syrian regime against civilians has been blocked," said Kurtis Cooper, deputy spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, after Russia vetoed the latest resolution.
 
"These barrel bombs -- and the explosive materials contained within them -- further underscore the brutality of the Assad regime and the lengths they will go to attack and kill their own people," he added.
 
The Russian veto came hours after Moscow seemed to take a step back from its uncompromising support of Assad. Earlier Thursday, the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister criticized statements that Assad wanted to seek another term in 2014.
 
"Exchanging such rhetorical statements just makes the atmosphere heavier and does not make the situation calmer,” said Mikhail Bogdanov.
 
In response, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister said that nobody can stop Assad from seeking re-election.

UN Condemns Iran's Human Rights Violations

Category: News
Created on Friday, 20 December 2013 13:17
Hassan RouhaniThe United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday condemned human rights violations in Iran, but welcomed pledges by Iran's president to improve in some areas.
 
The resolution on Iran was approved with 86 votes in favor, 36 against and 61 abstentions, reported Reuters.
 
While the resolution on Iran expressed concern at serious ongoing abuses, it acknowledged pledges by Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, on human rights issues such as eliminating discrimination against women and members of ethnic minorities and promoting freedom of expression and opinion.
 
Reuters reported that the resolution also praised Rouhani's plan to implement a civil rights charter and encouraged Iran "to take concrete action to ensure these pledges can result in demonstrable improvements as soon as possible and to uphold the government's obligations under its domestic laws and under international human rights law."
 
Rouhani has previously said that a strong government does not “limit the lives of the people and has claimed that he believed social networking sites such as Facebook were a welcome phenomenon.
 
Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi recently criticized Rouhani’s human rights record, citing a dramatic increase in executions since he took office this year and accusing the government of lying about the release of political prisoners.
 
The UN envoy on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, said in October that Iran's rights record should not be overlooked amid overtures to the West by Rouhani. He criticized Tehran for executing 724 people in 18 months, including dozens after Rouhani was elected in June.
 
Iran regularly executes people who are convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, adultery and espionage. In 2011, Iran put to death more than twice as many people as it did the year before.
 
An Iranian delegate told General Assembly members before the vote that the resolution does not reflect the actual situation inside Iran and will be counterproductive, according to Reuters.
 
Meanwhile, the news agency reported, a similar condemnation of Syria was adopted with 127 votes in favor, 13 against and 47 abstentions. A third resolution condemning North Korea was passed by consensus, but some states publicly disassociated themselves from the text.
 
The resolutions on these countries have become an annual rite. They intensify international pressure and further isolate those states but have no legal consequences. All three countries lobby hard against adoption of the resolutions, noted Reuters.

Former Jihadi Warns of Syrian Rebels with '9/11 Ideology'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 18:40
makeshift memorial for Boston Marathon attack victimsA French Islamist who fought as part of a jihadi rebel faction in Syria has said that foreign fighters with a "9/11 ideology" could return to the West, where they would pose a definitive security threat.
 
In an interview with the BBC the anonymous former rebel fighter told of how he had fought for an unnamed Islamist brigade, before leaving after it pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), saying that he opposed the brutal methods of the group - but not necessarily its vision for Syria.
 
The interview offers an intriguing insight into the mindset, ideology and motivations of the increasingly dominant Islamist rebel movement in Syria, which has eclipsed the more secular Free Syrian Army. It also once again highlights the growing security concerns shared by most Western countries over the increasingly large number of Western-born Islamists fighting in Syria - and the prospect of there return to their countries of birth at some point in the future.
 
Western states have recently opened diplomatic channels with the largest such faction - the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF) - in a bid to gain their support for upcoming peace talks in Geneva. The move has also been seen as an attempt to drive a wedge between the non-Al Qaeda-aligned factions fighting under the banner of SIF, and Al Qaeda franchises such as Al Nusra Front and ISIS, with whom they sometimes coordinate operations, particularly in the north of the country.
 
But such efforts are fraught with risks.
 
As the unnamed fighter, who chose to hide his identity, presumably out of concerns for his safety after publicly declaring his desertion, explained to his interviewer, whilst he and other Islamists in Syria did not support the killing of "blasphemers" or even the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, "the final goal is an Islamic state".
 
"We are all Al Qaeda in the sense of ideology and mindset," he declared.
 
Illustrating his point, he explained how his unit did not view members of the Shia Islamic sect as Muslims, and viewed the conflict through the prism of a religious sectarian war.
 
Echoing sentiments made by Al Qaeda leaders, he said that the Syrian civil war is "Definitely a fight against the Shia. Shia is not a sect of Islam. The difference between Sunni and Shia are so huge that they are not related to our religion in any way."
 
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is a member of the Alawite sect - an offshoot of Shia Islam whose adherents make up around 10% of the Syrian population. His forces are backed by pro-government Shia and Alawite militias raised from within Syria itself, as well as foreign Shia jihadis from Iraq and Lebanon - most notably Hezbollah.
 
Shia Iran has provided crucial support to the Assad regime, including sending members of its own armed forces to train and fight alongside regime troops.
 
Relating how his brigade would treat members of Syria's tiny Shia minority in the areas they controlled, the former rebel said they found it so "irritating" to hear Shia referring to themselves as "Muslims", that "in areas we controlled we would force them to stop calling themselves Muslims."
 
Neither the interviewer nor the former jihadi revealed which precise brigade he had been fighting with, but given his description and the fact that it is said to have "pledged allegiance" to ISIS it was likely to have been the Nusra Front, which did precisely that back in August of this year. Many within the Nusra Front were unhappy about the decision to effectively merge the two groups at the time, and resisted it - causing some tension between different factions within the group ever since.
 
He also revealed how many Islamists are motivated to join the conflict and were encouraged on the battlefield itself by a saying - or "Hadith" - attributed to Mohammed, the founder of Islam, in which he declared that "if Islam in the Greater Syria region is corrupted, there will not be any correct Islam anywhere in the world."
 
The fact that such fundamentalist religious sentiments are shared by Al Qaeda-linked and independent Islamist rebel groups alike illustrates just how easy the ideological journey into the fold of Al Qaeda would be for many foreign fighters - a trend he claimed is on the increase.
 
And crucially - despite saying that he himself did not share such beliefs - he warned that "the same people with the same 9/11 ideology" existed among the large contingent of European Muslim extremists currently fighting in Syria. Alarmingly, he claimed that "Europeans" were the third-largest group of foreign jihadis in Syria, after "the Saudis and Chechens".
 
"Yes, I think they would be a danger to the West," he said, "I wouldn't want them to go back."

Hamas Announces Renewed Ties with Iran

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 12:09
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei illustration - ReutersHamas has "resumed" relations with Iran after a temporary falling out over the Syrian conflict, according to AFP.
 
"Relations between Hamas and Iran have resumed," senior official Mahmud al-Zahar told reporters at a Monday news conference in Gaza. 
 
Ties had been "affected by the Syria situation, and Hamas has withdrawn from Syria so that it can't be identified with this or that side," he said. "We've confirmed we are not interfering in the Syrian case, or in any other Arab country."
 
Shia Iran had long supported the Sunni Hamas against Israel, which is viewed as a common enemy. But exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal left his base in Damascus after the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, criticizing President Bashar al-Assad, a key ally of Iran, and moving to the Sunni Gulf state of Qatar.
 
But the Hamas leader made remarks in October of this year supporting the Assad regime and calling for an end in sectarian fighting at a Jerusalem conference. The move was subsequently slammed by powerful rebel group Army of Islam, who denounced Hamas's ties with the Assad ally and claimed that they were trying to restore funding to Gaza by exploiting their position on the conflict. 
 
Media reports indicate that the constant switching of sides has led to a huge decrease in Hamas's funding - especially from Iran. 
 
But Zahar denied there had been a complete severing of ties. "Our relations with Iran were not cut, and we don't wish to cut ties with any Arab countries either, even those that are fighting against us," he said. The latter reference was to Egypt, which has taken a hard line against the Islamist group since the military overthrow of president Mohammed Morsi in July.
 
Hamas is an affiliate of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been the target of a massive crackdown in Egypt in recent months that has seen hundreds of Morsi supporters killed and more than 2,000 arrested.
 
Zahar said there was still cooperation with Egypt on getting supplies, including fuel, into the Gaza Strip, but "there is no political contact, because the current (Egyptian) regime is against it."
 
Since July, Egypt's military has destroyed hundreds of tunnels used to bring crucial supplies, including fuel, into the blockaded Strip. It has also launched efforts to stop terror tunnels into Egypt and Israel and battled terror factions in the Sinai desert, angering Gaza officials. 
 
Having initially spoken out against Egypt's new military regime, Hamas has sought to avoid a further deterioration in relations with Cairo.

The Most Despised People in the World

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Saturday, 07 December 2013 21:01
Two Saints church Alexandria, Egypt 1/1/2011The most persecuted group in the world today is Christians. Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, Syria and other nations are murdered, raped, kidnapped, enslaved and persecuted on a daily basis. The reason for the vast majority of all of this violence is that they are Christian among Muslims.
 
But their abuse does not stop with the violence. The perpetrators of violence are measured in the thousands, but the greatest abuse is at the hands of those who should demand that the violence stop. The silence in the face this persecution is denial and justification. The persecutors are few, but the deniers are in the billions.
 
Christians are enjoined to care for all persecuted people, but in particular, they are to care for their own brothers and sisters. They manage to ignore the persecution by doing good works, such as care for the poor. Christians have compassion but no courage to face the enemy who kills them.
In Nashville, TN (the buckle on the Bible belt) the favorite indoor sport for those who should be dealing with the enemy, Islam, is going to Family of Abraham events and bridge building dialogues where they dance to the tune of Muslims. There is no problem of meeting with Islam, but the rules of engagement are that nothing will be said that offends Islam.
 
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, an injured man is on the side of the road. Two religious leaders pass him by on the other side of the road. They don’t harm the injured man, they just ignore him. This is the same thing that Christian leaders do at dialogues such as Family of Abraham. They meet with Muslims who adhere to a doctrine that includes killing Christians. But, the leaders will not bring up the Islamic persecution to them. The Christian leadership response to murder of their brothers and sisters is silence. They pass by on the other side of the road. Their silence is consent.
 
But Christians are not the only deniers. Normally, Jews are quick to step forward in the area of charity and support of victims, but not so with persecuted Christians. Some of this denial may be due to a dislike of Christianity, but Jews are no quicker to help their own. If you go to thereligionofpeace.com you will find an amazing data base of jihad attacks since 9/11. The current number of attacks is in excess of 22,000 attacks. It is very instructive to parse the data and see what are the top four nations of jihad attacks. When you put the data on a per capita basis, you get the following chart:
 
Read this chart by religion: Jews, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus. So Jews are the victims of violence by Islam, but the Jews of America love to go to Family of Abraham events and be as silent as the Christians.
But what about the most sensitive victim group – the black American? Victim-ology is the dogma of a myriad black “civil rights” groups with their high priests of race hustles such as Al Sharpton. The most persecuted Christians are in Africa. But the civil rights hustlers of America just love to hang with Muslims as their brothers. All of those dead Africans? Not a problem for African Americans.
It is surprising how many Buddhists are being killed in jihad, but is it a surprise that Buddhists never talk about it? And aside from a few Hindu activists, never a word is heard from the Hindu community about their deaths by jihad.
 
The deaths in the Philippines are Catholics and what does Pope Francis say about Islam? He says,
Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.
 
Oh, I see. Over 1400 years of Christian deaths at the hands of jihadists means that they were not true Muslims and that the 22,000 jihadic attacks since 9/11 are not authentic. The annihilation of Christianity in Turkey, Middle East and Africa is not the result of “proper reading of the Koran”. The Pope is the perfect candidate for magical thinking and idiot compassion. And notice the little hate speech riff: “avoid hateful generalizations”. Pope Francis, do you mean generalizations such as conclusions that result from reading the Koran, the Sunna, the Sharia and a 1400 year history of the murder of all kinds of Kafirs (non-Muslims)?
But, in his own way, Pope Francis is the leader of all Christians. He just happens to have on more elaborate clothing as he practices denial.
 
So, it turns out that Christians are not the most despised group of people in the world. They just happen to be the largest subgroup. The most despised group in the world is the victim of Islam. And whether it is a dead Christian congregation, a murdered apostate, a sad Muslim woman with FGM, or any other victim of jihad, no one will speak out for the victim and against the perpetrator. All leaders share in the shame of being ignorant cowards practicing idiot compassion.
 
How is this to stop? Well, being polite won’t help, because if polite worked, the problem would be solved. The key to our response is that we have the high moral ground. We must oppose the oppressor, Islam, and stand with the oppressed – Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and all others who are oppressed by jihad. Our opponents, the deniers, support the oppressor, Islam, and ignore and suppress the fate of the victims. The deniers are evil, period.
If you are a Christian, get some allies, and come up with a program about the persecuted church.

The program could be bringing in some persecuted Christians, such as Copts, to speak to Sunday school classes or doing a long term study of the Armenian holocaust in 20th century Turkey. When you go to leadership, do not ask permission or make a request. Make demands and if those demands are not met, then some form of protest inside your church must be launched.
 
Stand up at services and protest, hand out brochures, do whatever it takes until “leadership” agrees to not pass by on the other side of the road and neglect the dead Christians. Point out their moral position is wrong and evil. Do not be shy. Ask them to use scripture to morally justify their denial and ignorance. Be respectful, but firm and do not stop until good prevails.
 
This is a moral battle and if you are not a Christian, you should do the same in other venues. A possible venue is the local media. Make demands to recognize the victims of jihad and if they are not met, make a protest. Public protest is a powerful tool for change. We must acknowledge the world’s largest human rights tragedy. Being nice is the road to civilizational annihilation.
 
Bill WarnerBill Warner is the director of Center for the Study of Political Islam.
He holds a PhD in physics and math, NC State University, 1968. He has been a university professor, businessman, and applied physicist. 

Powerful Explosion Heard in Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 December 2013 10:23
Golan Heights - Powerful Explosion ArchiveA powerful explosion was heard on Friday evening in the Golan Heights, near an IDF vehicle that was on routine patrol along the Syrian-Israeli border, near the slopes of Mount Hermon.
 
No one was injured as a result of the explosion, but damage was caused to the rear window of the military vehicle.
 
The explosion was so powerful that it was heard for kilometers away, and many forces were called to the scene to investigate. It is believed that the explosion was caused either by an explosive device, a mine that was swept away in the winds and the rain, or an explosion from the Syrian side of the border relating to the civil war in that country.
 
The army is expected to continue the investigation in daylight.
 
If the explosion is related to the Syrian civil war, it will not be the first time that the country’s civil war has spilled over into Israel.
 
On Monday, IDF forces on the Golan Heights near the Syria border were shot at from a Syrian army outpost. The IDF returned fire and identified a direct hit on a Syrian soldier. No IDF soldiers were injured.
 
The clash followed a mortar shell fired into Israel from Syria earlier in the day. The shell landed 50 meters (160 feet) from a house in the Israeli Druze town of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights and caused no injuries or damage.
 
In October, two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded by cross-border fire in the Golan Heights, along the border with Syria.
 
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor has sent a letter of complaint to the Security Council denouncing a series of Syrian violations of the 1974 ceasefire agreement between the two countries. 
 
In one such incident, gunfire from the Syrian side of the border hit close to an IDF patrol in the northern Golan Heights. There were no injuries or damage.

Syrian Rebels Capture Christian Town, Kidnap Nuns

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 16:45
Syrian RebelsSyrian rebels, including jihadist groups, captured the historic Christian town of Maalula north of Damascus on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
 
Rebels assaulted the town by rolling explosive-filled tires down the hills onto regime forces and were able to reach the city center after three days of intense fighting, with clashes still raging in the surrounding areas, reported the organization. The town is considered a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria.
 
The fighting came as the regime has been battling to gain control of a string of nearby towns and villages along the strategic Damascus-Homs highway north of the capital.
 
The Observatory told AFP that several groups, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, had taken part in the capture of the town.
 
The rebels abducted 12 Syrian and Lebanese Orthodox nuns from their convent after moving into the town, Vatican Radio reported.
 
Syrian state news agency SANA had earlier said the rebels had entered the Mar Takla convent, in the middle of the city, which had previously been controlled by the army.
 
The convent is home to some 40 nuns and orphans, some of the few residents of the town who remained after rebels first entered in September, prompting fierce fighting with the army.
 
Jihadist rebel groups have carried out atrocities throughout the civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest in Idlib in July. The priest was executed because he was accused of collaborating with President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
 
In Aleppo, several Islamist groups split off from the Western-backed Syrian National Council and declared the region to be an independent Islamist state. The jihadists in Aleppo have set up a court based on Sharia (Islamic law) which is authorized to issue execution orders for serious offenses.
 
Rebels, however, are not the only ones to have carried out atrocities. Assad’s troops have also carried out war crimes and on Monday, for the first time, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that these war crimes were authorized "at the highest level," including by Assad himself.
 
It is the first time Navi Pillay has directly accused Assad of crimes against humanity, and could pave the way to an international prosecution - although with western states and Russia pinning their hopes on an upcoming "peace conference" in Geneva, that seems an unlikely prospect.
 
Pillay made the statements based on the findings of a special inquiry into abuses by both sides in the Syrian civil war, and added that "the scale and viciousness of the abuses being perpetrated by elements on both sides almost defies belief."

Syria Jihadists Execute Members of Rival Faction

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 December 2013 08:52
Jihadists Behead the Wrong ManIn the latest atrocity of the Syrian civil war, Reuters reports that Al-Qaeda-linked rebels have executed the commander of a rival rebel faction and six of his men.
 
An amateur video of the public execution was posted online, the news agency reported.
 
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a jihadist group fighting to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad, has taken advantage of a power vacuum in rebel-held areas to assert its authority over more moderate elements of the armed opposition.
 
The video, posted online by the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group on Wednesday, shows armed men in black standing below an ISIL banner.
 
The Observatory said the video was taken in the northern Syrian town of Atarib in Idlib province. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed.
 
A masked man on the video identifies seven men kneeling as members of the Ghurabaa al-Sham brigade, a moderate Islamist group that was one of the first to fight Assad. A man who appeared to be the group’s commander, Hassan Jazera, was among them.
 
“Hassan Jazera is the most corrupt and the biggest thief,” said the man. He spoke into a microphone to a crowd of men, some of whom used their mobile phones to film the killing.
 
The man, reading from a piece of paper, said Jazera’s men were also charged with kidnapping and had been tried in a religious court run by ISIL. They were then shot in the head.
 
Jazera and his men were arrested by ISIL a month ago, the UK-based Observatory said, according to Reuters.
 
The rebels have long ago split into rival factions and have begun fighting one another, essentially creating a second civil war in Syria.
 
In Aleppo, several Islamist groups split off from the Western-backed Syrian National Council declared the region to be an independent Islamist state.
 
The jihadists in Aleppo have set up a court based on Sharia (Islamic law) which is authorized to issue execution orders for serious offenses.
 
These executions, usually carried out by beheading those convicted, are a regular occurrence and an example of atrocities carried out by the rebels.
 
Several weeks ago, jihadist rebels had to ask for "understanding and forgiveness" after they beheaded the wrong man.
 
The rebels published a video showing the head of a man they said was part of a Shiite militia fighting for Assad. As it turned out the head belonged to a member of another jihadist rebel group.
 
Several months ago, a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Assad’s regime was publicly beheaded, with the execution filmed and posted to the Internet for all to see.
 
Some of the Islamist groups have attempted to soften their image in an attempt to win hearts and minds - holding stand up comedy shows and handing out toys to local children.
 
A British think-tank said this week that more than 11,000 children have died in Syria's civil war, including 128 killed by chemical weapons.
 
In addition to clashes between rebels, there have also been numerous clashes between Arab rebel groups and Kurdish militias in the northern part of Syria - essentially a third civil war.

Lethal Mortar Lands by Russian Embassy in Damascus

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 November 2013 15:22
Bombing in Aleppo - Reuters (archive)A mortar landed by the Russian Embassy in Damascus on Thursday, killing a Syrian civilian and injuring 9 security personnel working at the site, reports CNN.
 
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced no Russians were hurt in the attack, and said it was investigating who was responsible. Meanwhile the US Department of State condemned the attack.
 
The mortar attack in the Syrian capital comes despite the Syrian army's recapturing of the strategic town of Deir Attiyeh just north of Damascus on Thursday, just under a week after the army lost the town.
 
Deir Attiyeh is located on the Damascus-Homs highway. It is an important point for the ongoing army offensive in the region due to its closeness to Damascus, and is important to the rebels for the supply lines to Lebanon it grants access to, according to Al Jazeera.
 
The explosion comes after an attack on Iran's embassy in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on November 19 killed 23, including the Iranian cultural attaché.
 
That attack was claimed by an Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group that supports the rebel forces in Syria. It was meant as a message to Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah to pull their forces out of Syria where they are supporting President Bashar Assad's regime.
 
Russia has likewise been associated with Assad's regime. The reported IAF strike on the Latakia region of Syria October 31 apparently targeted an advanced Russian missile system that could be updated to the highly touted S-300 missile system.
 
In fact, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Meir Rosenne said Russia, Syria and Iran through their alliance "defeated" America by forcing US President Barack Obama to back down from his planned intervention in Syria in September.
 
On Wednesday Assad's government said it would attend the January 22 peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the conflict now stretching into its third year. The war has left over 120,000 dead.

American Jihadist in Syria: Entire World Will Be Muslim

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 05:59
Western jihadests - ReutersA US citizen, who joined the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) in Syria, has sent a video message to the West expressing his desire to wage total war against the "infidels" and impose Islamic rule over the entire world. 
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The video features "the American Abu-Dj'ana," brandishing a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a bayonet, who says the following:
"This is a message to people in the West from the Mujahideen (lit. "holy warriors") in Syria. We came here from different countries to protect this land, this Islamic land; to spread the Law of Allah on earth; and to dedicate our lives for Jihad in order so that we can get to heaven."
 
"We are coming to kill all the infidels in the West and beyond to spread Allah's law (Sharia) and the book of Allah (Koran) and to raise them to the highest level," he continues. 
 
"We came to kill anyone that stands in our way. The flag that says that 'there is no God but Allah' will be raised over Parliament Buildings and in capital cities around the world [. . .] with these simple weapons we will liberate this country and this people and  bring Islamic law to control all the world - Europe, U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Africa. "
 
Western states have grown increasingly worried over the influx of foreign fighters - many of them from Europe and North America - to take part in the Syrian civil war. Although many of them are fighting with non-Al Qaeda-aligned groups, a growing number are joining the ranks of its affiliates such as ISIS and the Nusra Front. Western intelligence officials worry about "the day after", when those battle-hardened Islamists return to their home countries, posing a real security threat there.
 
Videos like these, showcasing Western-born Islamists fighting for Al Qaeda in Syria, are still rare, but have become increasingly common as ISIS and the Nusra Front seek to bolster their presence and encourage new recruits, in the face of mounting losses both against government forces and Kurdish militias in northern Syria.
 
Over 11,000 children alone have been killed in the bloody conflict, which has raged in the region since 2011. Foreign nationals have been pouring into Syria to engage in the Civil War, which has mushroomed from a national conflict into an all-out holy war between various Islamic factions. Even among the rebels, there has been a marked lack of unity, with Al Qaeda groups like this one dividing the rebel camps, as some rebels focus more on domestic issues and less on a global Jihad campaign. 

British Protester Killed Fighting for Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 November 2013 10:22
jihadists in Syria has accelerated due to a convergence with the sectarian tensions across the countrys border with Iraq. APMohammed el-Araj, a twenty-year-old British Muslim, was killed in Syria while fighting for rebel forces against President Bashar Assad's regime. Araj, the second confirmed British citizen killed fighting in the Syrian war, previously was jailed for violently protesting outside the Israeli embassy in London.
 
Araj, the UK-raised son of Palestinian parents, was arrested in 2009 protesting the IDF counter-terror Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The Guardian reports that his sentence was cut from 2 years to 18 months.
 
Araj's story has raised concerns about home-grown UK terror, given that security services were unable to stop him from joining the fighting in Syria even after being jailed.
 
"This blows the lid off the traditional idea that if you create a space for angry, quite radical protests in the UK, in London, it provides a channel through which angry young men can dissipate their energies, lest they be attracted into terrorism," said Shiraz Maher, Senior research fellow at the British think-tank International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR)
 
Further concerns were recently raised by Andrew Parker, head of the British intelligence agency MI5, that "British-based jihadists will one day return from the killing fields of Syria and turn their new-found skills on the population back home."
 
There are an estimated 200 UK fighters in Syria, along with numerous other foreigners. Just recently Burak Kran, a former player on the German national soccer team, was killed fighting for the rebel forces.
 
Meanwhile Araj's death comes as reports say the ongoing internecine clashes in Syria will have a long term devastating effect on the refugees created by the crisis.

About 600 Saudi fighters are in Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 16 November 2013 10:05
Faris Bin Hizam Al ArabiyaAn estimated 600 Saudis have joined al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria fighting against President Bashar’s al-Assad’s regime, a Saudi expert in Islamist movements told Al Arabiya’s weekly program “Death making” on Friday.
 
Faris Bin Hizam said many Saudis are fighting on the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front.
 
But the Saudi fighters are only a small number if compared to other foreign nationalities fighting in Syria, Bin Hizam said.
 
He added that unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda has a strong presence, there is increased awareness amongst Saudis regarding the dangers of belonging to al-Qaeda, and a widely held belief that the Syrian revolution does not need more fighters but rather financial support.
 
Bin Hizam noted that Saudi Arabia’s tight security measures are able to contain the al-Qaeda, something Libya and Tunisia failed to do after their revolution.
 
The ISIL is al-Qaeda’s main branch in Syria, although al-Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahiri recently ordered its disbanding. He said al-Qaeda in Syria is to be represented only by the al-Nusra Front.
 
The al-Nusra Front, created in January 2012, joined al-Qaeda in December of that year and is on a U.S. list of foreign terrorist’s organizations.
 
The al-Nusra Front has carried out major attacks against the Syrian armed forces, including several suicide bombings.
 
The Saudi expert said that there were no Saudis among the top 10 commanders in the al-Qaeda groups in Syria. According to him, they join the terrorist group only to take part in suicide bombings and civil operations.
 
Bin Hizam noted that the al-Qaeda tends to amplify the number of its Saudi members in Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq as a way to attract more more volunteers and more financial support from its donors.
 
Most-wanted Saudi man
 
The program also aired the latest images of Saleh al-Qarawi, the most-wanted man on a list of 85 terrorists, issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry in 2009. Qarawi appeared to have lost an eye, his right hand and his feet.
 
The analyst said Qarawi sustained those injuries last month and is now in Saudi Arabia as he surrendered to the authorities to receive treatment.
 
Al-Qarawi served as a senior leader and operative for the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), a Lebanese militant organization and also operated in Iran and Afghanistan.

Syrian Jihadists Behead the Wrong Man, then Apologize

Category: Islam
Created on Friday, 15 November 2013 11:37
Jihadists Behead the Wrong ManJihadist rebels in Syria had to ask for "understanding and forgiveness" after they beheaded the wrong man, the British Telegraph reports.
 
In a public appearance filmed and posted online, members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), one brandishing a knife, held up a bearded head before a crowd in Aleppo.
 
The jihadists triumphantly described the execution of what they said was a member of an Iraqi Shiite militia fighting for President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
As it turned out, reported the Telegraph, the head belonged to a member of Ahrar al-Sham, which is a Sunni jihadist rebel group that often fights alongside ISIS, though it does not share its Al-Qaeda ideology.
 
After inquiries, an ISIS spokesman admitted the beheaded man was Mohammed Fares, an Ahrar commander reported missing some days ago.
 
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, an organization which monitors deaths in the Syrian conflict, said that ISIS rebels misunderstood comments Fares had made, resulting in his beheading.
 
Other reports indicate that in the fog of battle, Fares - who was wounded in fighting around Aleppo - thought he had been captured by a Shia militia, and offered up Shia prayers in an attempt to hide his Sunni identity. Sunni Islamist fighters overheard his prayers, assumed he was a Shia, and beheaded him.
 
The incident underlines not only the cruelty of the jihadist rebels, but also the deep divisions between the jihadist rebels and the Western-backed more moderate rebels.
 
Nearly a year ago, several Islamist groups split off from the Western-backed Syrian National Council opposition force and declared Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state.
 
The jihadists in Aleppo have set up a court based on Sharia (Islamic law) which is authorized to issue execution orders for serious offenses.
 
Beheading those who are deemed to be “collaborating” with the Assad regime is a regular occurrence and an example of atrocities carried out by the rebels. Several months ago, a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Assad’s regime was publicly beheaded, with the execution filmed and posted to the Internet for all to see.
 
Some of the Islamist groups have attempted to soften their image in an attempt to win hearts and minds - holding stand up comedy shows and handing out toys to local children.
 
A second civil war has begun in war-ravaged Syria as the more moderate rebel groups and the Islamist extremist groups are also fighting each other, in addition to fighting Assad’s troops. There have also been numerous clashes between Arab rebel groups and Kurdish militias in the north of the country. 

Canadians Join Foreign Jihadists Fighting in Syria

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 November 2013 11:17
SYRIA-WAR-CHECHNYA-ISLAMIC-MILITANTS-JOIN-facebook
 
On Thursday reports were released that a Canadian citizen described only as Abu Abd Al-Rahman was killed in March in the city of Aleppo, according to Shalom Toronto. Al-Rahman is one of many Canadian and other foreign jihadists journeying to Syria to join the bloodbath.
 
The report of Al-Rahman's death appeared on a Syrian Internet site that specializes in documenting the names of foreign jihadists killed while fighting in the ranks of opposition forces. The fighting has been intense, as documented by video footage.
 
Just last Thursday Andrew Parker, Director of the British domestic intelligence service MI5, announced that hundreds of British citizens have traveled to Syria to join the fighting, most of them siding with the rebel forces.
 
Al-Rahman is just one of many Canadians making the jihad pilgrimage to Syria.
 
In February Jamal Mohammed Abd Al-Kadar, a student from Montreal, was killed in the truck bomb attack he drove in Damascus. Al-Kadar had joined the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organization associated with Al-Qaeda.
 
Then in May a man, apparently bearing Canadian citizenship, was killed while on an observation mission prior to carrying out an attack with a male British citizen and a female American citizen.
 
Damien Clairmont, a Calgary convert to Islam, joined the wave of foreign jihadists when in June he went to collaborate with Al-Nusra Front. It is possible that he was the fighter filmed in Homs in July with a Canadian flag sewn onto his clothes.
 
In one last example, Ali Mohammed Dirie of Toronto was killed in September fighting for Al-Nusra Front. Dirie had previously been convicted of organizing a terror attack that planned to strike governmental targets in Canada in 2006, and consequently served an extended sentence.
 
The Syrian conflict is now in its third year and has claimed over 120,000 lives since November 2011.

'We Will Fly the Islamic Flag Over the White House'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:20
Hamas terrorists in GazaA video offering a rare look at the two Al Qaeda-linked rebel groups operating in Syria offers some of the most compelling evidence yet of the involvement of western citizens in the country's ongoing civil war - and raises fears over the threat posed by these radicalized Muslims towards western countries "the day after" the conflict.
 
Vice News has released footage of Westerners who have joined with Jabhat Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) to fight for Islamic rule - not only over Syria, but over Western countries. 
 
"I say to the United States that your time will come," says one of the men, who gives his age as 26, "and we will bleed you to death and, Inshallah [with the help of God], shall raise a flag in the White House."
 
Other fighters declared that new Caliphate will "pave the way to Al-Aqsa" through Syria, confirming fears in Israel that Islamist rebels plan to turn on the Jewish state in the event they succeed in overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 
One British national declares that the UK has decided to side with the "enemies" of the Syrian people - which he identifies as the US and Iran, leaving Sunni Muslims "no choice" but to fight in Syria, "Palestine". And he warns that Britain is next. 
 
The channel also notes that about 10% of Syrian rebels are foreign nationals - and that after the consolidation of rebel forces, that number will only continue to grow.
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Just last week, BBC reported that hundreds of British citizens have left to fight in the bloody conflict. 
 
The video comes as Islamist rebels in northern Syria - where the video was allegedly taken - have suffered a series of setbacks, both at the hands of regime forces and against independent Kurdish militias, who oppose both the Assad regime and predominantly-Arab rebel movement.

Russia Sends Most Powerful Ships to Mediterranean

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 10:51
Russias Pyotr Veliky Peter the Great nulcear-powered battleship - ReutersOn Saturday, Russian news agency RT reported that the "Varyag," flagship of Russia's Pacific Fleet, and "Pyotr Veliky" ("Peter the Great"), the nation's most powerful nuclear-powered battleship, were moved into the Mediterranean Sea.
 
The Varyag, which has been dubbed the "aircraft carrier killer," will perform a number of maneuvers, some in coordination with the Russian naval forces currently stationed on the Mediterranean.
 
The ship will replace the missile cruiser "Moskva," taking command of Russia's Pacific Fleet in the Mediterranean. The Moskva was sent to the region in September to take over local operations.
 
Back in 2011 China started its first tests on its own variation of the Varyag, the "Liaoning," which it had been retrofitting since 1998.
 
Along with the Varyag, the Pyotr Veliky entered the western Mediterranean Saturday, anchoring in the Alboran Sea.
 
In September, admiral of the fleet Viktor Chirkov said the Russian Navy intends to continue increasing its presence, particularly off the Syrian shore. Russian military buildup on the Mediterranean began December 2012.
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The move is seen as aid for Russian ally Syria. Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned today (Monday) that Syria is in danger of becoming an "Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean."
 
Russia has been heavily involved in supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, reportedly having transferred S-300 missile batteries in September. Russia denied the validity of the report.
 
While Western powers are reportedly accepting the idea that Assad will stay in power during Syrian transition up until the Spring 2014 elections, Syrian opposition forces have refused to participate in Geneva peace talks until a timeframe for Assad's removal is established.
 
Naval-Technology.com gives details about the Kirov class Pyotr Veliky, which is designed to sink aircraft carriers and defend the fleet against air and submarine attacks.
 
The ship is fitted with a number of missile systems as well as a 130mm AK-130 twin-barrel gun sporting a 22 km range, and carries 3 Ka-27 helicopters. The following video showcases some of the ship's capabilities.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander Killed in Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 14:14
Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander General Mohammad Ali JafariMuhammad G'malizda, a senior commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been reported to have been killed in the Syrian Civil War, according to the State-backed Iranian Mehr news agency.
 
G'mazlida was killed sometime over the last few days by "Wahhabi terrorists", the agency said, giving no more details. Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam, but Iranian state outlets regularly use the term to describe the wider Syrian rebel movement in general. The report once again highlights the extent towards which the IRGC, which is a special branch of Iran's military, has been directly involved in the ongoing conflict on behalf of Syrian Regime President Bashar Assad. 
 
Fighters from both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide have been streaming across Syria's border's to join opposing sides of the ongoing conflict there, which has killed well over 100,000 people. The rebel movement is made up primarily of Sunni Muslims, while the regime counts mainly on the support of Shia Muslims and members of President Assad's Allawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
 
The IRGC was allegedly established after the 1979 Iranian Revolution to defend and enforce Iran's religious systems, which follow a sect of Shi'a Islam. It is estimated to number some 125,000 military personnel. 
 
This is not the first time that the IRGC has been involved in a neighboring military conflict. Besides for the Iran-Iraq war, the terrorist force was also involved in both the First and Second Lebanon Wars. 
 
IRGC officials recently reiterated Iran's hardline stance against involvement with the US in international talks to stall their nuclear weapons program, declaring that "Death to America" is still their slogan. The remarks came in advance of Iran's annual celebration of the toppling of the US Embassy in Tehran, commemorated today, November 4. 

Massive Explosion at Syria Missile Site, Israel Blamed

Category: News
Created on Friday, 01 November 2013 10:45
Massive Explosion at Syria Missile SiteThere was a massive explosion early Thursday morning at an aerial defense base near the city of Latakia in northeastern Syria, Walla reports, based on reports from the Syrian opposition.
 
Opposition sources said the base, which held anti-aircraft missiles, was destroyed in the blast.
 
Sources in Syria and Lebanon blamed Israel for the strike. However, they offered alternate versions of events: while Syrian sources said the base was hit by a strike from at sea, Lebanese media outlets reported that Israeli planes were seen in the area before the blast.
 
Israel was widely assumed to be responsible for two airstrikes targeting Syrian weapons in May 2013.
 
An Israeli source confirmed that Israel bombed a shipment of “game changing” weapons headed for Hezbollah in early May. Israel was later accused of bombing the Jamraya research center in Damascus as well.
 
Israeli also implicitly confirmed it was behind an air strike in Syria in late January that targeted surface-to-air missiles and a military compound believed to house chemical agents.

Assad: Western Backing of Rebels Must Stop

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 31 October 2013 11:04
President Bashar al-Assad AFPForeign support for Syrian rebels must stop for peace to take place in the war-battered country, President Bashar Al-Assad told visiting UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday, according to Al Arabiya.
 
“The success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states,” Syrian state television quoted Assad as saying.
 
“Terrorists” is the term used by the Assad regime to describe the rebels trying to oust him.
 
Ahead of a planned peace conference in Geneva, Assad also told Brahimi that a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis cannot be dictated by foreign powers.
 
“The Syrian people are the only ones who have the right to decide on Syria's future, and any solution or agreement must have the acceptance of the Syrian people, and reflect their desires,” Assad said.
 
Assad warned there must not be “any foreign intervention” in seeking a solution to Syria's civil war, in which an estimated 115,000 people have died in 31 months according to AFP.
 
Brahimi seemed to agree with Assad, saying, “The efforts being made for the Geneva conference to be held are focused on finding the way for the Syrians themselves to meet and to agree on solving the crisis as quickly as possible.”
 
Wednesday’s gathering is the first direct talks between the two men since December when Brahimi angered the Syrian ruling family by saying that it has been leading the country for too long.
 
Brahimi’s meeting with Assad comes as part of a regional tour aimed at bringing together the Syrian government and opposition parties on the same table during Geneva II.
 
Opposition and rebel groups have so far refused to take part in the Geneva II unless Assad agrees to leave power.
 
The Geneva II peace conference, backed by Russia and the United States, has been constantly postponed due to disputes over which parties and countries, including Iran, should participate.
 
Last week there were conflicting reports on whether a date had finally been set for the long-delayed conference.
 
Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby said that Brahimi informed him that the talks will convene on November 23. Brahimi, however, denied that any date has been set.
 
The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition is to meet on November 9 to decide whether to take part in the peace talks but has stated emphatically it will only attend if there are guarantees Assad will step down.
 
In recent weeks, dozens of major insurgent groups across Syria said the Western-backed umbrella group had "failed."
 
The Syrian National Council, a key group within the SNC, had said it would not attend proposed peace talks in Geneva and would quit the Coalition if it participated.
 
This group was later followed by nearly 70 rebels groups which declared that the SNC had failed and announced they no longer recognize the Western-backed group.
 
This week, 19 Islamist groups fighting to topple Assad declared that attending peace talks or negotiating with the regime would be an act of betrayal.
 
Assad has refused to step down and has even declared that he is not ruling out running for another term.

Experts Warn of Al Qaeda Biological Weapons Threat

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 19 October 2013 10:59
Chemical Weapons
 
As international attention in Syria focuses on efforts to dismantle the Assad regime's chemical weapons stockpile, British experts are warning of another, potentially more lethal threat.
 
Experts from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) have issued a stark warning over what they say is the "clear and present danger" of Al Qaeda gaining possession of the Assad regime's stockpile of biological weapons, claiming to have substantial evidence that Al Qaeda-linked groups may already have possession of toxic agents.
 
Unlike chemical weapons, which utilize chemical agents to poison victims, biological weapons make use of diseases, toxins and other contagious agents. Biological weapons have the potential to kill far greater numbers, and are also far harder to detect or protect against.
 
Both are banned under international treaties, but the Syrian government possesses active programs in both fields. However, whilst the use of chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war has been seen on numerous occasions - most notably, but by no means exclusively, during the August 21 attack which killed more than 1,000 people in a number of Damascus suburbs - biological weapons have not been used by either side.
 
That is likely because bioweapons are notoriously difficult to control or contain.
 
But the HJS report, released on Tuesday, says that jihadists in Syria are actively seeking to gain control of the regime's biological weapons' stockpile and, chillingly, suggests they may already have done so.
 
The report claims that the Assad regime is losing control of its bioweapons arsenal, in part because it was never centrally-controlled in the way the country's chemical weapons stockpile has been.
 
"Unlike chemical weapons, maintained in military designated stockpiles which are generally identifiable and which Assad maintains command and control over, the structure of Syria's biological warfare programs are latent, compartmentalized and spread across its remaining bio-pharmaceutical infrastructure. The programs are designed to be highly agile to allow swift production if required."
 
Worryingly, the report suggests that the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front may already have possession of "biological pathogens or weaponized agents either of which would pose a threat to the international community."
 
It points to the widespread looting of bio-pharmasuitical laboratories throughout the country, and cites a "credible eyewitness" as claiming to have personally witnessed "a looted pharmaceutical laboratory," near Aleppo, where Syria's biological weapons program is concentrated, "which was probably a cover for a biological weapons production site."
 
The fact that a Malaysian Al Qaeda operative named as Yazid Sufaat, identified as "Al Qaeda's primary biological weapon expert", was arrested in February as he attempted to enter Syria, was said to indicate the clear interest that the group has in developing such a program in the country.
 
Other Al Qaeda branches, most notably in Yemen and North Africa, have previously attempted to obtain such weapons, and the group's founder, Osama Bin Laden, had expressed an interest in them prior to the infamous 9/11 attacks.
 
While the report does not cite any clear and definitive evidence of Al Qaeda physically possessing biological agents, the circumstantial evidence paints a fairly alarming picture.
 
On the other hand, analysts will find some solace in the fact that neither Al Qaeda nor any other terrorist group has successfully manufactured and deployed biological weapons to lethal effect.
 
But HJS's Associate Fellow Dr Bellamy van Aalst, a former EU and NATO bio-defence consultant, warned against complacency, in light of the relative availability of already-weaponized and readily-deployable biological weapons in Syria.
 
“Establishing the extent to which Assad may have developed biological WMDs is extremely difficult, given that their production is indistinguishable from benign biological lab processes.
 
“But this is certainly a risk to which we should not turn a blind eye. If Assad has been developing biological weapons, as the evidence suggests, and if those weapons fall into the hands of extremists, global health security could be in grave danger.”

Rebels Kill Top Syrian Intelligence Officer

Category: News
Created on Friday, 18 October 2013 08:13
Major General Jamaa JamaaSyrian rebels have killed a top intelligence officer in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, Syrian state media said on Thursday, according to AFP.
 
"Major General Jamaa Jamaa was martyred while carrying out his national duties to defend Syria and its people and pursuing terrorists in Deir Ezzor," state television said in a breaking news alert.
 
Jamaa was head of military intelligence in the province, where the regime has been battling armed opposition fighters seeking to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
State media gave no immediate details on where in the province Jamaa was killed or how, but jihadist forums said he died during clashes with jihadist fighters in the city of Deir Ezzor.
 
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO, said initial reports suggested Jamaa had been shot by a sniper in the Rashdiya district of Deir Ezzor city, but there was no confirmation.
 
The group also reported fierce fighting between regime troops and rebels in several parts of the province, including the city, which is the largest in eastern Syria.
 
Jamaa was one of Syria's top security officers in Lebanon during Damascus's military deployment in the country between 1976 and 2005.
 
He was interrogated over the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri though he was not charged in connection with his death.
 
In 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it was blacklisting him and another Syrian general for their role in supporting "terrorist groups" and over the presence in Lebanon.
 
He is believed to be from Jableh, a town in coastal Latakia province, a stronghold of the Syrian regime.
 
On Wednesday, Syrian rebels assaulted the regime-controlled central prison in the main northern city of Aleppo.
 
Abdel Rahman said the assault was carried out primarily by rebels from the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and from another Islamist faction, Ahrar Al-Sham.
 
As the fighting in Syria continues, Assad’s forces have also recorded some victories, having retaken a key town to the south of the capital Damascus earlier this week.
 
The Syrian army seized control of the town of Bweida with the help of foreign fighters from Iraq and Lebanon.
 
The push appears to be part of a concerted effort by regime forces to dislodge rebels from areas of Damascus under their control.

Syria: 41 Killed in Clashes Between Kurdish, Islamist Groups

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 17 October 2013 08:29
Ghouta massacre1
 
At least 41 people have been killed in renewed clashes between Kurdish militias and Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.
 
The clashes took place in the oil-rich Hasake province in northern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The Observatory claimed that at least 29 Al Qaeda fighters and 12 Kurdish fighters had been killed in the clashes between the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) and Islamist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) and the Nusra Front.
 
The Observatory added that among the dead was a local Nusra Front commander of Egyptian origin, and claimed that the YPG had succeeded in capturing an ISIS checkpoint Tuesday.
 
The YPG has been engaged in a prolonged and bloody struggle for control of Kurdish-majority regions in northern Syria against Islamist groups, many of whom are linked to Al Qaeda.
 
Not long after the start of the uprising against the Assad regime, government forces pulled out of Kurdish areas to focus on attacks by Sunni Arab rebels against major regime strongholds.
 
Kurdish militias quickly moved in to take control - in particular the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) - the military wing of the People's Council of Western Kurdistan (PYD) - declaring their opposition to both the regime and the rebel movement, both of whom they say aim to continue a process of discrimination and "Arabization" against Syria's Kurdish population.
 
Arab and Islamist groups within the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) initially made a grab for Kurdish areas but were beaten back.
 
But the most recent clashes over the past several months have been between the YPG and Al Qaeda-linked groups, after the latter began a concerted and violent campaign to install their own independent "emirates," or Islamic mini-statelets in the oil-rich region. That was met with fierce opposition by Kurdish forces, who responded by ejecting Islamist forces from the border town of Ras al-Ain, near the Turkish border, among other areas.
 
Frequent battles have continued since then, amid claims of war crimes by Islamist forces against Kurdish civilians.
 
The PYD recently announced plans for an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria.
 
Bus bomb blast kills 21
 
Meanwhile, in the south of the country, a bus bomb has killed 21 people in Syria's southern Deraa province, near the border with Israel.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that "Four children and six women [were killed] in a blast that detonated as their vehicle went past Tal al-Jumua" in the Nawa area.
 
The bombing took place in rebel-held territory near to a besieged pro-regime outpost, and opposition activists have blamed regime forces for the attack.

Islamist 'Serial Butcher' Assassinated

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 17:03
Free Syrian Army fighter - ReutersChechnya's President Ramzan Kadyrov announced last week the assassination of Rastom Saleef one of the most extremist Islamic fighters, by elite Chechen forces.
 
