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650 items tagged "Syria"

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Syria Congratulates Iran on Nuclear Deal

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 10:12
Syria Congratulates IranSyrian President Bashar al-Assad has congratulated Iran on the nuclear deal struck with the European Union (EU) and P5+1 powers Tuesday, Syrian state news agency SANA said Tuesday. 
 
In a message to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Assad congratulated Tehran on a deal he said would be a "major turning point in the history of Iran, the region and the world." 
 
Iran is the key backer and ally of Assad and has provided him with military support during his fight against rebels trying to topple his regime.
 
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops. The Islamic Republic’s current President, Hassan Rouhani, has said Tehran will back Assad "until the end of the road."
 
Last week, Assad signed a law ratifying a $1 billion credit line from Iran to war-torn Syria. The money allegedly would be used for funding imports of goods and commodities and implementing project, state media said. 
 
Tehran's financial aid has been seen as pivotal to the Syrian government and the economy, which has shrunk by more than a half in the four years since the conflict erupted, researchers say.

Syria Congratulates Iran on Nuclear Deal

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 10:12
Syria Congratulates IranSyrian President Bashar al-Assad has congratulated Iran on the nuclear deal struck with the European Union (EU) and P5+1 powers Tuesday, Syrian state news agency SANA said Tuesday. 
 
In a message to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Assad congratulated Tehran on a deal he said would be a "major turning point in the history of Iran, the region and the world." 
 
Iran is the key backer and ally of Assad and has provided him with military support during his fight against rebels trying to topple his regime.
 
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops. The Islamic Republic’s current President, Hassan Rouhani, has said Tehran will back Assad "until the end of the road."
 
Last week, Assad signed a law ratifying a $1 billion credit line from Iran to war-torn Syria. The money allegedly would be used for funding imports of goods and commodities and implementing project, state media said. 
 
Tehran's financial aid has been seen as pivotal to the Syrian government and the economy, which has shrunk by more than a half in the four years since the conflict erupted, researchers say.

3,000 Palestinians Killed in Syria, No ICC Investigation

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 21:34
40 tons of explosives killed at least 30 Syrian troopsPalestinian Authority officials are quick to accuse Israel of deliberately “targeting innocent Arabs” when IDF soldiers fire at rock-throwers and others who engage in acts of terror against Israelis, but they have yet to comment on the nearly 3,000 Palestinians killed in Syria in recent years.
 
To be precise, at least 2,910 residents of Syria identifying as Palestinians have been killed since March 2011 through July 12, 2015 – the day a report on the matter was released by the “Action Committee for Palestinians in Syria” on the matter. Most of those deaths have been extremely violent, the report said – with hundreds killed each month in bombings, firefights, torture in prison, starvation, mass executions, and drownings as they try to escape to Europe.
 
The number - like other casualty figures from the Syrian civil war - only includes those Palestinians whose deaths have been definitively confirmed, and does not include those missing or otherwise unaccounted for - meaning the toll is likely higher still.
 
Information about the prison torture – in which, the report said, nearly 80 Palestinians have been killed – was smuggled out by a freed Syrian prisoner, who sneaked photos and videos of the torture out of prison. At least 46 Palestinians have been beheaded by ISIS, which took over a neighborhood of Allepo where many of them live.
 
The victims were killed not because of any actions violating Islam, the usual motivation for an ISIS beheading, but as a “message” to Hamas, expressing the group's disappointment that the Gaza terror group has not implemented Koranic (shari'a) law in Gaza. ISIS recently issued a video threat that it would invade Gaza and destroy Hamas for this failure.
 
The PA has never commented on these atrocities; the only statements it has made on Syria is to call for international negotiators to attempt to bring calm between the warring parties.
 
There has been no attempt to bring charges against the government of Syria, ISIS, or any of the Syrian rebel groups in the International Criminal Court, as the PA has been doing against Israel. Israeli officials said that it was "unlikely" that this will ever happen.

3,000 Palestinians Killed in Syria, No ICC Investigation

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 21:34
40 tons of explosives killed at least 30 Syrian troopsPalestinian Authority officials are quick to accuse Israel of deliberately “targeting innocent Arabs” when IDF soldiers fire at rock-throwers and others who engage in acts of terror against Israelis, but they have yet to comment on the nearly 3,000 Palestinians killed in Syria in recent years.
 
To be precise, at least 2,910 residents of Syria identifying as Palestinians have been killed since March 2011 through July 12, 2015 – the day a report on the matter was released by the “Action Committee for Palestinians in Syria” on the matter. Most of those deaths have been extremely violent, the report said – with hundreds killed each month in bombings, firefights, torture in prison, starvation, mass executions, and drownings as they try to escape to Europe.
 
The number - like other casualty figures from the Syrian civil war - only includes those Palestinians whose deaths have been definitively confirmed, and does not include those missing or otherwise unaccounted for - meaning the toll is likely higher still.
 
Information about the prison torture – in which, the report said, nearly 80 Palestinians have been killed – was smuggled out by a freed Syrian prisoner, who sneaked photos and videos of the torture out of prison. At least 46 Palestinians have been beheaded by ISIS, which took over a neighborhood of Allepo where many of them live.
 
The victims were killed not because of any actions violating Islam, the usual motivation for an ISIS beheading, but as a “message” to Hamas, expressing the group's disappointment that the Gaza terror group has not implemented Koranic (shari'a) law in Gaza. ISIS recently issued a video threat that it would invade Gaza and destroy Hamas for this failure.
 
The PA has never commented on these atrocities; the only statements it has made on Syria is to call for international negotiators to attempt to bring calm between the warring parties.
 
There has been no attempt to bring charges against the government of Syria, ISIS, or any of the Syrian rebel groups in the International Criminal Court, as the PA has been doing against Israel. Israeli officials said that it was "unlikely" that this will ever happen.

Syrian World Heritage Site Damaged in Blast

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 09:15
Syrian World Heritage Site Damaged in BlastA bomb explosion in a tunnel near Aleppo Citadel in Syria on Sunday damaged a wall of the fortress that is part of the UNESCO-listed Old City, state media and a monitor reported, according to AFP.
 
The blast partly destroyed the wall of the monumental 13th century citadel that overlooks the Old City, said the official SANA news agency and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
"A powerful explosion was heard after midnight Saturday. It was caused by the blowing up of a tunnel in the Old City near the Aleppo Citadel," the Observatory said.
 
"The blast caused the collapse of part of the wall of the citadel," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
It was unclear who was behind the attack, he said, but it was immediately followed by clashes between rebels and government forces who are battling for control of the northern city.
 
SANA said "terrorists" blew up the tunnel, causing the damage to the historic citadel.
 
The Syrian government and its media describe as "terrorists" the various armed groups who have been battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad's regime since 2011.
 
Rebel fighters in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city and pre-war commercial hub, have often set off explosions in tunnels that they have dug under military targets before launching attacks on them.
 
The Aleppo Citadel, which contains the remains of mosques, a palace and bath buildings, is one of several sites in Syria on UNESCO's world heritage list.
 
One of the most famous is the ancient central city of Palmyra, which was seized by the jihadist Islamic State group from government forces on May 21.
 
Syria's ongoing civil war has caused the deaths of more than 230,000 people, turned more than four million Syrians into refugees, devastated the country's infrastructure and economy and inflicted damage in many heritage sites.

Syrian World Heritage Site Damaged in Blast

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 09:15
Syrian World Heritage Site Damaged in BlastA bomb explosion in a tunnel near Aleppo Citadel in Syria on Sunday damaged a wall of the fortress that is part of the UNESCO-listed Old City, state media and a monitor reported, according to AFP.
 
The blast partly destroyed the wall of the monumental 13th century citadel that overlooks the Old City, said the official SANA news agency and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
"A powerful explosion was heard after midnight Saturday. It was caused by the blowing up of a tunnel in the Old City near the Aleppo Citadel," the Observatory said.
 
"The blast caused the collapse of part of the wall of the citadel," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
It was unclear who was behind the attack, he said, but it was immediately followed by clashes between rebels and government forces who are battling for control of the northern city.
 
SANA said "terrorists" blew up the tunnel, causing the damage to the historic citadel.
 
The Syrian government and its media describe as "terrorists" the various armed groups who have been battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad's regime since 2011.
 
Rebel fighters in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city and pre-war commercial hub, have often set off explosions in tunnels that they have dug under military targets before launching attacks on them.
 
The Aleppo Citadel, which contains the remains of mosques, a palace and bath buildings, is one of several sites in Syria on UNESCO's world heritage list.
 
One of the most famous is the ancient central city of Palmyra, which was seized by the jihadist Islamic State group from government forces on May 21.
 
Syria's ongoing civil war has caused the deaths of more than 230,000 people, turned more than four million Syrians into refugees, devastated the country's infrastructure and economy and inflicted damage in many heritage sites.

Nusra Front Suicide Bomber Kills 25 Soldiers in Aleppo

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 21:45
syria aleppoA suicide bomber from the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, Syria's Al-Qaeda offshoot, blew himself up in a Syrian army outpost in a contested neighborhood in the city of Aleppo on Monday night.
 
The bombing killed at least 25 soldiers and allied militia and injured scores, according to the Reuters news agency.
 
The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the violence across the country, said the explosion from the blast was heard across the city where several Islamist-led groups recently launched an offensive to control the remaining western parts of the city in government hands.
 
Rebel websites said there was heavy bombardment of rebel-held portions of Jamiyat al Zahra district, where rebels had gained ground and brought them closer to the heart of government controlled parts of the city, which was before the 2011 civil war the country's main industrial and commercial hub.
 
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory, was quoted by Reuters as having said that the Syrian army had responded with heavy firepower including aerial bombardment, in an attempt to stem the offensive.
 
The insurgents posted on social media images of fighters from the Al-Nusra Front heading towards the district, which the Syrian army has repeatedly said in recent days had not fallen into insurgent hands.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

Nusra Front Suicide Bomber Kills 25 Soldiers in Aleppo (2)

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 21:45
syria aleppoA suicide bomber from the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, Syria's Al-Qaeda offshoot, blew himself up in a Syrian army outpost in a contested neighborhood in the city of Aleppo on Monday night.
 
The bombing killed at least 25 soldiers and allied militia and injured scores, according to the Reuters news agency.
 
The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the violence across the country, said the explosion from the blast was heard across the city where several Islamist-led groups recently launched an offensive to control the remaining western parts of the city in government hands.
 
Rebel websites said there was heavy bombardment of rebel-held portions of Jamiyat al Zahra district, where rebels had gained ground and brought them closer to the heart of government controlled parts of the city, which was before the 2011 civil war the country's main industrial and commercial hub.
 
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory, was quoted by Reuters as having said that the Syrian army had responded with heavy firepower including aerial bombardment, in an attempt to stem the offensive.
 
The insurgents posted on social media images of fighters from the Al-Nusra Front heading towards the district, which the Syrian army has repeatedly said in recent days had not fallen into insurgent hands.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

Nusra Front Suicide Bomber Kills 25 Soldiers in Aleppo

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 21:45
syria aleppoA suicide bomber from the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, Syria's Al-Qaeda offshoot, blew himself up in a Syrian army outpost in a contested neighborhood in the city of Aleppo on Monday night.
 
The bombing killed at least 25 soldiers and allied militia and injured scores, according to the Reuters news agency.
 
The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the violence across the country, said the explosion from the blast was heard across the city where several Islamist-led groups recently launched an offensive to control the remaining western parts of the city in government hands.
 
Rebel websites said there was heavy bombardment of rebel-held portions of Jamiyat al Zahra district, where rebels had gained ground and brought them closer to the heart of government controlled parts of the city, which was before the 2011 civil war the country's main industrial and commercial hub.
 
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory, was quoted by Reuters as having said that the Syrian army had responded with heavy firepower including aerial bombardment, in an attempt to stem the offensive.
 
The insurgents posted on social media images of fighters from the Al-Nusra Front heading towards the district, which the Syrian army has repeatedly said in recent days had not fallen into insurgent hands.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

Nusra Front Suicide Bomber Kills 25 Soldiers in Aleppo (2)

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 21:45
syria aleppoA suicide bomber from the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, Syria's Al-Qaeda offshoot, blew himself up in a Syrian army outpost in a contested neighborhood in the city of Aleppo on Monday night.
 
The bombing killed at least 25 soldiers and allied militia and injured scores, according to the Reuters news agency.
 
The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the violence across the country, said the explosion from the blast was heard across the city where several Islamist-led groups recently launched an offensive to control the remaining western parts of the city in government hands.
 
Rebel websites said there was heavy bombardment of rebel-held portions of Jamiyat al Zahra district, where rebels had gained ground and brought them closer to the heart of government controlled parts of the city, which was before the 2011 civil war the country's main industrial and commercial hub.
 
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory, was quoted by Reuters as having said that the Syrian army had responded with heavy firepower including aerial bombardment, in an attempt to stem the offensive.
 
The insurgents posted on social media images of fighters from the Al-Nusra Front heading towards the district, which the Syrian army has repeatedly said in recent days had not fallen into insurgent hands.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

ISIS Attacks Kurdish-Held Town Near its De Facto Syrian Capital

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 21:13
ISIS Attacks Kurdish-Held TownIslamic State (ISIS) group fighters attacked a town near their de facto Syrian capital Monday in a bid to recapture it from Kurdish and Arab rebel forces, a Kurdish spokesman told the AFP news agency.
 
"ISIS launched a large-scale offensive at dawn... and managed to enter Ain Issa," said Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units.
 
"Clashes are continuing inside the town in the southern part to expel ISIS," he told AFP.
 
Ain Issa is some 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of IS's de facto Syrian capital of Raqa city, and fell to Kurdish and Arab forces on June 23, shortly after they took the border town of Tal Abyad from the jihadists.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, said that the ISIS attack had succeeded and jihadist fighters were in control of Ain Issa and several nearby villages after a wide-ranging assault.
 
The Britain-based monitor said ISIS had launched a counter-attack against fronts in both Raqa province and neighboring Hasakeh.
 
Kurdish and rebel spokesmen also said ISIS was engaged in a large-scale attack in the two provinces, but denied Ain Issa had fallen.
 
According to the Observatory, 37 ISIS fighters have been killed and 46 wounded along a front line stretching between the provinces since Monday's assault began.
 
The wounded ISIS members have been taken to hospital in Raqa.
 
"The jihadists were killed and wounded in fighting and shelling," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
There were also Kurdish casualties, but the numbers were not yet known.
 
Kurdish fighters backed by Arab allies seized the frontier town of Tal Abyad from ISIS on June 16, after weeks of fighting during which they captured numerous villages in Raqa province from the jihadists.
 
The fall of Tal Abyad was a major blow for the group, which had used the town as a conduit for weapons and fighters.
 
After its capture, the anti-ISIS forces advanced to Ain Issa, taking both it and a former military base nearby.
 
But in recent weeks, ISIS forces have launched several counterattacks against the Kurds, including in Kobane, a small border town the jihadists had battled to capture for some four months.
 
ISIS has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq since 2013 and declared an Islamic "caliphate" in the land under its control.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.

ISIS Attacks Kurdish-Held Town Near its De Facto Syrian Capital

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 21:13
ISIS Attacks Kurdish-Held TownIslamic State (ISIS) group fighters attacked a town near their de facto Syrian capital Monday in a bid to recapture it from Kurdish and Arab rebel forces, a Kurdish spokesman told the AFP news agency.
 
"ISIS launched a large-scale offensive at dawn... and managed to enter Ain Issa," said Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units.
 
"Clashes are continuing inside the town in the southern part to expel ISIS," he told AFP.
 
Ain Issa is some 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of IS's de facto Syrian capital of Raqa city, and fell to Kurdish and Arab forces on June 23, shortly after they took the border town of Tal Abyad from the jihadists.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, said that the ISIS attack had succeeded and jihadist fighters were in control of Ain Issa and several nearby villages after a wide-ranging assault.
 
The Britain-based monitor said ISIS had launched a counter-attack against fronts in both Raqa province and neighboring Hasakeh.
 
Kurdish and rebel spokesmen also said ISIS was engaged in a large-scale attack in the two provinces, but denied Ain Issa had fallen.
 
According to the Observatory, 37 ISIS fighters have been killed and 46 wounded along a front line stretching between the provinces since Monday's assault began.
 
The wounded ISIS members have been taken to hospital in Raqa.
 
"The jihadists were killed and wounded in fighting and shelling," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
There were also Kurdish casualties, but the numbers were not yet known.
 
Kurdish fighters backed by Arab allies seized the frontier town of Tal Abyad from ISIS on June 16, after weeks of fighting during which they captured numerous villages in Raqa province from the jihadists.
 
The fall of Tal Abyad was a major blow for the group, which had used the town as a conduit for weapons and fighters.
 
After its capture, the anti-ISIS forces advanced to Ain Issa, taking both it and a former military base nearby.
 
But in recent weeks, ISIS forces have launched several counterattacks against the Kurds, including in Kobane, a small border town the jihadists had battled to capture for some four months.
 
ISIS has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq since 2013 and declared an Islamic "caliphate" in the land under its control.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.

ISIS Video Shows Slaughter of Syrian Soldiers on Ancient Ruins

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 09:48
Slaughter of Syrian Soldiers on Ancient RuinsThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group on Saturday released a video showing 25 Syrian government soldiers being executed by teenagers in the ancient amphitheater  in the city of Palmyra.
 
The video documented an execution that reportedly happened shortly after the jihadist group captured the city on May 21.
 
It shows the soldiers in green and brown military uniforms being shot dead on the amphitheater's stage in front of an enormous version of the group's black and white flag.
 
The executioners all appear to be children or teenagers and are wearing desert camouflage and brown bandanas.

The killings are carried out in front of a relatively sparse crowd of men and some children watching from the ancient theatre's seats.  
 {youtube}iI0701c5kRc{/youtube}
ISIS reportedly carried out more than 200 executions, including of civilians, in and around Palmyra in the period when it captured the city.    
 
The executions in the Palmyra amphitheater were first reported on May 27 by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, less than a week after ISIS captured the city.
 
At the time, Syria's antiquities director Mamoun Abdelkarim said he feared the killings could signal the start of "the group's barbarism and savagery against the ancient monuments of Palmyra."
 
"Using the Roman theater to execute people proves that these people are against humanity," he told AFP.
 
The Greco-Roman ruins at Palmyra are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city's capture by ISIS prompted international concerns for the fate of its spectacular ancient treasures.
 
So far, ISIS is not reported to have damaged the actual ruins, although it has blown up and desecrated Muslim graves in the city and destroyed a statue outside the Palmyra Museum.
 
ISIS has regularly released videos of its mass executions, with slick production and gruesome violence that experts say is a key propaganda tool for

ISIS Video Shows Slaughter of Syrian Soldiers on Ancient Ruins

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 09:48
Slaughter of Syrian Soldiers on Ancient RuinsThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group on Saturday released a video showing 25 Syrian government soldiers being executed by teenagers in the ancient amphitheater  in the city of Palmyra.
 
The video documented an execution that reportedly happened shortly after the jihadist group captured the city on May 21.
 
It shows the soldiers in green and brown military uniforms being shot dead on the amphitheater's stage in front of an enormous version of the group's black and white flag.
 
The executioners all appear to be children or teenagers and are wearing desert camouflage and brown bandanas.

The killings are carried out in front of a relatively sparse crowd of men and some children watching from the ancient theatre's seats.  
 {youtube}iI0701c5kRc{/youtube}
ISIS reportedly carried out more than 200 executions, including of civilians, in and around Palmyra in the period when it captured the city.    
 
The executions in the Palmyra amphitheater were first reported on May 27 by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, less than a week after ISIS captured the city.
 
At the time, Syria's antiquities director Mamoun Abdelkarim said he feared the killings could signal the start of "the group's barbarism and savagery against the ancient monuments of Palmyra."
 
"Using the Roman theater to execute people proves that these people are against humanity," he told AFP.
 
The Greco-Roman ruins at Palmyra are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city's capture by ISIS prompted international concerns for the fate of its spectacular ancient treasures.
 
So far, ISIS is not reported to have damaged the actual ruins, although it has blown up and desecrated Muslim graves in the city and destroyed a statue outside the Palmyra Museum.
 
ISIS has regularly released videos of its mass executions, with slick production and gruesome violence that experts say is a key propaganda tool for

Syrian Rebels Execute ISIS Fighters in 'Retribution'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 12:37
Syrian Rebels Execute ISIS FightersA Syrian rebel group operating around Damascus has executed 18 alleged members of the Islamic State group in a video
mimicking the extremist organization's own macabre productions.
 
The video, which emerged overnight, AFP reported, shows fighters from Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) wearing the orange prison clothes that ISIS victims often sport.
 
The ISIS prisoners however are wearing black clothes and chained together wearing ankle and hand shackles with metal balls attached.
 
The nearly 20-minute production mimics many aspects of ISIS's own execution videos, with similar sound effects and visuals.
 
Jaysh al-Islam fighters in the video say the ISIS forces are being executed in part as revenge for the deaths of at least three of the rebel group's members who were beheaded by ISIS.
 
The rebel group also refers to a major battle it fought with ISIS in February.
 
It accuses ISIS of being allied with President Bashar al-Assad's regime against its fighters and those of other Islamist rebel groups.
 
The video includes starkly sectarian language, accusing ISIS of betraying Sunni Muslims and allying with Shiite Muslims and "Nusayris," a derogatory terms for the Alawite sect to which Assad belongs.
 
It also contains lengthy "confessions" from ISIS fighters who claim that they did not fight against the Syrian army while with ISIS.
 
The interrogations appear intended to show that ISIS has focused its fight on other opposition forces, rather than the Syrian government.
 
The last part of the video shows the 18 ISIS fighters in black, kneeling before Jaysh al-Islam executioners who shoot them in the head. The shots are filmed from multiple angles and include gruesome close-ups. 
 
The Islamic State group emerged in Syria in 2013, when it sought to merge with Al-Qaeda's local affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
 
But Al-Nusra refused, and ISIS has since been at odds with the group as well as Islamist and moderate rebels. In the area around Damascus, its forces have battled Jaysh al-Islam and other rebel organizations.
 
Last week, a video emerged showing ISIS jihadists beheading 12 men from rival groups, among them at least three from Jaysh al-Islam and one from Al-Nusra.

Syrian Rebels Execute ISIS Fighters in 'Retribution'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 12:37
Syrian Rebels Execute ISIS FightersA Syrian rebel group operating around Damascus has executed 18 alleged members of the Islamic State group in a video
mimicking the extremist organization's own macabre productions.
 
The video, which emerged overnight, AFP reported, shows fighters from Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) wearing the orange prison clothes that ISIS victims often sport.
 
The ISIS prisoners however are wearing black clothes and chained together wearing ankle and hand shackles with metal balls attached.
 
The nearly 20-minute production mimics many aspects of ISIS's own execution videos, with similar sound effects and visuals.
 
Jaysh al-Islam fighters in the video say the ISIS forces are being executed in part as revenge for the deaths of at least three of the rebel group's members who were beheaded by ISIS.
 
The rebel group also refers to a major battle it fought with ISIS in February.
 
It accuses ISIS of being allied with President Bashar al-Assad's regime against its fighters and those of other Islamist rebel groups.
 
The video includes starkly sectarian language, accusing ISIS of betraying Sunni Muslims and allying with Shiite Muslims and "Nusayris," a derogatory terms for the Alawite sect to which Assad belongs.
 
It also contains lengthy "confessions" from ISIS fighters who claim that they did not fight against the Syrian army while with ISIS.
 
The interrogations appear intended to show that ISIS has focused its fight on other opposition forces, rather than the Syrian government.
 
The last part of the video shows the 18 ISIS fighters in black, kneeling before Jaysh al-Islam executioners who shoot them in the head. The shots are filmed from multiple angles and include gruesome close-ups. 
 
The Islamic State group emerged in Syria in 2013, when it sought to merge with Al-Qaeda's local affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
 
But Al-Nusra refused, and ISIS has since been at odds with the group as well as Islamist and moderate rebels. In the area around Damascus, its forces have battled Jaysh al-Islam and other rebel organizations.
 
Last week, a video emerged showing ISIS jihadists beheading 12 men from rival groups, among them at least three from Jaysh al-Islam and one from Al-Nusra.

Kurds Regain Full Control of Tal Abyad from ISIS

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 11:23
Kurds Regain Full Control of Tal AbyadSyrian Kurdish forces regained full control of Tal Abyad on Wednesday, expelling Islamic State fighters who had seized a district of the strategic border town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"Kurdish fighters expelled ISIS from the Mashur al-Fawqani district that they had captured yesterday (Tuesday)," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory. 
 
He said at least three fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and four ISIS jihadists were killed in clashes on Wednesday.
 
YPG spokesman Redur Khalil confirmed that the town had been secured. "The Daesh group that entered the Mashur al-Fawqani district... was eliminated completely and expelled from the area," he told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
He said three ISIS fighters had been killed in the fighting, and a fourth died detonating an explosive belt.
 
Tal Abyad, on the border with Turkey, was formerly an ISIS stronghold, which served as a key conduit for the group to bring in weapons and fighters, and export black market oil.
 
But just over two weeks ago, Kurdish forces, backed by Syrian rebel allies and US-led air strikes, seized the town from the extremist group.
 
ISIS forces launched a surprise attack against the town on Tuesday, overrunning the Mashur al-Fawqani district in heavy fighting.
 
But by late Wednesday morning, the town was back under full Kurdish control, the Observatory said.

Kurds Regain Full Control of Tal Abyad from ISIS

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 11:23
Kurds Regain Full Control of Tal AbyadSyrian Kurdish forces regained full control of Tal Abyad on Wednesday, expelling Islamic State fighters who had seized a district of the strategic border town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"Kurdish fighters expelled ISIS from the Mashur al-Fawqani district that they had captured yesterday (Tuesday)," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory. 
 
He said at least three fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and four ISIS jihadists were killed in clashes on Wednesday.
 
YPG spokesman Redur Khalil confirmed that the town had been secured. "The Daesh group that entered the Mashur al-Fawqani district... was eliminated completely and expelled from the area," he told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
He said three ISIS fighters had been killed in the fighting, and a fourth died detonating an explosive belt.
 
Tal Abyad, on the border with Turkey, was formerly an ISIS stronghold, which served as a key conduit for the group to bring in weapons and fighters, and export black market oil.
 
But just over two weeks ago, Kurdish forces, backed by Syrian rebel allies and US-led air strikes, seized the town from the extremist group.
 
ISIS forces launched a surprise attack against the town on Tuesday, overrunning the Mashur al-Fawqani district in heavy fighting.
 
But by late Wednesday morning, the town was back under full Kurdish control, the Observatory said.

ISIS Massacres 120 Civilians in Kobane in a Day

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 June 2015 08:08
ISIS Massacres CiviliansAt least 120 civilians have been killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group since it entered the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane just over 24 hours ago, a monitoring group said Friday.
 
"According to medical sources and Kobane residents, 120 civilians were executed by ISIS in their homes or killed by the group's rockets or snipers," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
He described it as one of the group's "worst massacres" in Syria.
 
Another 26 civilians were executed by ISIS on Thursday in a village near Kobane, on the border with Turkey, the Observatory said.
 
"When they entered the town, the jihadists took up positions in buildings at the southeast and southwest entrances, firing at everything that moved," Abdel Rahman said.
 
He said the bodies of civilians, among them women and children, were found in their homes and in the streets.
 
"The jihadists knew that they could not stay and control the town in the face of the Kurdish forces. They came just to kill and strike a moral blow to the Kurds," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Kurdish activist Arin Shekhmos said: "Every family in Kobane lost a family member on Thursday."
 
ISIS launched a surprise attack on Kobane on Thursday involving three suicide bombers, just over a week after Kurdish militia ousted it from Tal Abyad, another border town further east.
 
Analysts said the assault was revenge for the loss of Tal Abyad.
 
Backed by US air strikes and Syrian rebel groups, Kurdish militia had pushed ISIS out of Kobane in January in one of the jihadists' most dramatic defeats.

ISIS Massacres 120 Civilians in Kobane in a Day

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 June 2015 08:08
ISIS Massacres CiviliansAt least 120 civilians have been killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group since it entered the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane just over 24 hours ago, a monitoring group said Friday.
 
"According to medical sources and Kobane residents, 120 civilians were executed by ISIS in their homes or killed by the group's rockets or snipers," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
He described it as one of the group's "worst massacres" in Syria.
 
Another 26 civilians were executed by ISIS on Thursday in a village near Kobane, on the border with Turkey, the Observatory said.
 
"When they entered the town, the jihadists took up positions in buildings at the southeast and southwest entrances, firing at everything that moved," Abdel Rahman said.
 
He said the bodies of civilians, among them women and children, were found in their homes and in the streets.
 
"The jihadists knew that they could not stay and control the town in the face of the Kurdish forces. They came just to kill and strike a moral blow to the Kurds," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Kurdish activist Arin Shekhmos said: "Every family in Kobane lost a family member on Thursday."
 
ISIS launched a surprise attack on Kobane on Thursday involving three suicide bombers, just over a week after Kurdish militia ousted it from Tal Abyad, another border town further east.
 
Analysts said the assault was revenge for the loss of Tal Abyad.
 
Backed by US air strikes and Syrian rebel groups, Kurdish militia had pushed ISIS out of Kobane in January in one of the jihadists' most dramatic defeats.

ISIS Beheads 12 Men from Rival Groups

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 June 2015 07:40
ISIS Beheads Men from Rival GroupsIslamic State (ISIS) jihadists beheaded 12 men from rival Syrian rebel movements accused of fighting against them, in a video released on Thursday, according to AFP.
 
It is the latest in a long series of mass beheadings by ISIS, and comes two days after the group released a video showing it killing 16 people in neighboring Iraq, drowning some of them in a cage.
 
Three of those killed in the new video were from Jaysh al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the Damascus area, and a fourth from Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and ISIS’ main jihadist rival in the country.
 
While the men, whom ISIS said were captured during a battle, were apparently from Islamist Syrian rebel groups, their heads and beards were shaved, likely as an insult by ISIS, noted AFP.
 
Powerful jihadist rebel groups in Syria, including the Islamic Front and Al-Nusra Front, became locked in fierce fighting with ISIS after allegations that ISIS brutally abused civilians and other opposition fighters battling to topple President Bashar AlAssad.
 
Tensions were further exacerbated when Al-Nusra and other rebel factions accused ISIS of killing Islamist Front commander Abu Khaled al-Suri in a suicide car bomb attack.
 
Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS had temporarily agreed to work together.
 
Thursday’s video comes two days after ISIS released another gruesome video showing it killing 16 "spies" in Nineveh province in northern Iraq.
 
The terrorists killed four men with a rocket-propelled grenade fired at a car, five by drowning in a metal cage, and seven by wrapping explosive cord around their necks and detonating it.
 
Since taking over swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has executed hundreds of people by gunfire and dozens by beheading, while other victims have been stoned to death or thrown from buildings -- much of it documented in videos and photos.

ISIS Beheads 12 Men from Rival Groups

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 June 2015 07:40
ISIS Beheads Men from Rival GroupsIslamic State (ISIS) jihadists beheaded 12 men from rival Syrian rebel movements accused of fighting against them, in a video released on Thursday, according to AFP.
 
It is the latest in a long series of mass beheadings by ISIS, and comes two days after the group released a video showing it killing 16 people in neighboring Iraq, drowning some of them in a cage.
 
Three of those killed in the new video were from Jaysh al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the Damascus area, and a fourth from Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and ISIS’ main jihadist rival in the country.
 
While the men, whom ISIS said were captured during a battle, were apparently from Islamist Syrian rebel groups, their heads and beards were shaved, likely as an insult by ISIS, noted AFP.
 
Powerful jihadist rebel groups in Syria, including the Islamic Front and Al-Nusra Front, became locked in fierce fighting with ISIS after allegations that ISIS brutally abused civilians and other opposition fighters battling to topple President Bashar AlAssad.
 
Tensions were further exacerbated when Al-Nusra and other rebel factions accused ISIS of killing Islamist Front commander Abu Khaled al-Suri in a suicide car bomb attack.
 
Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS had temporarily agreed to work together.
 
Thursday’s video comes two days after ISIS released another gruesome video showing it killing 16 "spies" in Nineveh province in northern Iraq.
 
The terrorists killed four men with a rocket-propelled grenade fired at a car, five by drowning in a metal cage, and seven by wrapping explosive cord around their necks and detonating it.
 
Since taking over swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has executed hundreds of people by gunfire and dozens by beheading, while other victims have been stoned to death or thrown from buildings -- much of it documented in videos and photos.

Islamic State Making Gains Across Syria

Category: News
Created on Friday, 26 June 2015 19:18
Islamic State Across SyriaIslamic State terrorists reentered the Syrian Kurdish battleground town of Kobane on Thursday, detonating a suicide bomb and battling Kurdish forces, a monitoring group said, according to AFP. 
 
"ISIS detonated a suicide bomb in the area near the border crossing with Turkey, killing at least five people," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
"Fierce clashes erupted afterwards in the centre of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets," he added, without giving a specific toll.
 
He said fighting was still raging on Thursday morning.
 
ISIS battled for some four months to seize Kobane but Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes secured control of the border town in January in a symbolic defeat for the jihadists.
 
The terror group which controls large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria also made other strides in Syria on Thursday, the Observatory said. 
 
Overnight Wednesday ISIS terrorists entered the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh, seizing two neighborhoods from government forces in heavy clashes. 
 
At least 30 regime loyalists and 20 IS jihadists were killed in the fighting, which continued into Thursday morning. 
 
"Heavy fighting is continuing, with shelling by both sides," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. "Civilians in those areas and nearby are fleeing to the northern parts of the city. 
 
Control of Hasakeh, a provincial capital, is divided between Kurdish militia and government loyalists.
 
ISIS has sought repeatedly to enter Hasakeh, including earlier this month when it advanced to the southern outskirts of the city before regime forces pushed it back in heavy fighting.

Islamic State Making Gains Across Syria

Category: News
Created on Friday, 26 June 2015 19:18
Islamic State Across SyriaIslamic State terrorists reentered the Syrian Kurdish battleground town of Kobane on Thursday, detonating a suicide bomb and battling Kurdish forces, a monitoring group said, according to AFP. 
 
"ISIS detonated a suicide bomb in the area near the border crossing with Turkey, killing at least five people," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
"Fierce clashes erupted afterwards in the centre of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets," he added, without giving a specific toll.
 
He said fighting was still raging on Thursday morning.
 
ISIS battled for some four months to seize Kobane but Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes secured control of the border town in January in a symbolic defeat for the jihadists.
 
The terror group which controls large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria also made other strides in Syria on Thursday, the Observatory said. 
 
Overnight Wednesday ISIS terrorists entered the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh, seizing two neighborhoods from government forces in heavy clashes. 
 
At least 30 regime loyalists and 20 IS jihadists were killed in the fighting, which continued into Thursday morning. 
 
"Heavy fighting is continuing, with shelling by both sides," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. "Civilians in those areas and nearby are fleeing to the northern parts of the city. 
 
Control of Hasakeh, a provincial capital, is divided between Kurdish militia and government loyalists.
 
ISIS has sought repeatedly to enter Hasakeh, including earlier this month when it advanced to the southern outskirts of the city before regime forces pushed it back in heavy fighting.

Syrian Kurds Chase ISIS from Key Base

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 21:58
Syrian Kurds Chase ISISSyrian Kurdish fighters have chased Islamic State (ISIS) members from a key base north of the jihadists' stronghold city of Raqa, a monitoring group said on Monday night, according to the AFP news agency.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units, with air support from the United States, took complete control of the Liwa (Brigade) 93 base, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
"IS lines of defense were pushed back to the gates of Raqa," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Observatory, added.
 
"The Kurds also entered the outskirts of the town of Ayn Issa, close to Brigade 93... this town has basically fallen in the military sense with the capture of the base," he was quoted as having said.
 
The base was important due to its position overlooking strategic roads linking Raqa to other ISIS outposts in the provinces of Aleppo to the west and Hasakah to the east, the report noted.
 
ISIS had held the military base after capturing it from regime forces last summer.
 
The taking of the base is the second blow inflicted on ISIS fighters by the Kurds in a week after the capture of Tal Abyad, on Syria's border with Turkey.
 
Tal Abyad was a key conduit for foreign fighters and supplies into ISIS-held territory in Syria and for exports of black market oil from jihadist-held fields.
 
Kurdish forces defended the Syrian town of Kobane against ISIS in a months-long battle, and have emerged as some of the most effective forces battling the jihadist group in the year since it declared a cross-border "caliphate" with neighboring Iraq.
 
Cutting off supplies to Raqa is important as it is the de-facto capital of the ISIS self-proclaimed “caliphate”, established a year ago after the jihadist group seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
Recently the group began issuing photo identity cards to males residing in the Raqa province, along with a range of administrative documents.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
ISIS is also enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law in the areas under its control. On Monday, for example, the group executed two youths accused of eating during daylight hours in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Syrian Kurds Chase ISIS from Key Base

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 21:58
Syrian Kurds Chase ISISSyrian Kurdish fighters have chased Islamic State (ISIS) members from a key base north of the jihadists' stronghold city of Raqa, a monitoring group said on Monday night, according to the AFP news agency.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units, with air support from the United States, took complete control of the Liwa (Brigade) 93 base, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
"IS lines of defense were pushed back to the gates of Raqa," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Observatory, added.
 
"The Kurds also entered the outskirts of the town of Ayn Issa, close to Brigade 93... this town has basically fallen in the military sense with the capture of the base," he was quoted as having said.
 
The base was important due to its position overlooking strategic roads linking Raqa to other ISIS outposts in the provinces of Aleppo to the west and Hasakah to the east, the report noted.
 
ISIS had held the military base after capturing it from regime forces last summer.
 
The taking of the base is the second blow inflicted on ISIS fighters by the Kurds in a week after the capture of Tal Abyad, on Syria's border with Turkey.
 
Tal Abyad was a key conduit for foreign fighters and supplies into ISIS-held territory in Syria and for exports of black market oil from jihadist-held fields.
 
Kurdish forces defended the Syrian town of Kobane against ISIS in a months-long battle, and have emerged as some of the most effective forces battling the jihadist group in the year since it declared a cross-border "caliphate" with neighboring Iraq.
 
Cutting off supplies to Raqa is important as it is the de-facto capital of the ISIS self-proclaimed “caliphate”, established a year ago after the jihadist group seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
Recently the group began issuing photo identity cards to males residing in the Raqa province, along with a range of administrative documents.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
ISIS is also enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law in the areas under its control. On Monday, for example, the group executed two youths accused of eating during daylight hours in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

ISIS in Syria Hangs Two Boys for Eating During Ramadan

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 18:07
ISIS in Syria Hangs Two BoysThe Islamic State (ISIS) on Monday hanged two youths after accusing them of eating during daylight hours in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said.
 
"Residents of the village of Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province reported that IS hanged from a crossbar two boys aged under 18 near the HQ of the Hissba", the jihadist police, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told the AFP news agency.
 
"The children have been suspended by ropes from a pole since noon, and they were still there in the late evening," he added.
 
"Apparently, they were caught eating," Abdel Rahman continued.
 
A placard was attached to the bodies reading "They broke the fast with no religious justification".
 
Throughout the month of Ramadan, which began on Thursday, believers abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset.
 
ISIS, which controls swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq where it has created a self-proclaimed "caliphate", advocates an extreme view of the application of Islamic law, or sharia.
 
Steps taken by ISIS against violations of Islamic include a ban on mannequins in shop displays as well as a ban on singing and dancing at weddings.
 
The jihadists do not hesitate to impose brutal punishments including beheadings, stonings, floggings and crucifixions.

ISIS in Syria Hangs Two Boys for Eating During Ramadan

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 18:07
ISIS in Syria Hangs Two BoysThe Islamic State (ISIS) on Monday hanged two youths after accusing them of eating during daylight hours in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said.
 
"Residents of the village of Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province reported that IS hanged from a crossbar two boys aged under 18 near the HQ of the Hissba", the jihadist police, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told the AFP news agency.
 
"The children have been suspended by ropes from a pole since noon, and they were still there in the late evening," he added.
 
"Apparently, they were caught eating," Abdel Rahman continued.
 
A placard was attached to the bodies reading "They broke the fast with no religious justification".
 
Throughout the month of Ramadan, which began on Thursday, believers abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset.
 
ISIS, which controls swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq where it has created a self-proclaimed "caliphate", advocates an extreme view of the application of Islamic law, or sharia.
 
Steps taken by ISIS against violations of Islamic include a ban on mannequins in shop displays as well as a ban on singing and dancing at weddings.
 
The jihadists do not hesitate to impose brutal punishments including beheadings, stonings, floggings and crucifixions.

Concern Mounts as ISIS Places Mines in Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 13:47
ancient city of PalmyraIslamic State (ISIS) group jihadists have mined the spectacular ancient ruins in Syria's Palmyra, an antiquities official and monitor said Sunday, prompting fears for the UNESCO World Heritage site.
 
The reports came one month after the extremist group overran the central Syrian city, reported the AFP news agency.
 
Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said that the group had laid mines and explosives in Palmyra's Greco-Roman ruins.
 
The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground, said the explosives were laid on Saturday.
 
"But it is not known if the purpose is to blow up the ruins or to prevent regime forces from advancing into the town," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, according to AFP.
 
He said regime forces had launched heavy air strikes against the residential part of Palmyra in the past three days, killing at least 11 people.
 
"The regime forces are to the west outside the city, and in recent days they have brought in reinforcements suggesting they may be planning an operation to retake Palmyra," he added.
 
A political source told AFP that a leading commander had been dispatched to the region to organize an offensive to recapture and secure Palmyra and several key gas fields nearby.
 
Abdulkarim also said Sunday he had received reports from Palmyra residents that the ruins had been mined.
 
"We have preliminary information from residents saying that this is correct, they have laid mines at the temple site," he told AFP.
 
"I hope that these reports are not correct, but we are worried."
 
He urged "Palmyra's residents, tribal chiefs and religious and cultural figures to intervene to prevent this... and prevent what happened in northern Iraq", referring to ISIS destruction of heritage sites there.
 
"I am very pessimistic and feel sadness," he told AFP.
 
ISIS captured Palmyra, famed for its extensive and well-preserved ruins, on May 21, and since that time has regularly heavily mined its territory to make it more difficult to recapture.
 
The city's fall prompted international concern about the fate of the heritage site described by UNESCO as of "outstanding universal value".
 
Before it was overrun, the head of the UN cultural body urged that the ruins be spared, saying they were "an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people, and the world".

Concern Mounts as ISIS Places Mines in Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 13:47
ancient city of PalmyraIslamic State (ISIS) group jihadists have mined the spectacular ancient ruins in Syria's Palmyra, an antiquities official and monitor said Sunday, prompting fears for the UNESCO World Heritage site.
 
The reports came one month after the extremist group overran the central Syrian city, reported the AFP news agency.
 
Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said that the group had laid mines and explosives in Palmyra's Greco-Roman ruins.
 
The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground, said the explosives were laid on Saturday.
 
"But it is not known if the purpose is to blow up the ruins or to prevent regime forces from advancing into the town," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, according to AFP.
 
He said regime forces had launched heavy air strikes against the residential part of Palmyra in the past three days, killing at least 11 people.
 
"The regime forces are to the west outside the city, and in recent days they have brought in reinforcements suggesting they may be planning an operation to retake Palmyra," he added.
 
A political source told AFP that a leading commander had been dispatched to the region to organize an offensive to recapture and secure Palmyra and several key gas fields nearby.
 
Abdulkarim also said Sunday he had received reports from Palmyra residents that the ruins had been mined.
 
"We have preliminary information from residents saying that this is correct, they have laid mines at the temple site," he told AFP.
 
"I hope that these reports are not correct, but we are worried."
 
He urged "Palmyra's residents, tribal chiefs and religious and cultural figures to intervene to prevent this... and prevent what happened in northern Iraq", referring to ISIS destruction of heritage sites there.
 
"I am very pessimistic and feel sadness," he told AFP.
 
ISIS captured Palmyra, famed for its extensive and well-preserved ruins, on May 21, and since that time has regularly heavily mined its territory to make it more difficult to recapture.
 
The city's fall prompted international concern about the fate of the heritage site described by UNESCO as of "outstanding universal value".
 
Before it was overrun, the head of the UN cultural body urged that the ruins be spared, saying they were "an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people, and the world".

One Year On, No Quick Fix to ISIS 'Caliphate'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 22 June 2015 10:24
500 Bodies from ISIS Massacre in Tikrit(AFP) A year after its establishment, the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) group's self-declared "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq remains well-funded and heavily armed, and experts say it could be around for years to come.
 
The would-be state headed by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - called Caliph Ibrahim by his followers - has suffered setbacks in the months since it was proclaimed.
 
A US-led coalition is carrying out strikes against the group throughout its territory and this week it lost the key Syrian border town of Tal Abyad to Kurdish forces.
 
But the group has continued to score shocking victories elsewhere, including the seizure of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, and experts say IS and its "caliphate" have the means to last for years.    
 
"The group operates as an insurgency and might shrink in one region and expand in another, but it'll stay with us for the foreseeable future," said Hassan Hassan, associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank's Middle East and North Africa program.
 
 "I see it existing and active for at least a decade."
 
Other experts agree that while the current borders of the caliphate are likely to shift, the entity is far from on its last legs.
 
"The very idea of the caliphate and 'Caliph Ibrahim' will surely remain for many of the movement's members and supporters around the world," said Charles Lister, a vising fellow at the Brookings Doha Center think thank.
 
Well-funded, well-armed
 
IS's success is driven by various factors, chief among them its significant financial resources, superior firepower, and ability to play on the legitimate grievances of local populations in Syria and Iraq.
 
"It remains the richest terrorist group in the world," with weekly revenues of about $2 million (1.7 million euros), said Patrick Johnston, a political scientist at the Rand Corporation think tank.
 
US-led strikes on the group's oil infrastructure and a drop in the price of crude have cut into its funds, but it has found ways to compensate.
 
"Key among them are extortion, taxation, and the sale of looted goods from areas they have captured," Johnston said.
 
More importantly, the group's operating costs are relatively low: it has a steady supply of recruits, particularly foreign fighters, and its vast armory is stocked largely from the spoils of battles against armies and other rebel groups.  
 
Fighters have access to a range of small arms and light weapons, as well as artillery, anti-tank guns and a "seemingly unending supply of pick-up trucks and captured armored vehicles and, in Syria, tanks," according to Lister.
 
He said the group seeks to "ensure a near-constant series of tactical-level victories are won, thereby resulting in the capture of additional weapons supplies."
 
IS also buys arms from the black market, making it "one of the most equipped groups in Syria and Iraq," said Hassan, author of a book on the group.
 
"IS has the weapons, training and means to operate as a small army," he said.  
 
A lack of alternatives
 
The US-led coalition fighting IS has had some successes, but experts say it is constrained by a lack of reliable ground forces and relatively poor intelligence.
 
IS meanwhile has strategically focused its expansion on areas where local government and security is weak.
 
And it quickly implements governance in captured territory, Johnston said, using its bureaucrats and police to consolidate its control.
 
The jihadists use a carrot-and-stick approach with local populations, terrorizing with brutal public executions but also offering relative stability and public services including healthcare and education.
 
"Its popularity is fluid... but generally it still has what it takes to rule without much pressure from within its areas," said Hassan.  
 
"People on the ground still fear the group's retribution, see value in its model of governance, and don't have any other acceptable alternatives."
 
The lack of alternatives has been key to IS's success in Syria and Iraq, where Sunni Muslims feel excluded from the ruling class.  
 
In Syria, Sunnis have led the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, who hails from the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam.
 
In Iraq, they frequently accuse the Shiite-led government of discrimination.
 
Those dynamics mean a purely military approach to the "caliphate problem" will fall short.
 
"So long as Assad remains in Syria and so long as Baghdad's improvements in representative government do not translate into a shift in perceptions on the ground, IS will always retain a chance of acquiring people's tacit acceptance," Lister said.
 
"Ultimately the only genuine solution to IS is to solve the underlying issues of societal division and political failure that IS has sought to exacerbate and exploit to its advantage."

One Year On, No Quick Fix to ISIS 'Caliphate'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 22 June 2015 10:24
500 Bodies from ISIS Massacre in Tikrit(AFP) A year after its establishment, the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) group's self-declared "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq remains well-funded and heavily armed, and experts say it could be around for years to come.
 
The would-be state headed by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - called Caliph Ibrahim by his followers - has suffered setbacks in the months since it was proclaimed.
 
A US-led coalition is carrying out strikes against the group throughout its territory and this week it lost the key Syrian border town of Tal Abyad to Kurdish forces.
 
But the group has continued to score shocking victories elsewhere, including the seizure of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, and experts say IS and its "caliphate" have the means to last for years.    
 
"The group operates as an insurgency and might shrink in one region and expand in another, but it'll stay with us for the foreseeable future," said Hassan Hassan, associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank's Middle East and North Africa program.
 
 "I see it existing and active for at least a decade."
 
Other experts agree that while the current borders of the caliphate are likely to shift, the entity is far from on its last legs.
 
"The very idea of the caliphate and 'Caliph Ibrahim' will surely remain for many of the movement's members and supporters around the world," said Charles Lister, a vising fellow at the Brookings Doha Center think thank.
 
Well-funded, well-armed
 
IS's success is driven by various factors, chief among them its significant financial resources, superior firepower, and ability to play on the legitimate grievances of local populations in Syria and Iraq.
 
"It remains the richest terrorist group in the world," with weekly revenues of about $2 million (1.7 million euros), said Patrick Johnston, a political scientist at the Rand Corporation think tank.
 
US-led strikes on the group's oil infrastructure and a drop in the price of crude have cut into its funds, but it has found ways to compensate.
 
"Key among them are extortion, taxation, and the sale of looted goods from areas they have captured," Johnston said.
 
More importantly, the group's operating costs are relatively low: it has a steady supply of recruits, particularly foreign fighters, and its vast armory is stocked largely from the spoils of battles against armies and other rebel groups.  
 
Fighters have access to a range of small arms and light weapons, as well as artillery, anti-tank guns and a "seemingly unending supply of pick-up trucks and captured armored vehicles and, in Syria, tanks," according to Lister.
 
He said the group seeks to "ensure a near-constant series of tactical-level victories are won, thereby resulting in the capture of additional weapons supplies."
 
IS also buys arms from the black market, making it "one of the most equipped groups in Syria and Iraq," said Hassan, author of a book on the group.
 
"IS has the weapons, training and means to operate as a small army," he said.  
 
A lack of alternatives
 
The US-led coalition fighting IS has had some successes, but experts say it is constrained by a lack of reliable ground forces and relatively poor intelligence.
 
IS meanwhile has strategically focused its expansion on areas where local government and security is weak.
 
And it quickly implements governance in captured territory, Johnston said, using its bureaucrats and police to consolidate its control.
 
The jihadists use a carrot-and-stick approach with local populations, terrorizing with brutal public executions but also offering relative stability and public services including healthcare and education.
 
"Its popularity is fluid... but generally it still has what it takes to rule without much pressure from within its areas," said Hassan.  
 
"People on the ground still fear the group's retribution, see value in its model of governance, and don't have any other acceptable alternatives."
 
The lack of alternatives has been key to IS's success in Syria and Iraq, where Sunni Muslims feel excluded from the ruling class.  
 
In Syria, Sunnis have led the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, who hails from the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam.
 
In Iraq, they frequently accuse the Shiite-led government of discrimination.
 
Those dynamics mean a purely military approach to the "caliphate problem" will fall short.
 
"So long as Assad remains in Syria and so long as Baghdad's improvements in representative government do not translate into a shift in perceptions on the ground, IS will always retain a chance of acquiring people's tacit acceptance," Lister said.
 
"Ultimately the only genuine solution to IS is to solve the underlying issues of societal division and political failure that IS has sought to exacerbate and exploit to its advantage."

A Rare Glimpse Inside ISIS 'Model City' - Hell on Earth

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 20 June 2015 18:22
Hell on EarthIt's called Heaven Square, but after the Islamic State (ISIS) group started using the roundabout in Raqqa for gruesome public executions it earned a new name: Hell Square.
 
In the year since the jihadist group announced its "caliphate" last June, its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa has been transformed into a macabre metropolis.
 
Human heads are displayed on spikes at the central roundabout and crucified bodies hang for days to terrorize local residents, said Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, a Raqqa resident and anti-ISIS activist.
 
"From the first moment of its control over Raqqa, ISIS adopted a policy of horror and terror, resorting to executions, beheadings, cutting off hands and legs, and crucifixion," said Raqqawi, who uses a pseudonym.
 
He belongs to the "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" underground activist group, which documents ISIS abuses in the northern Syrian city and surrounding province.
 
Activists were among ISIS's first targets in Raqqa, but Raqqawi and the group's members have continued to work, providing a rare window into life in one of ISIS's bastions.
 
Raqqa was the first Syrian provincial capital to fall from regime control when rebels seized it in March 2013.
 
But ISIS soon routed those rebels and moved quickly to establish a "model city" under its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, said researcher and writer Hisham al-Hashimi.
 
ISIS wants to run Raqqa "like a central government, with police, services, justice and education," he said.
 
The "good life"
 
The group has taken over all levels of civil administration, rewriting school curriculums, establishing Islamic courts and creating police units - the male "Hesba" force and the female "Khansa Brigades" - to implement Islamic law.
 
It has focused heavily on education, closing the city's schools and universities for a full year while it developed new courses.
 
Mathematics and English are still on the menu, but little else of the old curriculum remains; courses in jurisprudence, jihad and the Koran have been added.
 
"What's the point of physics, chemistry, history or statistics...when we're learning medicine?" says Abu Abdul Rahman al-Shami, the head of Raqqa's hospital, in an ISIS-produced video about life in the city.
 
ISIS has sought to promote an image of the "good life" in Raqqa, with videos showing roads teeming with cars and storefronts full of customers.
 
It touts the implementation of its version of Islam, with life coming to a halt five times every day for prayers and all residents required to declare their assets and pay "zakat" - Islamic alms.
 
It also revels in meting out punishments for crimes ranging from collaboration with Syria's regime and theft to "witchcraft" and homosexuality.
 
The group regularly carries out beheadings, but also stones victims to death or throws them from building tops.
 
Women whose face veils do not cover their eyes are charged a gram of gold, while men who shave their beards pay a fine equivalent to $100.
 
Raqqawi recounted how a woman in a face veil, walking with her husband, tripped in the street, revealing part of her face as she fell.
 
ISIS members swarmed around the couple and threatened to lash her husband if the incident was repeated.
 
"Keep your head down"
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says ISIS has executed 2,618 people in Syria between the founding of its caliphate in late June 2014 and late May 2015.
 
Residents say those who comply with ISIS's rules can find a way to live a "normal" life, and even to benefit from the relative stability, lack of crime and municipal services in Raqqa.
 
"If you follow Daesh's laws and keep your head down, no one will bother you," Raqqawi said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
And for the thousands of foreign fighters who have flocked to ISIS-held territory, there are special perks in Raqqa, an occasional source of tension with Syrian residents who say they are treated as inferior.
 
A French ISIS fighter known as Abu Salman al-Fransi recently extolled the virtues of life in ISIS territory in a video posted online.
 
He said he was born to a Christian family but chose to convert to Islam and join ISIS in Syria along with his wife.
 
"The Islamic State gave us a house and everything we needed to prepare it, thank God, and our salary every month," he said in French.
 
In another such video, a clean-shaven blonde Australian doctor calling himself Abu Yusef al-Australi says he left home to live "in the shadow of the caliphate."
 
Now he works at Raqqa hospital, where foreign fighters are treated for free, while locals pay for care.
 
Dressed in green scrubs and speaking English, he says with a grin: "The situation here has exceeded my expectations."

A Rare Glimpse Inside ISIS 'Model City' - Hell on Earth

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 20 June 2015 18:22
Hell on EarthIt's called Heaven Square, but after the Islamic State (ISIS) group started using the roundabout in Raqqa for gruesome public executions it earned a new name: Hell Square.
 
In the year since the jihadist group announced its "caliphate" last June, its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa has been transformed into a macabre metropolis.
 
Human heads are displayed on spikes at the central roundabout and crucified bodies hang for days to terrorize local residents, said Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, a Raqqa resident and anti-ISIS activist.
 
"From the first moment of its control over Raqqa, ISIS adopted a policy of horror and terror, resorting to executions, beheadings, cutting off hands and legs, and crucifixion," said Raqqawi, who uses a pseudonym.
 
He belongs to the "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" underground activist group, which documents ISIS abuses in the northern Syrian city and surrounding province.
 
Activists were among ISIS's first targets in Raqqa, but Raqqawi and the group's members have continued to work, providing a rare window into life in one of ISIS's bastions.
 
Raqqa was the first Syrian provincial capital to fall from regime control when rebels seized it in March 2013.
 
But ISIS soon routed those rebels and moved quickly to establish a "model city" under its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, said researcher and writer Hisham al-Hashimi.
 
ISIS wants to run Raqqa "like a central government, with police, services, justice and education," he said.
 
The "good life"
 
The group has taken over all levels of civil administration, rewriting school curriculums, establishing Islamic courts and creating police units - the male "Hesba" force and the female "Khansa Brigades" - to implement Islamic law.
 
It has focused heavily on education, closing the city's schools and universities for a full year while it developed new courses.
 
Mathematics and English are still on the menu, but little else of the old curriculum remains; courses in jurisprudence, jihad and the Koran have been added.
 
"What's the point of physics, chemistry, history or statistics...when we're learning medicine?" says Abu Abdul Rahman al-Shami, the head of Raqqa's hospital, in an ISIS-produced video about life in the city.
 
ISIS has sought to promote an image of the "good life" in Raqqa, with videos showing roads teeming with cars and storefronts full of customers.
 
It touts the implementation of its version of Islam, with life coming to a halt five times every day for prayers and all residents required to declare their assets and pay "zakat" - Islamic alms.
 
It also revels in meting out punishments for crimes ranging from collaboration with Syria's regime and theft to "witchcraft" and homosexuality.
 
The group regularly carries out beheadings, but also stones victims to death or throws them from building tops.
 
Women whose face veils do not cover their eyes are charged a gram of gold, while men who shave their beards pay a fine equivalent to $100.
 
Raqqawi recounted how a woman in a face veil, walking with her husband, tripped in the street, revealing part of her face as she fell.
 
ISIS members swarmed around the couple and threatened to lash her husband if the incident was repeated.
 
"Keep your head down"
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says ISIS has executed 2,618 people in Syria between the founding of its caliphate in late June 2014 and late May 2015.
 
Residents say those who comply with ISIS's rules can find a way to live a "normal" life, and even to benefit from the relative stability, lack of crime and municipal services in Raqqa.
 
"If you follow Daesh's laws and keep your head down, no one will bother you," Raqqawi said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
And for the thousands of foreign fighters who have flocked to ISIS-held territory, there are special perks in Raqqa, an occasional source of tension with Syrian residents who say they are treated as inferior.
 
A French ISIS fighter known as Abu Salman al-Fransi recently extolled the virtues of life in ISIS territory in a video posted online.
 
He said he was born to a Christian family but chose to convert to Islam and join ISIS in Syria along with his wife.
 
"The Islamic State gave us a house and everything we needed to prepare it, thank God, and our salary every month," he said in French.
 
In another such video, a clean-shaven blonde Australian doctor calling himself Abu Yusef al-Australi says he left home to live "in the shadow of the caliphate."
 
Now he works at Raqqa hospital, where foreign fighters are treated for free, while locals pay for care.
 
Dressed in green scrubs and speaking English, he says with a grin: "The situation here has exceeded my expectations."

Highest Ranking Iranian General Dies in Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 09:28
Hadi KajbafYet another senior Iranian general has been killed fighting in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Iranian news agencies revealed late on Friday.
 
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Maj. Gen. Hadi Kajbaf was killed in April around 60 miles south of Damascus, near the rebel-hold town Busr al-Harir, according to the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim as cited by Reuters. His body was shipped back to Iran last Friday.
 
Another three Iranian soldiers were killed alongside the general, including a mid-ranking Shi'ite cleric, reported the state-run Fars News Agency.
 
Kajbaf's rank was the highest in Iran's military, meaning he was among the most senior losses the Islamic regime has suffered in Syria, and of a more senior rank than the IRGC brigadier general killed in January by an IDF strike near the Golan Heights as he was reportedly planning an attack on Israel.
 
Kajbaf's son Sajad Kajbaf told Tasnim that his father's body was to be flown to Iran on Friday night after a day's delay; he did not detail how Iran got the body back after rebel forces seized it upon his father's death.
 
Iran has been key in keeping Assad's regime afloat during the internecine civil war raging in Syria, dispatching both its own soldiers as well as its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah to the country where they have suffered painful losses.
 
Experts have revealed Iran is spending $35 billion a year propping up Assad's regime, and is likewise deploying thousands of its troops in the country. They say the reason for this is that Iran needs to maintain a route of access through Syria to the Mediterranean by which it can supply weapons to Hezbollah and strengthen its growing regional influence.
 
In late April Iran reportedly told Syria to open a war front against Israel on the Golan Heights to continue expanding its regional influence at all costs.

Highest Ranking Iranian General Dies in Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 09:28
Hadi KajbafYet another senior Iranian general has been killed fighting in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Iranian news agencies revealed late on Friday.
 
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Maj. Gen. Hadi Kajbaf was killed in April around 60 miles south of Damascus, near the rebel-hold town Busr al-Harir, according to the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim as cited by Reuters. His body was shipped back to Iran last Friday.
 
Another three Iranian soldiers were killed alongside the general, including a mid-ranking Shi'ite cleric, reported the state-run Fars News Agency.
 
Kajbaf's rank was the highest in Iran's military, meaning he was among the most senior losses the Islamic regime has suffered in Syria, and of a more senior rank than the IRGC brigadier general killed in January by an IDF strike near the Golan Heights as he was reportedly planning an attack on Israel.
 
Kajbaf's son Sajad Kajbaf told Tasnim that his father's body was to be flown to Iran on Friday night after a day's delay; he did not detail how Iran got the body back after rebel forces seized it upon his father's death.
 
Iran has been key in keeping Assad's regime afloat during the internecine civil war raging in Syria, dispatching both its own soldiers as well as its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah to the country where they have suffered painful losses.
 
Experts have revealed Iran is spending $35 billion a year propping up Assad's regime, and is likewise deploying thousands of its troops in the country. They say the reason for this is that Iran needs to maintain a route of access through Syria to the Mediterranean by which it can supply weapons to Hezbollah and strengthen its growing regional influence.
 
In late April Iran reportedly told Syria to open a war front against Israel on the Golan Heights to continue expanding its regional influence at all costs.

ISIS in Danger of Losing Key Supply Route from Turkey

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 08:46
ISIS losing Key Supply Route from TurkeyA Syrian rebel alliance has pushed Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists further away from one of its key supply routes from neighboring Turkey, a monitoring group said Saturday.
 
The Islamist rebels ousted ISIS from the village of Al-Bal, which it captured on Tuesday, threatening the Bab al-Salama border crossing, just 10 kilometers (six miles) away, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.
 
The village's recapture late Friday came after heavy fighting, which killed 14 rebels and 15 IS jihadists, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
Further south, the rebels were fighting to defend the town of Marea, on the road between the crossing and the rebel-held eastern sector of the main northern city of Aleppo.
 
Activists said the rebels were simultaneously launching their own attacks on ISIS positions in the area.
 
"The ultimate goal for ISIS is to cut off this crossing," said Abdel Rahman.
 
Mamun Abu Omar, head of a local pro-rebel press agency, said "ISIS is trying to surround the town by occupying the villages all around it."
 
The rebel alliance is fighting both ISIS and government forces in Aleppo province, which is one of the most complex battlegrounds of Syria's multi-front civil war.
 
In some areas, it is supported by fighters of ISIS's jihadist rival, Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front.
 
ISIS fighters control areas in the province's east, and have been laying siege to the Kweyris military airport, still controlled by the regime.
 
Early Saturday, three government officers were killed when their helicopter was shot down by ISIS just outside the airport, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
"All three officers were killed, but it's not clear if ISIS has taken the bodies," he said.
 
Meanwhile, Kurdish militia advanced further into ISIS's bastion province Raqa, in Syria's north, in a bid to capture the key border town of Tal Abyad.
 
The Observatory said Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had edged to within 10 kilometers (six miles) southwest of Tal Abyad, used by ISIS as a gateway from Turkey.
 
Backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, Kurdish forces recaptured the flashpoint town of Kobane - which lies west of Raqa province - from ISIS in January.
 
Since then, YPG militia have chipped away at ISIS control along the Turkish border on both sides of Raqa.
 
According to the Observatory, the Kurdish fighters advancing from east and west aim to meet at Tal Abyad and lay siege to the town.

ISIS in Danger of Losing Key Supply Route from Turkey

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 08:46
ISIS losing Key Supply Route from TurkeyA Syrian rebel alliance has pushed Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists further away from one of its key supply routes from neighboring Turkey, a monitoring group said Saturday.
 
The Islamist rebels ousted ISIS from the village of Al-Bal, which it captured on Tuesday, threatening the Bab al-Salama border crossing, just 10 kilometers (six miles) away, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.
 
The village's recapture late Friday came after heavy fighting, which killed 14 rebels and 15 IS jihadists, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
Further south, the rebels were fighting to defend the town of Marea, on the road between the crossing and the rebel-held eastern sector of the main northern city of Aleppo.
 
Activists said the rebels were simultaneously launching their own attacks on ISIS positions in the area.
 
"The ultimate goal for ISIS is to cut off this crossing," said Abdel Rahman.
 
Mamun Abu Omar, head of a local pro-rebel press agency, said "ISIS is trying to surround the town by occupying the villages all around it."
 
The rebel alliance is fighting both ISIS and government forces in Aleppo province, which is one of the most complex battlegrounds of Syria's multi-front civil war.
 
In some areas, it is supported by fighters of ISIS's jihadist rival, Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front.
 
ISIS fighters control areas in the province's east, and have been laying siege to the Kweyris military airport, still controlled by the regime.
 
Early Saturday, three government officers were killed when their helicopter was shot down by ISIS just outside the airport, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
"All three officers were killed, but it's not clear if ISIS has taken the bodies," he said.
 
Meanwhile, Kurdish militia advanced further into ISIS's bastion province Raqa, in Syria's north, in a bid to capture the key border town of Tal Abyad.
 
The Observatory said Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had edged to within 10 kilometers (six miles) southwest of Tal Abyad, used by ISIS as a gateway from Turkey.
 
Backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, Kurdish forces recaptured the flashpoint town of Kobane - which lies west of Raqa province - from ISIS in January.
 
Since then, YPG militia have chipped away at ISIS control along the Turkish border on both sides of Raqa.
 
According to the Observatory, the Kurdish fighters advancing from east and west aim to meet at Tal Abyad and lay siege to the town.

Kurds 'Storm' ISIS-held Town on Turkish Border

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 11:31
Kurds Storm ISIS on Turkish BorderSyrian Kurdish fighters advanced towards the Islamic State (ISIS) group-held town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border on Thursday, backed by US-led coalition strikes, a monitor said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces backed by Arab rebel fighters "stormed the town of Suluk and took control of the eastern part of it," reports AFP.
 
Fierce clashes continued through the day between ISIS and Kurdish forces.
 
Suluk, in the ISIS bastion province of Raqa in northern Syria, lies to the east of Tal Abyad, a key border town that is controlled by the jihadist group.
 
The town is a key target for the Kurds who want to free up the route between Kobane to the west and Qamishli, further east along the Turkish border.
 
With their advance into Suluk, YPG forces are now some 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Tal Abyad, and they are also positioned around 10 kilometers to the west.
 
"The Kurds plan to lay siege to Tal Abyad," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The YPG has been backed by US-led air strikes targeting ISIS positions in the area, he added.
 
The latest fighting in the area has prompted a wave of several thousand people to flee into neighboring Turkey, which is already hosting 1.8 million Syrians.
 
Nearly 9,000 refugees have entered Turkey since last week, a Turkish official said on Wednesday.

Kurds 'Storm' ISIS-held Town on Turkish Border

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 11:31
Kurds Storm ISIS on Turkish BorderSyrian Kurdish fighters advanced towards the Islamic State (ISIS) group-held town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border on Thursday, backed by US-led coalition strikes, a monitor said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces backed by Arab rebel fighters "stormed the town of Suluk and took control of the eastern part of it," reports AFP.
 
Fierce clashes continued through the day between ISIS and Kurdish forces.
 
Suluk, in the ISIS bastion province of Raqa in northern Syria, lies to the east of Tal Abyad, a key border town that is controlled by the jihadist group.
 
The town is a key target for the Kurds who want to free up the route between Kobane to the west and Qamishli, further east along the Turkish border.
 
With their advance into Suluk, YPG forces are now some 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Tal Abyad, and they are also positioned around 10 kilometers to the west.
 
"The Kurds plan to lay siege to Tal Abyad," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The YPG has been backed by US-led air strikes targeting ISIS positions in the area, he added.
 
The latest fighting in the area has prompted a wave of several thousand people to flee into neighboring Turkey, which is already hosting 1.8 million Syrians.
 
Nearly 9,000 refugees have entered Turkey since last week, a Turkish official said on Wednesday.

Syrian Rebels Begin Conquest of Regime-held Province

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 10:51
Terrorists Conquest of Regime-held ProvinceSyrian rebels seized most of a military airport in regime-controlled Sweida province on Thursday, their first such advance in the Druze-majority region, a spokesman told AFP.
 
"The Southern Front has liberated Al-Thaala military airport and is carrying out mopping-up operations against remaining forces," the alliance's spokesman Major Essam al-Rayes told AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human rights monitor also reported the rebel advance into the airport.
 
"They have control of parts of the airport, which is used by the regime for aircraft that bomb Daraa and Damascus provinces," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
But Syrian state television denied the claims, and interviewed the provincial governor, who accused media of spreading lies.
 
"There is no truth to claims that terrorist groups have occupied Al-Thaala in Sweida province," state television said, citing its reporter in the area.
 
The Southern Front advance into the airport comes a day after the alliance, which groups moderate and Islamist rebel forces, seized the 52nd Brigade base in neighboring Daraa province.
 
Abdel Rahman said many of the regime forces who fled the 52nd Brigade as it was captured on Wednesday had withdrawn to Al-Thaala, which lies some 10 kilometers (six miles) away.
 
Sweida province has been spared much of the fighting in Syria, and remains almost entirely under regime control.
 
Most of its residents are Druze, followers of a secretive offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, who made up around 3% of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million people.
 
The community has been somewhat divided during the country's uprising, with some members fighting alongside the government while others expressing sympathy for the opposition.
 
Mostly, the Druze have taken up arms only in defense of their areas, and have kept out of the fighting more broadly.

Syrian Rebels Begin Conquest of Regime-held Province

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 10:51
Terrorists Conquest of Regime-held ProvinceSyrian rebels seized most of a military airport in regime-controlled Sweida province on Thursday, their first such advance in the Druze-majority region, a spokesman told AFP.
 
"The Southern Front has liberated Al-Thaala military airport and is carrying out mopping-up operations against remaining forces," the alliance's spokesman Major Essam al-Rayes told AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human rights monitor also reported the rebel advance into the airport.
 
"They have control of parts of the airport, which is used by the regime for aircraft that bomb Daraa and Damascus provinces," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
But Syrian state television denied the claims, and interviewed the provincial governor, who accused media of spreading lies.
 
"There is no truth to claims that terrorist groups have occupied Al-Thaala in Sweida province," state television said, citing its reporter in the area.
 
The Southern Front advance into the airport comes a day after the alliance, which groups moderate and Islamist rebel forces, seized the 52nd Brigade base in neighboring Daraa province.
 
Abdel Rahman said many of the regime forces who fled the 52nd Brigade as it was captured on Wednesday had withdrawn to Al-Thaala, which lies some 10 kilometers (six miles) away.
 
Sweida province has been spared much of the fighting in Syria, and remains almost entirely under regime control.
 
Most of its residents are Druze, followers of a secretive offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, who made up around 3% of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million people.
 
The community has been somewhat divided during the country's uprising, with some members fighting alongside the government while others expressing sympathy for the opposition.
 
Mostly, the Druze have taken up arms only in defense of their areas, and have kept out of the fighting more broadly.

Over 230,000 Killed in Syria Since 2011

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 June 2015 10:16
Over 230000 Killed in SyriaSyria's brutal conflict has left more than 230,000 people dead, including almost 11,500 children since it broke out in 2011, a monitoring group said Tuesday.
 
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 230,618 people, according to AFP. 
 
The toll includes 69,494 civilians, among them 11,493 children and 7,371 women.
 
Combatants account for a majority of those killed, with 49,106 regime forces and 36,464 government loyalists among the dead.
 
The loyalist fighters killed were mostly members of local militias, but also included 838 from Lebanon's powerful Shiite terror group Hezbollah and 3,093 Shiite fighters from other countries.
 
The Observatory documented the deaths of 41,116 rebels, Syrian jihadists and Kurdish fighters.
 
Anti-regime foreign fighter deaths numbered 31,247, most of them jihadists.
 
Abdel Rahman said another 3,191 of those documented killed in the conflict remained unidentified.
 
The Britain-based Observatory relies on a broad network of activists, fighters, and medics across the war-ravaged country.
 
May was the bloodiest month of 2015 in Syria, with 6,657 killed -- the majority of them regime forces and jihadist fighters locked in fierce clashes on several fronts.
 
The Observatory's toll does not include some 20,000 people who have disappeared after being arrested, 9,000 people in government detention, and at least 4,000 people held by the Islamic State jihadist group.
 
The monitoring group said thousands of people had disappeared or were unaccounted for after clashes.
 
As a result, the Observatory estimates that the conflict's actual death toll is likely tens of thousands higher than its figure.

Over 230,000 Killed in Syria Since 2011

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 June 2015 10:16
Over 230000 Killed in SyriaSyria's brutal conflict has left more than 230,000 people dead, including almost 11,500 children since it broke out in 2011, a monitoring group said Tuesday.
 
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 230,618 people, according to AFP. 
 
The toll includes 69,494 civilians, among them 11,493 children and 7,371 women.
 
Combatants account for a majority of those killed, with 49,106 regime forces and 36,464 government loyalists among the dead.
 
The loyalist fighters killed were mostly members of local militias, but also included 838 from Lebanon's powerful Shiite terror group Hezbollah and 3,093 Shiite fighters from other countries.
 
The Observatory documented the deaths of 41,116 rebels, Syrian jihadists and Kurdish fighters.
 
Anti-regime foreign fighter deaths numbered 31,247, most of them jihadists.
 
Abdel Rahman said another 3,191 of those documented killed in the conflict remained unidentified.
 
The Britain-based Observatory relies on a broad network of activists, fighters, and medics across the war-ravaged country.
 
May was the bloodiest month of 2015 in Syria, with 6,657 killed -- the majority of them regime forces and jihadist fighters locked in fierce clashes on several fronts.
 
The Observatory's toll does not include some 20,000 people who have disappeared after being arrested, 9,000 people in government detention, and at least 4,000 people held by the Islamic State jihadist group.
 
The monitoring group said thousands of people had disappeared or were unaccounted for after clashes.
 
As a result, the Observatory estimates that the conflict's actual death toll is likely tens of thousands higher than its figure.

Syria Asks UN to Dismantle its Nuclear Program

Category: News
Created on Friday, 12 June 2015 21:01
President Bashar al-Assad AFPWar-torn Syria has asked the UN atomic watchdog for help in converting a nuclear facility and shipping abroad potentially dangerous nuclear material, the head of the watchdog said Monday.
 
"We have received a request from Syria early this year...we are studying the request," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano told reporters according to AFP.
 
The assistance would entail converting a small reactor near Damascus so that it can be fueled with low-enriched uranium (LEU) instead of the more dangerous highly-enriched uranium (HEU).
 
Syria's stock of around one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of HEU would then be sent back to China, which built the so-called Miniature Neutron Source (MNSR) reactor that is used for training and research.
 
HEU can be used inside a nuclear weapon, but this is extremely difficult to do.
 
A more likely risk in the case of Syria - where Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists control swathes of the country - is that HEU could be used in a so-called "dirty bomb."
 
This involves dispersing the material over a wide area using conventional explosives, likely causing mass panic.
 
Governments around the world have made considerable efforts in recent years to convert reactors to use LEU and to reduce HEU stockpiles because of the risks.

Syria Asks UN to Dismantle its Nuclear Program

Category: News
Created on Friday, 12 June 2015 21:01
President Bashar al-Assad AFPWar-torn Syria has asked the UN atomic watchdog for help in converting a nuclear facility and shipping abroad potentially dangerous nuclear material, the head of the watchdog said Monday.
 
"We have received a request from Syria early this year...we are studying the request," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano told reporters according to AFP.
 
The assistance would entail converting a small reactor near Damascus so that it can be fueled with low-enriched uranium (LEU) instead of the more dangerous highly-enriched uranium (HEU).
 
Syria's stock of around one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of HEU would then be sent back to China, which built the so-called Miniature Neutron Source (MNSR) reactor that is used for training and research.
 
HEU can be used inside a nuclear weapon, but this is extremely difficult to do.
 
A more likely risk in the case of Syria - where Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists control swathes of the country - is that HEU could be used in a so-called "dirty bomb."
 
This involves dispersing the material over a wide area using conventional explosives, likely causing mass panic.
 
Governments around the world have made considerable efforts in recent years to convert reactors to use LEU and to reduce HEU stockpiles because of the risks.

Rebels, Al Qaeda Advance on Regime in Northwest Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 09:41
Al-Nusra Front terroristsA rebel alliance including Al-Qaeda's Al-Nusra Front seized more territory in northwestern Syria overnight, strengthening its position on the borders of two key largely regime-controlled provinces, a monitor said Saturday.
 
The Army of Conquest rebel alliance had made a series of sweeping gains in Idlib province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.
 
Rebels seized a major army position, the town of Muhambel, and several villages in the area between Jisr al-Shughur and Ariha, two key towns already under opposition control.
 
The 24 hours of fighting left 13 opposition fighters dead along with 32 regime forces, the Observatory said.
 
The advance cements their control over that part of the province, almost entirely lost by the government, but also allows the grouping to reinforce its positions on the edges of Latakia and Hama provinces.
 
They are largely regime-controlled, and coastal Latakia in particular is a government bastion and home to President Bashar al-Assad's ancestral village.
 
Al-Nusra touted the advances in Idlib on Twitter, listing the "liberation" of several villages and army positions.
 
State media effectively acknowledged the losses, quoting a military source as saying "the army evacuated several military sites around the town of Muhambel in Idlib province."
 
"They relocated to new positions and lines more suitable for the implementation of subsequent combat missions," official news agency SANA said.
 
Regime forces have lost control of nearly all of Idlib province since the Army of Conquest seized the provincial capital at the end of March.
 
In recent weeks, analysts and observers have said the regime is ready to accept the de facto partition of Syria and is concentrating on holding the areas it considers key and retreating elsewhere.
 
Elsewhere, the Observatory said nine people were killed - among them two children - in rebel rocket fire on the city of Aleppo.
 
The group said the rockets hit the Ashrafiyeh district in the western, government-controlled part of the city.
 
More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests that were met with a regime crackdown.

Rebels, Al Qaeda Advance on Regime in Northwest Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 09:41
Al-Nusra Front terroristsA rebel alliance including Al-Qaeda's Al-Nusra Front seized more territory in northwestern Syria overnight, strengthening its position on the borders of two key largely regime-controlled provinces, a monitor said Saturday.
 
The Army of Conquest rebel alliance had made a series of sweeping gains in Idlib province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.
 
Rebels seized a major army position, the town of Muhambel, and several villages in the area between Jisr al-Shughur and Ariha, two key towns already under opposition control.
 
The 24 hours of fighting left 13 opposition fighters dead along with 32 regime forces, the Observatory said.
 
The advance cements their control over that part of the province, almost entirely lost by the government, but also allows the grouping to reinforce its positions on the edges of Latakia and Hama provinces.
 
They are largely regime-controlled, and coastal Latakia in particular is a government bastion and home to President Bashar al-Assad's ancestral village.
 
Al-Nusra touted the advances in Idlib on Twitter, listing the "liberation" of several villages and army positions.
 
State media effectively acknowledged the losses, quoting a military source as saying "the army evacuated several military sites around the town of Muhambel in Idlib province."
 
"They relocated to new positions and lines more suitable for the implementation of subsequent combat missions," official news agency SANA said.
 
Regime forces have lost control of nearly all of Idlib province since the Army of Conquest seized the provincial capital at the end of March.
 
In recent weeks, analysts and observers have said the regime is ready to accept the de facto partition of Syria and is concentrating on holding the areas it considers key and retreating elsewhere.
 
Elsewhere, the Observatory said nine people were killed - among them two children - in rebel rocket fire on the city of Aleppo.
 
The group said the rockets hit the Ashrafiyeh district in the western, government-controlled part of the city.
 
More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests that were met with a regime crackdown.

Nusra Front Leader: ISIS Caliphate is 'Illegitimate'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 07 June 2015 15:55
Ansar Bayt al-MaqdisAbu Mohammad al-Golani, the chief of Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate the Al-Nusra Front, on Wednesday described the rival Islamic State (ISIS) group's self-proclaimed caliphate as "illegitimate", AFP reports.
 
The comments came in a the second part of al-Golani’s appearance on the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel. In the first part, which aired last week, he said that his group will not target the country's Alawite minority, despite their support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's government.
 
On Wednesday, he criticized ISIS at length and said he did not foresee a reconciliation between the two jihadist groups soon.
 
"They announced a caliphate, but the scholars rejected it as illegitimate. It is not based on Islamic law," al-Golani said, his face hidden from view by a black scarf.
 
The rivalry between the two groups deepened after ISIS declared a caliphate spanning across Syria and Iraq in June 2014, though at one point  the two groups agreed to work together.
 
The conflict between the two groups, al-Golani said, had seen ISIS kill more than 700 members of Al-Nusra in a single battle, as well as women and children.
 
"There is no indication of a solution between us and them at this time. We hope that they repent and return to the Sunni people," he said, adding that the rivalry had allowed the Syrian regime "to flourish."
 
He refused to call ISIS fighters "infidels" -- a term usually referring to non-Muslims -- but instead said they had strayed from the path of Islam.
 
"They did not commit to the orders we had... including not blowing up markets or killing people in mosques," said al-Golani.
 
He also criticized IS for not "being serious in fighting the regime" of Assad.
 
When asked by Al-Jazeera interviewer Ahmad Mansur about Al-Nusra's ties to Al-Qaeda and whether a split was possible, the jihadist leader refrained from answering directly.
 
"The issue is not about leaving Al-Qaeda. It is about who rises up against hegemony," said al-Golani, who said he had fought in Iraq against American forces.
 
As with the first installment of the interview aired last week, an "Al-Qaeda in the Levant" flag featured prominently on the table in front of al-Golani.
 
He said as many as 30 percent of Al-Nusra's members were foreigners, including "a small number of Americans."
 
His television interview comes on the heels of several major victories for Al-Nusra against regime forces in Syria's northwest Idlib province.
 
As in the first interview, al-Golani again rejected political solutions to Syria's four-year war, saying an end to the crisis could only come through "jihad", or holy war.
 
Last week, the jihadist chief had said his group would be willing to protect Syria's minorities if they renounced Assad and "came into the bosom of Islam."
 
He also said he had received orders from Al-Qaeda's central command not to attack the West.
 
"Our mission in Syria is the downfall of the regime, its symbols, and its allies, like Hezbollah," al-Golani said, referring to the Lebanese group fighting alongside the Assad regime.

Nusra Front Leader: ISIS Caliphate is 'Illegitimate'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 07 June 2015 15:55
Ansar Bayt al-MaqdisAbu Mohammad al-Golani, the chief of Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate the Al-Nusra Front, on Wednesday described the rival Islamic State (ISIS) group's self-proclaimed caliphate as "illegitimate", AFP reports.
 
The comments came in a the second part of al-Golani’s appearance on the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel. In the first part, which aired last week, he said that his group will not target the country's Alawite minority, despite their support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's government.
 
On Wednesday, he criticized ISIS at length and said he did not foresee a reconciliation between the two jihadist groups soon.
 
"They announced a caliphate, but the scholars rejected it as illegitimate. It is not based on Islamic law," al-Golani said, his face hidden from view by a black scarf.
 
The rivalry between the two groups deepened after ISIS declared a caliphate spanning across Syria and Iraq in June 2014, though at one point  the two groups agreed to work together.
 
The conflict between the two groups, al-Golani said, had seen ISIS kill more than 700 members of Al-Nusra in a single battle, as well as women and children.
 
"There is no indication of a solution between us and them at this time. We hope that they repent and return to the Sunni people," he said, adding that the rivalry had allowed the Syrian regime "to flourish."
 
He refused to call ISIS fighters "infidels" -- a term usually referring to non-Muslims -- but instead said they had strayed from the path of Islam.
 
"They did not commit to the orders we had... including not blowing up markets or killing people in mosques," said al-Golani.
 
He also criticized IS for not "being serious in fighting the regime" of Assad.
 
When asked by Al-Jazeera interviewer Ahmad Mansur about Al-Nusra's ties to Al-Qaeda and whether a split was possible, the jihadist leader refrained from answering directly.
 
"The issue is not about leaving Al-Qaeda. It is about who rises up against hegemony," said al-Golani, who said he had fought in Iraq against American forces.
 
As with the first installment of the interview aired last week, an "Al-Qaeda in the Levant" flag featured prominently on the table in front of al-Golani.
 
He said as many as 30 percent of Al-Nusra's members were foreigners, including "a small number of Americans."
 
His television interview comes on the heels of several major victories for Al-Nusra against regime forces in Syria's northwest Idlib province.
 
As in the first interview, al-Golani again rejected political solutions to Syria's four-year war, saying an end to the crisis could only come through "jihad", or holy war.
 
Last week, the jihadist chief had said his group would be willing to protect Syria's minorities if they renounced Assad and "came into the bosom of Islam."
 
He also said he had received orders from Al-Qaeda's central command not to attack the West.
 
"Our mission in Syria is the downfall of the regime, its symbols, and its allies, like Hezbollah," al-Golani said, referring to the Lebanese group fighting alongside the Assad regime.

Kurds Push Back ISIS in Northern Syria Border Provinces

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 10:37
Kurds Push Back ISIS in Northern SyriaKurdish militia in Syria wrested control of a dozen villages from the extremist Islamic State group (ISIS) either side of the jihadist's bastion province of Raqqa on Sunday, a monitor said.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), backed by air strikes from a US-led anti-ISIS coalition, seized eight villages from jihadists on the western edges of Raqqa province.  
 
"Kurdish units and their allies advanced and took control of at least eight villages southeast of Kobane, amid air strikes by the international coalition," the Britain-based monitor said.  
 
Kurdish militia and Syrian rebels pushed ISIS back from Kobane, which lies in northern Aleppo province on the Turkish-Syrian border, in January.
 
Since then, YPG units have edged east towards Raqqa, which ISIS declared the capital of its self-styled caliphate last year.
 
Syrian Kurdish fighters also seized control of four villages from ISIS near a border town in Hasakeh, east of Raqqa, the Observatory said.
 
"There are still clashes between the YPG and IS southwest of Ras al-Ain," the monitor said, adding that at least eight ISIS fighters and three Kurdish militia were killed in the fighting.  
 
On Saturday, ISIS launched an assault on Hasakeh's provincial capital, advancing to within four kilometers (less than three miles) of the key city.

Kurds Push Back ISIS in Northern Syria Border Provinces

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 10:37
Kurds Push Back ISIS in Northern SyriaKurdish militia in Syria wrested control of a dozen villages from the extremist Islamic State group (ISIS) either side of the jihadist's bastion province of Raqqa on Sunday, a monitor said.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), backed by air strikes from a US-led anti-ISIS coalition, seized eight villages from jihadists on the western edges of Raqqa province.  
 
"Kurdish units and their allies advanced and took control of at least eight villages southeast of Kobane, amid air strikes by the international coalition," the Britain-based monitor said.  
 
Kurdish militia and Syrian rebels pushed ISIS back from Kobane, which lies in northern Aleppo province on the Turkish-Syrian border, in January.
 
Since then, YPG units have edged east towards Raqqa, which ISIS declared the capital of its self-styled caliphate last year.
 