Saleef, known by his fighting name, Abu Muslim al Shishani, belonged to an extremist Islamic movement that had called for the establishment of  a "Caucasus Emirate" as the basis for the future Islamic caliphate.
 
Chechnya declared independence from Russia in 1991, leading to a bitter battle with Russian forces. A peace treaty was signed in 1996, but three years later, after Chechen fighters assisted neighboring Dagestan to also gain independence, Russia re-occupied the country. Almost fifteen years of fighting have followed - with thousands of Islamic fighters in the country behind a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Chechnya, Russia and other countries. 
 
Saleef had spent the last year fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad with the Islamist rebels of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al Nusra terrorist organization.
 
Websites associated with Islamic terrorist groups in Syria "credit" Saleef with the slaughter of 378 people - including soldiers and officers in the Syrian army as well as Assad regime loyalists - by cutting their throats with a knife.
 
Described as among the fiercest fighter in the ranks of the rebels, Saleef is said to have beheaded his victims after killing them, placing the head on top of the detached body to cries of "Allahu Akhbar" (Allah is great).
 
Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Syrian rebel forces of war crimes against humanity for the execution of 180  Syrian civilians in the town of Latakia. Meanwhile also last week but on the other side of the conflict, Hezbollah men fighting alongside the Syrian military were filmed celebrating the brutal execution of a group of seriously wounded Syrian civilians.
 
The fighting in Syria has killed at least 110,000.

'Terror Tunnel' Discovered - This Time in Damascus

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 08:30
Syrian rebels of shoulder-launched missile systems including the U.S.-made Stingers. AFP
 
Syrian regime forces operating in the suburbs of the capital Damascus on Monday made a startling discovery: a "terror tunnel" along the lines of the one recently discovered by Israeli security forces along the perimeter with Hamas-controlled Gaza, leading all the way to neighboring Deraa.
 
Rebel forces had apparently been using the tunnel to shuttle men and equipment between the southeastern suburb of Damascus to the flashpoint city of Deraa, which has strategic significance due to its close proximity to the Al-Mazza military airport.
 
The tunnel was approximately 10 meters deep, 250-300 meters long and was equipped with lighting and openings for ventilation.
 
The discovery of the tunnel comes just days after a similar, though somewhat more sophisticated tunnel was discovered by Israeli security forces leading from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip towards neighboring Israeli communities. Security sources have speculated that the tunnel could have been used to carry out attacks against Israeli soldiers or civilians.
 
Since the start of the uprising against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the Hamas movement - once close to Damascus - quickly shifted its allegiance to back the rebels, prompting the Syrian government to expel the movement from its Damascus headquarters.
 
Hamas has since attempted to keep a low profile on the conflict, seeking to avoid clashing with either of its major patrons - Qatar, which supports the rebels, and Iran, which supports the regime. However, reports soon surfaced of Hamas fighters training rebel fighters in urban warfare, including the use of tunnels to launch attacks and move equipment, a tactic which the group has carefully honed over years of conflict with Israel.
 
Though the use of tunnels in asymmetrical warfare is nothing new, in light of the above - as well as the fact that the skills necessary for such an operation would require significant training from somewhere - means that the similarities between the two cases may be more than a coincidence.
 
The fact that Hamas' own tactics - once sponsored by the Assad regime as a means to murder Israeli civilians - are now being utilized in the battle to oust its former ally, bears testament to the unpredictable nature of the Middle East's patchwork of competing and ever-changing alliances.  
 
Though the use of tunnels in asymmetrical warfare is nothing new, the similarities between the two cases may be more than a coincidence.

Syria Has Non-nuke EMP Bombs

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Monday, 14 October 2013 10:31
Chemical WeaponsSometimes you need to spend billions to unearth supreme strategic military secrets. Other times, self-intoxicated leaders let the cat out of the bag.
 
On 3 March 1917, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman blurted out, "I cannot deny it.  It is true." Zimmerman had just admitted that as a German gambit to keep America "busy," Germany had secretly offered Mexico funding to attack America, and regain Texas and virtually America's entire Southwest.
 
In no small part due to Zimmerman's admission, America entered the war against Germany the next month, April 1917.
 
On 26 September 2013, Syrian president Bashar Assad said that Syria possesses "more advanced weaponry, which can serve as a deterrent, and blindside Israel within seconds."  Loose lips sink ships.
 
Sometimes you need to spend billions to unearth supreme strategic military secrets.  Other times, self-intoxicated leaders like Zimmerman articulate a casus belli of Germany against America in World War I.
 
Today, Assad gives a game-changing military secret to Israel more valuable than rubies.  By letting slip that Syria could "blindside" Israel, Assad admitted Syria likely possesses non-nuclear, conventional Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons. The ramifications of a conventional EMP attack on Israel apply not only from Syria, but also, most critically, from any Palestinian Arab "demilitarized" state.
 
(I have previously discussed nuclear EMP weapons in my article, “The 100% Fatwa-Compliant Iranian EMP NuclearWeapon.” (/Articles/Article.aspx/11551#.Uk4umDK9KK0))
 
As explained in previous articles, a nuclear EMP bomb is merely a regular nuclear weapon which is ignited 50 kilometers above the earth where they don't kill people but kill electronics, instead of 1-5 kilometers above the ground where it would kill many people.  Non-nuclear EMP bombs are microwave-emitting weapons which electronically fry a much smaller electronic kill radius than a nuclear EMP bomb would.
 
But, a conventional EMP bomb has the same end result in that it totally destroys any electronics in a given target zone.  The reason I hadn't raised this issue previously is because it is the likeliest critical element to any possible strike on Iran.  But since Assad let the cat out of the bag, it must now be discussed openly.
 
No one can describe non-nuclear conventional EMPs better than its maker the Boeing Company.   On 22 October 2012, Boeing released a press release http://www.boeing.com/Features/2012/10/bds_champ_10_22_12.html, and video that explained conventional EMP weapons as follows:
 
"A recent weapons flight test in the Utah desert may change future warfare after the missile successfully defeated electronic targets with little to no collateral damage.
 
Boeing and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., successfully tested the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) during a flight over the Utah Test and Training Range.
 
CHAMP, which renders electronic targets useless, is a non-kinetic alternative to traditional explosive weapons that use the energy of motion to defeat a target.
 
During the test, the CHAMP missile navigated a pre-programmed flight plan and emitted bursts of high-powered energy, effectively knocking out the target's data and electronic subsystems. CHAMP allows for selective high-frequency radio wave strikes against numerous targets during a single mission.
 
‘This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare,’ said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. ‘In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.’”
 
It is entirely feasible, if not highly probable, that Syria possesses such a conventional EMP weapon.  How Syria could deliver the weapon to Israel's electronic soft-underbelly is another question.  But leaving the question of delivery aside for the moment, the real question is: how does this effect Israel's strategic equation?
 
 Apart from other aspects, the most worrisome effect would be if Israel attempted to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.  Such a sophisticated weapon in Syria is likely under the control of Iran's al Quds forces in Syria.  And, it would likely be used as a second-strike against Israel if Israel attacked. A non-nuclear counter strike against Israel when Israel is in the midst of attacking Iran could bring Israel a grievous military catastrophe.
 
Therefore, it now becomes a military necessity that Assad is liquidated before any Israeli attack on Iran proceeds.  By Israel's supplying the rebels with critical real-time intelligence of the locations of Assad's weapons' depots, and an unlimited amount of untraceable small caliber bullets (preferably 7.62x39mm Kalash rounds), Assad will crumble and crumble fast.
 
But the most dramatic threat posed by a non-nuclear conventional EMP bomb is not from Syria, it's from the "demilitarized" Palestinian Arab State that Tzipi Livni is concocting for Israel's future.  The reason being, with absolute Israeli military control of all goods coming into that area and absolute military control over the Samarian mountains facing Tel Aviv, it will be impossible to keep out the electronic parts necessary for the Palestinian Arabs to make such a conventional EMP bomb.
 
They wouldn't need a "delivery system" because the EMP bomb would have already been "delivered" to striking range of Israel's electronic soft-underbelly, Tel Aviv.  The Palestinian Arabs could then conventionally first-strike decapitate Israel's entire military force structure and electronic system as a prelude to a second wave attack by Iranian or Arab missiles or armies.  The Kirya (Israel's "Pentagon" in Tel Aviv) would be electronically toasted from the word "go."  All of Israel's anti-missile, air defense and mobilization systems would be paralyzed from the very first second of a Muslim war of decimation.  It would be lights-out, game-over for Israel before the war against Israel even began. 
 
A Palestinian Arab state no longer threatens Israel with chemical Katyushas, it now threatens Israel with annihilation by EMP bombs.  Unless Israel short-circuits its suicidal "peace" process, a Palestinian CHAMP EMP bomb could instantly turn Israel's electronic defense into a clump of burning wiring. 
 
For more information, please visit www.marklangfan.com
 
mark langfanMark Langfan
The writer, who writes on security issues, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at www.marklangfan.com

Syria: 50 Killed as Rebels Fight Each Other

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 12 October 2013 20:44
RebelesAlmost 50 rebel fighters have been killed in three days of skirmishes between jihadists and mainstream rebels in the Syrian city of Aleppo, reports Al Arabiya.
 
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that the violence began on Thursday between members of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and a battalion linked to the Arab and Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), both of which are fighting to overthrow Syria’s embattled President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
“At least 30 fighters from the Ababil Brigade and 14 from ISIL have been killed in combat, and that toll could rise further,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman said, according to AFP.
 
Rahman said that fighting broke out in several district of the city, with ISIL making gains in several areas.
 
Since July last year, Aleppo’s east district has been held by the rebels, and the west has been held by forces loyal to Assad.
 
The 13-member Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, which split off from the Syrian National Council opposition force, declared the northern commercial hub city of Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state months ago.
 
Since that time, a second civil war has begun in war-ravaged Syria, between the more moderate rebel groups and the Islamist extremist groups.
 
Members of Al-Nusra and other Syrian rebels groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
 
Some of the Islamist groups have attempted to soften their image in an attempt to win hearts and minds - holding stand up comedy shows and handing out toys to local children.

Hezbollah Fighters Execute Injured Syrian Civilians

Category: News
Created on Friday, 11 October 2013 12:07
Islamic Fighters v/s Syrian Civilians
 
In one of the most disturbing scenes to emerge from the fighting in Syria, Hezbollah fighters operating under the command of the Syrian army, have been filmed celebrating and rejoicing, as they dragged injured Syrian civilians from a van and executed them.
 
Hezbollah are fighting alongside Bashar Al Assad's men, in their bitter battle against rebels in the country, where over 110,000 people have been killed in the last two years.  
 
The video clip, which somehow fell into the hands of Syrian rebels, and looks to be filmed from a mobile phone of one of the execution squad, clearly documents a war crime perpetrated by the Hizbullah fighters.
 
The clip - which Arutz Sheva has decided not to show due to its disturbing, graphic content - shows the Hezbollah fighters dragging a number of seriously injured civilians wearing blood soaked clothes from a Syrian military vehicle. The civilians are seen being thrown to the ground whereupon Hezbollah fighters shoot them to death at close range.
 
At one stage, one of the injured begs for his life and attempts with his last strength to move. Hezbollah fighters standing over him, one of whom is directing the executions, mock the man quoting a slogan of the Syrian rebels "in the way of Allah," and shortly after shots are seen fired at the injured man who dies on the spot. Hezbollah fighters are then heard celebrating with satisfaction at the executions.
 
Hezbollah were also previously been accused of murdering women and children in early June as they helped Assad's men retake the city of Qusair, near the border with Lebanon, which they did in early June. 
 
Earlier this month, a former secretary-general of Hezbollah said that Iran, who sponsors and controls the terrorist organization, had ordered it to participate in the Syrian war.

Erdogan: 'Syria's Assad is a Terrorist, Not a Politician'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 08:02
Nazi flag hoisted by Turkish flotilla supportIn an interview with a Turkish newspaper on Monday, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a jab at Bashar Assad, saying the Syrian president is a terrorist and no longer a political figure.
 
“I don’t regard Bashar al-Assad as a politician any more. Assad is a terrorist who uses state terror," Erdogan told Hurriyet after a meeting with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in Ankara. "A person who has killed 110,000 of his own people is a terrorist."
 
Erdogan also told reporters that "There is state terrorism [in Syria] - I’m speaking frankly. I’m having difficulty understanding those in the Turkish media who defend this [state terrorism].”
 
Erdogan has been one of Assad’s harshest critics since Syria’s uprising erupted in March 2011.
 
During Monday's interview, Erdogan also denounced US Secretary of State John Kerry for praising Syria’s compliance with the international community in relinquishing its chemical weapons.
 
“You are a human being and me, too,” said Erdogan. “How can we appreciate the behavior of a person who killed 110,000 people, I ask you. The result of either chemical or other types of weapons is death. Then how can we appreciate this? I cannot imagine a person who appreciates this."
 
The media reported that Kerry said earlier on Monday that Assad could take "credit" for quickly starting the process of destroying his government chemical weapons arsenal while thanking Moscow for its help. "I don't think Mr. Kerry made a statement like this," said Erdogan."If he did, he has run into a contradiction with himself."
 
Erdogan’s comments came only days after his country was harshly criticized by Assad. 
 
In an interview with Turkey’s private Halk TV last Thursday, the Syrian president warned that Ankara would pay “a high price” for allowing foreign fighters to enter Syria from its territory and join rebel forces. Assad also called Erdogan "bigoted" and "a liar," and accused him of supporting terrorists.
 
Assad made no mention of his government’s role in the civil war that has killed at least 100,000 people so far, instead blaming foreign fighters and governments, including Turkey’s, for the bloodshed.
 
“This government, represented by Erdogan, is responsible for the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians, and is responsible for the destruction of Syria’s infrastructure,” Assad said. It is also “responsible for endangering security of the region, not only Syria.”
 
“You cannot hide terrorists in your pocket. They are like a scorpion, which will eventually sting you,” Assad added, saying Muslim extremists from more than 80 countries are coming to Syria by sneaking across the border with Turkey.
 
Erdogan has long advocated the removal of Assad from power.
 
On August 31, the Turkish leader said a limited military response to the reported use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime was not enough, and any kind of intervention should aim to topple him.
 
“It can’t be a 24 hours hit-and-run,” Erdogan told reporters at the presidential palace in Ankara. “What matters is stopping the bloodshed in Syria and weakening the regime to the point where it gives up.”
 
There are currently some 500,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey. 
 
Erdogan, a former ally of the Syrian president, turned against him several months after the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

Tunisia women ministry to fight 'sex jihad' trips to Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 September 2013 16:19
fatwa-on-sexual-jihad
 
Tunisia's women's ministry said Saturday it would come up with a plan to counter the growing number of women travelling to Syria to wage so-called "sex jihad" by comforting militants.
 
"The ministry intends to boost its cooperation with both government and non-government bodies on this issue to come up with appropriate ways to thwart the plans of those who encourage such practices," a ministry statement said.
 
"The ministry will work to introduce a plan of information, sensitivity and education targeting women and families everywhere to warn them of the seriousness of these practices," it said.
 
A crisis group has already been set up, it added.
 
Interior Minister Lotfi ben Jeddou told the National Constituent Assembly on Thursday that Tunisian women had gone to Syria where "they have sexual relations with 20, 30, 100" militants. 
 
"After the sexual liaisons they have there in the name of 'jihad al-nikah' -- (sexual holy war, in Arabic) -- they come home pregnant," he told MPs.
 
Ben Jeddou did not elaborate on how many Tunisian women had returned to the country pregnant with the children of jihadist fighters.
 
On Saturday, the health ministry statement said it had noted "an increase in the number of young women leaving for so-called jihad al-nikah", although it did not give any figures.
 
Jihad al-nikah, permitting extramarital sexual relations with multiple partners, is considered by some hardline Sunni Muslim Salafists as a legitimate form of holy war.
 
Media reports have said hundreds of Tunisian women have gone to Syria for this purpose, in addition to hundreds of Tunisian men joining jihadists battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Ben Jeddou said that since he assumed office in March, "six thousand of our young people have been prevented from going there".
 
He has said in the past that border controls have been boosted to intercept young Tunisians seeking to travel to Syria.
 
Media reports say thousands of Tunisians have, over the past 15 years, joined jihadists across the world in Afghanistan Iraq and Syria, mainly travelling via Turkey or Libya.
 

An Iranian Expatriate's Message to Obama

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Saturday, 21 September 2013 06:50
Chemical Weapons0Mr. President, the terrible fix you find yourself in is the predictable result of your own making. You showed vacillation and weakness at every turn. And the thugs are watching.
 
The civilized world witnessed in revulsion the graphic images, which emerged showing the aftermath of a dawn poison gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. The attack wiped out some 1300 people as they lay sleeping in their beds. The Obama administration claims President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched the nerve gas attack while the Syrian government has denounced the US’s assessment of chemical weapons, calling the this accusation, "full of lies."
 
Gassing of Syrian civilians is a crime beyond the pale, no matter who did it. Yet, where is the rest of the world’s reaction to this atrocity? Some countries, with Russia's Colonel Putin in the lead, are siding with the alleged gasser. In fact, they are turning the tables and accusing the Syrian opposition forces of being the ones who did the gassing to garner support from foreign "fundamentalists."
 
As for Assad's gassing, Mr. President, perhaps he was testing your resolve in a stepwise manner, to make doubly sure that you are all bluster and your threats, in contrast to his, only hot air. Allegedly, Assad used poison gas several times on a smaller scale and you looked the other way. See what happens when villains go unchecked?
 
Regardless of who used any chemical weapons, the world can’t just let a thug like Assad go unpunished for murdering well over a hundred thousand people since the conflict began on 15 March 2011. That would be a travesty and a license for him and his handlers, Iran’s mullahs and the Russians, to go on a rampage.
 
There are no good guys to support in this senseless civil war. The choice seems to be between the devil and the deep blue sea--between Assad's Ba'ath-o-fascists and the Islam-o-fascists. Fascists are fascists. Even the democratic-appearing “Syrian Free Army” suspiciously seems to be of the same old Arab-Muslim hate Israel crowd. Hate Israel. Destroy Israel is the rallying cry of these people.
 
President Obama, you have my sympathy. You are in a very tight spot, largely of your own doing. You piped up about the “red-line” thing, for whatever reason. Did you think of yourself as the chief constable of the world when you made that statement? Didn't you realize that when push comes to shove, the team you thought you had would turn tail and you yourself get forced to do the same?
 
Again, Mr. President, the terrible fix you find yourself in is the predictable result of your own making. From the time you took your apology world tour, bad-mouthing the United States, singing the praises of Islam and internationalism, you showed vacillation and weakness at every turn. For one, you did not even find it in yourself to voice your support for the valiant Iranians against the rule of fascist mullahs in the 2009 Green Revolution.
 
The results: Thousands of democracy’s best children of Iran were slaughtered, maimed, or imprisoned and the Iranian mullahs are emboldened and have tripled their speed in the quest for their ultimate weapon, knowing full well that you neither can nor will do anything to stop them.
 
More than a year ago, an American ambassador and three other American heroes were brutally murdered in Benghazi, Libya.  Along the way, there was the notion of the laughably false explanation initially given to the American public by your administration that the attack was incited by a video. Mr. President, you said while campaigning in Colorado "I want people around the world to hear me: No act of terror will go unpunished."
 
But you have failed thus far to make good on your promise to do anything when a bunch of Muslim jihadists massacred our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi. Your “toothless” rhetoric is proven useless and you have become a laughingstock, Mr. President. You have no credibility left.
 
Now, Mr. President, you are forced to cover yourself with Colonel Putin's fig leaf. It breaks my heart and mocks our great nation that so trustingly placed its destiny in your hands. I pray you work your way out of this terrible mess with minimal harm. But take heart, bigger and more deadly challenges are down the road in this troubling world.
 
Mr. President, since the collapse of your “red-line” rhetoric threat and making good on it, the mullahs in the person of none other than the "moderate" selected president of Iran, Mr. Rouhani, announced to the world that they have no intention of retreating one iota from their full speed ahead nuclear project.  And then the North Koreans, as if on cue, are re-activating their nuclear facilities.
 
Well, the bad boys see that this policeman is all bluff. The tiger is toothless. Obama is so impotent and vacillating that a former KGB thug by the name of Putin, a diehard admirer of Stalin, is lecturing him and setting the tone on the world stage. It must be the end of the world.
 
Bashar Assad is a true son to his genocidal father, Hafiz al-Assad, who had entire towns murdered when they dared to raise their voices demanding their God-given rights. Iranian government officials have repeatedly said that Bashar Assad is Iran's redline. Assad is the Islamic Republic’s puppet. The Islamic government in Iran, is helping Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite, fight predominately Sunni rebels. This includes a presence on the ground of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards actively murdering Sunni brethren.
 
Bashar Assad's patron saint Putin and his Kremlin Mafia are not exactly running a world charity when they supply the gasser Assad with all kinds of weapons, including the deadly pricy attack helicopters, as well as the raw chemicals for his chemical weapons. Where then does Assad get the money to pay the cash-and-carry Kremlin Inc. for the weapons? Just trace the money. The purser for this puppet, genocidal myopic murdering eye doctor is none other than the Islamic Republic of Iran. The mullahs are calling the shots because they control the purse strings.
 
Some, playing with words, called Assad a shortsighted eye doctor. He is clearly a genocidal killer of civilian men, women and children. He may even indeed be shortsighted. His handlers, the mullahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, are anything but shortsighted. They have deadly grandiose plans and aim to pursue them for long after you are gone.
 
Mr. President, we really need to deal with the source of this mayhem and bloodletting--the turbaned snakes of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the puppeteers who are hell-bent at promoting their death-bearing agenda.
 
Now, we have the North Korean juvenile with big aspirations trying to do some fishing of his own from the murky water. He has reactivated the shut down plutonium plant to make some of his favorite toys. There is a lesson here, Mr. Obama: Show a little weakness, bleed just a few drops and sharks, big and small, will be all over you to finish you off. And it is not only you; the prize is the annihilation of humanity's finest nation of all nations--the United States of America.
 
Mr. Obama, don't let a known murderer and former KGB colonel who rose through ranks of that dreaded organization get away with his stunts and his suddenly new found role of abiding by the United Nations’ Security Council guidelines for settling disputes. This duplicitous lowlife is the same person who presided over the killing of tens of thousands in Chechnya. Then he sent his army into the independent nation of Georgia, occupying and basically annexing two provinces of that nation. But, what happened to Putin? You didn’t hear of the UN at those times.
 
Mr. President, miscreant villains respect only power. Remember the Iranian hostage crisis? The mullahs turned their noses up at Carter and dared him to do anything. They wouldn't budge. The minute it looked like Reagan, the no nonsense candidate, was going to replace the indecisive illusionary Carter, the mullahs released the Americans.
 
The mullahs’ method of staying in power relies heavily on preventive measures. They don’t bother much with due process of law. They just dispense with the “due” and get on with the “process.” On the slightest suspicion, they arrest, convict and execute. They let Allah in the next world take the time to determine the person’s guilt or innocence. The mullahs have their job to do on God’s earth: To cleanse it from all infidels. When one has a tall order like that to fill, he can’t be bothered with the tedious due process on which the Western democracies “waste” so much time and resources.
 
Mr. Obama, it takes two to tango, as the old saying goes. The uncompromising oil-intoxicated fanatics of Iran and their proxies don't want to dance with you. They want the entire floor -- the Middle East -- and the rest of the world down the road.
 
Mr. President, please don't misunderstand me. I sincerely despise violence of all sorts. I am not advocating war. But I certainly believe in the imperative of self-defense. I am certain that with every appeasing step, we incur huge damage to our nation.
 
President Obama, please don't let the Putins and mullahs of the world become further emboldened. A little North Korean thug is watching very closely to have his turn at us. This one already has the ultimate weapon and is itching to use it. It is a race between him and the mullahs. This is not the time for America to have shaky knees for the world to see.
 
Amil ImaniAmil Imani
The writer is an Iranian-American writer, poet, satirist, novelist, essayist, literary translator, public speaker and political analyst who has been writing and speaking out about the danger of radical Islam internationally. He has become a formidable voice in the USA against the danger of global jihad and Islamization of America. He maintains a website at www.amilimani.com. and wrote the book Obama Meets Ahmadinejad and a new thriller Operation Persian Gulf

Tunisian girls return home pregnant after ‘sexual jihad’ in Syria

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 21 September 2013 06:32
Tunisian girls travelled for sexual jihad Photo-www.febrayer.com
 
A number of Tunisian girls who had travelled to Syria to perform “sexual jihad” there have returned back home pregnant, Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo said on Thursday.
 
The Tunisian girls “are (sexually) swapped between 20, 30, and 100 rebels and they come back bearing the fruit of sexual contacts in the name of sexual jihad and we are silent doing nothing and standing idle,” the non-partisan minister said during an address to the National Constituent Assembly.
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Bin Jeddo said the interior ministry has banned 6,000 Tunisians from travelling to Syria since March 2013 and arrested 86 individuals suspected of forming “networks” that send Tunisian youth for “jihad” to Syria.
The minister hit back at human rights groups criticizing the government’s decision to ban suspected “jihadists” from travel. Most of those slapped with travel bans were less than 35 years old, he said.
“Our youths are positioned in the frontlines and are taught how to steal and raid (Syrian) villages,” Bin Jeddo said.
 
Former Mufti of Tunisia Sheikh Othman Battikh said in April that 13 Tunisian girls “were fooled” into travelling to Syria to offer their sexual services to rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
 
The mufti, who was dismissed from his post days afterwards, described the so-called “sexual Jihad” as a form of “prostitution.”
“For Jihad in Syria, they are now pushing girls to go there. 13 young girls have been sent for sexual jihad. What is this? This is called prostitution. It is moral educational corruption,” the mufti told reporters.
 
In August, general director of the public security service Mostafa Bin Omar said a “sexual jihad cell” was broken up in an area west of the country where al-Qaead fighters holed up.
Bin Omar told reporters that al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Shariah was using minor girls, dressed in the full face cover to offer sexual services for jihadist male fighters.

Iran Takes Aim at Israel on Chemical Weapons

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 September 2013 17:45
Chemical Weapons0In a press conference responding to Syria's agreement to renounce its chemical weapons, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziah Afkham took the opportunity to direct international attention towards Israel.
 
Referring to the Chemical Weapons Convention which Syria pledged to sign last week, Afkham said Israel had not signed up and should be forced to do so.
 
“It is concerning that the Zionist regime [of Israel] … is not a member of any treaty on the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction including the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Afkham said on Sunday. 
 
She added: “We call on the [UN] Security Council and the international community to adopt serious measures to [make] this [Israeli] regime join the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
 
Last week, Syria officially handed in a request to the United Nations to join the convention which which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons.
 
The regime led by President Bashar Al-Assad is widely believed to have used lethal sarin gas in an attack on a Damascus neighborhood on August 21 killing over over a thousand civilians including hundreds of children. 
 
According to U.S. estimates, the Syrian regime has an arsenal  of 100 tonnes of chemical weapons.
 
Israel's Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz dismissed pressure on Israel to publish details of Israel's chemical weaponry, telling Army Radio the expected pressure was a smokescreen to deviate international from Syrias obligation to disarm.
 
Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1982 but has never ratified it, despite American and Russian pressure to do so, leading analysts to suggest that Israel considers itself bound by the spirit of the treaty, but not legally obligated to observe it.
 
Afkham's remarks come during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Israel, during which the Syrian chemical weapons question has already featured prominently on the agenda.
 
But although many Israelis will be pleased to see Assad disarmed of his chemical weapons stockpile, many remain skeptical as to the outcome of the Russian-led initiative.
 
Some commentators have suggested that Kerry could attempt to use the opportunity to pressure Israel to ratify the treaty.
 
"Kerry may tell Netanyahu the United States is working to remove one of the gravest threats on Israel's security, by combining a credible military threat with creative diplomacy.
 
"Now, Kerry may say, the US needs Israel's help by ratifying the treaty prohibiting the use of chemical weapons," wrote Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz newspaper. 
 
But on Sunday, former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who currently heads the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, insisted that Israel's stance regarding the treaty remained unchanged.
 
"Only when current Middle East becomes a completely new Middle East will we be able to sign on such a treaty," he explained.
 
Days after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem pledged to sign the convention intelligence reports indicated Assad had begun scattering his chemical stockpile to around 50 different sites across the country making them harder for the international community to track.
 
Another unconfirmed report claimed that the regime had begun moving its stockpiles to Iraq, although both the Syrian and Iraqi governments firmly denied the report.
 
Referring to the Russian-brokered deal on Syria committing President Assad to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal to the international community, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged for "The complete destruction of all of the chemical weapons stockpiles that the Syrian regime has used against its own people," adding, "The test of results is also incumbent on the efforts of the international community to stop Iran's nuclear armament."
 
Iran has continued on its path to acquire nuclear weapons capability despite international condemnation and a series of sanctions against the regime.
 
Regarding Iran, Netanyahu emphasized that "Here too, it is not words but actions that will determine the outcome. In any case, Israel must be prepared and ready to defend itself against every threat, something that is more important today than ever." 

Prof. Gilboa: The Time to Decide is Now, Obama

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 15 September 2013 08:56
Bemoaning the loss of his anonymity AFPAs a leading scholar in the field of public diplomacy, Professor Eytan Gilboa has said Obama has mishandled the situation in Syria and potential negotiations with Iran.
 
Arutz Sheva met this week with Gilboa, the Director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University, who has made it clear that "time is running out" for United States President Barak Obama to diplomatically handle the crisis in the Middle East. 
 
"Everybody agrees that this is going to be the time for decision, otherwise, if nothing is going to be done, Iran will become a nuclear power. Obama has shown in the chemical weapons crisis in Syria that what he promises may not really become policy," Gilboa said.
 
Gilboa stated that "there are very serious question about his [Obama's] commitment to stop nuclear Iran by all means, including military force if necessary." He went on to say that Israel may find itself alone in the last effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. 
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"Israel can only rely on itself as a potential response to Obama's mishandling the crisis in Syria and his potential mishandling of the negotiations with Iran."

Iranian Media Lauds Humiliating Blow for U.S.

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 September 2013 15:46
Hassan RowhaniIran's conservative press trumpeted as a "humiliating blow" the decision by its arch-foe the United States to put on hold plans for a military intervention in Syria following a surprise Russian initiative aimed at defusing the stand-off.
 
"By taking the Russian initiative seriously, Washington will send a signal to Tehran that it's willing to take risks and make compromises for peace," Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based advocacy organisation, told the AFP news agency.
 
Moscow's initiative came as US President Barack Obama was seeking congressional approval to launch punitive strikes against the Damascus regime for allegedly using deadly sarin gas against its own people last month.
 
Amir Mohebian, a Tehran-based conservative commentator, says Obama's decision to put possible military action on hold "strengthens Iran's position in the region".
 
Tehran has provided Damascus with material and intelligence support, but denies accusations that it has armed the Assad regime to fight the uprising-turned-civil war that has claimed more than 110,000 lives since 2011. "Perhaps the Americans now understand that it is less costly to solve the Syrian crisis with Iran's help," Mohebian told AFP. "
 
It may also affect the issue of (Iran's) nuclear program " which Western powers and Israel suspect has military objectives despite Iranian denials. A Western diplomat in Tehran, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Iranian leadership, who had feared a military escalation in the region, was now "relieved". "The Russian proposal has given Iran more room" over Syria, the source said.
 
The US, France and Israel have maintained that any action against Syria would also send a message to Iran, which is embroiled in a decade-long stand-off with world powers on its nuclear ambitions. US Secretary of State John Kerry warned last week that inaction on Syria would embolden Iran, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Syria must be stripped of its chemical weapons as a lesson to the Islamic republic.
 
Rouhani on Tuesday insisted that Iran would not give up "one iota" of what it considers its right to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. This strong stand, which echoes the position of his hardline predecessor Mahmud Ahmadinejad, comes as world powers prepare to restart negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.

Obama Insists: Assad Must Step Down

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 September 2013 15:26
Obama InsistsLeading Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai has reported that the U.S. administration will demand that any agreement made with Syria should commit President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, and commit the remaining parties to working towards a cease-fire agreement.
 
Momentum towards a U.S. led strike against Syria following its suspected use of deadly sarin gas on August 21 has been stopped in its tracks by a Russian brokered deal that would see Syria hand over its chemical weapons arsenal to the international community.
 
Reportedly, the new U.S. demand has been met with fury in Syria, where regime officials claim such a move would ride roughshod over the "democratic rights" of the Syrian people to elect their own leader.
 
Sources close to the Syrian President were quoted as saying: "Not Iran, Russia and not the United State can decide who the Syrian President will be, " adding,  "the Syrian leadership expected the demands of Washington to get bigger and bigger, but this is illegal and cannot be considered."
 
The source added: "The intention was to enter into an agreement regarding chemical weapons that would ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands, but there will be no agreement that seeks to further strengthen the terrorist rebel forces."
 
As talks are set to get underway in Geneva between, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor voiced his pessimism over the Russian initiative through which Syria's Assad regime could comply with chemical weapons treaties as a way of avoiding western military intervention.
 
Palmor said that the existing 20-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been proposed as the tool for verifying Syrian compliance, has failed to attract the multilateral support that would allow it to work.
 
Syria's neighbor Turkey has also voiced its cynicism over the diplomatic initiative.  Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Bashar al-Assad was buying time and should not be trusted.
 
"We are doubtful that the promises regarding chemical weapons will be met," Erdogan said Thursday. 

US Plans '3-Day Attack' on Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 08 September 2013 11:18
USS Nimitz ReutersThe US military is planning a more extensive military operation against regime targets in Syria than had been previously planned, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
 
Unnamed "US officers" told the paper that the Pentagon is drawing up plans for 3 days of strikes against a list of targets significantly longer than the original list of 50, though it is still expected to be more a "show of force" than an attempt to influence events on the battlefield.
 
According to the report, the US military could utilize Air Force bombers, in addition to five US missile destroyers currently patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The plan would include two waves of strikes: an initial barrage against the extended list of targets, to be followed by a secondary one which would aim to strike missed targets, or those which hadn't been destroyed by the first.
 
The attack would involve the use of cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles which would be lanched from outside of the range of Syrian air defenses.
 
The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group, which includes cruiser USS Princeton and the destroyers USS William P. Lawrence, USS Stockdale and USS Shoup, could be included in the operation.
 
"There will be several volleys and an assessment after each volley, but all within 72 hours and a clear indication when we are done," an officer familiar with the planning told the Times.
 
The report comes as US President Obama embarks on an intensive campaign to obtain popular support for an American-led military intervention in Syria.
 
Recent polls have shown that more than 60% of Americans oppose U.S. military involvement in Syria, while just over 10% support it.
 
Six media interviews and one national address are part of Obama’s plan to explain why he thinks America must take action in the wake of chemical weapons attacks in Syria – and to argue that U.S. involvement would not end in another drawn-out campaign like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pope: Abandon ‘futile’ military solution in Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 September 2013 11:53
Pope Francis  File -Reuters
 
Pope Francis urged the Group of 20 leaders on Thursday to abandon the “futile pursuit” of a military solution in Syria as the Vatican laid out its case for a negotiated settlement that guarantees rights for all Syrians, including minority Christians.
 
In a letter to the G-20 host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Francis lamented that “one-sided interests” had prevailed in Syria, preventing a diplomatic end to the conflict and allowing the continued "senseless massacre" of innocents.
 
“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” Francis wrote as the G-20 meeting got under way in St. Petersburg.
 
Francis has ratcheted up his call for peace in Syria amid threatened U.S.-led military strikes following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus. But he has also been careful not to lay blame on any one side, exhorting world leaders instead to focus on the plight of Syrian civilians and the need to end the violence.
 
Francis will host a peace vigil in St. Peter's Square on Saturday, a test of whether his immense popular appeal will translate into popular support for his peace message. It's the first time any such peace rally has been held at the Vatican, though Holy See officials have stressed it's a religious event, not a political protest.
 
On Thursday, the Vatican summoned ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to outline its position on Syria, with Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti noting that the Aug. 21 attack had generated “horror and concern” around the world.
 
“Confronted with similar acts one cannot remain silent, and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions make clear what happened and that those responsible face justice,” Mamberti told the 71 ambassadors gathered.
 
He didn't refer explicitly to the threat of military strikes to punish the Syrian regime for the attack. But he said the main priority must be to stop the violence which he said risked involving other countries and creating “unforeseeable consequences in various parts of the world.”
 
The Vatican, he said, wants a return to dialogue and for the country to not be split up along ethnic or religious lines.
 
Minorities, including Christians, must have their basic rights guaranteed, including their right to profess their religion, he said. And he called for the opposition to distance itself from extremists, isolate them “and openly and clearly oppose terrorism” - a reference to the al-Qaida-affiliated rebels fighting against the government.
 
The Assad family's four-decade iron rule over Syria long has rested on support from the country's ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians, Shiite Muslims and Kurds. As a result, the Catholic Church has toed a careful line on Syria, staying largely silent at the start of the civil war even after the regime's brutal crackdown on dissent.
 
As the violence raged, Pope Benedict XVI and later Francis stepped up calls for dialogue. And amid the U.S. threat of military intervention, officials in the region and at the Vatican have warned that any outside military intervention will only exacerbate tensions, with Christians in the region bearing the brunt of the fallout.
 
On Wednesday, the superior general of Francis' Jesuit order, the Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, told a Catholic news agency that military action by the U.S. and France would be an “abuse of power.”
 
“I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure,” he was quoted as saying in the interview, the text of which was released by a Vatican-affiliated spokesman.
 
In the United States, the head of the U.S. bishops' conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, wrote a letter to members of Congress urging them not to resort to military strikes. He cited bishops in the region as warning that any outside military intervention would be counterproductive, particularly given the lack of international consensus.

U.S. says Russia holding U.N. Security Council ‘hostage’ on Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 September 2013 11:10
U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power pictured with U.S. President Obama File -Reuters
 
The United States declared on Thursday that Russia is holding the U.N. Security Council on Syria hostage.
 
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, lashed out at Russia, and left little doubt that Washington would not seek U.N. approval in response to the August 21 chemical weapons attack near Syria’s capital Damascus.
 
Power blames the structure of the Security Council, which lets five major nations hold veto power - Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain. Russia has consistently used its veto power to block action President Bashar Assad’s regime.
 
U.N. approval requires a unanimous vote to take action in Syria, considering recent events, this appears unlikely.
 
“I was present in the meeting where the UK laid down the resolution, and everything in that meeting, in word and in body language, suggests that that resolution has no prospect of being adopted, by Russia in particular,” Power told reporters.
 
“Our considered view, after months of efforts on chemical weapons and after 2-1/2 years of efforts on Geneva (peace talks), the humanitarian situation, is that there is no viable path forward in this Security Council,” she said.
 
Reactions by governments around the world have differed.
Britain’s parliament voted against British participation in planned U.S. military strikes to punish Syria's government for the chemical attack.
 
On the other hand, Russia, backed by China, has used its veto power three times to block council resolutions condemning Assad's government and threatening it with sanctions.
 
The United States has bypassed the United Nations in the past when the council was deadlocked, such as during the Kosovo war in 1999. 

Kerry says lack of action on Syria would send dangerous signal to Iran

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 10:06
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ReutersFailure to take military action against Syria would send a dangerous signal to Iran, North Korea and other U.S. foes, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
 
“Iran is hoping you look the other way,” Kerry said.
“Our inaction would surely give them (Iran) a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test,” Kerry added.
 
Kerry said that the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah is “hoping that isolationism will prevail” and that “North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day.”
 
“They are all listening for our silence,” Kerry said.
Seeking to dispel American people’s fears of another war, Kerry said that U.S. soldiers will not be deployed in Syria.
 
“Whatever prohibition clarifies it to Congress or the American people, there will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war,” Kerry added, AFP reported.
He was speaking in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee together with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Hagel said several key allies in the region strongly support U.S. military action in Syria.
 
Hagel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and others in the region are key partners in any U.S. action.
 
He said U.S. forces were ready to act whenever President Barack Obama gives the order.

Assad: Striking Syria Could Lead to a Regional War

Category: News
Created on Monday, 02 September 2013 18:01
Assad
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad challenged the United States and France on Monday to produce proof that his regime attacked civilians with poison gas, warning in an interview that any military strikes against Syria would risk triggering a regional war.
 
"The Middle East is a powder keg, and today the flame is coming very near. We cannot talk merely about the Syrian response, but about what might take place after the first strike. But nobody knows what will happen. Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. There is a risk of regional war," Assad told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
 
He dismissed the findings from both the United States and France, which have both said they have proof that his regime was behind an August 21 chemical attack near Damascus, which the U.S. said killed more than 1,400 people.
 
"It is for those who are making the accusations to provide the proof. We have challenged the United States and France to put forward a single proof. Obama and Hollande have been unable to do so, even to their own people,” said Assad.
 
“I'm not at all suggesting that the Syrian army does or does not possess such weapons. Let's suppose that our army wishes to use WMD: is it really going to do so in an area where it is actually present and where soldiers have been wounded by these weapons, as the UN inspectors found during their visit to the hospital where they were being treated? Where is the logic in that?" he said.
 
On Monday, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault shared intelligence with lawmakers which he said proves the chemical attack on 21 August came from government forces.
 
The dossier shared with the French parliament reportedly includes satellite images showing a large offensive on the Damascus neighborhood of Ghouta coming from government controlled areas to the east and west of the area held by rebel forces.
 
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the administration had new evidence that sarin gas was used in the chemical attack.
 
"We know that the regime ordered this attack," he said. "We know they prepared for it. We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards."
 
There has been pressure on President Barack Obama to respond to the chemical attack by striking in Syria.
 
The United States has delayed its military strike on Syria for now, with Obama announcing on Saturday that he plans to wait for Congress' approval before deciding whether to intervene in Syria.

Obama Delayed Attack to Get Russia 'On Board'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 02 September 2013 16:32
putin obamaA report Monday said that the reason U.S. President Barack H. Obama effectively delayed the threatened American response to the recent chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad's forces was to give the diplomatic process a chance – and to bring Russia on board with the efforts to force Assad to give up his chemical weapons.
 
The Kuwaiti report said that Obama was consulting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on ways to persuade Assad to step down from his position without the need to resort to force. Russia sees Syria as a patron state, and has threatened to “take action” if the U.S. or other Western powers attack Syria.
 
American officials have been concerned over the negative effect of the delay. On Sunday, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Kadri Jamil, mocked Obama, saying that the U.S. “was defeated before the war began.” America’s “muddled” position on airstrikes “has made a mockery of the U.S. administration all over the world,” he said, adding, “previous administrations never cared about public opinion, Congress or allies.”
 
The U.S. has sent several warships and even a nuclear submarine to the Mediterranean, in apparent preparation for an attack on Syria, and Russia has sent its own warships to the region.
 
According to the report, Obama told aides last weekend that the delay would give him time to persuade other leaders, including Putin, on the importance of taking action. Obama is set to travel to Russia this week for the G20 Economic Forum Leader's Summit, set to take place in St. Petersburg. Sources said that it was likely Obama and Putin would meet on the sidelines of the event to discuss the Syrian situation.

Syria: Kerry's Accusations Based on Lies

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 September 2013 09:37
John Kerry in Ramallah - AFPSyria rejected on Friday remarks by United States Secretary of State John Kerry, who said earlier that U.S. intelligence had concluded that the regime was behind a chemical attack last week which killed more than 1,400 people.
 
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Kerry’s claims were fabricated.
 
An official source at the Foreign Ministry quoted by the official Syrian SANA news agency said that after days of media exaggeration about what the U.S. administration described as decisive evidence, Kerry had only produced material based on old stories which were published by “terrorists” and are full of fabrication and lies.
 
When the Syrian government uses the term “terrorists”, it refers to the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
The source quoted by SANA said that the ministry is surprised that one of the bigger countries in the world is attempting to deceive its public opinion in such a naïve manner by relying on non-evidence, and that the Ministry denounces the U.S. act of basing its positions on war and peace on what was published on social networking sites, which the ministry views as a desperate attempt to talk the world into accepting upcoming U.S. aggression.
 
The source said that the numbers quoted by Kerry are fictional and produced by armed groups in Syria and the opposition abroad, both of whom instigate the U.S. aggression, adding that this scene brings to mind the lies promoted by former Secretary of State Colin Powell before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
 
The source said that the Foreign Ministry confirms that all the accusations leveled by Kerry against the Syrian state are lies and devoid of truth.
 
Syria, claimed the Foreign Ministry, never impeded or restricted the international investigation committee into the chemical attack. According to the source quoted by SANA, the UN Secretary-General “has lauded the Syrian cooperation with the committee in his most recent call with the Foreign and Expatriates Minister on 30/8/2013, asserting that Syria permitted the committee to move exactly as per the agreement signed by the two sides.”
 
“The Syrian government affirms that Kerry's allegations that the Syrian Army knew about chemical weapons use three days prior to the incident are lies, as proven by the fact that Syria requested the investigation committee to visit al-Baharia area where Syrian Army soldiers were exposed to toxic gas, and the committee met the affected soldiers in the hospital,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.
 
“If the aggression on Syria, as Kerry claims, intends to halt the use of chemical weapons, we would like to remind Kerry and the United States that Syria was the first to propose a draft resolution at the Security Council to make the Middle East free of all forms of weapons of mass destruction, and that the United States was the one who prevented the draft resolution from being passed,” the Ministry said.
 
The remarks were made as Syria prepares for a possible military strike. The Syrian opposition said on Friday that the Syrian government was moving its political offices to schools and universities to seek safe haven in case of a military attack by the West.
 
Assad’s armed forces have also moved their scud missiles and launchers from a military base in northern to Damascus to unidentified regions, the opposition added.
 
President Barack Obama repeated on Friday that he has not made a final decision about a military strike against Syria, but added he is considering a limited action in response to the chemical weapons attack last week.
 
British lawmakers have rejected any involvement in military action in Syria, but French President Francois Hollande gave a boost on Friday to U.S. hopes of forging an international coalition for possible strikes against Syria, saying the British vote would not affect his government's stance.    
 
Nevertheless, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke on Friday and agreed they would continue to work closely together on a wider response to the Syrian crisis and try to find a solution.

Syrian Army Seals Damascus, Prepares ‘Martyrs’

Category: News
Created on Friday, 30 August 2013 06:40
Damascus Carnage May10 2012The Syrian army is blocking off entrances to Damascus in advance of anticipated airstrikes by Western armies, Lebanese media outlets reported Thursday.
 
According to Al-Arabiya, quoting Syrian rebel sources, the Syrian army is also continuing to evacuate its bases in the region, and has left the Damascus international airport.
 
Residents of Damascus are reportedly storing food, water and other essential supplies in case airstrikes begin in the near future. Those living near army command centers have evacuated their homes.
 
However, Al-Arabiya also spoke with many Damascus residents who appeared unconcerned, and said they do not believe there is cause to panic.
 
The British Guardian spoke to a Syrian army officer who claimed that the army has also prepared crews of “martyrs” who are willing to stop United States warplanes using kamikaze attacks.
 
"If the US and British armies launch a single rocket we will launch three or four, and if their warplanes raid our skies they will face hell fire,” he declared.
 
"If we are unable to shoot down their warplanes with artillery, we have military pilots who are ready to attack these foreign warplanes by their own warplanes and blow them up in the air."
 
Thirteen pilots, and a total of more than 8,000 Syrian soldiers, have expressed willingness to die in suicide missions if necessary, he claimed, adding, “I myself am ready to blow myself up against US aircraft carriers to stop them attacking Syria and its people."
 
The Syrian regime continues to deny involvement in the chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week that has led U.S. and British leaders to openly consider military intervention.

Syrian Intervention Could Begin 'Within a Week'

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 09:31
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Montpelier
British and American naval vessels are currently preparing for military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, following an alleged chemical attack by the regime against its own civilians, according to The Telegraph.
 
According to the paper, military commanders are currently drawing up a list of potential targets to strike, in a operation that would resemble the opening phase of the western intervention in Libya which helped oust Colonel Gaddafi.
 
In that operation, western forces used air and naval forces to back rebels fighters on the ground, but stopped short of sending "boots on the ground" of their own.
 
Talks between western leaders are still ongoing, but a potential military intervention involving a joint air and naval attack could potentially begin within a week, according to British government sources.
 
The report comes soon after British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu upped the ante by claiming United Nations approval was not necessarily needed for intervention to take place.
 
"Is it possible to act on chemical weapons, is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council?" Hague asked, rhetorically. 
 
"I would argue, yes it is. Otherwise, of course, it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes and I don’t think that is an acceptable situation."
 
Davutoglu was quoted by the newspaper Milliyetas as saying on Monday that Turkey "always prioritize[s] acting together with the international community, with United Nations decisions," but insisted that "if such a decision doesn’t emerge from the UN Security Council, other alternatives ... would come onto the agenda.”
 
As the war of words continues, Syrian President Assad has dismissed claims his forces used chemical weapons, countering that it was in fact rebel troops who used them.
 
Assad threatened that any western intervention would end in failure.
 
“The United States faces failure (if it attacks Syria), just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to our days,” he said.
 
Intervention in Syria would be more complex and potentially messy than the relatively smooth western intervention in Libya.
 
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had succeeded in isolating himself from most potential allies, paving the way for widespread international support, or at the very least the absence of any meaningful objection, to military intervention. Syria, on the other hand, can count on the vetoes of Russia, and potentially China, in any UN Security Council vote on intervention.
 
But it is not just political support that the Assad regime is relying on. Apart from the stream of arms and ammunition provided by his Russian allies - including far more advanced weaponry than Gaddafi's forces were able to field, and which could pose a greater challenge to western forces - he is also backed by the Iranian regime and its Lebanese proxies, Hezbollah, both of whom have a vested interest in preventing the establishment of a Sunni-dominated state that would effectively cut off Iran from its Lebanese allies.
 
Any western intervention would likely see the deaths of Iranian and Lebanese fighters, which could prompt an escalation in tensions between Tehran and the west.

Syria: If US Attacks Us, We'll Attack Israel

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 August 2013 19:04
Syrian Tanks - ReutersAs talk and rumors of an impending Western attack against Syria mount, a top Syrian official said Monday that if attacked, his country would react – against Israel.
 
Speaking to an Arabic-language radio station operated by the United States, Syria's Deputy Information Minister Halaf Al-Maftah said that Israel would face not only Syria in the event that the US, Britain and France attempted to unseat Bashar al-Assad. A coalition consisting of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria would respond to any attack against Assad with a response against Israel. In addition, terrorist groups in Syria and Lebanon would attack Israel with full force.
 
Al-Maftah added that Syria has “strategic weapons” that it would use in its attack on Israel. He did not specify what those weapons were.
 
“Syria is ready to deal with all scenarios,” said Al-Maftah. “We consider these declarations of a possible attack as a form of psychological warfare and pressure on Syria. We are not worried about them. We hope that those threatening us will listen closely to what we are saying. We believe that the only solution for the Syrian issue is a political one,” he added.
 
In recent days, the U.S. has sent warships off Syria's coast, with the assumption being that they were waiting for word from the White House to attack Syria and remove Assad from power. Over the weekend, the U.S. Navy expanded its presence in the Mediterranean Sea with a fourth cruise-missile-armed warship.

Syrian Jihadists Threaten Revenge on Alawites

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 August 2013 08:38
Nusra front
Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian jihadist group, on Sunday vowed revenge strikes against villages from President Bashar Al-Assad's Alawite community over claims his forces used chemical weapons, AFP reports.
 
"The Alawite villages will pay the price for each chemical rocket that struck our people in Damascus," Al-Nusra front chief Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in an audio message posted on the Internet and on his Twitter account.
 
He added that "one thousand rockets will be used for this purpose".
 
"It is a debt towards... our relatives in the eastern Ghouta," he said, according to AFP.
 
"This regime attacked the eastern region (of Damascus province) with dozens of chemical rockets that killed hundreds of children, women and men," Jawlani said, calling on opposition fighters across the country to take revenge.
 
Jawlani called on "the soldiers of Al-Nusra" to "spread their fire... before the end of the day and the setting of the sun."
 
Assad hails from the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam unlike most Sunni rebel groups fighting to topple him, including Al-Nusra, whose chief in March pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
 
Members of Al-Nusra and other rebel groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
 
Al-Nusra was once was the largest faction in the Islamist Front for the Liberation of Syria (ISIS), the 13-member rebel coalition that broke away from the main opposition force and has declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.
 
Syria's main opposition body, the National Coalition, has accused Assad's forces of "massacring" more than 1,300 people in chemical weapons attacks on the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday, which his regime has denied.
 
On Friday it was reported that a preliminary assessment made by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies has concluded that chemical weapons were indeed used by Syrian forces in the attack near Damascus.
 
It is believed the attack was carried out with high-level approval from Assad’s government.

British Navy Ready to Attack Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 26 August 2013 07:46
British Navy
 
Britain is planning to join forces with the United States and launch military action against Syria in response to the chemical attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, the British Telegraph reported on Sunday.
 
Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalize a list of potential targets, the report said.
 
Government sources said talks between Prime Minister David Cameron and international leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.
 
The escalation comes as a direct response to what the British Government is convinced was a gas attack perpetrated by Syrian forces on a civilian district of Damascus last Wednesday.
 
The Assad regime has been under mounting pressure to allow United Nations inspectors on to the site to establish who was to blame for the atrocity. One international agency said it had counted at least 355 people dead and 3,600 injured following the attack, while reports suggested the true death toll could be as high as 1,300.
 
According to the Telegraph, Cameron interrupted his holiday for talks with Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel. After discussions over the weekend, all the leaders agreed on the need for a “serious response”, according to the report.
 
Government sources confirmed to the Telegraph that military action was among the options “on the table” but said no decisions had been taken.
 
The Prime Minister, however, is believed to have abandoned hope of securing any further meaningful response from the UN amid opposition from Russia, which has already vetoed several Security Council resolutions condemning the Assad regime, including one from last week after the chemical attack.
 
The Royal Navy declined to comment on the current positions of its submarines, but said they regularly pass through the area on their way to the Suez Canal.
 
Pressure has been piling up on the West, particularly on Obama, to respond to the attack. Obama said last year that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a "red line" and force a tough U.S. response, but so far has failed to deliver such a response other than deciding to directly arm selected Syrian rebel groups without publicly specifying the extent of the support.

Obama Meets Advisers to 'Gather Facts' on Syria Attack

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 25 August 2013 21:33
Barack Hussein Obama  U.S. President Obama met on Saturday with top national security advisers following widespread reports about the Syrian government using chemical weapons on civilians.
 
The president will continue to gather facts before deciding on a course of action, the White House said, according to Fox News.
 
The reports of thousands killed or stricken by chemical weapons Wednesday near Damascus is the latest allegation about such tactics in the Middle East country’s roughly two-year-long civil war.
 
A preliminary assessment made by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies has concluded that chemical weapons were indeed used by Syrian forces in an attack near Damascus this week.
 
It is believed the attack was carried out with high-level approval from the government of President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
Obama said last year that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad would “cross a red line.”  However, the White House has been reluctant to take direct military actions, instead supplying rebel forces with non-lethal aid, weighing military options and trying to garner international support.
 
The president and his National Security Council considered eyewitness accounts and medical-records reports but “the U.S. intelligence community continues to gather facts to ascertain what occurred,” the White House said Saturday.
 
In addition to the president holding the meeting, he spoke Saturday with United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron.
 
The leaders talked about shared security challenges, including the continued violence in Syria, and expressed their “grave concern” about the reported use of chemical weapons. And they will continue to consult closely about “possible responses by the international community,” the White House said.
 
The White House meeting was attended by at least 15 members of the president’s security council, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
 
Hagel suggested Friday that the Pentagon might move Naval forces closer to Syria in preparation for a possible decision by Obama to order military strikes.
 
However, U.S. defense officials told The Associated Press on Saturday that the Navy has already sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria.
 
In a CNN interview, Obama on Friday called the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians "a big event of grave concern," but was very cautious as regards the possibility of using force in Syria, noting that there is still a war going on in Afghanistan.

Syria Warns U.S.: Don't Attack Us

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 25 August 2013 17:34
The Sterett Destroyer escorts the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln CVN 72  ReutersAmid speculations that U.S. President Barack Obama may decide on some form of military action in Syria in response to a deadly chemical attack last week, Syria on Saturday warned the U.S. against taking such a move.
 
Syria's Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi dismissed the possibility of an American attack, warning that such a move would risk triggering more violence in the region.
 
"The basic repercussion would be a ball of fire that would burn not only Syria but the whole Middle East," al-Zoubi told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV.
 
"An attack on Syria would be no easy trip," he warned.
 
Al-Zoubi placed the blame on the rebels for last week’s chemical attacks, saying that the Syrian government had proof of their responsibility.
 
"The rockets were fired from their positions and fell on civilians. They are responsible," he stated.
 
Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Abbas Arakji, warned that U.S. military intervention in Syria will "complicate matters."
 
"Sending warships will not solve the problems but will worsen the situation," Arakji told the Iranian Arabic-language Al-Alam TV.
 
He added that any such U.S. move does not have international backing and that Iran "rejects military solutions."
 
On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that if claims that Syria used chemical weapons several days ago are true, a speedy response will be needed to prevent another such attack.
 
A senior Defense Department official told CNN that military planners have updated Syrian target lists.
 
The U.S. navy is expanding its presence in the Mediterranean Sea with a fourth cruise-missile-armed warship.
 
In a CNN interview, Obama on Friday called the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians "a big event of grave concern," but was very cautious as regards the possibility of using force in Syria, noting that there is still a war going on in Afghanistan.
 
A preliminary assessment made by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies has concluded that chemical weapons were indeed used by Syrian forces in an attack near Damascus this week.
 
It is believed the attack was carried out with high-level approval from the government of President Bashar Al-Assad.

Obama: Time is Nearing for a Definitive Response on Syria

Category: News
Created on Friday, 23 August 2013 19:51
Barack Obama
 
U.S. President Barack Obama, who is under pressure to act on reports that the Syrian government staged a chemical attack on civilians, said on Friday that the time is nearing for a potentially definitive U.S. response to the alleged Syrian government atrocities.
 
The U.S. remains "one indispensable nation" in the volatile Middle East and elsewhere, Obama told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
 
"We have to think through strategically what's going to be in our long term national interests," he said.
 
Asked whether the U.S. government is now facing a "more abbreviated time frame" on key decisions in Egypt and Syria, Obama repeatedly gave a one-word response: yes.
 
Asked about claims by anti-regime activists in Syria that Bashar Al-Assad's government used chemical weapons in an attack that was said to have killed more than 1,300 people, Obama responded that officials are "right now gathering information" and that "what we've seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern."
 
"It is very troublesome," he stressed. On Thursday, Obama ordered local spy agencies to urgently probe claims of the chemical attack in Syria.
 
He said U.S. officials are pushing "to prompt better action" from the United Nations, and are calling on the Syrian government to allow an investigation of the site of the alleged attack outside Damascus.
 
"We don't expect cooperation (from the Syrian government), given their past history," Obama conceded.
 
He quickly followed up with a warning, however, that "core national interests" of the U.S. are now involved in Syria's civil war, "both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region."
 
Cuomo asked Obama to respond to harsh criticism from his 2008 presidential rival, Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, who told CNN a day earlier that America's credibility in the region has been damaged by a slow administration response in both Syria and Egypt.
 
"When the president of the United States says that if he uses these weapons that it would be a, quote, 'red line and a game-changer,' (Assad) now sees that as a green light," McCain said.
 
In response, Obama said, "I am sympathetic to Senator McCain's passion for helping people work through what is an extraordinarily difficult and heartbreaking situation, both in Syria and in Egypt. But what I think the American people also expect me to do as president is to think through what we do from the perspective of what is in our long term national interests."
 
Obama said last year that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a "red line" and force a tough U.S. response, but so far has failed to deliver such a response other than deciding to directly arm selected Syrian rebel groups without publicly specifying the extent of the support.
 
"If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it," Obama told CNN.
 
"Do we have the coalition to make it work?" he asked. "You know, those are considerations that we have to take into account."
 
The costs of military action "have to take those into account as we try to work within an international framework to do everything we can to see Assad ousted," Obama concluded.

Obama is a Prisoner of his own Agenda

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Monday, 19 August 2013 23:15
Sharia lawHow does Obama react to the Muslim Brotherhood's excesses? With open arms.
 
If the American President was not a prisoner to his own pro-Muslim Brotherhood agenda, the U.S. Administration would now be applauding the Egyptian military’s crackdown on the anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood thugs who have instigated horrific violence in Cairo and throughout much of the country.
 
Indeed, his own agenda has resulted in untold bloodshed and a human rights meltdown in Syria, Iraq, North Africa, Afghanistan and Yemen. It threatens Jordan, Saudi-Arabia and the Gulf States while leaving Iran free to acquire nuclear weapons capability. And it imposes upon Israel a course which will inevitably lead to national suicide unless the Lion of Judah can finally awake and roar back.
 
The Egyptian military, acceding to the demands of some 33 million of its citizens to remove the Islamic and Sharia colluding Morsi regime, redeployed to end Mohammed Morsi’s Brotherhood supporters from their occupation of areas of the Egyptian capital. They were met by heavy gunfire and over 100 soldiers and police were killed in the first few hours of the confrontation.
 
Not surprisingly, Obama never mentioned this fact during his August 15th press conference; a long harangue during which, according to former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Obama predictably blamed not the Morsi rioters but the Egyptian military; again revealing this president’s egregious and systemic support for the Muslim extremists who wish to turn Egypt into an Islamic republic.
 
Nor did Obama castigate fully the pro-Morsi thugs who turned their savagery upon the hapless embattled Coptic Christian community. It is estimated that perhaps as many as 50 churches and Christian establishments were burned to the ground during the Muslim anti-Christian pogrom; this after Copts have been beheaded in the streets of Cairo. And still the Vatican and world Christendom remain in the main deathly silent.
 
For decades, ever since the secular revolution of Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954, successive Egyptian presidents and governments have tried to crush the Brotherhood. This has been done by popular demand from the majority of Egyptians.
 
Obama’s threats against the military thus fly in the face of all reality. His actions will most certainly act against the best interests of the West and particularly of the United States. But there are many who believe that Barack Hussein Obama is on track to tactically do just that – harm America economically, politically and militarily - and not by incompetence, but by a planned and mendacious strategy. After all, did not Obama promise that he would fundamentally transform America?
 
During Morsi’s time in office, it should be remembered that sexual assaults against women skyrocketed. Islamic discrimination against women in Egypt under Morsi echoed the horrors perpetrated against females under the Taliban in Afghanistan. It encouraged genital mutilation among Egyptian women, opposed any moves to stop polygamy, and rejected any rights for women to have equality in the distribution of inheritance and assets.
 
And still, apart from a very few brave souls, the feminists around the world have remained deathly silent. And was there a word of censure by President Obama? Not one peep.
 
Remember, too, that the first public announcement Morsi made was to call for war against Israel and utter his vile insult – straight out of the Koran – equating Jews with monkeys and pigs.
 
But what did Obama continue to do in the face of the Muslim Brotherhood’s excesses? Why, he showered the Morsi government with F16 fighter bombers and 400 Abrams tanks – all, no doubt, weapons that eventually could be turned against the Jewish state.
 
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI): Egyptian cleric Dr. Khaled Said, in an interview aired on Al-Hafez TV (via the Internet) on March 17, 2013 described American foreign military aid this way:
 
“If the (Islamic) revolution declares a framework for dealing with the West and America – they will accept it, kiss our hands, and double the aid they give us. We consider this aid to be jizya [poll tax], not regular aid. They pay so that we will let them be. The aid constitutes jizya.”
 
All non-Muslims living under Muslim control were forced over the centuries to pay the discriminatory jizya tax if they refused to convert to Islam. Thus American aid to the Morsi regime was considered just that by the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
According to a report by Debka, an intelligence organization which some commentators often respond to negatively, whether with good reason or not, “President Barack Obama put in a call to Egypt’s strongman, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, debkafile’s intelligence sources report. The US president wanted to give the general a dressing-down much on the lines of the call he made to former president Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011.”
 
The Debka report continued:  “Realizing what was coming, Gen. El-Sissi decided not to accept Obama’s call. The anecdote shows that the military strongman is not only determined to avoid the pitfalls which brought Mubarak down but is equally determined to keep the US Administration from interfering in his plans for driving the Muslim Brotherhood out of Egyptian politics.”
 
El-Sissi has a trump card that he will use against pressure from the Obama Administration. Saudi-Arabia has already begun to provide the financial support he needs to quell the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the Saudis loathe, as do several of the Gulf States. All this will create another self-induced foreign affairs nightmare for Obama as an ever-widening rift opens up between the rulers of the Gulf States, Saudi-Arabia and the White House.
 
Indeed, according to Debka, “Our intelligence sources also disclose that, while President Obama was trying to get through to Gen. El-Sissi, the general was on the phone with Prince Bandar, Director of Saudi Intelligence.”
 
Sadly, Israel, unlike Egypt, doesn’t possess alternate allies who can help buttress the Jewish state from hostile pressure from the Obama Administration; pressure which has forced the Netanyahu government to timidly accede to obscene demands from the Holocaust denying Chairman of the so-called Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and from U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, to release Muslim monsters with Jewish blood on their hands:  Next, to agree to enter into “piece” talks with the Jew hating thugdom, the PA, that currently occupies parts of biblical and ancestral Jewish Judea and Samaria.
 
Calls have been made by myself and others in the Opinion columns of Arutz Sheva for a push by Israel to be made to create just such foreign alliances, perhaps with India or China. Israel might not be faced with such intolerable pressures from such a presidency as that of Barack Obama if thought had been given to such a strategy much earlier.
 
Notwithstanding the above, it would be a salutary admonition to the Netanyahu government to consider what Winston Churchill said during his fractious June, 1940 Cabinet discussions with then Foreign Minister, Lord Halifax. During those dark days, when the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, Halifax had wanted to appease Hitler with peace overtures via Mussolini. Churchill withstood the appeasement pressure from Halifax and shot back with the following words:
 
“Nations which go down fighting, rise again; those that surrender timidly are finished.”
 
Victor SharpeVictor Sharpe
Victor Sharpe is a prolific freelance writer with many published articles in leading national and international conservative websites and magazines. Born and educated in England, he has been a broadcaster and has authored several books including a collection of short stories under the title The Blue Hour. His three-volume set of in-depth studies on the threats from resurgent Islam to Israel, the West and to Judeo-Christian civilization is titled, Politicide: The Attempted Murder of the Jewish State. www.amazon.com

Syria: A Bad Week for Islamism

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 15:35
RebelesSyrian opposition hails EU Hizbullah ban
 
Syria's mainly Sunni opposition is celebrating yesterday's decision by the EU to blacklist the "military wing" of the Shia Islamist group Hizbullah as a terrorist organisation, Lebanon's NOW news agency reported.
 
The Syrian National Coalition declared that the ban was "a step in the right direction and highlights the need for the European Union to take measures to stop [the] militia from intervening in Syria," and called for "Hizbullah officials to be brought to justice for the terrorist crimes they committed on Syrian soil".
 
"The free world must take preventive measures against Hezbollah's leaders, members and supporters, who participated in the spilling of Syrian blood," the statement added. 
Hizbullah - based in Lebanon - is backed by both Iran and the Syrian regime of Bashar el-Assad, and has played an increasingly important role in recapturing rebel-held areas, though at considerable cost to its own manpower. 
 
Israel and other western states, including Great Britain, have long urged sanctions against the group for a long string of terrorist atrocities, but it was apparently the groups intervention in Syria which finally cost it dearly, convincing EU member-states who were previously against a ban to change their minds.
 
The ban may only have gone "halfway" by excluding Hizbullah's "political wing", to quote Avigdor Lieberman, but it will mean significant restrictions on the group's activity in one of its most important pools of fundraising - including denying visas to key individuals and freezing assets across the continent. Hizbullah's Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, has himself previously remarked that a European ban would "destroy" the group because 'the sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed."
 
The Assad regime, meanwhile, condemned the move. 
 
In a statement, the Syrian Foreign Minister declared,
 
"Syria strongly condemns this decision and the powers that are behind it because it targets the present and future of the Arab nation... and serves Israel's plans in the region."
 
Kurdish rebels drive Sunni jihadis from villages
 
Also on Tuesday, AFP reported that Kurdish groups made rapid advances in northern Syria, expelling Sunni jihadists from several villages.
 
Tuesday's fighting hit several villages including Yabseh, Kandal and Jalbeh, which lie in the northern province of Raqa on Syria's border with Turkey and are home to a mixture of ethnic and religious communities, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
It also reported that the Kurds expelled the jihadists from Kur Hassu, Atwan, Sarej and Khirbet Alu villages in the same area, which lies near the majority Kurdish town of Cobany.
 
In Hasake to the east, Kurdish-jihadist fighting went into the seventh consecutive day in the Jal Agha area and other villages in the majority Kurdish province, the Observatory added.
 
The latest battles come a week after fighters loyal to the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) expelled the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) from the strategic Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain in Hasake province.
 
Ever since, fighting has spread from Hasakeh in northeastern Syria to several hotspots in Raqa province in the north.
 
At least 70, most of them jihadists, have been killed in eight consecutive days of Kurdish-jihadist fighting, said the Observatory.
 
"What we are seeing is the spreading of fighting between Kurds and jihadists westwards, across areas that are home to both Arab and Kurdish communities," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
Though the fighting is between jihadists and organised Kurdish forces, there is "a growing gulf between Kurdish and Arab residents of these areas," Abdel Rahman said.
 
"The battle is morphing from a fight between the YPG and the jihadists to a struggle between Kurds and Arabs as a whole."
 
Prior to the outbreak of the 2011 revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, the Kurds suffered for decades from marginalisation and oppression at the hands of the Syrian Arab regime.
 
When the revolt erupted, one of the first measures taken by Assad was to grant the Syrian nationality to Kurds who had up until then been deprived of this right.
 
Then, starting mid-2012, Assad's forces withdrew from Kurdish regions which now are run by local Kurdish councils.
 
The Kurds, who represent about 15 percent of the Syrian population, have since walked a fine line, trying to avoid antagonising either the regime or the rebels.
 
But as abuses by jihadist groups in areas that have fallen out of Assad's control mounted, the Kurds announced they would seek a temporary autonomous state and establish a constitution.
 
The speedy developments have brought to the surface a deep-seated mistrust that has been heightened by the Syrian opposition's failure to adequately represent Kurdish groups, activists say.
 
"There hasn't been real trust at the political level since the start" of the revolt, Syrian Kurdish activist Havidar told AFP via the Internet.
 
"We (Kurds) all stood by the revolution but unfortunately the Syrian opposition... has played games with the Kurds... and marginalised them," Havidar said.
 
As a consequence, "there is a very obvious divide now" between Kurds and Arabs, he said.
 
The Kurdish people are the largest nation without an independent state in the Middle East. There ancestral homeland is currently occupied by Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, although the Kurdish populations in the latter two states are enjoying increasing levels of autonomy.

Head of Syrian Jihadists: We Support an Islamic Caliphate

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 July 2013 15:37
Rebels clash with Syrian government forces - AFPThe leader of the jihadist Syrian rebel group Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) has declared that his group is in favor of establishing an Islamic caliphate in civil war torn Syria.
 
In an audio recorded that has been disseminated over the past several days, Abu Mohammad al-Julani stresses that he strongly opposes parliamentary elections or any political settlement in the country which would be achieved through international intervention.
 
"Being Muslims, we do not believe in political parties or parliamentary elections, but rather in an Islamic regime based on the Shura (advisory council) and which implements justice ... Our heading towards the establishment of Islamic law (Sharia) is jihad in Allah's way," Julani says in the recording.
 
Al-Nusra Front several months ago pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and has blacklisted by the United States and the United Nations as a terrorist again.
 
In the recording, Julani is unfazed by his organization being blacklisted and, in fact, says he is proud to be blacklisted by the U.S.
 
Julani attacked the Hizbullah terror group which is assisting Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in fighting the Syrian rebels, saying, "We thank Allah for the stupidity of the leader of this organization (Nasrallah) who revealed the organization's disguised hatred against Sunni Muslims."
 
Al-Nusra Front is part of the 13-member Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, which split off from the Syrian National Council opposition force. The front declared the northern commercial hub city of Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state already months ago.
 
However, a senior figure in the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) told the A-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper this week that the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization is set to officially announce an independent Islamic state in northern Syria.
 
Members of Al-Nusra and other jihadist Syrian rebels groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Assad’s regime.

Wall Street Journal: Netanyahu Has Red Lines, Obama Doesn't

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 18 July 2013 08:55
Netanyahu embraces ObamaA Wall Street Journal editorial has claimed that Israel has attacked Syria at least four times in 2013.
 
The editorial, which appeared in the print edition of the newspaper on Tuesday, was critical of U.S. President Barack Obama over his inaction on Syria, while noting that Israel has red lines and it acts on them when they are crossed.
 
It asserted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments during an interview with CBS this week were confirmation that Israel had carried out air strikes near the Syrian port city of Latakia to destroy Russian-supplied anti-ship missiles.
 
I'm not in the habit of saying what we did or we didn't do," Netanyahu said, adding, "My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hizbullah and other terror groups.”
 
“So Israel has red lines after all,” said the Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Netanyahu's non-denial amounts to confirmation that Israel has launched at least four attacks on Syrian targets this year. Previous targets include a convoy of surface-to-air missiles headed for Lebanon, and an arms depot near Damascus believed to contain Iranian ballistic missiles that could have brought Tel Aviv within Hizbullah’s range.”
 
The article then went on to criticize Obama, who has in the past said that use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be a red line that “would change my equation.” The editorial quoted two similar statements by Obama, one dated August 2012 and another one from this past March.
 
“As everyone—most especially Bashar Assad—now knows, Mr. Obama has no red lines regarding Syria or chemical weapons,” the editorial charged. “Even his belated policy change to deliver small arms to the opposition is bogged down in bureaucratic inertia and congressional resistance. Readers may or may not think the U.S. should involve itself in Syria, but serious powers cannot issue empty threats and not expect consequences.”
 
The U.S. government, which has confirmed that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, has said it will increase the “scope and scale” of its assistance to rebels in Syria in response.
 
U.S. sources said last week that congressional committees are holding up a plan to send U.S. weapons to rebels fighting Assad, fearing such deliveries will not be decisive and the arms might end up in the hands of Islamist rebel groups.
 
Finally, noted the Wall Street Journal editorial, “In his CBS interview, Mr. Netanyahu was also asked when he would be prepared to take military action to stop Iran's nuclear programs. ‘Well, I can tell you I won't wait until it's too late,’ he replied. The Prime Minister has been saying this for nearly two years, perhaps waiting for the U.S. to act instead, but he is learning in Syria that Israel will have to enforce its own red lines.”

Syria: Dozens of Bodies Found in Well

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 July 2013 07:46
Destruction in Syria fileThe civil war in Syria continues and atrocities are being committed on a daily basis, both by troops loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad as well as by the rebel forces fighting to oust Assad.
 
Videos documenting the atrocities are uploaded to the internet every day. One clip that was uploaded this past week shows completely charred and unrecognizable bodies. The speakers in the video explain that the Assad regime took the men, executed them and then burned their bodies.
 
Another video, filmed in the community of Al-Safira in the Aleppo district on northern Syria, documents the locating of bodies of dozens of civilians who were executed and then thrown into a well.
 
Rebels who located the well indicate in the video that that the decomposing bodies that were found inside are unrecognizable and include dozens of murdered men and women.
 
Rebels have also committed atrocities during the civil war, particularly the extremist factions among them such as the Al-Nusra Front which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. These atrocities included publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with the Assad regime.
 
Meanwhile, the Syrian rebels are also turning on each other, as fighters from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) are clashing with jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
 
Last week, Syrian rebels linked to Al-Qaeda killed a senior figure in the FSA.

Clashes Escalate Between Free Syrian Army, Al Qaeda

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 July 2013 15:49
Syrian rebels patrol in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur -AFPTensions between rival Syrian rebel groups boiled over Saturday near Ras al-Hosn, in the north of Idlib province.
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human rights, fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) clashed with jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), exposing a growing rift between Al Qaeda-affiliated groups and their Syrian rebel counterparts.
 
Saturday's clashes were only the most recent example of the escalating hostilities between the FSA - whose goals in the 2-year Syrian uprising are more localised and whose leadership is considered more "moderate" - and Al Qaeda-affiliated groups such as ISIS, whose ranks are made up largely of foreign fighters.
 
ISIS and other radical Islamist rebels, such as the Nusra Front, reject what they see as the "un-Islamic" notions of nationalism espoused by the FSA, in favour of the imposition of strict Islamic Law (sharia) in the region. They further view the Syrian conflict as merely one stage in a larger war against the "enemies of Islam", including Shia Iran, Israel and western powers. The FSA, though made up of a variety factions with differing views of how a future Syria should look, remains focussed purely on ousting the Assad regime and ending decades of domination by his minority Allawite faction and its allies.
 
These latest clashes apparently occurred after ISIS fighters attempted to seize weapons from a local FSA battalion, and came only days after the Al Qaeda franchise apparently assassinated an local FSA commander. 
 
According to the Observatory, last week "dozens" of FSA fighters were killed in a battle against ISIS, after which the FSA battalion chief was beheaded.

Al-Qaeda Linked Rebels Kill Free Syrian Army Officer

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 July 2013 09:05
Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra group - AFPThe Syrian rebels are continuing to turn on one another. Syrian rebels linked to Al-Qaeda killed a senior figure in the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Thursday, an FSA source told Reuters.
 
Kamal Hamami, a member of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, known by his nom de guerre Abu Bassel al-Ladkani, was meeting with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the port city of Latakia when they killed him, Qassem Saadeddine, a Free Syrian Army spokesman, told the news agency.
 
"The Islamic State phoned me saying that they killed Abu Bassel and that they will kill all of the Supreme Military Council," Saadeddine said from Syria.
 
"He met them to discuss battle plans," Saadeddine added.
 
Reports earlier this week indicated that local infighting between Islamist rebel factions – and between the jihadists and the more moderate opposition forces – has begun in Syria.
 
The violence is taking place despite the fact that the civil war between the opposition fighters and loyalists defending President Bashar Al-Assad has not yet ended.
 
A merger formed between the Islamic State of Iraq, and al-Sham (ISIS), the Syrian unit, has been working to swallow northern Syrian real estate over the past year.
 
It also is becoming increasingly clear that ISIS has swallowed the local Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), which once was the largest faction in the Islamist Front for the Liberation of Syria – the 13-member rebel coalition that broke away from the main opposition force.
 
Members of Al-Nusra have performed atrocities during the ongoing civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with the Assad regime.
 
There has been growing pressure to arm the Syrian rebels, particularly since the U.S. government confirmed that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, thus violating the “red line” set by Obama.
 
However, there has also been reluctance by some to arm the rebels, out of a fear that the weapons may end up in the hands of the radicals.

Brotherhood Leader: Egyptian Army 'Worse Than the Jews'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 11 July 2013 19:22
Egyptian military in Sinai Airport 
 
Egypt's temporary President Adli Mansour announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry which will investigate the events surrounding the deaths of at least 51 people Monday in clashes outside a military building in Cairo. At least 435 people were wounded as well in the incident.
 
Most of those killed were Muslim Brotherhood members, and the chain of events leading to the deaths were being hotly contested by the Brotherhood and the Egyptian Army. The Brotherhood claimed that those killed were innocent, doing nothing more than holding a sit-in against the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in what they described as an “illegal coup.” The Brotherhood said that most of those killed were praying when they were shot.
 
Mahmoud Badia, a top Brotherhood leader, said that the Egyptian Army was clearly interested in instigating a Syria-style civil war in Egypt. The crime of the army in opening fire on innocent protesters was so severe, he said, “that even the Jews have never done to Egypt what the army did.”
 
The army, meanwhile, said that soldiers were set upon by a mob of Brotherhood members, who were aiming to murder them. In self-defense, the army said, soldiers opened fire, after repeatedly trying to use other methods to break up the riot and protect themselves.
 
An army spokesperson said that Egyptian soldiers were being “framed,” and that claims that they had shot children were lies. At protests by Brotherhood and Morsi supporters throughout Monday, the spokesperson said, speakers had stressed that the army had killed several children who were among the protesters, and had circulated photos of the dead children. “But this is not true,” the spokesperson said. “They are using photos from the civil war in Syria. The army killed its enemies, not children,” the spokesperson said.
 
“We were attacked from rooftops by firebombs and bricks,” the spokesperson added. “According to international law, we have a right to defend strategic sites and facilities, which the group was attacking.”

The Flames Are Creeping Up on Nasrallah

Category: News
Created on Friday, 28 June 2013 14:03
Hassan NasrallahThe graduation ceremony of the IAF's 166th flight course took place on Thursday, and leaders who spoke at the ceremony mentioned the tense situation along Israel’s northern borders, saying that the IDF is ready for any scenario and reminding Israel's enemies that the army has acted and will act in the face of security threats.
 
Particularly blunt was IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz who, in a rare statement about the situation in the north said, “Syria is still bleeding, and in Lebanon, the flames are creeping up on [Hizbullah chief] Nasrallah. In the face of this changing reality we need to be ready and more prepared than ever."
 
Gantz’s remarks come in the wake of an Israeli assessment that the Hizbullah terror group is at one of its lowest points in years. The organization is now fighting on three fronts: against Israel, in Syria, and in Lebanon, where the group has been slammed for its support of President Bashar Al-Assad.Gantz with officers
 
Speaking at the same ceremony, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, "The Air Force is prepared for any mission, near or far, and those who need to know that we not only talk but also act - know that. Over the past year we worked on many fronts, some visible and some hidden. In all of them, the mission was accomplished by the IAF pilots and navigators.”
 
The prime minister added, "We have defensive capabilities and offensive capabilities and we know to how to combine them. The future of the Jews depends on the Jewish State, and the future of the Jewish State depends primarily on its army and security forces."
 
The commander of the IAF, Major General Amir Eshel, said at the ceremony, “The reality has forced many things on us over the past year, most of them distant and out of sight. The IAF must be ready for any mission. We do not have a second chance.”
 
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon spoke about the situation in Iran and told the young pilots, "You and your friends must be prepared for that moment when you will be required to apply your skills and hurt those who want to disrupt our lives here. Those who work tirelessly to arm themselves, transfer dangerous weapons through air, land and sea or build long-term unconventional capability which threatens our cities and our citizens and undermines the stability of the entire Middle East.”

Syrian army renews offensive on Damascus opposition fighters

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 22 June 2013 14:50
Al Nusra terrorist in Raqa - ReutersSyria activists reported a military offensive by regime forces against rebel strongholds in northern and eastern Damascus.
“The district of Qaboon in (northeastern) Damascus is being intensely shelled by regime forces,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said according to AFP.
 
Rebels were battling troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on the edges of Qaboon as the army tried to storm the neighborhood, the Britain-based group said.
 
Three children from one family were killed overnight by mortar fires targeting Qaboon, the observatory said.
 
Activists from Qaboun posted on Facebook that government forces deployed additional tanks outside the neighborhood, and the bombardment had brought buildings down, The Associated Press reported.
 
Meanwhile, clashes intensified between rebels, troops and pro-Assad militiamen in the Barzeh neighborhood of the capital, said the watchdog.
 
The fighting erupted as rebels fought off an army attempt to enter the district, said the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground.
 
The heavy shelling on many fronts appears to be an attempt to cut links between districts under rebel control, AP said.
Also on Saturday, the military pushed on with its bid to end the insurgency in and around Homs in central Syria, said the Observatory.
 
While troops shelled rebel-held besieged districts in the heart of Homs city, Assad loyalists also tried to storm the town of Tal Kalakh near the border with Lebanon.
 
Referred to by activists as “the capital of the revolution”, Homs has suffered massive damage during Syria's 27-month conflict. 

Fight or flight? Saudi cleric heads to London after call for Jihad in Syria

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 22 June 2013 06:38
Sheikh Mohamed al-Arifi Photo - gololy.com
 
A Saudi cleric has been criticized for currently spending time in London, only weeks after he urged Muslim youth to join Jihad in Syria.
 
Sheikh Mohamed al-Arifi, a leading Saudi preacher, called for jihad in Syria “in every possible way” during a high-level meeting of Muslim scholars in Cairo on June 14.Sheikh Arifi seemingly being filmed by a crew. Photo - al-Madina news
 
But the Saudi preacher, instead of translating his words into action and providing a model for Jihadist wannabes in Syrian frontlines, has chosen to shine elsewhere.
 
Recently he has been spotted in the streets of London, which he previously described as "a place where Muslims should not go to during times of crisis."
 
In London, he sometime threw off his white Thobe, the traditional Saudi dress, and embraced more modern attire.
 
Not so many pictures of him in London are available, but the few ones that came out showed the cleric in a white shirt and a jacket.
 
However, the sheikh claims he is on a business trip. He went to London to shoot his new television program "My Trip with al-Arifi" to be screened during the Muslim month of Ramadan on the religious “Iqra” television station, the Saudi Okaz daily reported.
 
Sheikh Arifi pictured at a London bus stop. Photo - Twitter and FacebookThe newspaper said the television will be shooting several programs around Europe this year, including Arifi’s show.
 
On his upcoming program, the Saudi cleric will address religious diversity in Britain as he meets Muslim youth to promote peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims.
 
He has already begun pushing his agenda on the social media. “I've mixed with the British public in London & found them to be pleasant, polite & respectful towards all religions," Arifi tweeted on Thursday to his more than five million followers.
 
"The Law in UK treats British Muslims with fairness. Muslims should reflect a true image of their religion through their dealing," Arifi added on Twitter.
 
He is due to take part in a charity television event from London, focusing on presenting several reports about the Syrian refugees in Jordan.Sheikh Arifi seemingly being filmed by a crew. Photo - alarab.qa
 
However, Arifi’s call for Jihad and subsequent travel to London exposed him to harsh criticism back home.
 
Saudi journalist Mohamed Suhaimi described clerics like Arifi as propaganda artists who talk the talk, but do not walk the walk.
But the media cleric has got a response to that.
 
He re-tweeted on Wednesday a statement by the Syria Army (FSA) saying: "Frankly, we do not care about your differences with Sheikh al-Arifi as long as we Syrians know what he has done for our sake…God bless him…What have you done?"
 
The Sheikh also re-tweeted a statement attacking Al Arabiya television for reporting on his travel to London.
 
“The channel was surprised when al-Arifi offered them his busy schedule in London," the tweet said.
 
Al-Arifi’s televised fatwas and twitter statements have regularly been a source of contention among religious and political circles.
 
In December 2012, Sheikh Arifi urged parents to prevent their kids from watching MBC3, a sister channel of Al Arabiya TV, because he described its content (which is mostly cartoons) as a way to promote “atheism and corruption” .
 
MBC3 issued a statement describing Arifi's twitter post as "tendentious and far from reality altogether," saying that the sheikh should seek psychiatric help.
 
It is also note-worthy that the Saudi cleric who is currently visiting London has also infamously called for daughters should not seek to seduce their fathers by wearing revealing clothes at home.

Spain breaks up al-Qaeda linked ring, eight arrested

Category: News
Created on Friday, 21 June 2013 08:46
Two al Qaeda-linked rebel policemen File -AFP
 
Spanish security forces on Friday broke up an Al-Qaeda-linked network in north Africa suspected of sending fighters to Syria, arresting eight people in early morning raids.
 
Police launched operations against the ring in Ceuta, a Spanish territory in north Africa, the government said.
 
“We have broken up a network responsible for sending combatants to Al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups operating in Syria,” the Spanish Interior Ministry said in a statement.
 
The network, operating in Ceuta and the neighboring Moroccan town of Fnideq, sent dozens of Islamist militants -- some minors -- to Syria, the ministry said.
 
“Some of them would have carried out suicide attacks while others would have been incorporated into training camps prior to carrying out armed action,” the government said.
 
“This network, based in Ceuta and Fnideq, carried out fundraising, indoctrination, and organizing and financing travel, in contact with other terrorists and following the guidelines of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization.”
 
Security forces confirmed that several “jihadists” were waiting to travel from Spain to Syria, it said. 
 
Spain's police had investigated the network since 2009 and the military-linked Civil Guard since 2011 before they joined forces early this year.
 
The eight suspects faced charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, the government said. 
 
A National Court judge supervising the investigation had issued search warrants that were being executed on Friday, it said. 

Free Syrian Army Accuses Hizbullah of Using Chemical Weapons

Category: News
Created on Friday, 21 June 2013 08:09
Lebanons Islamist group Hezbollah
 
The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) reported on Wednesday that chemical weapons had been used in a Damascus town by Hizbullah terrorists and forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
According to Al Arabiya, the town of Zamalka, outside of Damascus, was targeted by chemical weapons, which caused victims to choke and led to a number of casualties, opposition activists said.
 
Assad’s government has faced accusations from the United States, Britain and France of using banned weapons, including the nerve gas sarin, in attacks that have reportedly killed many.
 
The U.S. government confirmed last week that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, adding that America will increase the “scope and scale” of its assistance to rebels in Syria in response.
 
France had previously revealed that it had firm evidence sarin had been used by the Syrian regime in at least one case.
 
The Lebanon-based Shiite Hizbullah has been playing a key role in supporting the Syrian government, which is mainly controlled by the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
 
Initially Hizbullah said it wanted only to defend 13 Syrian villages along the border where Lebanese Shiites live, and the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine near Damascus, which is revered by Shiites around the world.
 
However, its terrorists later encircled Qusayr with regime troops before the launch of a withering assault on the strategic border town.
 
Last week Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah promised that his group will be wherever is needed in Syria.
 
Meanwhile on the ground Wednesday, more cities and towns were bombarded by Syrian regime forces, according to activists who spoke to Al Arabiya.
 
Tanks reportedly deployed at the entrance of the southwestern city of Zabadani shelled its agricultural lands, causing extensive damage.
 
In the province of Idlib, battles between opposition fighters and regime forces killed a number of Syrian army forces.
 
Meanwhile, the FSA said that it managed to take control of a military airport in the area of Deir Al-Zour.

Syrian Rebels: We've Received Heavy Weapons from Saudis

Category: News
Created on Friday, 21 June 2013 07:46
Al Nusra terrorist in Raqa - ReutersThe first delivery of heavy weapons has arrived on Syria’s front lines following President Barack Obama’s decision to put Western military might behind the official opposition, rebels told the British Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.
 
The sources told the newspaper that Russian-made “Konkurs” anti-tank missiles had been supplied by America’s key Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia. They have already been used to destructive effect and may have held up a promised regime assault on Aleppo, the report said.
 
A handful of the missiles were already in use and in high demand after opposition forces looted them from captured regime bases.
 
More have now arrived, confirming reports that the White House has lifted an unofficial embargo on its Gulf allies sending heavy weapons to the rebels.
 
Last week, the White House said it would send military support to Syria’s opposition after concluding that President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime had used chemical agents against them.
 
Unlike rocket-propelled grenades, the Konkurs – Contest in English – can penetrate the regime’s most advanced tanks, Russian-made T72s, noted the Telegraph.
 
“We now have supplies from Saudi Arabia,” a rebel source said. “We have been told more weapons are on their way, even higher-end missiles.”
 
At the G8 this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the West’s attempts to send arms to the opposition, even though he did not rule out fulfilling existing arms contracts with the regime.
 
On Syria’s front lines, rebels are already using Russian missiles to destroy the regime’s Russian tanks, the Telegraph reported.
 
Thanks to Russian backing over the last half century, Syria’s army was the best equipped in the region, and its captured bases have handed a limited number of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to the opposition.
 
But the number of Konkurs missiles seen in videos escalated at the beginning of this month, tangible evidence of the new Saudi supply line, noted the newspaper.
 
Assad warned this week that Europe will “pay the price” if it arms Syrian rebels. European Union foreign ministers agreed at the end of May to lift an arms embargo in order to supply weapons to Syrian rebels, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time that "no immediate decision" would be made on sending arms to the rebels.
 
“If the Europeans deliver weapons (to rebels), Europe’s backyard will become a terrorists’ place and Europe will pay the price for it,” Assad told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
 
He said that chaos in Syria would result in "the direct export of terrorism to Europe”, adding, "Terrorists will return to Europe with fighting experience and extremist ideologies."
 
Referring to statements that his regime has used chemical weapons on rebels, Assad said, "If Paris, London and Washington had only one piece of evidence backing up their allegations, they would have unveiled it to the world.

Lebanese singer-turned Islamist will sell home to back FSA

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 17 June 2013 08:39
Lebanons Sunni ReutersA famed Lebanese singer, who has turned into a self-proclaimed Sunni Islamist, will put his home up for sale to back the Free Syrian Army (FSA) battling the Syrian regime, he said during an interview with a Lebanese TV channel this week.
 
“I would rather sleep on the ground just for the Syrian revolution’s sake,” Fadhel al-Shaker told the al-Jadeed TV channel, adding “whoever attacks us (Sunnis), we will do the same.”
 
The conflict in Syria has become increasingly sectarian with fighters from the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian regime, joining the fight against the rebels.
 
Shaker rejected the TV presenter's reference to him as an “artist,” saying he prefers to be called by his name or as “Hajj,” a title given to a Muslim who completed pilgrimage in Mecca.
 
The former artist, who was the voice of popular romance songs that captivated thousands from all across the Arab world, said fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces was a “legitimate” act.
 