Syrian Kurdish fighters also seized control of four villages from ISIS near a border town in Hasakeh, east of Raqqa, the Observatory said.
 
"There are still clashes between the YPG and IS southwest of Ras al-Ain," the monitor said, adding that at least eight ISIS fighters and three Kurdish militia were killed in the fighting.  
 
On Saturday, ISIS launched an assault on Hasakeh's provincial capital, advancing to within four kilometers (less than three miles) of the key city.

Syrian Christian Beheads ISIS Jihadist in Act of Revenge

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 31 May 2015 10:11
ISIS A Syrian Christian fighter has beheaded an Islamic State group (ISIS) jihadist to avenge people executed by the group in northeastern Syria, a monitor said on Friday, according to AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the incident took place on Thursday in Hasakeh province, where ISIS holds large areas of the countryside.
 
According to the monitor, the Christian fighter, a member of the minority Assyrian community, found the jihadist in the local village of Tal Shamiram.
 
"He took him prisoner and when he found out he was a member of ISIS, the Assyrian fighter beheaded him in revenge for abuses committed by the group in the region," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The Observatory is based in Britain but has covered the Syrian conflict since it broke out four years ago thanks to a network of sources inside the country.
 
The Christian was fighting in the ranks of Kurdish forces who earlier this month drove ISIS out of more than a dozen Assyrian villages the jihadists had captured in Hasakeh, according to the AFP report.
 
ISIS has carried out a wave of abuses in areas it controls in both Syria and Iraq, including public beheadings, mass executions, enslavement and rape.

Syrian Christian Beheads ISIS Jihadist in Act of Revenge

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 31 May 2015 10:11
ISIS A Syrian Christian fighter has beheaded an Islamic State group (ISIS) jihadist to avenge people executed by the group in northeastern Syria, a monitor said on Friday, according to AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the incident took place on Thursday in Hasakeh province, where ISIS holds large areas of the countryside.
 
According to the monitor, the Christian fighter, a member of the minority Assyrian community, found the jihadist in the local village of Tal Shamiram.
 
"He took him prisoner and when he found out he was a member of ISIS, the Assyrian fighter beheaded him in revenge for abuses committed by the group in the region," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The Observatory is based in Britain but has covered the Syrian conflict since it broke out four years ago thanks to a network of sources inside the country.
 
The Christian was fighting in the ranks of Kurdish forces who earlier this month drove ISIS out of more than a dozen Assyrian villages the jihadists had captured in Hasakeh, according to the AFP report.
 
ISIS has carried out a wave of abuses in areas it controls in both Syria and Iraq, including public beheadings, mass executions, enslavement and rape.

Video Shows Turkey Smuggling Arms to Syrian Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 30 May 2015 10:14
isis-apImages and video footage allegedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey's state intelligence service carrying weapons en route to jihadist rebels in Syria were published Friday in a Turkish daily.
 
The Turkish government has vehemently denied earlier claims that it is arming rebels fighting in Syria and accused dozens of prosecutors, soldiers and security officers involved in the searching of trucks of attempting to bring it down by suggesting that it is doing so.
{youtube}yHfE-lK_Dts{/youtube}
 
Earlier this month, Turkey arrested four prosecutors who ordered searches in a similar incident in January 2014 and they are now in prison pending trial.
 
More than 30 security officers involved in that interception also face charges including military espionage and attempting to overthrow the government.
 
The footage published on opposition Cumhuriyet daily's website on Friday shows inspectors searching a metallic container watched by security officers, a prosecutor and sniffer dogs.
 
The officials first open cardboard boxes marked as "fragile" and full of antibiotics. But under those boxes they find dozens of mortar shells, the video, shot by an anonymous bystander, appears to show.
 
Cumhuriyet, which also published a series of still images, said the weapons were of Russian origin and had been supplied from ex-Soviet countries.
 
The daily claimed the trucks were carrying a total of 1,000 mortar shells, 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons as well as hundreds of grenade launchers.
 
The Turkish authorities have sought to link the affair to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of running a parallel state through supporters in the judiciary and police with the aim of usurping him.
 
Turkey has vehemently denied aiding jihadists in Syria such as the Islamic State (ISIS) group, although it wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad toppled.
 
Tensions are running high in Turkey ahead of June 7 parliamentary elections, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seeking to hold on to the dominance it has maintained since it first swept to power in 2002.

Video Shows Turkey Smuggling Arms to Syrian Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 30 May 2015 10:14
isis-apImages and video footage allegedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey's state intelligence service carrying weapons en route to jihadist rebels in Syria were published Friday in a Turkish daily.
 
The Turkish government has vehemently denied earlier claims that it is arming rebels fighting in Syria and accused dozens of prosecutors, soldiers and security officers involved in the searching of trucks of attempting to bring it down by suggesting that it is doing so.
{youtube}yHfE-lK_Dts{/youtube}
 
Earlier this month, Turkey arrested four prosecutors who ordered searches in a similar incident in January 2014 and they are now in prison pending trial.
 
More than 30 security officers involved in that interception also face charges including military espionage and attempting to overthrow the government.
 
The footage published on opposition Cumhuriyet daily's website on Friday shows inspectors searching a metallic container watched by security officers, a prosecutor and sniffer dogs.
 
The officials first open cardboard boxes marked as "fragile" and full of antibiotics. But under those boxes they find dozens of mortar shells, the video, shot by an anonymous bystander, appears to show.
 
Cumhuriyet, which also published a series of still images, said the weapons were of Russian origin and had been supplied from ex-Soviet countries.
 
The daily claimed the trucks were carrying a total of 1,000 mortar shells, 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons as well as hundreds of grenade launchers.
 
The Turkish authorities have sought to link the affair to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of running a parallel state through supporters in the judiciary and police with the aim of usurping him.
 
Turkey has vehemently denied aiding jihadists in Syria such as the Islamic State (ISIS) group, although it wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad toppled.
 
Tensions are running high in Turkey ahead of June 7 parliamentary elections, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seeking to hold on to the dominance it has maintained since it first swept to power in 2002.

Syria on Brink of Economic Collapse as ISIS Grabs Mines

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 May 2015 08:12
isisWith most of its natural and mineral resources having fallen under rebel control, Syrian state revenues have shrunk, leaving the government dependent on unstable sources of income for its survival.
 
Four years of conflict have decimated the state coffers, reports AFP.
 
Now the government's only revenues are drawn from dwindling customs and income taxes, heavily bolstered by lines of credit from key regime backer Iran.
 
With the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, the regime has also lost control over swathes of vital resources - with two phosphate mines among its most recent losses.
 
According to local activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, ISIS last weekend seized Sharqiya and Khneifess, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria.
 
Both sites were run by the state and accounted for much of the regime's last remaining exports.
 
An oil ministry official said Sharqiya produced at least three million tons of phosphate a year and Khneifess generated 850,000 tons.
 
Before the war broke out in 2011, Syria was the fifth largest phosphate exporter in the world, mainly selling to Lebanon, Romania and Greece.
 
In the first quarter of 2015, Syria sold 408,000 tons of phosphate in total, on the domestic market and abroad, according to the oil ministry.
 
Sales raised $39 million, with exports accounting for all but $4 million.
 
Oil revenues drying up
 
Already this year's exports have less than halved from the 988,000 tons sold in the first three months of 2011 that brought in $63 million for the government.
 
But with the loss of Sharqiya and Khneifess, prospects are dim for a government which projected income of $160 million in 2015 phosphate sales.
 
"For the state, whose resources are being depleted, it's a net loss. In the current situation, any returns are important," said Jihad Yazigi, who runs Syria Report, an economic weekly.
 
Syria's oil resources are not faring much better.
 
The regime had relied heavily on oil revenues, which brought in $3.8 billion in 2011, around a quarter of total state income.
 
But output took a drastic hit in 2011 when the European Union imposed an oil embargo to sanction the regime's brutal repression of anti-government protests.
 
The cash-strapped government has since lost control of a string of oil fields to ISIS terrorists.
 
In 2013, ISIS seized all the fields in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor, generating funds for its operations.
 
By September 2014, ISIS was producing more oil than the regime: 80,000 barrels per day, compared to the government's 17,000 bpd, the oil ministry said.
 
And by the end of last year, official production had plunged to 9,329 bpd, compared to pre-war output of 380,000 bpd.
 
According to Syria Report, ISIS seized yet another oil field from the regime last week - Jazal, which produced 2,500 bpd.
 
Natural gas under threat
 
So far, natural gas fields have been the least affected by ISIS's rampage through Syria.
 
Oil Minister Suleiman al-Abbas said regime-controlled fields produce some 10 million cubic meters per day.
 
But the figure does not take into account the loss of Arak and Al-Hail, two fields in central Syria that ISIS overran earlier this month.
 
"Even if Syria had never exported its gas, it would still be crucial for electricity generation. Losing gas fields is a terrible blow to an already devastated economy," Yazigi said.
 
Before its complex and multi-front conflict broke out four years ago, Syria was a key exporter of agricultural products, textiles and leather, medicine, flowers and ceramic goods.
 
Total exports have plummeted from $11.3 billion in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2014, according to the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan.
 
With export markets drying up, Syria has grown increasingly reliant on income taxes and customs, which brought in around $550 million in 2014, an official told AFP.
 
And Iran's credit lines, which have provided at least $4.6 billion to President Bashar al-Assad's regime, are part of a shrinking network of crucial but unstable revenue sources.

Syria on Brink of Economic Collapse as ISIS Grabs Mines

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 May 2015 08:12
isisWith most of its natural and mineral resources having fallen under rebel control, Syrian state revenues have shrunk, leaving the government dependent on unstable sources of income for its survival.
 
Four years of conflict have decimated the state coffers, reports AFP.
 
Now the government's only revenues are drawn from dwindling customs and income taxes, heavily bolstered by lines of credit from key regime backer Iran.
 
With the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, the regime has also lost control over swathes of vital resources - with two phosphate mines among its most recent losses.
 
According to local activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, ISIS last weekend seized Sharqiya and Khneifess, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria.
 
Both sites were run by the state and accounted for much of the regime's last remaining exports.
 
An oil ministry official said Sharqiya produced at least three million tons of phosphate a year and Khneifess generated 850,000 tons.
 
Before the war broke out in 2011, Syria was the fifth largest phosphate exporter in the world, mainly selling to Lebanon, Romania and Greece.
 
In the first quarter of 2015, Syria sold 408,000 tons of phosphate in total, on the domestic market and abroad, according to the oil ministry.
 
Sales raised $39 million, with exports accounting for all but $4 million.
 
Oil revenues drying up
 
Already this year's exports have less than halved from the 988,000 tons sold in the first three months of 2011 that brought in $63 million for the government.
 
But with the loss of Sharqiya and Khneifess, prospects are dim for a government which projected income of $160 million in 2015 phosphate sales.
 
"For the state, whose resources are being depleted, it's a net loss. In the current situation, any returns are important," said Jihad Yazigi, who runs Syria Report, an economic weekly.
 
Syria's oil resources are not faring much better.
 
The regime had relied heavily on oil revenues, which brought in $3.8 billion in 2011, around a quarter of total state income.
 
But output took a drastic hit in 2011 when the European Union imposed an oil embargo to sanction the regime's brutal repression of anti-government protests.
 
The cash-strapped government has since lost control of a string of oil fields to ISIS terrorists.
 
In 2013, ISIS seized all the fields in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor, generating funds for its operations.
 
By September 2014, ISIS was producing more oil than the regime: 80,000 barrels per day, compared to the government's 17,000 bpd, the oil ministry said.
 
And by the end of last year, official production had plunged to 9,329 bpd, compared to pre-war output of 380,000 bpd.
 
According to Syria Report, ISIS seized yet another oil field from the regime last week - Jazal, which produced 2,500 bpd.
 
Natural gas under threat
 
So far, natural gas fields have been the least affected by ISIS's rampage through Syria.
 
Oil Minister Suleiman al-Abbas said regime-controlled fields produce some 10 million cubic meters per day.
 
But the figure does not take into account the loss of Arak and Al-Hail, two fields in central Syria that ISIS overran earlier this month.
 
"Even if Syria had never exported its gas, it would still be crucial for electricity generation. Losing gas fields is a terrible blow to an already devastated economy," Yazigi said.
 
Before its complex and multi-front conflict broke out four years ago, Syria was a key exporter of agricultural products, textiles and leather, medicine, flowers and ceramic goods.
 
Total exports have plummeted from $11.3 billion in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2014, according to the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan.
 
With export markets drying up, Syria has grown increasingly reliant on income taxes and customs, which brought in around $550 million in 2014, an official told AFP.
 
And Iran's credit lines, which have provided at least $4.6 billion to President Bashar al-Assad's regime, are part of a shrinking network of crucial but unstable revenue sources.

Al Qaeda Captures Last Syrian Regime City in Idlib

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 May 2015 07:52
Al Qaeda Captures City in IdlibA rebel coalition led by Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate edged into the last remaining government-held city in the northwest province of Idlib on Thursday, a monitoring group said.
 
The lightning offensive saw the Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic, enter outer districts of Ariha within a matter of hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
 
"There was heavy shelling and rocket fire, then they stormed the city," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
"They have entered the city and are engaged in fierce clashes on its peripheries," he added.
 
Ariha, which was home to 40,000 people before the conflict began, is the last remaining government-held city in Idlib province which borders Turkey.
 
"The march of lions has begun...Let Allah liberate Ariha," the Army of Conquest's official Twitter account posted.
 
The coalition, which includes Al Qaeda branch Nusra Front, has won a series of victories in Idlib, including the provincial capital on March 28 and the key town of Jisr al-Shughur on April 25.
 
Most recently, the rebels seized the massive Al-Mastumah military base and overran a hospital complex where regime soldiers were trapped.
 
Many government forces retreated from these areas to Ariha, which Abdel Rahman said was heavily defended by fighters from Iran and its Lebanese Shi'ite terror proxy Hezbollah.
 
The Army of Conquest vowed to consolidate its control of Idlib province, where the regime still holds Ariha, the Abu Duhur military airport and a sprinkling of minority villages and military posts.

Al Qaeda Captures Last Syrian Regime City in Idlib

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 May 2015 07:52
Al Qaeda Captures City in IdlibA rebel coalition led by Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate edged into the last remaining government-held city in the northwest province of Idlib on Thursday, a monitoring group said.
 
The lightning offensive saw the Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic, enter outer districts of Ariha within a matter of hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
 
"There was heavy shelling and rocket fire, then they stormed the city," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
"They have entered the city and are engaged in fierce clashes on its peripheries," he added.
 
Ariha, which was home to 40,000 people before the conflict began, is the last remaining government-held city in Idlib province which borders Turkey.
 
"The march of lions has begun...Let Allah liberate Ariha," the Army of Conquest's official Twitter account posted.
 
The coalition, which includes Al Qaeda branch Nusra Front, has won a series of victories in Idlib, including the provincial capital on March 28 and the key town of Jisr al-Shughur on April 25.
 
Most recently, the rebels seized the massive Al-Mastumah military base and overran a hospital complex where regime soldiers were trapped.
 
Many government forces retreated from these areas to Ariha, which Abdel Rahman said was heavily defended by fighters from Iran and its Lebanese Shi'ite terror proxy Hezbollah.
 
The Army of Conquest vowed to consolidate its control of Idlib province, where the regime still holds Ariha, the Abu Duhur military airport and a sprinkling of minority villages and military posts.

Iran and Turkey Spar over Syria No-fly Zone

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 May 2015 07:27
Syria No-fly ZoneA senior Iranian official Thursday rejected the idea of a Syria no-fly zone, which Turkey wants, saying it would be "a mistake" and would not restore security to the region.
 
"Talk of the establishment of a buffer and no-fly zone is the repetition of previous mistakes and will not help with security and stability in the region," deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, according to AFP.
 
Before it will join a US-led coalition staging air strikes on Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists, Ankara wants an air exclusion zone and also a buffer zone along its border with Syria.
 
Turkey also wants moderate Syrian rebel groups to be trained in order to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
 
At the end of last year, the United States said a no-fly zone would not work because of the presence of more than a million Syrian refugees along the frontier.
 
Iran is the Damascus regime's main regional ally, and provides Assad's government with both financial and military help.
 
The Islamic republic also accuses Turkey of allowing the free movement of rebels and weapons across the border, an allegation Ankara denies.
 
Amir-Abdollahian, in comments reported by the website of Iran's state television channel, said that for a political solution in Syria to be reached, neighboring countries must control their borders and prevent insurgents from crossing.
 
He was speaking in Kuwait, on the sidelines of an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting.
 
The Syria conflict erupted in 2011 with a popular uprising that descended into a complex civil war in which more than 220,000 people have been killed.

Iran and Turkey Spar over Syria No-fly Zone

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 May 2015 07:27
Syria No-fly ZoneA senior Iranian official Thursday rejected the idea of a Syria no-fly zone, which Turkey wants, saying it would be "a mistake" and would not restore security to the region.
 
"Talk of the establishment of a buffer and no-fly zone is the repetition of previous mistakes and will not help with security and stability in the region," deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, according to AFP.
 
Before it will join a US-led coalition staging air strikes on Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists, Ankara wants an air exclusion zone and also a buffer zone along its border with Syria.
 
Turkey also wants moderate Syrian rebel groups to be trained in order to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
 
At the end of last year, the United States said a no-fly zone would not work because of the presence of more than a million Syrian refugees along the frontier.
 
Iran is the Damascus regime's main regional ally, and provides Assad's government with both financial and military help.
 
The Islamic republic also accuses Turkey of allowing the free movement of rebels and weapons across the border, an allegation Ankara denies.
 
Amir-Abdollahian, in comments reported by the website of Iran's state television channel, said that for a political solution in Syria to be reached, neighboring countries must control their borders and prevent insurgents from crossing.
 
He was speaking in Kuwait, on the sidelines of an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting.
 
The Syria conflict erupted in 2011 with a popular uprising that descended into a complex civil war in which more than 220,000 people have been killed.

ISIS Executes 20 Men in Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 28 May 2015 14:30
ISIS Executes 20 Men in PalmyraThe Islamic State (ISIS) group on Wednesday executed 20 men in front of a crowd in the UNESCO-listed Roman theater of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, a monitor told AFP.
 
Nearly a week after seizing the strategic city, ISIS gathered 20 men they accused of fighting for the regime in the ruins of the theater and shot them dead, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the news agency.
 
"ISIS gathered a lot of people there on purpose, to show their force on the ground," he said.
 
Syria's antiquities director said he feared the killings were a harbinger of the much-dreaded destruction of the ancient site, considered one of the world's greatest heritage jewels.
 
The jihadist group has damaged priceless historical sites across the region but mainly used its sledgehammers and dynamite on statues and places of worship it considers idolatrous.
 
It seized Palmyra on May 21, a move analysts warned positioned the group to launch more ambitious attacks on Damascus and third city Homs.
 
Syrian state TV on Sunday reported that about 400 civilians were massacred by ISIS since last Wednesday, while activists in Palmyra said that ISIS fighters hunted down President Bashar al-Assad's troops and loyalists, killing up to 300 of them.
 
With the Syrian army retreat from Palmyra, there has been talk of the Assad's regime being forced to accept the de facto division of Syria.
 
Reportedly 10-15% of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by ISIS - which geographically controls around half of the country's landmass, much of which is sparsely populated - while 20-25% are in territory controlled by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or other rebel groups, and another 5-10% are in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

ISIS Executes 20 Men in Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 28 May 2015 14:30
ISIS Executes 20 Men in PalmyraThe Islamic State (ISIS) group on Wednesday executed 20 men in front of a crowd in the UNESCO-listed Roman theater of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, a monitor told AFP.
 
Nearly a week after seizing the strategic city, ISIS gathered 20 men they accused of fighting for the regime in the ruins of the theater and shot them dead, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the news agency.
 
"ISIS gathered a lot of people there on purpose, to show their force on the ground," he said.
 
Syria's antiquities director said he feared the killings were a harbinger of the much-dreaded destruction of the ancient site, considered one of the world's greatest heritage jewels.
 
The jihadist group has damaged priceless historical sites across the region but mainly used its sledgehammers and dynamite on statues and places of worship it considers idolatrous.
 
It seized Palmyra on May 21, a move analysts warned positioned the group to launch more ambitious attacks on Damascus and third city Homs.
 
Syrian state TV on Sunday reported that about 400 civilians were massacred by ISIS since last Wednesday, while activists in Palmyra said that ISIS fighters hunted down President Bashar al-Assad's troops and loyalists, killing up to 300 of them.
 
With the Syrian army retreat from Palmyra, there has been talk of the Assad's regime being forced to accept the de facto division of Syria.
 
Reportedly 10-15% of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by ISIS - which geographically controls around half of the country's landmass, much of which is sparsely populated - while 20-25% are in territory controlled by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or other rebel groups, and another 5-10% are in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

Assad Starts Heavy Bombing of Ancient Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Monday, 25 May 2015 23:52
Ruins of SyriaSyrian regime aircraft launched at least 15 airstrikes in and around the ancient city of Palymra (Tadmor) on Monday, following its fall to the Islamic State (ISIS) group, a monitoring group said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids on the city were the most intense since the jihadists overran it last Thursday, and indicating that heavy bombing was targeting ISIS captured sites, reports AFP.
 
"Since this morning, government aircraft have carried out at least 15 air strikes in Palmyra and the areas around it," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
He said there were reports of casualties but he had no firm toll.
 
The strikes targeted several areas of the city, including some close to the city's famed Greco-Roman ruins, a UNESCO world heritage site, he said.
 
The Observatory said on Sunday that it had documented the executions of at least 217 people, among them 67 civilians, including 14 children. Some of those killed had been beheaded, Abdel Rahman said, adding that the jihadists had also taken some 600 people prisoner.
 
Syrian state TV on Sunday reported that about400 civilians were massacred by ISIS since last Wednesday, while activists in Palmyra said that ISIS fighters hunted down President Bashar al-Assad's troops and loyalists, killing up to 300 of them.
 
The pro-government Al-Watan said Monday that the number of executions had risen to 450.
 
The capture of Palmyra has raised fears that ISIS might try to destroy the well-preserved, 2,000-year-old Roman-era city on the town's edge – as they have destroyed other archaeological treasures in Syria and Iraq.
 
With the Syrian army retreat from Palmyra, there has been talk of the Assad's regime being forced to accept the de facto division of Syria.
 
Reportedly 10-15% of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by ISIS - which geographically controls around half of the country's landmass, much of which is sparsely populated - while 20-25% are in territory controlled by Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or other rebel groups, and another 5-10% are in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

Assad Starts Heavy Bombing of Ancient Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Monday, 25 May 2015 23:52
Ruins of SyriaSyrian regime aircraft launched at least 15 airstrikes in and around the ancient city of Palymra (Tadmor) on Monday, following its fall to the Islamic State (ISIS) group, a monitoring group said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids on the city were the most intense since the jihadists overran it last Thursday, and indicating that heavy bombing was targeting ISIS captured sites, reports AFP.
 
"Since this morning, government aircraft have carried out at least 15 air strikes in Palmyra and the areas around it," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
He said there were reports of casualties but he had no firm toll.
 
The strikes targeted several areas of the city, including some close to the city's famed Greco-Roman ruins, a UNESCO world heritage site, he said.
 
The Observatory said on Sunday that it had documented the executions of at least 217 people, among them 67 civilians, including 14 children. Some of those killed had been beheaded, Abdel Rahman said, adding that the jihadists had also taken some 600 people prisoner.
 
Syrian state TV on Sunday reported that about400 civilians were massacred by ISIS since last Wednesday, while activists in Palmyra said that ISIS fighters hunted down President Bashar al-Assad's troops and loyalists, killing up to 300 of them.
 
The pro-government Al-Watan said Monday that the number of executions had risen to 450.
 
The capture of Palmyra has raised fears that ISIS might try to destroy the well-preserved, 2,000-year-old Roman-era city on the town's edge – as they have destroyed other archaeological treasures in Syria and Iraq.
 
With the Syrian army retreat from Palmyra, there has been talk of the Assad's regime being forced to accept the de facto division of Syria.
 
Reportedly 10-15% of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by ISIS - which geographically controls around half of the country's landmass, much of which is sparsely populated - while 20-25% are in territory controlled by Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or other rebel groups, and another 5-10% are in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

ISIS Conquers Last Syrian Border Crossing to Iraq

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 23 May 2015 20:44
Syrian Border Crossing to IraqThe brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terror group has seized the last of the border crossings between Syria and Iraq held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Regime forces were left with no choice but to retreat from the border crossing known as al-Tanf in Syria and al-Waleed in Iraq, reports BBC citing the Observatory.
 
The seizure of the crossing is not only a strategic boon for the terrorist organization allowing it to more effectively transfer its resources and supplies between its forces in Syria and Iraq, but also signifies how ISIS is continuing to solidify and expand its hold on Syria.
 
Just on Thursday ISIS terrorists conquered Palmyra, an ancient city with archaeological artifacts feared to now be in danger of destruction.
 
According to the Observatory, ISIS now controls "more than 95,000 sq km (36,679 sq miles)" in Syria, which constitutes no less than half of the country's entire territory.
 
ISIS's hold includes Deir al-Zour and Raqqa provinces, and the group likewise has a strong grasp in Hasakeh, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.
 
In neighboring Iraq, ISIS forces have been conquering new ground as well, seizing the strategic city of Ramadi in Anbar province on Sunday after a three-day blitz.
 
Despite the massive gains made by ISIS in spite of the US-led coalition airstrikes against them, US President Barack Obama struck a defiant tone on Thursday, saying, "I don't think we're losing."
 
"There's no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time," Obama said of the loss of the strategic city.

ISIS Conquers Last Syrian Border Crossing to Iraq

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 23 May 2015 20:44
Syrian Border Crossing to IraqThe brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terror group has seized the last of the border crossings between Syria and Iraq held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Regime forces were left with no choice but to retreat from the border crossing known as al-Tanf in Syria and al-Waleed in Iraq, reports BBC citing the Observatory.
 
The seizure of the crossing is not only a strategic boon for the terrorist organization allowing it to more effectively transfer its resources and supplies between its forces in Syria and Iraq, but also signifies how ISIS is continuing to solidify and expand its hold on Syria.
 
Just on Thursday ISIS terrorists conquered Palmyra, an ancient city with archaeological artifacts feared to now be in danger of destruction.
 
According to the Observatory, ISIS now controls "more than 95,000 sq km (36,679 sq miles)" in Syria, which constitutes no less than half of the country's entire territory.
 
ISIS's hold includes Deir al-Zour and Raqqa provinces, and the group likewise has a strong grasp in Hasakeh, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.
 
In neighboring Iraq, ISIS forces have been conquering new ground as well, seizing the strategic city of Ramadi in Anbar province on Sunday after a three-day blitz.
 
Despite the massive gains made by ISIS in spite of the US-led coalition airstrikes against them, US President Barack Obama struck a defiant tone on Thursday, saying, "I don't think we're losing."
 
"There's no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time," Obama said of the loss of the strategic city.

French President: The World Must Respond to Capture of Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 May 2015 16:58
Francois HollandeFrench President Francois Hollande on Thursday said the world must respond to Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists' seizure of Palmyra amid fears they could destroy the Syrian city's world renowned ancient monuments.
 
"We have to act because there is a threat against these monuments which are part of humankind's inheritance and at the same time we must act against Daesh," Hollande said, according to AFP, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic name.
 
"It is really upsetting when a site of such riches which belongs to all of humanity falls into the hands of a terrorist group," he added, as he arrived at an EU-Eastern Partnership summit in the Latvian capital Riga.
 
The comments came hours after UNESCO warned that the destruction of the ancient city would be "an enormous loss to humanity".
 
The capture of Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old metropolis from the Roman era, reportedly means ISIS now controls more than half of Syria at a time when it is also expanding its territory in neighboring Iraq.
 
In Iraq, ISIS has already sparked international outrage when it blew up the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and smashed artifacts in the Mosul museum.
 
The fear now is the extremists will do the same in Palmyra.

French President: The World Must Respond to Capture of Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 May 2015 16:58
Francois HollandeFrench President Francois Hollande on Thursday said the world must respond to Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists' seizure of Palmyra amid fears they could destroy the Syrian city's world renowned ancient monuments.
 
"We have to act because there is a threat against these monuments which are part of humankind's inheritance and at the same time we must act against Daesh," Hollande said, according to AFP, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic name.
 
"It is really upsetting when a site of such riches which belongs to all of humanity falls into the hands of a terrorist group," he added, as he arrived at an EU-Eastern Partnership summit in the Latvian capital Riga.
 
The comments came hours after UNESCO warned that the destruction of the ancient city would be "an enormous loss to humanity".
 
The capture of Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old metropolis from the Roman era, reportedly means ISIS now controls more than half of Syria at a time when it is also expanding its territory in neighboring Iraq.
 
In Iraq, ISIS has already sparked international outrage when it blew up the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and smashed artifacts in the Mosul museum.
 
The fear now is the extremists will do the same in Palmyra.

UNESCO: Palmyra Destruction 'Enormous Loss to Humanity'

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Friday, 22 May 2015 16:00
PalmyraThe destruction of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra would be an "enormous loss to humanity", the head of the organization warned Thursday after Islamic State seized the ancient Syrian city.
 
"Palmyra is an extraordinary World Heritage site in the desert and any destruction to Palmyra (would be) not just a war crime but ... an enormous loss to humanity," Irina Bokova said in a video published by the Paris-based group, AFP reported.
 
She added that she was "extremely worried" about recent events there and reiterated an appeal for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of military forces.
 
"At the end of the day, it's the birthplace of human civilization. It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening," added the UNESCO chief.
 
Earlier Thursday, Islamic State terrorists seized full control of the city, putting the world heritage site and its priceless artifacts at risk of destruction.
 
ISIS, notorious for demolishing archaeological treasures since declaring a "caliphate" last year straddling Iraq and Syria, fought its way
into Palmyra on foot after breaking through in the city's north.
 
Bokova urged the international community, including the United Nations Security Council and religious leaders, to launch an appeal to stop the violence.
 
"It is important because we are speaking about the birth of human civilization, we are speaking about something that belongs to the whole of
humanity."

UNESCO: Palmyra Destruction 'Enormous Loss to Humanity'

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Friday, 22 May 2015 16:00
PalmyraThe destruction of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra would be an "enormous loss to humanity", the head of the organization warned Thursday after Islamic State seized the ancient Syrian city.
 
"Palmyra is an extraordinary World Heritage site in the desert and any destruction to Palmyra (would be) not just a war crime but ... an enormous loss to humanity," Irina Bokova said in a video published by the Paris-based group, AFP reported.
 
She added that she was "extremely worried" about recent events there and reiterated an appeal for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of military forces.
 
"At the end of the day, it's the birthplace of human civilization. It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening," added the UNESCO chief.
 
Earlier Thursday, Islamic State terrorists seized full control of the city, putting the world heritage site and its priceless artifacts at risk of destruction.
 
ISIS, notorious for demolishing archaeological treasures since declaring a "caliphate" last year straddling Iraq and Syria, fought its way
into Palmyra on foot after breaking through in the city's north.
 
Bokova urged the international community, including the United Nations Security Council and religious leaders, to launch an appeal to stop the violence.
 
"It is important because we are speaking about the birth of human civilization, we are speaking about something that belongs to the whole of
humanity."

Why Now? Baghdadi Message Reaffirms ISIS Leadership

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 10:44
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersThe Islamic State's release last week of an audio message by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reaffirmed his leadership of the group following a six-month silence and rumors over his health.  
 
In his half-hour speech posted on jihadist forums on Thursday, Baghdadi calls for a general mobilization and urges all Muslims to move to the caliphate he proclaimed last year or wage jihad (holy war) wherever they are.  
 
"I think this release partly has to do with rumours of his supposed incapacitation," said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi of the Middle East Forum research group.  
 
Rumors emerged last month that Baghdadi was seriously wounded in a March air strike and had relinquished the organisation's leadership to a terrorist called Abu Alaa al-Afari.
 
"I do indeed think the release is well timed," said Patrick Skinner, an analyst with the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy.  
 
"It was important for him even in audio to show some level of engagement and persuasion. The group depends on image as much as reality," he told AFP.
 
The recording provides no clues as to Baghdadi's health but largely dispels any notion he is no longer the overall leader of an organisation which now claims branches all over the region, as well as in Asia and Africa.
 
A previous recording, which dates back to November, was also released a few days after rumors that he had been killed or wounded in an air raid.  
 
Thursday's message was not immediately authenticated or dated but the credibility of previous such releases by the group has in most cases stood the test of time.
 
Baghdadi's speech alludes mostly to battles in Anbar province and the Baiji area but not in Tikrit, suggesting it was recorded after the government took it back in early April.  
 
Hassan Hassan, co-author of the acclaimed and recently published "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror", said his assessment was also that the recording post-dated claims of his incapacitation.  
 
"Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new statement was most likely recorded in last five days of April. Almost certain," he tweeted.
 
Secretive structure
 
Afari, an Iraqi from the Tal Afar region who is also sometimes referred to as Abdulrahman al-Qaduli, was little known until last month.  
 
The US State Department listed him - under the same Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli - on its Rewards for Justice website, offering a $7-million bounty for information leading to him.
 
That makes him the Islamic State group's most senior leader on the list behind Baghdadi himself, who is in the $10-million bounty category.  
 
The Iraqi defense ministry issued a statement on Wednesday suggesting Afari may have been killed in an air strike but the US-led coalition cast doubt on the claim.  
 
ISIS' leadership structure remains shrouded in secrecy and there are only a handful of other senior figures on the US list.  
 
Among them are Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group's official spokesman, and Omar al-Shishani, a Georgian citizen considered one of ISIS' top military commanders.
 
ISIS has its roots in Iraq, where earlier incarnations of the group emerged in reaction to the 2003 US invasion, and Iraqis are thought to be the largest contingent in its higher echelons.
 
The Pentagon claimed in December that coalition air strikes had killed Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a top Baghdadi aide, in December.  
 
In his speech, Baghdadi is very much the fiery chief commander, calling for a general mobilization against the broad alliance of forces battling his organisation.    
 
He says it is an obligation for all Muslims to emigrate to his so-called "caliphate" or wage jihad on their homeland.
 
"His address does have the tone of an 'end of times' approach to the fighting. He is going all in with everything he can, urging his listeners to do the same," Skinner said.
 
He and Tamimi agreed that Baghdadi desperately needed to find new momentum to break out of the recent stalemate, which has seen ISIS fail to make any significant gain in Iraq or Syria.  
 
On the day the recording was released however, ISIS launched a fresh offensive on Ramadi that saw it eventually seize near-full control of Anbar's provincial capital, in what would be its biggest victory in months.
 
On Saturday, ISIS advanced in Syria as well, seizing control of part of the ancient city of Palmyra.
 
However, the jihadist group also suffered a major blow, when US special forces killed one of its most senior military leaders - Abu Sayyaf - in a daring raid in Syria.

Why Now? Baghdadi Message Reaffirms ISIS Leadership

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 10:44
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersThe Islamic State's release last week of an audio message by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reaffirmed his leadership of the group following a six-month silence and rumors over his health.  
 
In his half-hour speech posted on jihadist forums on Thursday, Baghdadi calls for a general mobilization and urges all Muslims to move to the caliphate he proclaimed last year or wage jihad (holy war) wherever they are.  
 
"I think this release partly has to do with rumours of his supposed incapacitation," said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi of the Middle East Forum research group.  
 
Rumors emerged last month that Baghdadi was seriously wounded in a March air strike and had relinquished the organisation's leadership to a terrorist called Abu Alaa al-Afari.
 
"I do indeed think the release is well timed," said Patrick Skinner, an analyst with the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy.  
 
"It was important for him even in audio to show some level of engagement and persuasion. The group depends on image as much as reality," he told AFP.
 
The recording provides no clues as to Baghdadi's health but largely dispels any notion he is no longer the overall leader of an organisation which now claims branches all over the region, as well as in Asia and Africa.
 
A previous recording, which dates back to November, was also released a few days after rumors that he had been killed or wounded in an air raid.  
 
Thursday's message was not immediately authenticated or dated but the credibility of previous such releases by the group has in most cases stood the test of time.
 
Baghdadi's speech alludes mostly to battles in Anbar province and the Baiji area but not in Tikrit, suggesting it was recorded after the government took it back in early April.  
 
Hassan Hassan, co-author of the acclaimed and recently published "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror", said his assessment was also that the recording post-dated claims of his incapacitation.  
 
"Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new statement was most likely recorded in last five days of April. Almost certain," he tweeted.
 
Secretive structure
 
Afari, an Iraqi from the Tal Afar region who is also sometimes referred to as Abdulrahman al-Qaduli, was little known until last month.  
 
The US State Department listed him - under the same Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli - on its Rewards for Justice website, offering a $7-million bounty for information leading to him.
 
That makes him the Islamic State group's most senior leader on the list behind Baghdadi himself, who is in the $10-million bounty category.  
 
The Iraqi defense ministry issued a statement on Wednesday suggesting Afari may have been killed in an air strike but the US-led coalition cast doubt on the claim.  
 
ISIS' leadership structure remains shrouded in secrecy and there are only a handful of other senior figures on the US list.  
 
Among them are Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group's official spokesman, and Omar al-Shishani, a Georgian citizen considered one of ISIS' top military commanders.
 
ISIS has its roots in Iraq, where earlier incarnations of the group emerged in reaction to the 2003 US invasion, and Iraqis are thought to be the largest contingent in its higher echelons.
 
The Pentagon claimed in December that coalition air strikes had killed Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a top Baghdadi aide, in December.  
 
In his speech, Baghdadi is very much the fiery chief commander, calling for a general mobilization against the broad alliance of forces battling his organisation.    
 
He says it is an obligation for all Muslims to emigrate to his so-called "caliphate" or wage jihad on their homeland.
 
"His address does have the tone of an 'end of times' approach to the fighting. He is going all in with everything he can, urging his listeners to do the same," Skinner said.
 
He and Tamimi agreed that Baghdadi desperately needed to find new momentum to break out of the recent stalemate, which has seen ISIS fail to make any significant gain in Iraq or Syria.  
 
On the day the recording was released however, ISIS launched a fresh offensive on Ramadi that saw it eventually seize near-full control of Anbar's provincial capital, in what would be its biggest victory in months.
 
On Saturday, ISIS advanced in Syria as well, seizing control of part of the ancient city of Palmyra.
 
However, the jihadist group also suffered a major blow, when US special forces killed one of its most senior military leaders - Abu Sayyaf - in a daring raid in Syria.

US Kills Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Captures His Wife

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 00:08
abu-sayyafThe Pentagon has announced that a senior ISIS member was killed today (Saturday) in an operation by US Special Operations forces in Syria. No Americans were killed or injured during the mission.
 
"The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL, and it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies," said Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
 
The wanted man, Abu Sayyaf, organized the jihadist group's oil, gas, and financial arms. Oil provides a major source of ISIS's funding, with analysts estimating the group's oil revenue at up to $3 million per day.
 
As part of the mission, Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured. She is believed to have been involved in ISIS's activities, particularly human trafficking, and reportedly had a captured Yazidi woman as a slave.
 
This mission was authorized by US President Barack Obama, despite his earlier promise to keep all ground forces out of Syria and Iraq. Another Special Operations raid last year attempted to rescue kidnapped journalists, but all the hostages were killed.
 
White House national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Abu Sayyaf "was killed when he engaged US forces."    
 
His wife was being held in military detention in Iraq.  
 
The raid took place in Al-Omar, one of the largest oil fields in Syria, located in oil-rich Deir Ezzor province. Like much of Deir Ezzor, Al-Omar remains under ISIS control.
 
US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter called the operation a "significant blow" to ISIS.
 
Meehan said US forces based out of Iraq had conducted the raid "with the full consent" of Iraqi authorities.  
 
US forces suffered no casualties, American officials said, without giving details on the number of troops involved.
 
Members of the elite Delta special operations unit descended on Sayyaf's compound in Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, a defence official told AFP.
 
In a firefight, US troops killed "about a dozen" armed terrorists, the official said, on condition of anonymity. At one point, fighting took place "at very close quarters, and there was hand-to-hand combat."  
 
ISIS enters Palmyra
 
In central Syria, ISIS jihadists stormed and seized control of most of Palmyra's northern neighborhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  
 
"IS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the monitoring group's director.
 
The official Syrian news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying regime forces had prevented IS fighters from seizing a hilltop southwest of the Islamic citadel.  
 
The head of Syria's antiquities department, Mamoum Abdulkarim, meanwhile, voiced extreme concern for the UNESCO world heritage site, located to Palmyra's southwest.
 
"I am living in a state of terror," Abdulkarim told AFP in a telephone call.
 
He said ISIS "will blow everything up. They will destroy everything," if they enter the site, adding that many of Palmyra's artefacts, like elaborate tombs, could not be moved.
 
ISIS began its offensive on Palmyra on Wednesday and has since inched closer to the ancient metropolis, executing at least 49 civilians in two days, according to the Observatory.  
 
Fearing the destruction of Palmyra, known as the "pearl of the desert," UNESCO has called on the UN Security Council to act in order to save one of the Middle East's historic treasures.
 
48 dead in air raids
 
Meanwhile, in northwest Syria, at least 48 civilians, including nine children, were killed on Saturday in regime air raids on Idlib province, the Observatory said.
 
It said the air strikes targeted rebel-held Idlib city and the towns of Saraqeb and Kafr Awid.
 
Also on Saturday, Turkey's defense minister said armed forces shot down a Syrian helicopter that had violated Turkish air space.
 
"A Syrian helicopter was downed that violated the border for a period of five minutes within a seven mile (11 kilometer) limit," Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said, quoted by the Dogan news agency.
 
Syrian state television had earlier indicated the aircraft was a drone and vehemently denied it could have been a manned aircraft.  
 
 In Iraq, ISIS fighters tightened their siege on the last government positions in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters.
 
Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces.
 
Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, has been under ISIS control since the jihadists launched a lightning offensive in June 2014.
 
Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, extends from the Syrian, Jordanian, and Saudi borders to the gates of Baghdad.  
 
Military reinforcements have been sent to Ramadi and other parts of Anbar, local officials said, and Iraq's army and the US-led coalition have struck ISIS positions in the area.

US Kills Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Captures His Wife

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 00:08
abu-sayyafThe Pentagon has announced that a senior ISIS member was killed today (Saturday) in an operation by US Special Operations forces in Syria. No Americans were killed or injured during the mission.
 
"The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL, and it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies," said Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
 
The wanted man, Abu Sayyaf, organized the jihadist group's oil, gas, and financial arms. Oil provides a major source of ISIS's funding, with analysts estimating the group's oil revenue at up to $3 million per day.
 
As part of the mission, Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured. She is believed to have been involved in ISIS's activities, particularly human trafficking, and reportedly had a captured Yazidi woman as a slave.
 
This mission was authorized by US President Barack Obama, despite his earlier promise to keep all ground forces out of Syria and Iraq. Another Special Operations raid last year attempted to rescue kidnapped journalists, but all the hostages were killed.
 
White House national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Abu Sayyaf "was killed when he engaged US forces."    
 
His wife was being held in military detention in Iraq.  
 
The raid took place in Al-Omar, one of the largest oil fields in Syria, located in oil-rich Deir Ezzor province. Like much of Deir Ezzor, Al-Omar remains under ISIS control.
 
US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter called the operation a "significant blow" to ISIS.
 
Meehan said US forces based out of Iraq had conducted the raid "with the full consent" of Iraqi authorities.  
 
US forces suffered no casualties, American officials said, without giving details on the number of troops involved.
 
Members of the elite Delta special operations unit descended on Sayyaf's compound in Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, a defence official told AFP.
 
In a firefight, US troops killed "about a dozen" armed terrorists, the official said, on condition of anonymity. At one point, fighting took place "at very close quarters, and there was hand-to-hand combat."  
 
ISIS enters Palmyra
 
In central Syria, ISIS jihadists stormed and seized control of most of Palmyra's northern neighborhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  
 
"IS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the monitoring group's director.
 
The official Syrian news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying regime forces had prevented IS fighters from seizing a hilltop southwest of the Islamic citadel.  
 
The head of Syria's antiquities department, Mamoum Abdulkarim, meanwhile, voiced extreme concern for the UNESCO world heritage site, located to Palmyra's southwest.
 
"I am living in a state of terror," Abdulkarim told AFP in a telephone call.
 
He said ISIS "will blow everything up. They will destroy everything," if they enter the site, adding that many of Palmyra's artefacts, like elaborate tombs, could not be moved.
 
ISIS began its offensive on Palmyra on Wednesday and has since inched closer to the ancient metropolis, executing at least 49 civilians in two days, according to the Observatory.  
 
Fearing the destruction of Palmyra, known as the "pearl of the desert," UNESCO has called on the UN Security Council to act in order to save one of the Middle East's historic treasures.
 
48 dead in air raids
 
Meanwhile, in northwest Syria, at least 48 civilians, including nine children, were killed on Saturday in regime air raids on Idlib province, the Observatory said.
 
It said the air strikes targeted rebel-held Idlib city and the towns of Saraqeb and Kafr Awid.
 
Also on Saturday, Turkey's defense minister said armed forces shot down a Syrian helicopter that had violated Turkish air space.
 
"A Syrian helicopter was downed that violated the border for a period of five minutes within a seven mile (11 kilometer) limit," Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said, quoted by the Dogan news agency.
 
Syrian state television had earlier indicated the aircraft was a drone and vehemently denied it could have been a manned aircraft.  
 
 In Iraq, ISIS fighters tightened their siege on the last government positions in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters.
 
Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces.
 
Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, has been under ISIS control since the jihadists launched a lightning offensive in June 2014.
 
Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, extends from the Syrian, Jordanian, and Saudi borders to the gates of Baghdad.  
 
Military reinforcements have been sent to Ramadi and other parts of Anbar, local officials said, and Iraq's army and the US-led coalition have struck ISIS positions in the area.

ISIS Seizes Part of Ancient Syrian City of Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 16 May 2015 23:40
ISIS flag - ReutersJihadists from the Islamic State group (ISIS or IS) seized control Saturday of the northern part of Syria's ancient desert city of Palmyra after fierce clashes with government forces, a monitoring group said.  
 
"IS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
He said 13 jihadist fighters were killed in ongoing clashes near the Islamic citadel in the city's west.  
 
Abdel Rahman had no details on regime casualties.
 
Most of Palmyra's renowned ruins, including colonnaded streets and elaborately decorated tombs, lie to the southwest of the city.
 
ISIS began its offensive on Palmyra on Wednesday and inched closer to the ancient metropolis on Thursday and Friday, executing at least 49 civilians over those two days according to the Observatory.
 
The latest gains by ISIS in Syria come just a day after it seized the government compound in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Friday and edged closer to what would be their biggest victory in Iraq this year.
 
The loss of the capital of Anbar province, which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said would be the next target of government forces after wresting back Tikrit last month, would be a major setback.
 
The government stressed that Ramadi had not fallen yet and announced that a major counter-offensive was under way as Abadi held an emergency meeting with top security officials.
 
ISIS has threatened to take control of Ramadi for months, and the breakthrough came after a wide offensive on multiple fronts in the province, including an assault using several suicide car bombs in Ramadi on Thursday.
 
The jihadists seized the government complex at around 2:00 p.m. local time and raised the black flag, a police officer said, giving them nearly full control over Anbar's capital.

ISIS Seizes Part of Ancient Syrian City of Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 16 May 2015 23:40
ISIS flag - ReutersJihadists from the Islamic State group (ISIS or IS) seized control Saturday of the northern part of Syria's ancient desert city of Palmyra after fierce clashes with government forces, a monitoring group said.  
 
"IS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
He said 13 jihadist fighters were killed in ongoing clashes near the Islamic citadel in the city's west.  
 
Abdel Rahman had no details on regime casualties.
 
Most of Palmyra's renowned ruins, including colonnaded streets and elaborately decorated tombs, lie to the southwest of the city.
 
ISIS began its offensive on Palmyra on Wednesday and inched closer to the ancient metropolis on Thursday and Friday, executing at least 49 civilians over those two days according to the Observatory.
 
The latest gains by ISIS in Syria come just a day after it seized the government compound in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Friday and edged closer to what would be their biggest victory in Iraq this year.
 
The loss of the capital of Anbar province, which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said would be the next target of government forces after wresting back Tikrit last month, would be a major setback.
 
The government stressed that Ramadi had not fallen yet and announced that a major counter-offensive was under way as Abadi held an emergency meeting with top security officials.
 
ISIS has threatened to take control of Ramadi for months, and the breakthrough came after a wide offensive on multiple fronts in the province, including an assault using several suicide car bombs in Ramadi on Thursday.
 
The jihadists seized the government complex at around 2:00 p.m. local time and raised the black flag, a police officer said, giving them nearly full control over Anbar's capital.

ISIS 'Barbarians' Threaten to Destroy Ancient Syrian City

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 May 2015 16:59
AntiquitiesIslamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra Thursday, raising fears the Syrian world heritage site could face destruction of the kind the jihadists have already wreaked in Iraq.
 
IS fighters were battling Syrian troops less than two kilometers (barely a mile) from the remains of one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world, Syria's director of antiquities said.  
 
The jihadists reached the oasis town after a lightning advance across the desert in which they overran government forces in fierce fighting that cost the lives of 110 combatants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"Palmyra is under threat," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.  
 
Antiquities director Mamoun Abdulkarim said he was in touch with colleagues still in Palmyra every half hour.
 
"IS has not entered the city yet, and we hope these barbarians will never enter," Abdulkarim told AFP.
 
UNESCO describes Palmyra as a heritage site of "outstanding universal value".  
 
The ancient city stood on a caravan route at the crossroads of several civilizations and its 1st and 2nd century temples and colonnaded streets mark a unique blend of Graeco-Roman and Persian influences.
 
The jihadist advance on the well-preserved remains came as an international conference was under way in Cairo to address the destruction already wreaked by IS on the ancient sites of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq.  
 
'International catastrophe'
 
Foreign affairs and antiquities officials from 11 Arab countries gathered in Egypt to condemn the jihadists' demolition of Iraq's heritage, with sledgehammers, bulldozers and high explosives.
 
Abdulkarim said Syria had not been invited to the conference and that he had not been contacted by any of those attending about the threat to Palmyra.  
 
He told AFP that antiquities officials would try to ensure the safety of artifacts found in archaeological digs over the years which are housed in an adjacent museum.
 
"We can protect the statues and artifacts, but we cannot protect the architecture, the temples," he said.
 
"IS will just destroy it from the outside."  
 
Abdulkarim said he had no doubt that if Palmyra fell to the jihadists, it would suffer a similar fate to ancient Nimrud, which they blew up earlier this year.  
 
"If IS enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction.
 
"If the ancient city falls, it will be an international catastrophe. It will be a repetition of the barbarism and savagery which we saw in Nimrud, Hatra and Mosul."  
 
It would not be the first time that government troops have lost control of Palmyra. Rebels held the site from February to September 2013 before government troops recaptured it.
 
One of the ancient city's masterpieces, the Temple of Baal, suffered some damage during the accompanying artillery exchanges.  
 
But those rebels did not share the fanatical devotion of ISIS to demolishing all of the region's pre-Islamic heritage.
 
There was ferocious fighting as the jihadists overran the town of Al-Suknah on Wednesday in their drive across the desert towards Palmyra.  
 
Provincial governor Talal Barazi said that 1,800 families who had fled the advancing jihadists were being sheltered in reception centers in the adjacent modern town of Tadmur.
 
Both sides suffered heavy losses in the battle for Al-Suknah, including senior commanders, the Observatory said.  
 
The army lost 70 men, including six officers. ISIS lost 40 men, including two commanders, one of them the leader of the offensive.
 
Jihadist websites named him as Abu Malik Anas al-Nashwan, who appeared in an ISIS video showing the beheadings of 28 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians in Libya last month.

ISIS 'Barbarians' Threaten to Destroy Ancient Syrian City

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 May 2015 16:59
AntiquitiesIslamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra Thursday, raising fears the Syrian world heritage site could face destruction of the kind the jihadists have already wreaked in Iraq.
 
IS fighters were battling Syrian troops less than two kilometers (barely a mile) from the remains of one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world, Syria's director of antiquities said.  
 
The jihadists reached the oasis town after a lightning advance across the desert in which they overran government forces in fierce fighting that cost the lives of 110 combatants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"Palmyra is under threat," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.  
 
Antiquities director Mamoun Abdulkarim said he was in touch with colleagues still in Palmyra every half hour.
 
"IS has not entered the city yet, and we hope these barbarians will never enter," Abdulkarim told AFP.
 
UNESCO describes Palmyra as a heritage site of "outstanding universal value".  
 
The ancient city stood on a caravan route at the crossroads of several civilizations and its 1st and 2nd century temples and colonnaded streets mark a unique blend of Graeco-Roman and Persian influences.
 
The jihadist advance on the well-preserved remains came as an international conference was under way in Cairo to address the destruction already wreaked by IS on the ancient sites of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq.  
 
'International catastrophe'
 
Foreign affairs and antiquities officials from 11 Arab countries gathered in Egypt to condemn the jihadists' demolition of Iraq's heritage, with sledgehammers, bulldozers and high explosives.
 
Abdulkarim said Syria had not been invited to the conference and that he had not been contacted by any of those attending about the threat to Palmyra.  
 
He told AFP that antiquities officials would try to ensure the safety of artifacts found in archaeological digs over the years which are housed in an adjacent museum.
 
"We can protect the statues and artifacts, but we cannot protect the architecture, the temples," he said.
 
"IS will just destroy it from the outside."  
 
Abdulkarim said he had no doubt that if Palmyra fell to the jihadists, it would suffer a similar fate to ancient Nimrud, which they blew up earlier this year.  
 
"If IS enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction.
 
"If the ancient city falls, it will be an international catastrophe. It will be a repetition of the barbarism and savagery which we saw in Nimrud, Hatra and Mosul."  
 
It would not be the first time that government troops have lost control of Palmyra. Rebels held the site from February to September 2013 before government troops recaptured it.
 
One of the ancient city's masterpieces, the Temple of Baal, suffered some damage during the accompanying artillery exchanges.  
 
But those rebels did not share the fanatical devotion of ISIS to demolishing all of the region's pre-Islamic heritage.
 
There was ferocious fighting as the jihadists overran the town of Al-Suknah on Wednesday in their drive across the desert towards Palmyra.  
 
Provincial governor Talal Barazi said that 1,800 families who had fled the advancing jihadists were being sheltered in reception centers in the adjacent modern town of Tadmur.
 
Both sides suffered heavy losses in the battle for Al-Suknah, including senior commanders, the Observatory said.  
 
The army lost 70 men, including six officers. ISIS lost 40 men, including two commanders, one of them the leader of the offensive.
 
Jihadist websites named him as Abu Malik Anas al-Nashwan, who appeared in an ISIS video showing the beheadings of 28 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians in Libya last month.

48 Dead as ISIS Seizes Town in Homs Province

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 May 2015 15:11
48 Dead in Homs ProvinceIslamic State has seized large parts of a strategically located town in Syria's central Homs province in clashes that killed 48 soldiers and terrorists, a monitor said Wednesday, according to AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the extremist group had captured areas of Al-Sukhnah and its surroundings in fighting that began overnight.
 
The town lies on the highway that leads from eastern Deir Ezzor province, an ISIS stronghold, to the ancient town of Palmyra.
 
Palmrya is controlled by the regime and home to spectacular Greco-Roman ruins that are listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
 
"The Islamic State managed to advance in Al-Sukhnah and take control of large parts of the town and the surrounding areas," the Britain-based Observatory said, adding that clashes were continuing Wednesday.
 
The group said at least 28 regime forces - soldiers and pro-government militants - and 20 ISIS fighters had been killed in the battles. More than 100 fighters from both sides were wounded, the monitor said.
 
Located in central Syria, control of Homs province is divided.
 
The provincial capital is almost completely under regime control, but opposition forces and ISIS control large parts of the surrounding countryside and desert.
 
ISIS has a significant presence in the desert region in the east of the province bordering Deir Ezzor, which is a stronghold of the terror group and forms part of its self-proclaimed Islamic "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.
 
Homs is Syria's largest province and is particularly important for the government as it also neighbors Damascus province, where the capital is located.
 
It is also home to the key Shaar gas field, which is now back in government hands after IS fighters overran it last year, reportedly slaughtering several hundred government troops there.

48 Dead as ISIS Seizes Town in Homs Province

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 May 2015 15:11
48 Dead in Homs ProvinceIslamic State has seized large parts of a strategically located town in Syria's central Homs province in clashes that killed 48 soldiers and terrorists, a monitor said Wednesday, according to AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the extremist group had captured areas of Al-Sukhnah and its surroundings in fighting that began overnight.
 
The town lies on the highway that leads from eastern Deir Ezzor province, an ISIS stronghold, to the ancient town of Palmyra.
 
Palmrya is controlled by the regime and home to spectacular Greco-Roman ruins that are listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
 
"The Islamic State managed to advance in Al-Sukhnah and take control of large parts of the town and the surrounding areas," the Britain-based Observatory said, adding that clashes were continuing Wednesday.
 
The group said at least 28 regime forces - soldiers and pro-government militants - and 20 ISIS fighters had been killed in the battles. More than 100 fighters from both sides were wounded, the monitor said.
 
Located in central Syria, control of Homs province is divided.
 
The provincial capital is almost completely under regime control, but opposition forces and ISIS control large parts of the surrounding countryside and desert.
 
ISIS has a significant presence in the desert region in the east of the province bordering Deir Ezzor, which is a stronghold of the terror group and forms part of its self-proclaimed Islamic "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.
 
Homs is Syria's largest province and is particularly important for the government as it also neighbors Damascus province, where the capital is located.
 
It is also home to the key Shaar gas field, which is now back in government hands after IS fighters overran it last year, reportedly slaughtering several hundred government troops there.

Syria Rebel Victories Leave Lebanon Increasingly Isolated

Category: News
Created on Monday, 04 May 2015 08:17
Scene of explosion in Beirut Reuters(AFP) Lebanon's land exports to Gulf markets have been choked off, leaving millions of dollars in goods stranded after the closure of a vital crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border last month.  
 
The Nasib border point was the last remaining gateway for Lebanese truck drivers transporting agricultural and industrial products to Iraq and Gulf countries.
 
After Syrian rebels seized Nasib on April 1, these exports came to an abrupt halt.
 
"Exports by land have stopped entirely," said Ahmad Alam, whose company exports Lebanese fruit and vegetables to Arab countries.
 
Goods transported overland made up 35 per cent of all of Lebanon's exports, economic analyst Nassib Ghobril told AFP.
 
The customs authorities say Lebanese exports to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in 2014 amounted to $920 million (821 million euros). Another $256 million was exported to Iraq.  
 
But all those potential exports are now effectively stuck in Lebanon, he said.
 
"The Nasib crossing was the only way for Lebanese products to be exported by land. Since it closed, there are no more land crossings now," Ghobril said.
 
Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, Lebanese products traveled frequently through Lebanon's neighbor, then on to Iraq to the east or to Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf to the south.  
 
The agriculture ministry says that agricultural products make up 6 per cent of GDP and 17 per cent of total exports.  
 
Agriculture hit hardest
 
As Syria's war worsened, its border crossings with Iraq closed, leaving Lebanese truckers with only one option: Nasib.
 
Omar al-Ali, head of Lebanon's Refrigerated Truckers Syndicate, told AFP that about 250 trucks would cross from Lebanon into Syria every day before the conflict.
 
That number dropped to 120 daily because of growing instability along Syria's major highways, and with Nasib closed, just a few trucks destined for the shrinking Syrian market only leave Lebanon every day.
 
Although one crossing along the Syria-Iraq border remains open, Ali said it is too dangerous to use.  
 
According to Ghobril, Lebanon's land exports have been affected the most by the Syrian crisis, apart from tourism.  
 
Road closures have hit agricultural exports the hardest, since they rely predominantly on land routes and cannot be easily transported by air or sea.  
 
"Our trucks transported our agricultural and industrial products. This is what carried Lebanon's economy," Ali said, adding that the losses could be in the millions of dollars.
 
"Now we have 900 refrigerated trucks that are just sitting inside Lebanon," with others stuck in the Gulf, he told AFP.  
 
Alam said he lost at least one million dollars in the three weeks after Nasib's closure.
 
According to the agriculture ministry, the sector employs 20 to 30 per cent of the Lebanese workforce.  
 
Livelihood on hold
 
Many truckers can now be found discussing their plight at their syndicate's offices in Bar Elias in east Lebanon.
 
Khaled Araji, 55, is just one of hundreds of Lebanese who used to drive goods through Syria to the Gulf, and whose livelihood has now on hold indefinitely.  
 
"I just spend my time in the house. I've worked in this business for more than 30 years, and if I don't see the (truck's) refrigerator every day, I can't relax. This job is in my blood," Araji told AFP.  
 
Ali said truck drivers made $1,500 a month "to provide for their families by generating activity in other sectors. All of this has stopped now."  
 
To make up for routes through Syria being closed, the Beirut government is looking at exporting these goods by sea.  
 
According to Ghobril, this alternative "requires more time than by land, and it's definitely more expensive, but it's still better than nothing".
 
But Alam downplayed the effectiveness of maritime transport, saying some green produce would not stay fresh long enough for the journey.
 
In his warehouse in Bar Elias, young men and girls pack oranges, apples and fresh lettuce - whose prices have dramatically dropped - into crates and boxes for export by air.    
 
As the peak harvest seasons in August and September draw closer, exporters and truckers are hoping for a speedy solution to the problem.  
 
But Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, speaking after a cabinet meeting on the crisis last week, was not hopeful.  
 
"Unfortunately, we have become an island," he said.

Syria Rebel Victories Leave Lebanon Increasingly Isolated

Category: News
Created on Monday, 04 May 2015 08:17
Scene of explosion in Beirut Reuters(AFP) Lebanon's land exports to Gulf markets have been choked off, leaving millions of dollars in goods stranded after the closure of a vital crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border last month.  
 
The Nasib border point was the last remaining gateway for Lebanese truck drivers transporting agricultural and industrial products to Iraq and Gulf countries.
 
After Syrian rebels seized Nasib on April 1, these exports came to an abrupt halt.
 
"Exports by land have stopped entirely," said Ahmad Alam, whose company exports Lebanese fruit and vegetables to Arab countries.
 
Goods transported overland made up 35 per cent of all of Lebanon's exports, economic analyst Nassib Ghobril told AFP.
 
The customs authorities say Lebanese exports to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in 2014 amounted to $920 million (821 million euros). Another $256 million was exported to Iraq.  
 
But all those potential exports are now effectively stuck in Lebanon, he said.
 
"The Nasib crossing was the only way for Lebanese products to be exported by land. Since it closed, there are no more land crossings now," Ghobril said.
 
Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, Lebanese products traveled frequently through Lebanon's neighbor, then on to Iraq to the east or to Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf to the south.  
 
The agriculture ministry says that agricultural products make up 6 per cent of GDP and 17 per cent of total exports.  
 
Agriculture hit hardest
 
As Syria's war worsened, its border crossings with Iraq closed, leaving Lebanese truckers with only one option: Nasib.
 
Omar al-Ali, head of Lebanon's Refrigerated Truckers Syndicate, told AFP that about 250 trucks would cross from Lebanon into Syria every day before the conflict.
 
That number dropped to 120 daily because of growing instability along Syria's major highways, and with Nasib closed, just a few trucks destined for the shrinking Syrian market only leave Lebanon every day.
 
Although one crossing along the Syria-Iraq border remains open, Ali said it is too dangerous to use.  
 
According to Ghobril, Lebanon's land exports have been affected the most by the Syrian crisis, apart from tourism.  
 
Road closures have hit agricultural exports the hardest, since they rely predominantly on land routes and cannot be easily transported by air or sea.  
 
"Our trucks transported our agricultural and industrial products. This is what carried Lebanon's economy," Ali said, adding that the losses could be in the millions of dollars.
 
"Now we have 900 refrigerated trucks that are just sitting inside Lebanon," with others stuck in the Gulf, he told AFP.  
 
Alam said he lost at least one million dollars in the three weeks after Nasib's closure.
 
According to the agriculture ministry, the sector employs 20 to 30 per cent of the Lebanese workforce.  
 
Livelihood on hold
 
Many truckers can now be found discussing their plight at their syndicate's offices in Bar Elias in east Lebanon.
 
Khaled Araji, 55, is just one of hundreds of Lebanese who used to drive goods through Syria to the Gulf, and whose livelihood has now on hold indefinitely.  
 
"I just spend my time in the house. I've worked in this business for more than 30 years, and if I don't see the (truck's) refrigerator every day, I can't relax. This job is in my blood," Araji told AFP.  
 
Ali said truck drivers made $1,500 a month "to provide for their families by generating activity in other sectors. All of this has stopped now."  
 
To make up for routes through Syria being closed, the Beirut government is looking at exporting these goods by sea.  
 
According to Ghobril, this alternative "requires more time than by land, and it's definitely more expensive, but it's still better than nothing".
 
But Alam downplayed the effectiveness of maritime transport, saying some green produce would not stay fresh long enough for the journey.
 
In his warehouse in Bar Elias, young men and girls pack oranges, apples and fresh lettuce - whose prices have dramatically dropped - into crates and boxes for export by air.    
 
As the peak harvest seasons in August and September draw closer, exporters and truckers are hoping for a speedy solution to the problem.  
 
But Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, speaking after a cabinet meeting on the crisis last week, was not hopeful.  
 
"Unfortunately, we have become an island," he said.

Iran Tells Syria to Attack Israel on the Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 08:11
Syria to Attack Israel on the Golan HeightsSyrian Defense Minister General Fahd al-Freij arrived in Iran on Tuesday for a rare two-day visit, the first since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, and was reportedly told by his Iranian backers to attack Israel.
 
As the Syrian regime continues to suffer key losses that have sharpened in the last month, Iran continues to exert ever-growing influence in the country which it is financially and militarily propping up.
 
Al-Freij was told by senior Iranian sources that Syria and Iran's terror proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, need to open a war front against Israel on the Golan Heights, according to the Hebrew-language Channel 10.
 
Iran told the Syrian defense minister to stir up conflict against Israel on the Golan, with the Islamic republic apparently unperturbed by the significant damage the move will cause to the Syrian regime, given that its goal is to expand its regional hegemony at all costs.
 
The Golan has been heating up with four terrorists eliminated on Sunday while placing an explosive on the Israeli border, and a day later stray mortar shells struck from Syria, as Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front and Islamic State (ISIS) fight on the Syrian side, right on Israel's doorstep.
 
Iran spending $35B annually on Assad
 
In a press conference between al-Freij and his Iranian counterpart, the two said in a joint statement, "Syria, Iran and the axis of resistance will not allow enemies to achieve their goals in the region, and harm Syria and its firm position. Iran unreservedly supports Syria, and continues its strategic relations with it."
 
Regarding its strategic interests, experts have revealed Iran is spending $35 billion a year propping up President Bashar al-Assad's regime, and is likewise deploying thousands of its troops in the country.
 
The reason for this is that Iran needs to maintain a route of access through Syria to the Mediterranean by which it can supply weapons to Hezbollah and strengthen its growing regional influence.
 
Iran's call for Syria to attack Israel comes after three reports in Arab media since late last week claiming Israel conducted airstrikes on weapons depots and convoys in Syria heading for Hezbollah.
 
Israeli security sources appraised that the strikes were not conducted by Israel, but rather by Syrian rebel forces as part of the ongoing civil war that has already left over 220,000 dead.

Iran Tells Syria to Attack Israel on the Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 08:11
Syria to Attack Israel on the Golan HeightsSyrian Defense Minister General Fahd al-Freij arrived in Iran on Tuesday for a rare two-day visit, the first since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, and was reportedly told by his Iranian backers to attack Israel.
 
As the Syrian regime continues to suffer key losses that have sharpened in the last month, Iran continues to exert ever-growing influence in the country which it is financially and militarily propping up.
 
Al-Freij was told by senior Iranian sources that Syria and Iran's terror proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, need to open a war front against Israel on the Golan Heights, according to the Hebrew-language Channel 10.
 
Iran told the Syrian defense minister to stir up conflict against Israel on the Golan, with the Islamic republic apparently unperturbed by the significant damage the move will cause to the Syrian regime, given that its goal is to expand its regional hegemony at all costs.
 
The Golan has been heating up with four terrorists eliminated on Sunday while placing an explosive on the Israeli border, and a day later stray mortar shells struck from Syria, as Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front and Islamic State (ISIS) fight on the Syrian side, right on Israel's doorstep.
 
Iran spending $35B annually on Assad
 
In a press conference between al-Freij and his Iranian counterpart, the two said in a joint statement, "Syria, Iran and the axis of resistance will not allow enemies to achieve their goals in the region, and harm Syria and its firm position. Iran unreservedly supports Syria, and continues its strategic relations with it."
 
Regarding its strategic interests, experts have revealed Iran is spending $35 billion a year propping up President Bashar al-Assad's regime, and is likewise deploying thousands of its troops in the country.
 
The reason for this is that Iran needs to maintain a route of access through Syria to the Mediterranean by which it can supply weapons to Hezbollah and strengthen its growing regional influence.
 
Iran's call for Syria to attack Israel comes after three reports in Arab media since late last week claiming Israel conducted airstrikes on weapons depots and convoys in Syria heading for Hezbollah.
 
Israeli security sources appraised that the strikes were not conducted by Israel, but rather by Syrian rebel forces as part of the ongoing civil war that has already left over 220,000 dead.

Iraq: ISIS Stones Two Men to Death for Adultery

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 28 April 2015 21:24
ISIS Stones Two Men to Death for AdulteryThe Islamic State jihadist group said it has stoned two men to death for adultery in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, according to a series of photos posted online.
 
One man is shown kneeling blindfolded in front of a group of men who hurl large stones at him until he is lying face down on the ground, blood running from his head.
 
A second man is then killed in the same way, as a crowd including children looks on.
 
It is not known when the stonings took place, and the authenticity of the pictures could not be immediately confirmed.
 
The Islamic State group led an offensive last June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, sweeping security forces aside.
 
ISIS has carried out a string of atrocities including videotaped beheadings and mass executions, rape and enslavement in areas it controls in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Iraq: ISIS Stones Two Men to Death for Adultery

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 28 April 2015 21:24
ISIS Stones Two Men to Death for AdulteryThe Islamic State jihadist group said it has stoned two men to death for adultery in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, according to a series of photos posted online.
 
One man is shown kneeling blindfolded in front of a group of men who hurl large stones at him until he is lying face down on the ground, blood running from his head.
 
A second man is then killed in the same way, as a crowd including children looks on.
 
It is not known when the stonings took place, and the authenticity of the pictures could not be immediately confirmed.
 
The Islamic State group led an offensive last June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, sweeping security forces aside.
 
ISIS has carried out a string of atrocities including videotaped beheadings and mass executions, rape and enslavement in areas it controls in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Syria: 42 Dead in Clashes Between Rebels

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 20:55
Rebel-Jihadist WarAt least 42 fighters were killed in 24 hours of fierce fighting between Islamist rebels and the Islamic State group in Syria's Damascus province, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
 
"At least 30 Islamist rebels and 12 fighters from ISIS were killed in fighting since Tuesday" in the hilly region of Qalamun, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.
 
Qalamun is divided into a western portion, which borders Lebanon and is mostly controlled by the regime and its ally, the Lebanese Shiite terror movement Hezbollah.
 
The eastern sector has seen intense clashes between rebels and ISIS, and is strategic because it borders the "badiya," the Syrian steppe.
 
These plains are used by rebels to transport weapons from the Turkish border to the north and the Jordanian frontier in the south.
 
According to the Britain-based Observatory, ISIS has already cut off one of these routes and aims to take more to "suffocate" the rebels.
 
Meanwhile, at least 11 people were killed in regime bombardment of two towns in Damascus province.
 
"It is likely that there were even more killed in the attack, and the number will increase due to people in a critical condition," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, according to AFP.
 
The fighting among rebel groups is nothing new, as different rebel groups have been fighting one another constantly in addition to fighting the Bashar Al-Assad regime.
 
Al-Nusra Front, a rebel group which has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013 and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria, has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS temporarily agreed to work together in order to combat the international airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Syria: 42 Dead in Clashes Between Rebels

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 20:55
Rebel-Jihadist WarAt least 42 fighters were killed in 24 hours of fierce fighting between Islamist rebels and the Islamic State group in Syria's Damascus province, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
 
"At least 30 Islamist rebels and 12 fighters from ISIS were killed in fighting since Tuesday" in the hilly region of Qalamun, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.
 
Qalamun is divided into a western portion, which borders Lebanon and is mostly controlled by the regime and its ally, the Lebanese Shiite terror movement Hezbollah.
 
The eastern sector has seen intense clashes between rebels and ISIS, and is strategic because it borders the "badiya," the Syrian steppe.
 
These plains are used by rebels to transport weapons from the Turkish border to the north and the Jordanian frontier in the south.
 
According to the Britain-based Observatory, ISIS has already cut off one of these routes and aims to take more to "suffocate" the rebels.
 
Meanwhile, at least 11 people were killed in regime bombardment of two towns in Damascus province.
 
"It is likely that there were even more killed in the attack, and the number will increase due to people in a critical condition," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, according to AFP.
 
The fighting among rebel groups is nothing new, as different rebel groups have been fighting one another constantly in addition to fighting the Bashar Al-Assad regime.
 
Al-Nusra Front, a rebel group which has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013 and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria, has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS temporarily agreed to work together in order to combat the international airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS Issuing Photo ID Cards in Syria's Raqa

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 23 April 2015 09:19
ID5The Islamic State (ISIS) group is now issuing photo identity cards in Syria's Raqa province, but only to males, along with a range of administrative documents, a monitor and activists told AFP on Friday.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had begun issuing "identity cards to those without proof of identity and boys over the age of 13 in Raqa province."
 
The Britain-based group published a photo it said was provided by civilian sources showing a laminated card printed with the black and white flag of the Islamic State.
 
It carries the photo of the holder, his name, date and place of birth and his parents' names, and is marked "Wilayat (district of) Raqa."
 
An activist with the anti-ISIS "Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" group confirmed that IS had begun issuing identity documents.
 
The group is requesting "that people who do not have identity papers register at the civil registry in the city as a first step towards getting an identity card," activist Mohamed Saleh told AFP via the Internet.
 
He said its fighters were already receiving the new ID cards, but that civilians were still being registered to receive theirs.
 
The ID cards were not available for women "because printing their photos is considered forbidden."
 
"People don't want the cards, but they don't have a choice," he told AFP.
 
Saleh said residents feared the cards would become compulsory for all those in the province, even if they already have other proof of identity.
 
"That's what happened with their driver's licenses and license plates...Now there are checkpoints where they make sure you have them," he said.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said issuance of the ID cards follows the introduction of a range of other administrative paperwork, including marriage and birth certificates, drivers' licenses and car registrations.
 
Land and building registration documents and permits were also being issued, he added.
 
ISIS has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq since 2013 and declared an Islamic "caliphate" in the land under its control.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
In one case, ISIS members beheaded a person they said was a member of an Iraqi Shiite militia fighting for Assad, only to discover they had accidentally beheaded a fighter belonging to an allied rebel group.
 
In March, the group live-tweeted the amputation of a hand of a man charged with theft in the northern province of Aleppo.

ISIS Issuing Photo ID Cards in Syria's Raqa

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 23 April 2015 09:19
ID5The Islamic State (ISIS) group is now issuing photo identity cards in Syria's Raqa province, but only to males, along with a range of administrative documents, a monitor and activists told AFP on Friday.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had begun issuing "identity cards to those without proof of identity and boys over the age of 13 in Raqa province."
 
The Britain-based group published a photo it said was provided by civilian sources showing a laminated card printed with the black and white flag of the Islamic State.
 
It carries the photo of the holder, his name, date and place of birth and his parents' names, and is marked "Wilayat (district of) Raqa."
 
An activist with the anti-ISIS "Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" group confirmed that IS had begun issuing identity documents.
 
The group is requesting "that people who do not have identity papers register at the civil registry in the city as a first step towards getting an identity card," activist Mohamed Saleh told AFP via the Internet.
 
He said its fighters were already receiving the new ID cards, but that civilians were still being registered to receive theirs.
 
The ID cards were not available for women "because printing their photos is considered forbidden."
 
"People don't want the cards, but they don't have a choice," he told AFP.
 
Saleh said residents feared the cards would become compulsory for all those in the province, even if they already have other proof of identity.
 
"That's what happened with their driver's licenses and license plates...Now there are checkpoints where they make sure you have them," he said.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said issuance of the ID cards follows the introduction of a range of other administrative paperwork, including marriage and birth certificates, drivers' licenses and car registrations.
 
Land and building registration documents and permits were also being issued, he added.
 
ISIS has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq since 2013 and declared an Islamic "caliphate" in the land under its control.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
In one case, ISIS members beheaded a person they said was a member of an Iraqi Shiite militia fighting for Assad, only to discover they had accidentally beheaded a fighter belonging to an allied rebel group.
 
In March, the group live-tweeted the amputation of a hand of a man charged with theft in the northern province of Aleppo.

Antiquities Market on Alert for Looted Syrian Spoils

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 19:59
Ancient City of NimrudAs armed groups in Syria and Iraq destroy priceless archaeological sites, European authorities and dealers are on high alert for smaller, looted artifacts put on sale to help finance the jihadists' war.
 
Stolen-art expert Chris Marinello, director of Art Recovery International, said he has been shown photographs of items being offered from Syria that were "clearly looted right out of the ground".
 
"You could still see dirt on some of these objects," he told AFP.
 
They included cylinder seals, Roman bottles and vases, although Marinello said it was unclear whether the items were still in Syria, were in transit or had arrived in the key markets of Europe and the United States.
 
Concerns about looting during the Syrian war have increased following the advance of the Islamic State group through parts of Syria and Iraq, and recent propaganda videos showing their destruction of ancient sites such as Nimrud.
 
The UN Security Council in February demanded UN states act to stop the trade in cultural property from those two countries, amid warnings that they represented a significant source of funding for the terrorist group.
 
Experts say it is impossible to put a value on antiquities looted from Syria, which has been home to many civilizations through the millennia, from the Canaanites to the Ottomans.
 
The London-based International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) estimates the entire legitimate antiquities market in 2013 was worth between 150 and 200 million euros ($160-215 million).
 
Marinello said reputable dealers are "being very careful not to touch anything that could remotely be part of this recent wave of looting".
 
But Hermann Parzinger, an archaeologist and president of the Germany-based Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, said there was an "enormous market" from private buyers.
 
He warned that the cultural costs were huge, telling AFP: "The context which is so important to reconstruct the history of these civilizations is completely destroyed."
 
Looted items held back
 
Italy has proposed that world heritage body UNESCO create a military taskforce to protect cultural sites in war zones, but many experts believe little can be done to stop the current destruction.
 
Instead, they are forced to wait until the conflict ends and watch in horror as priceless historic sites are destroyed and the spoils gradually
emerge onto the market.
 
Vernon Rapley, a former head of the art and antiquities squad at London's Metropolitan Police, expects many Syrian items to be held back to avoid flooding the market, as occurred after the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
The looted artifacts were likely to be "hauled up in warehouses either in the country or near the country, and only linked to the art trade in small pieces and at a later stage", he told AFP.
 
Stephane Thefo, who leads an Interpol unit dedicated to fighting the illegal trafficking of cultural goods, agreed that many items may disappear for years - but insisted that tackling the trade was the best way to combat looting.
 
The French policeman would like to see tougher national laws on trafficking of cultural goods, something Germany is currently considering.
 
"We have to act by seeking to narrow markets for the illicit trade, hoping that by curbing the demand, the supply would eventually decrease," Thefo said.
 
Identifying heritage items
 
Identifying looted objects is no easy task, however, not least because cultural crime is rarely a police priority.
 
The law puts the onus on the authorities to prove an item is illegal and a long delay in an artifact being sold, or multiple owners, make it hard to establish provenance.
 
At a conference at the V&A museum in London this week on the destruction of cultural property in conflict areas in Iraq and Syria, Mali, Libya and Yemen, archaeologists stressed the need for proper inventories of heritage sites.
 
They noted that objects that have been photographed and digitally catalogued are more likely to be recovered.
 
Interpol is currently building a database of stolen objects, and James Ede, a London dealer and IADAA board member, urged cultural bodies to share their information with dealers.
 
"This material will necessarily surface on the open market sooner or later. The challenge therefore is to identify it and where possible to return it when it is safe to do so," he said.

Antiquities Market on Alert for Looted Syrian Spoils

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 19:59
Ancient City of NimrudAs armed groups in Syria and Iraq destroy priceless archaeological sites, European authorities and dealers are on high alert for smaller, looted artifacts put on sale to help finance the jihadists' war.
 
Stolen-art expert Chris Marinello, director of Art Recovery International, said he has been shown photographs of items being offered from Syria that were "clearly looted right out of the ground".
 
"You could still see dirt on some of these objects," he told AFP.
 
They included cylinder seals, Roman bottles and vases, although Marinello said it was unclear whether the items were still in Syria, were in transit or had arrived in the key markets of Europe and the United States.
 
Concerns about looting during the Syrian war have increased following the advance of the Islamic State group through parts of Syria and Iraq, and recent propaganda videos showing their destruction of ancient sites such as Nimrud.
 
The UN Security Council in February demanded UN states act to stop the trade in cultural property from those two countries, amid warnings that they represented a significant source of funding for the terrorist group.
 
Experts say it is impossible to put a value on antiquities looted from Syria, which has been home to many civilizations through the millennia, from the Canaanites to the Ottomans.
 
The London-based International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) estimates the entire legitimate antiquities market in 2013 was worth between 150 and 200 million euros ($160-215 million).
 
Marinello said reputable dealers are "being very careful not to touch anything that could remotely be part of this recent wave of looting".
 
But Hermann Parzinger, an archaeologist and president of the Germany-based Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, said there was an "enormous market" from private buyers.
 
He warned that the cultural costs were huge, telling AFP: "The context which is so important to reconstruct the history of these civilizations is completely destroyed."
 
Looted items held back
 
Italy has proposed that world heritage body UNESCO create a military taskforce to protect cultural sites in war zones, but many experts believe little can be done to stop the current destruction.
 
Instead, they are forced to wait until the conflict ends and watch in horror as priceless historic sites are destroyed and the spoils gradually
emerge onto the market.
 
Vernon Rapley, a former head of the art and antiquities squad at London's Metropolitan Police, expects many Syrian items to be held back to avoid flooding the market, as occurred after the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
The looted artifacts were likely to be "hauled up in warehouses either in the country or near the country, and only linked to the art trade in small pieces and at a later stage", he told AFP.
 
Stephane Thefo, who leads an Interpol unit dedicated to fighting the illegal trafficking of cultural goods, agreed that many items may disappear for years - but insisted that tackling the trade was the best way to combat looting.
 
The French policeman would like to see tougher national laws on trafficking of cultural goods, something Germany is currently considering.
 
"We have to act by seeking to narrow markets for the illicit trade, hoping that by curbing the demand, the supply would eventually decrease," Thefo said.
 
Identifying heritage items
 
Identifying looted objects is no easy task, however, not least because cultural crime is rarely a police priority.
 
The law puts the onus on the authorities to prove an item is illegal and a long delay in an artifact being sold, or multiple owners, make it hard to establish provenance.
 
At a conference at the V&A museum in London this week on the destruction of cultural property in conflict areas in Iraq and Syria, Mali, Libya and Yemen, archaeologists stressed the need for proper inventories of heritage sites.
 
They noted that objects that have been photographed and digitally catalogued are more likely to be recovered.
 
Interpol is currently building a database of stolen objects, and James Ede, a London dealer and IADAA board member, urged cultural bodies to share their information with dealers.
 
"This material will necessarily surface on the open market sooner or later. The challenge therefore is to identify it and where possible to return it when it is safe to do so," he said.

50 ISIS Hostages Include Ismaili Minorities

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 16 April 2015 22:39
ISIS HostagesJihadist fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) group are holding hostage at least 50 civilians, almost half of them women, seized in a raid on a village in central Syria, a monitor said.
 
They were kidnapped from the village of Mabujeh in Hama province on March 31, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights according to AFP.
 
News of the kidnappings had been kept quiet because of ongoing negotiations for their release, but the talks have since faltered, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
Ten of those taken, including six women, are Ismailis, a minority sect that is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. The remaining 40 are Sunni Muslims, including at least 15 women.
 
"There are fears that the women are being taken as slaves," Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
He said the Ismailis were kidnapped because ISIS considers them "infidels," and that the Sunnis - although from the same sect as ISIS fighters - were taken because ISIS viewed them as "loyal to the Ismailis."
 
Mabujeh, east of the provincial capital Hama, has a population of Sunnis, Ismailis and Alawites, another offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that is the sect of President Bashar al-Assad and his clan.
 
On March 31, ISIS executed at least 37 civilians in Mabujeh, including two children, by "burning, beheading, and firing on them," the Observatory said.
 
ISIS has regularly targeted minority sects in Syria, especially Shi'ites it accuses of apostasy, as well as Sunnis who it alleges have violated its interpretation of Islam.
 
It has also carried out mass kidnappings of Kurds and Assyrian Christians in Syria, and members of the Yazidi faith in neighboring Iraq.
 
In another attack on a minority village in Syria, a car bomb exploded Friday in the Alawite neighborhood of Hay al-Arman in Homs city, the Observatory said.
 
Abdel Rahman told AFP that one child was killed and at least 10 people were wounded in the explosion.
 
He could not specify who was behind the car bomb, but Syrian state television said a "terrorist attack" had struck the area. Abdel Rahman said Hay al-Arman was under regime control and was a "stronghold" of pro-government militias.
 
Alawite areas in Homs have been under attack by jihadists, including a brutal suicide attack at a school in October 2014 that left 54 dead, among them 47 children.
 
In the northern city of Raqa, which ISIS has declared the capital of its self-styled "caliphate," 16 people were killed in a series of regime air strikes on the city and its suburbs.
 
Since Syria's conflict began in 2011, more than 215,000 people have been killed and nearly half the country's population has become displaced.

50 ISIS Hostages Include Ismaili Minorities

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 16 April 2015 22:39
ISIS HostagesJihadist fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) group are holding hostage at least 50 civilians, almost half of them women, seized in a raid on a village in central Syria, a monitor said.
 
They were kidnapped from the village of Mabujeh in Hama province on March 31, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights according to AFP.
 
News of the kidnappings had been kept quiet because of ongoing negotiations for their release, but the talks have since faltered, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
Ten of those taken, including six women, are Ismailis, a minority sect that is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. The remaining 40 are Sunni Muslims, including at least 15 women.
 
"There are fears that the women are being taken as slaves," Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
He said the Ismailis were kidnapped because ISIS considers them "infidels," and that the Sunnis - although from the same sect as ISIS fighters - were taken because ISIS viewed them as "loyal to the Ismailis."
 
Mabujeh, east of the provincial capital Hama, has a population of Sunnis, Ismailis and Alawites, another offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that is the sect of President Bashar al-Assad and his clan.
 
On March 31, ISIS executed at least 37 civilians in Mabujeh, including two children, by "burning, beheading, and firing on them," the Observatory said.
 
ISIS has regularly targeted minority sects in Syria, especially Shi'ites it accuses of apostasy, as well as Sunnis who it alleges have violated its interpretation of Islam.
 
It has also carried out mass kidnappings of Kurds and Assyrian Christians in Syria, and members of the Yazidi faith in neighboring Iraq.
 
In another attack on a minority village in Syria, a car bomb exploded Friday in the Alawite neighborhood of Hay al-Arman in Homs city, the Observatory said.
 
Abdel Rahman told AFP that one child was killed and at least 10 people were wounded in the explosion.
 
He could not specify who was behind the car bomb, but Syrian state television said a "terrorist attack" had struck the area. Abdel Rahman said Hay al-Arman was under regime control and was a "stronghold" of pro-government militias.
 
Alawite areas in Homs have been under attack by jihadists, including a brutal suicide attack at a school in October 2014 that left 54 dead, among them 47 children.
 
In the northern city of Raqa, which ISIS has declared the capital of its self-styled "caliphate," 16 people were killed in a series of regime air strikes on the city and its suburbs.
 
Since Syria's conflict began in 2011, more than 215,000 people have been killed and nearly half the country's population has become displaced.