He urged support for the “oppressed” Syrian people and said the FSA should be given financial aid, as well as weaponry.
 
The ex-singer acknowledged the fact that he knows how to use arms; however, didn’t give further details on whether he will join the anti-Assad opposition fighters in Syria.
 
While describing his voice as a “gift from God,” he said he will only continue singing religious Islamic songs.
 
Late last year, Shaker announced the end of his career as a singer and said singing was forbidden in Islam.

Explosions Shake Damascus Military Airport

Category: News
Created on Monday, 17 June 2013 08:06
blast in the central Damascus - AFPTwo bombs struck a large military airport outside the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday night, the main rebel army said, according to CNN.
 
The first of a series of explosions was near a checkpoint near the main door of the al-Mazzeh airport, and the second was near an exterior wall, said Louay Mikdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army.
 
It wasn't immediately clear who was behind the blasts.
 
It was not known how many people were hurt, but Mikdad said witnesses told of "many ambulances" taking away the wounded, CNN reported. Al-Jazeera reported 12 dead.
 
After the explosions, mortar bombs were fired from inside the airport into surrounding neighborhoods, Mikdad said. The targets weren't known.
 
In addition to being the site of the military airport, the al-Mazzeh area is home to embassies, security buildings and the homes of some members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle, according to opposition activists.

Syrian Minister: Morsi Should Close Israeli Embassy

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 16 June 2013 21:53
Mohammed Morsi - AFPEgyptian President Mohammed Morsi should close down the Israeli embassy in Egypt and not the Syrian one, a Syrian minister said on Sunday.
 
Omran Zoubi, Syria’s Information Minister, was responding to Morsi’s announcement from Saturday that Egypt was cutting diplomatic ties with Damascus and has ordered Syria's embassy in Cairo to be closed.
 
Morsi also urged world powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.
 
"We would have expected Morsi to announce he is closing the Israeli embassy in Egypt, but these are the ways of a leader who refuses to accept such positions," Zoubi said on Sunday, adding that “the heretic project taking place in Egypt is part of the Zionist project.”
 
A Syrian official source quoted by the Xinhua news agency slammed Morsi’s decision as "irresponsible," adding that his calls for foreign intervention and imposing a no fly zone on Syria constitute an infringement upon the region's sovereignty and serve only the interests of Israel and the United States.
 
"We condemn Morsi's irresponsible stance that mirrors his attempt to implement the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood," the Syrian source said, scoffing that Morsi should have saved his "enthusiasm" to the time when he boycotts Israel “that is still killing Palestinians.”
 
Egypt sides with the Islamist rebels who are trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose offshoot movement, Hamas, has already been removed from Damascus due to its support for the rebels.

Syrian Rebels Are Cannibals; Don't Arm Them

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 16 June 2013 21:39
Screen shot of a Syrian rebel cutting out and eating the organs of a regime soldier. Al ArabyiaThe Syrian rebels are “cannibals” and should not be given arms, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday.
 
"I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras," Putin said at a joint press conference in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
 
Putin was referring to video footage posted on the Internet last month of a rebel fighter eating the heart of a government soldier.Putin in Israel
 
"Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?" he said, adding that this behavior does not correspond with international humanitarian norms.
 
Putin’s comments mark the first time that he has publicly responded to a decision by the United States last week to provide arms for the rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Russia is an open supporter of Assad and has indicated that it plans to provide him with advanced missile systems.
 
The U.S. government announced on Thursday that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, adding that America will increase the “scope and scale” of its assistance to rebels in Syria in response.
 
An aide to Putin said on Friday that Russia is not convinced by the evidence which the U.S. provided alleging that the Assad government used chemical weapons against rebel forces.
 
“The Americans tried to present us with information on the use of chemical weapons by the regime, but frankly we thought that it was not convincing,” the aide, Yury Ushakov, said.
 
On Sunday, The Independent reported that Iran is sending 4,000 new troops to help Assad crush rebel forces in the country’s ongoing civil war.
 
The report in warned that the U.S. decision to arm rebels “has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East… the U.S. is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.”

Egypt Salafist party casts doubt over Mursi’s Syria stance

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 16 June 2013 08:38
Egypts President Mursi Al ArabiyaEgypt's Salafist al-Nour Party on Saturday boycotted a “support for Syria” rally in which president Mohammed Mursi announced the cutting of ties with the Syrian regime.
 
The group said the boycott was due to party officials questioning the timing of Mursi’s announcement.
 
"The first reason we boycotted the rally is that because we have in fact been (supporting) Syria for more than a year and a half on different levels as part of (our campaign) 'One Nation.' Speaking of which, a new cargo of aid is headed to Syria on Monday, God willing," Nadar Bakkar, the party's spokesperson, wrote on Twitter.
 
He added that the second reason is linked to the party's reservations over such events.
 
"We have reservations over several events held at particularly this time and aiming to mobilize one group of people against another before June 30," Bakkar said, in reference to nationwide protests that have been planned by opposition groups, marking Mursi’s first anniversary in power.
 
Mursi announced on Saturday the “definitive” cutting of ties with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and called for imposing a no-fly zone over the warn-torn country.
 
Egypt “decided today to definitively break off relations with the current regime in Syria, to close that regime's embassy in Cairo and to recall Egypt's charge d'affaires,” President Mursi said at a rally in Cairo on Saturday.
 
The “Support for Syria” rally was organized in Cairo and came a day after the Muslim Brotherhood denounced Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria and backed calls for Jihad (holy war) there.
 
Bakkar said Mursi's announcements on Saturday contradicted his previous statements, which have included him saying that Egyptian and Russian stances on the Syrian conflict are similar. Moscow is an ally of the Syrian regime.

Iran to send 4,000 Revolutionary Guards to bolster Assad’s forces

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 16 June 2013 08:11
Irans Revolutionary Guards AFPIran is to reportedly send 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against opposition forces, according to the The Independent on Sunday.
 
In what was described as an Iranian “military decision,” the British newspaper said Iran was now “fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime,” citing unnamed pro-Iranian sources.
The sources “have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel,” The Independent’s Robert Fisk wrote.
 
The decision, allegedly made before this week’s presidential election, was “to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces against the largely Sunni rebellion,” Fisk reported.
 
Iran is a predominantly Shiite Muslim country, and a close ally of President Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
 
Earlier this month Iran congratulated the Syrian army on their victory in the strategic central town of Qusayr after an 18-day battle.
 
Syrian army forces were supported by allied fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.
 
“Iranian sources say they liaise constantly with Moscow [a Syrian ally], and that while Hezbollah's overall withdrawal from Syria is likely to be completed soon - with the maintenance of the militia's 'intelligence' teams inside Syria - Iran's support for Damascus will grow rather than wither,” The Independent reported.
 
“They point out that the Taliban recently sent a formal delegation for talks in Tehran and that America will need Iran's help in withdrawing from Afghanistan,” the report added.
 
In August last year, Syrian opposition fighters announced that the 48 kidnapped Iranians were current and former members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards and not pilgrims as Iran alleges, in footage aired exclusively by Al Arabiya TV.
 
The fighters “captured 48 of the Shabiha (militiamen) of Iran who were on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus,” said a man dressed as an officer of the Free Syrian Army, in the video aired by Al Arabiya.
 
“During the investigation, we found that some of them were officers of the Revolutionary Guards,” he said, showing ID documents taken from one of the men, who appeared in the background with a large Syrian independence flag held by two armed men behind them.

Lebanese cleric: War is coming to Lebanon

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 15 June 2013 07:18
Lebanese Sunni cleric Ahmed al-Assir  ReutersHardline Lebanese Sunni Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir warned on Friday that “a war is coming to Lebanon” as Syrian rebels and their Lebanese supporters prepare to launch attacks against Hezbollah “everywhere.”
 
Sheikh Assir said in a Friday sermon that a response to Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria could happen in a “few days” and will take place “anywhere” including Lebanon.
 
In April Sheikh Assir urged his followers to join Syrian rebels fighting troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.
 
“Lately, we have seen our people [Sunnis] in the region of Qusayr be subjected to violence, murder and slaughter by the hands of the Iranian party,” Assir told Al Arabiya in an interview. “We found that it is our legitimate duty to see to the [Sunnis’] victory.”
 
Senior Muslim Sunni voices have accused Hezbollah of starting a sectarian war by intervening in Syria against the Sunni opposition.
 
On Friday, Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood threw its weight behind the calls for Jihad in Syria, slamming Hezbollah for starting a sectarian war in Syria. “Throughout history, Sunnis have never been involved in starting a sectarian war,” spokesman Ahmed Aref said.
 
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his group is not involved in a war against Sunnis but that it is fighting against a U.S. Israeli conspiracy to control the Middle East.
He vowed to stay in Syria and continue fighting against what he said were extremist Islamists being used by major Western powers to re-draw the regional map.

Egypt Brotherhood backs Syria jihad, denounces Shi’ites

Category: News
Created on Friday, 14 June 2013 17:24
 
An Egyptian man holds the old Syrian flag in support of Syrian terrorists in Cairo AFP
Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood blamed Shi’ites for creating religious strife throughout Islam’s history, as the movement joined a call by Sunni clerics for jihad against the Syrian government and its Shi’ite allies.
 
In a striking display of the religious enmity sweeping the region since Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah committed its forces behind Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Brotherhood spokesman in Cairo told Reuters on Friday: “Throughout history, Sunnis have never been involved in starting a sectarian war.”
 
Until recently, Egypt’s new Islamist president, the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, was promoting rapprochement with Iran, the bastion of Shi’ite political power and in February he hosted the first visit by an Iranian president in over 30 years.
 
But spokesman Ahmed Aref said Hezbollah had launched a new “sectarian war” last month by joining Tehran’s other key ally Assad in a fight that pits mainly Sunni rebels against a Syrian elite drawn from Assad’s Alawite minority, a Shi’ite offshoot.
 
For that reason, Aref said, the Brotherhood, which emerged from oppression after the fall of military rule two years ago to run by far the most populous Arab state, had joined a call made on Thursday by leading Sunni clerics for holy war in Syria.
 
That statement, made at a Cairo conference of more than 70 religious organizations from across the Arab world, urged “jihad with mind, money, weapons - all forms of jihad,” but stopped short of repeating an explicit call by high-profile Brotherhood-linked preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi for fighters to go to Syria.
 
Asked whether the Brotherhood would urge Egyptians to travel to the war, Aref said it was still considering its position and would coordinate with the other groups at the conference.
 
Mursi would address the assembly on Saturday, he added, saying that speech may clarify the Egyptian position: “Up to now there’s merely been talk,” he said.
 
“We need to coordinate well in terms of logistics.”
 
An aide to Mursi said on Thursday that Egypt disapproved of external intervention in Syria, notably that by Hezbollah. It was not sending fighters but, he said, the government could not stop Egyptians from travelling and would not penalize any who went to Syria, where he said many were engaged in relief work.
Saudi cleric
Also on Friday, a leading Sunni cleric from Saudi Arabia, Mohammed al-Afifi, preached at an ancient Cairo mosque, calling for jihad in Syria “in every way possible.” Some worshippers waved Syrian rebel flags and dozens of men gathered outside afterward to chant their support for bringing down Assad.
 
Saudi Arabia, where the monarchy espouses the strict Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam, is locked in a regional rivalry with Iran and has been arming the Syrian rebels while Egypt’s leaders, who rose to power in the same wave of Arab Spring protests that began the Syrian civil war, have held back from such engagement.
 
The 7th century rift between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam has fuelled violence across the Middle East in recent decades, including the sectarian bloodletting unleashed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion and the Lebanese civil war of 1975 to 1990.
 

U.S. Considering Options to Help Rebels

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 13 June 2013 15:41
John Kerry in Ramallah - AFPThe United States is considering what steps it can take in order to help the Syrian opposition, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.
 
"We have said that we will do everything we can, that we are able to do, to help the opposition achieve that goal and to reach a point where that can be implemented, and that's what we trying to do," Kerry said during a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, according to the AFP news agency.
 
He said the U.S. administration was meeting "to talk about various balances in this issue right now."
 
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's choice of weapons "challenges anybody's standards of human behavior and we're going to have to make judgments ourselves about how we're going to be able to help the opposition deal with that," Kerry said, according to AFP.
 
He stressed, "Nobody wins in Syria the way things are going. The people lose and Syria as a country loses."
 
Reports this week said that President Barack Obama is close to approving arms for the rebels fighting to oust Assad.
 
Officials said that the Obama administration could decide this week to approve lethal aid for the rebels and are also scheduled to weigh the merits of a less likely move to send in U.S. aircraft to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.
 
To date, President Obama has only committed non-lethal aid, despite lawmakers' calls for more forceful action from the U.S. as the civil war there intensifies and threatens neighboring countries.
 
One of the reasons for the hesitation in arming rebels is that they include radical, jihadist groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
 
Hague said on Wednesday that Britain and its allies must be "prepared to do more" to save innocent lives in Syria.
 
"The United Kingdom believes that the situation demands a strong, coordinated, and determined approach by the UK, the U.S., and our allies in Europe and the region," Hague said, according to AFP.
 
Calling the conflict in Syria "the most urgent crisis anywhere in the world today," Hague warned that Assad’s regime "seems to be preparing new assaults, endangering the lives and safety of hundreds of Syrians who are already in desperate need."
 
"The scale of the regime's repression and the human suffering that it has caused beggars belief -- a campaign of murder and tyranny that they have waged for more than 800 days now. It is not only a moral outrage -- it's a grave threat to the wider region," the British minister said.
 
He confirmed that he had discussed the Syrian conflict, now in its third year, with Kerry in their talks, saying the "innocent victims of war and repression" had been "at the forefront of our minds."
 
Kerry insisted the goal of diplomatic efforts was to reach a political solution and transition of power that "gives the Syrian people the chance to have a new beginning where they choose their future leadership."

15 Yr Old Publicly Executed for Blasphemy in Aleppo

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 07:57
Al Nusra terrorist in Raqa - ReutersThe UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Sunday that Islamist rebels in the city executed 15-year-old Muhamma Qatta’ in the Sha'ar neighborhood of Aleppo, before the horrifed eyes of his parents. 
 
The punishment came after the boy was overheard by someone during an argument while he was working. “Even if Muhammad comes back to life, I won’t lend,” the boy reportedly said in his workplace, where he sold coffee and from where he was detained at 10 p.m. Sunday. He was later returned by the rebels to the area, his shirt covering his head and with his body marked from torture and beating.
 
The men who escorted him then announced to the crowd in classical Arabic that apostasy and cursing the prophet is a “terrible vice” and that anyone who does so will face a similar fate. The SOHR reported the boy was then shot by the two men with an automatic rifle in front of the crowd – which included the boy’s mother and father -- once in the neck and once in the head. The two men then drove away in their car, leaving the boy’s body behind.
 
An extremely graphic photo of the teen’s face, shot in the mouth and throat and covered in blood, is posted on the SOHR Facebook page. “The SOHR demands that the killers of the child be brought to justice,” said the Observatory in a statement on Facebook. “It is important to note that the Shari’a court of Aleppo has a security branch in the area but did not stop the summary execution of the boy.
 
Meanwhile, Syrian government troops are preparing for a siege of Aleppo, currently held by the rebel forces who plan to declare the northern commercial hub a separatist Islamist state.
 
Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are “deploying heavily in the countryside near Aleppo in preparation for a battle that will be fought inside the city and on its outskirts,” said Syria’s al-Watan pro-government newspaper. 
 
Just days after Assad forces recaptured the town of Qusair with aid of Lebanese Hizbullah guerrilla fighters, the government troops now plan to do the same in Aleppo “in the coming hours or days.” The report went on to say, “Beseiged areas will be freed in the first stages and troops which have been on the defensive will on the offensive. The Syrian army will take advantage of its experience in Qusair and Eastern Ghouta (near Damascus) to advance in the provinces of Hama and Homs.”
 
A security source told the AFP news agency, “It is likely the battle for Aleppo will start in the coming hours or days, and its aim is to reclaim the towns and villages in the province.” Shi’ite fighters from the Hizbullah terrorist organization and from Iraq have been reinforcing the Syrian Army soldiers in their battles.  Last month, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah vowed to fight “to the end” to put down the uprising and to “defend Lebanon” from “jihadist extremists.”

Israel Intensifies Warning to Syria Over Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 09 June 2013 10:31
Arab TanksIsrael has allegedly reiterated its warnings to Syria over activity in the Golan Heights, threatening in a document sent to the United Nations the IDF will attack Syrian tanks on its border.
 
Jerusalem allegedly sent the warning to the U.N. Security Council via Herve Ladsous, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (UNDOF), according to a report published this weekend in the Hebrew-language Yediot Acharonot newspaper.
 
Israel warned it would “take action” if Syrian tanks continued to operate in the buffer zone, according to the report, which was also picked up by the Al-Arabiya news network.
 
Tensions are rising in Israel’s northern region, as the country prepares itself for “any possibility.” Coastal police are conducting a drill simulating an emergency response to a terrorist attack on Sunday morning in Haifa, officials announced.
 
Bomb Squad sappers, detectives and scouts are all participating, and the public was warned to expect the presence of “many police vehicles” as well as possible temporary traffic adjustments.
 
The U.S. State Department called on the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad on last Thursday to take care to avoid violating the ceasefire with Israel in the Golan Heights.
 
“We’ve been very clear about our concerns over regional instability caused by the crisis in Syria,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, after a day of fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels near the border with Israel. 
 
“This is of course another example of that, and we continue to call upon all parties to avoid any action that would jeopardize the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria.”

Austria Withdraws Peacekeeping Force from Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Friday, 07 June 2013 20:47
Peacekeepers Force from Golan HeightsAustria is pulling its United Nations peacekeeping force from the Golan Heights, the government said in a statement released Thursday.
 
Austria accounts for about 380 of the 1,000-strong UN force monitoring the Israel-Syria ceasefire line in the Golan Heights.
 
“Freedom of movement in the area de facto no longer exists. The uncontrolled and immediate danger to Austrian soldiers has risen to an unacceptable level," the Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, and his deputy, Michael Spindelegger, said in a joint statement.
 
The announcement came hours after Syrian rebels seized the Syrian-controlled section of the Quneitra crossing early on Thursay.
 
A Filipino peacekeeper was also wounded during the fighting, a Philippine military spokesman said.
 
The soldier suffered a leg injury from an artillery or mortar shell that landed at Camp Ziouani, a logistics base for the UN Disengagement Observer Force, said Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.
 
"This morning's developments show that a further delay (in pulling out soldiers) is no longer justifiable," the Austrian statement said.
 
The head of United Nations peacekeeping confirmed earlier Thursday that shots had been fired in "incidents" on the Israel-Syria ceasefire line in the Golan heights, where Israeli radio reported a crossing point falling into the hands of Syrian rebels. Syrian government forces retook the position.
 
"We are following the situation in the Golan extremely closely, it is very sensitive," the head of UN peacekeeping operations Herve Ladsous told reporters in Paris, according to the AFP news agency.
 
"We have adjusted the stance of the UN force (in Golan) in real time, taking particular account of the security of our staff."
 
Ladsous added that "there were shots," but would not confirm the report that the Syrian rebels had taken control of the crossing point. "It is in the interest of the international community that the UN force is able to continue its work in favor of regional stability."

Hamas's Mashaal: Assad Refused to Accept Political Solution

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 18:12
Khaled MeshaalThe Hamas terrorist group left Syria because President Bashar Al-Assad refused to consider a political solution to the conflict in the country, its leader Khaled Mashaal said.
 
In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4, which aired on Thursday, Mashaal said, “The military approach is wrong. It makes the crisis worse. It doesn’t solve anything, it only makes it more complicated. What we are witnessing today proves our advice was right.”
 
The interview came amid reports that the head of Hamas in Lebanon, Ali Barakha, was informed by Hizbullah that his people were no longer welcome in the country, and that Hamas members should evacuate the country immediately. The message raised the possibility that the two Islamist groups could end up fighting each other in Lebanon, as each vies for influence with opposing parties in Syria, analysts said.
 
Mashaal denied that his group was supporting the rebels fighting Assad, saying, “We do not interfere in Syrian internal affairs nor do we interfere in the Syrian crisis and this is our policy towards the Arab Spring and all other Arab and non-Arab countries in the world.
 
“Hamas policy is against any foreign intervention in our countries,” he added. “This is our general principle. But at the same time we support the rights of people to freedom, democracy and reform and we are against the use of force and violence, massacres, and military options against them. We support people to win their rights, but we are against foreign intervention.
 
“The international community has been talking about this for months and I think there is a kind of deception going on, and that there is a hidden agenda from many international parties to prolong the Syrian crisis and destroy Syria. These parties do not want to see recovery for Syria…they use positive slogans but in reality their attitude identifies with the Israeli agenda of destroying Syria, more death, and prolonging the Syrian crisis,” said the Hamas leader.
 
He denied that Hamas’s leaving Syria and moving its headquarters to Qatar was a message to Assad that he needs to go.
 
“This is not what we meant. We, as the leadership of Hamas, had to leave Damascus the moment we felt that our efforts to convince the Syrian leadership to choose a solution other than the military one failed,” said Mashaal. “On the other hand, the Syrian leadership was not happy with Hamas’ political stance and also, I felt they wanted to put pressure or demand on us to stand by the official Syrian position and support the leadership in their military solution to the Syrian issue … this is why we did not feel then I could stay, so we left – circumstances forced itself on us, but if Assad goes or stays, that’s up to the Syrian people not to us.”
 
In the first months of the uprising, Hamas’s leaders expressed support in principle for the struggle of the Syrian people while also highlighting the importance of the movement’s historical relationship with the Syrian regime.
 
However, as the rift deepened, reports surfaced that Hamas was moving its headquarters from Damascus and strengthening itself in the Sinai and in Qatar.
 
Some reports claimed that the Damascus-based Hamas leadership left Syria after the Syrian government asked the Hamas leaders to leave. In November, Syrian security forces shut down all the offices belonging to Hamas in the country.
 
In the interview with Channel 4, Mashaal also slammed Israel for its “assault against Gaza” and claimed that it is an “occupying force”. The remarks were made in response to a question by the interviewer, Alex Thomson, that Hamas and Israel were “close to being on the same side” because of the rift between Hamas and Assad.
 
“Israel looks after its own interest and has its own policy of assault no matter which country it’s assaulting, if it’s Lebanon or Syria or any other country in the world. Israel is our enemy,” Mashaal stated.
 
“I am surprised that the world keeps concentrating on the recognition of Israel and its right to exist, while it is an existing state on the ground, occupying the land and expelling its people while practicing all manner of killings, aggression and terror,” he added. “In all civil and religious laws in the world, there is no legitimacy to anyone who establishes themselves by means of violation and the seizure of land and the rights of others. Does the international community accept this equation?”
 
He stressed that PA Arabs “are the real owners of the land. We have the right to live freely without occupation, settlements, aggression, prisons and Jewishization of the land. The law I believe in, and I think it’s the same for every human being in the world, not only the Arabs and all Muslims, is that there is no legitimacy or future for occupation or aggression.”
 
Asked if there were any circumstances in which he could conceive shaking hands with the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Mashaal replied, “Although the question is legitimate, how can I have peace with a killer like Netanyahu. Think logically. I am the Palestinian victim, my land is occupied, and my people are displaced. Netanyahu is waging war against my own people, and denies my rights, so why would the world expect me to shake his hand in the future? There was a historical handshake between Rabin and Arafat, in the White House garden, but what was the result? This hand, Arafat’s, the hand that shook Rabin’s hand, was poisoned and killed by Rabin’s followers after that.”
 
Several months ago, Mashaal claimed in a CNN interview that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state along the indefensible pre-1967 borders but would refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

UN Blacklists Syrian Al-Nusra Front

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 17:05
Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra groupThe UN Security Council on Friday blacklisted the Syrian group Al-Nusra Front and added it to its global sanctions list because of its links to Al-Qaeda, Al Arabiya reported.
 
The group, a feared force battling President Bashar al-Assad, is now subject to an international asset freeze and arms embargo, according to an announcement made by the Security Council’s Al-Qaeda sanctions committee.
 
Al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani last month pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, confirming suspicions of ties between the rebel group and the terrorist group founded by Osama bin Laden.
 
The announcement followed a message from Zawahiri, urging rebels to fight to establish an Islamic state in Syria, and was received with caution by the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army.
 
The U.S. government designated Al-Nusra a terrorist organization last year and added al-Jawlani to its terrorist blacklist this month.
 
Al-Nusra is one of 13 factions in the radical Islamist rebel council that announced its secession from the main opposition force and declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.

Rebels to Hizbullah: Stop Attacking Us Or We'll Hunt You to Hell

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 30 May 2013 08:45
HizbullahAn official with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) warned the Hizbullah terror group on Tuesday to end its involvement in the Syrian conflict and stop backing government troops.
 
Brigadier General Salim Idris, the current chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council of the FSA, told Al Arabiya, “If the attacks of Hizbullah [on] Syrian territory do not stop within 24 hours, we will take all measures to hunt Hizbullah, even in hell.”
 
“I will no longer be bound by any commitments I made if a decision to stop the attacks... is not taken and implemented,” he warned.
 
Idris said “everyone” should “excuse FSA” for retaliating as “we are being subjected to genocide conducted by Hizbullah.”
 
Qusayr, a town in the central province of Homs, became the flashpoint of confrontation between Hizbullah terrorists and the armed opposition battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
 
The Iran-backed Hizbullah sent almost 1,700 fighters to Qusayr more than a week ago to support the regime’s assault on the rebel stronghold.
 
Initially Hizbullah said it wanted only to defend 13 Syrian villages along the border where Lebanese Shiites live, and the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine near Damascus, which is revered by Shiites around the world, noted Al Arabiya.
 
However, its terrorists later encircled Qusayr with regime troops before the launch of a withering assault on the strategic border town that is home to 25,000 people.
 
A draft resolution condemning the Syrian regime’s use of foreign fighters in the rebel-held area will be debated on Wednesday by the UN’s top rights body, AFP reported.
 
The draft resolution, presented on Tuesday, “condemns the intervention of foreign combatants fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime in al-Qusayr,” an implicit reference to the involvement of Hizbullah in the fierce battle for the strategic town.
 
At least 75 Hizbullah members have already been killed fighting alongside Assad’s soldiers, and Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah vowed Saturday to continue the group’s support for Assad.
 
Meanwhile, the fighting in Syria has continued to spill into Lebanon. On Monday, cross-border mortar shells from Syria killed one person and wounded another near the eastern Lebanese town of Hermel.
 
The incident came one day after two rockets exploded in southern Beirut on Sunday morning. The rockets hit the Hizbullah-dominated neighborhood of Dahiya, injuring at least four people.

Hizbullah Gives Hamas 'Eviction Papers' from Lebanon

Category: Reports
Created on Thursday, 30 May 2013 07:59
Village in southern LebanonThe head of Hamas in Lebanon, Ali Barakha, was informed by Hizbullah that his people were no longer welcome in the country, and that Hamas members should evacuate the country immediately, Israel Radio reported Thursday. The message raised the possibility that the two Islamist groups could end up fighting each other in Lebanon, as each vies for influence with opposing parties in Syria, analysts said.
 
Syrian rebels have been receiving assistance from the Sunni-oriented Hamas terror group, while the Shi'ite-affiliated Hizbullah terror group has been helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
 
Hizbullah is aiding Assad as a proxy of Iran, the main backer of the Syrian despot, while Syrian rebels, seeking to unseat Assad, have turned to Sunni Muslim groups in the Middle East for help. Saudi Arabia is Sunni and fears Iran's increased domination.  Assad himself is a member of the Alawite cult, considered heretical by both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.
 
Recent reports said that hundreds of Hizbullah terrorists have died in fierce fighting on the Syria-Lebanon border, as units of the Syrian army and terrorists battled Syrian rebels for control of the area. Many of the deaths occurred in the Syria-Lebanon border town of Al-Qusayr, a city of over 40,000, which over the past two years has been turned into a war-torn danger zone. It is not known how many Hamas terrorists fought in those battles, but it is thought to be a substantial number by analysts, as both rebels and the Syria army placed a great deal of importance on the battle.
 
Reports of the Hamas “eviction” by Hizbullah appeared in the Arab press on Thursday, based on information supplied by Syrian rebels, Israel Radio reported, adding that there had been no independent confirmation of the story.
 
In a separate interview Thursday, Barakha denied the story, saying that Hamas and Hizbullah worked together for the benefit of Lebanon.

Israel's New Neighbor: Syrian Al-Qaeda Rebel Group

Category: News
Created on Monday, 27 May 2013 17:08
al-Qaeda terroristsIn recent months, there has been a shakeout among the various Syrian rebel groups, and one of the dominant ones that has emerged is Jabhat al-Nusra, closely identified with al-Qaeda. The Sunni Islamist group is seeking to take over as much of Syria as possible and place it under Sharia Islamic law.
 
Now, the group has taken up positions close to Syria's border with Israel, adjacent to the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. In a video released on Youtube, the group's soldiers are seen conducting training exercises in the Dar'a area of southern Syria, right next to the Heights. In the exercise, the soldiers are seen attempting to take over a building, using weapons and bombs.
 
They are also seen singing Arabic songs in praise of terror, and swearing revenge on the “unbelievers” - the Alawite group that runs Syria, as well as Shi'ite Muslims who, according to Sunni views, hold an incorrect interpretation of Islam.
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The video provides evidence of a well-trained, motivated fighting force, military experts said. The group is clearly better equipped and trained than the other rebel groups, they said, and apparently has incorporated a large number of Sunni Muslim defectors from the Syrian army.
 
While the group says that putting the “Syrian house in order” is its first order of business, it says that it eventually plans to deal with the “Zionist enemy” and end the “occupation,” first of the Golan, and then of the “rest of Palestine.”

Clashes intensify in Syria's Qusayr

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 May 2013 11:20
Smoke rises from Syrian shelling of HomsClashes between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, aided by Hezbollah, and rebels intensified as they fought to seize Syrian town of Qusayr on Friday.
 
Online footage shows a whole row of houses demolished after shelling in Qusayr on Thursday with fires still raging within the shattered buildings.
 
Brigades of rebels have joined the battle for Qusayr. Some were filmed firing on enemy positions with rocket-propelled grenades.
 
Plumes of white and black smoke rose over nearby Daba military airport, which rebels claimed was under their control.
 
State media said the army had killed eight people they described as terrorists in Daba.
 
More than 80,000 people have been killed in what is now a full-scale civil war that has dragged in Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas and is spilling into other neighboring countries.

Attacks against Lebanese Alawites deepen fears

Category: Islam
Created on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 09:06
Attacks against AlawitesLebanese members of the Syrian leader’s Alawite sect fear their tiny community will be a casualty of the civil war raging in the neighboring country.
 
Already, Sunni Muslim extremists have stoned a school bus, vandalized stores and beaten or stabbed a number of men in a wave of attacks against Lebanese Alawites, stoking fears of even more violence should Syrian President Bashar Assad be removed from power.
 
In one particularly humiliating case, angry Sunnis tied a rope around an Alawite man’s neck and dragged him around the streets of Tripoli.
 
“The Alawites are being subjected to an organized campaign that aims to eliminate them on all levels,” said Ali Feddah, a prominent member of Lebanon’s Arab Democratic Party, which is mainly Alawite.
 
Feddah spoke to The Associated Press in his office in Tripoli’s predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. Sitting next to a picture of Assad, he said the Alawites face an “existential threat,” mainly because of extremist Sunni incitement against them.
 
His words echo the sentiments of many Alawites, who have long enjoyed privileges in Syria under Assad family rule and now fear for their future. The tiny community in Lebanon, which has long been a Syrian client state, has also benefited from Assad’s rule, particularly during Syria’s three-decade hold on its smaller neighbor that ended in 2005.
 
The Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, represents little more than 10 percent of the population in Syria and about 2 percent in Lebanon. Before their ascent in the mid-20th century, the Alawites were impoverished and marginalized, largely confined to the mountains of the province of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.
 
Under the French mandate, the Alawites were granted an autonomous territory stretching in a band along the coast from the Lebanese border to the Turkish border. It lasted a few years until 1937, when their state was incorporated into modern-day Syria.
 
After the 1963 coup that brought the Baath Party to power in Damascus, Alawites began consolidating their presence in the Syrian government and armed forces.
 
The uprising against Assad’s rule that began in March 2011 quickly became an outlet for long-suppressed grievances, mostly by poor Sunnis from marginalized areas. It has since escalated into an outright civil war.
 
Many of the rebels trying to overthrow Assad today say they want to replace his government with an Islamic state.
 
The war, now in its third year, has turned increasingly sectarian with countless cases of tit-for-tat slayings between Sunnis and Alawites. Sunni rebels are often seen in videos posted online referring to Alawites as dogs and heretics.
 
Abu Bilal al-Homsi, an activist in the central Syrian city of Homs who has links with several rebel groups, said the Assad regime has carried out massacres against Sunnis. He points to waves of sectarian killings this month, allegedly carried out by pro-government Alawite gunmen in the coastal towns of Banias and Bayda. More than 100 civilians were killed in the attacks.
 
“We will completely wipe out the Alawite sect,” said al-Homsi, who does not use his real name because of fear of government reprisals. “There will be no Alawites in Syria. The young and the old will be punished.”
 
Bassam al-Dada, an official in the rebels’ Free Syrian Army, disagrees with al-Homsi. “The Alawites have nothing to do with Bashar’s crimes,” he said.
 
The U.N. estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed in the war. Human Rights activists say most of them are Sunnis, but Alawites have also paid a heavy price. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday the group has documented the names of more than 35,000 Alawites who have died, most of them soldiers and pro-Assad militiamen.
 
“Their losses statistically are very high. There is a lot of resentment in Alawite regions,” said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University in Beirut.
 
The tensions in Syria are playing out in Lebanon, which is sharply split along sectarian lines and has recently seen repeated bouts of street fighting related to the war across the border.
 
Northern Lebanon, in particular, is a potential powder keg. It has a strong Sunni population but also has pockets of Alawites.
 
The Alawites live mainly in Jabal Mohsen, a hilly district where posters of Assad and his father and predecessor, the late Hafez Assad, decorate the streets.
 
For years, residents of Jabal Mohsen have traded short bouts of automatic weapons fire and volleys of rocket-propelled grenades with residents of the mainly Sunni Bab Tabbaneh neighborhood.
 
The two districts in Tripoli are separated by a roadway named Syria Street.
 
The clashes have become more frequent since Syria’s uprising began - and so have the targeted attacks.
 
Ali, an unemployed 25-year-old Alawite from Jabal Mohsen, says he has not been to Sunni neighborhoods of Tripoli for more than a year after he was beaten up in the central Tal neighborhood.
 
Ali, who declined to give his full name for fear of reprisals, described how he was intercepted by a man who ran toward him, grabbed him by the neck and tried to choke him as he shouted: “Are you from the Jabal?”
 
He said he denied he was an Alawite and was eventually saved by a Sunni man who knew him.
 
Last month, a bus carrying school children was attacked on the edge of Jabal Mohsen by a group of extremists who pelted it with rocks for several minutes before troops intervened.
 
“Since then, all school buses from Jabal Mohsen are accompanied by troops,” Feddah said.
 
Residents say several men have been stabbed and beaten up in the past few weeks. Several shops in Jabal Mohsen were set on fire, their fronts seen shuttered on a recent visit.
 
Earlier this month, bearded extremists grabbed a Syrian man in Tripoli, beat him up and stripped him to the waist before tying a rope around his neck and parading him through the streets. “I am an Alawite shabih,” they wrote on his bare chest, in reference to widely feared pro-Assad militiamen who fight alongside soldiers in Syria.
 
In Syria, thousands of Alawites have left their homes in war-shattered cities such as Homs, for the relative safety of the overwhelmingly Alawite provinces of Tartous and Latakia.
 
Syrian opponents of Assad say Alawite fighters are trying to carve out a breakaway enclave in the country’s mountainous Alawite heartland by driving out local Sunnis. They say recent killings in overwhelmingly Sunni villages close to Alawite communities are meant to lay the groundwork.
 
Earlier this month, regime forces from nearby Alawite areas were blamed for killing dozens of civilians in Banias and Bayda, two Sunni communities in western Syria. The violence bore a closer resemblance to two reported mass killings last year in Houla and Qubeir, Sunni villages surrounded by Alawite towns in central Syria.
 
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper that having failed to control the entire country, Assad was now executing his “plan B” - which involves opening up an Alawite corridor between central Syria and Lebanon and driving Sunnis away from the area.
 
“There is an effort to cleanse the region,” Davutoglu said in the interview, published last week. “This will cause turmoil in Lebanon too. It could cause a culture of revenge.”

Saudi urges U.N. action against Israel strikes on Syria

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:49
IAF Syria strikeSaudi Arabia on Monday called for U.N. action to end Israeli strikes on Syria, describing the raids as a “dangerous violation” of the sovereignty of an Arab state, the official SPA news agency reported.
 
Israeli raids on Syrian targets near Damascus at the weekend killed at least 42 soldiers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said.
 
A senior Israeli source said the raids targeted Iranian weapons destined for the Shiite Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
 
The Saudi cabinet voiced “deep concern from the worsening situation in Syria” and urged “swift action by the U.N. Security Council to stop these Israeli attacks on Syrian territories and ensure they are not repeated,” said SPA.
 
The kingdom has repeatedly voiced support to rebels in Syria battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and severed diplomatic ties with Damascus since 2011.
 
But its government on Monday described Israel’s raids as “flagrant attacks and a dangerous violation of the sovereignty of an Arab state, warning of its dangerous effects in the region's security and stability.”
 
A diplomatic source in Beirut told AFP the sites targeted by Israeli warplanes were the Jamraya military facility, a nearby weapons depot and an anti-aircraft unit in Sabura, west of Damascus.
 
Sunday’s strike came about 48 hours after a reported Israeli raid on a weapons storage facility at Damascus airport.
 
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon has warned against any escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people in Syria since it erupted in March 2011.

Syrian Minister: All Possibilites Open After Israeli Attacks

Category: News
Created on Monday, 06 May 2013 21:22
F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jetSyria responded angrily to the overnight air strikes on military targets that it accused Israel of carrying out, warning that the attack "opens the door to all possibilities."
 
"We will not accept to be humiliated," Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi said at an afternoon press conference, according to ABC News.
 
"We are all in a state of anger. We are abused by this attack," he added.
 
Israel has not confirmed or denied the series of strikes early Sunday morning, which the Syrian foreign ministry said had targeted three military sites: a "research center" at Jamraya, a "paragliding airport" in the al-Dimas area of Damascus, and a site in Maysaloun.
 
Syria accused Israel of "coordination" with the extremist rebel groups it is fighting, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda's leadership.
 
Zoubi’s warning came after Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Feisal al-Mekdad, earlier called Israel's bombing of a weapons transport in Syria a “declaration of war.”
 
Speaking in an interview on CNN, al-Mekdad said that Israel was siding with “Islamist terrorists” to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, and that Syria would respond “at the time and in the manner that it chooses to.”
 
President Barack Obama, who has faced growing questioning over the American role in the conflict that has left more than 70,000 dead, did not confirm the Israeli attacks, but said on Saturday that Israel has a right to stop its enemies from getting advanced weapons.

 

Israeli Strike 'Declaration of War'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 05 May 2013 19:51
F16 Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Feisal al-Mekdad on Sunday called Israel's bombing of a weapons transport in Syria a “declaration of war.” Speaking in an interview on CNN, al-Mekdad said that Israel was siding with “Islamist terrorists” to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, and that Syria would respond “at the time and in the manner that it chooses to.”
 
Israel has not confirmed or denied the claims that it had attacked a convoy in Syria that was transporting Iranian produced missiles to Hizbullah over Syrian territory. “We don't respond to these kinds of reports,” an IDF spokesperson told foreign news media Sunday.
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Also condemning the strike was Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, demanding that the Arab League take “a decisive stand against Israeli terrorism.” Mansour complained that the League had remained silent “for too long” in the wake of “Israeli hooliganism,” and demanded that the League “immediately condemn the Israeli action against the Assad regime.”
 
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, on the other hand, expressed “understanding” for Israel's need to defend itself from terror groups. “Israel made it clear that it would respond if it suspected that advanced weapons systems were being handed over to Hizbullah,” he said. “Israel will act to defend its security,” and such actions must be “respected,” he added.

Israel Bombed ‘Game-Changing’ Weapons Going to Hizbullah

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 05 May 2013 08:41
F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jetIsrael bombed a weapons shipment headed for Hizbullah on Friday, an Israeli source confirmed Saturday. The source spoke after American media outlets reported the strike.
 
Israel has not officially commented on the alleged strike.
 
A diplomatic source in Lebanon told the AFP news agency that the operation destroyed surface-to-air missiles recently delivered by Russia that were being stored at Damascus airport.
 
The Israeli source confirmed that the strike targeted “game-changing” weaponry, but not chemical weapons.
 
Lebanon's army said pairs of Israeli airplanes entered Lebanese airspace three times overnight. The first two entered over the southern city of Sidon at 7:10 PM (1610 GMT), followed three hours later by a second pair that entered over Jounieh north of Beirut, a statement said.
 
The last pair flew in over the capital, the statement said, adding that the warplanes stayed in Lebanese airspace for two to three hours at a time
 
There were unconfirmed reports during the past week that Israeli planes had staged mock strikes in Lebanese air space..
 
US media reported that Washington does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes. A senior US official told NBC News that the air strikes were probably tied to delivery systems for chemical weapons.
 
White House and Pentagon officials declined to comment on the air strike reports.
 
But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was quoted as telling an audience that Israel had indeed bombed Syria.
 
"Israel bombed Syria tonight," Graham was cited by the Politico news website as saying in passing, without offering any further details.
 
If confirmed, this would be the second Israeli air strike on Syria this year.   Earlier this month, Israel implicitly admitted carrying out a January raid on a weapons convoy in Syria thought to be en route to Hizbullah.

Steinitz: Nuclear Iran is Like 30 Nuclear North Koreas

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 06:54
Yuval SteinitzInternational Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz warned on Sunday that Iran having a nuclear weapon would be equal to “thirty nuclear North Koreas”.
 
“We have the right and the ability to defend ourselves,” he said in a speech at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York. “The cooperation with the United States is very important but ultimately each country will make its own decisions on maintaining its security,” said Steinitz, stressing that “Israel can deal with any threat.”
 
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80 years ago, said Steinitz, “only one person identified on time and warned the world against the rearmament of Nazi Germany. This was Winston Churchill, but people refused to listen. Some people even mocked him.”
 
“We shouldn’t repeat the same mistake again,” he added, referring to Iran. “The Nazis spoke about the final solution of the Jews in Europe, and the Iranians are talking about destroying the Jewish State in the Middle East. We have to learn from history, even if it doesn’t repeat itself exactly, and if there’s a lesson to learn from history, it is not to repeat the same mistake again and not to allow, come what may, the nuclearization of Iran.”
 
Referring to Syria, Steinitz rejected allegations that Israel asked the United States to take military action in the war torn country..
 
“We never asked and never encouraged the U.S. to take military action in Syria,” Steinitz told the conference, referring to reports that Israel has been pressuring the Obama administration to get involved in Syria, in the wake of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.
 
“It is up to the U.S. to decide its policy on Syria,” said Steinitz. “Of course, we exchange views with the U.S. about the situation; it’s a very complex and difficult issue."
 
He emphasized that Israel will “do its utmost to prevent delivery” of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles to terrorist groups such as Hizbullah.

Syrian PM 'Survives Damascus Car Bombing'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 29 April 2013 11:19
Syrian PM Survives Damascus Car BombingSyrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi survived a bomb attack that targeted his convoy in central Damascus on Monday, according to media reports.
 
The blast occurred in the Mazzeh district, state television said.Syrian PM
 
Both Syrian state television and the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the incident.
 
At least one person was killed in the attack, the observatory said.
 
Syrian news agency Sana said the explosion hit near Ibn Rushed Park.

Lebanese Youth Sign Up for 'Jihad' Against Hizbullah

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 25 April 2013 08:00
HezbollahLebanese youth from the city of Saida, south of Beirut, began on Wednesday to sign up for “armed Jihad in Syria”, Al Arabiya reported.
 
The youth were responding to a call a day earlier by Sunni cleric Ahmad Assir, who called on Lebanese youth to fight the Hizbullah terrorist group.
 
Individuals in charge of enlisting the youth told Al Arabiya that “hundreds” have signed up so far and that the number is expected to reach thousands.
 
On Tuesday, Sheikh Assir lashed out at Hizbullah for helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces fight the predominately Sunni opposition in the country.
 
Sheikh Assir had announced the formation of “Free Resistance Brigades” to go fight Hizbullah in Syria.
 
In an interview with Al Arabiya, Assir said his call came in response to “Hizbullah’s continued role in the persecution of Sunni Muslims in Syria.”
 
He said it was a “a religious duty” for his Sunni followers to join the fight against Hizbullah and the Syrian regime.
 
Assir slammed the Lebanese government for not being able to prevent Hizbullah from interfering in Syria.
 
Reports in a Saudi daily last week indicated that over 1,000 Hizbullah members had entered Syria over a period of a few days via waterways in the Mediterranean Sea.
 
The daily quoted sources as having said that the regime in Damascus "is resorting to the aid of fighters from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which implies that the Syrian recruits' desire to fight alongside the regime is decreasing."
 
Several months ago, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly offered to place his terrorists at Assad’s disposal.
 
Syria's opposition warned this week that Hizbullah’s role in fighting in Homs province amounts to a "declaration of war," while the terrorist group said it is merely protecting Lebanese people.
 
Analysts told AFP on Wednesday that Hizbullah’s decision to fight openly alongside the Syrian regime will increase Lebanon's involvement in Syria's conflict, despite a policy of neutrality.
 
Despite the inflaming tensions, however, the country is unlikely to face serious instability as a result, because none of its political forces have an interest in such a scenario for now, the analysts added.
 
"Hizbullah’s public involvement is no longer the world's worst-kept secret, and now we are in a crisis where the Lebanese are not only politically divided... but also militarily divided," Ghassan al-Azzi, a professor of political science at the Lebanese University, told AFP.
 
"Hizbullah’s involvement in the Syrian crisis now involves all of Lebanon because we've heard from the other side calls to fight jihad alongside the opposition to the Syrian regime," he added, referring to Lebanon's Sunni community.

Syrian Opposition Denounces Hizbullah's Role in Civil War

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 07:41
Destruction in Homs - AFPSyria's opposition warned on Monday that Hizbullah’s role in fighting in Homs province amounts to a "declaration of war," while the terrorist group said it is merely protecting Lebanese people, AFP reports.
 
The comments came as a watchdog said the Lebanese Shiite terror group was leading the battle in the Qusayr area of Homs, which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly termed "the main battle" his troops are currently fighting.
 