ISIS Repelled From Key Syrian Military Airport

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 10:19
Strikes-DamascusPro-government forces repelled an attack on a key Syrian military airport by Islamic State (ISIS) group affiliated terrorists, losing 20 fighters but killing almost as many jihadists, a monitor said Saturday.
 
"Militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group attacked the outskirts of the Khalkhalah military airport in Sweida province on Friday," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to AFP.
 
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad maintained control over the airport and its surrounding areas despite losing 20 fighters. At least 15 ISIS jihadists were killed.
 
Syria's official news agency SANA said the army had "blocked attempts from ISIS terrorists to infiltrate" areas near the airport.
 
Khalkhalah lies along a major highway between Damascus and the regime-held city of Sweida, a stronghold of the Druze minority that has largely avoided the bloodshed of Syria's war.
 
The attack on Khalkhalah was the first by ISIS, but the airport has been previously targeted by rebels and Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate. 
 
In March, Syrian rebels and Islamist fighters seized the town of Bosra al-Sham, which is south of Sweida but located along the same highway as Khalkhalah airport.
 
Also on Friday, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate withdrew from a key area along Syria's border with Jordan, the Observatory said.
 
Rebels and the Nusra Front took control of the Nasib crossing in the southern province of Daraa from regime forces last month. Nasib had been under attack by moderate rebel forces, but fell shortly after Nusra joined the ongoing offensive.
 
The jihadists and other rebels held the checkpoint, the duty-free zone between the two crossings, and the customs area. Nusra withdrew from the checkpoint last week and left the other areas Friday.
 
"The other fighters asked them to leave Nasib because they weren't in the fight to begin with," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Kurds counter ISIS offensive
 
ISIS terrorists were also fought back in the northeast province of Hasakeh, where Kurdish militia took on the extremist group in bloody clashes Friday night.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) "retook at least four checkpoints and a number of neighborhoods" around the town of Tal Tamr, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
He said the Kurds had launched a "counter-offensive" against an ISIS assault on the town that began in February, adding that in the past 24 hours, seven YPG fighters and 24 ISIS terrorists were killed.
 
Though small, Tal Tamr has strategic value because it lies on a road that runs east across the Iraqi border to ISIS's bastion in Mosul, as well as north to the Turkish border.
 
ISIS has seized over a dozen villages around Tal Tamr, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the group was attacking the town to make up for losses in other parts of Hasakeh.
 
The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq also conducted air strikes on ISIS positions around Tal Tamr on Friday, he added.
 
The coalition began targeting ISIS around the town last month after Kurdish forces appealed for international action, and has provided air support for the YPG elsewhere in northern Syria, including the flashpoint border town of Kobane.
 
In the northern city of Aleppo, at least five people were killed and dozens wounded in rocket attacks Saturday on the Christian neighborhood of Suleimaniyah.
 
"The death toll will likely rise as there are a number of people in critical condition," Abdel Rahman said.
 
State television reported the attack but said "terrorist shelling" had killed eight people. Government forces regularly pound rebel-held areas from the air, and opposition fighters fire rockets and mortar rounds into regime-controlled neighborhoods.
 
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria's four-year war.

ISIS Repelled From Key Syrian Military Airport

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 10:19
Strikes-DamascusPro-government forces repelled an attack on a key Syrian military airport by Islamic State (ISIS) group affiliated terrorists, losing 20 fighters but killing almost as many jihadists, a monitor said Saturday.
 
"Militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group attacked the outskirts of the Khalkhalah military airport in Sweida province on Friday," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to AFP.
 
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad maintained control over the airport and its surrounding areas despite losing 20 fighters. At least 15 ISIS jihadists were killed.
 
Syria's official news agency SANA said the army had "blocked attempts from ISIS terrorists to infiltrate" areas near the airport.
 
Khalkhalah lies along a major highway between Damascus and the regime-held city of Sweida, a stronghold of the Druze minority that has largely avoided the bloodshed of Syria's war.
 
The attack on Khalkhalah was the first by ISIS, but the airport has been previously targeted by rebels and Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate. 
 
In March, Syrian rebels and Islamist fighters seized the town of Bosra al-Sham, which is south of Sweida but located along the same highway as Khalkhalah airport.
 
Also on Friday, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate withdrew from a key area along Syria's border with Jordan, the Observatory said.
 
Rebels and the Nusra Front took control of the Nasib crossing in the southern province of Daraa from regime forces last month. Nasib had been under attack by moderate rebel forces, but fell shortly after Nusra joined the ongoing offensive.
 
The jihadists and other rebels held the checkpoint, the duty-free zone between the two crossings, and the customs area. Nusra withdrew from the checkpoint last week and left the other areas Friday.
 
"The other fighters asked them to leave Nasib because they weren't in the fight to begin with," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Kurds counter ISIS offensive
 
ISIS terrorists were also fought back in the northeast province of Hasakeh, where Kurdish militia took on the extremist group in bloody clashes Friday night.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) "retook at least four checkpoints and a number of neighborhoods" around the town of Tal Tamr, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
He said the Kurds had launched a "counter-offensive" against an ISIS assault on the town that began in February, adding that in the past 24 hours, seven YPG fighters and 24 ISIS terrorists were killed.
 
Though small, Tal Tamr has strategic value because it lies on a road that runs east across the Iraqi border to ISIS's bastion in Mosul, as well as north to the Turkish border.
 
ISIS has seized over a dozen villages around Tal Tamr, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the group was attacking the town to make up for losses in other parts of Hasakeh.
 
The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq also conducted air strikes on ISIS positions around Tal Tamr on Friday, he added.
 
The coalition began targeting ISIS around the town last month after Kurdish forces appealed for international action, and has provided air support for the YPG elsewhere in northern Syria, including the flashpoint border town of Kobane.
 
In the northern city of Aleppo, at least five people were killed and dozens wounded in rocket attacks Saturday on the Christian neighborhood of Suleimaniyah.
 
"The death toll will likely rise as there are a number of people in critical condition," Abdel Rahman said.
 
State television reported the attack but said "terrorist shelling" had killed eight people. Government forces regularly pound rebel-held areas from the air, and opposition fighters fire rockets and mortar rounds into regime-controlled neighborhoods.
 
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria's four-year war.

Palestinian Yarmouk Forces Unite with Syrian Regime to Beat ISIS

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 11 April 2015 05:55
Palestinian YarmoukA group of 14 Palestinian Arab factions said Thursday they backed a joint military operation with the Syrian government to expel Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists from the Yarmouk neighborhood of southern Damascus.
 
After a meeting of the factions in the Syrian capital, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Ahmed Majdalani said the groups supported a coordinated military effort in the camp.
 
The factions support "a security solution that will be carried out in partnership with the Syrian state and will have as its priority maintaining the security of citizens," said PLO official Ahmed Majdalani, according to AFP.
 
"We agreed that there would be permanent cooperation with the Syrian leadership and the formation of a joint operations room with Syrian government forces and the Palestinian factions that have a significant presence in the camp or around it."
 
Majdalani added that Palestinian Arab forces would work in an "integrated" fashion "with the Syrian state to clear the camp of terrorists."
 
But it was unclear whether that position was shared by the Palestinian Arab fighters on the ground inside the camp.
 
The key Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis group fighting ISIS inside Yarmuk was not present at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.
 
The group is opposed to the Syrian government and has cooperated with rebel fighters against ISIS jihadists inside Yarmouk since the extremist organization entered the camp on April 1.
 
The Islamist terrorist group Hamas also did not attend the meeting, an official told AFP.
 
"Refugee camp?"
 
Majdalani said Palestinian Arab backing for a military operation was dependent on any action protecting civilian lives and infrastructure in the battered neighborhood.
 
"The action must take into account the lives of the camp's citizens and avoid massive destruction. It will be carried out in a progressive fashion," he said.
 
There were no further details on when any operation might take place and who would participate.
 
The ISIS conquest of Yarmouk has been garnering widespread media coverage, with the news generally referring to it as a "Palestinian refugee camp" - despite the fact that it was a normative and prosperous Damascus neighborhood.
 
The neighborhood is largely under the influence of Hamas, with senior officials of the terrorist group being among those targeted for executions and beheadings by the ISIS forces who have captured Yarmouk in recent days.
 
In response, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime has offered the Palestinian Arab forces in Yarmouk military aid in trying to repel ISIS from the neighborhood.
 
The move came after the the PLO sent a delegation to Syria to build support for Yarmouk.
 
"Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push ISIS out of the camp," said PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi earlier this week.

Palestinian Yarmouk Forces Unite with Syrian Regime to Beat ISIS

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 11 April 2015 05:55
Palestinian YarmoukA group of 14 Palestinian Arab factions said Thursday they backed a joint military operation with the Syrian government to expel Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists from the Yarmouk neighborhood of southern Damascus.
 
After a meeting of the factions in the Syrian capital, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Ahmed Majdalani said the groups supported a coordinated military effort in the camp.
 
The factions support "a security solution that will be carried out in partnership with the Syrian state and will have as its priority maintaining the security of citizens," said PLO official Ahmed Majdalani, according to AFP.
 
"We agreed that there would be permanent cooperation with the Syrian leadership and the formation of a joint operations room with Syrian government forces and the Palestinian factions that have a significant presence in the camp or around it."
 
Majdalani added that Palestinian Arab forces would work in an "integrated" fashion "with the Syrian state to clear the camp of terrorists."
 
But it was unclear whether that position was shared by the Palestinian Arab fighters on the ground inside the camp.
 
The key Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis group fighting ISIS inside Yarmuk was not present at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.
 
The group is opposed to the Syrian government and has cooperated with rebel fighters against ISIS jihadists inside Yarmouk since the extremist organization entered the camp on April 1.
 
The Islamist terrorist group Hamas also did not attend the meeting, an official told AFP.
 
"Refugee camp?"
 
Majdalani said Palestinian Arab backing for a military operation was dependent on any action protecting civilian lives and infrastructure in the battered neighborhood.
 
"The action must take into account the lives of the camp's citizens and avoid massive destruction. It will be carried out in a progressive fashion," he said.
 
There were no further details on when any operation might take place and who would participate.
 
The ISIS conquest of Yarmouk has been garnering widespread media coverage, with the news generally referring to it as a "Palestinian refugee camp" - despite the fact that it was a normative and prosperous Damascus neighborhood.
 
The neighborhood is largely under the influence of Hamas, with senior officials of the terrorist group being among those targeted for executions and beheadings by the ISIS forces who have captured Yarmouk in recent days.
 
In response, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime has offered the Palestinian Arab forces in Yarmouk military aid in trying to repel ISIS from the neighborhood.
 
The move came after the the PLO sent a delegation to Syria to build support for Yarmouk.
 
"Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push ISIS out of the camp," said PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi earlier this week.

Syria's Latest Blow on Lebanon: Goat Plague

Category: Press Releases
Created on Friday, 10 April 2015 12:08
Goat PlagueThe UN has launched an emergency vaccination campaign against lumpy skin disease and goat plague among animals brought to Lebanon by refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, a report said Thursday.
 
Some of the 1.5 million refugees have brought with them large numbers of unvaccinated sheep, goats, cattle and other animals, raising concerns over the spread of high impact animal diseases, the UN's food agency said according to AFP.
 
The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it was carrying out the second phase of "a campaign to immunize as much of the country's livestock as possible, with a target of vaccinating all animals."
 
"As many as 70,000 cows and around 900,000 sheep and goats could be exposed to transboundary diseases if left untreated, according to Lebanon's ministry for agriculture," the report said.
 
The campaign aims to reduce the number of animals dying from preventable diseases in rural areas in particular, where natural resources are already strained by the spill-over effects from the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
 
Some of the animal diseases are highly contagious and can spread extremely rapidly, causing high mortality and morbidity in animals, with serious socio-economic consequences and possible public health repercussions, FAO said.
 
"The three most prevalent animal diseases detected in Lebanon include lumpy skin disease, foot-and-mouth disease and peste des petits ruminants, also known as 'goat plague', which is highly contagious," it said.
 
FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) pledged earlier this month to eradicate sheep and goat plague - which causes fever, mouth sores, diarrhea and often leads to a swift death - by 2030.
 
The stress being placed on Lebanon's "natural resources and food production systems is particularly worrying...with more people than ever before now in need of animal protein and milk," FAO said.
 
According to the UN, Lebanon now has the highest per capita ratio of refugees in the world, accounting for a quarter of the population - and their arrival has seen unemployment figures double.
 
The vaccination project - funded by Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) - follows an initial program last year which was credited with stopping any widespread animal disease outbreaks.

Syria's Latest Blow on Lebanon: Goat Plague

Category: Press Releases
Created on Friday, 10 April 2015 12:08
Goat PlagueThe UN has launched an emergency vaccination campaign against lumpy skin disease and goat plague among animals brought to Lebanon by refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, a report said Thursday.
 
Some of the 1.5 million refugees have brought with them large numbers of unvaccinated sheep, goats, cattle and other animals, raising concerns over the spread of high impact animal diseases, the UN's food agency said according to AFP.
 
The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it was carrying out the second phase of "a campaign to immunize as much of the country's livestock as possible, with a target of vaccinating all animals."
 
"As many as 70,000 cows and around 900,000 sheep and goats could be exposed to transboundary diseases if left untreated, according to Lebanon's ministry for agriculture," the report said.
 
The campaign aims to reduce the number of animals dying from preventable diseases in rural areas in particular, where natural resources are already strained by the spill-over effects from the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
 
Some of the animal diseases are highly contagious and can spread extremely rapidly, causing high mortality and morbidity in animals, with serious socio-economic consequences and possible public health repercussions, FAO said.
 
"The three most prevalent animal diseases detected in Lebanon include lumpy skin disease, foot-and-mouth disease and peste des petits ruminants, also known as 'goat plague', which is highly contagious," it said.
 
FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) pledged earlier this month to eradicate sheep and goat plague - which causes fever, mouth sores, diarrhea and often leads to a swift death - by 2030.
 
The stress being placed on Lebanon's "natural resources and food production systems is particularly worrying...with more people than ever before now in need of animal protein and milk," FAO said.
 
According to the UN, Lebanon now has the highest per capita ratio of refugees in the world, accounting for a quarter of the population - and their arrival has seen unemployment figures double.
 
The vaccination project - funded by Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) - follows an initial program last year which was credited with stopping any widespread animal disease outbreaks.

Syrian Kurdish Leader: Break Syria Up into Separate States

Category: News
Created on Friday, 10 April 2015 09:40
Syrian KurdsSherkoh Abbas is a busy man. Residing in Washington D.C., he has the colossal job of lobbying for a state that does not yet exist – Syrian Kurdistan, a.k.a. Rojava. He is the Chairman of the Kurdistan National Assembly, an umbrella group of Kurdish organizations, political parties and civil leaders. Much like other exile groups in the past who have advocated in Washington, he has pushed hard for his people’s autonomy, if not independence.
 
“Our umbrella group came to the conclusion back in 2006 that Syria’s Kurds need to establish a federal region similar to the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),” says Abbas, “to make Syria into a democratic federal state. A Kurdish region would enable Kurdish rights.”
 
Mr. Abbas went on to describe a philosophy of neutrality for such a region that seemed to reflect some of the goals declared by Israel’s own declaration of Independence.
 
“Our philosophy is compatible with a free market economy and Western values. It calls for good relations with Western nations, plus economic relations and friendly ties in the region with no meddling in the affairs of the rest of region. We are more concerned with the affairs of Syrian Kurds.”
 
Past exilic leaders have become major players in Middle Eastern politics. Ahmed Chalabi lobbied for regime change in Iraq for years before the 2003 American invasion, quickly rising up the ranks to become one of the first governors of post-Saddam Iraq. Abbas personally emphasizes that his community is still trying to establish its name abroad.
 
“It’s important to be here in Washington to focus on building relations for Syrian Kurds and the rest of Syrians as well; we also have other representatives and members in Europe doing the same. We see our job as bringing the support of international community and to communicate that we Kurds share the same values of stability, peace and democracy and preventing radical groups from gaining a foothold in the area.”
 
2006 was the original point when Mr. Abbas’ Assembly announced its position that Syria should be modeled on the new Iraq and federalized. But given the four years of civil war, Abbas admitted that that initial vision was likely unrealistic at this point when asked by Arutz Sheva.
 
“We initially had a vision of regime change where the country would become a democratic and federalist Syria with Kurdish, Alawite, Druze and several Sunni governments to bring it closer to the 1930s model when there would be five major regions.”
 
Abbas refers to the original French mandate for Syria after World War I. Basing borders off ethnic divisions, France created six separate regions. One of those was a Christian enclave that later became independent Lebanon. Another was the province of Alexandretta – Hatay – later annexed to Turkey. The rest of Syria included a Druze state in the south, an Alawite state on the coast, and separated north and south with capitals in Damascus and Aleppo. In Abbas’ scenario, the Kurds would get their own autonomy and the number of federated regions might be open for discussion.
 
“Syria is going in a direction that makes it difficult to establish such a state but it doesn't prevent the idea of establishing a federal Kurdish region. Even Henry Kissinger says Syria is a failed state that should be allowed to break up.”
 
While he advocates the Alawite population – who form the bulk of the regime’s upper echelon and military ranks – should also get its own regional government, he does not skip over the issue that the likely administrators of that region would be detested by a large number of Syrians. It is the current regime that is amplifying visceral hatred against the sect.
 
“The Alawites have controlled Syria and have too much blood on their hands – if the Sunnis win they would slaughter the Alawites and the Alawites have been doing whatever it can to retain its power.”
 
“In our view the political formula the State Department calls for is impossible. This is a regime that has killed 250,000 people and displaced more than half of Syria. Working with radical Islamists like ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra is also impossible.”
 
“It makes sense in the long run to protect rights of Alawites, Kurds and Druze by establishing federal regions for them. This is the only way you can have a solution. Anything contrary to that would fail.”
 
But Abbas sees a future where the sides have to come to some sort of arrangement in order to end that bloodshed. While he hints strongly at the likelihood these regions would probably become independent states, he does not dismiss the more established idea of his organization to form a confederation of ethnoreligious regions.
 
“We need to find way to work together in a very loose confederation,” says Abbas. He says this arrangement also benefits the various powers invested in Syria by “protecting the interests of Alawites and their allies in Russia, Iran and Hezbollah; the Kurds, the Druze and their allies the US, the West and Israel; Sunnis the other Arab Sunni states.”
 
“What Obama's done for Iraq since taking office has not worked and will never work. At this point we need to ask, ‘How do we make sure each group has the protection it needs?’”
 
When asked if this arrangement was meant to preserve a semblance of a single country or if every region would be viewed as virtually independent states by the world (with their own representation in international forums and separate voting in places like the United Nations), Abbas pointed out that the issue was not yet relevant because the international community was not invested enough in the situation to help inform on that question.
 
“The international community itself buries its head in the sand,” says Abbas, who suggests that drawing out the war just to have a situation that would enable a strong central government merely “prolongs and creates more radicalization. These people have gone years and will go longer with no education and destroyed lives. The only thing they know is violence. It is important for the international community to do their job and find a way.”
 
“Ensuring that there will be no punishment and each group rules itself. We can have a very loose, decentralized and confederal Syria. Each group would be king of its own area. General resources (among the regions) would be shared according to some formula.”
 
Abbas adds that the Western – particularly the Obama Administration’s – view to establish a clear winner is hopeless. Partition or confederation is a much more realistic and painless option in his opinion.
 
“It would establish a winner in a sense that each group needs to compromise and share power.”

Syrian Kurdish Leader: Break Syria Up into Separate States

Category: News
Created on Friday, 10 April 2015 09:40
Syrian KurdsSherkoh Abbas is a busy man. Residing in Washington D.C., he has the colossal job of lobbying for a state that does not yet exist – Syrian Kurdistan, a.k.a. Rojava. He is the Chairman of the Kurdistan National Assembly, an umbrella group of Kurdish organizations, political parties and civil leaders. Much like other exile groups in the past who have advocated in Washington, he has pushed hard for his people’s autonomy, if not independence.
 
“Our umbrella group came to the conclusion back in 2006 that Syria’s Kurds need to establish a federal region similar to the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),” says Abbas, “to make Syria into a democratic federal state. A Kurdish region would enable Kurdish rights.”
 
Mr. Abbas went on to describe a philosophy of neutrality for such a region that seemed to reflect some of the goals declared by Israel’s own declaration of Independence.
 
“Our philosophy is compatible with a free market economy and Western values. It calls for good relations with Western nations, plus economic relations and friendly ties in the region with no meddling in the affairs of the rest of region. We are more concerned with the affairs of Syrian Kurds.”
 
Past exilic leaders have become major players in Middle Eastern politics. Ahmed Chalabi lobbied for regime change in Iraq for years before the 2003 American invasion, quickly rising up the ranks to become one of the first governors of post-Saddam Iraq. Abbas personally emphasizes that his community is still trying to establish its name abroad.
 
“It’s important to be here in Washington to focus on building relations for Syrian Kurds and the rest of Syrians as well; we also have other representatives and members in Europe doing the same. We see our job as bringing the support of international community and to communicate that we Kurds share the same values of stability, peace and democracy and preventing radical groups from gaining a foothold in the area.”
 
2006 was the original point when Mr. Abbas’ Assembly announced its position that Syria should be modeled on the new Iraq and federalized. But given the four years of civil war, Abbas admitted that that initial vision was likely unrealistic at this point when asked by Arutz Sheva.
 
“We initially had a vision of regime change where the country would become a democratic and federalist Syria with Kurdish, Alawite, Druze and several Sunni governments to bring it closer to the 1930s model when there would be five major regions.”
 
Abbas refers to the original French mandate for Syria after World War I. Basing borders off ethnic divisions, France created six separate regions. One of those was a Christian enclave that later became independent Lebanon. Another was the province of Alexandretta – Hatay – later annexed to Turkey. The rest of Syria included a Druze state in the south, an Alawite state on the coast, and separated north and south with capitals in Damascus and Aleppo. In Abbas’ scenario, the Kurds would get their own autonomy and the number of federated regions might be open for discussion.
 
“Syria is going in a direction that makes it difficult to establish such a state but it doesn't prevent the idea of establishing a federal Kurdish region. Even Henry Kissinger says Syria is a failed state that should be allowed to break up.”
 
While he advocates the Alawite population – who form the bulk of the regime’s upper echelon and military ranks – should also get its own regional government, he does not skip over the issue that the likely administrators of that region would be detested by a large number of Syrians. It is the current regime that is amplifying visceral hatred against the sect.
 
“The Alawites have controlled Syria and have too much blood on their hands – if the Sunnis win they would slaughter the Alawites and the Alawites have been doing whatever it can to retain its power.”
 
“In our view the political formula the State Department calls for is impossible. This is a regime that has killed 250,000 people and displaced more than half of Syria. Working with radical Islamists like ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra is also impossible.”
 
“It makes sense in the long run to protect rights of Alawites, Kurds and Druze by establishing federal regions for them. This is the only way you can have a solution. Anything contrary to that would fail.”
 
But Abbas sees a future where the sides have to come to some sort of arrangement in order to end that bloodshed. While he hints strongly at the likelihood these regions would probably become independent states, he does not dismiss the more established idea of his organization to form a confederation of ethnoreligious regions.
 
“We need to find way to work together in a very loose confederation,” says Abbas. He says this arrangement also benefits the various powers invested in Syria by “protecting the interests of Alawites and their allies in Russia, Iran and Hezbollah; the Kurds, the Druze and their allies the US, the West and Israel; Sunnis the other Arab Sunni states.”
 
“What Obama's done for Iraq since taking office has not worked and will never work. At this point we need to ask, ‘How do we make sure each group has the protection it needs?’”
 
When asked if this arrangement was meant to preserve a semblance of a single country or if every region would be viewed as virtually independent states by the world (with their own representation in international forums and separate voting in places like the United Nations), Abbas pointed out that the issue was not yet relevant because the international community was not invested enough in the situation to help inform on that question.
 
“The international community itself buries its head in the sand,” says Abbas, who suggests that drawing out the war just to have a situation that would enable a strong central government merely “prolongs and creates more radicalization. These people have gone years and will go longer with no education and destroyed lives. The only thing they know is violence. It is important for the international community to do their job and find a way.”
 
“Ensuring that there will be no punishment and each group rules itself. We can have a very loose, decentralized and confederal Syria. Each group would be king of its own area. General resources (among the regions) would be shared according to some formula.”
 
Abbas adds that the Western – particularly the Obama Administration’s – view to establish a clear winner is hopeless. Partition or confederation is a much more realistic and painless option in his opinion.
 
“It would establish a winner in a sense that each group needs to compromise and share power.”

Christians Struggle to Maintain Legacy versus ISIS

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 08:47
220 assyrians abductedAmid the ISIS assault on Iraq, minorities have borne the brunt. One of those groups is Iraq’s Christians, who before the 2003 US invasion were spread throughout the country with a sizeable community in the northwest.  
 
The majority of Iraqi Christians come from the Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean churches with affiliations mainly to the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most other denominations have had a presence in Iraq, but have never overtaken these Churches, which are among the oldest in the world.
 
But many of those Christian areas have been in the crosshairs of last year’s sweeping military advances by ISIS.
 
“In all towns and villages where ISIS rules, the Christian population has disappeared," says Julie Lenarz, Executive Director of the Human Security Centre.
 
"Qaraqosh, a historic Assyrian city, was home to the largest Christian population in Iraq with approximately 50,000 members. Now the city is virtually devoid of its Christian population.”
 
This is not the first time a Muslim conquest has produced trouble for Christians there. In the early 1500s, the infamous Tamerlane swept through the area and beheaded an estimated 70,000 Christians in Tikrit and 90,000 in Baghdad. With that perspective, ISIS has not represented such a catastrophe – yet.
 
“When ISIS took control of Mosul, roughly 20,000 Christians initially stayed, but after the group issued an ultimatum – convert, flee or die – the remaining Christians had no other choice but to leave as well.”
 
“As well as attacks on Christians, there have also been attacks on Christian sites of worship, with deep historical value, particularly to the Assyrian community.”
 
Just last month, ISIS destroyed the Mar Behnam Monastery near the town of Beth Khdeda near the Kurdish border. The monastery had been built in the 4th century to memorialize a Christian martyr. This past Easter Sunday, ISIS also destroyed a church in the Syrian Kurdish (Rojava) city of al-Hasakah. The destruction of Christian heritage, both ancient and modern, is just bricks and mortar. Iraq and Syria over the last 12 years represent merely the latest iterations of existential threats to the Middle Eastern Christian rites.
 
“Less than 1% of the global Christian population lives in the Middle East and, as a result of discrimination, persecution and war, the proportion of Christians in the region has dropped from around 20% at the start of the 20th century to around 5% today. What we are witnessing now is only the latest phase of something that has been going for many decades.”
 
Christianity has been literally decimated by the onslaught in Iraq starting in 2003, then the Syrian Civil War which forced many resettled Iraqi refugees to return to northern Iraq in time for the current assault by ISIS.
 
“The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from approximately 1.5 million prior to the US-led intervention in 2003 to 350,000-450,000 (data is unreliable and some estimate as low as 150,000). Many Christians had originally fled to Syria, but the civil war forced them to return to Iraq.”
 
“However, Christianity will not be eradicated in the Middle East,” says Lenarz. Judging by the moves many of them have made, Christians will remain in the region.
 
“Kurdistan currently host over 100,000 Christian refugees from other parts of the country and Lebanon has announced it will take in an additional 5000 Christian refugees.”
 
Perhaps under the radar of Western media, a large portion of the community has escaped to other parts of the Arab World. Many have gone to the Persian Gulf, where the economy and even the culture is far more open.
 
“The Gulf states, where religious minorities can practice their faith in relative freedom, have seen their Christian population surge from basically nothing a century ago to 10-13 percent and the trend is believed to continue.”
 
Most Christians hail from the Nineveh region in northern Iraq on the border between the Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq. Nineveh was once the capital of the historic Assyrian Empire, now the epicentre of an embattled Christian culture.
 
Yet, there are apparently silver linings in the storm clouds that are the region’s sectarianism.
 
“In the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq - a traditionally Christian part of the country where over 30,000 members of the community were forced to flee from ISIS – a Christian militia has been established which goes by the name of Nineveh Plains Protection Units (NPU).”
 
“It is approximately 4,000 men strong, is allied to the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Peshmerga, receives funds from the Assyrian diaspora abroad and training from a private American security company.”
 
The Assyrian International News Agency reports that number might be as high as 5,500. Dr. Duraid Tobiya Zoma, an Assyrian and former adviser to the Governor of occupied Mosul, has said that to end Christians’ marginalization in the unified Iraq in the future that Assyrians “are requesting an autonomous region for Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain to protect them as the indigenous people, who are being extremely affected by ISIS.”
 
Despite attempts to organize the community to defend itself, the signs of a shifting future are already clear. This past Sunday’s Easter was one of emptiness for the community in a way not experienced in centuries.
 
“For the first time in 1600 years, no Christmas and Easter masses were celebrated in Mosul.”

Christians Struggle to Maintain Legacy versus ISIS

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 08:47
220 assyrians abductedAmid the ISIS assault on Iraq, minorities have borne the brunt. One of those groups is Iraq’s Christians, who before the 2003 US invasion were spread throughout the country with a sizeable community in the northwest.  
 
The majority of Iraqi Christians come from the Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean churches with affiliations mainly to the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most other denominations have had a presence in Iraq, but have never overtaken these Churches, which are among the oldest in the world.
 
But many of those Christian areas have been in the crosshairs of last year’s sweeping military advances by ISIS.
 
“In all towns and villages where ISIS rules, the Christian population has disappeared," says Julie Lenarz, Executive Director of the Human Security Centre.
 
"Qaraqosh, a historic Assyrian city, was home to the largest Christian population in Iraq with approximately 50,000 members. Now the city is virtually devoid of its Christian population.”
 
This is not the first time a Muslim conquest has produced trouble for Christians there. In the early 1500s, the infamous Tamerlane swept through the area and beheaded an estimated 70,000 Christians in Tikrit and 90,000 in Baghdad. With that perspective, ISIS has not represented such a catastrophe – yet.
 
“When ISIS took control of Mosul, roughly 20,000 Christians initially stayed, but after the group issued an ultimatum – convert, flee or die – the remaining Christians had no other choice but to leave as well.”
 
“As well as attacks on Christians, there have also been attacks on Christian sites of worship, with deep historical value, particularly to the Assyrian community.”
 
Just last month, ISIS destroyed the Mar Behnam Monastery near the town of Beth Khdeda near the Kurdish border. The monastery had been built in the 4th century to memorialize a Christian martyr. This past Easter Sunday, ISIS also destroyed a church in the Syrian Kurdish (Rojava) city of al-Hasakah. The destruction of Christian heritage, both ancient and modern, is just bricks and mortar. Iraq and Syria over the last 12 years represent merely the latest iterations of existential threats to the Middle Eastern Christian rites.
 
“Less than 1% of the global Christian population lives in the Middle East and, as a result of discrimination, persecution and war, the proportion of Christians in the region has dropped from around 20% at the start of the 20th century to around 5% today. What we are witnessing now is only the latest phase of something that has been going for many decades.”
 
Christianity has been literally decimated by the onslaught in Iraq starting in 2003, then the Syrian Civil War which forced many resettled Iraqi refugees to return to northern Iraq in time for the current assault by ISIS.
 
“The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from approximately 1.5 million prior to the US-led intervention in 2003 to 350,000-450,000 (data is unreliable and some estimate as low as 150,000). Many Christians had originally fled to Syria, but the civil war forced them to return to Iraq.”
 
“However, Christianity will not be eradicated in the Middle East,” says Lenarz. Judging by the moves many of them have made, Christians will remain in the region.
 
“Kurdistan currently host over 100,000 Christian refugees from other parts of the country and Lebanon has announced it will take in an additional 5000 Christian refugees.”
 
Perhaps under the radar of Western media, a large portion of the community has escaped to other parts of the Arab World. Many have gone to the Persian Gulf, where the economy and even the culture is far more open.
 
“The Gulf states, where religious minorities can practice their faith in relative freedom, have seen their Christian population surge from basically nothing a century ago to 10-13 percent and the trend is believed to continue.”
 
Most Christians hail from the Nineveh region in northern Iraq on the border between the Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq. Nineveh was once the capital of the historic Assyrian Empire, now the epicentre of an embattled Christian culture.
 
Yet, there are apparently silver linings in the storm clouds that are the region’s sectarianism.
 
“In the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq - a traditionally Christian part of the country where over 30,000 members of the community were forced to flee from ISIS – a Christian militia has been established which goes by the name of Nineveh Plains Protection Units (NPU).”
 
“It is approximately 4,000 men strong, is allied to the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Peshmerga, receives funds from the Assyrian diaspora abroad and training from a private American security company.”
 
The Assyrian International News Agency reports that number might be as high as 5,500. Dr. Duraid Tobiya Zoma, an Assyrian and former adviser to the Governor of occupied Mosul, has said that to end Christians’ marginalization in the unified Iraq in the future that Assyrians “are requesting an autonomous region for Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain to protect them as the indigenous people, who are being extremely affected by ISIS.”
 
Despite attempts to organize the community to defend itself, the signs of a shifting future are already clear. This past Sunday’s Easter was one of emptiness for the community in a way not experienced in centuries.
 
“For the first time in 1600 years, no Christmas and Easter masses were celebrated in Mosul.”

Syria: Islamists Kidnap 300 Kurdish Civilians

Category: News
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 19:30
Islamists Kidnap CiviliansIslamist fighters on Monday kidnapped some 300 Kurdish civilians at a checkpoint in northwestern Syria, Kurdish officials and a local journalist told AFP.
 
It was not immediately clear which group was responsible for the kidnapping, though Kurdish officials accused Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which is active in Idlib province.
 
"A group of 300 people on five coaches and a mini-bus coming from Afrin were kidnapped at a checkpoint as they went to Aleppo to collect their salaries," said Newaf Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union
Party (PYD).
 
The kidnapping was confirmed by a second official from the PYD, the main Kurdish party in Syria, and a journalist in Afrin, who said the women in the group had been freed but the men and children taken.
 
"There were 300 people on five buses, and they were kidnapped in Dana, which is under the control of Islamist factions and Al-Nusra Front," said journalist Ali Abdul Rahman.
 
The PYD officials accused Al-Nusra of being behind the kidnapping, but Abdul Rahman and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said it remained unclear which group was responsible.
 
The Observatory reported similar details on the kidnapping, but said it was not immediately clear how many people were being held.
 
The Observatory said the captors had demanded, through the released women, that three men arrested by authorities in Afrin be freed.
 
There was no immediate confirmation of those demands from PYD officials or residents of Afrin, which is under Kurdish control.
 
The kidnapping occurred in northwestern Idlib province, where Al-Nusra and its allies wield considerable influence.
 
The Al-Qaeda affiliate helped capture the provincial capital Idlib city on March 28 along with a coalition of other opposition groups.
 
The incident is not the first mass kidnapping in Syria, where large groups of Kurds and Christians have been held, mostly by Al-Nusra's extremist rival, the Islamic State group.
 
ISIS fighters are accused of kidnapping over 200 Assyrian Christians from Hasakeh province, and last year held more than 150 Kurdish schoolchildren kidnapped in Aleppo province.
 
Al-Nusra has also been implicated in kidnappings.
 
It has been accused of holding journalists and aid workers and in 2013 kidnapped a group of 13 nuns who were later released in a prisoner exchange.
 
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-regime protests that spiralled into a bloody civil war after a government crackdown.

Syria: Islamists Kidnap 300 Kurdish Civilians

Category: News
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 19:30
Islamists Kidnap CiviliansIslamist fighters on Monday kidnapped some 300 Kurdish civilians at a checkpoint in northwestern Syria, Kurdish officials and a local journalist told AFP.
 
It was not immediately clear which group was responsible for the kidnapping, though Kurdish officials accused Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which is active in Idlib province.
 
"A group of 300 people on five coaches and a mini-bus coming from Afrin were kidnapped at a checkpoint as they went to Aleppo to collect their salaries," said Newaf Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union
Party (PYD).
 
The kidnapping was confirmed by a second official from the PYD, the main Kurdish party in Syria, and a journalist in Afrin, who said the women in the group had been freed but the men and children taken.
 
"There were 300 people on five buses, and they were kidnapped in Dana, which is under the control of Islamist factions and Al-Nusra Front," said journalist Ali Abdul Rahman.
 
The PYD officials accused Al-Nusra of being behind the kidnapping, but Abdul Rahman and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said it remained unclear which group was responsible.
 
The Observatory reported similar details on the kidnapping, but said it was not immediately clear how many people were being held.
 
The Observatory said the captors had demanded, through the released women, that three men arrested by authorities in Afrin be freed.
 
There was no immediate confirmation of those demands from PYD officials or residents of Afrin, which is under Kurdish control.
 
The kidnapping occurred in northwestern Idlib province, where Al-Nusra and its allies wield considerable influence.
 
The Al-Qaeda affiliate helped capture the provincial capital Idlib city on March 28 along with a coalition of other opposition groups.
 
The incident is not the first mass kidnapping in Syria, where large groups of Kurds and Christians have been held, mostly by Al-Nusra's extremist rival, the Islamic State group.
 
ISIS fighters are accused of kidnapping over 200 Assyrian Christians from Hasakeh province, and last year held more than 150 Kurdish schoolchildren kidnapped in Aleppo province.
 
Al-Nusra has also been implicated in kidnappings.
 
It has been accused of holding journalists and aid workers and in 2013 kidnapped a group of 13 nuns who were later released in a prisoner exchange.
 
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-regime protests that spiralled into a bloody civil war after a government crackdown.

ISIS Beheads Senior Hamas Operative in Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 12:29
isis-beheading-syriaAmong the Palestinian Arab fighters beheaded by the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) in Damascus's Yarmouk camp was a senior Hamas figure in Syria, according to emerging reports.
 
On Saturday, senior Israel Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toumeh posted a graphic image which appeared to show the severed head of Sheikh Abu Salah Taha, held aloft by an ISIS fighter in Yarmouk.
 
ISIS has been involved in fierce clashes inside the camp since Wednesday, as it seeks to wrest control of it from Palestinian Islamist rebels aligned with Hamas.
 
As of Sunday morning, ISIS were said to be in control of between 50-90% of Yarmouk, according to various reports. The takeover of the camp - located at the southern edge of the Syrian capital - is the closest ISIS has come to the heart of the Assad regime. Even more alarming for the regime are reports that ISIS's Yarmouk offensive was made possible with the cooperation of the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria, which until now has been involved in a bloody rivalry of its own with ISIS.
 
Concerns over the possibility of further jihadi advances into Damascus have even reportedly spurred the regime into making the unprecedented move of facilitating military aid to rebels inside the camp to fend off the ISIS assault.
 
Yarmouk has been under siege by government forces for nearly two years, with some 18,000 civilians still trapped inside, and the regime is currently in control of its northernmost areas, to block off any rebel advances further into the capital. Around 2,000 of those remaining civilians have been evacuated over the weekend as the fighting worsens, according to Palestinian sources.
 
Regime airstrikes have also been witnessed in the past several hours, although as yet there is no word on any casualties.
 
Despite that ISIS appears to have the upper hand, and has reportedly set about beheading Palestinian fighters and civilians alike in areas under its control in a grisly campaign of retribution, posting evidence of its atrocities online.

ISIS Beheads Senior Hamas Operative in Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 12:29
isis-beheading-syriaAmong the Palestinian Arab fighters beheaded by the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) in Damascus's Yarmouk camp was a senior Hamas figure in Syria, according to emerging reports.
 
On Saturday, senior Israel Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toumeh posted a graphic image which appeared to show the severed head of Sheikh Abu Salah Taha, held aloft by an ISIS fighter in Yarmouk.
 
ISIS has been involved in fierce clashes inside the camp since Wednesday, as it seeks to wrest control of it from Palestinian Islamist rebels aligned with Hamas.
 
As of Sunday morning, ISIS were said to be in control of between 50-90% of Yarmouk, according to various reports. The takeover of the camp - located at the southern edge of the Syrian capital - is the closest ISIS has come to the heart of the Assad regime. Even more alarming for the regime are reports that ISIS's Yarmouk offensive was made possible with the cooperation of the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria, which until now has been involved in a bloody rivalry of its own with ISIS.
 
Concerns over the possibility of further jihadi advances into Damascus have even reportedly spurred the regime into making the unprecedented move of facilitating military aid to rebels inside the camp to fend off the ISIS assault.
 
Yarmouk has been under siege by government forces for nearly two years, with some 18,000 civilians still trapped inside, and the regime is currently in control of its northernmost areas, to block off any rebel advances further into the capital. Around 2,000 of those remaining civilians have been evacuated over the weekend as the fighting worsens, according to Palestinian sources.
 
Regime airstrikes have also been witnessed in the past several hours, although as yet there is no word on any casualties.
 
Despite that ISIS appears to have the upper hand, and has reportedly set about beheading Palestinian fighters and civilians alike in areas under its control in a grisly campaign of retribution, posting evidence of its atrocities online.

Palestinians Repel ISIS in Syrian Refugee Camp

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 05 April 2015 21:05
Fighters in Yarmouk campReutersPalestinian fighters and Syrian rebels retook control Thursday of large parts of a refugee camp in Damascus that had been seized by Islamic State terrorists, a monitoring group said, according to AFP. 
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a number of armed groups in the Yarmouk camp in south Damascus "were able to regain control over all of the areas that ISIS had taken over."
 
The terrorists overran the camp on Wednesday, raising fears for thousands of civilians inside and giving ISIS a potential beachhead inside Syria's capital.
 
But armed Palestinian groups, backed by local rebels, launched a fightback later in the day.
 
"Syrian rebel groups entered the camp and helped the Palestinians push back ISIS in fierce clashes," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Observatory.
 
Anwar Abdel Hadi, director of political affairs for the Palestine Liberation Organization in Damascus, said ISIS had been pushed "to the periphery" of the camp.
 
He said Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, a group loyal to Palestinian terror group Hamas, had clashed with ISIS overnight.
 
Six people were killed and 17 injured, he said, but he could not provide details on the toll.
 
The Britain-based Observatory said IS still controlled "some areas" in the camp and put the death toll at three.
 
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it was "extremely concerned" about the safety of civilians in Yarmouk.
 
"UNRWA estimates that there are some 3,500 children among the 18,000 civilians living in Yarmouk. The intense armed clashes put these children at risk of serious injury and death," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said.
 
Yarmouk, located only about six kilometers (four miles) from downtown Damascus, was once a thriving home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians.
 
But it has been devastated by fighting and a tight blockade imposed by the army nearly two years ago that created dire humanitarian conditions.

Palestinians Repel ISIS in Syrian Refugee Camp

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 05 April 2015 21:05
Fighters in Yarmouk campReutersPalestinian fighters and Syrian rebels retook control Thursday of large parts of a refugee camp in Damascus that had been seized by Islamic State terrorists, a monitoring group said, according to AFP. 
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a number of armed groups in the Yarmouk camp in south Damascus "were able to regain control over all of the areas that ISIS had taken over."
 
The terrorists overran the camp on Wednesday, raising fears for thousands of civilians inside and giving ISIS a potential beachhead inside Syria's capital.
 
But armed Palestinian groups, backed by local rebels, launched a fightback later in the day.
 
"Syrian rebel groups entered the camp and helped the Palestinians push back ISIS in fierce clashes," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Observatory.
 
Anwar Abdel Hadi, director of political affairs for the Palestine Liberation Organization in Damascus, said ISIS had been pushed "to the periphery" of the camp.
 
He said Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, a group loyal to Palestinian terror group Hamas, had clashed with ISIS overnight.
 
Six people were killed and 17 injured, he said, but he could not provide details on the toll.
 
The Britain-based Observatory said IS still controlled "some areas" in the camp and put the death toll at three.
 
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it was "extremely concerned" about the safety of civilians in Yarmouk.
 
"UNRWA estimates that there are some 3,500 children among the 18,000 civilians living in Yarmouk. The intense armed clashes put these children at risk of serious injury and death," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said.
 
Yarmouk, located only about six kilometers (four miles) from downtown Damascus, was once a thriving home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians.
 
But it has been devastated by fighting and a tight blockade imposed by the army nearly two years ago that created dire humanitarian conditions.