"What is happening in Homs is a declaration of war against the Syrian people and the Arab League should deal with it on this basis," George Sabra, the interim chief of the opposition National Coalition, was quoted by AFP as having said.
 
"The Lebanese president and the Lebanese government should realize the danger that it poses to the lives of Syrians and the future relations between the two peoples and countries," he told a news conference in Istanbul.
 
"We hope that the brotherly Lebanese people will raise their voices against the murder of free Syrians," said Sabra, shortly after his appointment was announced.
 
"We call in particular on our Shiite Lebanese brothers to stop their sons from going to kill Syrians and becoming victims of the conflict as well," he added, according to AFP.
 
Hizbullah, a close ally of the Assad regime, has defended any involvement of its forces in Syria as a bid to protect Lebanese citizens in a string of villages inside the war-torn country.
 
"What Hizbullah is doing with regard to this issue is a national and moral duty in the defense of the Lebanese in border villages," Lebanon's official news agency quoted senior Hizbullah leader Sheikh Nabil Qauk as saying on Monday.
 
"To those who ask us to allow our brothers in these border villages to be victims of murders, kidnaps, massacres and expulsions, I respond to you: 'Can we leave these Lebanese hostage to this situation?" he added.
 
"Hizbullah’s martyrs are the martyrs of the entire nation because they are defending their Lebanese compatriots," he said.
 
Fighting has raged in the Qusayr area of the central province of Homs for days, with regime troops winning control of a series of strategic villages in the area during the weekend.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said Hizbullah forces were leading the battle in the area.
 
The area is of strategic importance because it runs along the border with Lebanon and is near the route from Damascus to the coast.
 
Nasrallah publicly offered to place itself at Assad’s disposal.
 
But already several months earlier, a soldier from the Free Syrian Army told The Independent newspaper, published in the UK, that Hizbullah's Shiite Muslim terrorists are full military allies of the Syrian army and that "everyone knows they have fighters there."
 
Reports in a Saudi daily last week indicated that over 1,000 Hizbullah members had entered Syria over a period of a few days via waterways in the Mediterranean Sea.
 
The daily quoted sources as having said that the regime in Damascus "is resorting to the aid of fighters from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which implies that the Syrian recruits' desire to fight alongside the regime is decreasing."

Syria Accuses US of 'Throwing Oil on Fire'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 22 April 2013 11:58
Members of the Al-Baraa bin Malek batallion - AFPA Syrian government daily accused the United States on Sunday of having "thrown oil on the fire" of the country's conflict by doubling its aid to the opposition.
 
"The meeting of the so-called 'Friends of Syria' held in Istanbul yesterday has thrown oil on the fire of the Syrian conflict," said the Al-Watan daily, as reported by the AFP news agency.
 
The United States announced at the meeting in the Turkish city that it would double its aid to Syria's opposition, including new non-lethal military equipment, but paid no heed to calls for arms supplies or a direct intervention.
 
Secretary of State John Kerry said American assistance to the opposition would rise to $250 million (191 million euros).
 
Some of the money will be used to "provide an expanded range of support" to rebel fighters battling President Bashar al-Assad, beyond the current provisions of food rations and medical kits, "to include other types of non-lethal supplies."
 
However the pledge fell short of opposition demands for foreign backers to supply the rebels with arms, impose a no-fly zone and carry out air strikes on positions used by the Assad regime to launch missiles.
 
"The results of the meeting were known in advance with the American statements made last week on providing new aid to the opposition," Al-Watan stated.
 
"The statements were not surprising, given that Washington has opted since the start of the crisis to line up with armed groups by giving them political, financial and military support," it said, according to AFP. 

U.S. to Double 'Non-Lethal Aid' to Syria's Opposition

Category: News
Created on Monday, 22 April 2013 08:09
Syrian rebels patrol in town of Jisr al-Shughur - AFPThe United States said on Saturday it would double its aid to Syria's opposition, including with new non-lethal military equipment, but paid no heed to calls for arms supplies or a direct intervention, AFP reports.
 
In a statement after talks among the pro-opposition "Friends of Syria" group in Istanbul, Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S. assistance to the opposition would double to $250 million.
 
Some of the money will be used to "provide an expanded range of support" to rebel fighters battling President Bashar al-Assad, beyond the current provisions of food rations and medical kits, "to include other types of non-lethal supplies," the statement said, according to AFP.
 
It did not elaborate, but U.S. media reported that Washington is preparing to provide the rebels with protective battlefield equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles and night-vision goggles, as well as communications gear.
 
"The president directed me to step up our efforts," Kerry told a news conference.
 
"The stakes in Syria couldn't be more clear: chemical weapons, the slaughter of people by ballistic missiles and other weapons of huge destruction, the potential of a whole country," he said.
 
"This bloodshed needs to stop."
 
The pledge fell short of opposition demands for foreign backers to supply the rebels with arms, institute a no-fly zone and carry out airstrikes on positions used by the Assad regime to launch missiles.
 
Many in the West have raised concerns about arming the rebels, fearing weapons could end up in the hands of radical Islamist groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which this month pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
 
Western diplomats have said increased military support will hinge on the opposition showing it can be more inclusive and that it could ensure weapons would be secure. They would also have to reject the use of chemical weapons and guarantee respect for human rights.
 
The head of the main opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, offered reassurances after the talks.
 
"Our revolution is for the entire Syrian people. We are not supporting one group at the price of another and we shall never allow that to happen," he told the news conference, according to AFP.
 
The Coalition said in a separate statement that the opposition rejected "all forms of terrorism and any extremist ideology" and promised that "weapons will not fall in the wrong hands."
 
The opposition had also voiced frustration earlier at the lack of a strong international response.
 
"Assad is firing missiles against densely populated areas... without consequences," said Yaser Tabbara, a spokesman for the opposition's interim prime minister Ghassan Hitto.
 
"Throwing money at the problem won't solve it."
 
Washington has been gradually shifting its policy on providing assistance to the opposition, with Kerry announcing at the last Friends of Syria meeting in February that the U.S. would start providing direct non-lethal aid to rebel fighters.
 
Britain and France had been pushing for a European Union arms embargo to be allowed to expire by the end of May. Paris has since appeared more wary about arms supplies since the Al-Qaeda pledge from Al-Nusra.
 
Supporters of arms supplies have said the rise of Islamist groups such as Al-Nusra is only a stronger argument for providing weapons to more moderate voices in the Syrian opposition.

Jordanian Islamists reject U.S. troop deployment

Category: News
Created on Friday, 19 April 2013 13:27
US soldiers  joint military exercise near the JordanSaudi border south of Amman. AFPJordan’s Islamist opposition on Friday denounced the presence of US troops in the kingdom due to deteriorating security in neighboring Syria, urging a rethink of the deployment.
 
“The government must review its decision to authorize the deployment of foreign troops on Jordanian soil,” the Islamic Action Front, political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, said in a statement.
 
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed on Wednesday that some 150 U.S. military specialists have been deployed in Jordan since last year and that he had ordered a U.S. Army headquarters team to bolster the mission, bringing the total American presence to more than 200 troops.
 
“These personnel will continue to work alongside Jordanian Armed Forces to improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios,” said Hagel.
 
The U.S. troops were deployed to Jordan to help secure chemical weapons amid fears they could fall into the hands of Islamist militants fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and prepare for a possible spillover from Syria.
 
Assad, whose regime has been battling rebels trying to oust him since March 2011, warned in an interview Wednesday with Syrian television that the war in his country could spread to Jordan which he said was allowing rebels free movement.
 
“The Islamic Action Front... categorically refuses the presence of foreign troops in Jordan,” the statement said, stressing that Jordan’s armed forces were capable of defending the nation.
 
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani told AFP on Wednesday that the U.S. deployment was “to boost the Jordanian armed forces in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria.”
 
But the army denied this and said in a statement on Thursday: “The 200 U.S. troops have nothing to do with Syria’s situation. They are the first of the groups that will take part of the annual Eager Lion military exercise, in which 15 countries are participating.”
 
“The Jordan Armed Forces have the required capabilities to defend Jordan’s borders, stability and security against any threat,” it added, saying the drill will take place “in the coming weeks.”

Israel Has a Right to Prevent Syrian Weapons Flow

Category: News
Created on Friday, 19 April 2013 07:41
British PM David Cameron greets PM Binyamin Netanyahu - ReutersIn an interview with the BBC, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel was very concerned over the possibility that Syrian weapons would end up in the hands of terrorists, and that Israel had a right to prevent this from happening.
 
“The main arms of concern to us are the arms that are already in Syria - these are anti-aircraft weapons, these are chemical weapons and other very, very dangerous weapons that could be game changers,” Netanyahu said in the interview Wednesday night. They will change the conditions, the balance of power in the Middle East. They could present a terrorist threat on a worldwide scale. It is definitely our interest to defend ourselves, but we also think it is in the interest of other countries,” Netanyahu said.
 
Netanyahu was asked if Israel would act more “aggressively” against Syria to prevent the dissemination of its chemical and advanced weapons to Hizbullah and other terror groups, Netanyahu said “We are not aggressive. We don't seek military confrontation, but we are prepared to defend ourselves if the need arises and I think people know that what I say is both measured and serious.”
 
Netanyahu was in London for the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, which took place earlier Wednesday.

Syria's Muslim Brotherhood: There's No Extremism in Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 07:22
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Riad Shakfa R - AFPSyria's Muslim Brotherhood sought on Monday to defuse fears that Islamist extremists were seizing Syrian territory, saying that a "united front" controlled land captured by the rebels.
 
"It is not true that extremists are in charge of liberated lands," the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammad Riad Shakfa, was quoted by AFP as having said at a press conference in Istanbul.
 
"The land ... belongs to a united front of the opposition," he said.
 
Speaking in Arabic, Shakfa added, "As far as I know, there is no extremism in Syria."
 
His comments came days after the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, one of the fiercest forces battling the Syrian regime, pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, sounding alarm bells in the West and triggering concerns among the main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC).
 
The announcement followed a message from Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urging rebels to fight to establish an Islamic state in Syria, and was received with caution by the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army.
 
Western powers have been cautious in how they aid the opposition amid fears they could bolster Islamist extremists.
 
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood also denied it controlled the SNC, saying such claims were "manufactured" by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of a "defamation campaign."
 
"What we are up against is a campaign to defame us," Shakfa said. "We make up less than 10 percent of the SNC and we have never influenced its decisions," he added.
 
Shakfa was particularly referring to the election of Syria's rebel prime minister Ghassan al-Hitto last month in a majority vote that had exposed rifts in the SNC.
 
"They claim Mr. Hitto was elected because he is our representative... We didn't even know him before he was elected," he said.
 
The Brotherhood, a strong Islamist component of the fragmented Syrian opposition, supported Hitto because he was "more in tune with the wish of the majority," according to Shakfa.
 
On Sunday, the SNC said Al-Nusra's alleged merger with al-Qaeda would "only serve the goals of the Assad regime," and called on the group "to stay within the ranks of the nationalistic Syrians."
 
Al-Nusra is one of 13 factions in the radical Islamist rebel council that announced its secession from the main opposition force and declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.

More than 1,000 Hizbullah Terrorists Enter Syria to Help Assad

Category: News
Created on Monday, 15 April 2013 17:17
HezbollahHizbullah is continuing to assist Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in his fight against the rebels. Over 1,000 members of the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group entered Syria in the past few days via waterways in the Mediterranean Sea, the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported on Sunday.
 
According to the report, around 1,200 fighters arrived at Syria's Tartus port in order to fight alongside regime troops.
 
The armed members who arrived from Lebanon to Syria committed "a hideous crime" in the town of Talkalkh, the daily said, adding that tens of thousands of fighters entered from Iraq to aid the Syrian regime.
 
The daily quoted sources as having said that the regime in Damascus "is resorting to the aid of fighters from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which implies that the Syrian recruits' desire to fight alongside the regime is decreasing."
 
The source added that reservists are also not complying with the army command's repeated calls to join the regime troops in their fighting.
 
The regime has also been arresting men in their forties and forcing them to join recruitment camps so they join the fighting between regime troops and the rebels, Al-Watan reported.
 
Last week, twelve members of the Hizbullah terrorist group were killed in an ambush near Damascus.
 
More than 20 other Hizbullah members, part of a military brigade deployed in Syria to defend Assad, were also wounded in the attack, according to sources in the terror group.
 
Last July, as the ongoing civil war in Syria continued, the terror group led by Hassan Nasrallah publicly offered to place itself at Assad’s disposal.
 
But already several months earlier, a soldier from the Free Syrian Army told The Independent newspaper, published in the UK, that Hizbullah's Shiite Muslim terrorists are full military allies of the Syrian army and that "everyone knows they have fighters there."
 
On Tuesday, Bahrain became the first Arab country to blacklist Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.
 
Its alleged backing and training of radical Shiite groups against Bahrain was the main reason given for the decision, the report said.
 
The United States, Canada and Israel have long blacklisted the Shiite group, but in Europe, only the Netherlands lists Hizbullah as a terrorist group, while Britain blacklists its military wing.
 
In recent months, pressure on the European Union to add Hizbullah to the list of recognized terror groups has increased, particularly since Bulgaria named the terror group as being behind the terrorist attack in Burgas last July, in which five Israelis were killed.
 
However, diplomats have indicated that it is unlikely that Europe will name Hizbullah a terrorist organization because of its political strength in Lebanon.

Rebels clash with Syrian government forces AFP file

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 April 2013 13:15
Rebels clash with Syrian government forces - AFPPresident Barack Obama authorized the release of as much as $10 million in additional aid to rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday, as calls continued for the U.S. to arm the rebels.
 
The president, in a directive to the secretaries of state and defense, said the U.S. would draw on the inventories of government agencies to provide “nonlethal commodities and services” as well as food and medical supplies, Bloomberg reported.
 
“The humanitarian crisis has gotten worse” in Syria, Obama told reporters at the White House before starting a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The president said he and Ban share the view that the conflict there is “at a critical juncture.”
 
Senator Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, said he will introduce legislation to allow the U.S. to provide weapons to the Syrian opposition.
 
“The time has come, in some form, to provide military aid,” to Syrian rebels, Menendez said at a committee hearing, according to Bloomberg. The chairman also proposed that the U.S. give Syrian rebels training and intelligence on the Assad regime’s assets.
 
"Shouldn't we do something to prevent this massive slaughter that's going on?" said Senator John McCain during a heated exchange that ended with him walking out of the hearing, as Elizabeth Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, was replying to one of his questions.
 
The administration is discussing different ways to step up support for rebels who are demanding more U.S. involvement in the two-year conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people.
 
The UK and France are pushing to lift a European Union arms embargo on Syria and already supply rebels with military-style equipment such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.
 
Syrian opposition leaders renewed their appeals for arms at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, but the White House has been reluctant to do more because weapons could end up in the hands of Islamic terrorists.
 
A statement on Wednesday by the head of Syria's jihadist Al-Nusra Front pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri will only increase Western doubts about arming the rebels.
 
The statement came several days after leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, Ayman al-Zawahiri, urged rebels to fight to establish an Islamic state in Syria.
 
Islamist rebel groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which has links to Al-Qaeda, have eschewed the main opposition National Coalition.
 
Al-Nusra is one of 13 factions in the radical Islamist rebel council that announced its secession from the main opposition force and declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.

Watchdog: Southern Syria Army Assault Kills 57

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 April 2013 12:03
Free Syrian Army fighter - ReutersSix children were among at least 57 people killed in southern Syria as the army launched an all-out assault on two towns in Daraa province, a watchdog said on Thursday.
 
"At least six children, seven women, 16 rebel fighters, 16 other unidentified men and 12 army troops were killed on Wednesday, in fighting, shelling and summary executions waged after the army launched an assault on Al-Sanamein and Ghabagheb," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP the army's assault came a day after a dozen troops defected from a nearby military post to join the rebels.
 
"The defectors took refuge in the area of Al-Sanamein and Ghabagheb, which up until then had remained somewhat more calm than other areas of Daraa," said Abdel Rahman.
 
"The army launched its assault, and shelled several houses," he added.
 
Nationwide, at least 179 people were killed in violence on Wednesday -- 50 civilians, 86 rebels and 43 soldiers, the Observatory said.
 
On Thursday, at least four military personnel were killed when rebels shot down a helicopter delivering supplies to besieged troops in Idlib province in the northwest, the Observatory said, according to AFP.
 
Rebels have laid siege to the sprawling Wadi Deif camp for several months and its garrison can only be resupplied by air.

UN Warns Libyan Weapons Spreading to Gaza, Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 11 April 2013 07:50
Rebels Control Chemical FactoryA United Nations panel says weaponry from Libya is spreading across North Africa to Gaza and Syria “at an alarming rate.”
 
The five-expert committee said in a 94-page report sent Tuesday to the U.N. Security Council that illegal transfers of arms from Libya to armed groups and terrorists have been proven. 
 
The arms trafficking violations involved more than 12 countries and included light and heavy ordnance, such as portable air defense systems, mines, explosive materials, ammunition and small arms.
 
The panel made 28 visits to 15 nations in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Ten of those visits were within Libya alone, The Washington Post reported.
 
“Libya has over the past two years become a significant and attractive source of weaponry in the region,” since the fall of 41-year Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011," the report said. “The lack of an effective security system remains one of the primary obstacles to securing military materiel and controlling the borders.”
 
Last November, Cairo blocked two arms shipments to Gaza from Libya, with security forces arresting smugglers as they intercepted a large weapons shipment headed for Sinai from Libya. The move followed the ceasefire agreement that ended Operation Pillar of Defense against Gaza terrorist rocket fire on southern Israel.
 
The areas into which Libyan arms have flowed included West Africa, the Levant “and potentially even the Horn of Africa,” the report noted. “Illicit flows from the country are fueling existing conflicts in Africa and the Levant and enriching the arsenals of a range of non-state actors, including terrorist groups.” 
 
The panel also warned that armed terrorist groups in Libya, who it said are the best financed, are strengthening their position.
 
“The lack of political and security stability, the continuing absence of control over stockpiles by the national authorities and delays in disarmament and weapons collections encourage illicit trading and have generated considerable money-making opportunities for traffickers,” the report said.
 
On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, torching the compound and murdering four American diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. For more than six months prior to the attack, Stevens and other diplomats on the team repeatedly had urged the State Department to beef up defenses at the Consulate, warning the security situation in Libya had deteriorated. Their pleas were ignored.
 
British officials warned UK citizens in January of this year to leave the area immediately due to a concrete terrorist threat as well. An advisory by the British Foreign Office has already been in effect against trips to Benghazi and most of the rest of the country since last September following the Al Qaeda attack on the U.S. Consulate.
 
Likewise, Italy closed its consulate in eastern Libya in January for similar reasons. 
 
"The Italian government has temporarily suspended activity at the consulate in Benghazi for security reasons. The staff will return to Italy in the next few hours," the ministry said in a statement. Consul Guido De Sanctis's bullet-proof car came under fire in the latest of a series of attacks targeting foreign missions and security officials. The consul escaped unharmed.

Al-Qaeda Chief Wants Islamic State in Syria

Category: News
Created on Monday, 08 April 2013 09:13
Ayman al-Zawahiri - terrorist leaderThe leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has urged rebels to fight to establish an Islamic state in Syria, AFP reported.
 
The message came in an online audio message Sunday, in which the Al-Qaeda chief also warned France against its military intervention in Mali.
 
"Let your fight be in the name of Allah and with the aim of establishing Allah's sharia (law) as the ruling system," he said, in his first message posted on the Internet since last November.
 
"Do all that you can so that your holy war yields a jihadist Islamic state," said Zawahiri, adding that such a state would help to re-establish the Islamic "caliphate" system of rule.
 
"The enemy has begun to reel and collapse," he said, referring to forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
Islamist rebel groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which has links to Al-Qaeda, have eschewed the main opposition National Coalition.
 
Al-Nusra is one of 13 factions in the radical Islamist rebel council that announced its secession from the main opposition force and declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.
 
Zawahiri's message will not sit easily with Western powers, who have expressed fears of extremist Islamism playing a growing role in the Syrian conflict and are reluctant to arm the rebels on the ground.
 
Assad's regime has long dismissed the rebels as "terror" groups backed by Western powers and driven by Al-Qaeda-style ideologies.
 
The United Nations says more than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria's two-year conflict, which broke out after the army unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent, turning the uprising into a bloody insurgency.
 
Zawahiri in his message also warned France over its military involvement against Islamists in Mali, AFP reported, saying it will be defeated in the same way, according to him, the Americans were defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
"I call upon our Muslim nation in Mali to hold and be patient, and hopefully, effect a new defeat to the global crusade," said Zawahiri.

Hamas Training Syrian Rebels in Damascus

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 07 April 2013 09:08
Syria fightingHamas, a former ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, is now training the rebel Free Syrian Army in eastern Damascus, according to a report Friday in the British Times.
 
Diplomatic sources told the newspaper that members of Hamas’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades were training FSA units in the rebel-held neighborhoods of Yalda, Jaramana and Babbila.
 
The development confirms that Hamas, the terror group that runs Gaza, has broken with its former Syrian host and fully embraced the patronage of Qatar, a major financial and logistical backer of some rebel factions.
 
"The Qassam Brigades have been training units very close to Damascus. These are specialists. They are really good," a Western diplomat with high-level contacts in the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition who visits Damascus regularly told the Times.
 
Other sources suggested to the newspaper that Hamas trainers were helping the FSA to dig tunnels beneath at least one contested area of Damascus. in preparation for a widely expected assault on the city center.
 
A source from the Ain al-Hilweh “Palestinian refugee” camp located in Lebanon told the Times it was common knowledge that a few hundred Hamas terrorists were fighting alongside the FSA in the Yarmouk and Neirab camps in Damascus and Aleppo.
 
Hamas, meanwhile, has vehemently denied any such link. Osama Hamdan, a leading Hamas official based in Lebanon, told the Times, "It's a false thing. There are no members of Ezzedine al-Qassam or any militant members of Hamas in Syria.
 
"We don't interfere in the internal problems of Syria,” he claimed. “Our members there are normal civilians, Syrian Palestinians, who live with their families there. From the beginning of what has happened in Syria, we rejected as a movement any involvement of any Palestinian in the current events in Syria."
 
In the first months of the uprising in Syria, Hamas’s leaders expressed support in principle for the struggle of the Syrian people while also highlighting the importance of the movement’s historical relationship with the Syrian regime.
 
However, as the rift deepened, reports surfaced that Hamas is moving its headquarters from Damascus to Egypt and the terror group is strengthening itself in the Sinai and in Qatar.
 
Some reports claimed that the Damascus-based Hamas leadership left Syria after the Syrian government asked the Hamas leaders to leave. In November, Syrian security forces shut down all the offices belonging to Hamas in the country.
 
The Assad regime has fiercely criticized Mashaal's decision to break with the regime, recalling Damascus's willingness to host the Hamas leader when other regional capitals refused to do so.
 
This week, a Syrian regime newspaper slammed Hamas and its leader, Khaled Mashaal, for breaking with Damascus, accusing them of giving up on resistance against Israel.
 
Hamas has shifted "the gun from the shoulder of resistance (against Israel) to the shoulder of compromise", the Al-Thawra daily said.
 
"Today, as Mashaal becomes the head of Hamas for the fifth time... the West Bank, Gaza and the whole of occupied Palestine have no reason to celebrate," wrote the newspaper.
 
Mashaal "cannot believe his luck. After an acclaimed history of struggle, he has returned to the safe Qatari embrace, wealthy and fattened in the age of the Arab Spring's storms," the newspaper added.

North Africa Al-Qaeda Branch Launches Twitter Account

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 31 March 2013 20:05
Twitter icon - AFPIraqi Influx Doubles Syrian Al Qaeda-Linked Rebel Faction
 
Syria’s Al Nusra Front, allied with Al Qaeda, has more than doubled and is continuing to grow with the influx of jihadists from abroad.
 
Chana Ya'ar
 
Syria’s Al Nusra Front rebel faction, allied with Al Qaeda, has more than doubled and is continuing to grow with the influx of Syrian jihadists returning from abroad.
 
The group was the lead faction among those who recently invaded the buffer zone along the Syrian-Jordanian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights.
 
Listed in the United States as an officially banned terrorist organization, Al Nusra Front has become increasingly attractive to individual jihadists and small radical Islamist groups.
 
The most recent recruits flowing in are Sunni Muslims previously sent to Iraq to advance the interests of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report published Thursday in the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.
 
According to the report, jihadists have been flowing into Syria in “small numbers and isolated groups,” and thus their movements have remained largely under the radar of the international community until late last year.
 
Prior to its decision to list Al Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization, Turkey reportedly warned the U.S. government that doing so would increase the group’s “popularity” and raise its attraction for Al Qaeda-linked jihadists in the region.
 
Al Nusra does not cooperate with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), which fights on behalf of the more “moderate” Syrian National Coalition (SNC).
 
But there have been several occasions upon which the FSA has collaborated with Al Nusra, specifically in the conquest of Raqa, and in attacks on Aleppo. Most recently, the jihadists have had open access to the no-man’s-land buffer zone between Syria and Israel – an area that until recently was considered off limits to anyone but the United Nations peacekeepers’ force.
 
SNC coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib has urged the U.S. to reconsider its blacklisting of Al Nusra, and issued a statement in December 2012 warning his Western backers: “We can have ideological and political differences with certain parties, but the revolutionaries all share the same goal: to overthrow the criminal regime (of President Bashar al-Assad).”

Iraqi Influx Doubles Syrian Al Qaeda-Linked Rebel Faction

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 30 March 2013 16:23
Al Nusra terrorist in Raqa - ReutersSyria’s Al Nusra Front rebel faction, allied with Al Qaeda, has more than doubled and is continuing to grow with the influx of Syrian jihadists returning from abroad.
 
The group was the lead faction among those who recently invaded the buffer zone along the Syrian-Jordanian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights.
 
Listed in the United States as an officially banned terrorist organization, Al Nusra Front has become increasingly attractive to individual jihadists and small radical Islamist groups.
 
The most recent recruits flowing in are Sunni Muslims previously sent to Iraq to advance the interests of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report published Thursday in the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.
 
According to the report, jihadists have been flowing into Syria in “small numbers and isolated groups,” and thus their movements have remained largely under the radar of the international community until late last year.
 
Prior to its decision to list Al Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization, Turkey reportedly warned the U.S. government that doing so would increase the group’s “popularity” and raise its attraction for Al Qaeda-linked jihadists in the region.
 
Al Nusra does not cooperate with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), which fights on behalf of the more “moderate” Syrian National Coalition (SNC).
 
But there have been several occasions upon which the FSA has collaborated with Al Nusra, specifically in the conquest of Raqa, and in attacks on Aleppo. Most recently, the jihadists have had open access to the no-man’s-land buffer zone between Syria and Israel – an area that until recently was considered off limits to anyone but the United Nations peacekeepers’ force.
 
SNC coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib has urged the U.S. to reconsider its blacklisting of Al Nusra, and issued a statement in December 2012 warning his Western backers: “We can have ideological and political differences with certain parties, but the revolutionaries all share the same goal: to overthrow the criminal regime (of President Bashar al-Assad).”

Syria Slams Arab League for 'Giving Away' its Seat to Rebels

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 28 March 2013 06:56
Syrias rebels commit another war crimeThe ruling regime in Syria had harsh words Monday for a decision by the Arab League to hand over Syria's seat in the League to representatives of rebel groups in the country. In an editorial, the state newspaper Tishrin said that the move was “an attempt by Qatar and the rest of the traitorous Arab states to force a political reality in Syria, and this is a political crime against Syria.”
 
The editorial added that the League had transferred the seat “stolen from Syria into the hands of criminals and violent groups.”
 
Meanwhile, the military leader of the largest rebel group in Syria, Riad al-Ass'ad, was badly injured in an explosion Sunday. The vehicle that he was riding in blew up after a bomb was placed next to it. One of Ass'ad's assistants was also injured in the blast. A report in Arab media said that Ass'ad was being treated in a Turkish hospital..
The report quoted rebel groups as saying that “the attempts by President Assad to kill the military leader Riad al-Ass'ad was part of the government's efforts to punish citizens of Syria for their support of the rebel groups.”

Syrian Cleric Supported Blowing Up American and Israeli Targets

Category: Islam
Created on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:35
Mohamed al-BoutiA Syrian Sunni cleric who was killed last week in a suicide bomb attack on a central Damascus mosque has in the past expressed support for Hizbullah and advocated for bombing American and Israeli targets around the world.
 
The cleric, Mohamed al-Bouti, was one of 42 people who were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque last Thursday. Bouti was the most senior pro-regime Sunni cleric in Syria.
 
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) posted to YouTube two clips in which Bouti is seen supporting terrorists.
 
In the first clip, which aired on the Hizbullah terrorist group’s Al-Manar TV in August 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Bouti said, “The enemy in this war appears to be Israel, but, as everyone knows, the fighting enemy is actually America. Israel is merely the claw of America in this war.”
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He then stated, “I hold that people who cannot stand with the Islamic resistance, but can carry out, in their countries and in other places actions that would in some way paralyze this enemy -  they should indeed paralyze the enemies’ interests and destroy their facilities wherever they may be.”
{youtube}ZloCNiOW88k{/youtube}
In a second clip which aired on Al-Azhari TV in 2010, Bouti said, “Many Western European societies – and the American leadership, in particular – characterizes Jihad that was ordained by Allah as terroristic. They link terrorism to crime. They have instilled within the word ‘terrorism’ the meaning of crime, extremism, and deviation from humanity, and so on.”
 
He added, “We discovered that there is a form of terrorism that is legitimate – a terrorism that is necessary and may even be described as sacred. Indeed.
 
“We have examined cases of the terrorism practiced by America, which purports to be fighting terrorism. In contrast to the first type of terrorism, which is acknowledged by the legal and educational principles, and which we have termed ‘sacred terrorism,’ the [American] terrorism is undoubtedly filthy and impure,” said Bouti.

Assad vows to "cleanse" Syria of extremists following cleric killing

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 March 2013 13:12
Bashar al-Assad 0Syria’s president has vowed to rid the country of Muslim extremists whom he blamed for a suicide bombing that killed over 40 people, including a top Sunni preacher.
 
"I present my condolences to the Syrian people for the martyrdom of Sheikh Mohamed Saeed al-Bouti, a great figure in Syria and the Islamic world," he said in a statement issued by the presidency overnight. "Those who killed you think they are silencing the voice of Islam and belief in the Syrian nation... they killed you for raising your voice against their ignorant and obscurantist ideas which are intended to destroy the principles of our tolerant religion."
 
Assad’s statement came hours after the explosion ripped through a mosque in the heart of Damascus, killing Bouti.
It was one of the most stunning assassinations of the two-year civil war and the first time a suicide bomber struck inside a mosque.
 
"I swear to the Syrian people that your blood, and that of your grandson and all the martyrs of the homeland, will not be spilled in vain because we will be faithful to your ideas by destroying their extremism and ignorance until we have cleansed the country," Assad said.
 
On Friday, state news agency SANA said the toll had risen to 49, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog putting the number of dead at 46. It was reported that more than 84 people were wounded.
 
Bouti was Syria's most prominent pro-regime Sunni cleric, and his weekly sermons were frequently broadcast on Syrian television. He called on Syrians to join the army to fight the uprising against the regime and was reviled by the opposition.

Syria's ancient city of Palmyra on brink of destruction

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Friday, 15 March 2013 21:06
ancient city of PalmyraAs the Syrian crisis enters its third year, an end to the violence in the country is nowhere to be seen. The world has become accustomed to rising death tolls and reports of shelling and destruction. However, another threat looms in Syria, and this time it is targeting its cultural heritage.
 
Palmyra, one of the oldest cities in the country, has been subjected to intermittent shelling by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
 
The ruins of the city, which is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, date back thousands of years. “Bombs and rockets come in all directions,” eyewitnesses said.
 
Assad forces have struck the Roman Temple of Bel – built in 43 A.C. – and damaged its northern wall, eyewitnesses said, adding portions and stones of the wall have been destroyed.
 
The Fakhreddine II citadel, Al-Basateen and the Monumental Arch, under which Romans’ Queen Zenobia’s celebrations took place, have also suffered their fair share of destruction.
According to the eyewitnesses, priceless sculptures and statues had been stolen from the ancient city’s museum.
 
Meanwhile, Palmyra, swarming with tanks, no longer hosts tourists. Its hotels, once full of curious visitors, are now empty only to harbor soldiers on their roofs.
 
In early March, one of the oldest Synagogues in the worlds was destroyed by regime forces in the Damascus district of Jobar.
Syria’s civil war has caused damage to six World Heritage sites in the country with shelling and open fire between opposition fighters and the regime forces. Numerous historic buildings, archaeological sites and residential areas are being left in ruins.
 
On 30 March 2012, UNESCO called for the protection of Syria’s cultural heritage sites and expressed “grave concern about possible damage to precious sites.”

Syria’s Brotherhood calls for action amid escalating violence

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 18:18
TerroristsSyria’s Muslim Brotherhood called on Wednesday for a week of action both in the strife-torn country and elsewhere to mark the two years since the revolt broke out against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
“We in the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria declare the week following March 15 a national week of solidarity with the Syrian people and their blessed revolution,” AFP quoted the exiled opposition group as saying.
 
“We call on the heroic Syrian people to bring back to life all aspects of the uprising... inspired by the spirit of real national unity, speaking in one voice,” a statement added.
 
Protesters in towns and cities across Syria have taken to the streets every Friday since March 15, 2011 to call for the fall of Assad.
 
The banned Muslim Brotherhood was forced out of Syria by Assad’s father and predecessor Hafez after the brutal repression of an Islamist-led anti-regime movement in the early 1980s.
 
Dissidents say the group plays a significant role in the opposition today.
 
In its statement, the Brotherhood also called on “people in Arab and Islamic countries, and on free people everywhere in the world... to consider March 15 to 22 a week of global support to the Syrian people... with marches, demonstrations and sit-ins.”
 
The organization also renewed its criticism of the international community’s paralysis over the Syrian crisis.
 
“The Syrian people, men, women, old and young, carry out wonderful acts of bravery and make sacrifices, holding out despite the regime's massacres and its crimes against defenseless civilians,” said the Brotherhood.
 
But “the international community has watched and listened on, failing the Syrian people, and failing to fulfill its legal and humanitarian responsibilities,” it added.
 
Fierce battles in Damascus
 
Meanwhile, Syrian government troops fought fierce battles with rebels on Wednesday for control of key neighborhoods in the north of Damascus, Assad’s seat of power, the Associated Press reported residents and activists as saying.
 
Opposition fighters trying to topple Assad have been trying to take Damascus for weeks, battering regime checkpoints and military bases in the heavily fortified capital. They have also fired mortars into residential districts and into the capital’s main football stadium, sowing fear among residents.
 
Both sides see Damascus as the ultimate prize in the civil war.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday’s clashes were concentrated in the capital’s neighborhoods of Jobar and Barzeh.
 
A resident in the area said shelling overnight “shook apartments” and terrified the inhabitants. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was afraid for his safety.
 
Clashes subsided by early Wednesday but sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the contested districts.
 
A car bomb exploded outside a police station in Khan Sheih neighborhood, west of Damascus, the Observatory said. The Britain-based activist group also said fierce clashes broke out after the blast but had no immediate reports of casualties.
 
Fighting also raged in other Syrian cities, including in Homs, where the regime pounded rebel positions with artillery and carried out several airstrikes on the Baba Amr district, a former rebel stronghold which the opposition has tried to recapture in the past days.
 
First death of EU employee
 
Also in the Syrian capital, a European Union staff member was killed in a rocket attack in an opposition stronghold south of the capital, the EU said.
In Brussels, the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said a policy officer with the European delegation in Syria was killed on Tuesday in the Damascus suburb of Daraya. It was the first death in the Syrian civil war of an EU employee.
 
Ahmad Shihadeh, 32, had worked for the EU for five years, a spokesman for Ashton said Wednesday. He said Shihadeh had lived in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus that has been one of the main battlefields in the capital.
 
Ashton said he “died while providing humanitarian help to the community of Daraya,” Ashton said. “Ahmad was known for his courage and selflessness.”
The neighboring countries also saw the spilling over of the conflict. 
 
The U.N. refugee Chief Antonio Guterres says his agency is working with Jordan to bolster security at a camp for Syrian refugees where reports of drug trafficking, prostitution and other crimes have emerged.
Syria’s uprising morphed into an insurgency after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent. The conflict has left some 70,000 people dead, the U.N. says.

PA Arabs Nabbed in Egypt, Suspected of Spying

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 17:31
PA Terrorists (file)Seven Palestinian Authority Arabs have been arrested by Egypt security forces on suspicion of carrying out a military reconnaissance mission. It is not clear for whom they may have been spying.
 
The men were stopped at Cairo airport, and held after their arrival Wednesday from Syria and Iran. 
 
All were found to be carrying fake passports, according to the source, as well as maps of “vital state facilities.”  
 
Passport officers suspected the seven after learning they had entered Iran, despite not finding Iranian entry stamps in their passports, an Egyptian intelligence source told The Egypt Independent.
 
A separate source told the Turkish news agency Anadolu the suspects had initially entered Egypt through underground tunnels from Gaza before heading to Syria and Iran. They returned to Syria and then to Egypt from Syria, this time by aircraft.
 
They are suspected of collecting material on sensitive military installations in Egypt, the sources said, adding the seven are being interrogated about their reasons for possessing the maps.

Syria Ready to Fight Rebels 'For Years'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 10:36
Damascus Carnage May10 2012Syria warned Tuesday that it is ready to fight "for years" against rebels, as world powers worked on a new initiative to find regime officials suitable for peace talks with the opposition, AFP reports.
 
The pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said the army was "in perfect condition" and that it "has at its disposal enough men and weapons to fight for years to defend Syria."
 
Syria "is in a state of war" and "facing a real invasion," the paper said, stressing citizens could also join in the battle.
 
President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, which has consistently blamed foreign powers for the violence, also sent letters to the UN urging "pressure on certain Arab and Western countries that supply aid to terrorism," reported AFP.
 
Meanwhile in Geneva, said the report, UNESCO sent out an SOS that a whole generation of Syrian children could disappear.
 
The UN children's agency UNICEF said an entire generation risked being lost in the spiralling conflict between Assad's forces and insurgents.
 
"As the crisis in Syria enters its third, tragic year without any end in sight, the risk of a lost generation grows every hour, every day and every month," UNICEF spokesman Patrick McCormick said.
 
"We cannot afford to lose any more time. We certainly cannot afford to lose another year. We risk creating a generation of children who have seen, or know, only fighting, and may well end up perpetuating that cycle of violence," he added, according to AFP.
 
UNICEF pointed out that nearly half of the four million in dire need of aid inside Syria are under the age of 18, and 536,000 of them are children under five.
 
As the bloodletting approached a third year without a solution in sight, France said it was working with Russia and the United States to draw up a list of regime officials with whom the opposition can negotiate.
 
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said "we worked together on an idea... of a list of Syrian officials who would be acceptable to Syria's opposition National Coalition."
 
Opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib has offered to talk to regime representatives without "blood on their hands."
 
Britain said it would consider ignoring a European Union arms ban and could supply weapons to rebels if it would help topple Assad.
 
Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped London could persuade its EU partners "if and when it becomes necessary (to provide weapons) they'll agree with us."
 
Meanwhile in Homs, fighting focused on Khaldiyeh, with regime forces backed by tanks pounding the northern district, reported AFP.
 
"Troops launched rockets from the Baath University into parts of Baba Amr," said the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
 
Battles also raged on the road linking Damascus to the airport, said the watchdog. Rebels have been trying to seize control of the road for months.
 
Fighting returned this week to the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, which has been dubbed 'capital of the revolution'.
 
Regime troops seized Baba Amr from rebels just over a year ago after a bloody month-long siege that left the district in ruins and claimed hundreds of lives, including those of two foreign journalists.

Syrian Rebels Vow to Conquer Golan, Refugees Refuse Israeli Aid

Category: News
Created on Monday, 11 March 2013 18:20
Golan HeightsSyrian refugees might be desperate, injured and even starving – but they won’t accept Israeli aid, as rebels vow to reconquer the Golan Heights.
 
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says Israel has offered to send humanitarian aid into Syria via the International Committee of the Red Cross, as the desperation of civilians fleeing the violence grows. Nevertheless, Palmor told the Turkish Hurriyet daily newspaper, the refugees are still unwilling to accept assistance from Israel, which had coordinated with the Red Cross to send humanitarian aid into the country.
 
But at the private level, aid organizations are coordinating between Israel and Jordan to provide assistance to the refugees who have crossed the border into the Hashemite Kingdom, Palmor noted. “This shows that the Israeli public wants to help Syrians no matter what politics dictates,” he pointed out. Jordan cannot possibly provide on its own all the assistance the refugees need, its own officials have repeatedly pointed out.
 
But while Israelis are trying to help those who have been mistreated the most by the Syrian government, and hurt the worst by the savage civil war raging across the border, Syrian rebel fighters are vowing to wage war against Israel once their battle against President Bashar al-Assad is over.
 
In a video posted on the Internet a couple of weeks ago, a small group of jihadist rebel fighters was filmed against the backdrop of the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights – the buffer zone that for some 40 years has served to keep the border quiet between Syria and Israel.
 
“We are in the occupied Golan Heights, which the traitor [former President] Hafez Assad (the present president’s father) sold to Israel 40 years ago,” a rebel spokesman tells the viewer, waving around his assault weapon. These lands are blessed and the despicable Assad family promised to liberate them, but for 40 years the Syrian army did not fire a single bullet.
 
“We will open a military campaign against Israel,” the bearded rebel spokesman vows, as his fellow fighters fire their weapons, some of them yelling “Allahu Akbar!” (Allah is Great).  We will fire the bullets that Assad did not, and we will liberate the Golan.”
 
On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned that terrorist groups fighting Assad's regime alongside other rebels are "becoming stronger" and voiced concern they could turn on Israel in the future.    "The situation in Syria has become exceptionally dangerous. The terrorist organizations are becoming stronger on the ground," he told AFP. "Now they are fighting against Assad but in the future they could turn against us." 
 
Israel’s military establishment has been preparing for some time for the day that Bashar al-Assad may fall, with IDF units carrying out military exercises throughout the country.
 
In the northern Negev, the sounds of artillery fire could be heard echoing through the hills of the wadis in the early hours of the morning on Monday, as troops prepared for the possibility of battle in the Golan Heights.
 
As early as July 2012, IDF military intelligence director Maj.-Gen. Avi Kochavi warned that Al Qaeda operatives had moved into the buffer zone and was transforming it into a staging area for future attacks on Israel. Kochavi likened the situation to that taking place in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, noting that just as the Cairo government was finding it difficult to extend its authority to the lawless Sinai, so too Damascus seems no longer able to control rebel forces in the demilitarized zone of the Golan Heights.
 
Another sign of the chaos is last week's kidnapping of 21 United Nations peacekeepers, held by rebels for three days in southern Syria. The Filipino peacekeepers - part of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that has been monitoring the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights since 1974 - were seized by the Martyrs of Yarmouk rebel brigade on Wednesday. They crossed into Jordan on Saturday, having been freed after extensive negotiations. 
 
A flood of foreign jihadists – most linked to Al Qaeda -- has flowed into Syria to join the rebels in the battle against Assad loyalists, just as Iranian-backed Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist guerrilla fighters and elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards have joined forces with the Syrian Army soldiers.
 
Kochavi has estimated that should Assad fall, both local and foreign rebels would aim straight at Israel with the huge caches of ordnance that have been stockpiled along the border.
 
Meanwhile, the United States, Britain and France have begun training and equipping Syrian rebel fighters in Jordan at special military camps, albeit opposition fighters affiliated with “moderate, mainstream” groups and not those linked to the radical Islamist camps. At least 200 members of the Free Syrian Army have already received training so far, with plans for a total of 1,200 FSA members to be trained by the project’s end. 

Syrian Rebels Hang 'Palestinian Refugees' who Aided Assad

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 03 March 2013 10:17
Residents of the Yarmouk camp in Damascus - AFPSyrian rebels on Saturday hanged two Arabs registered as “Palestinian refugees” at a camp in Damascus on suspicion of aiding the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a rights watchdog said, according to AFP.
 
"Rebels in the Yarmouk camp executed two men accused of cooperating with the regime by identifying targets that were bombed last week," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"They were hanged from trees in the camp," added the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground to collect information. It provided a picture illustrating the hangings, reported AFP.
 
The Observatory says hangings of people suspected of working for the regime have been reported in Hama and Aleppo, but this was the first time that such an execution was announced along with a picture.
 
Yarmouk is a suburb of Damascus that began as a refugee camp for Arabs who had fled Israel in times of war, and their descendants. It has become a regular site of clashes between pro- and anti-regime supporters.
 
Yarmouk became a ghost town in December, with some 90 percent of its people having fled the violence. Many of the residents later returned as the fighting died down.

Syria Jihadists Claim Bus Bombing on Hama Factory

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 08:53
Syrian explosion - ReutersThe jihadist Al-Nusra Front on Sunday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack earlier this month on an army factory in the central Syrian province of Hama that reportedly killed at least 60 people.
 
"Thank God, your brothers in Al-Nusra Front... carried out a martyrdom (suicide) operation that targeted an army factory in the town of Tal Baraq in Hama province," on February 6, the jihadist group said in a statement posted on the Internet, as quoted by AFP.
 
According to its account, one of its fighters "drove a bus loaded with 2.5 tons of explosives" towards a group of "shabiha," or pro-regime militiamen, as they gathered outside the factory to receive their pay, and blew himself up.
 
Al-Nusra said the attack was "in revenge for the Muslim children of the Sunni community who suffered from the crimes of the Alawites and their collaborators."
 
he majority of Syria's rebels -- like the population -- are Sunni Muslim, while President Bashar al-Assad belongs to the minority Alawite community.
 
Al-Nusra, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, has claimed responsibility for the majority of suicide attacks in Syria's continually deteriorating conflict, which the UN says has left some 70,000 people dead in two years.
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 60 people were killed in the factory attack. All the victims were civilian workers at the factory that produced army uniforms, it said, according to the news agency's report, 

Obama may reconsider arming opposition forces in Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 09:11
muslim-brotherhood-receives-157-billionWith the situation in Syria continually deteriorating, U.S. officials could re-open the debate on whether to provide weapons to select members of the opposition, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
 
U.S. President Barack Obama, reluctant to be drawn into a proxy war, has previously rebuffed those in his administration who want to arm the opposition. There is also concern that weapons could be used against Israeli interests.
 
However, with a new U.S. administration, and a Syrian death toll approaching 70,000, the impetus towards arming opposition groups could be revived. 
 
“This is not a closed decision,” said a senior administration official. “As the situation evolves, as our confidence increases, we might revisit it.” 
 
European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to “provide greater nonlethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians.”
 
Some analysts say the United States must foster a relationship with opposition forces in Syria.
 
“The odds are very high that, for better or worse, armed men will determine Syria’s course for the foreseeable future,” Frederic C. Hof, a former senior State Department official and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, was quoted by the NYT as saying. “For the U.S. not to have close, supportive relationships with armed elements, carefully vetted, is very risky.”
 
Training the opposition in judicial and legal matters is also important, as the Free Syrian Army has captured prisoners and detained criminals in the areas they control, Hof added.
 
Despite the White House’s reluctance to send weapons, Russia and Iran have displayed no such qualms in support of the Syrian regime.
 
U.S. divisions
The former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, support the arming of Syria’s opposition as a way to create allies and influence the military situation inside the country without American boots on the ground.
 
However, like Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Susan Rise, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, are against the proposal. Rice had pushed for military action in Libya during its revolution.
 
“In a situation as chaotic as Syria’s, you don’t know where weapons might end up, and what the consequences are if those weapons are used against civilians, against Israel, against American interests,” said an official on condition of anonymity. 
 
Secretary of State John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, the president’s nominee for defense secretary, have differing opinions on what role the United States should play in foreign politics. Hagel is said to be reluctant to become entangled in the affairs of other countries, the NYT reports. 
 
Despite a recent focus on domestic politics by the newly re-inaugurated president, policy towards Syria is constantly under inspection as the death toll rises. 
 
“We have consistently looked at all elements of our Syria policy, including what we can and should supply to the opposition,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor.

Region's Armies All on High Alert

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 04 February 2013 11:26
Members of the Al-Baraa bin Malek batallion - AFPThe armies of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are all on high alert, a report in a Lebanese newspaper said Sunday. The report in Ad-Diar said that the alerts were due to Israel's attack on a Syrian missile transport and, according to Syrian claims, an attack on a sensitive Syrian military installation.
 
The report said that the Syrian army has instructed its units to break up into smaller groups, “similar to what Hizbullah has done in south Lebanon.” The strategy is designed to protect troops in the wake of another possible Israeli attack, the report said.
 
The report added that Syrian troops had joined Hizbullah terrorists in several areas of south Lebanon. According to the report, the Syrian and Hizbullah forces were stationed very close to the Israeli border, in the area of Har Dov (also known as “Sheba Farms”). The Lebanese and Jordanian armies are also on high alert over the possibility of a clash between Israel and Syria in the area.
 
Unconfirmed Lebanese reports said that Israeli warplanes had been seen over Lebanon earlier Sunday.
 
Syria has threatened to retaliate against Israel for the attack. Israel has not commented on the attack, and has not officially confirmed its involvement, although Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier Sunday hinted at the possibility that Israel did carry out the attack.

Syrian Rebels 'Steal' Credit from Israel for Attack

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 02 February 2013 15:33
Free Syrian Army fighters pose with their weaponsWhile Russia, Hizbullah, Syria and Lebanon condemned Israel and threatened retaliation over the attack early Wednesday on a convoy carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, and/or of Israel's alleged attack against a military research center, Syrian rebels said that they were condemning and threatening the wrong guys; it wasn't Israel that bombed the convoy, the rebels said. Instead, the credit belongs to them.
 
While Syria said that there had been an Israeli attack, it disputed the target. Western media reported that Israel had attacked a convoy carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to Hizbullah terrorist bases along the border with Lebanon. The US later said that Israel had confirmed this. But in a statement, Syria denied that Israel had struck the missiles, but that it had hit a military research center in a Damascus suburb.
 
At least in the latter case, the rebels said, Syrian officials got it wrong. In a statement, a coalition of rebel groups in the Damascus area said that a statement by Syria attributing the attack to Israel was incorrect. “The attack was carried out by the Sheikh Ahmed Yassin special forces unit, together with the A-Sham Martyrs Brigades. They destroyed the science center at Jumharriya, on the outskirts of Damascus.”
 
According to the rebels, they fired six 120mm rockets and destroyed a large part of the building, which they said was a center of chemical weapons research. The statement added that the building had housed research teams from Russia and Iran, along with large numbers of Hizbullah terrorists.

Hizbullah Already Has Syrian Chemical Weapons

Category: Reports
Created on Saturday, 02 February 2013 15:20
Hizbullah preparing to stage chemical attackAs reports and analyses of what was said to be an Israeli attack on advanced Russian missiles dispatched from Syria to Hizbullah terrorist bases along the border with Lebanon, Syrian rebels said that Hizbullah had already received numerous advanced weapons from Syria – including chemical weapons. A report in a Saudi newspaper quoted Syrian rebel groups as saying that Syria had already last year transferred chemical weapons to Hizbullah.
 
Israel has said that transfer of such weapons would be a “red line” which Jerusalem could not ignore, essentially a declaration of war by Syria and Hizbullah against Israel.
 
The report in the Al-Wattan newspaper quoted a rebel spokesperson as saying that the transfer took place over a 40 day period in February and March 2012. The shipment included at least two tons of mustard gas, along long range missiles that could reach within 300 kilometers into Israel that were capable of carrying chemical weapons.
 
On Wednesday, western media reported that Israel had attacked a convoy carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to Hizbullah terrorist bases along the border with Lebanon. The US later said that Israel had confirmed this. But in a statement, Syria denied that Israel had struck the missiles, but that it had hit a military research center in a Damascus suburb. Israel has yet to make a public statement on either allegation.
 
Reports in the American media said that the convoy that was targeted by Israel carried conventional weapons, not chemical weapons. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed American government official as saying that there was “no connection” between Israel's declared intolerance of Syrian chemical weapons and Wednesday's attack.

Syria Airstrike Targeted Chemical Weapons Center

Category: Reports
Created on Thursday, 31 January 2013 07:49
Chemical WeaponsConflicting reports continued on Wednesday night about an air strike in Syria, what exactly was targeted and who carried out the attack.
 
Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that Israel had staged an air raid on a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus.
 
While the statement by the Syrian military claimed that the target was “a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” a Lebanese news website on Wednesday night quoted a Syrian source as saying that the target of the strike was a chemical weapons center.
 
The source told the Lebanese site that four security guards were killed in the attack and that the blast could be heard as far as Damascus.
 
The Lebanese television network Al-Manar, which belongs to the Hizbullah terrorist group, reported Wednesday evening that four Israeli warplanes had taken part in the airstrike.
 
Meanwhile, the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria denied the reports that Israel had attacked the research center, claiming that they were the ones who attacked the facility.
 
The rebels posted a video allegedly documenting a series of blasts at the center, but the video could not be authenticated.
 
Earlier reports said that Israel had struck a convoy carrying SA-17 missiles, among other things. The SA-17 is a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile.
 
It is not clear at this point which report is the more accurate one, and what actually happened. If the target was indeed a chemical weapons center, it may have been a strike to prevent Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal from falling into the hands of Hizbullah or into the hands of terrorist groups among the rebels.
 
Reports on the weekend indicated that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had convened a special discussion on issues of defense, attended by defense officials and some of the members of his Cabinet. The meeting centered on the ongoing civil war in Syria and included a discussion of Syria's chemical weapons.
 
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Sunday, “We have been monitoring for a long time the possibility that chemical weapons will fall into the hands of extremist rebels, or worse, into the hands of Hizbullah.”
 
He added, “This is a very disturbing and dangerous situation, and there is consensus and cooperation among all countries in the free world that this should be prevented.”
 
Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which dates back to the 1970s, is the biggest in the Middle East, but its precise scope remains unclear, according to analysts.
 
Some reports have indicated that Assad’s forces have already used non-lethal chemical weapons against rebels.

Salafists Vow to Fight Until There Is 'Islamic State in Syria'

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 09:45
Members of the Free Syrian Army perform prayers in Damascus Reuters"Rami Youssef" is his revolutionary alias. This young man — aged 18 with dark features and a full, circular beard and shaved mustache in the tradition of the Prophet — has been in Turkey for less than a week. His elder brother said of Rami, "He wants to go back to Aleppo tomorrow and continue fighting." Speaking to Al-Monitor on Jan. 15 via Skype from his brother's house in Gaziantep, Rami acknowledged that he is from the al-Suddik brigade of the Ahrar al-Sham Battalions.
 
It is rare for Salafist fighters to speak with reporters. In his conversation with Al-Monitor, Rami Youssef shed light on the origins and objectives of Ahrar al-Sham (Free People of Syria), which was established in late 2011 as a Salafist group, as well as the still-fragmented nature of the Syrian opposition.
 
"We are an Islamic group, and we want to establish an Islamic country when the [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad era ends," said Rami. Rami claimed to have no knowledge of Mouaz Alkhatib, the former imam of a Damascus mosque and the new, internationally recognized leader of the Syrian opposition.
 
"Most of the fighters just fight because Assad is evil, but they don't know anything about this guy or the opposition outside. They just believe Assad needs to go." He then stressed, "We will fight until we establish an Islamic state in Syria. Even the 75% of the Free Syrian Army is fighting with this in mind. We don't want it as strict as Saudi Arabia, but we will not let go until we achieve our goal."
 
Rami told Al-Monitor that three months after Ahrar al-Sham was established, nine trainers arrived from abroad to assist them.
"The leader was of Syrian origin but came from Chechnya. His pseudonym is Abu Maryam," said Rami, when asked what foreign support his group has received. "The others came from Libya, Tunisia and other places. Among other things, they taught us how to promote our organization. People started to join us, and we grew quickly."
 
The founder of Ahrar al-Sham goes by the name Abu Abdallah, but he remains mysterious. No one knows much about him. Even Rami preferred not to talk about him or his whereabouts except to reveal, “He is also from Aleppo.” Rami claimed that there are some 5,000 to 6,000 Ahrar al-Sham fighters in Aleppo and the surrounding countryside and admitted that they receive foreign funding.
 
“We get money from the Gulf – mainly from Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as Kuwait and Bahrain,” he said. “We fight in our name as Ahrar al-Sham, so our budget is not the same as the Free Syrian Army's. And we only use this money to buy weaponry for ourselves and the battalion.”
 
“We usually have machine guns and RPGs,” Rami told Al-Monitor. “We just recently started to get anti-aircraft weaponry. We looted some from the regular army. We buy the rest from Turkey or Chechnya or other places.”
 
Rami is careful when talking about Turkey. “The Turkish government is helping us because they’re an Islamic government too,” he told Al-Monitor. “But they are also profiting from this war by selling weaponry to us at far higher prices. They are becoming opportunistic.”
 
Rami did not want to go into detail about his group's Turkish sources for weapons. He did, however, offer, “It’s important that the government allows the weapons to go through the borders.”
With great pride he said that although Ahrar al-Sham fights alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA), his group is not connected to the latter. He is also not shy about admitting that atrocities have been carried out by both sides. 
 
“There are many shabiha [supporters of the Syrian regime] who are raping, stealing and robbing in the name of the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic groups. They just want to give us a bad image,” Rami said. 
 
“There are many others who also joined the FSA and Islamic groups to get weapons, and do all the bad things, like stealing and robbing.”
“Many people who joined Ahrar al-Sham were not good people. 
 
They were unemployed people, bad guys, who drink and waste their time,” Rami told. “Most of the real fighters, the jihadists, were either martyred or injured and came to Turkey and other places for hospitalization. So the people who remain now are actually those who are just there for looting, stealing.”
 
Rami argues that the fighting in Syria has been sectarian from day one. “What do you think the fighters coming from Russia or Iran are doing? They just want to kill as many Sunnis as they can so that they can assure that Assad continues to stay in power,” he said. “After the Islamic groups started to operate across the country, we also started to do the same. It’s our jihadist duty. Now the Alawites are escaping to the coast, moving toward the Latakia region.”
 
The composition of Ahrar al-Sham is different from the Free Syrian Army, whose members are mostly retired from or defectors from the regular Syrian army. “About half of us are Syrian. We have members of the Muslim Brotherhood in our group,” said Rami. “But the rest are coming from Libya, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and Azerbaijan. There are even people coming from Belgium.” He claimed that he has seen “plenty” of al-Qaeda members in Syria, but that “their numbers are not as big as the FSA.”
 
Describing himself as having the body of an 18-year-old but the experience of a 50-year-old, Rami brags that he has become “one of the best snipers” in his group. “I have killed many Syrian military men.” His mother, seated beside him, spoke proudly of her son. “I’m always worried about his life,” she told Al-Monitor. “But he is doing a noble act. If all mothers want their son to avoid fighting, then who is going to fight against this regime? Assad is an evil man. And I believe my son is doing a favor for all of us by fighting against the army.”
 
All said, however, Rami does not believe the Syrian president will go anytime soon. “The regime is collapsing and getting weaker and weaker each day,” he said, “but it could take yet another year for Assad to lose power.” 
 
Tulin Daloglu is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. She has written extensively for various Turkish and American publications, including The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Middle East Times, Foreign Policy, The Daily Star (Lebanon) and the SAIS Turkey Analyst Report. She also had a regular column at The Washington Times for almost four years. Daloglu tweets from @TurkeyPulse.

Iran Spying on Israel from Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 14 January 2013 07:31
View from the GolanIran has been establishing signals intelligence stations in several parts of the Middle East, including the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the U.S.-based World Tribune reports.
 
The Defense Department has indicated that one of the intelligence stations was established in the Golan Heights, close to Syria's border with Israel, the report said.
 
The Pentagon’s counter-terrorist support office said the stations were established by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps together with Tehran’s leading ally, Syria, according to the World Tribune.
 
“Two Iranian-Syrian [signals intelligence] stations funded by the IRGC reportedly have been active since 2006, one in the Al Jazirah region in northern Syria and the other on the Golan Heights,” said the report, entitled “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A Profile.”
 
The report, issued last month and prepared by the Library of Congress, said IRGC was planning to establish additional listening stations for northern Syria. The stations were meant to supply information on Israel to Hizbullah, Iran’s leading terror proxy.
 
The ongoing civil war in Syria has spilled over several times into Israel from the Golan Heights. The incidents have included mortar shells landing in the religious Zionist town of Alonei Habashan, which is less than a kilometer from the border, as well as IDF vehicles being hit by bullets fired from Syrian territory into Israel during the fighting between the sides.
 
The IDF changed the rules of engagement along the Syrian border after the fighting in Syria spilled over into Israel more than once.
 
The new orders instruct soldiers to respond if fire from Syria is dangerous and persistent.
 
Israel has also been monitoring Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which dates back to the 1970s, is the biggest in the Middle East, but its precise scope remains unclear, according to analysts.
 
The country has hundreds of tons of various chemical agents, including sarin and VX nerve agents, as well as older blistering agents such as mustard gas, dispersed in dozens of manufacturing and storage sites, experts say.
 
U.S. officials recently said there was evidence that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's troops had not only moved deadly sarin gas that might be used against rebels, but also that its binary components, usually stored separately, had been combined and placed into bombs for use.
 
Doctors have said that Assad’s forces are probably also using “Agent 15,” which causes paralysis.
 
The United States and its allies, including Israel, have repeatedly expressed concern that Syria's stockpile, believed to be one of the biggest in the world, could be stolen and fall into extremist hands or be transferred to the Hizbullah terror group by a crumbling Syrian regime.

defected General: Syria’s Chemical Arms Match Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 07:00
Major-General Adnan SilluThe chemical weapons arsenal of the Syrian regime, believed to be one of the largest in the world, is a match for Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal, the defected former head of Syria's chemical warfare program told Al-Arabiya on Monday.
 
Major-General Adnan Sillu, who defected from the regime earlier this year and was reportedly “party to top-levels talks” regarding the use of chemical weapons on both rebel fighters and civilians, said that the Syrian government had stashed chemical weapons in various cities, specifically in Homs and Aleppo.
 
“Syria’s chemical arsenal has reached similar levels to Israel’s nuclear weapons,” he told Al-Arabiya.
 
Sillu, who once led the army’s chemical weapons training program, warned in June that although the central storage sites for sarin and mustard gas are being guarded by thousands of Syrian Army troops, they could easily be captured by rebel forces.
 
“Probably anyone from the Free Syrian Army or any Islamic extremist group could take them over,” he said.
 
The Pentagon has drawn up plans for responding to possible scenarios involving Syria’s chemical arms, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday during a visit to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 60 miles from the Syrian border.
 
The United States has become increasingly concerned that Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist terrorists, rogue generals or other uncontrollable factions.
 
In recent days, the Syrian regime has fired more than a half-dozen Scud missiles at rebel forces trying to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
 
The move represents a significant escalation in the fighting, which has already killed more than 40,000 civilians in a nearly two-year-old conflict and suggests increased desperation on the part of the Assad government.
 
United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that the UN is sending kits to protect soldiers in the peacekeeping force on Syria’s border with Israel from the effects of a possible chemical attack.
 
"We have taken measures to enhance security," he told reporters after briefing the Security Council on Monday. "For those personnel who are not equipped on a national basis we are sending them some kits to protect them from chemical attack, if that were to happen."

Syria's Muslim Brotherhood Slams US Terror Label on Al-Nusra

Category: News
Created on Friday, 14 December 2012 08:13
Free Syrian Army soldier in military exercise in HomsSyria's Muslim Brotherhood chapter has slammed the United States State Department for adding the Al-Nusra group to its list of outlawed terrorist organizations.
 
An official in the Brotherhood said Tuesday the U.S. had made a “very wrong” decision by designating the Al-Nusra Front rebel group as a terrorist organization.
 
The radical Islamist Syrian opposition group, which allegedly has ties to the international Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, was designated as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
 
The, group which appears to be connected with the Al-Qaeda branch in Iraq, has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide and other bombings in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs.
 
Al-Nusra is a leading member of a group of 13 radical Islamic groups that issued a statement posted on a jihadist website declaring Aleppo to be a new, independent Islamic state in Syria.
 
The group is also referred to as Jabhat al-Nusra, and as Ansar al-Jebhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham (“Supporters of the Front for Victory of the People of Syria.”) Al-Nusra has referred to the United States and Israel as the “enemies of Islam” and has attacked the religious beliefs of non-Sunni Muslims in Syria, including Alawites.

Syria Combining Chemicals for Sarin Gas

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 21:37
Syria Combining Chemicals for Sarin GasEngineers working for President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas, an American official with knowledge of the situation told Wired.com’s Danger Room on Monday.
 
International observers are now more worried than they’ve even been that the Damascus government could use its nerve agent stockpile to slaughter its own people, the report said.
 
The U.S. doesn’t know why the Syrian military made the move, which began in the middle of last week and is taking place in central Syria, nor are they sure why the Assad government is transferring some weapons to different locations within the country, as the New York Times reported on Monday.
 
“Physically, they’ve gotten to the point where they can load it up on a plane and drop it,” the official told Wired.com.
 
Sarin gas has two main chemical components: isopropanol, popularly known as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of these precursors, which it ordinarily stores separately, in so-called “binary” form, in order to prevent an accidental release of nerve gas.
 
Last week, reported Wired.com, that changed. The Syrian military began combining some of the binaries. “They didn’t do it on the whole arsenal, just a modest quantity,” the official said. “We’re not sure what’s the intent.”
 
Back in July, the Assad regime publicly warned that it might use its chemical weapons to stop “external” forces from interfering in Syria’s bloody civil war. The announcement sparked a panic in the intelligence services of the U.S. and its allies, which stepped up their efforts to block shipments of precursors for those weapons from entering the country.
 
“This is a more serious moment than July,” the official said.
 
CNN confirmed the report later on Monday. A U.S. intelligence official told the network that the U.S. obtained intelligence over the past weekend indicating this concerning development.
 
The intelligence, the official said, came from multiple sources but declined to provide any more specifics about how the U.S. learned the information.
 
The report came several hours after the Damascus government promised that it wouldn't use chemical weapons against its own people.
 
In a statement broadcast on government-run national television, the country's foreign ministry assured the international community that Assad would not approve such a measure.
 
"In response to the statements of the American Secretary of State, who warned Syria against using chemical weapons, Syria has stressed repeatedly that it will not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its people,” the statement said.
 
The statement came following one by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said earlier in the day, “This is a red line for the United States. I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action.”
 
A similar “red line” on chemical weapons was drawn for Assad by U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement he made in August from the White House.
 
"We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Obama told reporters at the time. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime – but also to other players on the ground – that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
 
Israel has expressed concern that the chemical weapons arsenal maintained in Syria will indeed end up in the wrong hands – specifically, the hands of Hizbullah or other terrorists who aim to annihilate the Jewish State.
 
A report published Monday by The Atlantic indicated that Israel has consulted with Jordan twice over the issue of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, both times with plans to take out multiple sites.

Missiles for Rebels May Spell the End of Assad

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 29 November 2012 06:29
Syrian army helicopter being hit by a ground-to-a - AFP-youtubeSyrian rebels downed an army helicopter for the first time on Tuesday with a newly-acquired ground-to-air missile, in what a watchdog said could be a turning point in the 20-month-old conflict, AFP reported.
 
Another bad sign for Syrian President Bashar Assad is Russia’s sudden change of heart, indicating that Moscow realizes it is supporting a loser even though it voted against Tuesday’s United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Assad’s brutal suppression.
 
Previously standing side-by-side with Syria, a large purchaser of Russian-made weapons, Russia now claims it only has a "working relationship" with the Syrian president and insists special ties were a thing of the past.
 
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, which has backed Damascus throughout the conflict, said in France that "there are no special or privileged relations with President Assad.”
 
Rebels have turned the tide against Assad, not for the first time, with this week’s successful battles for control of the commercial hub of Aleppo, while another car bomb hit a regime security post near Damascus. The death toll on Tuesday was 105, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The helicopter that the surface-to-air missile downed was strafing civilians near besieged northwestern base 15 miles west of Aleppo, last garrison in government hands between Syria's second city and the Turkish border.
 
"It is the first time that the rebels have shot down a helicopter with a surface-to-air missile," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Amateur footage posted by activists on YouTube showed a helicopter plunging to the ground in a ball of flames as rebel fighters shouted: "We hit it; G-d is greatest."
 
The Observatory said the missile was part of a consignment newly received by the rebels that had the potential to change the balance of military power in the conflict.
 
Little more than a week ago, the rebels seized tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, 120mm mortars and rocket launchers when they took the government forces' sprawling Base 46, about 12 kilometers (eight miles) west of Aleppo.
 
The rebels, a mix of military defectors and armed civilians, are vastly outgunned but analysts say they are now stretching thin the capabilities of Assad's war machine and its air supremacy by opening multiple fronts.
 
This was evident again on Tuesday, with a car bomb killing at least two soldiers at a military police checkpoint at near Damascus as the regime pursued insurgents south of the capital.
 
In a battle in the north, 70 soldiers were killed or captured, and the rebels seized six 23mm cannons, rocket batteries and other weapons and ammunition.
 
The source of the missiles that the rebels have obtained is not known, but Saudi Arabia and Qatar are prime candidates.
 
Saudi weapons have been seen at rebel bases, and The New York Times has reported that more fighters are arriving across the border from Saudi Arabia to join Syrian rebels.
 
Saudi and Qatar are Sunni-ruled monarchies and oppose Sunni Muslims in Syria being ruled by Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

Gunfire from Syria hits occupied Golan Heights as fighting lingers

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 November 2012 07:44
U.N.-monitored ceasefire line in response to Syrian fire. ReutersGunfire from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight close to an Israeli military vehicle monitoring the ceasefire line but causing no injuries, the military said on Monday.
 
“There was gunfire near an Israeli military vehicle which was driving along the security fence,” a military spokeswoman said, adding the incident had occurred late on Sunday.
 
But she said troops in the area had not returned fire as they have done on previous occasions.
 
Such incidents have occurred with increasing frequency in the past few weeks as violence from the civil war in Syria spills across the ceasefire line.
 
Earlier this month, Israeli troops fired warning shots and tank shells across the U.N.-monitored ceasefire line in response to Syrian fire, in the first instance of Israeli fire directed at the Syrian military in the Golan Heights since their 1973 war.
 
Fears of a spillover of the conflict which has ravaged Syria for the past 20 months and left more than 40,000 dead, have widened as violence has spread to Syria’s borders with Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
 
Meanwhile on Monday, rebels seized control of a strategic dam on the Euphrates river in northern Syria after days of fierce fighting, activists and a watchdog said on Monday.
 
Videos posted on the Internet show about a dozen rebel fighters in military fatigues walking at night on a road crossing the Tishreen dam, which straddles Aleppo and Raqa provinces, with others inside a control room, as one man proclaims: “The Tishreen dam is under Free Syrian Army control.”
 
The authenticity of the videos could not be confirmed but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which receives information from a network of activists and medics on the ground, confirmed the dam had fallen to the rebels.
 
The Observatory also reported that Syrian troops on Monday pressed an assault on rebel strongholds in the northeastern outskirts of Damascus, killing a boy and girl from the same family in shelling attacks on the town of Irbin.
 
Elsewhere, fighting erupted along the ceasefire line of the Golan Heights, with two rebels killed in the villages of Al-Buraykah and Bir Ajam, both of which lie within the Syrian section of the demilitarized zone, the watchdog said.
 
The Israeli military earlier reported that gunfire on Sunday night from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights close to an Israeli military vehicle monitoring the ceasefire line but causing no injuries.
 
A military spokeswoman said Israeli troops in the area had not returned fire as they have done on previous occasions.
 
Also early Monday, Al Arabiya TV reported a massacre is reported in the Syrian town of Sheikh Miskeen in Daraa, activists said.
 
On Sunday, Syrian rebels captured a helicopter base just outside Damascus in what an activist called a “blow to the morale of the regime” near President Bashar Assad’s seat of power, while the bombardment of a village near the capital killed at least eight children.
 
Activists said the children were killed when Syrian warplanes bombed the village of Deir al-Asafir just outside the Damascus. The village is close to suburbs of the capital that has been witnessing clashes, shelling and air raids between troops and rebels over the past months.

Syrian 'Spillover' Continues: Shells Hit Golan Community

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:05
View from the GolanFighting between government troops and rebels in Syria has once again spilled over into Israel.
 
On Thursday morning, three mortar shells were fired into Israel, with one of them hitting a neighborhood in the religious Zionist town of Alonei HaBashan, which is less than a kilometer from the border. None of the shells exploded.
 
IDF sappers rushed to the scene to neutralize the shells. No one was injured, and there was no damage.
 
The shells were among the many that have been lobbed by both sides in the civil war in Syria in recent days. Fierce fighting in the Damascus suburbs has spilled over into all of southern Syria, and the sounds of gunshots and bombs exploding over the border can be heard in northern Israel anytime of the day or night.
 
In recent days there have been several incidents of Syrian fighting spilling over into Israel, the prime example being the entry of three Syrian Army tanks into the demilitarized area on the Golan Heights border Saturday. The tanks entered the village of Bir Ajam, a short distance away from an IDF position, and were apparently maneuvering as part of the fighting between Assad and rebel forces.
 
Israel lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations, saying that the entry constituted a breach of the 1974 Armistice agreement between Jerusalem and Damascus.
 
On Wednesday, a stray Syrian bullet hit an IDF defensive post on the Golan, and on Monday, Syrian fire hit an IDF jeep on patrol near the Golan border. No one was injured in either incident, although there was damage to the jeep in Monday's shooting. 
The IDF said it did not consider any of the shootings or mortar shells as aggression by Syria against Israel, but as a series of accidents.
 
Alonei Habashan is the easternmost community in Israel, and is home to about 50 young families.

Syria Shuts Down Hamas Offices

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 08:59
Islamic JihadSyrian security forces on Monday shut down all the offices belonging to Hamas in the country, Al-Jazeera reported.
 
Despite previously being close allies, there has been a rift between Hamas and the Syrian regime ever since the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad began. In the first months of the uprising, Hamas’ leaders expressed support in principle for the struggle of the Syrian people while also highlighting the importance of the movement’s historical relationship with the Syrian regime.
 
However, as the rift deepened, reports surfaced last year that Hamas is moving its headquarters from Damascus to Egypt and the terror group is strengthening itself in the Sinai.
 
Some reports claimed that the Damascus-based Hamas leadership left Syria after the Syrian government asked the Hamas leaders to leave.
 
Subsequently it was reported that dozens of Hamas members have quietly returned to Gaza from Damascus. Later reports said that Hamas leaders attached to the organization's long-standing Damascus bureau are fleeing Syria with their families as Assad's regime grows increasingly unstable.
 
The areas in Syria which serve as camps for people registered as Palestinian refugees have openly sided with the rebels, and Syrian troops have attacked several such camps. Just last week, two Hamas leaders were killed by the Syrian army in a Deraa refugee camp.
 
Last month, Assad's forces bombed the Deraa camp, killing at least 20 people and injuring dozens more. Sources in the Deraa camp told Ma’an that artillery shells and mortars targeted several streets near the area's mosque.
 
In August, the fighting between Assad’s forces and rebels hit Al-Yarmouk, a Damascus neighborhood that serves as an unofficial camp for roughly 150,000 people registered as Palestinian refugees.
 
Hamas issued a statement condemning the Syrian regime's attack on the camps, said that more than 320 registered Palestinian refugees have been killed since the beginning of the uprising in Syria.
 
Most people in Syria who are considered Palestinian refugees are Syrian-born, but are not considered Syrian, and do not have political rights. Their situation is better than that of refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, where refugees have limited work options and are refused citizenship.

IDF Jeep Hit by Syrian Gunfire on Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 07:20
View from the GolanAn Israeli military jeep was hit Monday by Syrian gunfire on the Golan Heights, AFP reported. IDF soldiers were patrolling this evening near the northern border when they came under gunfire from the Syrian side of the border. The IDF Spokesperson told Arutz Sheva there were no casualties and that the incident is under investigation.
 
According to the IDF, the gunfire also most likely came as the result of the internal civil war in Syria, and was not due to deliberate aggression against Israel on the part of Damascus.  "Apparently they were stray bullets, and there were no injuries" to those aboard the vehicle, a military spokesman told AFP.
 
 Israel informed the United Nations force in the region.
 
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned Sunday that Syria's civil war might soon become "an Israeli matter” if military spillover continues. IDF Division 36 soldiers who are stationed on the Golan Heights reported to Gantz they can hear shouts and gunfire from across the border.
 
"The division is ready for any moment in which those shots might change direction and be turned on us,” said IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who was escorting Gantz at the time. 
 
Last Saturday three Syrian tanks entered the demilitarized zone between Syrian and Israeli territory on the Golan Heights.
 
The tanks, which belong to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, entered the village of Bir Ajam, a short distance away from an IDF position while allegedly maneuvering as part of the fighting between Assad and rebel forces. 
 
Israel lodged a formal complaint with the U.N. for the second time this year.
 
Syria remains formally at war with Israel, which captured part of the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War, and annexed it in 1981 in a move the international community does not recognize.
 
Since a 1974 disengagement agreement between the two countries, a 1,200-member unarmed U.N. force has patrolled a demilitarized buffer zone on the Heights. In July, Israel complained to the U.N. after Syrian soldiers entered the zone in violation of the agreement.

Syria: "We want to instate the Koran. To hell with freedom, we want an Islamic caliphate. To hell with being peaceful, we want weapons."

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 05 November 2012 09:01
Syrian rebels of shoulder-launched missile systems including the U.S.-made Stingers. AFPPeaceful, democratic Syrian rebels somehow misunderstand both the nature of their peaceful, democratic revolution and peaceful, tolerant Islam. "Damascus Demonstration: To Hell with Freedom, We Want an Islamic Caliphate and Weapons," 
{youtube}jfaFvXFdGbM{/youtube}
 
Following are excerpts from footage of a demonstration that took place in Damascus, which was posted on the Internet on September 14, 2012.
Demonstrator: Oh Bashar, you traitor...
 
Crowds: Oh Bashar, you traitor...
 
Demonstrator: We want to instate the Koran.
 
Crowds: We want to instate the Koran.
 
Demonstrator: To hell with freedom...
 
Crowds: To hell with freedom...
 
Demonstrator: We want an Islamic caliphate.
 
Crowds: We want an Islamic caliphate.
 
Demonstrator: To hell with being peaceful...
 
Crowds: To hell with being peaceful...
 
Demonstrator: We want weapons and AK-47s.
 
Crowds: We want weapons and AK-47s....

Syria’s rebels commit another war crime

Category: News
Created on Friday, 02 November 2012 12:23
Syrias rebels commit another war crimeA new video released on YouTube appears to show Syrian rebels killing a group of captured soldiers, drawing condemnations from human rights groups who warned on Friday that the gunmen may have committed a war crime. 
 
The footage was consistent with other Associated Press news agency reporting in the area. The video is dated Thursday, a day when the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy attacks by rebels on regime checkpoints at Saraqeb. The groups said they were trying to confirm the video's authenticity.
 
"Like other videos of this sort, it's difficult to verify immediately in terms of location, who's involved. We need to examine this carefully. It will be examined carefully," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva. 
 
"The allegations are that these were soldiers who were no longer combatants. And therefore, at this point it looks very likely that this is a war crime, another one," he said. 
 
The video shows rebels bearing and kicking a group of captured soldiers calling them “Assad’s Dogs,” some of the apparently wounded. The rebels then shot them to death as they were not bound nor blindfolded. The exact number of soldiers in the video is not clear, but an estimation of 10 soldiers was provided.

 
On Friday, Al Arabiya reported 70 people had been killed by Syrian air force shelling over the city of Idlib, citing the Syrian Revolutionary Council. 
 
Earlier, before the Idlib deaths were reported, activists at the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said that 50 people were killed across Syria by security force gunfire, Al Arabiya reported. It is yet to be confirmed where these deaths were reported.
 
On Thursday, anti-government rebels killed 28 soldiers in attacks on three army checkpoints around Saraqeb, a town on Syria's main north-south highway and one that witnessed the heaviest clashes in the past few weeks, a monitoring group said. 
 
"Unfortunately, this could be just the latest in a string of documented summary executions by opposition factions as well as by government forces and groups affiliated with them, such as the shabbiha (pro-government militia)," Colville said.
 
London-based Amnesty International called the video "shocking" and said it may depict a "potential war crime in progress." 
On Friday, the Observatory condemned the killing of nearly a dozen soldiers at the Hmeisho checkpoint. Amnesty released a highly critical statement. 
 
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, asked how rebels can demand rights at a time when they violate such rights.
More than 36,000 people have died in the 19-month conflict, according to the Observatory.

2 Hamas Leaders Killed in Syrian 'Palestinian' Camp

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 28 October 2012 07:32
Buildings damaged after shelling near Deraa - ReutersTwo Hamas leaders were killed by the Syrian army on Saturday, Palestinian Authority sources told Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.
 
The two, Ahmad Khalil Khalil and Ahmad al-Kharoubi, were shot by Syrian soldiers in an area in Deraa which serves as a camp for people registered as Palestinian refugees.
 
The bodies lay in the street for several hours before ambulances were able to reach the area, Ma’an reported.
 
Earlier this month, Assad's forces bombed the Deraa camp, killing at least 20 people and injuring dozens more. Sources in the Deraa camp told Ma’an that artillery shells and mortars targeted several streets near the area's mosque.
 
In August, the fighting between Assad’s forces and rebels hit Al-Yarmouk, a Damascus neighborhood that serves as an unofficial camp for roughly 150,000 people registered as Palestinian refugees.
 
At least 21 people were killed in the camp as Syrian troops used heavy fire to beat back rebels.
 
The number of registered Palestinian refugees who were killed in the internal conflict in Syria was estimated at around 400 in August. Ma’an noted that this figure is estimated to have significantly increased in recent months.
 
Most people in Syria who are considered Palestinian refugees are Syrian-born, but are not considered Syrian, and do not have political rights. Their situation is better than that of refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, where refugees have limited work options and are refused citizenship.
 
Meanwhile, fighting raged across Syria on Saturday, after a ceasefire declared for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday collapsed. At least 221 people have been killed since the ceasefire was due to take effect on Friday.

Syria rebels have U.S.-made stinger missiles

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 25 October 2012 20:17
Syrian rebels of shoulder-launched missile systems including the U.S.-made Stingers. AFPSyrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have shoulder-launched missile systems, including U.S.-made Stingers, Russia’s top general claimed Wednesday, prompting a strong denial from Washington.
 
Russian chief of staff General Nikolai Makarov, whose country is the Damascus regime’s top arms supplier and has refused to back the opposition, said it was not clear who had delivered the weapons.
 
“We have information that the rebels fighting the Syrian army have shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles of several states, including Stingers made in the United States,” he said quoted by the Interfax news agency.
 
“We need to still find out who has delivered them,” he said.
 
The United States vehemently disputed the allegation, challenging Moscow to provide proof.
 
“We have provided no Stingers of any kind to Syria, nor will we,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “If the Russian Federation has evidence of Stingers in the hands of the opposition, we’d like to see it”.
 
Makarov said it was possible that these and other weapons could have been delivered to the rebels from abroad on several means of transport, including passenger planes.
 
“For this, all kinds of transport could be activated, including civil aviation. This is a serious matter,” Makarov said.
 
U.S. broadcaster NBC News reported in July that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained two dozen surface-to-air missiles (man-portable air-defence systems known as MANPADS), delivered via Turkey.
 
“The Americans say that they have not delivered anything to the rebels,” said Makarov.
 
“But we have reliable information that the Syrian rebels have foreign-made MANPADS, including American ones.”
 
Nuland, meanwhile, noted that of all the images Washington has seen of MANPADS and MANPAD-like equipment in Syria “has been exclusively of a Soviet Warsaw Pact vintage - the SA-7 type vintage.”
 
“We have not seen evidence of Stingers,” she said.
 
Makarov’s comments come as Russia is under sustained pressure from the West, Turkey and Assad’s foes in the Arab world to cut its military cooperation with the Syrian regime.
 
Turkey earlier this month forced a Syrian Air passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus to land in Ankara on the grounds it was carrying an illegal Russian cargo for Syria.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the cargo confiscated by Ankara before the plane was allowed to leave was “war equipment”. Russia has insisted the cargo was perfectly legal radar technology.
 
President Vladimir Putin last week defended Russia’s right to trade weapons with whomever it wanted, so long as sales did not break any sanctions from the U.N. Security Council where Moscow has a permanent, veto-wielding seat.
 
“In all other cases, no one can on any pretext dictate to Russia or any other state with whom and how it should trade,” Putin said.
 
Moscow has refused to take sides against Assad, condemning the West and Turkey for making clear their support for the rebels battling his regime.

Israeli Arab MKs: Assad is the Victim

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 25 October 2012 07:27
Assad 0While many in the Arab world condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his attacks on Syrian civilians, and the UN and Arab League have threatened intervention, Israeli Arab MKs held a rally to support Assad. According to Aram MK Sa'id Nafa of Balad and former MK Issam Mahoul of Hadash, who led the rally, the violence in Syria is part of a “conspiracy” against Assad.
 
At a press conference, the two expressed full support for Assad and his policies. Those who did not support Assad, they said were really the cause of the violence, and were “causing the whole country to sink in the mud.”
 
Free Syrian Army fighters pose with their weaponsMKs and VIPs of the Arab community spoke to a crowd of several hundred, who were waving Syrian flags and pictures of Assad. A large Syrian flag was draped across the stage.
In his speech, Nafa blamed the violence in Syria on the United States, which he said was “funding and supplying arms to the rebels. The Syrian army must remain strong in the face of the attacks against it, as it fights those who would hurt Syria. Bashar Assad has supported our cause, and now we must repay him,” said Nafa.

Netanyahu Warns of Syria Attack Over Chemical Weapons

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 21:31
Chemical WeaponsPrime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday that Israel would not hesitate to launch a military operation in Syria if it feels that there is a threat that the country’s stockpile of chemical weapons will end up in the hands of terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah.
 
“Israel will consider a military operation if it feels there is a fear that chemical weapons will leak to terrorist groups like Hizbullah," Netanyahu said during his meeting with European Union diplomats in Jerusalem.
 
He added that “Hizbullah is actively engaged in the massacre of the Syrian people." Netanyahu also referred to the support that President Bashar Al-Assad's regime receives from Iran, saying that “without Iran - Assad would survive.”
 
Syria has admitted it has chemical weapons and has threatened to use them if attacked by external forces. It claimed it will not use these weapons on rebels fighting to oust Assad.
 
Recent reports from Syria indicated that Assad has transferred a battery of advanced missiles to the al-Masna border crossing, which is the central route used to transfer equipment and weapons to Hizbullah. Members of the Syrian opposition said that one of two major chemical arsenals of the Syrian regime is located near that border crossing.
 
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently indicated that the Syrian regime has moved some chemical weapons to safeguard the material as it wages war against rebel forces but the main storage sites for its arsenal remain secure.
 
French President Francois Hollande recently warned that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would provide a legitimate cause for a foreign intervention.
 
In his meeting with EU representatives, Netanyahu referred to the peace agreement with Egypt and expressed his opposition to any future change in the wording of the agreement.
 
"Any change may lead to the cancellation of the peace treaty," said the prime minister and expressed the hope that the new regime in Egypt will work harder to prevent terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula.

Most illicit arms in Syria go to Islamists

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 10:22
Weapons secretly shipped to Syria at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar go to hardline Islamic rebel groups AFPThe majority of weapons secretly shipped to Syria at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar go to hardline Islamic rebel groups rather than more secular organizations favored by the West, The New York Times reported Monday.
 
Citing unnamed officials, the newspaper said this was the conclusion reached in classified reports presented to President Barack Obama and other senior officials.
 
This situation has prompted officials to voice frustration over the fact that there is no central clearinghouse for the shipments and no effective way of vetting the groups that receive them, the report said.
 
Because of this, Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus traveled secretly to Turkey last month in a bid to steer the supply effort, the report said.
 
The CIA has not commented on the trip.
 
Petraeus’s goal was to oversee the process of “vetting, and then shaping, an opposition that the U.S. thinks it can work with,” the paper quoted an unnamed Middle Eastern diplomat as saying.
 
The CIA has also sent officers to Turkey to help direct the aid, but the agency lacks good intelligence about the many rebel figures and factions operating in Syria, The Times noted.

Turkey, Iran and the West Entangled in the Syrian Civil War

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 06 October 2012 20:29
Turkey has retaliated against Syria - ReutersFighting in Syria between Damascus and the rebel militias continues to drag on and the violent rebellion has now come to involve Turkey, Iran and the West. 
 
The civil war continues to entangle Turkey in violence, as Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day in which Syrian shells fired by the rebels landed in the neighboring country. In reponse, Turkey again fired back at Syria Saturday after a Syrian bomb landed in a field in southern Turkey. 
 
The response comes only one day after the Turkish Prime Minister warned Syria it would not hesitate to retaliate if further provoked. 
 
Meanwhile, rebels have warned that the West's inaction in the crisis will only cause trouble down the road. As reported by the New York Times, Majed al-Muhammad, the commander of a Syrian militia, slammed the West for not trying to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from massacring his own people, saying the Syrian people are being radicalized because of the intensity of the conflict and the fact that the entire world is doing nothing to stop the killings. 
 
Al-Muhammad claimed the frustration caused by the West turning its back on the people of Syria will cause the Syrian people to turn their back on the West once the civil war comes to an end. 
 
“We are now at a very critical juncture,” wrote a journalist in one Turkish newspaper, “We are not only facing Syria, but Iran, Iraq, Russia and China behind it as well. Behind us, we have nothing but the provocative stance and empty promises of the U.S.”
 
“The United Nations and international community are making a big mistake,” said Ghassan Abdul Wahib, 43, a truck driver and now a leader in Kafr Takharim, a village in the north. “By letting this be a long war, they are dragging Syria toward radicalism, and they will suffer from this for a long time.”
 
Iran continues to be entangled in the crisis, as Syrian rebels said they will begin executing the 48 Iranian hostages they have if Iran does not stop sending weapons to the Syria government and are calling on Iran to withdraw their military from the Eastern Ghuta area of Damascus. Among the 48 are several members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  

Turkish Army Attacks Targets in Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 04 October 2012 10:36
Turkish army artillery vehiclesThe Turkish army attacked several targets in Syria on Wednesday evening, officials in Ankara confirmed.
 
The incident, the first of its kind since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad began in March of 2011, came several hours after a mortar shell fired from Syria exploded on Turkish territory and killed five people.
 
“Our military forces, operating in the border area, responded this evening to the criminal attack that took place earlier today,” said a statement from the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 
“We used artillery fire against the targets and a hit was detected,” said the statement.
 
Meanwhile, AFP reported that NATO, in an emergency meeting Wednesday, backed Turkey and called on Syria to respect international law.
 
"The Alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally and urges the Syrian regime to end flagrant violations of international law," a statement said after the meeting was called at Ankara's request.
 
Erdogan has openly backed the rebels trying to bring down Assad’s regime, straining Ankara’s relations with Damascus.
 
Classified documents published Saturday by the Al-Arabiya network indicated that two Turkish pilots killed in Syria after Syrian forces shot down their plane were deliberately executed following consultation between Damascus and Moscow.
 
A senior adviser to Erdogan responded to the report on Sunday, saying that the documents were fake and adding, “It is well known that intelligence documents do not look like this.”

More Hizbullah Fighters Dying in Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Friday, 28 September 2012 08:35
HezbollahHizbullah has increased the size and scope of its assistance to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as he fights to retain his position as leader of Syria in the face of a wide-ranging rebellion. According to a report in Thursday's Washington Post, Hizbullah has sent special advisors to Syria in order to assist Assad in beating back rebel forces.
 
Official sources in the Lebanese government said that the assistance Hizbullah is providing Assad was increased after a major attack on Assad's forces on July 18. Several high ranking Syrian military officials were killed in that attack, among them Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat.
The sources said that Hizbullah has been offering not only advice, but also taking active part in the fighting against rebels. The sources added that more and more of the casualties on the Syrian side consist of Hizbullah recruits. There has been a marked increase in the number of funerals of young men in Hizbullah-controlled areas in southern Lebanon, they added, with families refusing to reveal the reasons for their death. That is because, they said, Hizbullah has demanded that the families keep the reasons for their death secret.
There have also been reports of Iranian soldiers and advisors in Syria as well, but it is not clear if they are taking part in the actual fighting.

Assad Moves Chemical Agents to Tartus

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 09 September 2012 19:45
Syria fightingThe regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has begun moving chemical agents in the country's arsenal to the port city of Tartus.
 
According to diplomatic sources quoted in an interview published in the Kuwaiti Al-Rai newspaper, the regime is attempting to create a “safe zone” for top leaders and their families. It is not clear, however, which chemical agents, or what amount, were moved.
 
According to the reports, Syria is believed to possess “several tons” of chemical weapons-grade material, including sarin gas. They are stored in some 20 separate sites around Syria, according to a report published Thursday in The Washington Post.
 
American and Middle East official sources told the newspaper there might also be other sites of which they were unaware, adding that various intelligence agencies were monitoring the situation.
 
The arsenal had been developed with assistance from Russia and North Korea for use against Israel, they added.
 