Al-Qaeda-Backed Rebels Seize Syria-Jordan Border Crossing

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 05 April 2015 20:40
Al-Nusra Front terroristsRebels backed by Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front, on Wednesday seized control of the last border crossing with Jordan that had been under the control of the Damascus regime, a monitor said, according to AFP.
 
"Armed groups, joined today by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, took over the Nasib border point from regime soldiers" on the Syrian side of the frontier, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Abdel Rahman added that regime troops had withdrawn from Nasib, leaving no Syrian government presence along the entire border with Jordan.
 
There was no immediate information on any casualties. The Jordanian government had said earlier that it had closed the crossing on its side of the frontier to both travellers and goods, noted AFP.
 
Earlier this week, the Al-Nusra Front  seized the city of Idlib, the second provincial capital to fall from government control.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group. Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS agreed to work together.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

Al-Qaeda-Backed Rebels Seize Syria-Jordan Border Crossing

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 05 April 2015 20:40
Al-Nusra Front terroristsRebels backed by Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front, on Wednesday seized control of the last border crossing with Jordan that had been under the control of the Damascus regime, a monitor said, according to AFP.
 
"Armed groups, joined today by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, took over the Nasib border point from regime soldiers" on the Syrian side of the frontier, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Abdel Rahman added that regime troops had withdrawn from Nasib, leaving no Syrian government presence along the entire border with Jordan.
 
There was no immediate information on any casualties. The Jordanian government had said earlier that it had closed the crossing on its side of the frontier to both travellers and goods, noted AFP.
 
Earlier this week, the Al-Nusra Front  seized the city of Idlib, the second provincial capital to fall from government control.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group. Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS agreed to work together.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

Syria is Splitting Apart, And Obama Shouldn't Stop It

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 29 March 2015 09:37
obama-syria-mapSyria’s civil war is a tragedy, but might in the long term stabilize the region’s borders. That is the thinking of Pinhas Inbari, who sees the number of refugees fleeing combat zones for other areas as having an ethnic homogenizing effect on Syria and beyond.
 
There was a long-standing idea among Middle East observers that should Syria collapse into open rebellion against the Alawite-minority regime, the regime might take all its assets and forces and retreat into the coastal region and its buttressing Nusayri Mountains. That region was briefly independent when the French occupied Syria after World War I, attempting a divide-and-conquer strategy that gave independence to the Christians of Lebanon, the Druze near the Golan and the Alawites of the coast.
 
“As far as the Alawites are concerned, they’re less affected in Nusayri Mountains overlooking Latakia because the Syrian army is the strongest 'sectarian militia,'” says Inbari. “They are defending the Alawites, the most well-protected group in Syria.”
 
It was not always like this. Before Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father) took power in a 1970 coup d’état, Syrian Arab nationalism was dominated by Sunnis as it was in other countries. But unlike in Iraq, where non-Sunnis eventually became disillusioned with Sunnis’ backhand discrimination even in the secular Arab nationalist movement, Syrian minorities reached the top of the political food chain.
 
Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians embraced the nationalist Ba’ath Party. Since then, minorities have had a disproportionate share of power which they have been reluctant to give up for fear of Islamist movements bringing the hammer down on their communities.
 
But outside the Alawite stronghold, there are problems.
 
“They’re affected outside that Alawite region in Homs where Sunnis are by far greater. They’ve had to leave the Sunni heartland and go to Alawite heartland. Thanks to Hezbollah, parts of the Sunni regions have gone back to the regime, but that hasn’t affected the refugee Alawites.”
 
“But it did affect the Sunnis there, who are fleeing to Lebanon.”
 
While Jordan has received a lot of attention for its mass hosting of Iraqi and Syrian refugees over the last 10 years, Lebanon has also been rocked. Lebanon though is far more diverse and delicate ethnically than Jordan is. Lebanon’s mosaic broke down into a multilateral civil war in the 1970s and 80s, where every virtually every religious group had at least one of its own militias.
 
Lebanon has an odd constitutional structure to maintain the balance between communities. By law, the Prime Minister must be a Sunni Muslim, the President a Christian and the Parliament Speaker a Shiite Muslim. Lebanon has refused to take a census since 1932, worried the perceived balance of groups in the population might provoke one group to demand more power.
 
According to Inbari, the incremental growth of Shiites as the largest group in Lebanon has been abruptly stopped by the massive influx of Sunni refugees. According to the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 1.1 million Syrian refugees held up in Lebanon. As a result, Sunnis are likely to gain more influence in Lebanon and give Lebanese a chance to roll back Hezbollah's influence, ironically "thanks to Hezbollah's" intervention in Syria.
 
In the other direction, Syria’s Kurds have been largely confined to their own theater of the war. While there has been fighting with ISIS in places like Kobane, the Kurds in the northeast corner of the country have consolidated some degree of independence.  According to Inbari, Syria’s Kurds have an alliance with the Damascus government.
 
“They are deeply coordinated with the Assad regime. They are working fighting ISIS to protect themselves.”
 
As ethnic divisions become sharper in certain parts of the country, Inbari advises Western powers to get more realistic about what has happened to the country.
 
“Syria doesn’t exist anymore, only just in the imagination of Obama and Putin. They want to find a solution that will see it united together as one single country, to establish strong government in Damascus in control of all of Syria.”
 
“They don’t support the ethnic groups. And of course the Christians, they haven’t.  They’ve left them to the slaughter.”
 
While US Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked from recent comments about finding an accommodation with the Assad regime, Inbari suggests the background of negotiations with Iran is misleading the United States on the wisest course of action for Syria’s future. He also calls the policy ruinous in a time that the entire region is already in ruins.
 
“They want Turkey and Iran to be partners on (backing) a strong government in Damascus.”
 
When asked if he felt Israel was partially responsible for the apparent success of anti-Assad groups along the Israeli-Syrian border near the Golan Heights, Inbari said he did.
 
“I think the Israeli policy of establishing good relations with the nearby rebels is a very good policy. I don’t know if they’re with groups like the Al-Nusra Front. There might be 200 groups in Syria. Maybe one or two groups are like Al-Nusra, but not all exactly like the version you might find in Daraa (near the Israeli border).”
 
Going forward, Inbari hints that as Syria continues down the road to an inevitable partition, that Israel should maintain its balance and keep pursuing a ‘good neighbors’ policy.
 
“I hope Israel can find ways to establish good relations with other parts of the Syrian population.”

Syria is Splitting Apart, And Obama Shouldn't Stop It

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 29 March 2015 09:37
obama-syria-mapSyria’s civil war is a tragedy, but might in the long term stabilize the region’s borders. That is the thinking of Pinhas Inbari, who sees the number of refugees fleeing combat zones for other areas as having an ethnic homogenizing effect on Syria and beyond.
 
There was a long-standing idea among Middle East observers that should Syria collapse into open rebellion against the Alawite-minority regime, the regime might take all its assets and forces and retreat into the coastal region and its buttressing Nusayri Mountains. That region was briefly independent when the French occupied Syria after World War I, attempting a divide-and-conquer strategy that gave independence to the Christians of Lebanon, the Druze near the Golan and the Alawites of the coast.
 
“As far as the Alawites are concerned, they’re less affected in Nusayri Mountains overlooking Latakia because the Syrian army is the strongest 'sectarian militia,'” says Inbari. “They are defending the Alawites, the most well-protected group in Syria.”
 
It was not always like this. Before Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father) took power in a 1970 coup d’état, Syrian Arab nationalism was dominated by Sunnis as it was in other countries. But unlike in Iraq, where non-Sunnis eventually became disillusioned with Sunnis’ backhand discrimination even in the secular Arab nationalist movement, Syrian minorities reached the top of the political food chain.
 
Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians embraced the nationalist Ba’ath Party. Since then, minorities have had a disproportionate share of power which they have been reluctant to give up for fear of Islamist movements bringing the hammer down on their communities.
 
But outside the Alawite stronghold, there are problems.
 
“They’re affected outside that Alawite region in Homs where Sunnis are by far greater. They’ve had to leave the Sunni heartland and go to Alawite heartland. Thanks to Hezbollah, parts of the Sunni regions have gone back to the regime, but that hasn’t affected the refugee Alawites.”
 
“But it did affect the Sunnis there, who are fleeing to Lebanon.”
 
While Jordan has received a lot of attention for its mass hosting of Iraqi and Syrian refugees over the last 10 years, Lebanon has also been rocked. Lebanon though is far more diverse and delicate ethnically than Jordan is. Lebanon’s mosaic broke down into a multilateral civil war in the 1970s and 80s, where every virtually every religious group had at least one of its own militias.
 
Lebanon has an odd constitutional structure to maintain the balance between communities. By law, the Prime Minister must be a Sunni Muslim, the President a Christian and the Parliament Speaker a Shiite Muslim. Lebanon has refused to take a census since 1932, worried the perceived balance of groups in the population might provoke one group to demand more power.
 
According to Inbari, the incremental growth of Shiites as the largest group in Lebanon has been abruptly stopped by the massive influx of Sunni refugees. According to the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 1.1 million Syrian refugees held up in Lebanon. As a result, Sunnis are likely to gain more influence in Lebanon and give Lebanese a chance to roll back Hezbollah's influence, ironically "thanks to Hezbollah's" intervention in Syria.
 
In the other direction, Syria’s Kurds have been largely confined to their own theater of the war. While there has been fighting with ISIS in places like Kobane, the Kurds in the northeast corner of the country have consolidated some degree of independence.  According to Inbari, Syria’s Kurds have an alliance with the Damascus government.
 
“They are deeply coordinated with the Assad regime. They are working fighting ISIS to protect themselves.”
 
As ethnic divisions become sharper in certain parts of the country, Inbari advises Western powers to get more realistic about what has happened to the country.
 
“Syria doesn’t exist anymore, only just in the imagination of Obama and Putin. They want to find a solution that will see it united together as one single country, to establish strong government in Damascus in control of all of Syria.”
 
“They don’t support the ethnic groups. And of course the Christians, they haven’t.  They’ve left them to the slaughter.”
 
While US Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked from recent comments about finding an accommodation with the Assad regime, Inbari suggests the background of negotiations with Iran is misleading the United States on the wisest course of action for Syria’s future. He also calls the policy ruinous in a time that the entire region is already in ruins.
 
“They want Turkey and Iran to be partners on (backing) a strong government in Damascus.”
 
When asked if he felt Israel was partially responsible for the apparent success of anti-Assad groups along the Israeli-Syrian border near the Golan Heights, Inbari said he did.
 
“I think the Israeli policy of establishing good relations with the nearby rebels is a very good policy. I don’t know if they’re with groups like the Al-Nusra Front. There might be 200 groups in Syria. Maybe one or two groups are like Al-Nusra, but not all exactly like the version you might find in Daraa (near the Israeli border).”
 
Going forward, Inbari hints that as Syria continues down the road to an inevitable partition, that Israel should maintain its balance and keep pursuing a ‘good neighbors’ policy.
 
“I hope Israel can find ways to establish good relations with other parts of the Syrian population.”

Turkish Army Chief Visits Ottoman Tomb in Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 28 March 2015 14:39
General OzelTurkey's army chief General Necdet Ozel and top commanders have for the first time visited the new location of an historic tomb inside Syrian territory, the military said on Friday.
 
Army chief of staff Ozel and the land and air forces commanders on Thursday went inside Syria to visit the Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder Osman I.
 
The tomb lies in the settlement of Eshme, just 200 meters (650 feet) from the Turkish border and easily visible from Turkish territory.
 
The visit had not been announced in advance. Images on state media showed Ozel paying his respects at the tomb and then exiting the small brick-built mausoleum.
 
The visit came just over a month after hundreds of Turkish soldiers staged an unprecedented incursion deep inside Syrian territory to move the tomb from its previous location, retreating from approach Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists.
 
The complex, which is considered sovereign Turkish territory, had been located some 37 kilometers (23 miles) inside Syrian territory.
 
But the government ordered the tomb, which has a permanent honor guard of Turkish troops, to be moved due to security fears as it was located in territory controlled by ISIS.
 
The army said that Ozel inspected the new situation of the tomb and talked to Turkish and Syrian residents in the area.
 
Turkey has already reburied Suleyman Shah on the site and hastily constructed the new mausoleum.
 
The figure of Suleyman Shah is a key figure in the still-hazy history of the emergence of the Ottoman empire, which according to tradition was founded by Osman in 1299 with Turkic tribes who had swept through Anatolia from Asia.
 
The tomb of Suleyman Shah, who is said to have died in 1236, is considered Turkish territory under the 1921 Treaty of Ankara between the Turkish authorities and France, which then controlled French-mandated Syria.

Turkish Army Chief Visits Ottoman Tomb in Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 28 March 2015 14:39
General OzelTurkey's army chief General Necdet Ozel and top commanders have for the first time visited the new location of an historic tomb inside Syrian territory, the military said on Friday.
 
Army chief of staff Ozel and the land and air forces commanders on Thursday went inside Syria to visit the Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder Osman I.
 
The tomb lies in the settlement of Eshme, just 200 meters (650 feet) from the Turkish border and easily visible from Turkish territory.
 
The visit had not been announced in advance. Images on state media showed Ozel paying his respects at the tomb and then exiting the small brick-built mausoleum.
 
The visit came just over a month after hundreds of Turkish soldiers staged an unprecedented incursion deep inside Syrian territory to move the tomb from its previous location, retreating from approach Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists.
 
The complex, which is considered sovereign Turkish territory, had been located some 37 kilometers (23 miles) inside Syrian territory.
 
But the government ordered the tomb, which has a permanent honor guard of Turkish troops, to be moved due to security fears as it was located in territory controlled by ISIS.
 
The army said that Ozel inspected the new situation of the tomb and talked to Turkish and Syrian residents in the area.
 
Turkey has already reburied Suleyman Shah on the site and hastily constructed the new mausoleum.
 
The figure of Suleyman Shah is a key figure in the still-hazy history of the emergence of the Ottoman empire, which according to tradition was founded by Osman in 1299 with Turkic tribes who had swept through Anatolia from Asia.
 
The tomb of Suleyman Shah, who is said to have died in 1236, is considered Turkish territory under the 1921 Treaty of Ankara between the Turkish authorities and France, which then controlled French-mandated Syria.

Syria Destroys Three Chemical Weapons Sites

Category: News
Created on Friday, 27 March 2015 13:34
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria -ReutersSyria has destroyed three of its 12 chemical weapons production sites but is unable to dismantle three other facilities because of security conditions, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Wednesday in its latest report, according to AFP.
 
The report was released to the UN Security Council, which is overseeing efforts to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program.
 
Syria has agreed to destroy seven aircraft hangars and five underground structures identified by the OPCW as chemical weapons production sites but there have been delays caused by logistical problems.
 
In the report obtained by AFP, OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu said his team of experts was able to verify that three tunnels have been destroyed and that work on dismantling a fourth underground structure was under way.
 
"Currently, one underground structure and two hangars are not accessible owing to the security situation near these sites," he wrote in the report.
 
Despite this hurdle, Uzumcu said he expected the destruction of all five underground tunnels to be completed by June.
 
Concerning the hangars, work has begun on five sites and explosives are to be delivered soon to begin demolishing the structures.
 
"The Syrian authorities have continued to extend the necessary cooperation" for the dismantling of the 12 sites, the report added, according to AFP.
 
The Security Council is due to discuss progress in dismantling Syria's chemical weapons program at a meeting on April 2.
 
A joint mission between the UN and the OPCW was tasked with eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program after the Security Council found rare agreement on Syria.
 
The deal was reached under threat of U.S. airstrikes after images of civilian victims laid out after an attack on a Damascus suburb shocked the world. President Bashar Al-Assad's government denied involvement and blamed rebel groups.
 
A total of 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons have been removed from Syria, with the majority being destroyed aboard the US Navy ship MV Cape Ray.
 
Even after the destruction of Syria’s stockpile, an Israeli official recently said Israel believes Syria has retained caches of combat-ready chemical weapons after giving up raw materials used to produce such munitions.

Syria Destroys Three Chemical Weapons Sites

Category: News
Created on Friday, 27 March 2015 13:34
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria -ReutersSyria has destroyed three of its 12 chemical weapons production sites but is unable to dismantle three other facilities because of security conditions, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Wednesday in its latest report, according to AFP.
 
The report was released to the UN Security Council, which is overseeing efforts to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program.
 
Syria has agreed to destroy seven aircraft hangars and five underground structures identified by the OPCW as chemical weapons production sites but there have been delays caused by logistical problems.
 
In the report obtained by AFP, OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu said his team of experts was able to verify that three tunnels have been destroyed and that work on dismantling a fourth underground structure was under way.
 
"Currently, one underground structure and two hangars are not accessible owing to the security situation near these sites," he wrote in the report.
 
Despite this hurdle, Uzumcu said he expected the destruction of all five underground tunnels to be completed by June.
 
Concerning the hangars, work has begun on five sites and explosives are to be delivered soon to begin demolishing the structures.
 
"The Syrian authorities have continued to extend the necessary cooperation" for the dismantling of the 12 sites, the report added, according to AFP.
 
The Security Council is due to discuss progress in dismantling Syria's chemical weapons program at a meeting on April 2.
 
A joint mission between the UN and the OPCW was tasked with eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program after the Security Council found rare agreement on Syria.
 
The deal was reached under threat of U.S. airstrikes after images of civilian victims laid out after an attack on a Damascus suburb shocked the world. President Bashar Al-Assad's government denied involvement and blamed rebel groups.
 
A total of 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons have been removed from Syria, with the majority being destroyed aboard the US Navy ship MV Cape Ray.
 
Even after the destruction of Syria’s stockpile, an Israeli official recently said Israel believes Syria has retained caches of combat-ready chemical weapons after giving up raw materials used to produce such munitions.

Jihadist Syrian Rebels Capture Regime Helicopter, Take Hostages

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 22:31
Jihadist SyrianIslamist rebels captured four crew members of a regime helicopter which crashed in the Idlib province of northwest Syria on Sunday, while a fifth serviceman was killed, a monitor said, reported AFP.
 
"A regime helicopter was forced to land in the region of Jabal al-Zawiya in the northwest, which is a bastion of (Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate) Al-Nusra Front," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the news agency.
 
"Four of the crew were captured and a fifth man was killed by armed men in a neighboring village," he added.
 
Abdel Rahman said the Al-Nusra Front held two of the servicemen, including the helicopter's pilot.
 
Official Al-Nusra Front accounts on Twitter published photos and videos with the caption "Helicopter pilot in the hands of jihadists," according to AFP.
 
The images depict the bandaged pilot sitting in front of Al-Nusra Front's official flag.
 
"To the Muslim children, to their mothers, who died two days ago because of their chlorine attack," a bearded fighter says in the video, pointing to the pilot.
 
On March 17, a family of six died in Idlib province after a regime gas attack on the village of Sarmin. Opposition forces accused the regime of using chlorine, a toxic agent that can be considered a chemical weapon.
 
Two other servicemen from the helicopter crash were captured by another Islamist group, and at least one more crew member was believed to be on the run, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
Regime helicopters are often used to drop crudely constructed barrel bombs on rebel-held areas.
 
Pictures provided by the Observatory showed groups of men gathering around a damaged helicopter lying on its side on a rocky hilltop.
 
Syrian state television confirmed a military helicopter had crashed in Idlib, saying it was due to a technical failure and that search efforts were underway to locate the crew.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group. Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS agreed to work together.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

Jihadist Syrian Rebels Capture Regime Helicopter, Take Hostages

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 22:31
Jihadist SyrianIslamist rebels captured four crew members of a regime helicopter which crashed in the Idlib province of northwest Syria on Sunday, while a fifth serviceman was killed, a monitor said, reported AFP.
 
"A regime helicopter was forced to land in the region of Jabal al-Zawiya in the northwest, which is a bastion of (Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate) Al-Nusra Front," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the news agency.
 
"Four of the crew were captured and a fifth man was killed by armed men in a neighboring village," he added.
 
Abdel Rahman said the Al-Nusra Front held two of the servicemen, including the helicopter's pilot.
 
Official Al-Nusra Front accounts on Twitter published photos and videos with the caption "Helicopter pilot in the hands of jihadists," according to AFP.
 
The images depict the bandaged pilot sitting in front of Al-Nusra Front's official flag.
 
"To the Muslim children, to their mothers, who died two days ago because of their chlorine attack," a bearded fighter says in the video, pointing to the pilot.
 
On March 17, a family of six died in Idlib province after a regime gas attack on the village of Sarmin. Opposition forces accused the regime of using chlorine, a toxic agent that can be considered a chemical weapon.
 
Two other servicemen from the helicopter crash were captured by another Islamist group, and at least one more crew member was believed to be on the run, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
Regime helicopters are often used to drop crudely constructed barrel bombs on rebel-held areas.
 
Pictures provided by the Observatory showed groups of men gathering around a damaged helicopter lying on its side on a rocky hilltop.
 
Syrian state television confirmed a military helicopter had crashed in Idlib, saying it was due to a technical failure and that search efforts were underway to locate the crew.
 
Al-Nusra Front has been an official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, and dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group. Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS agreed to work together.
 
Al-Nusra Front recently reaffirmed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force, amid speculations on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies.

Why Was a US Drone in Non-ISIS Syria?

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 March 2015 09:46
dronweSyria's military downed a US drone in the country's west because it was snooping in an area where Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists are not present, a military source said Wednesday.
 
"Did the drone come into Syrian territory just to have a picnic?" asked the source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.
 
"As soon as it entered Syrian air space, we considered it to be gathering security and military information on Syria's territory," he said.
 
The source said the aircraft was not immediately identified as being American, but was "dealt with as a hostile target."
 
Syrian air defenses shot down the aircraft over the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, state media said Tuesday.
 
The US military confirmed it had lost communication with an unarmed Predator drone on Tuesday over northwest Syria and was looking into the claims it was brought down.
 
A US-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in Syria since September, but Syria's military said the drone did not appear to be part of that effort.
 
"The aircraft entered areas where Daesh is not present," the military source said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. He said investigations were ongoing, but that it was likely the drone entered Syria from Turkey; Turkey has in the past refused to allow the US to strike ISIS in Syria from its bases.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the drone was shot down in Al-Maqata, a village near the provincial capital of Latakia.
 
"There are no opposition fighters or jihadist groups anywhere in that area, but there is a large presence of regime forces," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The port city of Latakia has been targeted by Israel in the past, in strikes taking out shipments of advanced missiles on their way to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

Why Was a US Drone in Non-ISIS Syria?

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 March 2015 09:46
dronweSyria's military downed a US drone in the country's west because it was snooping in an area where Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists are not present, a military source said Wednesday.
 
"Did the drone come into Syrian territory just to have a picnic?" asked the source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.
 
"As soon as it entered Syrian air space, we considered it to be gathering security and military information on Syria's territory," he said.
 
The source said the aircraft was not immediately identified as being American, but was "dealt with as a hostile target."
 
Syrian air defenses shot down the aircraft over the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, state media said Tuesday.
 
The US military confirmed it had lost communication with an unarmed Predator drone on Tuesday over northwest Syria and was looking into the claims it was brought down.
 
A US-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in Syria since September, but Syria's military said the drone did not appear to be part of that effort.
 
"The aircraft entered areas where Daesh is not present," the military source said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. He said investigations were ongoing, but that it was likely the drone entered Syria from Turkey; Turkey has in the past refused to allow the US to strike ISIS in Syria from its bases.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the drone was shot down in Al-Maqata, a village near the provincial capital of Latakia.
 
"There are no opposition fighters or jihadist groups anywhere in that area, but there is a large presence of regime forces," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The port city of Latakia has been targeted by Israel in the past, in strikes taking out shipments of advanced missiles on their way to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

'ISIS Destroyed Christian Civilization and the World Watches'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 March 2015 09:18
ISIS Destroyed Christian CivilizationWaiting in an aid line outside Lebanon's capital Beirut, Assyrian Christian Francie Yaacoub remembers the well-stocked home she left behind in Syria as she fled advancing Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists.
 
"We left behind a house full of everything. Why do we now have to stand at the church door?" she asked quietly as she waited to receive aid at the Assyrian diocese of Sid al-Boushriyeh, reports AFP.
 
She is one of hundreds of Assyrian Christians who have arrived in Lebanon in recent weeks after ISIS jihadists stormed their villages in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakeh.
 
Members of Lebanon's Assyrian community, many of them related to those who fled Hasakeh, are doing their best to welcome the new refugees, but the displacement has left them traumatized.
 
Yaacoub, in her fifties, now lives in a small house with her son, husband and five other Assyrian refugees. Her family fled their village, Tal Nasri, during a terrifying ISIS bombardment last week.
 
"We left in our pajamas. My son walked barefoot, we left without our shoes on," she said. "The shells were falling all around us...We had to flee because the safety of your children is the most important thing."
 
Yaacoub's family was not alone - thousands of Assyrians have been forced to abandon their villages along Hasakeh's Khabur river since ISIS jihadists began an attack there in February.
 
The group has seized at least 11 of the 33 Assyrian villages in the region, and kidnapped more than 200 members of the ancient Christian sect, which numbered around 30,000 in Syria before the war.
 
Many residents fled to the city of Qamishli, or the provincial capital Hasakeh, which are both under Kurdish and Syrian government control.
 
"A great tragedy"
 
Yaacoub and her family went to Hasakeh city first, then traveled on to Damascus before finally arriving in Sid al-Boushriyeh, east of Beirut.
 
Around 300 Assyrian refugees have arrived in the district since the beginning of March, and many lined up on Tuesday afternoon at the local Assyrian diocese to receive aid distributed by the In Defense Of Christians (IDC) group.
 
"The villages of Khabur are empty now, there is no one left except some fighters," lamented Chorbishop Yatron Koliana, as he oversaw the distribution at his diocese.
 
"Our people have experienced a great tragedy in Syria," he added with a sigh, saying that many of the new arrivals were traumatized. "They are depressed. Some of them have chronic illnesses. Their lives are difficult."
 
"How can we be comfortable, living on aid?" asked 50-year-old Simaan, who fled his village Tal Hormuz.
 
He railed against what he called international indifference to the plight of Assyrians under attack by ISIS in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
 
"The whole world, from the UN to the United States and Russia, is responsible," he said angrily. "They (ISIS) have destroyed our whole civilization...and the world is watching."
 
Waiting for asylum
 
Many of those receiving aid could not yet imagine a return to villages where they say ISIS fighters blew up churches and looted homes.
 
But staying in Lebanon is not easy. Authorities granted fleeing Assyrians a special exception to tight new restrictions on Syrian refugees imposed at the beginning of this year.
 
An influx of more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees into Lebanon has tested the country's resources and the patience of its four million citizens.
 
Yaacoub's family, and the five other refugees living with them, are struggling to pay monthly rent of around $500 for their home, with little left over for food.
 
IDC representative Alexei Moukarzel, overseeing the distribution of thousands of food baskets and hundreds of mattresses, criticized a lack of international attention.
 
"The world is not paying enough attention to these groups who have been forcibly displaced," he said.
 
The Assyrians are an ancient Christian community, present in the region for thousands of years, and Koliana and the Assyrian church are determined to ensure the minority continues to be represented in the region.
 
"I urge the Assyrians now in Lebanon...to keep alive the hope of returning to Khabur, because Khabur is our land, and is where our ancestors and martyrs are buried," Koliana told AFP.
 
But many Assyrians fleeing Syria, like the Christians displaced from Iraq before them, are now seeking to leave the region altogether.
 
One man at the diocese, who refused to give his name and spoke in a barely audible whisper, acknowledged that he had no plans to stay. "I'm waiting to get asylum in Australia with my family."

'ISIS Destroyed Christian Civilization and the World Watches'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 March 2015 09:18
ISIS Destroyed Christian CivilizationWaiting in an aid line outside Lebanon's capital Beirut, Assyrian Christian Francie Yaacoub remembers the well-stocked home she left behind in Syria as she fled advancing Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists.
 
"We left behind a house full of everything. Why do we now have to stand at the church door?" she asked quietly as she waited to receive aid at the Assyrian diocese of Sid al-Boushriyeh, reports AFP.
 
She is one of hundreds of Assyrian Christians who have arrived in Lebanon in recent weeks after ISIS jihadists stormed their villages in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakeh.
 
Members of Lebanon's Assyrian community, many of them related to those who fled Hasakeh, are doing their best to welcome the new refugees, but the displacement has left them traumatized.
 
Yaacoub, in her fifties, now lives in a small house with her son, husband and five other Assyrian refugees. Her family fled their village, Tal Nasri, during a terrifying ISIS bombardment last week.
 
"We left in our pajamas. My son walked barefoot, we left without our shoes on," she said. "The shells were falling all around us...We had to flee because the safety of your children is the most important thing."
 
Yaacoub's family was not alone - thousands of Assyrians have been forced to abandon their villages along Hasakeh's Khabur river since ISIS jihadists began an attack there in February.
 
The group has seized at least 11 of the 33 Assyrian villages in the region, and kidnapped more than 200 members of the ancient Christian sect, which numbered around 30,000 in Syria before the war.
 
Many residents fled to the city of Qamishli, or the provincial capital Hasakeh, which are both under Kurdish and Syrian government control.
 
"A great tragedy"
 
Yaacoub and her family went to Hasakeh city first, then traveled on to Damascus before finally arriving in Sid al-Boushriyeh, east of Beirut.
 
Around 300 Assyrian refugees have arrived in the district since the beginning of March, and many lined up on Tuesday afternoon at the local Assyrian diocese to receive aid distributed by the In Defense Of Christians (IDC) group.
 
"The villages of Khabur are empty now, there is no one left except some fighters," lamented Chorbishop Yatron Koliana, as he oversaw the distribution at his diocese.
 
"Our people have experienced a great tragedy in Syria," he added with a sigh, saying that many of the new arrivals were traumatized. "They are depressed. Some of them have chronic illnesses. Their lives are difficult."
 
"How can we be comfortable, living on aid?" asked 50-year-old Simaan, who fled his village Tal Hormuz.
 
He railed against what he called international indifference to the plight of Assyrians under attack by ISIS in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
 
"The whole world, from the UN to the United States and Russia, is responsible," he said angrily. "They (ISIS) have destroyed our whole civilization...and the world is watching."
 
Waiting for asylum
 
Many of those receiving aid could not yet imagine a return to villages where they say ISIS fighters blew up churches and looted homes.
 
But staying in Lebanon is not easy. Authorities granted fleeing Assyrians a special exception to tight new restrictions on Syrian refugees imposed at the beginning of this year.
 
An influx of more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees into Lebanon has tested the country's resources and the patience of its four million citizens.
 
Yaacoub's family, and the five other refugees living with them, are struggling to pay monthly rent of around $500 for their home, with little left over for food.
 
IDC representative Alexei Moukarzel, overseeing the distribution of thousands of food baskets and hundreds of mattresses, criticized a lack of international attention.
 
"The world is not paying enough attention to these groups who have been forcibly displaced," he said.
 
The Assyrians are an ancient Christian community, present in the region for thousands of years, and Koliana and the Assyrian church are determined to ensure the minority continues to be represented in the region.
 
"I urge the Assyrians now in Lebanon...to keep alive the hope of returning to Khabur, because Khabur is our land, and is where our ancestors and martyrs are buried," Koliana told AFP.
 
But many Assyrians fleeing Syria, like the Christians displaced from Iraq before them, are now seeking to leave the region altogether.
 
One man at the diocese, who refused to give his name and spoke in a barely audible whisper, acknowledged that he had no plans to stay. "I'm waiting to get asylum in Australia with my family."

Qatar Emir Meets Erdogan in Surprise Visit to Turkey

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 March 2015 09:35
Qatar Emir -ErdoganThe emir of Qatar on Thursday met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for surprise talks in the capital Ankara, a Turkish presidential official said.
 
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was holding closed-door talks at Erdogan's newly built presidential palace in Ankara, the official told AFP, without elaborating further.
 
The meeting, which was not on Erdogan's official daily schedule, comes amid renewed tensions stemming from the presence of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Iraq and Syria right up to the Turkish border.
 
Turkey and Qatar, both overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, have emerged as close allies in the last years during the conflict in Syria and Arab Spring uprisings.
 
They have closely aligned their policies on Syria and have also both intensively engaged with Palestinian terror organization Hamas.
 
Qatar has been one of the main supporters of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has allowed demonstrations against him to be held in its capital, Doha.
 
However, some have accused the country of backing jihadists, a charge denied on several occasions by officials in the oil rich Gulf state, which joined the US-led coalition against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
 
Vocal against the regime in Damascus, Turkey has similarly backed opposition rebels fighting to topple Assad and plays host to nearly two million refugees.
 
But it has remained reluctant to take robust action against the ISIS threat in a US-led coalition, further straining ties with Washington, its NATO ally.
 
United States special envoy John Allen, who is coordinating international efforts against ISIS, is due to travel to Ankara this week to meet with Turkish officials after a visit to Italy, the US State Department said in a statement.

Qatar Emir Meets Erdogan in Surprise Visit to Turkey

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 March 2015 09:35
Qatar Emir -ErdoganThe emir of Qatar on Thursday met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for surprise talks in the capital Ankara, a Turkish presidential official said.
 
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was holding closed-door talks at Erdogan's newly built presidential palace in Ankara, the official told AFP, without elaborating further.
 
The meeting, which was not on Erdogan's official daily schedule, comes amid renewed tensions stemming from the presence of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Iraq and Syria right up to the Turkish border.
 
Turkey and Qatar, both overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, have emerged as close allies in the last years during the conflict in Syria and Arab Spring uprisings.
 
They have closely aligned their policies on Syria and have also both intensively engaged with Palestinian terror organization Hamas.
 
Qatar has been one of the main supporters of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has allowed demonstrations against him to be held in its capital, Doha.
 
However, some have accused the country of backing jihadists, a charge denied on several occasions by officials in the oil rich Gulf state, which joined the US-led coalition against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
 
Vocal against the regime in Damascus, Turkey has similarly backed opposition rebels fighting to topple Assad and plays host to nearly two million refugees.
 
But it has remained reluctant to take robust action against the ISIS threat in a US-led coalition, further straining ties with Washington, its NATO ally.
 
United States special envoy John Allen, who is coordinating international efforts against ISIS, is due to travel to Ankara this week to meet with Turkish officials after a visit to Italy, the US State Department said in a statement.

ISIS Launches Major Assault on Syrian Border Town

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 12 March 2015 10:44
ISIS Launches Major AssaultThe Islamic State jihadist group (ISIS) launched a major offensive Wednesday to try to capture a strategic town on the Syrian-Turkish border, leaving dozens dead in clashes, a monitor said.
 
"Fighters from the Islamic State group started a huge assault towards Ras al-Ain and were able to take over a village nearby," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
The offensive is a preemptive strike against Kurdish militia who were planning an attack on the IS-held town of Tal Abyad farther west along the border, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.  
 
Tal Abyad is an Arab and Kurdish town in the Syrian province of Raqqa used by ISIS jihadists as a gateway from Turkey.
 
At least 12 fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which control Ras al-Ain and the surrounding villages, were killed in the ISIS onslaught, according to Abdel Rahman.    
 
"This is a big hit to the morale of Kurdish fighters," he said.
 
He was unable to give an exact death toll for the jihadists but said that including ISIS casualties scores had been killed.
 
A spokesman for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG's political arm, confirmed an intense battle was raging around the town.
 
Ras al-Ain, in Hasakeh province, was the scene of major fighting in 2013 before Kurdish forces ousted rebels and Al Qaeda-linked jihadists from the town, which has a border crossing with Ceylanpinar in Turkey.
 
Kurdish fighters are also locked in clashes with ISIS around the strategic town of Tal Tamr, just southeast of Ras al-Ain, which lies near a key road that links to their Iraqi bastion of Mosul to the east.
 
The ISIS offensives come just weeks after Kurdish militia backed by Iraqi peshmerga fighters and Syrian rebels drove the Islamists out of Kobane farther west along the Turkish border.  
 
The town, which was devastated by months of fighting and US-led coalition air strikes, became a prominent symbol of resistance against the jihadists.  
 
Kurdish and allied forces have since taken much of the surrounding countryside in northern Aleppo province and have begun pushing east into neighboring Raqqa province, home to ISIS's self-proclaimed "capital."    
 
ISIS has seized large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq and imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
 
Foreign jihadists have flocked to Syria, often crossing over from Turkey, since the country's conflict began in March 2011 as a popular revolt which later escalated into a full-blown civil war.

ISIS Launches Major Assault on Syrian Border Town

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 12 March 2015 10:44
ISIS Launches Major AssaultThe Islamic State jihadist group (ISIS) launched a major offensive Wednesday to try to capture a strategic town on the Syrian-Turkish border, leaving dozens dead in clashes, a monitor said.
 
"Fighters from the Islamic State group started a huge assault towards Ras al-Ain and were able to take over a village nearby," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
The offensive is a preemptive strike against Kurdish militia who were planning an attack on the IS-held town of Tal Abyad farther west along the border, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.  
 
Tal Abyad is an Arab and Kurdish town in the Syrian province of Raqqa used by ISIS jihadists as a gateway from Turkey.
 
At least 12 fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which control Ras al-Ain and the surrounding villages, were killed in the ISIS onslaught, according to Abdel Rahman.    
 
"This is a big hit to the morale of Kurdish fighters," he said.
 
He was unable to give an exact death toll for the jihadists but said that including ISIS casualties scores had been killed.
 
A spokesman for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG's political arm, confirmed an intense battle was raging around the town.
 
Ras al-Ain, in Hasakeh province, was the scene of major fighting in 2013 before Kurdish forces ousted rebels and Al Qaeda-linked jihadists from the town, which has a border crossing with Ceylanpinar in Turkey.
 
Kurdish fighters are also locked in clashes with ISIS around the strategic town of Tal Tamr, just southeast of Ras al-Ain, which lies near a key road that links to their Iraqi bastion of Mosul to the east.
 
The ISIS offensives come just weeks after Kurdish militia backed by Iraqi peshmerga fighters and Syrian rebels drove the Islamists out of Kobane farther west along the Turkish border.  
 
The town, which was devastated by months of fighting and US-led coalition air strikes, became a prominent symbol of resistance against the jihadists.  
 
Kurdish and allied forces have since taken much of the surrounding countryside in northern Aleppo province and have begun pushing east into neighboring Raqqa province, home to ISIS's self-proclaimed "capital."    
 
ISIS has seized large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq and imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
 
Foreign jihadists have flocked to Syria, often crossing over from Turkey, since the country's conflict began in March 2011 as a popular revolt which later escalated into a full-blown civil war.

Al-Nusra Front Reaffirms Allegiance to Al-Qaeda

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 08:22
Al-Nusra Front terroristsAl-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front, on Monday reaffirmed its allegiance to the global extremist network and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force.
 
The angry statement followed weeks of speculation on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies, AFP reported.
 
Al-Nusra "completely denies reports of a break-up with Al-Qaeda," the group said in a statement released on Twitter.
 
The statement added that Al-Nusra "remains the backbone of jihadists" in Syria, "the first into battle, dedicated to unifying the ranks around sharia (Islamic law)... righting injustice and defending the disadvantaged".
 
It denied "completely all reports of a meeting with Qatari or other intelligence services or seeking Qatari or Gulf funding, as this is contrary to the principles on which Al-Nusra has been based from the start".
 
An official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, the group dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, it has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group. Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS agreed to work together.
 
Al-Nusra was formed in January 2012 by jihadists who had previously fought in Iraq, including its chief Abu Mohamed al-Jolani.
 
The group's military chief Abu Hammam al-Shami and several top commanders were last week reported to have been killed in Syria, although there was contradictory information on the circumstances.

Al-Nusra Front Reaffirms Allegiance to Al-Qaeda

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 08:22
Al-Nusra Front terroristsAl-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front, on Monday reaffirmed its allegiance to the global extremist network and denied any plan to break away and become a more internationally acceptable rebel force.
 
The angry statement followed weeks of speculation on Internet social networks of a split between the jihadist allies, AFP reported.
 
Al-Nusra "completely denies reports of a break-up with Al-Qaeda," the group said in a statement released on Twitter.
 
The statement added that Al-Nusra "remains the backbone of jihadists" in Syria, "the first into battle, dedicated to unifying the ranks around sharia (Islamic law)... righting injustice and defending the disadvantaged".
 
It denied "completely all reports of a meeting with Qatari or other intelligence services or seeking Qatari or Gulf funding, as this is contrary to the principles on which Al-Nusra has been based from the start".
 
An official branch of Al-Qaeda since April 2013, the group dominates a swathe of northwest Syria despite months of international airstrikes.
 
As well as fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, it has clashed with Western-backed rebels and its jihadist rival the Islamic State (ISIS) group. Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS agreed to work together.
 
Al-Nusra was formed in January 2012 by jihadists who had previously fought in Iraq, including its chief Abu Mohamed al-Jolani.
 
The group's military chief Abu Hammam al-Shami and several top commanders were last week reported to have been killed in Syria, although there was contradictory information on the circumstances.

220 Assyrian Christians Abducted by Islamic State

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 10:05
220 assyrians abductedIslamic State terrorists have abducted 220 Assyrian Christians from villages in northeastern Syria in recent days, a monitoring group said Thursday, more than twice as many as previously reported.
 
"No fewer than 220 Assyrian citizens (of Syria) were abducted by ISIS over the past three days from 11 villages" in Hasakeh province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"Negotiations are under way through mediators from Arab tribes and a member of the Assyrian community to secure the release of the hostages," the Britain-based monitoring group said.
 
Reports surfaced Wednesday that nearly 100 Assyrian Christians had been kidnapped, prompting terrified families to flee their village homes and take refuge in nearby cities. 
 
Nearly 1,000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their villages in the northeastern province of Hasakeh since Monday's kidnappings, said Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network.
 
About 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and 150 in Qamishli, a Kurdish city on the border with Turkey, Edward said, adding that the number of displaced individuals came to about 5,000.
 
Most of the hostages were women, children or elderly, he added.
 
Edward told AFP he believed the mass abduction was linked to the ISIS' recent loss of ground in the face of US-led coalition air raids against ISIS that began in Syria in September.
 
"ISIS has been losing territory because of the international coalition's strikes and they took the hostages to use them as human shields," the activist said.
 
The jihadists, who are battling Kurdish fighters on the ground, may try to exchange the Assyrian Christians for ISIS prisoners, according to Edward.
 
He said the aim of the jihadists is to take over the Assyrian Christian village of Tal Tamer, which is located near a bridge over the Khabur river that links Syria to Iraq.
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Kurdish fighters battling ISIS terrorists on Wednesday recaptured three Assyrian villages and a nearby Arab village.
 
"The (Kurdish) People's Protection Units (YPG) have reclaimed Tal Shamiran, Tal Masri, Tal Hermel and Ghbeish," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, adding that fighting continues in the area. 

220 Assyrian Christians Abducted by Islamic State

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 10:05
220 assyrians abductedIslamic State terrorists have abducted 220 Assyrian Christians from villages in northeastern Syria in recent days, a monitoring group said Thursday, more than twice as many as previously reported.
 
"No fewer than 220 Assyrian citizens (of Syria) were abducted by ISIS over the past three days from 11 villages" in Hasakeh province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"Negotiations are under way through mediators from Arab tribes and a member of the Assyrian community to secure the release of the hostages," the Britain-based monitoring group said.
 
Reports surfaced Wednesday that nearly 100 Assyrian Christians had been kidnapped, prompting terrified families to flee their village homes and take refuge in nearby cities. 
 
Nearly 1,000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their villages in the northeastern province of Hasakeh since Monday's kidnappings, said Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network.
 
About 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and 150 in Qamishli, a Kurdish city on the border with Turkey, Edward said, adding that the number of displaced individuals came to about 5,000.
 
Most of the hostages were women, children or elderly, he added.
 
Edward told AFP he believed the mass abduction was linked to the ISIS' recent loss of ground in the face of US-led coalition air raids against ISIS that began in Syria in September.
 
"ISIS has been losing territory because of the international coalition's strikes and they took the hostages to use them as human shields," the activist said.
 
The jihadists, who are battling Kurdish fighters on the ground, may try to exchange the Assyrian Christians for ISIS prisoners, according to Edward.
 
He said the aim of the jihadists is to take over the Assyrian Christian village of Tal Tamer, which is located near a bridge over the Khabur river that links Syria to Iraq.
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Kurdish fighters battling ISIS terrorists on Wednesday recaptured three Assyrian villages and a nearby Arab village.
 