U.S. President Barack Obama and numerous other Western officials warned Assad against using Syria's chemical weapons several months ago – and after hearing reports of the move, made similar calls to Assad again on Saturday.

Mursi signed death warrant for contact group

Category: News
Created on Friday, 07 September 2012 19:00
Egypts new president. ReutersSyria has accused Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi of “signing the death warrant” of a contact group trying to solve the nearly 18-month conflict by calling for regime change, official media reported on Friday.
 
“Syria looks positively on any initiative seeking to contain the crisis and permit a return to normal life,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said in an interview on state television.
 
But Mursi’s “latest comments signed the death warrant” of an Egyptian proposal for a regional contact group on Syria that would include Damascus's key ally Iran, as well as pro-rebel Saudi Arabia and Turkey, he said.
 
At a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday of Arab League ministers, Mursi said it was time for the Syrian regime to step down.
 
“The Syrian people have made their voice clear,” he said, and, in a message to President Bashar al-Assad's regime, insisted: “You will not be around for long.”
 
At a meeting in the Iranian capital late last month of the Non-Aligned Movement, Mursi also slammed the Damascus government as “oppressive” and urged support for the rebels fighting to oust the Assad regime.
 
Syrian government daily Tishrin on Friday took Mursi to task in an editorial.
 
“Mursi's partiality when it comes to terrorism, murder and destruction has condemned all efforts and initiatives in which Egypt might be involved,” it said.
 
Damascus refers to rebels in the country as “terrorists.” The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death toll at more than 26,000 since protests first erupted in the country nearly 18 months ago.

Former Libyan Snipers Fight against Assad Regime

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 10:05
Free Syrian Army fighters pose with their weaponsReuters - Former Libyan rebels and snipers who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi are beefing up the Free Syrian Army to try to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad.
 
Libyan-Irish fighter Hussam Najjar, who goes by the name “Sam,” told Reuters he is a trained sniper who was part of the rebel unit that stormed Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli a year ago, led by Mahdi al-Harati, a powerful militia chief from Libya's western mountains.
 
Harati now leads a unit in Syria, made up mainly of Syrians but also including some foreign fighters, including 20 senior members of his own Libyan rebel unit. He asked Najjar to join him from Dublin a few months ago, Najjar said.
 
The Libyans aiding the Syrian rebels include specialists in communications, logistics, humanitarian issues and heavy weapons, he said. They operate training bases, teaching fitness and battlefield tactics.
 
Najjar said he was surprised to find how poorly armed and disorganized the Syrian rebels were, describing Syria's Sunni Muslim majority as far more repressed and downtrodden under Assad than Libyans were under Gaddafi.
 
"I was shocked. There is nothing you are told that can prepare you for what you see. The state of the Sunni Muslims there - their state of mind, their fate - all of those things have been slowly corroded over time by the regime.
 
"I nearly cried for them when I saw the weapons. The guns are absolutely useless. We are being sold leftovers from the Iraqi war, leftovers from this and that. Luckily, these are things that we can do for them: we know how to fix weapons, how to maintain them, find problems and fix them."
 
In the months since he arrived, the rebel arsenal had become "five times more powerful", he said. Fighters had obtained large caliber anti-aircraft guns and sniper rifles.
 
Although many rebel units fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, their commands are localized and poorly coordinated, Najjar said.
 
"One of the biggest factors delaying the revolution is the lack of unity among the rebels," he said. "Unfortunately, it is only when their back is up against the wall that they start to realize they should (unite).
 
"This is not just about the fall of Assad. This is about the Sunni Muslims of Syria taking back their country and pushing out the minority that have been oppressing them for generations now.”
 
Najjar said thousands more Sunni fighters from the Arab world were gathering in neighboring countries prepared to join the cause.
 
Najjar said militancy would spread across the region as long as the West does not do more to hasten the downfall of Assad.
 
"The Western governments are bringing this upon themselves. The longer they leave this door open for this torture and this massacre to carry on, the more young men will drop what they have in this life and search for the afterlife" with Islamic extremists, Najjar said.

Israel Racing against War, Upgrades Missile Shield

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 05 August 2012 09:18
An experiment on the ArrowIsrael is racing against an attack by Iran and Syria and is upgrading its US-backed Arrow missile shield in the wake of a possible a chemical weapon attack from Syria, a defense official told Reuters Sunday.
 
The new "Block 4" generation of guided interceptor rockets, radars and technologies for synchronizing Arrow with U.S. systems was being installed in deployed Israeli batteries, a process that would take several weeks, the official told the news agency.
 
The Arrow system, operational since 2000, is designed to blow up incoming missiles at altitudes high enough for non-conventional warheads to disintegrate safely.
 
"It is part of the technological race in the region," added the official, who insisted on anonymity,
 
Besides the threat of a nuclear threat for Iran in the next year or two, Israel is now preparing for a possible chemical warfare attack from Syria, where the civil war could spur Syrian President Bashar Assad to turn his missiles on Israel. The same situation could arise if Hizbullah, which is thought to have accessed part of the chemical arsenal, decides to attack Israel from Lebanon.
 
Israel has threatened to attack preemptively in both countries, a prospect that could trigger a wider war and clash with Washington's efforts to resolve the crises diplomatically.
 
The Pentagon and U.S. firm Boeing Co. are partners in Arrow, an investment that the Obama administration hopes will help stay the Israelis' hand, according to Reuters.
 
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said last week that Arrow, like a similar Israeli interceptor for short-range guerrilla rockets, Iron Dome, was "designed to prevent wars".
 
Israel is developing Arrow III, which is due to be operational in 2014 or 2015, while deploying the current Arrow II. Unlike previous generations of the interceptor, Arrow III will engage incoming missiles in space, using detachable warheads that, turning into "kamikaze" satellites, will seek out and slam into the target.
 
Israel is also working on a more powerful rocket interceptor than Iron Dome, known as David's Sling or Magic Wand, which is due out next year. Meshed together and with U.S. counterparts, the three Israeli systems would form a multi-tier shield providing several opportunities to intercept incoming missiles.

Obama Authorized U.S. Support for Syrian Rebels

Category: Reports
Created on Thursday, 02 August 2012 09:15
ObamaPresident Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
 
The sources said that Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.
 
Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined and the full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear, Reuters reported.
 
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment.
 
The report noted that the White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that. U.S. and European officials, however, have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks.
 
That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad's opponents as a disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble.
 
A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.
 
Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad's opponents.
 
This "nerve center" of the base, according to the report, is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.
 
Turkey's government has been demanding Assad's departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S. government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.
 
European government sources told Reuters that wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad's departure.
 
On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, weapons that could be used against Assad's helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Syrian government armed forces have employed such air power more extensively in recent days.
 
NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.
 
Some conservative U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama’s administration for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad's opponents.

Syria's Christians cautious in conflict By Paul Wood BBC News, near Zabadani, Syria

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Thursday, 26 July 2012 13:47
Christians cautious in conflict"Oh Bashar's mother," they chant, "your husband's being fried in hell. You and your son are following too."
 
The men are in good spirits. They have been driven back from the capital, but their offensive did better than anyone expected. And they are preparing for another go.
 
What if the rebels win? I went to see the people with as much at stake as anyone in the final outcome here, Zabadani's Christians.
 
Father Anton al-Houri, head of the Orthodox community in Zabadani, is 80 years old, grey-bearded, dignified, wearing a stovepipe hat, cassock and gold chain with crucifix that rests on an ample stomach.He is planted firmly in an ornate chair - but still manages to do a good impression of a man on a tightrope.
 
"Do Christians in Zabadani support the revolution?" I ask.
 
"It's up to every individual," he says.
 
"Would you advise a young man to join the army or the rebels?"
 
"I don't advise him either way - only on what he does in church," he replies.
 
"What do you say in your sermons about the uprising?"
 
"I stick to the Bible."
 
And so on. Father al-Houri could keep this up all day. I switch off my recorder and he shows me the hole in the church roof made by government artillery.
 
A young man with him says: "We Christians suffered from the same lack of freedom as everyone else. We suffered from the same corruption. Now, we are under the same shell fire."
 
Another man adds: "Whatever the collective opinion is in Zabadani, we will follow it."
 
That is the point - not to become dangerously isolated from wider society in Zabadani. The town has some 5,000 Christians and another 30,000 Sunni Muslims.
 
When I ask Father al-Houri about the numbers, he declares, rhetorically: "You have 35,000 Muslims here and, if you recount, you will have 35,000 Christians. We are all one great national sect. We are one body. We live and we die together."
 
Religious tensions
 
Zabadani supported the revolution. Therefore, tentatively, so did Father al-Houri. He had avoided almost every question, but he was never more cautious than when I asked him about the Islamist fighters in the town.
 
There are, of course, two rival Free Army groups in Zabadani, one more secular, while the other are Salafis, conservative Islamists. They are the biggest group because they are getting guns and money from outside.
 
They are mostly young and wear beards in the Jihadi style.
 
"Eighty per cent of Syria is Muslim," says Ali, a small but tough-looking man who had been a blacksmith.
 
"We won't accept a non-Muslim to rule over us."
 
Ahmad, a 24-year-old former lawyer disagrees: "We could have a Christian president here. Why not? That's democracy."
 
I wonder if this is what he thought I wanted to hear, but the two men soon forget about me and continue their argument.
 
The Salafis are commanded by Abu Adnan, a wild-looking man with a jet black beard and long hair worn slicked back. He was a shopkeeper and before that had done a degree in Islamic studies.
 
"Everybody is pushing towards the capital. That is where this will end," he says.
 
With shells still falling on Zabadani, he bitterly accuses Western countries of doing nothing while people die.
 
"There is a conspiracy against the Syrian people," he says.
 
"But we depend on God and with God's will and by our own hand, we will get our freedom."
 
For now, all the armed groups are united around the single goal of overthrowing the regime.
 
After that, though, they will have to settle the question of how religious, how Islamic a state the new Syria will be.

Al-Qaeda playing increasingly deadly role in Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 25 July 2012 09:53
jihadists in Syria has accelerated due to a convergence with the sectarian tensions across the countrys border with Iraq. APAmid intensifying violence in Syria, concern is mounting that al-Qaeda is trying to change the nature of the conflict against President Bashar al-Assad’ regime and is resorting to suicide bombings to “hijack” the revolution, the New York Times (NYT) reported on Wednesday.
 
According to the NYT, while the Syrian opposition continues to deny any role of the extremists in the conflict American intelligence officials and Iraqi officials next door are concerned al-Qaeda is deeply involved in the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq —suicide bombings—into the struggle against Assad with increasing rate.
 
The paper said evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of al-Qaeda. The paper gave the example of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with turkey that fell into rebel hands last week, but has quickly become a jihadists gathering point.
 
The NYT said videos are being posted on the internet that show masked men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and brandishing AK-47s. 
 
With al-Qaeda flags hanging in the background, a speaker says in the video, “We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of God.” 
 
Recently, presence of jihadists in Syria has accelerated due to a convergence with the sectarian tensions across the country’s border with Iraq. The extremist group has since made statements linking its insurgency in Iraq with the revolution in Syria, depicting both conflicts as Sunnis versus Shiites.
Iraqi officials have said the extremists operating in Syria are in many cases the very same militants striking across their country. 
 
“We are 100 percent sure from security coordination with Syrian authorities that the wanted names that we have are the same wanted names that the Syrian authorities have, especially within the last three months,” Izzat al-Shahbandar, a close aide to Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, said.
 
“Al Qaeda that is operating in Iraq is the same as that which is operating in Syria,” he said.
 
Monday marked the deadliest day in Iraq in two years as at least 111 people, including security forces, were reportedly killed in bomb attacks and shootings carried in the capital Baghdad, the northern city of Kirkuk and 17 other cities.
 
A man identified by NYT as Abu Thuha who lives in the Hawija district near Kirkuk in Iraq, said “we have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution,” 
 
“Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine,” he said.
 
Abu Tuha’s plans have been echoed by Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant, which military and intelligence analysts say is the major al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria, with two other Qaeda-linked groups also claiming to be active there, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al Baraa ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade.
 
Since the beginning of the conflict 16 months ago, the Syrian regime has attempted to portray the opposition as dominated by al-Qaeda and jihadist allies, something the opposition has denied and independent observers said just was not true at the time.
 
But earlier this year, the United States’ director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Congressional hearing that there were “all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda-like attack” in a series of bombings against security and intelligence targets in Damascus. 
 
He and other intelligence community witnesses attributed that to the spread into Syria of the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda.
 
Shortly before Clapper’s testimony, Ayman al-Zawahri, the number one man in al-Qaeda since the killing of Osama bin Laden, released an audio recording in which he praised the Syrian revolutionaries , calling them “the lions of the Levant,” a term that has since been taken up repeatedly in public pronouncements by the group.
 
Syrian state media routinely described every explosion as a suicide bombing. But beginning in December, analysts began seeing what many thought really were suicide bombings. 
 
Since then, there have been at least 35 car bombings and 10 confirmed suicide bombings, 4 of which have been claimed by the Nusra Front, according to data compiled by the Institute for the Study of War.
 
On Sunday, before the wave of 40 attacks across Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the pseudonymous leader of the group’s Iraqi affiliate, issued a rare audio statement, not only predicting the next day’s attacks, but also praising Syria’s revolutionaries. “You have taught the world lessons in courage, jihad and patience,” he said, according to a translation provided by the monitoring organization SITE.
 
The Syrian opposition is, however, in disagreement over the role of al-Qaeda in the uprising. 
 
“Every now and then, we hear about al-Qaeda in Syria, but there is so far no material evidence that they are here,” said Samir Nachar, a member of the executive bureau of the Syrian National Congress.
 
A Free Syrian Army Commander, Sayid, interviewed by NYT, said he had heard of Qaeda fighters in Syria but had never actually seen one.
 
“If al-Qaeda comes to get rid of him,” Sayid said, referring to Assad, “why not? But I personally have seen none of them.”

Turkey closes border gates with Syria to all traffic as security conditions worsens

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 25 July 2012 09:18
Turkey border with Syria. (Reuters)All Turkey’s border gates with Syria are to be closed from Wednesday, an official from the Turkish Customs and Trade Ministry told Reuters, in response to worsening security conditions.
 
Syrian rebels seized control of several gates on the Syrian side of the frontier over the last week in their 16-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
The closure will halt the passage of vehicles between Turkey and Syria. Refugees from Syria, who have been fleeing into Turkey in their thousands to escape the conflict, cross the border through smuggling routes.
 
Tensions along the border were fuelled by the shooting down last month of a Turkish military reconnaissance jet by Syrian air defenses.
 
Ankara, which previously had close ties with Damascus, subsequently increased its military presence, sending anti-aircraft missiles to the border and scrambling planes when Syrian aircraft came close to Turkish territory.
 
Wednesday’s move will close the only three border gates that were still open, at Cilvegozu, Oncupinar and Karkamis, the unnamed official said.
 
The official said Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazici would make an announcement on the decision at 0800 GMT.
 
Crossing the border had become increasingly hazardous for truck drivers involved in trade between the two countries. They faced the constant risk of being targeted by combatants or caught in the crossfire between the two sides.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said this week the uprising against Assad was “closer than ever to victory” and warned Turkey will respond firmly to any hostility from Syria.
 
Turkey has called for Assad to quit after he failed to heed calls for reform and the country has harbored Syrian rebels and tens of thousands of refugees along its border with Syria.
 
Syria’s uprising started when political protests in March 2011 met a harsh government crackdown. As dissent spread and the death toll rose, many in the opposition took up arms and the conflict transformed into a civil war.
 
Syria’s position as a geographic and political crossroads for the Middle East and beyond has given its conflict resonance far beyond its borders.
 
The U.S. and many Western nations have said that Assad must go, while Russia and China have stood by the regime and protected it from international condemnation by the United Nations Security Council.
 
Iran also counts Assad as a close ally and a bridge to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which it funds and arms. On Tuesday, the commander of the Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Masoud Jayazeri, warned of retaliation if any Arab countries intervened in Syria, The Associated Press reported.
 
Despite rising condemnation of Assad, no country appears ready to intervene militarily to push him from power. Still, a Syrian official on Monday threatened that Syria could use chemical or biological weapons if it were attacked from outside.
 
Russia on Tuesday rebuked Syria for the threat, reminding Damascus that it had ratified a global convention banning the use of chemical weapons. A foreign ministry statement said Syria must “unfailingly honor its international obligations.”
 
In Israel, which shares a closed and hostile border with Syria, the military chief warned his own government that an Israeli attack on Syria's chemical weapons depots could drag the Jewish state into a broader war.
 
Israeli officials have expressed fears that chaos in Syria could allow non-conventional weapons to reach those who would use them against Israel.
 
Israel must move cautiously to avoid “a broader offensive than we planned,” Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said, according to the army’s website.

Iranian Mouthpiece Media Calls on Syria to Attack Israel

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 21:28
missile launched during military exercise by Syrian air defense forces RueterSyrian President Bashar Assad should attack Israel, says an Iranian newspaper considered the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader.
 
Iran is concerned that the fall of Assad's regime will cost the Islamic Republic its closest ally and could ignite anti-Syrian elements in Lebanon, base of the Iranian-funded Hizbullah terrorist organization and political party.
 
The Kayhan newspaper, which operates directly under the supervision of the Islamic Supreme Leader of Iran, wrote last week that Assad has every reason to strike Israel because of Israel’s alleged responsibility for the bombing in Damascus, which killed several of Assad’s’ top military officers.
 
The suicide blast has been widely attributed to Al Qaeda or other terrorists, if not the Syrian rebels themselves, and no journalist has even implied that Israel was involved.
 
The newspaper’s call for war cannot be taken lightly. Kayhan “offers insight into the most extreme views of Iran’s leaders and into the mind-set and plans of those who are at the center of power,” according to New York Times correspondent Michael Slackman.
 
The daily charged that Israel's military deployment along the Syrian border prior to the bombing was further evidence of its responsibility for it, even though the IDF has posted troops there ever since the Six-Day War in 1967.
 
Kayhan also accused Israel of begin behind last week’s suicide bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists, whom the newspaper referred to as Israeli "diplomats.” It said the bombing was intended to frame Iran as having been responsible.
 
RightSideNews reported that an editorial in the Iranian newspaper offered Assad two options – a limited war to “liberate part of the occupied Syrian territories" or a "comprehensive war of no set duration" against a supposed alliance headed by Israel.
 
The newspaper foresees “a joint war by Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and others against the Zionist regime.”
 
“It is patently clear that Israel is currently totally unprepared for military confrontation – on the contrary, the worst possible scenario for it right now would be a confrontation with Syria,” Kayhan wrote.
 
“Such a confrontation would turn the atmosphere in the region against the Zionist regime, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and against the entire American-Zionist front – thus unifying the resistance front and making it operational.”

Syria Intervention Could Lead to Regional War

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 21:07
Gantz with officersIDF chief of staff Benny Gantz warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that a misstep by Israel in moving to secure Syria's chemical weapons could lead to a wide-scale regional war.
 
Gantz stressed to lawmakers that the embattled regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad still has a firm grip on its stores of unconventional weapons.
 
“They [Syrian military forces ] are guarding it and have even increased security so it will not fall into rogue hands although this does not mean it will stay that way,” Gantz said. “We need to take into consideration what will remain after we act and whose hands it will fall into.”
 
Gantz, who pointedly told lawmakers choosing the correct moment to act would be key to a successful move to secure Syria's chemical weapons, spoke before the c'tee as senior Israeli officials threaten war should Hizbullah obtain Assad's unconventional weapons.
 
Gantz said that ongoing Syrian military defections were “feeding” the rebellion and were having a negative impact on the Syrian military. 
 
“It is not just that they do not have commanders but it will also impact the soldiers’ performance over time,” he said.
 
Syria's largest rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, is comprised of some 30,000 army defectors commanded by dissident officers who have fled to neighboring Turkey.
 
FSA commanders in Syria late Monday charged Damascus had moved its chemical weapons stories to airports near its borders. The claim came just one day after the Assad regime threatened to use unconventional weapons if faced with outside intervention.
 
However, senior FSA commanders in Turkey told reporters they were training a special unit of fighters to seize Syria's chemical weapons, which they say remain in two secure facilities.
 
Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama directly warned Syria on Monday that the world was watching and that there would be consequences should Damacus employ chemical weapons. The American leader spoke just hours after the Pentagon issued a similar warning.
 
International concerns of Syria's unconventional weapons come as the embattled Assad regime fights pitched and deadly battles with rebels in the capital of Damascus and key city of Aleppo.
 
Over the weekend Syria used helicopter gunships in the two cities to hold the line as forces loyal to Assad find themselves unable to dislodge rebels from cities that once served as impregnable bastions of power.
 
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates at least 19,000 people - most of them civilians - have been killed in Syria's now 16-month long Arab Spring revolt.

Syria Fighting Continues as Army Pounds Damascus

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 July 2012 17:25
Burnt cars are seen on a street at al-Midan neighbourhood in Damascus ReutersThe fighting in Syria continued on Friday, as army helicopters pounded Damascus with rockets and heavy machine guns and tanks bombarded the capital from the ring road, to try to reverse relentless gains by rebels since much of President Bashar al-Assad's entourage was assassinated.
 
“The regime has been rudderless for last three days. But the aerial and ground bombardment on Damascus and its suburbs shows that it has not lost the striking force and that it is re-grouping,” opposition activist Moaz al-Jahhar said told Reuters from Damascus.
 
The 16-month conflict has been transformed since Wednesday, when a bomb killed four members of Assad’s narrow circle of kin and lieutenants, including his powerful brother-in-law, defense minister and intelligence chief.
 
In the days since, Reuters noted, rebels have pushed deep into the heart of the capital and seized control of other towns. On Thursday, they captured three border crossings with Iraq and Turkey, the first time they have held sway over Syria's frontiers.
 
The report said that Assad has failed to speak in public since Wednesday’s blast. A funeral was held on Friday for officials slain in the attack, but Assad did not attend and was nowhere to be seen.
 
The only public appearance Assad made since Wednesday was when he swore in his new Defense Minister, General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, in a ceremony aired on television by the Syrian News Agency (SANA) on Thursday.
 
Rebels poured into the capital Damascus at the start of the week and have since been battling government forces in what they call operation “Damascus Volcano.”
 
Lightly-armed rebels have been moving on foot inside residential neighborhoods and attacking security installations and roadblocks dotted across the capital.
 
Activists told Reuters that at least 100 people were killed in Damascus on Friday. In at least one apparent success for Assad's forces, state TV said on Friday troops had cleared the central Damascus district of Midan of “mercenaries and terrorists.” It showed dead men in t-shirts, some covered in blood, others burned.
 
Opposition activists and rebel sources confirmed on Friday that they had withdrawn from that district after coming under heavy bombardment, but said they were advancing elsewhere.
 
Meanwhile on Friday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend its monitoring mission in Syria for 30 days. Russia dropped its objections to the British proposal after it was broadened to require both government forces and rebel fighters to take steps to halt the violence.
 
On Thursday, Russia and China vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council that threatened Syrian authorities with sanctions if they did not withdraw troops from towns and cities and cease using heavy weapons in a crackdown on a popular uprising against Assad.
 
It was the third time that Russia and China have used their veto power to block UN Security Council resolutions targeting the Syrian regime.

Assad Strikes Back!

Category: News
Created on Friday, 20 July 2012 15:35
Syrian forces bomb civilian homesForces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Thursday struck back at rebels following a bombing that killed several key members of the embattled leader's inner circle.
Assad – whose grip on power in increasingly tenuous – dropped out of public view following Wednesday's bombing. While the Syrian president does not appear in public often, analysts regarded his absence following such a serious blow as remarkable.
Later on Thursday, Syria's state television broadcast pictures of  Assad, showing him at a ceremony where he swore in new Defense Minister Fahad Jassem Al-Freij, who succeeded Daoud Rajah, who died in a bombing by anti-government forces, Wednesday in the Syrian capital.
Thursday’s fighting in the once-impregnable Assad stronghold of Damascus saw government forces fire heavy machine guns and mortars in battles with rebels throughout the capital.
 
Adding to the confusion, Syria’s state-run TV warned citizens that gunmen were disguising themselves in military uniforms to carry out attacks.
 
“Gunmen are wearing Republican Guard uniforms in the neighborhoods of Tadamon, Midan, Qaa and Nahr Aisha, proving that they are planning attacks and crimes,” SANA said.
 
Many residents were fleeing Damascus’ Mezzeh neighborhood after troops surrounded it and posted snipers on rooftops while exchanging gunfire with opposition forces, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said rebels damaged one helicopter and disabled three military vehicles.
Meanwhile, thousands of Syrians streamed across the Syrian border into Lebanon, fleeing as fighting in the capital entered its fifth straight day.
 
The UN observer force commander, Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood – who has been sharply critical not only of Assad's brutal crackdown, but the world community's inability to take decisive action to end the crisis in Syria – condemned the violence and encouraged a diplomatic solution, which appears increasingly out of reach.
 
He spoke just hours before a planned U.N. Security council vote on whether to renew his mission’s mandate, which expires Friday, and impose new sanctions on the Damascus regime.
 
“It pains me to say, but we are not on the track for peace in Syria,” Mood said in Damascus.
 
The UN Security Council delayed a vote on the Syria crisis due to persistent opposition to decisive action by Moscow.
 
Russia – which has billions of dollars tied to the Assad regime – has stood by the Syrian regime and vowed to veto any measures that could lead to international military intervention.
 
UN rights officials say at least 12,500 people – most of them civilians – have been killed in the 16-month reign of terror launched by Assad in hopes of quelling a popular uprising that has now blossomed into civil war.
 
The world body's top rights watchdog, Navi Pillay, has openly said there is amble evidence to try Assad – whose forces are accused of the systemic rape, torture, kidnapping, and mass execution of regime opponents and their families – for crimes against humanity.
 
The spiraling chaos in Syria has also contributed to the price of crude oil topping $91 dollars a barrel amid market concerns, and led Israel to the south to place its military on high alert while canceling weekend leaves for IDF officers and soldiers.

Al-Qaeda Could Obtain Syrian Chemical Weapons, Jordan King Warns

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 19 July 2012 22:26
AbuallahKing Abdullah II of Jordan warned Wednesday that the situation in Syria is spinning out of control and in a worst case scenario al-Qaeda could obtain some of the regime’s chemical weapons.
 
“Our information is that there is a presence of al-Qaeda in certain regions inside Syria, and has been there for a while,” he told CNN.
 
“And, again, one of the worst case scenarios as we are obviously trying to look for a political solution would be if some of those chemical stockpiles were to fall into unfriendly hands,” he warned.
 
The Jordanian king said that while the bomb attack that killed core members of the Syrian regime was a "tremendous blow" to President Bashar al-Assad, it would not yet lead to the downfall of the regime
 
A bomb attack in Damascus on Wednesday killed key Syrian officials, including Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and General Hassan Turkmani, head of the regime's crisis cell on the uprising.
 
“Definitely this shows some cracks in the system, but again, I don’t think we should jump to any conclusion writing the regime off in the near future,” he said.
 
“I think as we continue to pursue the political option, the realities on the ground may have overtaken us. Therefore I think the clock is ticking,” he said.
 
“I think we should continue to give politics its due. But if we haven’t already passed that window, I think we’re getting very close to it.” 
 
“If it breaks down, if civil order breaks down to the point of no return, then it will take years to fix Syria. And I have a feeling we're seeing signs of that over the past three weeks,” he warned.
 
“The only people that can bring us back from that brink are obviously the president and the regime. And I believe this is the last chance that they have,” he added.
 
The United States also expressed concern regarding Assad's chemical stockpile, warning that any official involved in its use would face the consequences. 

Assad Regime 'Ready to Use Chemical Weapons'

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 15:07
Chemical WeaponsSyrian President Bashar al-Assad will not hesitate to use chemical weapons against opposition forces and may have already deployed them, Nawaf Fares, the first Syrian ambassador to defect since the uprising against Assad began, told the BBC on Monday.
 
Fares, a former ambassador to Iraq, insisted that Assad’s days are numbered but warned that the president would be prepared "to eradicate the entire Syrian people" in order to remain in power.
 
"I am convinced that if Bashar al-Assad's regime is further cornered by the people -- he would use such weapons," Fares said. 
 
"There is information, unconfirmed information, that chemical weapons have been used in Homs," he added.
 
Syria has a large stock of chemical weapons and neighboring countries are increasingly concerned about what will happen to them if the regime topples.
 
"It is absolutely sure that this government will fall in a short time," he told the BBC from his refuge in Qatar. "We wish for this time to be short so that more sacrifices are reduced."
 
"It doesn't occur to any Syrian, not only me, that Bashar al-Assad will let go of power through political interventions... He will be ousted only by force," he added.
 
Fares was dismissive of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's current visit to Russia, saying success there was "impossible."
 
"Several months have passed and... the regime hasn't implemented a single article of (Kofi Annan's) plan," he added.
 
The ex-ambassador to Iraq announced his defection on July 11 and has been widely perceived as a regime hardliner, with his decision to break ranks triggering suspicion among activists.
 
Some dissidents say Fares has been likely groomed by the West to play a role in a transitional government.
 
Syria's military deployed armored vehicles near central Damascus on Monday as troops battled rebels around the capital in what activists said could be a turning point in the 16-month uprising.
 
Fares said the spread of violence to the capital proved that the "expansion and the power of the revolution was increasing day-by-day."

Israel Preparing for Action in Syria, Says Former Mossad Chief

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 15 July 2012 08:13
Syria IsraelFormer Mossad chief Danny Yatom said on Thursday that Israel is preparing for the possibility of military action in Syria, in case its chemical weapons were to end up in the hands of Hizbullah or other terrorist organizations in the region.
 
Yatom spoke to the British Sky News, which reported that Israel is deeply concerned that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad may deliberately give Hizbullah chemical weapons or that they could end up in the hands of other terror groups
 
In either case, this could lead to a regional war, Yatom told the network.
 
“The conventional wisdom should be that we cannot exclude a non-conventional attack on Israel,” he said. “We would have to pre-empt in order to prevent it. We need to be prepared to launch even military attacks... and military attacks mean maybe a deterioration to war.”
 
Sky News reported that Middle Eastern and other intelligence sources say that Syria has the biggest stockpiles of the nerve gasses VX and Sarin, as well as mustard gas, in the Middle East.
 
Investigations by Sky News have identified four sites where the agents are produced: Hama, Latakia, Al Safira, near Aleppo and at the Centre D'Etude et Recherche Scientifique laboratories in Damascus.
 
Storage sites have also been found at Khan abu Shamat, Furqlus, Hama, Masyaf, Palmyra, the report said.
 
Biological weapons are believed to be stored at Cerin while there are also numerous 'dual use' civilian pharmaceutical laboratories which are capable of producing bio-weapons such as botulism and anthrax.
 
Al Qaeda-related groups are known to be operating inside Syria, and its leadership has frequently extolled members or followers to try to get hold of chemical weapons.
 
A top IDF officer said recently that Israel is “in preparations for the possibility of war and in the midst of deployment with the situation in Syria in mind.”
 
The greatest challenge facing Division 36, which is placed in the Golan, is the possibility of facing a surprise attack, said the officer, Brig. Gen. Tamir Heiman, Commander of Division 36. “The biggest concern is a combined terror attack and we are preparing for this in the Golan area.”
 
The essential changes that have taken place in Syria provide the potential for a terror attack coming out of Syria and crossing the border, which has been very quiet in recent years.
 
The IDF’s Northern District Commander Yair Golan has warned that the battle being waged in Syria between opponents of the Assad regime and Assad loyalists may have an effect on what is happening in Israel.
 
“Al-Qaeda related factors that are active there now and working against the regime may operate against us over time,” he said. “The Syrian threat to Israel requires attention. It will not happen tomorrow morning, but it can occur within a few months.”
 
Golan added, “Syria has weapons of mass destruction along with a very heavy arsenal of weapons, including surface-to-ground missiles and chemical weapons. The fact that Syria is a storehouse of weapons which fuels terrorists in the region is very unsettling.”

Syrian Tanks Gather on Turkish Border

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 June 2012 20:44
Syrian Tanks Near DamascusThe Syrian army has gathered roughly 170 tanks near the Turkish border, Syrian rebels said Friday. Rebels told international media that forces are gathering north of Aleppo.
 
“The tanks are now at the Infantry School. They're either preparing to move to the border to counter the Turkish deployment or attack the rebellious (Syrian) towns and villages in and around the border zone north of Aleppo,” General Mustafa al-Sheikh told Reuters.
 
Al-Sheikh is head of the Higher Military Council, a group of senior officers who defected from the Syrian army.
 
On Tuesday, Turkish media reported that Turkey had deployed a large number of military vehicles to its border with Syria. The move followed Syria’s shooting of a Turkish jet in international airspace last week.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan said Turkey is not seeking to fight Syria, but “will not stay silent” in light of the attack.

U.S. denounces attack on pro-Assad TV station as violence continues in Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 28 June 2012 07:25
headquarters of Al-Ikhbariya news channel near Damascus. Photo courtesy SANAThe United States on Wednesday condemned an attack on a pro-government television station in Damascus which killed seven staff members in the latest development of an uprising against the Syrian regime.
 
“We condemn all acts of violence including those targeting pro-regime elements,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, while rebuking President Bashar al-Assad for the death of civilians in a brutal crackdown.
 
Live footage broadcast by Syrian state television showed extensive damage to the studios of Al-Ikhbariya satellite channel outside the capital with several small fires still burning.
 
“The terrorist groups stormed the offices of Al-Ikhbariya, planted explosives in the studios and blew them up along with the equipment,” Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi told state television in a live interview.
 
“They carried out the worst massacre against the media, executing journalists and security staff,” Zohbi said, adding that a number of staff were kidnapped.
 
Three journalists and four security guards were killed, state media said.
 
Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders called for members of a U.N. observer mission, which suspended its operations on June 16 in the face of worsening violence, to visit the scene to ascertain the facts.
 
Continuous violence
Opposition monitor groups said that violence against civilians continued in Syria on Wednesday.
 
The Local Coordination Committee (LCC) said that the death toll has risen to 35 people killed across Syria by the country’s security forces. The Revolutionary Common Council, Meanwhile, said heavy shelling killed 25 people in Deir al-Zour alone.
 
The Syrian Media Center said that mortars were fired at a refugee camp in Deraa.
 
And another group, the Sham Network, said that heavy explosions rocked the area surrounding Hamouriya city in the countryside of Damascus, but did not report of any death toll. 
 
Early Thursday, LCC reported Wednesday's death toll to be around 104 people killed by Syria’s security forces.

NATO Backs Turkey Against Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:03
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Reuters)NATO on Tuesday firmly backed Turkey saying Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish jet was “unacceptable,:
 
NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the incident saying, "We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms…It is another example of the Syrian authorities' disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life." 
 
"We discussed the shooting down of a Turkish aircraft by Syria. All allies have approved a statement setting out our firm position, "said Rasmussen following the meeting of North Atlantic Council of NATO. 
 
The Turkish-Syrian alliance has turned increasingly sour during Syrian President Bashar al-Assad`s brutal 14-month crackdown on a popular uprising against his rule. 
 
However, last Friday when a Turkish jet F4 Phantom was shot down by Syria, relations between Ankara and Damascus turned potentially hot.  
 
Turkey claims the jet was in the international space when it was fired on, but Syria says the plane was in their airspace. 
 
Protesting the downing of its jet in vigorious terms, Turkey invoked article 4 of NATO's founding treaty and requested a meeting of NATO members to decide on the response. 
 
As a result, the twenty eight member states of NATO met Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the incident,  before Rassmussen released his statement.
 
"Let me make this clear. The security of the alliance is indivisible. We stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity," the alliance Secretary General said. 
 
Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan - known for his bellicose rhetoric - warned Syria of Ankara's furor saying, "Everybody should know that Turkey's wrath is just as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable." 
 
"Our rational response should not be perceived as weakness, our mild manners do not mean we are a tame lamb," he said. 
 
Turkey also sent a letter to the UN Security Council saying that the incident posed “a serious threat to peace and security in the region." 
 
The letter further condemned the "hostile act by the Syrian authorities against Turkey's national security". 
 
Despite NATO's strong statement in support of Turkey, analysts say there is little chance the alliance will intervene to oust Assad as it did against late strongman Muammar Qaddafi in Libya.

Syria: Government Accuses Rebels of Massacre

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 23 June 2012 17:44
Hama Violence July 5A video showing more than a dozen bloodied corpses emerged in Syria on Friday, in what the government said was a "massacre" by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo.
 
The Associated Press reported that some of the bodies in the video were seen piled on top of each other and in military uniforms.
 
The circumstances of the killings were not immediately clear, but the video’s narrator said the dead were members of the “shabiha,” or pro-regime gunmen.
 
AP quoted Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, as having said terrorist groups had killed and mutilated at least 25 people in Daret Azzeh, a rebel-held area in the Aleppo countryside.
 
The government refers to rebels as terrorists.
 
“The terrorist groups in Daret Azzeh committed a brutal massacre against the citizens, whom they had kidnapped earlier in the day,” SANA said, adding that at least 25 people were killed, but others were missing.
 
Daret Azzeh has endured intense government shelling over the past two weeks as Assad's forces try to regain areas taken by rebels.
 
Shabiha often operate as hired enforcers for Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Shabiha thugs are known to frequently work closely with soldiers and security forces, but the regime never acknowledges their existence – allowing it to deny responsibility for their actions.
 
They were recently fingered by the UN as having carried out the massacre which killed more than 100 people in Houla.
 
Meanwhile on Friday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that four senior army officers have defected from the regime. The group provided a video purporting to show two brigadier generals and two colonels who declared they were joining the opposition.
 
The group said the defections came on Thursday, the same day a Syria fighter pilot defected and flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighboring Jordan, where he was given asylum.
 
U.S. officials told The Daily Telegraph on Friday that members of Assad’s inner circle are secretly making plans to defect to the opposition should the Syrian regime become critically threatened by the rebellion.

Turkey confirms Syria shot down F-4 military jet, search for pilots ongoing

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 June 2012 21:01
Turkey military aircraftSyria shot down a Turkish military fighter jet in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a statement, amid earlier ambiguity over whether the plane had been downed by Syrian defense forces or had crashed. 
 
“As a result of information obtained from the evaluation of our concerned institutions and from within the joint search and rescue operations with Syria, it is understood that our plane was brought down by Syria,” Erdogan’s office said.
 
Turkey would decide on its response to the incident once all of the details became clear, it said in the statement, issued after a two-hour meeting between Erdogan, members of his cabinet and the military.
 
His office also said that search and rescue operations were continuing for two missing pilots.
 
Following Erdogan's statement, the Syrian military said it shot down the Turkish military aircraft "over Syrian territorial waters."
 
"Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane," a statement by the military circulated on state media said.
 
Earlier on Friday, Erdogan said he could not confirm whether Syria had admitted to shooting down a Turkish warplane in the Mediterranean. 
 
While reports had circulated that Syria had apologized for the incident, claiming it was a mistake, Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara that he had no firm information on the apology.
 
He had also said he could not confirm whether the plane had been shot down or crashed. 
 
Earlier, the Turkish army said it lost radar and radio contact with one of its aircrafts on the Mediterranean near neighboring Syria, and a television station said it had crashed in Syrian territorial waters.
 
The conflicting, or perhaps extra cautious, statements from the Turkish PM came after Erdogan was reportedly quoted by Haberturk daily newspaper earlier on Friday as saying: "Syria immediately offered a very serious apology for the incident and admitted it was a mistake."
 
He had also been quoted by the paper as saying the two pilots of the Turkish F-4 fighter jet were alive after the incident.
 
“At this moment the air force and navy are conducting search and rescue operations in the western Mediterranean and luckily our pilots are alive, we have just lost a plane,” he told journalists while travelling back from Brazil.
 
In Ankara, Erdogan told reporters there is no news on the pilots and Turkish ships and helicopters were searching for the missing pilots together with Syrian ships.
 
The senior adviser to the Turkish president, Arshad Harmozlo, had said that the statement from the Turkish news report was baseless, and instead reiterated Erdogan’s comments. 
 
“We have no confirmation surrounding the Syrian apology or even that Syria has shot down the jet … The rescue operation to find the pilots continues,” he told Al Arabiya in a telephone interview. 
 
He also said he has no information on claims Turkish jet pilots have been captured by Syria.
 
Shortly after, Erdogan met military and intelligence chiefs and key ministers for a security meeting, after which he released a statement confirming Syria had downed the plane. 
 
Earlier on Friday, Lebanon’s Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar television station had already confirmed this. The channel said that Syrian air defenses shot down the Turkish military aircraft, quoting Syrian security sources. 
 
“Syrian security sources confirmed to a Manar correspondent in Damascus that Syrian defense forces shot down the Turkish fighter jet,” the Hezbollah-owned channel said.
 
Meanwhile, pro-Iranian Al-Mayadeen television station, which is based in Lebanon, quoted what it said were Turkish sources as saying a jet had been shot down by Syrian air defenses near the border with Turkey.
 
Tense relations
 
 
Turkey, which had drawn close to Syria before the uprising against Assad, became one of the Syrian leader’s fiercest critics when he responded violently to pro-democracy protests inspired by popular upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world. 
 
Ankara has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without U.N. Security Council approval.
 
Turkey said it had lost contact with one of its military aircraft off its southeastern coast, and a television station said it had crashed in Syrian territorial waters.
 
The plane took off from Malatya airbase in the southeast at 0730 GMT and lost communication with the base at 0858 GMT in the southwest of the Hatay province bordering Syria, the military command said in a statement posted online.
 
“Search and rescue efforts have started immediately,” it said.
 
The Hurriyet daily newspaper reported that the plane had gone down in international waters and that the two airmen had been found alive and well following a search operation by Turkish forces.
 
Turkish warplanes regularly patrol along and off Turkey's southern Mediterranean coast.

Is the U.S. losing its clout in the Middle East?

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 18 June 2012 08:44
Obama in Cairo's universityEvents in Egypt, Bahrain and Syria illustrate the limits of U.S. influence in the Middle East following the Arab Spring and a U.S. reluctance, at times, to exercise such clout as it has.
 
Court rulings in Egypt and in Bahrain this week, analysts say, show the ruling authorities’ desire to maintain their grip on power and the United States’ limited ability to shape events despite its general support for democracy.
 
After decades in which Washington has been the region’s dominant outside player, deploying its military to guarantee the flow of oil and its diplomatic muscle to advance peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the pro-democracy demonstrations of the Arab Spring appear to have changed the equation.
 
President Barack Obama’s early hopes of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal have foundered.
 
And U.S. blunders in Iraq, where violence persists nine years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, have also eroded U.S. credibility, Middle East analysts said.
 
“When questions become ones of life and death, people are less interested in what the United States has to say,” said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.
 
“We have had a long relationship with the Egyptian military and when it comes to existential issues, they will listen politely but they strongly believe that they understand both their population and their national interest better than well-meaning Americans,” Alterman added.
 
Egypt, Bahrain rulings
 
 
Egypt’s supreme court ruled on Thursday to dissolve the newly-elected parliament that is dominated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and to allow ousted leader Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister to run in this weekend’s presidential race.
 
The rulings are widely viewed as an effort by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military authorities who have ruled the country since Mubarak’s Feb. 11, 2011 ouster, to undercut the Brotherhood and to strengthen its own hand.
 
In Bahrain, an important U.S. ally in the Gulf that hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a court reduced sentences against nine medical professionals and acquitted nine others but the United States said it was “deeply disappointed” by the verdict and suggested that those involved were punished because of their political views.
 
And in Syria, having for now ruled out a military intervention without international support, the United States has been unable to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
 
The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed 10,000 people in a crackdown on protest against Assad’s rule. A U.N. monitoring mission, whose presence the United States hoped might help quell the strife, on Saturday, suspended its operations.
It is unclear what Washington plans to do to try to end the conflict given Russian reluctance to see Assad ousted.
 
Panetta calls Tantawi
 
 
The State Department on Friday said that it was troubled by the Egyptian supreme court’s ruling, it wanted new parliamentary elections to be conducted quickly, and the SCAF should turn over power on July 1 after a free and fair presidential election.
 
Egypt’s military has promised to hand over power by July 1 following this weekend’s second round of the presidential election that pits the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy against former general Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak protege.
 
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who leads the SCAF, on Friday and stressed “the need to ensure a full and peaceful transition to democracy,” the Pentagon said.
 
Tantawi repeated the military’s commitment to hold free and fair presidential election and to turn over power to a democratically elected government on July 1, the Pentagon said.
 
Michele Dunne, a Middle East analyst at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, argued that the United States has influence on Egypt because of the large U.S. aid flows, notably to the Egyptian military, but has elected not to exercise it.
 
On March 23, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released $1.3 billion in annual military aid for Egypt despite Cairo’s failure to meet pro-democracy goals, saying U.S. national security required the continued military assistance.
 
“The United States had leverage to exert; it chose not to,” Dunne said. “Influence is only influence if you choose to exert it.”
 
Egypt has long been among the top recipients of U.S. aid, which began flowing in substantial sums after it became the first Arab nation to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, regarding the money as an investment in regional security.
The United States gave roughly $2 billion or more annually for 25 years after the peace agreement, most of it for the military. That figure has drifted down to hold steady at around $1.55 billion in recent years.
 
Democracy versus Islamism?
 
Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department official now director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said the United States has leverage in Egypt because of its aid, which could be cut next year, and in Bahrain because of the ruling family’s sensitivity to U.S. criticism.
 
“That’s the big difference between Egypt and Bahrain on the one hand and Syria on the other,” she said. “There were times when the U.S. government thought its words, in public and in private, might have some impact on ... Bashar al-Assad.
 
“We are clearly not at that point any more. Bashar al-Assad clearly doesn’t care what the United States thinks any more and therefore the rhetoric doesn’t matter,” she said.
 
The U.S. strategy on Syria for now appears to hinge on persuading Russia, a long-time ally and arms supplier to Syria which maintains a naval base at Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus, to take a harder stand toward Assad.
 
So far, this has not worked.
 
Marina Ottaway, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, suggested that there may be some tension within the Obama administration because of its desire to support democracy in the Middle East but its hesitance to see Islamist parties coming to power.
 
“I think they are probably very ambivalent about this. They were certainly not thrilled at the way things were going in terms of the influence of the Islamists,” Ottaway said.

Turkey Fears Syrian Conflict Spilling Over Border

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 20:52
Villagers block entrance to Lebanese Syrian border town RutersTurkey has expressed fears that the bloodshed from the growing civil war in Syria could spill over its border.
 
“We are disturbed by the possibility that it could spread to us,” Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said Wednesday in an interview on state-run TRT television.
 