"The (Kurdish) People's Protection Units (YPG) have reclaimed Tal Shamiran, Tal Masri, Tal Hermel and Ghbeish," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, adding that fighting continues in the area. 

Top ISIS Commanders Killed in Air Strike

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 08:25
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersAn Arab satellite television network report claimed Thursday that a US-led coalition airstrike against Islamic State targets in areas they control has killed a “large number” of the organization's top commanders.
 
It is not yet clear if ISIS' top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed.
 
The report on Al Arabiya television quoted sources in the US-led coalition as saying that the airstrike at a location on the Syria-Iraq border resulted in the deaths of “dozens” of top ISIS commanders.
 
The group was meeting in the city of Ka'im, and coalition forces, alerted to the meeting by ground intelligence, took advantage of the situation to eliminate the commanders.
 
Iraqi sources said that al-Baghdadi was set to attend the meeting, and may have been on his way there when the coalition planes struck. The fighters that carried out the strike were flown by French pilots.
 
Reports from the region indicated that coalition forces struck hard in a number of ISIS-controlled cities, and that damage across the area occupied by the terror group was widespread.
 
Witnesses said that ISIS militia ordered people to remain in their homes until further notice, and that fresh forces from neighboring states had poured in to help fight the coalition forces.

Top ISIS Commanders Killed in Air Strike

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 08:25
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersAn Arab satellite television network report claimed Thursday that a US-led coalition airstrike against Islamic State targets in areas they control has killed a “large number” of the organization's top commanders.
 
It is not yet clear if ISIS' top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed.
 
The report on Al Arabiya television quoted sources in the US-led coalition as saying that the airstrike at a location on the Syria-Iraq border resulted in the deaths of “dozens” of top ISIS commanders.
 
The group was meeting in the city of Ka'im, and coalition forces, alerted to the meeting by ground intelligence, took advantage of the situation to eliminate the commanders.
 
Iraqi sources said that al-Baghdadi was set to attend the meeting, and may have been on his way there when the coalition planes struck. The fighters that carried out the strike were flown by French pilots.
 
Reports from the region indicated that coalition forces struck hard in a number of ISIS-controlled cities, and that damage across the area occupied by the terror group was widespread.
 
Witnesses said that ISIS militia ordered people to remain in their homes until further notice, and that fresh forces from neighboring states had poured in to help fight the coalition forces.

1,000 Assyrian Christian Families Flee Syria Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 07:34
Assyrian Christian Families Flee Syria JihadistsNearly 1,000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their homes in northeastern Syria after jihadists kidnapped dozens of members of their community, an activist said on Wednesday.  
 
Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network, said they had fled in fear after jihadists from the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) took the Assyrian Christians hostage early this week.
 
"Since Monday, 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and another 150 in Qamishli," a Kurdish town on the border with Turkey, Edward told AFP.
 
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Edward said that, according to his sources in the community, ISIS terrorists had kidnapped "between 70 and 100 people, mainly women, children and the elderly."    
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said earlier that ISIS had taken 90 Assyrian Christians hostage in Hasakeh province since Monday.
 
Assyrian Christians, who are from one of the world's oldest Christian communities and whose presence in the Middle East predates Islam, have been under increasing threat since ISIS seized control of large parts of Syria.  
 
The group, which also holds swathes of Iraq, last year declared an Islamic "caliphate" in areas under its control and has committed widespread atrocities.
 
A native of part of the region where 35 Assyrian villages are located, Edward said "the jihadists broke into houses at around 4:00 a.m. while everyone was asleep" on Monday.
 
ISIS has since Monday captured at least a dozen villages in the area, Edward said, including his wife's hometown of Tal Shamiram.
 
"When she tried to reach her uncle by telephone, a man replied and said: 'This is the house of the Islamic State,'" Edward said.  
 
He said the hostages were taken to Shaddadi, an ISIS stronghold in Hasakeh province.  
 
The jihadists had been intimidating the Assyrian villagers for several weeks, he said, including by threatening to remove crosses from their churches.  
 
"People were expecting an attack, but they thought that either the Syrian army - which is just 30 kilometers (20 miles) from there - or the Kurds or the (US-led) coalition's strikes would protect them," he added.
 
A US-led coalition launched strikes against ISIS positions in Syria in September.
 
"ISIS has been losing territory because of the international coalition's strikes and they took the hostages to use them as human shields," Edward said.
 
The crisis for Christian communities in ISIS's crosshairs bears many chilling similarities to the plight of Syria's Yazidi community, which has been ravaged by massacres and forced expulsions at the hands of the jihadists.

1,000 Assyrian Christian Families Flee Syria Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 07:34
Assyrian Christian Families Flee Syria JihadistsNearly 1,000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their homes in northeastern Syria after jihadists kidnapped dozens of members of their community, an activist said on Wednesday.  
 
Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network, said they had fled in fear after jihadists from the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) took the Assyrian Christians hostage early this week.
 
"Since Monday, 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and another 150 in Qamishli," a Kurdish town on the border with Turkey, Edward told AFP.
 
{youtube}UsxdZCaSBuY{/youtube}
 
Edward said that, according to his sources in the community, ISIS terrorists had kidnapped "between 70 and 100 people, mainly women, children and the elderly."    
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said earlier that ISIS had taken 90 Assyrian Christians hostage in Hasakeh province since Monday.
 
Assyrian Christians, who are from one of the world's oldest Christian communities and whose presence in the Middle East predates Islam, have been under increasing threat since ISIS seized control of large parts of Syria.  
 
The group, which also holds swathes of Iraq, last year declared an Islamic "caliphate" in areas under its control and has committed widespread atrocities.
 
A native of part of the region where 35 Assyrian villages are located, Edward said "the jihadists broke into houses at around 4:00 a.m. while everyone was asleep" on Monday.
 
ISIS has since Monday captured at least a dozen villages in the area, Edward said, including his wife's hometown of Tal Shamiram.
 
"When she tried to reach her uncle by telephone, a man replied and said: 'This is the house of the Islamic State,'" Edward said.  
 
He said the hostages were taken to Shaddadi, an ISIS stronghold in Hasakeh province.  
 
The jihadists had been intimidating the Assyrian villagers for several weeks, he said, including by threatening to remove crosses from their churches.  
 
"People were expecting an attack, but they thought that either the Syrian army - which is just 30 kilometers (20 miles) from there - or the Kurds or the (US-led) coalition's strikes would protect them," he added.
 
A US-led coalition launched strikes against ISIS positions in Syria in September.
 
"ISIS has been losing territory because of the international coalition's strikes and they took the hostages to use them as human shields," Edward said.
 
The crisis for Christian communities in ISIS's crosshairs bears many chilling similarities to the plight of Syria's Yazidi community, which has been ravaged by massacres and forced expulsions at the hands of the jihadists.

ISIS Kidnaps 90 Christians in Syria, Says Monitor

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 11:05
ISIS Kidnaps 90 ChristiansJihadists from the Islamic State group (ISIS) have kidnapped at least 90 Assyrian Christians in northeast Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The Britain-based monitor said the abductions took place on Tuesday after ISIS seized two Assyrian villages from Kurdish forces in the province of Hassakeh, reports AFP.
 
The abduction raises particular concerns after ISIS last Sunday released video showing its terrorists beheading Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
 
US-led air strikes against ISIS in Syria have killed more than 1,600 people, mainly jihadists, since they began five months ago, the Observatory said Monday. Almost all of those killed were jihadists from ISIS and Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Nusra Front, though the Observatory also documented the deaths of 62 civilians.
 
The strikes that began on September 23 reportedly killed 1,465 members of the Islamic State group, most of them non-Syrians. Another 73 fighters from Nusra Front were killed, along with a man from a rebel group being held prisoner by ISIS in the group's de facto capital Raqa.
 
Washington and a small coalition of Arab countries began strikes against ISIS in Syria last year, expanding US-led operations with a broader coalition already underway against ISIS in Iraq
 
New Pentagon chief Ashton Carter on Monday vowed "lasting defeat" of ISIS as he summoned top generals and diplomats to Kuwait to review the war effort against the jihadists.
 
Only days after taking office, Carter convened the extraordinary meeting of more than two dozen senior military officers, ambassadors and intelligence officials at the sprawling US Army base of Camp Arifjan.
 
Speaking to American troops at the base before the talks, Carter said the US-led coalition was "pressing" the ISIS group "very ably from Kuwait and elsewhere."
 
"And we will deliver lasting defeat, make no doubt," he said.

ISIS Kidnaps 90 Christians in Syria, Says Monitor

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 11:05
ISIS Kidnaps 90 ChristiansJihadists from the Islamic State group (ISIS) have kidnapped at least 90 Assyrian Christians in northeast Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The Britain-based monitor said the abductions took place on Tuesday after ISIS seized two Assyrian villages from Kurdish forces in the province of Hassakeh, reports AFP.
 
The abduction raises particular concerns after ISIS last Sunday released video showing its terrorists beheading Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
 
US-led air strikes against ISIS in Syria have killed more than 1,600 people, mainly jihadists, since they began five months ago, the Observatory said Monday. Almost all of those killed were jihadists from ISIS and Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Nusra Front, though the Observatory also documented the deaths of 62 civilians.
 
The strikes that began on September 23 reportedly killed 1,465 members of the Islamic State group, most of them non-Syrians. Another 73 fighters from Nusra Front were killed, along with a man from a rebel group being held prisoner by ISIS in the group's de facto capital Raqa.
 
Washington and a small coalition of Arab countries began strikes against ISIS in Syria last year, expanding US-led operations with a broader coalition already underway against ISIS in Iraq
 
New Pentagon chief Ashton Carter on Monday vowed "lasting defeat" of ISIS as he summoned top generals and diplomats to Kuwait to review the war effort against the jihadists.
 
Only days after taking office, Carter convened the extraordinary meeting of more than two dozen senior military officers, ambassadors and intelligence officials at the sprawling US Army base of Camp Arifjan.
 
Speaking to American troops at the base before the talks, Carter said the US-led coalition was "pressing" the ISIS group "very ably from Kuwait and elsewhere."
 
"And we will deliver lasting defeat, make no doubt," he said.

US, Turkey Agree to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:36
Syrian RebelsThe United States and Turkey have agreed "in principle" on a deal to train and equip Syrian rebel forces, the State Department said Tuesday.
 
"As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
 
"We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon," she said, without providing any further details about the train-and-equip program, which is expected to begin next month.
 
The announcement puts an end to months of difficult negotiations between allies Washington and Ankara on how to train Syrian rebel forces to eventually take on the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Last month, the Pentagon said it would send nearly 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar as part of the effort.  
 
More than 400 trainers would be backed by a similar number of support troops that will provide help with logistics, communications and intelligence, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. 
 
The total troop number "for this mission could approach 1,000," Kirby said on January 16. "It might even exceed that."  
 
The US government hopes the effort can begin by late March, so the first rebel forces trained can be operational by year's end, according to the Pentagon.   
 
The goal is to train more than 5,000 Syrians in the first year of the program.
 
But such a deal with Turkey specifically raises some difficult questions about its own murky role in the Syrian conflict.
 
Turkey's Sunni Islamist government openly backs the Sunni rebellion against the Assad regime, and has repeatedly called for international intervention to remove the Syrian dictator. 
 
But many - including Turkey's Kurdish community - says Ankara's support for the rebels is also geared towards a more sinister objective of snuffing-out Kurdish hopes for self-determination in the region. They accuse Turkey of directly supporting Islamist rebels including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and even ISIS in their battles against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
 
Turkey denies those charges, but has failed to explain how Islamist fighters and weapons destined for jihadists are able to flow freely through its borders into Syria.

US, Turkey Agree to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:36
Syrian RebelsThe United States and Turkey have agreed "in principle" on a deal to train and equip Syrian rebel forces, the State Department said Tuesday.
 
"As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
 
"We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon," she said, without providing any further details about the train-and-equip program, which is expected to begin next month.
 
The announcement puts an end to months of difficult negotiations between allies Washington and Ankara on how to train Syrian rebel forces to eventually take on the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Last month, the Pentagon said it would send nearly 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar as part of the effort.  
 
More than 400 trainers would be backed by a similar number of support troops that will provide help with logistics, communications and intelligence, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. 
 
The total troop number "for this mission could approach 1,000," Kirby said on January 16. "It might even exceed that."  
 
The US government hopes the effort can begin by late March, so the first rebel forces trained can be operational by year's end, according to the Pentagon.   
 
The goal is to train more than 5,000 Syrians in the first year of the program.
 
But such a deal with Turkey specifically raises some difficult questions about its own murky role in the Syrian conflict.
 
Turkey's Sunni Islamist government openly backs the Sunni rebellion against the Assad regime, and has repeatedly called for international intervention to remove the Syrian dictator. 
 
But many - including Turkey's Kurdish community - says Ankara's support for the rebels is also geared towards a more sinister objective of snuffing-out Kurdish hopes for self-determination in the region. They accuse Turkey of directly supporting Islamist rebels including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and even ISIS in their battles against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
 
Turkey denies those charges, but has failed to explain how Islamist fighters and weapons destined for jihadists are able to flow freely through its borders into Syria.

ISIS 'Morality Police' Rules with Iron Fist

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 17:52
ISIS flagIslamic State (ISIS)'s "morality police" is enforcing modest dress through a reign of terror, human rights organizations claim Monday.
 
The Al-Merced NGO reports that the city Albuhamal in the Deir al-Zor province of eastern Syria, the modesty squad attacked a woman because her eyes were too exposed to their liking. Two young men who tried to protect the woman were arrested as well.
 
In Mosul, a center for ISIS in Iraq, the city's morality police regularly beat women with iron rods who are not dressed modestly according to a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. 
 
Recently, the group published a guide for Muslim women.
 
Among other things, it was explained in that girls as young as 9 years old can marry, and that the role of women is to stay home unless there is a real need to exit the house. Women are also permitted to be taken captives as prisoners of war, as are children.
 
ISIS has already explained that Islam calls for non-Muslim women to be forced into sexual slavery, and likewise recently stoned a woman accused of adultery.
 
Young women have been targeted over and over again by the terror group, which recruits women to support its male terrorists and serve as wives, baby-sitters, and mothers to future jihadists.  
 
Despite the lack of equal rights for women within ISIS, scores of women from Syria and Iraq as well as from the West have volunteered to join the modesty squad - and appear to live relatively normal lives.

ISIS 'Morality Police' Rules with Iron Fist

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 17:52
ISIS flagIslamic State (ISIS)'s "morality police" is enforcing modest dress through a reign of terror, human rights organizations claim Monday.
 
The Al-Merced NGO reports that the city Albuhamal in the Deir al-Zor province of eastern Syria, the modesty squad attacked a woman because her eyes were too exposed to their liking. Two young men who tried to protect the woman were arrested as well.
 
In Mosul, a center for ISIS in Iraq, the city's morality police regularly beat women with iron rods who are not dressed modestly according to a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. 
 
Recently, the group published a guide for Muslim women.
 
Among other things, it was explained in that girls as young as 9 years old can marry, and that the role of women is to stay home unless there is a real need to exit the house. Women are also permitted to be taken captives as prisoners of war, as are children.
 
ISIS has already explained that Islam calls for non-Muslim women to be forced into sexual slavery, and likewise recently stoned a woman accused of adultery.
 
Young women have been targeted over and over again by the terror group, which recruits women to support its male terrorists and serve as wives, baby-sitters, and mothers to future jihadists.  
 
Despite the lack of equal rights for women within ISIS, scores of women from Syria and Iraq as well as from the West have volunteered to join the modesty squad - and appear to live relatively normal lives.

Nearly 100 Killed in Clashes Between Hezbollah, Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 11:01
Funeral of Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria file - ReutersNearly 100 fighters on both sides have been killed in a week of fighting in southern Syria between regime forces and rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday.
 
The army, backed by fighters from Lebanon's powerful Shiite group Hezbollah, began an offensive at the beginning of the week in Daraa, the province bordering Israel that was the cradle of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.  
 
Regime forces had indicated that the operation was aimed at "breaking the band of territory (the rebels) are trying to create" along the border.  
 
At least 50 rebels were killed and 43 soldiers, members of Hezbollah, Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Syrian pro-regime militia, according to the Britain-based monitor, which has a network of civilian, medical and military sources across Syria.
 
The Observatory also said 10 soldiers had been executed after being accused of collaborating with rebels in Daraa by giving them information about military movements.
 
"Hezbollah doesn't have a lot of confidence in the Syrian army because there have been several cases of soldiers giving the rebels information," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
His group said Hezbollah, which is reported to have some 5,000 fighters in Syria, is leading the regime offensive in the south. 
 
The rebels and their Al-Nusra Front jihadist allies have been making advances in southern provinces that are strategic because of their proximity to Damascus, Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
 
Since the start of October 2013, rebel forces have controlled a band of territory in the sector along the border with Jordan.

Nearly 100 Killed in Clashes Between Hezbollah, Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 11:01
Funeral of Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria file - ReutersNearly 100 fighters on both sides have been killed in a week of fighting in southern Syria between regime forces and rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday.
 
The army, backed by fighters from Lebanon's powerful Shiite group Hezbollah, began an offensive at the beginning of the week in Daraa, the province bordering Israel that was the cradle of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.  
 
Regime forces had indicated that the operation was aimed at "breaking the band of territory (the rebels) are trying to create" along the border.  
 
At least 50 rebels were killed and 43 soldiers, members of Hezbollah, Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Syrian pro-regime militia, according to the Britain-based monitor, which has a network of civilian, medical and military sources across Syria.
 
The Observatory also said 10 soldiers had been executed after being accused of collaborating with rebels in Daraa by giving them information about military movements.
 
"Hezbollah doesn't have a lot of confidence in the Syrian army because there have been several cases of soldiers giving the rebels information," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
His group said Hezbollah, which is reported to have some 5,000 fighters in Syria, is leading the regime offensive in the south. 
 
The rebels and their Al-Nusra Front jihadist allies have been making advances in southern provinces that are strategic because of their proximity to Damascus, Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
 
Since the start of October 2013, rebel forces have controlled a band of territory in the sector along the border with Jordan.

Snow Slows Hezbollah Advance Towards Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 February 2015 13:14
Mine field in Golan Heights fileSyrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops shelled rebel-held villages in southern Syria on Thursday, as a snowstorm slowed an advance led by Lebanon's pro-Assad Hezbollah terrorists near the Israeli Golan Heights, a monitor said.
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian army shelled Jizeh and the west of Atman village in the southern province of Daraa, reports AFP.
 
Battles raged on in several parts of Daraa, pitting rebels and a local Al-Qaeda affiliate against Hezbollah and their Iranian and Syrian allies, said the Observatory.
 
"Despite the fighting, the Hezbollah-led advance was forced to slow down by heavy snow in the area," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The reports come on the fifth day of a major Hezbollah-led offensive in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, as well as the west of Damascus province.
 
The area is important because of its proximity to Jordan, Damascus and Israel's Golan Heights.
 
In recent days, pro-regime troops have seized a string of villages and strategic hilltops that rebels and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front had been holding for around a year.
 
This week, for the first time in Syria's war, state television acknowledged that Assad's army is fighting alongside Hezbollah and Iranian officers in its bid to crush a nearly four-year rebellion against his dictatorship.
 
The Observatory's Abdel Rahman told AFP on Thursday that 300 elite Hezbollah fighters are deployed on Syria's southern front.
 
"This really is Hezbollah's battle," he said.
 
On January 18, six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general were killed in an Israeli air strike in Quneitra as they conducted surveillance to plan a terrorist attack on Israel.

Snow Slows Hezbollah Advance Towards Golan Heights

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 February 2015 13:14
Mine field in Golan Heights fileSyrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops shelled rebel-held villages in southern Syria on Thursday, as a snowstorm slowed an advance led by Lebanon's pro-Assad Hezbollah terrorists near the Israeli Golan Heights, a monitor said.
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian army shelled Jizeh and the west of Atman village in the southern province of Daraa, reports AFP.
 
Battles raged on in several parts of Daraa, pitting rebels and a local Al-Qaeda affiliate against Hezbollah and their Iranian and Syrian allies, said the Observatory.
 
"Despite the fighting, the Hezbollah-led advance was forced to slow down by heavy snow in the area," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The reports come on the fifth day of a major Hezbollah-led offensive in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, as well as the west of Damascus province.
 
The area is important because of its proximity to Jordan, Damascus and Israel's Golan Heights.
 
In recent days, pro-regime troops have seized a string of villages and strategic hilltops that rebels and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front had been holding for around a year.
 
This week, for the first time in Syria's war, state television acknowledged that Assad's army is fighting alongside Hezbollah and Iranian officers in its bid to crush a nearly four-year rebellion against his dictatorship.
 
The Observatory's Abdel Rahman told AFP on Thursday that 300 elite Hezbollah fighters are deployed on Syria's southern front.
 
"This really is Hezbollah's battle," he said.
 
On January 18, six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general were killed in an Israeli air strike in Quneitra as they conducted surveillance to plan a terrorist attack on Israel.

Iran Revolutionary Guards Chief Says ISIS 'Nearing its End'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 February 2015 11:23
Maj Gen Qassem SuleimaniAn influential Iranian general who has reportedly been near the front line against the Islamic State (ISIS) group was quoted Thursday saying the Sunni jihadists are "nearing the end of their lives".
 
General Qassem Suleimani, the once rarely seen commander of the powerful Qods Force, has become the public face of Iran's support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments against Sunni rebellions in their countries.
 
He has frequently been pictured on social media in Iraq with pro-government forces, including Kurdish fighters and Shia Islamist militia units in battle areas.  
 
"Considering the heavy defeats suffered by Daesh and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, we are certain these groups are nearing the end of their lives," Suleimani was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.  
 
His extremely rare published remarks came in a speech made Wednesday in his home province Kerman to mark the 36th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution.  
 
Suleimani also said Tehran's regional influence was growing.
 
"Today we see signs of the Islamic revolution being exported throughout the region, from Bahrain to Iraq and from Syria to Yemen and North Africa," he said.
 
"The arrogants and Zionists have admitted, more than before, to their own weakness and to the Islamic republic's power, following their successive defeats," he said.
 
Iranian officials often use the term "arrogants" to refer to the United States and other Western powers, while "Zionists" is used in Tehran to refer to Israel without acknowledging its existence as a state.
 
Suleimani reportedly landed in Baghdad hours after ISIS overran Mosul in June and led a counter-attack at the head of Iran's deep military involvement in Iraq.
 
The Qods Force - the foreign wing of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards - conducts sensitive security functions abroad, including intelligence, special operations and political action deemed necessary to "protect the Islamic republic", which often takes the form of terrorist attacks and sabotage.
 
It's primary aim is to "export the revolution" of radical Shia Islam in Iran.
 
It has provided key support to pro-regime forces in Syria, including training, advice and in active combat.

Iran Revolutionary Guards Chief Says ISIS 'Nearing its End'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 February 2015 11:23
Maj Gen Qassem SuleimaniAn influential Iranian general who has reportedly been near the front line against the Islamic State (ISIS) group was quoted Thursday saying the Sunni jihadists are "nearing the end of their lives".
 
General Qassem Suleimani, the once rarely seen commander of the powerful Qods Force, has become the public face of Iran's support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments against Sunni rebellions in their countries.
 
He has frequently been pictured on social media in Iraq with pro-government forces, including Kurdish fighters and Shia Islamist militia units in battle areas.  
 
"Considering the heavy defeats suffered by Daesh and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, we are certain these groups are nearing the end of their lives," Suleimani was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.  
 
His extremely rare published remarks came in a speech made Wednesday in his home province Kerman to mark the 36th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution.  
 
Suleimani also said Tehran's regional influence was growing.
 
"Today we see signs of the Islamic revolution being exported throughout the region, from Bahrain to Iraq and from Syria to Yemen and North Africa," he said.
 
"The arrogants and Zionists have admitted, more than before, to their own weakness and to the Islamic republic's power, following their successive defeats," he said.
 
Iranian officials often use the term "arrogants" to refer to the United States and other Western powers, while "Zionists" is used in Tehran to refer to Israel without acknowledging its existence as a state.
 
Suleimani reportedly landed in Baghdad hours after ISIS overran Mosul in June and led a counter-attack at the head of Iran's deep military involvement in Iraq.
 
The Qods Force - the foreign wing of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards - conducts sensitive security functions abroad, including intelligence, special operations and political action deemed necessary to "protect the Islamic republic", which often takes the form of terrorist attacks and sabotage.
 
It's primary aim is to "export the revolution" of radical Shia Islam in Iran.
 
It has provided key support to pro-regime forces in Syria, including training, advice and in active combat.

How Hezbollah Assassinated Hariri And Conquered Lebanon

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 12:08
Gravesite of Rafiq Al-Hariri -ReutersA decade after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was assassinated, with Hezbollah terrorists charged over the murder, hopes that the fallout from his death would free Lebanon from Syria's influence have been dashed by the war raging across the border.
 
"Ten years, 100 years, 1,000 years, we will stay faithful to you" declare the billboards going up around Beirut as the country prepares to mark the February 14, 2005 murder of Hariri, reports AFP.
 
In the months that followed, a popular movement that accused Damascus of his killing forced Syrian troops out of Lebanon after a 30-year presence.
 
Many in the country saw the Syrian withdrawal as a chance for Lebanon to shake off the influence of its larger neighbor and its perpetual status as a pawn in wider regional struggles.
 
Yet the Lebanese public and analysts now see little cause for hope, with Syria's civil war deepening divisions that emerged after Hariri's death.
 
Lebanon is fractured between Hezbollah-led supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regional ally Iran, of which Hezbollah is a proxy, and a camp that backs the Syrian uprising and is allied with Saudi Arabia and the United States.
 
Hariri had close links to Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which vies with Shi'ite Iran for influence in the Middle East.
 
After the assassination "Lebanon entered the orbit of Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah, and this axis continues to prevail," said Daoud al-Sayegh, a former adviser to Hariri.
 
The division is at the root of ongoing instability, including a string of bomb attacks that have targeted both sides. It has also contributed to a political stalemate that has left the country without a president for eight months, the longest such vacuum since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
 
On the country's borders, the under-equipped Lebanese army is struggling to keep jihadists from Syria at bay, and in the streets residents fear the next conflict is around the corner.
 
"The country has collapsed since Hariri's assassination," said a resident of Beirut's Ain al-Mreisse district, where Hariri and 22 others were killed by a suicide bomber in a car.
 
Far from bringing together the country and freeing it of Syrian influence, analysts say the decade since Hariri's death has served to cement the preeminence of the Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, a key ally of Damascus.
 
"This murder has had the effect of a coup d'etat," said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University in Beirut.
 
Hariri "represented the Saudi project, and with him gone, it's the Iranian project that has taken over."
 
Khashan said Hariri had sought to "transform the country into a symbol of moderation and a safeguard against extremism."
 
"He was assassinated before he could do that," he said.
 
Nicknamed "Mr Lebanon," Hariri was known for his patience and "represented a moderate Sunni Muslim current," Khashan added. "After his murder, extremist Sunnis began to appear" in Lebanon.
 
Hariri served as prime minister under Syrian influence from 1992 to 1998, and again from 2000 to 2004.
 
He was vehemently opposed to Damascus's imposed extension of president Emile Lahoud's term in 2004, but was coerced into voting for it.
 
Angered by Hariri's opposition, Syria's Assad reportedly threatened to "destroy Lebanon on top of his head."
 
With the support of Riyadh and his close friend French former president Jacques Chirac, Hariri backed a UN Security Council resolution calling on foreign troops to leave Lebanon. "The Syrians never forgave him," Khashan said.
 
"Hariri put Lebanon on the international map, and that angered them," added former advisor Sayegh.
 
Hezbollah on trial for assassination
 
In a first for Lebanon, the frequent scene of political assassinations and intrigue, Hariri's murder is being prosecuted before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague.
 
The court has indicted five Hezbollah members for their involvement, but the movement has refused to turn them over, accusing the tribunal of being an "Israeli-American tool."
 
In the months after Hariri's assassination, the murder was seen as a sort of "founding event for the unity of the country," according to Fares Souaid, a member of the movement that emerged against the Syrian regime after the ex-premier's murder.
 
But "10 years later, we are seeing the weakening of the state and communities returning back behind their barricades," he said.
 
Several events will be held in Beirut to mark the anniversary including a gathering at the site of the attack, where a flame will be lit in his honor, and a prayer at his tomb.
 
Hariri was often criticized for marrying politics and business and running up huge debts in his reconstruction projects.
 
But he also attracted investors, many of whom now shy away from Lebanon because of the violence, instability and spillover from the Syrian war that followed his death.
 
"The Lebanese are unable to free themselves from a situation where they are hostages of the region's conflict," said Sayegh.

How Hezbollah Assassinated Hariri And Conquered Lebanon

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 12:08
Gravesite of Rafiq Al-Hariri -ReutersA decade after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was assassinated, with Hezbollah terrorists charged over the murder, hopes that the fallout from his death would free Lebanon from Syria's influence have been dashed by the war raging across the border.
 
"Ten years, 100 years, 1,000 years, we will stay faithful to you" declare the billboards going up around Beirut as the country prepares to mark the February 14, 2005 murder of Hariri, reports AFP.
 
In the months that followed, a popular movement that accused Damascus of his killing forced Syrian troops out of Lebanon after a 30-year presence.
 
Many in the country saw the Syrian withdrawal as a chance for Lebanon to shake off the influence of its larger neighbor and its perpetual status as a pawn in wider regional struggles.
 
Yet the Lebanese public and analysts now see little cause for hope, with Syria's civil war deepening divisions that emerged after Hariri's death.
 
Lebanon is fractured between Hezbollah-led supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regional ally Iran, of which Hezbollah is a proxy, and a camp that backs the Syrian uprising and is allied with Saudi Arabia and the United States.
 
Hariri had close links to Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which vies with Shi'ite Iran for influence in the Middle East.
 
After the assassination "Lebanon entered the orbit of Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah, and this axis continues to prevail," said Daoud al-Sayegh, a former adviser to Hariri.
 
The division is at the root of ongoing instability, including a string of bomb attacks that have targeted both sides. It has also contributed to a political stalemate that has left the country without a president for eight months, the longest such vacuum since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
 
On the country's borders, the under-equipped Lebanese army is struggling to keep jihadists from Syria at bay, and in the streets residents fear the next conflict is around the corner.
 
"The country has collapsed since Hariri's assassination," said a resident of Beirut's Ain al-Mreisse district, where Hariri and 22 others were killed by a suicide bomber in a car.
 
Far from bringing together the country and freeing it of Syrian influence, analysts say the decade since Hariri's death has served to cement the preeminence of the Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, a key ally of Damascus.
 
"This murder has had the effect of a coup d'etat," said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University in Beirut.
 
Hariri "represented the Saudi project, and with him gone, it's the Iranian project that has taken over."
 
Khashan said Hariri had sought to "transform the country into a symbol of moderation and a safeguard against extremism."
 
"He was assassinated before he could do that," he said.
 
Nicknamed "Mr Lebanon," Hariri was known for his patience and "represented a moderate Sunni Muslim current," Khashan added. "After his murder, extremist Sunnis began to appear" in Lebanon.
 
Hariri served as prime minister under Syrian influence from 1992 to 1998, and again from 2000 to 2004.
 
He was vehemently opposed to Damascus's imposed extension of president Emile Lahoud's term in 2004, but was coerced into voting for it.
 
Angered by Hariri's opposition, Syria's Assad reportedly threatened to "destroy Lebanon on top of his head."
 
With the support of Riyadh and his close friend French former president Jacques Chirac, Hariri backed a UN Security Council resolution calling on foreign troops to leave Lebanon. "The Syrians never forgave him," Khashan said.
 
"Hariri put Lebanon on the international map, and that angered them," added former advisor Sayegh.
 
Hezbollah on trial for assassination
 
In a first for Lebanon, the frequent scene of political assassinations and intrigue, Hariri's murder is being prosecuted before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague.
 
The court has indicted five Hezbollah members for their involvement, but the movement has refused to turn them over, accusing the tribunal of being an "Israeli-American tool."
 
In the months after Hariri's assassination, the murder was seen as a sort of "founding event for the unity of the country," according to Fares Souaid, a member of the movement that emerged against the Syrian regime after the ex-premier's murder.
 
But "10 years later, we are seeing the weakening of the state and communities returning back behind their barricades," he said.
 
Several events will be held in Beirut to mark the anniversary including a gathering at the site of the attack, where a flame will be lit in his honor, and a prayer at his tomb.
 
Hariri was often criticized for marrying politics and business and running up huge debts in his reconstruction projects.
 
But he also attracted investors, many of whom now shy away from Lebanon because of the violence, instability and spillover from the Syrian war that followed his death.
 
"The Lebanese are unable to free themselves from a situation where they are hostages of the region's conflict," said Sayegh.

Syrian Rebel Jihadists Capture Six Rebel Activists

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 21:53
Syrian Rebel JihadistsSyrian activists on Tuesday accused Jaysh al-Islam, a powerful Islamist group near Damascus, of detaining a group of their colleagues, in what they said was the latest in a string of abuses.
 
"An armed group believed to be loyal to Jaysh al-Islam stormed the office of Erbin's local (activist) committee. ...It kidnapped the team there and took them to an area near the frontline," said the non-violent Local Coordination Committees (LCC) activist group, reports AFP.
 
The armed men also "seized and destroyed the Erbin committee's equipment," said the LCC, condemning the raid.
 
Its statement came a day after the Erbin committee announced via its Facebook page that its office had been broken into.
 
An LCC spokeswoman told AFP via the Internet that six activists had been taken from their office on Monday, while the Erbin committee said one had since been set free.
 
According to the Erbin committee's Facebook page, the unnamed activist who was released said his detained colleagues "are being held in isolation from each other, in solitary confinement."
 
LCC spokeswoman Majeda, who refused to be identified by her full name for fear of persecution, said the latest detention is part of a campaign by Jaysh al-Islam to "empty the revolution of its true activists."
 
Jaysh al-Islam is the most powerful rebel group operating in the Eastern Ghouta area, east of Damascus, where Erbin is located.
 
Critics have accused its chief, Zahran Alloush, of seeking to sideline any potential rivals, armed or peaceful.
 
Jaysh al-Islam spokesman Islam Alloush told AFP that the Erbin activists had been "detained by the United Judiciary," the local judicial authority in the region.
 
He said he had no further information on the case, or on what charges had been brought against the activists.
 
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said the rebel judiciary in Eastern Ghouta is "dominated" by Jaysh al-Islam.
 
The rebel group has been accused of detaining activists before, including in late 2013, when four prominent activists in Douma, also east of Damascus, went missing.
 
"The kidnapper is one and the same," LCC spokeswoman Majeda said of the two incidents. "By no means is it the first time that we see such a kidnapping."
 
Syria's war began as a peaceful revolt demanding democratic change. It morphed into a civil war after President Bashar al-Assad's regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.

Syrian Rebel Jihadists Capture Six Rebel Activists

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 21:53
Syrian Rebel JihadistsSyrian activists on Tuesday accused Jaysh al-Islam, a powerful Islamist group near Damascus, of detaining a group of their colleagues, in what they said was the latest in a string of abuses.
 
"An armed group believed to be loyal to Jaysh al-Islam stormed the office of Erbin's local (activist) committee. ...It kidnapped the team there and took them to an area near the frontline," said the non-violent Local Coordination Committees (LCC) activist group, reports AFP.
 
The armed men also "seized and destroyed the Erbin committee's equipment," said the LCC, condemning the raid.
 
Its statement came a day after the Erbin committee announced via its Facebook page that its office had been broken into.
 
An LCC spokeswoman told AFP via the Internet that six activists had been taken from their office on Monday, while the Erbin committee said one had since been set free.
 
According to the Erbin committee's Facebook page, the unnamed activist who was released said his detained colleagues "are being held in isolation from each other, in solitary confinement."
 
LCC spokeswoman Majeda, who refused to be identified by her full name for fear of persecution, said the latest detention is part of a campaign by Jaysh al-Islam to "empty the revolution of its true activists."
 
Jaysh al-Islam is the most powerful rebel group operating in the Eastern Ghouta area, east of Damascus, where Erbin is located.
 
Critics have accused its chief, Zahran Alloush, of seeking to sideline any potential rivals, armed or peaceful.
 
Jaysh al-Islam spokesman Islam Alloush told AFP that the Erbin activists had been "detained by the United Judiciary," the local judicial authority in the region.
 
He said he had no further information on the case, or on what charges had been brought against the activists.
 
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said the rebel judiciary in Eastern Ghouta is "dominated" by Jaysh al-Islam.
 
The rebel group has been accused of detaining activists before, including in late 2013, when four prominent activists in Douma, also east of Damascus, went missing.
 
"The kidnapper is one and the same," LCC spokeswoman Majeda said of the two incidents. "By no means is it the first time that we see such a kidnapping."
 
Syria's war began as a peaceful revolt demanding democratic change. It morphed into a civil war after President Bashar al-Assad's regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.

Kurds Seize Back Villages Around Kobane

Category: News
Created on Monday, 09 February 2015 19:28
KurdsSyrian Kurdish forces have recaptured more than a third of the villages around Kobane from the Islamic State terror group since routing the jihadists from the town a fortnight ago, a monitor said Sunday.
 
"The (Kurdish) People's Protection Units (YPG) have recaptured 128 villages out of some 350 in the past two weeks," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The YPG recaptured Kobane on the border with Turkey from ISIS terrorists on January 26, after four months of fierce fighting backed by Syrian rebels and US-led coalition air strikes.
 
"ISIS withdrew from villages east and south of Kobane mostly without resistance, but fought hard to try to keep control of villages to the west," said Abdel Rahman.
 
"That's because it wants to try to protect areas under its control in Aleppo province. But the Kurds are steadily advancing," he told AFP. 
 
The US-led coalition has been carrying out strikes against ISIS terrorists in Syria since September.
 
In recent days, it has continued to pound ISIS positions around Kobane, while YPG troops backed by Syrian rebels press the fight on the ground.

Kurds Seize Back Villages Around Kobane

Category: News
Created on Monday, 09 February 2015 19:28
KurdsSyrian Kurdish forces have recaptured more than a third of the villages around Kobane from the Islamic State terror group since routing the jihadists from the town a fortnight ago, a monitor said Sunday.
 
"The (Kurdish) People's Protection Units (YPG) have recaptured 128 villages out of some 350 in the past two weeks," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The YPG recaptured Kobane on the border with Turkey from ISIS terrorists on January 26, after four months of fierce fighting backed by Syrian rebels and US-led coalition air strikes.
 
"ISIS withdrew from villages east and south of Kobane mostly without resistance, but fought hard to try to keep control of villages to the west," said Abdel Rahman.
 
"That's because it wants to try to protect areas under its control in Aleppo province. But the Kurds are steadily advancing," he told AFP. 
 
The US-led coalition has been carrying out strikes against ISIS terrorists in Syria since September.
 
In recent days, it has continued to pound ISIS positions around Kobane, while YPG troops backed by Syrian rebels press the fight on the ground.

ISIS Claims American Hostage Killed in Coalition Airstrike

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 16:58
American Hostage KilledThe Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed on Friday that a female American hostage had been killed in an air strike in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition, AFP reported.
 
In a statement on jihadist websites, ISIS said the woman, whom it named as Kayla Jean Mueller, was buried under rubble after a raid by a Jordanian warplane in Raqa.
 
"The plane from the crusader coalition bombed a position outside the city of Raqa after Friday prayers," it said.
 
"No fighter was wounded but we can confirm that an American hostage was killed in the strikes."
 
The statement did not show any pictures of a body and there was no independent confirmation of the claim. American officials declined to comment.
 
"I cannot confirm those reports in any way. I'm not going into specifics of Americans held overseas," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, according to AFP.
 
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan later said the United States has not yet seen any proof to confirm the claim.
 
"We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports. We have not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates ISIL's claim," she said.
 
The Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 30 ISIS jihadists were killed in coalition raids Friday on the Raqa area.
 
It said they died in raids on "positions and depots sheltering military vehicles and tanks, east and west of the city of Raqa".
 
IS has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, ruling with a brutal version of Islamic law.
 
It has murdered both locals and foreigners, including two American journalists, an American aid worker, two British aid workers, two Japanese hostages and a Jordanian fighter pilot.
 
Jordan, one of several Arab countries in the U.S.-led coalition, vowed a harsh response after ISIS released a video this week showing the burning alive of the pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh.
 
Kassasbeh was captured in December after his F-16 crashed in Syria while on a mission against the Sunni extremists.

ISIS Claims American Hostage Killed in Coalition Airstrike

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 16:58
American Hostage KilledThe Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed on Friday that a female American hostage had been killed in an air strike in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition, AFP reported.
 
In a statement on jihadist websites, ISIS said the woman, whom it named as Kayla Jean Mueller, was buried under rubble after a raid by a Jordanian warplane in Raqa.
 
"The plane from the crusader coalition bombed a position outside the city of Raqa after Friday prayers," it said.
 
"No fighter was wounded but we can confirm that an American hostage was killed in the strikes."
 
The statement did not show any pictures of a body and there was no independent confirmation of the claim. American officials declined to comment.
 
"I cannot confirm those reports in any way. I'm not going into specifics of Americans held overseas," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, according to AFP.
 
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan later said the United States has not yet seen any proof to confirm the claim.
 
"We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports. We have not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates ISIL's claim," she said.
 
The Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 30 ISIS jihadists were killed in coalition raids Friday on the Raqa area.
 
It said they died in raids on "positions and depots sheltering military vehicles and tanks, east and west of the city of Raqa".
 
IS has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, ruling with a brutal version of Islamic law.
 
It has murdered both locals and foreigners, including two American journalists, an American aid worker, two British aid workers, two Japanese hostages and a Jordanian fighter pilot.
 
Jordan, one of several Arab countries in the U.S.-led coalition, vowed a harsh response after ISIS released a video this week showing the burning alive of the pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh.
 
Kassasbeh was captured in December after his F-16 crashed in Syria while on a mission against the Sunni extremists.

Syria: Kurdish Fighters Seize Dozens of Villages from ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 13:13
Kurdish YPG fighters on the frontline against ISIS in Ras al-Ain northern Syira - ReutersSyrian Kurdish fighters have seized dozens of villages from Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists around the town of Kobane on the Turkish border, expanding their control in the area, a monitor said Friday.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had captured 101 villages around Kobane since seizing it from ISIS on January 26 after four months of fighting, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  
 
"They now control territory ranging from 15 to 25 kilometres (nine to 16 miles) from Kobane to the east, west and south," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The small town became a key battleground, with ISIS poised at one point to overrun it and cement its grip on a large stretch of territory along the border.  
 
Since January 26, YPG forces have advanced steadily in the surrounding countryside, recapturing dozens of villages, some no larger than a few dozen homes.
 
In some villages, they have met little resistance, with ISIS fighters withdrawing as they advance.  
 
But in other places there have been clashes, with the Observatory saying at least 13 ISIS fighters were killed in a YPG ambush Friday.

Syria: Kurdish Fighters Seize Dozens of Villages from ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 13:13
Kurdish YPG fighters on the frontline against ISIS in Ras al-Ain northern Syira - ReutersSyrian Kurdish fighters have seized dozens of villages from Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists around the town of Kobane on the Turkish border, expanding their control in the area, a monitor said Friday.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had captured 101 villages around Kobane since seizing it from ISIS on January 26 after four months of fighting, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  
 
"They now control territory ranging from 15 to 25 kilometres (nine to 16 miles) from Kobane to the east, west and south," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The small town became a key battleground, with ISIS poised at one point to overrun it and cement its grip on a large stretch of territory along the border.  
 
Since January 26, YPG forces have advanced steadily in the surrounding countryside, recapturing dozens of villages, some no larger than a few dozen homes.
 
In some villages, they have met little resistance, with ISIS fighters withdrawing as they advance.  
 
But in other places there have been clashes, with the Observatory saying at least 13 ISIS fighters were killed in a YPG ambush Friday.

ISIS Fires Cleric for Opposing Burning Alive of Jordanian Pilot

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 12:44
jordan pilotA Saudi cleric with the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) jihadist group has been removed from his post after objecting to the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot, a monitoring group said Friday.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the cleric, known by the nom-de-guerre Abu Musab al-Jazrawi, raised objections during a Thursday meeting to the way pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh was killed.
 