More than 29,500 Syrian refugees have fled through that border to the safety of Turkey in the past year, officials in Ankara have said. At least two thousand of those arrived within the past 48 hours, a major upswing in the number of people fleeing the violence at one time, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
 
Among the latest wave of refugees were 43 wounded victims who required hospitalization, according to Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal. Some 50,000 Syrians have sought shelter across the border in Turkey over the past 15 months, Turkish officials estimate, but thousands returned to their homes, or moved elsewhere.
 
There have been similar flights to safety by Syrian refugees who have crossed borders into Lebanon and Jordan as well. Both countries are also expressing their concerns over the growing incidents of violence that have spilled over their borders.
 
In Lebanon, sectarian rifts which have existed for decades have widened even further as a result of the current Syrian civil war, and in one village a rebel activist supporter was kidnapped on June 11 by a gang of pro-Alawite Lebanese, prompting other villagers to block the road used as a border crossing between the two countries.
 
On April 9, two Turkish officials were wounded when clashes between Syrian government troops and opposition forces spilled across the border and into a refugee camp set up in Turkey. That same day, 21 people were killed in the fighting outside the camp, and two others were injured; a Lebanese cameraman was also killed while filming near the Syrian border along his own country.
 
In response, Turkey has begun to tighten its own borders, and closely question the smugglers who were bringing in the refugees.
 
Officials have started to suspect that some of those refugees might be members of the PKK terrorist organization that promotes a separatist movement in southeast Turkey. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's late father, Hafez al-Assad, encouraged the emigration of Kurdish members of the movement to Turkey in the 1990s.
 
International leaders -- including those in Israel -- have also expressed increasing concerns over the rise of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization in Syria, as the Assad regime loses its grip over the country and no clear unified opposition authority takes control.
 
Humanitarian aid organizations and the United Nations have estimated that at least 13,500 civilians have been killed in the violence since the revolt was ignited in March 2011 by the regionwide Arab Spring uprisings that swept the Middle East.
 
It is not possible to obtain more detailed information due to the restrictions placed on U.N. agencies, journalists and other media by the Assad regime, however; at least nine journalists have been killed -- including several from the United States -- attempting to gain more accurate information through coverage of events in the country, and numerous others have gone missing or been trapped and/or wounded. 

Syria stocks world’s biggest chemical weapons; can strike anywhere in Israel

Category: News
Created on Monday, 11 June 2012 09:02
chemical weapons in Syria falling into the hands of HezbollahSyria has the biggest chemical weapons stocks in the world and missiles and rockets that can reach any point in Israel, the Jewish state’s deputy military chief warned. 
 
Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh said if Syria had the chance, it would “treat us the same way it treats its own people.”
 
Naveh’s remarks, made at a ceremony in Jerusalem commemorating fallen soldiers on Sunday night, were reported on Monday by Israeli radio stations, according to The Associated Press.
 
Syrian activists estimate more than 14,000 people have died since the uprising in Syria erupted 15 months ago.
 
Israel has been watching the carnage in neighboring Syria with increasing concern. 
 
The two countries have fought major wars and Syria backs violent anti-Israel groups. Multiple attempts to reach a peace deal have failed.
 
Israel has concerns that such weapons might fall into the hands of the Lebanese armed group of Hezbollah or terror organizations.
 
Israeli military analysts say Syria has spent the past 40 years producing nerve gas, as well as mustard gas, which can be used in missiles.
 
And earlier this month, chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told MPs that the unrest in Syria was affecting stability on the strategic Golan Heights plateau, half of which is held by Syria while the other half is occupied by Israel.
 
“In the Golan Heights, there is an instability developing that is on the rise, as a result of events in Syria, including in the zone adjacent to the border,” Gantz told the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defense, according to AFP.
 
“The incidents have not reached the level of terror activity, but could get there,” he said in remarks quoted by a spokesman.
 
Two weeks ago, Israel’s daily Haaretz cited a top Syrian opposition figure, who was a former senior officer in the Syrian Army -- on conditions of anonymity -- as saying that once the regime of Assad collapses, the Syrian opposition plans to take control of the regime’s chemical weapons depots and secure them.
 
He told the Israeli daily that the large arsenal of chemical weapons held by the regime “is one of the matters the security committee has discussed.”
 
“We have divided the aftermath [of Assad’s fall] into four periods with different priorities for each day. The first period is the first day, the first hours after Assad’s control breaks down, and one of the priorities during those hours is taking control of the chemical weapons so they won’t fall into the hands of terrorists,” the former officer – now a top member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) -- was quoted by Haaretz as saying. 
 
On Sunday, Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz urged world powers to oust President Bashar al-Assad in the same way that last year’s Western-backed campaign in Libya overthrew former strongman Muammar Qaddafi.
 
“A crime against humanity, genocide, is being conducted in Syria today. And the silence of the world powers is contrary to all human logic,” Mofaz told Israel’s Army Radio.
 
“Since in the not-distant past the powers chose military intervention in Libya, here the required conclusion would be immediate military intervention to bring down the Assad regime,” he said, according to Reuters.
 
Israel had so far taken a cautious line on the uprising in its Arab neighbor. While the overthrow of Assad would weaken his close ally and Israel’s main enemy Iran, it has been wary of what might happen if the Syrian leader were to be replaced by an Islamist government more hostile to the Jewish state.
 
Comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday suggested that concerns about Iran may be starting to predominate in Israel’s calculations.
 
“This is a slaughter carried out not only by the Syrian government. It is being helped by Iran and Hezbollah,” he said in broadcast remarks to his cabinet. “The world should understand what kind of environment we live in.”
 
Iran denies helping Assad to crush dissent.
 
Netanyahu has steered clear of explicitly calling for military intervention in Syria, telling Bild newspaper last week: “That’s a decision for the leading powers who are now talking about it. The less I say as prime minister of Israel, the better.”

Heavy Fighting Reported on Streets of Damascus

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 10 June 2012 08:59
Smoke rises from Syrian shelling of HomsUnited Nations supervisors say opposition forces are attacking Syrian government troops as well as the electricity stations supplying power to the Syrian Army bases. They have also bombed six buses carrying the soldiers loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
 
The battles are said to be the fiercest since the beginning of the revolution sparked by the Arab Spring uprising that began in March 2011.
 
At least three tank shells were fired in residential areas in the capital's central neighborhood of Qaboun, according to one report. Intensive assault rifle gunfire marked the clash. At least five people were killed.
 
Fighting also was sparked in the neighborhood of Barzeh on Friday, when troops opened fire on anti-Assad gatherings. Rebels responded with their own gunfire, activists said.
 
Opposition forces attacked a government loyalist checkpoint in the outlying neighborhood of Kfar Souseh in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
 
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 52 civilians died around the country on Saturday. Government troops stormed into the posh neighborhood of Ghouta in the central city of Homs to conduct raids, killing at least five.
 
In addition, nine women and children died,  plus 11 others in a heavy pre-dawn government army artillery attack on the southern city of Dera'a, where the revolt began in March 2011. Six children were killed by a shell that exploded in a house where 10 people took cover during fierce fighting in the coastal region of Latakiya.
 
In a meeting with the Druze community in the Golan Heights last week, MK Ayoub Kara was presented with evidence that clearly indicates the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, including photos of big black clouds suspected of containing chemical material that were fired over the areas where battles between rebels and regime forces have been taking place. Syrian opposition sources claimed Thursday that aircraft belonging to the Syrian Air Force dropped toxic material into the province of Dera'a, which smells like sulfur and causes drowsiness and unconsciousness. It was also reported that Assad’s forces had used unidentified gas shells on civilians in Dera'a, Hama and Deir ez-Zor.
 
Also on Saturday, for the first time the United Nations managed to issue an independent confirmation of the massacre of nearly 80 people who were murdered by Assad troops at the village of Mazra'at al-Qubair.
 
Despite the government having blocked the U.N. monitors from the site long enough to have time to conduct a hasty coverup, troops did not have time to clean up all the evidence, and enough was left for U.N. monitors to film the obvious signs of the shocking carnage.

Israel Willing to Treat Syrian Casualties

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 10 June 2012 07:23
Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara said on Saturday that Israel would be willing to help treat casualties from the ongoing fighting in Syria.anti-government protesters0
 
Speaking during a meeting with Druze youths in the Golan Heights, Kara said, “Israel is ready to receive casualties who would be evacuated from Syria to Israel and, alternatively, we are ready to fly medical aid via Jordan to those children and infants whose families were destroyed by the Syrian regime’s massacres.”
 
Kara’s comments were made in the wake of riots and arrests that took place in a Druze stronghold in Syria.
 
During the meeting, Kara was presented with evidence that clearly indicates the use of chemical weapons by the regime material, including photos of big black clouds suspected as containing chemical material over the areas where battles between rebels and regime forces have been taking place.
 
Syrian opposition sources claimed on Thursday that aircraft belonging to the Syrian Air Force dropped toxic material into the province of Daraa, which smells like sulfur and causes drowsiness and unconsciousness.
 
It was also reported that Assad’s forces had used unidentified gas shells on civilians in Daraa, Hama and Deir ez-Zor.
 
Kara maintains close contacts with representatives of the Syrian opposition and was placed in charge of coordinating the transfer of humanitarian aid from Israel to Syrian citizens.
 
Syrian exiles have told Kara’s bureau chief that “The declaration by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Israel will transfer humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people proves that Israel is the only humanitarian country in the Middle East.”
 
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported on Saturday that troops battled rebels in the streets of the Syrian capital of Damascus, a show of boldness for rebels taking their fight against President Bashar Assad to the center of his power.
 
According to the report, for nearly 12 hours of fighting that lasted into the early hours Saturday, rebels armed mainly with assault rifles fought Syrian forces in the heaviest fighting in the Assad stronghold since the 15-month-old uprising began.
 
UN observers told AP rebels fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the local power plant, damaging parts of it and reducing six buses to charred shells.
 
At least three tank shells slammed into residential areas in the central Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun, an activist said. Intense exchanges of assault-rifle fire marked the clash, according to residents and amateur video posted online.
 
At least 52 civilians were killed around the country outside Damascus on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Among them were 20, including nine women and children, who died in heavy, pre-dawn shelling in Daraa, where the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.
 
Six children were among 10 killed by a shell that exploded in a house they took cover in during fierce fighting in the coastal region of Latakia, the group said.
 
On Friday, UN monitors got their first direct look at a farming village where nearly 80 men, women and children were reportedly killed in the latest massacre in Syria.
 
The monitors said they found body parts and damaged homes.

Nasrallah Urges Kidnappers to Address Grievances With Him

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 02 June 2012 10:38
Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that the abductors of the Lebanese pilgrims in Syria should address their grievances directly with him, and not through kidnapping innocent people.A Hizbullah supporter
 
“If your problem is with me, there are lots of ways to resolve it. We can resolve it any way you want, whether through war or through love and peace,” Nasrallah was quoted by NOW Lebanon as having said during speech televised in commemoration of late Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini.
 
“Using the innocent pilgrims as hostages to resolve the problem is a great injustice,” he added.
 
A previously unknown armed group calling itself the “Syrian Revolutionaries -- Aleppo Province” said on Thursday that it is holding the Shiite pilgrims, who went missing last week.
 
“The kidnapped Lebanese are being looked after by us and are in good health,” the group said in a statement received by the Al-Jazeera news network. “Negotiations for their release are possible as soon as Nasrallah apologizes.”
 
“Our problem is not with any particular community but with those who assist in the suppression of the uprising,” the group added.
 
The dozen or so returning pilgrims went missing on May 22 in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. Last week it was reported that the pilgrims were freed and had arrived in Turkey, but those reports were later denied.
 
Beirut said last week that it had asked Turkey to help free the kidnapped pilgrims.

Hizbullah Wants to Move Far-Reaching Scuds from Syria

Category: News
Created on Friday, 01 June 2012 08:39
The Hizbullah terror group wants to move Scud D-type missiles and modern anti-aircraft equipment from Syria to Lebanon, Channel 2 News reported on Thursday.Scud missile reportedly in Hizbullah arsenal
 
According to the report, the group fears the weapons may come into the hands of the rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
 
The report said that Hizbullah has recently been considering moving to Lebanon the modern weapons it already owns but which are being kept in the group’s bases in Damascus. Channel 2 noted that the Scud D missiles are considered quite sophisticated and have the ability to reach as far as the city of Eilat.
 
Hizbullah is reportedly concerned over a possible attack by the armed rebel forces in Syria on its weapons arsenal in Damascus. The group fears that the rebel Free Syrian Army may loot the weapons stockpile.
 
A Jordanian news site reported in early May that western spy satellites have recently spotted movements of Syrian heavy missile launchers northward and southward, toward Syria's borders with Turkey and Israel.
 
The site said hundreds of high-caliber launchers are being moved, and that these could only be long range Scud missile launchers.
 
Syria has threatened in the past that in the event of foreign military intervention on its soil, it will not hesitate to fire missiles at Israel and Turkey in order to ignite a large scale regional war.
 
The IDF’s Northern District Commander Yair Golan warned on Wednesday that the battle being waged in Syria between opponents of the Assad regime and Assad loyalists may have an effect on what is happening in Israel.
 
“Al-Qaeda related factors that are active there now and working against the regime may operate against us over time,” Golan said. “The Syrian threat to Israel requires attention. It will not happen tomorrow morning, but it can occur within a few months.”
 
Golan added, “Syria has weapons of mass destruction along with a very heavy arsenal of weapons, including surface-to-ground missiles and chemical weapons. The fact that Syria is a storehouse of weapons which fuels terrorists in the region is very unsettling.”
 
Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah recently threatened to strike multiple targets in Israel, including Tel Aviv.
 
“We are capable of not only hitting specific targets in Tel Aviv but also any place in occupied Palestine,” he said.
 
“The era has come when we survive while they will be doomed to extinction,” Nasrallah added. “For every building that is destroyed in the southern suburbs, several buildings will be destroyed in Tel Aviv in return.”
 
The German broadcaster ZDF reported Wednesday that Iran is using commercial aircrafts to smuggle weapons and explosives to Syria and Hizbullah in Lebanon.
 
Citing Western security sources, ZDF said that Iran Air and Yas Air have repeatedly used aircrafts designated as passenger planes to transport weapons to the Assad regime and Hizbullah.

High Noon in Syria: Rebels Give Assad Ultimatum

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 31 May 2012 19:05
Aftermath of Houla massacreThe rebels of the Free Syrian Army on Thursday gave President Bashar al-Assad until Friday noon to observe the UN-brokered plan to end bloodshed in the country.
 
"If the Syrian regime does not meet the deadline by Friday midday, the command of the Free Syrian Army announces that it will no longer be tied by any commitment to the Annan plan...and our duty will be...to defend civilians," a FSA statement said.
 
Reports indicate at least 13,000 have been killed in more than 14-months of brutal repression since a popular uprising against Assad's regime erupted in March of last year.
 
Parties to the conflict agreed April 12 to abide by a truce brokered by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League's peace envoy to Syria.
 
However, the truce has largely been ignored, despite the deployment of nearly 300 UN observers on the ground. At least 1,000 have been killed in regime assaults on opposition strongholds since the truce deadline passed.
 
The FSA singled out in particular a May 25-26 massacre near the central town of Houla in which at least 108 people – including 49 children and 34 women – were murdered.
 
Some were killed by artillery and tank fire but most were killed "execution style," according to a UN report. UN investigators cited witnesses who said Assad-allied Shahiba militiamen were behind the massacre, and noted the presence of artillery shells at the site.
 
"After the barbarous massacre of women and children at Houla...we announce that there is no more justification for us to unilaterally respect the truce because [President Bashar al-Assad] has buried Annan's plan," the FSA statement said.
 
The FSA said it would announce in the coming days "a series of decisive and courageous decisions for the next phase" of their struggle against Assad's forces.
 
The rebels demanded that the government adhere to all six points of the Annan plan: an immediate ceasefire; ending all forms of violence; removing tanks and armored vehicles from civilian areas; humanitarian access to all regions; freeing all political prisoners; and media access nationwide.
 
A second massacre of at least 41 people – including 8 children – in Hama occurred Monday as Annan flew into Syria to plead with Assad to honor his UN-backed peace plan.
 
However, bloodshed continued in Syria as Annan left Damascus empty handed on Wednesday.
 
UN observer force commander Maj. Gen. Robert Mood reported that 13 bodies of people killed execution-style had been found in the eastern town of Assukar on Wednesday.
 
Mood described the Assakur killings as an "appalling and inexcusable act."
 
Such acts, however, have become almost commonplace in Syria – with reports of kidnapping, rape, torture, and mass executions by regime forces and allied militiamen emerging on a weekly basis.
 
The FSA ultimatum came on the heels of a warning from US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice warned that prospects for a political solution in Syria are now "almost non-existent."
 
While Rice said only that the Security Council must discuss new action against Damascus, it has also been reported officials in Washington are on the verge of arming Syria's rebels.
 
The FSA is comprised primarily of 30,000 defectors from the Syrian army who are armed and equipped as light infantry. Several attendant factions with suspected terror ties also exist.
 
Syria's rebels have mounted a deadly campaign of guerilla hit-and-run raids on ambushes on Assad's forces, but are poorly organized and equipped.
 
However, US officials are said to be reticent to arm Syria's rebels unless a vetting program is in place to ensure the arms end up in the right hands – which would necessitate deeper US involvement.

IDF Commander Warns Against Possible Conflict with Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 31 May 2012 06:18
The IDF’s Northern District Commander Yair Golan said on Wednesday that Israel is in a constant battle with Iran in various channels, Channel 2 News reported.Syrian police attack protesters
 
In a speech he gave at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Golan said, “Iran is here. We are conducting an indirect war against it every day, as we do against Hamas in Gaza and against Hizbullah in Lebanon. Iran's negative influence is very significant to our region and its involvement is seen both here and in Syria.”
 
Golan warned that the battle being waged in Syria between opponents of the Assad regime and Assad loyalists may have an effect on what is happening in Israel.
 
“Al-Qaeda related factors that are active there now and working against the regime may operate against us over time,” he said, according to the Channel 2 report. “The Syrian threat to Israel requires attention. It will not happen tomorrow morning, but it can occur within a few months.”
 
Golan added, “Syria has weapons of mass destruction along with a very heavy arsenal of weapons, including surface-to-ground missiles and chemical weapons. The fact that Syria is a storehouse of weapons which fuels terrorists in the region is very unsettling.”
 
He noted that, should the need arise for the IDF to launch a military operation in Syria, “The IDF has the power to take over the rocket launching areas that threaten the homefront in a relatively short period of time and bring about the defeat of Hizbullah in each such area.”
 
A senior Israeli military officer said recently that the ongoing conflict in Syria has made it easier for Hizbullah to smuggle weapons into Lebanon. He added that there is concern that some of the Assad regime's stockpile of chemical weapons could end up in the group's hands.
 
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned that sophisticated weapons could be transferred from Syria to Lebanon and to Hizbullah should Assad fall.

Foreign Intervention in Syria Will Bury Israel

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 31 May 2012 06:00
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned on Wednesday against the devastating consequences of a Libyan-style intervention in Syria.Smoke rises from Syrian shelling of Homs
 
According to a report in the Iranian-based Fars news agency, Larijani said that a policy of intervention in Syria would spread to “the occupied Palestinian territories” and would harm Israel.
 
Noting the recent remarks by U.S. and Western officials on Syria, Larijani was quoted as having said, “It seems that the U.S. and the West are seeking to prepare the ground for a new crisis (in Syria), since a UN military official has said that they may take military action in Syria as they did in Libya.”
 
He went on to warn about the negative outcomes of such a move and noted, “Possibly, the U.S. military officials are suffering a misunderstanding over themselves and over the regional issues because Syria's specifications are no way similar to those of Libya.”
 
Larijani warned that foreign intervention in Syria “will spread into (the occupied) Palestine and the ashes of such flame will definitely bury the Zionist regime (of Israel).”
 
Fars reported that the came after the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, warned Syria that it might face armed intervention.
 
“'There is always a military option,” Dempsey was quoted as having told Fox News.
 
On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande said that military action in Syria could be possible, but only if it was backed by a UN resolution.
 
Larijani’s warnings came a day after Iran tried to displace the blame on Israel for Syrian President Bashar Assad's campaign of terror against his people, and its backlash.
 
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast pointed the finger at “the Zionist regime's hand” in a statement to media about Syrian government attacks on residents in the Houla region.
 
“We palpably feel the Zionist regime's hand in Syria's internal developments,” Mehman-Parast said, adding that the only side that might gain from Syria's instability would be Israel, saying that “any crime committed [in Syria] can be traced back to the regime's hirelings.”
 
The central area of Houla saw one of the bloodiest single events in Syria's growing civil war on Friday. U.N. human rights officials on Tuesday said most of the 108 victims of a massacre in Syria last week were shot at close range “execution style,” and accused pro-Assad thugs of carrying out the murders. The massacre on Friday in Houla – which included 34 women, 49 children, and in some cases entire families – generated new international outrage.
 
Following the massacre, UN envoy Kofi Annan visited Syria to hold talks with Assad, but he reportedly left Damascus on Wednesday without securing any major steps from the Syrian government to implement his faltering peace plan.

U.N. observers in Syria count more than 92 bodies in Houla carnage

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 28 May 2012 09:18
The United Nations‘ observers in Syria on Saturday confirmed that more than 92 people, including dozens of children, were killed in what activists said was an artillery barrage by government forces in the town of Houla, in the province of Homs.more than 92 bodies in Houla carnage
 
“This morning U.N. military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults killed,” the head of U.N. team monitoring the ceasefire - which has yet to take hold - said.
 
“The observers confirmed from examination of ordinances the use of artillery tank shells,” Major General Robert Mood said in a statement, without elaborating. “Whoever started, whoever responded and whoever carried out this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible.”
 
In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded “the Government of Syria immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers.”
 
Ban condemned the Houla carnage as “appalling and brutal" breach of international law.”
Britain said Saturday it was consulting urgently with its allies on “a strong international response.” 
 
“We will be calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council in the coming days,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement after United Nations monitors confirmed reports of the killings in Houla.
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs.
 
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs. 
 
The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.
 
A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said residents of Houla were fleeing in fear of more shelling.
 
The reports of the carnage, which could not be confirmed independently, underlined how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
A member of the fragmented exile group that says it speaks for Syria’s political opposition said Assad’s forces had killed “entire families” in Houla in addition to the shelling.
 
“The Syrian National Council (SNC) urges the U.N. Security Council to call for an emergency meeting ... and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in the face of such mass killings,” SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said.
 
Opposition activists said Syrian forces had opened fire with artillery on Friday after skirmishing with insurgents in Houla, a cluster of villages north of the city of Homs, itself battered by shelling.
 
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the violence as a “massacre,” and said he wanted to arrange a meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria, a group that brings together Western and Arab countries keen to remove Assad.
 
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has blamed the Syrian government for much of the “unacceptable levels of violence and abuses” occurring every day in violation of a U.N.-backed peace plan.
 
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban cited the government’s continuing use of heavy weapons, reports of shelling and “a stepped-up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of human rights by government forces and pro-government militias.” 
 
Ban lamented that there has been only “small progress” on implementing the six-point plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, who is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Wednesday. 
 
Ban called on the government to keep its pledge to immediately stop the violence, pull heavy weapons and troops out of populated areas, allow humanitarian workers to help needy civilians and end human rights abuses.

US Mulling Arms for Syrian Rebels

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 27 May 2012 19:56
Islamic rebelesUS officials are reportedly set to ship arms to the Syrian opposition, but are concerned American arms may end up in al-Qaeda's hands.
 
The officials told AFP on condition of anonymity that those concerns – just where the guns will ultimately be pointed – are holding up the arms transfer from Washington.
 
The US is already transferring “non-lethal” materials, including medical supplies and communication equipment to the fighters of the Free Syria Army (FSA), which is primarily comprised of Syrian Army defectors.
 
However, officials have been hesitant to provide arms to the FSA because the disparate opposition has been joined by groups Washington believes have ties to Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah.
 
A vetting plan to separate the groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s government from those profiteering from the armed conflict is yet to be finalized, the unnamed US officials told AFP.
 
Some US allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been less hesitant and openly said they would fund the purchase of arms for the Syrian opposition.
 
Washington has at once called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down and said he cannot be dislodged without outside military intervention, or substantive external logistical support for the Syrian rebels.
 
At the same time, the Obama administration has remained doggedly dedicated to its 'sanctions only' approach on Syria and repeatedly ruled out arming the rebels – and has backed the UN brokered peace plan and observer force.
 
Arming the rebels would be an open admission that the UN ceasefire – already in tatters – had failed, and could lead to the perception that Washington rather than Assad drove the final nail into its proverbial coffin.
 
Thus, were the US to begin arming the rebels, it would herald a major policy shift. However, analysts note that a meaningful vetting plan would require direct US oversight of the Syrian rebel’s logistical operations.
 
In doing so, they say, the Obama administration would be making itself accountable to the American public for the conduct of Syria's armed opposition – and opening the door to deeper involvement.
 
Historically, US "material assistance" to rebel groups has led to additional assistance in the form of intelligence support and military advisors. And, in some cases, combat forces being deployed as well.
 
With an election looming large on his horizon and Washington touting troop pull-outs in Iraq and Afghanistan, US president Barack Obama may be reticent to arm the rebels because if he goes in for a penny, he may end up on the hook for a pound.

More IDF Multi-Front Operations Likely

Category: Reports
Created on Thursday, 24 May 2012 18:01
israel-f-16-jets-parkedAn Israeli military expert says the likelihood is growing that Israel will need to launch more multi-front operations.
 
Israel Air Force Headquarters Chief Brigadier General Hagai Topolansky told a national security conference Tuesday the Jewish State is likely to extend its operations beyond its borders as well.
 
"In the 80s and 90s we operated to deal with situations in places as far away as Iraq,” Topolansky told the audience at the Fisher Institute in Herzliya.
 
"In the past decade, we went as far away as Iran,” he added. “I hope [our operations] won't have to be extended any farther [than that].”
 
Earlier this month, the IDF issued call up orders for six battalions to guard the Egyptian and Syrian borders, with authorization for more if needed.
 
The orders were approved by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee as part of a request to call up as many as 22 battalions. A military spokesperson said the call up came following  intelligence assessments calling for increased deployment of more troops.
 
Israeli defense personnel are also closely watching Lebanon as loyalists to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad clash with anti-government factions in Lebanese territory.
 
The growing Syrian civil war has begun to carry over into neighboring Lebanon.
 
Pro- and anti-Syrian factions within the Lebanese population have been clashing in the streets of Tripoli.
 
Violence also began this week to spill over into the capital of Beirut for the first time as well, giving rise to speculation the guns might eventually be pointed at Israel. Thousands of refugees and Syrian Army deserters have poured into Lebanon, which is dominated by the Hizbullah terrorist organization and other pro-Syrian factions.
 
If Assad falls, as Israeli officials believe he will, the IDF may face Al Qaeda-linked fighters at the border near the Golan Heights. If the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations launch an attack on southern Israel, a second front will open -- as happened during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Were the Palestinian Authority's ruling Fatah faction in Ramallah to launch a simultaneous attack in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, a third front would be added, and with that, a multi-front war against Israel could easily be sparked, possibly even with additional Arab nations joining in. 

 

Tension escalates in Lebanon amid international calls for restraint

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 19:39
Protesters blocked roads in Lebanon’s northern Akkar region for a third day on Tuesday, a security official said, amid mounting tension over the conflict in neighboring Syria.Street battles between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in Beirut (Reuters)
 
“Some of the roads have been blocked in Halba and Sheikh Ayash,” the official, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
 
The road closures were linked to the weekend killing of two clerics at an army checkpoint in Akkar, a mainly Sunni region whose inhabitants are hostile to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Two rockets were fired in the Lebanese city of Tripoli late Monday, one landing in the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Hai al-Amrikan and the other between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh, which is mainly Sunni, Al Arabiya reported citing a security official. There were no reports of casualties. 
 
Tension in the north and the clashes in the capital Beirut were reflected on several others Lebanese regions, where the same scenario of blocking roads with burning tires was repeated. Meanwhile, political and security efforts were underway to halt the escalating tensions witnessed by the country within the past few days.
 
Street battles
Street battles between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in Beirut killed two people on Monday, sparking concerns of a wider conflict in Lebanon.
 
The violence erupted hours after reports emerged that troops had shot dead Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, a prominent anti-Syrian regime Sunni cleric, when his convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in north Lebanon on Sunday. Another cleric in the car was also killed. 
 
Protesters blocked roads and burned tires in the northern region of Akkar following the killing of the clerics, and by evening the unrest had spread to the capital.
 
“During the night, groups of young men cut off the road in the Tareek al-Jdideh district and street battles followed,” the security official said, requesting anonymity.
 
“Two people were killed and 18 were wounded,” he said, adding machineguns had been fired and that the fighting had raged until about 3:00 am (2400 GMT).
 
An office housing a small pro-Syrian party in Tareek al-Jdideh, a mainly Sunni Muslim neighborhood of west Beirut, was torched by partisans of ex-premier Saad Hariri’s Future Movement and the facade of the building was riddled with bullets.
 
Several motorcycles and cars parked on the street below were burned.
 
Calm had been restored by daylight following appeals from Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other politicians.
 
Washington earlier Monday expressed concern over the killings and urged restraint, AFP reported.
 
“We welcome the commitment of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Armed Forces to conduct a swift and transparent investigation of the shooting incident,” U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.
 
“And we call on all parties to exercise restraint and respect for Lebanon’s security and stability,” he said.
 
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also called “on all parties to make every effort to restore calm.”
 
The U.N. head said Derek Plumbly, Special Coordinator for Lebanon, was “engaged on the ground, encouraging all concerned to work for sustained calm and stability in the country.”
 
He also stressed the “need for Lebanon’s continuing stability,” and encouraged “all Lebanese parties to strengthen their efforts to date to overcome any emerging challenges on the ground.”
 
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply concerned at the outbreaks of violence in Tripoli and Beirut.”
 
“These events must be duly investigated and followed by Lebanon’s law enforcement authorities,” she said.
 
Tension high
Tension was palpable in Beirut, where residents fear a repeat of sectarian clashes like those that left some 100 people dead in 2008 and brought the country close to civil war.
 
“I’ve had enough... of war,” said Amal Khattab, a 40-year-old teacher and mother of two who lives in Tareek el-Jdideh.
 
“My children were terrified last night,” she added, crying. “I can’t spend another minute in this country.”
 
Wahid’s funeral was held on Monday in his hometown of al-Bireh, in the northern Akkar region, where many businesses and shops were closed after Sunni religious leaders called for three days of mourning.
 
“We want a fair trial, and we want the killers of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid to be executed,” Future Movement MP Khaled al-Daher said at the funeral.
 
A judicial official said military police were questioning 21 soldiers, including three officers, in relation to the death of the two clerics.
 
Their killing followed a week of intermittent clashes between Sunnis hostile to the Syrian regime and Alawites who support it which left 10 people dead in the northern port city of Tripoli.
 
The violence has highlighted a deep split between Lebanon’s political parties, where the opposition backs those leading the uprising against Assad while a ruling coalition led by Shiite militant group Hezbollah supports the Damascus regime.
 
The Sunni-led opposition has accused Assad of seeking to sow chaos in Lebanon in order to relieve the pressure on his embattled regime.
 
Reflecting mounting fears of an escalation, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates urged their citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon.
 
Since the outbreak of the revolt in Syria in March of last year, thousands of Syrians fleeing the unrest in their country as well as activists have sought refuge in northern Lebanon.
 
Syria flooded Lebanon with troops early in its 1975-1991 civil war and dominated its smaller neighbor for over a decade afterwards. It retains significant influence over Lebanon’s intelligence apparatus and military, according to Reuters.
 
Syria long held sway in Lebanese politics until it was forced to withdraw its troops in 2005 following the assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
 
It has denied accusations it was involved in his killing.

Heavy Fighting in Syria, Dozens Killed

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 08:25
Smoke rises from Syrian shelling of HomsAt least 20 died in heavy fighting in northwestern Syria Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Among the casualties were at least 18 Syrian Army soldiers, and two defectors who had joined the opposition.
 
Clashes were reported in the towns of Atareb, in the province of Aleppo, and Kafar Karmin, in the neighboring province of Idlib near the Turkish border.
 
Activists said a significant number of Syrian government armored vehicles were destroyed in the clashes, as well as vehicles carrying weapons.
 
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Monday that an all-out civil war seems ever more likely as the five-week-old “truce” broke once again.
 
A spokesman for Ban said in a statement issued at a Chicago summit held Monday by NATO, “The secretary-general said we were at a pivotal moment in the search for a peaceful settlement in the crisis and that he remained extremely troubled about the risk of an all-out civil war.”
 
Meanwhile, Syrian Army defectors who had joined the opposition forces were ambushed and killed by government troops in a Damascus suburb on Monday as well.
 
Nine of the defectors were killed as they retreated from the village of Jisr al-Ab, near Douma. Five civilians were also killed, including two who died in a bombing raid in central Hama, one who was shot by unidentified gunmen in Homs, and two others who were caught in the crossfire between government troops and rebel forces in the coastal Banias.
 
On Sunday, at least 48 people were killed in the coutry, and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) exploded near U.N. observers in Douma. Thus far, 260 of the U.N. Monitors are deployed around the country. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad continues to claim that outside forces and “terrorist gangs” are responsible for the majority of the killings.
 
More than 10,000 civilians have died since the violence began in March 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings.

Israel To Remain an Enemy, Says Syrian Rebel Leader

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 20 May 2012 08:56
As Syria creeps into total anarchy, rebels also insist that Israel will remain an enemy after the anticipated fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad. President Barack Obama told the G-8 Summit Saturday that Assad must leave.Free Syrian Army soldier in military exercise in Homs
 
Regardless of whether he continues in power or is replaced, Israel is destined to remain an enemy state. Syrian opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun told a Saudi Arabian newspaper Saturday that Israel is "the main enemy of the Syrian revolution,” and he accused Jerusalem of being Assad’s “strongest ally.”
 
Rebels claimed on Sunday that  they killed senior Assad aides, but the regime denied the report and also accused “terrorists” of suicide bombings.
 
The report of the assassinations was published by Al Jazeera, which quoted rebel leaders as saying they assassinated Assad's senior military leader, the Interior Minister and one of his top aides. The regime immediately called the reports “lies” and released an interview with one of the supposed assassination victims.
 
Anarchy, if not civil war, is overcoming the country. A suicide bomb hit near the government’s intelligence complex Saturday night, with the regime and the opposition accusing each other of carrying out the deadly attack. The target area was the same place that once was a transit station for terrorists fighting American forces in Iraq, indicating that the attack may have been carried out by Al Qaeda-linked groups.
 
Assad until recently had been gaining the upper hand in the brutal suppression of the 14-month-old rebellion, but Gulf States and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood have begun arming the opposition.
 
The Obama administration has denied it is arming the rebels but has said it is coordinating with other countries that are sending them arms. The administration has totally reversed itself, having called Assad a “reformer” a year ago and now saying that he must leave power.
 
If the future of Syria works out according to President Obama’s plans, anarchy is likely to reign. The president told G8 leaders at Camp David on Saturday that the Arab Spring revolution in Yemen has shown that political transition can work, according to  deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.
 
However, Al Qaeda terrorists already have taken over a significant part of southern Yemen, and at least 34 people were killed Saturday in clashes with the terrorist organization’s fighters.
 
Al Qaeda also is operating in Syria, presenting the possibility that if and when Assad falls, the terrorist organization will be looking down on Israel along the Golan Heights border.

Syria's Assad is 'Doomed'

Category: Reports
Created on Saturday, 19 May 2012 06:49
Ehud BarakDefense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday told CNN that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is "doomed" and urged the international community to hasten his departure.
 
"I'm quite frustrated for the slowness of its collapse. I believe that he [Assad] is doomed anyhow. I believe that there is a need to raise our voices both for moral reasons and practical ... much more loudly," Barak said.
 
He stressed "that every possible step is taken by world community, by Nato, by the United States, by the Russians, Turkey could have a special role in it, to accelerate the whole thing."
 
"I think that a way should be found ... to change [the regime] in Syria, preferably [using] the Yemenite example, namely to let Assad and his group go out and ... not to dismantle the party, the intelligence, the armed forces."
 
Barak spoke to CNN in Washington during his third trip to the US in as many months to discuss Iran's nuclear program saying Israel and America are "basically ... on the same page" vis-a-vis Tehran.
 
"We say loud and clear, the Americans say the same, the president says the same, a nuclear military Iran is unacceptable," Barak said.
 
"We are determined to prevent them from turning nuclear. And that no option except for containment, no option should be removed off the table in order to achieve this objective.
 
"It will be a major blow to Iran when Assad falls, they are now supporting him very actively. It will be a weakening blow to the Hezbollah and probably Islamic Jihad," he added.
 
Barak's remarks on Assad's impending "doom" come as the death toll in the embattled Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on the popular uprising against the autocratic rule of the Assad family continues to rise.
 
UN Human Rights officials – who say they quit trying to tally the dead months ago due to the pervasive chaos in Syria – say at least 9,100 have been killed since March 2011.
 
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the death toll has passed 12,000 – most of them civilians – with at least 900 having been killed since a UN-brokered ceasefire deadline passed in April.
 
Assad faces not only a popular uprising, but a growing armed rebellion by armed defectors led by dissident Syrian officers who have taken refuge in Turkey.

Syrian Forces Fire on Protesters in Aleppo

Category: News
Created on Friday, 18 May 2012 20:57
Syrian forces on Friday fired on protesters holding the largest opposition marches yet in Aleppo, The Associated Press reported.Demonstrators march through the streets near Homs. Reuters
 
Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, has largely remained supportive of President Bashar Assad throughout the 15-month uprising.
 
Anti-regime protests in Aleppo have been growing since a raid on dormitories at Aleppo University on May 3 killed four students and forced the temporary closure of the state-run school.
 
The raid was an unusually violent incident for the northern city, a major economic hub, where business ties and large minority populations have kept most residents on the side of the regime.
 
According to Aleppo activist Mohammad Saeed, Friday’s was the city's largest demonstration yet, with more than 10,000 people marching in the Salaheddine and al-Shaar districts and nearly as many more elsewhere in the city.
 
“The number of protesters is increasing every day,” Saeed told AP. He added that several people were wounded when government forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the rallies.
 
Meanwhile, AP reported, thousands of people elsewhere in the country also staged anti-government rallies in solidarity with Aleppo. The demonstrations were dedicated to "The Heroes of Aleppo University."
 
05-28-11Opposition activists told AP tbat security forces opened fire on protests in several locations, including the Damascus suburbs and the central city of Hama. They also said the regime shelled the central town of Rastan, which rebels have controlled since January.
 
Amateur videos posted online Friday showed shells whizzing through the air and slamming into residential areas in Rastan, sending up clouds of smoke.
 
On Friday, the commander of the UN observer team in Syria said that no number of observers would be able to achieve an end to violence.
 
Norwegian team leader Maj. Gen. Robert Mood told reporters that only dialogue could lead to a cessation of 14-months of violence.
 
Speaking at a news conference in Damascus, Mood called for an immediate implementation of the UN-brokered ceasefire that was to go into effect in April.
 
More than 200 observers of Mood's planned 300 strong observer force are currently deployed in various towns and cities around Syria to monitor a theoretical ceasefire.
 
The cease-fire was to be the first step in a six-point plan brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan, but violations are reported by both sides every day.
 
Assad insisted this week that his regime is fighting back against foreign mercenaries who want to overthrow him and not innocent Syrians aspiring for democracy.
 
“There are foreign mercenaries, some of them still alive,” Assad said in an interview on Russian state news channelRossiya-24. “They are being detained and we are preparing to show them to the world.”

Assad: We're Fighting Against Foreign Mercenaries

Category: News
Created on Friday, 18 May 2012 08:55
07-01-11In his first interview since December, Syrian President Bashar Assad insisted his regime is fighting back against foreign mercenaries who want to overthrow him and not innocent Syrians aspiring for democracy.
 
The interview with Russian TV, recorded on Tuesday and aired on Wednesday, showed that Assad is still standing his ground despite widespread international condemnation over his deadly crackdown on dissent.
 
“There are foreign mercenaries, some of them still alive,” Assad was quoted by The Associated Press as having said in the interview on Russian state news channel Rossiya-24. “They are being detained and we are preparing to show them to the world.”
 
Assad also cautioned against meddling in Syria, warning neighboring nations that have served as transit points for weapons being smuggled into the country that “if you sow chaos in Syria you may be infected by it yourself.”
 
Rebels and anti-regime activists have accused Syrian forces of mining many of the smuggling routes where weapons flow into Syria, mainly from neighboring Turkey and Lebanon.
 
Assad still has a firm grip on power in Syria, some 14 months into a revolt that has torn at the country's fabric and threatened to undermine stability in the Middle East.
 
The UN estimated in March that the violence has killed more than 9,000 people. A UN observer team with more than 200 members has done little to quell the bloodshed, and some even have been caught up in the violence themselves.
 
On Tuesday, members of a team of UN observers were rescued by rebel fighters from the Syrian Free Army (SFA) after they came under fire in Khan Sheikhoun.
 
The observers reportedly came under fire when forces loyal to Assad opened fire on a funeral procession in the town.
 
Assad has denied that there is a popular will behind the uprising, saying foreign extremists and terrorists are driving the revolt. He acknowledged that there are genuine calls for reform and pointed to recent parliamentary elections as the cornerstone of his reform agenda.
 
The elections were the first under a new constitution, adopted three months ago, that allows political parties to compete with Assad's ruling Baath party. The opposition boycotted the May 7 polls, saying they were orchestrated by the regime to strengthen Assad's grip on power.
 
“To call for boycotting the elections, that's the equivalent of calling for a boycott of the people,” Assad said in the interview, according to AP. “And how can you boycott the people of whom you consider yourself the representative? So I don't think that they have any kind of weight or significance within Syria.”
 
Assad added that Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, is expected to visit Syria this month and said that he intends to complain to Annan about what he called one-sided criticism of Syria.
 
The West “talks about violence, but violence from the side of the government, not a word about terrorists,” Assad said. “We are waiting for this, as we have before. Mr. Annan will come to Syria this month, and I will ask him about this matter.”
 
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Obama administration is coordinating with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in arming Syrian rebels. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood also is channeling aid to the opposition, the report said.
 
According to the report, the State Department previously has changed its position and has said that while Washington will not directly arm the rebels, it will cooperate with those who do.
 
The Gulf States have shipped weapons, including anti-tank weaponry, to help the rebels fight back against Assad, added the report.

Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution Fighters Arrive in Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 17 May 2012 12:13
It's a year and five months after Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution launched the region-wide Arab Spring uprisings that overturned four governments and now threaten to topple the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. 
 
At least five Tunisians have been killed this month in the revolution – the Syrian revolution, that is. A sixth may also be dead.
 
All are from the southeastern Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane, along the border with Libya, and the families of five have already received anonymous phone calls about their sons, confirming their deaths.
 
A video eulogizing the men with a music bed of Qu'ranic verses was posted on Facebook, stating the “martyrs” were killed in Homs. The black flag of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization was seen on the video as well.
 
But the bodies were not returned to the families, and no other proof of their deaths was provided. Their families said that all were devout Sunni Muslims, and at least two were jailed for links to Islamist radicals.
 
According to a Syrian envoy to the United Nations, 26 “Arab fighters” were arrested and “confessed” to Al Qaeda sympathies, Reuters reported. Of those, another envoy to the U.N. said 19 were from Tunisia.
 
Homs DevastationA security source in Ben Guerdane confirmed to the news agency “There are some youths who are going to Syria via Ben Guerdane. They are religious... What we know is that more than 10 left from here.”
 
Relatives of the five who were killed in Homs defended the right of their sons to die in holy martyrdom.
 
But one, Mokhtar Mars, pointed out to Reuters that dying for the cause in Homs may not be the same as jihad elsewhere: “If there was a real jihad, don't imagine a single Muslim would not go -- if it was a jihad against Israel. But in Syria, you may have to fight other Muslims.”

Israel Stages Mock Raids after Hizbullah Threat

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 21:16
F16 Israeli war planes staged mocked raids over Lebanon following concerns Hizbullah might attack Israel if asked by Iran, according to Lebanon’s Beirut Daily Star. Israel has not commented.
 
The planes reportedly crossed the border late Wednesday morning, diving low several times. The Beirut newspaper said the planes flew over four cities, including Sidon and Tyre.
 
An additional cause for concern over a confrontation with Lebanon has been the spillover into the country of the revolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Thousands of refugees and deserters from the Syrian army have fled into Lebanon, which is dominated by an alliance of pro-Syrian parties and Hizbullah.
 
If Assad falls, as Israeli leaders predict, Israel could be facing Al Qaeda-linked groups stirring up trouble near the border at the Golan Heights.

Twin Blasts Kill 55, Wound 372 in Damascus

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 10 May 2012 17:08
Damascus Carnage May10 2012Twin blasts in Damascus on Monday killed 55 and wounded 372 during morning rush our, state television reported saying most of the victims were civilians.
“Two explosions caused by terrorists took place on the freeway in the south of Damascus as people were heading to work and children to school,” the report said.
The blasts took place in front of a security building used by Syria's pervasive secret police services, the AFP reported from the scene.
The facade of the building was destroyed along with several surrounding residential buildings.
Television showed gruesome images, including the charred hand of a woman on a steering wheel, her gold bracelets dangling from her wrist.
Other burnt and mangled bodies lay in the street amid the burnt out bodies of smoldering vehicles.
A crater three meters wide was caused by one of the explosions, the AFP correspondent reported.
Major General Robert Mood, chief of a UN observer mission in Syria, reportedly visited the site to survey the aftermath.
The attacks came a day after the Norwegian general escaped unharmed when a roadside bomb exploded as he led a team of UN observers into the southern flashpoint city of Daraa.
Ten Syrian soldiers escorting them were hurt in Wednesday's bombing, according to the Associated Press.
Mood said that attack was “a graphic example of violence that the Syrian people” were suffering on a daily basis.
The blasts come despite a UN-backed ceasefire that went into effect on April 12 with the aim of ending President Bashar al-Assad's brutal 14-months crackdown on a popular uprising that has blossomed into armed insurrection.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday's explosions were the result of a car bomb targeting an intelligence services base in Damascus.
A deadly suicide bombing at Zein al-Abidin mosque in the capital's central Midan district on April 27 killed 11 people and wounded dozens.
Damascus has been the target of several bombings in past months as al-Assad's forces fail to curtail the movements of a growing armed rebellion by the Free Syrian Army.
However, analysts question whether the FSA is behind the bombing campaign, noting the lightly armed bands of Syrian army defectors are poorly organized and primarily focus on hit-and-run raids and ambushes.
UN officials place the death toll in Assad's brutal crackdown at "more than 9,000," but admit they stopped counting months ago due to the chaotic situation on the ground.
The Observatory places the death toll at almost 12,000 – most of them civilians – saying at least 800 have been killed since April 12.

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