"He raised objections during the weekly meeting that takes place between clerics and IS leaders in the Aleppo area," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
"He said the way Kassasbeh had been killed violated religious traditions."
 
Kassasbeh was captured by IS in December after his plane went down over Syria as he participated in the US-led coalition fighting the jihadist group.
 
A video purporting to show him being burned alive inside a cage emerged on Tuesday, though Jordanian state television said the execution was carried out weeks earlier.
 
Abdel Rahman said Jazrawi was removed from his post after the criticism, and could also face a religious tribunal and possible punishment.
 
ISIS and its supporters have sought to produce religious justifications for the horrific method by which they killed Kassasbeh, drawing on themes within Islamic texts that resonate with many; but some ordinary Muslims and Islamic scholars have fiercely criticized the execution.
 
The group emerged in Syria in 2013, and rules a self-proclaimed Islamic "caliphate" in territory under its control in Iraq and Syria.
 
It has become infamous for its brutal executions, including by beheading and stoning, as well as its mass-slaughter of religious and ethnic groups which refuse to convert to its brand of Islam.

ISIS Fires Cleric for Opposing Burning Alive of Jordanian Pilot

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 12:44
jordan pilotA Saudi cleric with the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) jihadist group has been removed from his post after objecting to the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot, a monitoring group said Friday.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the cleric, known by the nom-de-guerre Abu Musab al-Jazrawi, raised objections during a Thursday meeting to the way pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh was killed.
 
"He raised objections during the weekly meeting that takes place between clerics and IS leaders in the Aleppo area," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
"He said the way Kassasbeh had been killed violated religious traditions."
 
Kassasbeh was captured by IS in December after his plane went down over Syria as he participated in the US-led coalition fighting the jihadist group.
 
A video purporting to show him being burned alive inside a cage emerged on Tuesday, though Jordanian state television said the execution was carried out weeks earlier.
 
Abdel Rahman said Jazrawi was removed from his post after the criticism, and could also face a religious tribunal and possible punishment.
 
ISIS and its supporters have sought to produce religious justifications for the horrific method by which they killed Kassasbeh, drawing on themes within Islamic texts that resonate with many; but some ordinary Muslims and Islamic scholars have fiercely criticized the execution.
 
The group emerged in Syria in 2013, and rules a self-proclaimed Islamic "caliphate" in territory under its control in Iraq and Syria.
 
It has become infamous for its brutal executions, including by beheading and stoning, as well as its mass-slaughter of religious and ethnic groups which refuse to convert to its brand of Islam.

ISIS 'Held Public Screenings' of Pilot Being Burned to Death

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 05 February 2015 06:50
jordan pilotThe Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) reportedly broadcast footage of its fighters burning alive a Jordanian pilot in public areas throughout its de-facto capitol of Raqqa in northern Syria.
 
"Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" - a group made up of anonymous activists who risk their lives to expose ISIS atrocities in areas under its control - first reported news of the gruesome spectacle, which played out throughout the city following the release of the video Tuesday. 
 
"Using large viewing screens and Movie projectors across the City of al Raqqa, #ISIS Played the Burning of the #JordanianPilot... Mouaz Al Kasasbeh for the public to watch over and over again..." the group said in a series of Twitter posts.
 
ISIS regularly publicizes its executions and other forms of brutal punishments as a way of instilling fear in local populations and discourage them against rebelling despite their desperate conditions. In Raqqa - once a hub of relative modernity in Syria - residents say they have suffered greatly since ISIS took over and implemented its authoritarian Islamic law, with food shortages and regular power outages compounding their misery.
 
The video is possibly the most gruesome yet by ISIS, which has tended to behead previous hostages.
 
In the slick, high-quality production, al-Kassasbeh is first seen sitting behind a desk addressing the camera and condemning coalition strikes against ISIS. After that, he is shown walking past rows of masked terrorists into a metal cage, while doused in petrol; once inside, one of the terrorists lights a fuse leading into the cage, and he is engulfed in flames. A tractor is then used to bury his charred body in rubble.
 
In revenge for the killing, Jordan announced it would be executing a number of ISIS-linked terrorists held in its prisons - a threat it carried out swiftly early Wednesday morning.
 
Despite only releasing the video yesterday, it soon emerged that ISIS had in all likelihood killed al-Kassasbeh a month ago, with Jordanian state TV reporting his execution took place on January 3rd.
 
And a tweet on January 8 by the head of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, who writes under the pseudonym "Abu-Ibraham al-Raqqawi", had detailed a conversation between ISIS fighters in which they gloated of having burned the Jordanian airman to death.
 
Meanwhile, the fate of al-Kassasbeh appears to have had an effect on at least one member of the international coalition against ISIS, as reports surfaced that the United Arab Emirates pulled out of the air campaign against the so-called Islamic State after the pilot's capture in late December.
 
The UAE suspended air strikes after the capture due to fears over the safety of its own pilots, according to the New York Times. 
 
The United Arab Emirates want the US to improve its search-and-rescue efforts, including the use of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, in northern Iraq, closer to the battleground.
 
As it stands, the US-led mission is based in Kuwait, administration officials said, according to the Times.  
 
It said UAE pilots will not rejoin the fight until the Ospreys - which take off and land like helicopters but fly like planes - are deployed in northern Iraq.
 
Al-Kassassbeh was captured by ISIS terrorists within minutes of his plane crashing in December near Raqqa, Syria, but UAE officials questioned if American military rescue teams would have been able to reach the pilot even if there had been more time for a rescue effort, administration officials said.  
 
UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan asked Barbara Leaf, the new US ambassador, why the United States had not put proper resources in northern Iraq for rescuing downed pilots, a senior administration official said, according to the Times.
 
Several rescue efforts do indeed appear to have been made to save the Jordanian pilot, including one on January 1st - just days before he was likely executed.
 
But that operation failed after special forces were forced to withdraw under heavy fire.

ISIS 'Held Public Screenings' of Pilot Being Burned to Death

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 05 February 2015 06:50
jordan pilotThe Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) reportedly broadcast footage of its fighters burning alive a Jordanian pilot in public areas throughout its de-facto capitol of Raqqa in northern Syria.
 
"Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" - a group made up of anonymous activists who risk their lives to expose ISIS atrocities in areas under its control - first reported news of the gruesome spectacle, which played out throughout the city following the release of the video Tuesday. 
 
"Using large viewing screens and Movie projectors across the City of al Raqqa, #ISIS Played the Burning of the #JordanianPilot... Mouaz Al Kasasbeh for the public to watch over and over again..." the group said in a series of Twitter posts.
 
ISIS regularly publicizes its executions and other forms of brutal punishments as a way of instilling fear in local populations and discourage them against rebelling despite their desperate conditions. In Raqqa - once a hub of relative modernity in Syria - residents say they have suffered greatly since ISIS took over and implemented its authoritarian Islamic law, with food shortages and regular power outages compounding their misery.
 
The video is possibly the most gruesome yet by ISIS, which has tended to behead previous hostages.
 
In the slick, high-quality production, al-Kassasbeh is first seen sitting behind a desk addressing the camera and condemning coalition strikes against ISIS. After that, he is shown walking past rows of masked terrorists into a metal cage, while doused in petrol; once inside, one of the terrorists lights a fuse leading into the cage, and he is engulfed in flames. A tractor is then used to bury his charred body in rubble.
 
In revenge for the killing, Jordan announced it would be executing a number of ISIS-linked terrorists held in its prisons - a threat it carried out swiftly early Wednesday morning.
 
Despite only releasing the video yesterday, it soon emerged that ISIS had in all likelihood killed al-Kassasbeh a month ago, with Jordanian state TV reporting his execution took place on January 3rd.
 
And a tweet on January 8 by the head of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, who writes under the pseudonym "Abu-Ibraham al-Raqqawi", had detailed a conversation between ISIS fighters in which they gloated of having burned the Jordanian airman to death.
 
Meanwhile, the fate of al-Kassasbeh appears to have had an effect on at least one member of the international coalition against ISIS, as reports surfaced that the United Arab Emirates pulled out of the air campaign against the so-called Islamic State after the pilot's capture in late December.
 
The UAE suspended air strikes after the capture due to fears over the safety of its own pilots, according to the New York Times. 
 
The United Arab Emirates want the US to improve its search-and-rescue efforts, including the use of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, in northern Iraq, closer to the battleground.
 
As it stands, the US-led mission is based in Kuwait, administration officials said, according to the Times.  
 
It said UAE pilots will not rejoin the fight until the Ospreys - which take off and land like helicopters but fly like planes - are deployed in northern Iraq.
 
Al-Kassassbeh was captured by ISIS terrorists within minutes of his plane crashing in December near Raqqa, Syria, but UAE officials questioned if American military rescue teams would have been able to reach the pilot even if there had been more time for a rescue effort, administration officials said.  
 
UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan asked Barbara Leaf, the new US ambassador, why the United States had not put proper resources in northern Iraq for rescuing downed pilots, a senior administration official said, according to the Times.
 
Several rescue efforts do indeed appear to have been made to save the Jordanian pilot, including one on January 1st - just days before he was likely executed.
 
But that operation failed after special forces were forced to withdraw under heavy fire.

Iranian Commander: We Helped 'Palestine' Produce Missiles

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 09:48
Amir Ali HajizadehA senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) boasted this week that Iran had provided Syria, Iraq, “Palestine” and Hezbollah with the needed know-how to produce missiles to hurt Israel.
 
"The IRGC's Aerospace Force has developed to a stage in the field of missile industries that it can mass-produce different types of short- and mid-range missiles," the commander, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said in Tehran on Monday, according to the Fars news agency.
 
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has helped Iraq, Syria, Palestine and the Lebanese Hezbollah by exporting the technology that it has for the production of missiles and other equipment, and they can now stand against the Zionist regime, the [ISIS] and other Takfiri groups and cripple them," he boasted.
 
Hajizadeh also stressed Iran's self-sufficiency in building radar systems and drones, and added that the country has also exported its drone technology and products to other countries.
 
Iran often boasts of its military capabilities and of its assistance to terrorist groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Last August, Hajizadeh declared that Tehran will "accelerate" arming Palestinians in Judea and Samaria in retaliation for Israel allegedly deploying a spy drone over Iran, which was shot down.
 
A top Iranian military commander later declared that weapon shipments to Judea and Samaria have already begun and that more will be sent to other “Palestinian resistance groups.”
 
Iran has been upping its anti-Israel rhetoric in recent days, since a January 18 airstrike allegedly carried out by Israel in the Syrian Golan Heights killed an Iranian commander along with several members of Hezbollah.
 
General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, threatened a missile attack on Israel, indicating it would come from Judea and Samaria and not from Lebanon.
 
Revolutionary Guards Minister Mohsen Rafighdoost said that the strike would pave the way for a war against Israel. A senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Ramezan Sharif, declared that the airstrike “will accelerate the collapse of the Zionist regime.”

Iranian Commander: We Helped 'Palestine' Produce Missiles

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 09:48
Amir Ali HajizadehA senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) boasted this week that Iran had provided Syria, Iraq, “Palestine” and Hezbollah with the needed know-how to produce missiles to hurt Israel.
 
"The IRGC's Aerospace Force has developed to a stage in the field of missile industries that it can mass-produce different types of short- and mid-range missiles," the commander, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said in Tehran on Monday, according to the Fars news agency.
 
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has helped Iraq, Syria, Palestine and the Lebanese Hezbollah by exporting the technology that it has for the production of missiles and other equipment, and they can now stand against the Zionist regime, the [ISIS] and other Takfiri groups and cripple them," he boasted.
 
Hajizadeh also stressed Iran's self-sufficiency in building radar systems and drones, and added that the country has also exported its drone technology and products to other countries.
 
Iran often boasts of its military capabilities and of its assistance to terrorist groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Last August, Hajizadeh declared that Tehran will "accelerate" arming Palestinians in Judea and Samaria in retaliation for Israel allegedly deploying a spy drone over Iran, which was shot down.
 
A top Iranian military commander later declared that weapon shipments to Judea and Samaria have already begun and that more will be sent to other “Palestinian resistance groups.”
 
Iran has been upping its anti-Israel rhetoric in recent days, since a January 18 airstrike allegedly carried out by Israel in the Syrian Golan Heights killed an Iranian commander along with several members of Hezbollah.
 
General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, threatened a missile attack on Israel, indicating it would come from Judea and Samaria and not from Lebanon.
 
Revolutionary Guards Minister Mohsen Rafighdoost said that the strike would pave the way for a war against Israel. A senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Ramezan Sharif, declared that the airstrike “will accelerate the collapse of the Zionist regime.”

Syria: At Least 7 Dead in Damascus Bus Bombing

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 February 2015 09:55
Wreckage of bus destroyed in Damascus violence file - ReutersAt least seven people were killed when a blast ripped through a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims in a central district of the Syrian capital on Sunday, a monitoring group said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately clear what had caused the blast near the Souq al-Hamadiyeh neighbourhood of Damascus.
 
The explosion was also reported by Syrian state media, with the official SANA news agency saying at least four people had been killed and 19 wounded.  
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the bus had a Lebanese licence plate and was carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims visiting religious sites in the city.
 
Lebanese media reported that Lebanese nationals were among the dead and wounded, but there was no immediate official confirmation.
 
Syrian state television showed footage from the scene of the blast, with men in military uniforms picking through the wreckage of the bus.
 
Its front half was mostly blown off, leaving only the metal frame, and bags of belongings were strewn across the remaining seats.
 
The channel also showed images from inside a hospital where the wounded were being treated, including a woman whose black robes had been lifted up, revealing a bloodsoaked undershirt.
 
In the last few minutes, a social media account associated with Al Qaeda's Al Nusra Front posted a message claiming responsibility for the bus attack. That claim has not yet been independently verified.
 
Parts of Damascus have remained relatively unscathed by the fighting raging across much of Syria since an uprising erupted in March 2011.  
 
But rebels regularly fire rockets into the capital from rear bases in the surrounding countryside, and the city has also been hit by bombings.
 
Despite the conflict, the road from the Lebanese border to Damascus remains relatively safe, and Lebanese Shiite pilgrims have continued to visit religious sites in Syria.
 
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict started, and around half of the country's population has been displaced.

Syria: At Least 7 Dead in Damascus Bus Bombing

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 February 2015 09:55
Wreckage of bus destroyed in Damascus violence file - ReutersAt least seven people were killed when a blast ripped through a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims in a central district of the Syrian capital on Sunday, a monitoring group said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately clear what had caused the blast near the Souq al-Hamadiyeh neighbourhood of Damascus.
 
The explosion was also reported by Syrian state media, with the official SANA news agency saying at least four people had been killed and 19 wounded.  
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the bus had a Lebanese licence plate and was carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims visiting religious sites in the city.
 
Lebanese media reported that Lebanese nationals were among the dead and wounded, but there was no immediate official confirmation.
 
Syrian state television showed footage from the scene of the blast, with men in military uniforms picking through the wreckage of the bus.
 
Its front half was mostly blown off, leaving only the metal frame, and bags of belongings were strewn across the remaining seats.
 
The channel also showed images from inside a hospital where the wounded were being treated, including a woman whose black robes had been lifted up, revealing a bloodsoaked undershirt.
 
In the last few minutes, a social media account associated with Al Qaeda's Al Nusra Front posted a message claiming responsibility for the bus attack. That claim has not yet been independently verified.
 
Parts of Damascus have remained relatively unscathed by the fighting raging across much of Syria since an uprising erupted in March 2011.  
 
But rebels regularly fire rockets into the capital from rear bases in the surrounding countryside, and the city has also been hit by bombings.
 
Despite the conflict, the road from the Lebanese border to Damascus remains relatively safe, and Lebanese Shiite pilgrims have continued to visit religious sites in Syria.
 
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict started, and around half of the country's population has been displaced.

Scores of Foreign Fighters Among ISIS Dead in Kobane Defeat

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 11:22
Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant -ReutersLarge numbers of foreign fighters are among the ISIS jihadists killed in the battle for the Syrian town of Kobane, a senior US official said Tuesday, saying the concerted campaign was halting the Islamists' march.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) announced the "liberation" of Kobane on Monday, depriving the Islamic State group of a strategic prize to add to its territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
The United States says Kurdish fighters are now in control of about 90 percent of the town on the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
"ISIL is now, whether on order or whether they are breaking ranks, is beginning to withdraw from the town," a senior State Department official told reporters, using another term for ISIS.  
 
But he warned that the terrorists were "adaptive and resilient" and no-one was declaring "mission accomplished" yet.
 
The US and some 60 coalition partners is engaged in the "first phase of a multi-year campaign," he stressed.
 
But a victory in Kobane was an important milestone in trying to change "the narrative" of the jihadists who have attracted thousands of foreign fighters to their ranks, mostly disaffected youth drawn by the promise of adventure.
 
ISIS had poured some of its best foreign fighters into Kobane, the State Department official said, but in the last six weeks the losses had begun to cause splits in the ranks.
 
The group has even executed foreign fighters for refusing orders to deploy to the town.
 
Observers say ISIS lost nearly 1,200 fighters in the battle, out of a total of 1,800 killed in total, despite outgunning YPG forces with sophisticated weaponry captured from Iraqi and Syrian military bases.
 
"We don't get into body counts, but it's in the four figures in terms of the overall number of ISIL fighters that have been killed," the State Department official confirmed.
 
Many foreign fighters - many of them Australians, Belgians, Canadians and Chechens - were among them, he said, refusing to give exact figures other than to say "it was hugely, hugely significant."  
 
"The entire notion of this organization which is on the march, inevitable expansion, (its) overall momentum has been halted at Kobane," he added.
 
The US began airstrikes on ISIS to stop its march on Kobane in September and in October airdropped in critical supplies to the anti-ISIS fighters.  
 
Washington also worked with Turkey to open a land corridor to allow Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to help defend the beleaguered town.
 
With the eyes of the international media watching the jihadists "wanted to raise the largest flag they ever made over Kobane," the US official said.
 
"Kobane shows that you're not going to be part of something great... so the whole narrative that ISIL is trying to put out, Kobane really puts a dent in it."

Scores of Foreign Fighters Among ISIS Dead in Kobane Defeat

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 11:22
Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant -ReutersLarge numbers of foreign fighters are among the ISIS jihadists killed in the battle for the Syrian town of Kobane, a senior US official said Tuesday, saying the concerted campaign was halting the Islamists' march.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) announced the "liberation" of Kobane on Monday, depriving the Islamic State group of a strategic prize to add to its territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
The United States says Kurdish fighters are now in control of about 90 percent of the town on the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
"ISIL is now, whether on order or whether they are breaking ranks, is beginning to withdraw from the town," a senior State Department official told reporters, using another term for ISIS.  
 
But he warned that the terrorists were "adaptive and resilient" and no-one was declaring "mission accomplished" yet.
 
The US and some 60 coalition partners is engaged in the "first phase of a multi-year campaign," he stressed.
 
But a victory in Kobane was an important milestone in trying to change "the narrative" of the jihadists who have attracted thousands of foreign fighters to their ranks, mostly disaffected youth drawn by the promise of adventure.
 
ISIS had poured some of its best foreign fighters into Kobane, the State Department official said, but in the last six weeks the losses had begun to cause splits in the ranks.
 
The group has even executed foreign fighters for refusing orders to deploy to the town.
 
Observers say ISIS lost nearly 1,200 fighters in the battle, out of a total of 1,800 killed in total, despite outgunning YPG forces with sophisticated weaponry captured from Iraqi and Syrian military bases.
 
"We don't get into body counts, but it's in the four figures in terms of the overall number of ISIL fighters that have been killed," the State Department official confirmed.
 
Many foreign fighters - many of them Australians, Belgians, Canadians and Chechens - were among them, he said, refusing to give exact figures other than to say "it was hugely, hugely significant."  
 
"The entire notion of this organization which is on the march, inevitable expansion, (its) overall momentum has been halted at Kobane," he added.
 
The US began airstrikes on ISIS to stop its march on Kobane in September and in October airdropped in critical supplies to the anti-ISIS fighters.  
 
Washington also worked with Turkey to open a land corridor to allow Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to help defend the beleaguered town.
 
With the eyes of the international media watching the jihadists "wanted to raise the largest flag they ever made over Kobane," the US official said.
 
"Kobane shows that you're not going to be part of something great... so the whole narrative that ISIL is trying to put out, Kobane really puts a dent in it."

Iranian Official Calls to 'Wipe Out the Zionist Regime'

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 10:16
General Mohammad Reza NaqdiIran is continuing to threaten to retaliate against Israel for an airstrike last week, in which Iran's General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed.
 
On Monday, a senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Ramezan Sharif, declared that the airstrike “will accelerate the collapse of the Zionist regime.”
 
“Undoubtedly, the bloods shed in the front of awakening the Islamic Ummah have provided the ground more than ever for wiping out the Zionist regime,” Sharif said in Tehran, according to the Fars news agency.
 
He called on Muslim states to unite and said that the Islamic countries should desist from provoking rifts and use all their capacities to fight “the child-killing Zionist regime” instead.
 
Another Iranian official, General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, said that the airstrike justified “striking painful blows at the Zionist regime.”
 
Naqdi warned “the Zionists” that they would soon be forced to leave “the occupied Palestinian territories”, and added, according to Fars, "They will not experience tranquility, these bloods will not remain without a response and they should remain fully alerted until complete annihilation of the Zionist regime."
 
In the airstrike, six Iran-proxy Hezbollah terrorists were killed, including Jihad Mughniyeh who was the son of the late Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. Six Iranian soldiers were also killed, including Allahdadi.
 
Reportedly the 12 were engaged in a surveillance mission planning an attack on Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights when they were taken out by a missile fired from an IDF helicopter.
 
Monday’s threats are the latest in a series of threats from Iranian officials over the airstrike. Several days ago, General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, threatened a missile attack on Israel, indicating it would come from Judea and Samaria and not from Lebanon.
 
Going further, Revolutionary Guards Minister Mohsen Rafighdoost said last Wednesday that the strike would pave the way for a war against Israel.
 
As well, a Farsi-language Iranian news site affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, has suggested that the sons of Israeli leaders are being targeted as a response to the Israeli airstrike.
 
The news site, Mashregh News, detailed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's sons Yair and Avner may be targeted, and likewise listed the sons of former prime ministers, including Ehud Olmert's son Shaul and Ariel Sharon's sons Gilad and Omri.

Iranian Official Calls to 'Wipe Out the Zionist Regime'

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 10:16
General Mohammad Reza NaqdiIran is continuing to threaten to retaliate against Israel for an airstrike last week, in which Iran's General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed.
 
On Monday, a senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Ramezan Sharif, declared that the airstrike “will accelerate the collapse of the Zionist regime.”
 
“Undoubtedly, the bloods shed in the front of awakening the Islamic Ummah have provided the ground more than ever for wiping out the Zionist regime,” Sharif said in Tehran, according to the Fars news agency.
 
He called on Muslim states to unite and said that the Islamic countries should desist from provoking rifts and use all their capacities to fight “the child-killing Zionist regime” instead.
 
Another Iranian official, General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, said that the airstrike justified “striking painful blows at the Zionist regime.”
 
Naqdi warned “the Zionists” that they would soon be forced to leave “the occupied Palestinian territories”, and added, according to Fars, "They will not experience tranquility, these bloods will not remain without a response and they should remain fully alerted until complete annihilation of the Zionist regime."
 
In the airstrike, six Iran-proxy Hezbollah terrorists were killed, including Jihad Mughniyeh who was the son of the late Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. Six Iranian soldiers were also killed, including Allahdadi.
 
Reportedly the 12 were engaged in a surveillance mission planning an attack on Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights when they were taken out by a missile fired from an IDF helicopter.
 
Monday’s threats are the latest in a series of threats from Iranian officials over the airstrike. Several days ago, General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, threatened a missile attack on Israel, indicating it would come from Judea and Samaria and not from Lebanon.
 
Going further, Revolutionary Guards Minister Mohsen Rafighdoost said last Wednesday that the strike would pave the way for a war against Israel.
 
As well, a Farsi-language Iranian news site affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, has suggested that the sons of Israeli leaders are being targeted as a response to the Israeli airstrike.
 
The news site, Mashregh News, detailed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's sons Yair and Avner may be targeted, and likewise listed the sons of former prime ministers, including Ehud Olmert's son Shaul and Ariel Sharon's sons Gilad and Omri.

Assad Threatens to Fight America's Anti-ISIS Rebels

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 08:55
Bashar Al-AssadSyrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been conducting a nearly four-year bloody crackdown on his own people, said US plans to train vetted rebels to fight Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists were "illusory" as they would eventually defect to the jihadists, in an interview published Monday.
 
The Syrian leader also questioned talks to be held in Moscow this week, telling Foreign Affairs magazine that his government would attend but was not convinced the opposition figures taking part represented Syrians on the ground, reports AFP.
 
Washington has backed the Syrian opposition since early in the uprising and has unveiled plans to train more than 5,000 vetted rebels in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to fight ISIS.
 
Assad said the planned US-trained force would be "illegal" and would be treated like any other rebel group. "They are going to be fought like any other illegal militia fighting against the Syrian army," he said.
 
"Bringing 5,000 (fighters) from the outside will make most of them defect and join ISIS and other groups. The idea itself... is illusory," he said.
 
The Pentagon has itself acknowledged that identifying and vetting potential rebel recruits for training is a difficult task that cannot be accomplished quickly without significant risks.
 
Assad questioned the seriousness of the US-led campaign against the jihadists, claiming "what we've seen so far is just, let's say, window-dressing, nothing real. Did the United States put any pressure on Turkey to stop the support of Al-Qaeda? They didn't."
 
He was referring to his government's longstanding accusations that Ankara has backed rebel groups including ISIS's jihadist rivals in the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
 
Meanwhile Assad's troops have been responsible for more atrocities than ISIS during the conflict that has already claimed over 200,000 lives according to a UN report last September, despite the media preoccupation with ISIS in recent months.
 
Political solution from Russia?
 
Assad said the nearly four-year-old conflict could only be ended with a political solution, but cast doubt on the value of talks being organized this week by his key ally Russia.
 
The dialogue, which was due to open later on Monday and run through Thursday, was intended to bring together government and opposition representatives, but the main exiled opposition bloc, the National Coalition, is boycotting.
 
"Any talks should be held in a neutral country and overseen by the United Nations," a source in the coalition said, referring to Russia's status as a key Assad ally. Five members of the National Coalition will attend in a personal capacity along with members of opposition groups tolerated by the Damascus authorities.
 
Assad said his government would attend, but asked: "Who do you negotiate with? We have institutions, we have an army and we have influence."
 
"The people we are going to negotiate with, who do they represent?" he said, dismissing the strong opposition movement that has been rebelling to his autocratic rule for many years.
 
His government has long argued that the exiled opposition does not represent people inside Syria, accusing it of being "puppets" of its main foreign backers, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.

Assad Threatens to Fight America's Anti-ISIS Rebels

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 08:55
Bashar Al-AssadSyrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been conducting a nearly four-year bloody crackdown on his own people, said US plans to train vetted rebels to fight Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists were "illusory" as they would eventually defect to the jihadists, in an interview published Monday.
 
The Syrian leader also questioned talks to be held in Moscow this week, telling Foreign Affairs magazine that his government would attend but was not convinced the opposition figures taking part represented Syrians on the ground, reports AFP.
 
Washington has backed the Syrian opposition since early in the uprising and has unveiled plans to train more than 5,000 vetted rebels in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to fight ISIS.
 
Assad said the planned US-trained force would be "illegal" and would be treated like any other rebel group. "They are going to be fought like any other illegal militia fighting against the Syrian army," he said.
 
"Bringing 5,000 (fighters) from the outside will make most of them defect and join ISIS and other groups. The idea itself... is illusory," he said.
 
The Pentagon has itself acknowledged that identifying and vetting potential rebel recruits for training is a difficult task that cannot be accomplished quickly without significant risks.
 
Assad questioned the seriousness of the US-led campaign against the jihadists, claiming "what we've seen so far is just, let's say, window-dressing, nothing real. Did the United States put any pressure on Turkey to stop the support of Al-Qaeda? They didn't."
 
He was referring to his government's longstanding accusations that Ankara has backed rebel groups including ISIS's jihadist rivals in the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
 
Meanwhile Assad's troops have been responsible for more atrocities than ISIS during the conflict that has already claimed over 200,000 lives according to a UN report last September, despite the media preoccupation with ISIS in recent months.
 
Political solution from Russia?
 
Assad said the nearly four-year-old conflict could only be ended with a political solution, but cast doubt on the value of talks being organized this week by his key ally Russia.
 
The dialogue, which was due to open later on Monday and run through Thursday, was intended to bring together government and opposition representatives, but the main exiled opposition bloc, the National Coalition, is boycotting.
 
"Any talks should be held in a neutral country and overseen by the United Nations," a source in the coalition said, referring to Russia's status as a key Assad ally. Five members of the National Coalition will attend in a personal capacity along with members of opposition groups tolerated by the Damascus authorities.
 
Assad said his government would attend, but asked: "Who do you negotiate with? We have institutions, we have an army and we have influence."
 
"The people we are going to negotiate with, who do they represent?" he said, dismissing the strong opposition movement that has been rebelling to his autocratic rule for many years.
 
His government has long argued that the exiled opposition does not represent people inside Syria, accusing it of being "puppets" of its main foreign backers, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.

Syrian Opposition Agree on 10-Point Plan for 'Radical Change'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 25 January 2015 08:49
Free Syrian Army fighters pose with their weaponsSyria's opposition factions called Saturday for "radical democratic change" in the war-torn country ahead of April talks aimed at unifying their plan for a political solution to the conflict, AFP reports.
 
In a two-day conference held in Cairo, the regime-tolerated opposition met with members of the exiled National Coalition and agreed on a 10-point vision, as well as announcing fresh talks slated for April. 
 
The groups agreed that "any negotiation process should lead to... a democratic regime and a sovereign civil state," according to a joint statement. 
 
They added that any political solution to Syria's four-year civil war "must guarantee a radical democratic change that criminalizes violence and sectarianism".   
 
The National Coalition was informally represented in Cairo by several members, including Ahmed Jarba, a former coalition chief who is close to Saudi Arabia.   
 
A Coalition source had earlier said its members were not attending the Cairo meet in an official capacity.
 
The next opposition general conference "aims at agreeing on a unified political vision and to unify the opposition's efforts," said Saleh al-Nebwani, member of the regime-tolerated domestic National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change. 
 
The Coalition and top opposition figure Moaz al-Khatib previously announced they will not attend talks with the Syrian regime in Moscow this month aimed at finding a political solution to the war that has killed more than 200,000 people so far.
 
But the internal opposition said on Saturday that some invited members were expected to attend the meeting. 
 
Fayez Sarah from the National Coalition said the Cairo meeting did not discuss the Moscow talks "because a decision was already taken" on this issue.   
 
Moscow's effort to host the peace talks comes after two UN-brokered meetings in Geneva last year between regime and opposition representatives failed to produce results. 
 
Russia is the most powerful backer of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian Opposition Agree on 10-Point Plan for 'Radical Change'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 25 January 2015 08:49
Free Syrian Army fighters pose with their weaponsSyria's opposition factions called Saturday for "radical democratic change" in the war-torn country ahead of April talks aimed at unifying their plan for a political solution to the conflict, AFP reports.
 
In a two-day conference held in Cairo, the regime-tolerated opposition met with members of the exiled National Coalition and agreed on a 10-point vision, as well as announcing fresh talks slated for April. 
 
The groups agreed that "any negotiation process should lead to... a democratic regime and a sovereign civil state," according to a joint statement. 
 
They added that any political solution to Syria's four-year civil war "must guarantee a radical democratic change that criminalizes violence and sectarianism".   
 
The National Coalition was informally represented in Cairo by several members, including Ahmed Jarba, a former coalition chief who is close to Saudi Arabia.   
 
A Coalition source had earlier said its members were not attending the Cairo meet in an official capacity.
 
The next opposition general conference "aims at agreeing on a unified political vision and to unify the opposition's efforts," said Saleh al-Nebwani, member of the regime-tolerated domestic National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change. 
 
The Coalition and top opposition figure Moaz al-Khatib previously announced they will not attend talks with the Syrian regime in Moscow this month aimed at finding a political solution to the war that has killed more than 200,000 people so far.
 
But the internal opposition said on Saturday that some invited members were expected to attend the meeting. 
 
Fayez Sarah from the National Coalition said the Cairo meeting did not discuss the Moscow talks "because a decision was already taken" on this issue.   
 
Moscow's effort to host the peace talks comes after two UN-brokered meetings in Geneva last year between regime and opposition representatives failed to produce results. 
 
Russia is the most powerful backer of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Vow War on Israel After Airstrike

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 24 January 2015 12:52
Hossein SalamiIranian officials repeatedly broadcast daily threats toward Israel following the attack carried out last week in Syria, which killed six Iranian soldiers, including commanders, as well as six members of Hezbollah.
 
Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said Israel should expect a strong reaction against it, as proven in the past by the Revolutionary Guards, and Israel will see the "destructive lightning" of the Islamic Republic. 
 
He said that Israel is a strategic component of Iran's struggle against the United States, and therefore Iran is building military strength along Israel's borders - areas from which it can launch missiles via Hezbollah and "Palestine," as well as Shahab missiles from its own soil.
 
Salami further claimed that the Israeli attack strategy in the airstrike reflects the failure of the US and Israel in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries, and that reality shows that these two states are in decline, so they took actions which are only a sign of weakness.
 
Mohsen Rafighdoost, Minister of the Revolutionary Guards, said during a memorial service held on Wednesday for the Hezbollah terrorists killed in the strike that it would pave the way for a war against Israel. 
 
Iran's backlash follows reports Thursday that Israeli military intelligence meticulously coordinated the strike, despite earlier claims that the hit on the Iranian and Hezbollah generals were an "accident." 
 
The strike killed Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late Imad Mughniyeh who was Hezbollah's former military commander, and Iranian general General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi.
 
According to Kuwaiti sources, Israel ordered a specific assassination hit on Allahdadi as the general moved between Syrian outposts, through information gained via wiretapping. 

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Vow War on Israel After Airstrike

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 24 January 2015 12:52
Hossein SalamiIranian officials repeatedly broadcast daily threats toward Israel following the attack carried out last week in Syria, which killed six Iranian soldiers, including commanders, as well as six members of Hezbollah.
 
Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said Israel should expect a strong reaction against it, as proven in the past by the Revolutionary Guards, and Israel will see the "destructive lightning" of the Islamic Republic. 
 
He said that Israel is a strategic component of Iran's struggle against the United States, and therefore Iran is building military strength along Israel's borders - areas from which it can launch missiles via Hezbollah and "Palestine," as well as Shahab missiles from its own soil.
 
Salami further claimed that the Israeli attack strategy in the airstrike reflects the failure of the US and Israel in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries, and that reality shows that these two states are in decline, so they took actions which are only a sign of weakness.
 
Mohsen Rafighdoost, Minister of the Revolutionary Guards, said during a memorial service held on Wednesday for the Hezbollah terrorists killed in the strike that it would pave the way for a war against Israel. 
 
Iran's backlash follows reports Thursday that Israeli military intelligence meticulously coordinated the strike, despite earlier claims that the hit on the Iranian and Hezbollah generals were an "accident." 
 
The strike killed Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late Imad Mughniyeh who was Hezbollah's former military commander, and Iranian general General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi.
 
According to Kuwaiti sources, Israel ordered a specific assassination hit on Allahdadi as the general moved between Syrian outposts, through information gained via wiretapping. 

Iranian General Among Dead in IAF Golan Strike

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 18:19
Iran general died in Israeli strike in Syrian GolanAn Israeli strike on Syria that killed six members of the Iranian-proxy Hezbollah terrorist organization also killed six Iranian solders and commanders, including an Iranian general.
 
"The Israeli strike killed six Iranian soldiers, including commanders, as well as the six members of Hezbollah. They were all in a convoy of three cars," a source close to the Shia Islamist group told AFP on condition of anonymity.
 
Iranian officials confirmed the claim shortly after, adding that one of those killed was a general in the elite Revolutionary Guard force.
 
"General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a number of fighters and Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) forces were attacked by the Zionist regime's helicopters," said a statement on the Guards' website. "This brave general and some members of Hezbollah were martyred."
 
The strike killed Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late Imad Mughniyeh who was Hezbollah's former military commander. Mughniyeh was among six Hezbollah terrorists killed, including a Hezbollah commander.
 
Mughniyeh, who according to intelligence sources was planning attacks on Israel's north and had formed a terrorist organization of his own backed by Hezbollah and Iran, was to be buried on Monday afternoon in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the terror group.
 
On Monday afternoon, mourners gathered in Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold for Mughniyeh's funeral.
 
"God willing, the resistance will retaliate but the leadership of the resistance will be the one to decide the nature and timing," said Hassana Sadaqa, as she prepared to pay her respects.
 
Mughniyeh will be buried in the same grave as his father Imad, who was killed in a 2008 car bombing that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.
 
The six terrorists killed on Sunday afternoon were carrying out a field reconnaissance mission in Mazraat Amal village, near Quneitra on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights, Hezbollah's Al-Manar television said.
 
An Israeli security source confirmed that an Israeli helicopter had carried out a strike against terrorists in the Golan who were allegedly carrying out an attack.
 
Hezbollah responded by vowing an attack on Israel, but made clear it does not want another full-scale war.
 
"What happened is that the Israelis called Hezbollah's bluff last night," said Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University in Beirut. "Hezbollah will not be able to retaliate, because if it retaliates, it will be another war. Hezbollah is in Syria and it is not ready for another war against Israel."
 
That "bluff" was stated clearly last week, when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah bombastically threatened to conquer the northern Galilee region of Israel in two separate interviews.
 
Lebanese media weighed the prospect of conflict, with the Al-Safir newspaper saying Hezbollah needed something "more than a reply and less than a war." In Israel, analysts made the same calculation.
 
"Hezbollah doesn't want a full-fledged war," said Yoram Schweitzer, a former Israeli military counterterrorism chief.
 
"It has a number of possibilities to respond in different arenas. We assume that it currently does not want full contact," he told AFP.

Iranian General Among Dead in IAF Golan Strike

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 18:19
Iran general died in Israeli strike in Syrian GolanAn Israeli strike on Syria that killed six members of the Iranian-proxy Hezbollah terrorist organization also killed six Iranian solders and commanders, including an Iranian general.
 
"The Israeli strike killed six Iranian soldiers, including commanders, as well as the six members of Hezbollah. They were all in a convoy of three cars," a source close to the Shia Islamist group told AFP on condition of anonymity.
 
Iranian officials confirmed the claim shortly after, adding that one of those killed was a general in the elite Revolutionary Guard force.
 
"General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a number of fighters and Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) forces were attacked by the Zionist regime's helicopters," said a statement on the Guards' website. "This brave general and some members of Hezbollah were martyred."
 
The strike killed Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late Imad Mughniyeh who was Hezbollah's former military commander. Mughniyeh was among six Hezbollah terrorists killed, including a Hezbollah commander.
 
Mughniyeh, who according to intelligence sources was planning attacks on Israel's north and had formed a terrorist organization of his own backed by Hezbollah and Iran, was to be buried on Monday afternoon in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the terror group.
 
On Monday afternoon, mourners gathered in Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold for Mughniyeh's funeral.
 
"God willing, the resistance will retaliate but the leadership of the resistance will be the one to decide the nature and timing," said Hassana Sadaqa, as she prepared to pay her respects.
 
Mughniyeh will be buried in the same grave as his father Imad, who was killed in a 2008 car bombing that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.
 
The six terrorists killed on Sunday afternoon were carrying out a field reconnaissance mission in Mazraat Amal village, near Quneitra on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights, Hezbollah's Al-Manar television said.
 
An Israeli security source confirmed that an Israeli helicopter had carried out a strike against terrorists in the Golan who were allegedly carrying out an attack.
 
Hezbollah responded by vowing an attack on Israel, but made clear it does not want another full-scale war.
 
"What happened is that the Israelis called Hezbollah's bluff last night," said Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University in Beirut. "Hezbollah will not be able to retaliate, because if it retaliates, it will be another war. Hezbollah is in Syria and it is not ready for another war against Israel."
 
That "bluff" was stated clearly last week, when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah bombastically threatened to conquer the northern Galilee region of Israel in two separate interviews.
 
Lebanese media weighed the prospect of conflict, with the Al-Safir newspaper saying Hezbollah needed something "more than a reply and less than a war." In Israel, analysts made the same calculation.
 
"Hezbollah doesn't want a full-fledged war," said Yoram Schweitzer, a former Israeli military counterterrorism chief.
 
"It has a number of possibilities to respond in different arenas. We assume that it currently does not want full contact," he told AFP.

Angry Syrian Protesters Burn 'Je suis Charlie' Poster

Category: News
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 21:36
Stephane CharbonnierSyrian protesters in a rebel-held area of Aleppo on Thursday burned a poster expressing support for satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, accusing it of stoking Muslim anger, AFP reports.
 
Dozens of people marched in the battered district of Salaheddin, in the southwest of Syria's second city, against Charlie Hebdo's new cartoon, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed.
 
In Wednesday's new edition, the prophet is shown with a tear in his eye, under the headline "All is forgiven".
 
He holds a sign reading "Je suis Charlie", the slogan that has become a global rallying cry for those expressing sympathy for the victims and support for freedom of speech.
 
Wednesday's was the first issue of the magazine to be published since Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on its Paris offices on January 7.
 
The magazine’s new issue sold out across France in record time, but the Muslim world has not been as sympathetic.
 
The Afghan Taliban on Thursday condemned its publication of further Mohammed cartoons and praised the gunmen, saying they were "bringing the perpetrators of the obscene act to justice".
 
Angry opponents in countries from Pakistan and Turkey, the Philippines and Mauritania have staged protests over the new cartoons.
 
A Turkish court ordered a block on websites featuring images of the cover, while Senegal said it was banning the dissemination of Wednesday's editions of Charlie Hebdo and the French daily Liberation, which also put a cartoon of the Mohammed on the front page.
 
Some of the protesters in Aleppo carried banners inscribed with the Islamic profession of faith and a "Je suis Charlie" poster was burned.
 
"Mohammed is our leader forever," chanted some protesters, while others cried: "We will sacrifice ourselves for you, God's prophet."
 
Demonstrator Abu Mudar told AFP, "We are on the street today to support our prophet and to protest against the offensive drawings that Western governments are spreading, while hurting Muslims' feelings all over the world."
 
He added, "These drawings increase enmity, hatred and feelings of hostility among Muslims towards these governments and these countries."

Angry Syrian Protesters Burn 'Je suis Charlie' Poster

Category: News
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 21:36
Stephane CharbonnierSyrian protesters in a rebel-held area of Aleppo on Thursday burned a poster expressing support for satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, accusing it of stoking Muslim anger, AFP reports.
 
Dozens of people marched in the battered district of Salaheddin, in the southwest of Syria's second city, against Charlie Hebdo's new cartoon, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed.
 
In Wednesday's new edition, the prophet is shown with a tear in his eye, under the headline "All is forgiven".
 
He holds a sign reading "Je suis Charlie", the slogan that has become a global rallying cry for those expressing sympathy for the victims and support for freedom of speech.
 
Wednesday's was the first issue of the magazine to be published since Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on its Paris offices on January 7.
 
The magazine’s new issue sold out across France in record time, but the Muslim world has not been as sympathetic.
 
The Afghan Taliban on Thursday condemned its publication of further Mohammed cartoons and praised the gunmen, saying they were "bringing the perpetrators of the obscene act to justice".
 
Angry opponents in countries from Pakistan and Turkey, the Philippines and Mauritania have staged protests over the new cartoons.
 
A Turkish court ordered a block on websites featuring images of the cover, while Senegal said it was banning the dissemination of Wednesday's editions of Charlie Hebdo and the French daily Liberation, which also put a cartoon of the Mohammed on the front page.
 
Some of the protesters in Aleppo carried banners inscribed with the Islamic profession of faith and a "Je suis Charlie" poster was burned.
 
"Mohammed is our leader forever," chanted some protesters, while others cried: "We will sacrifice ourselves for you, God's prophet."
 
Demonstrator Abu Mudar told AFP, "We are on the street today to support our prophet and to protest against the offensive drawings that Western governments are spreading, while hurting Muslims' feelings all over the world."
 
He added, "These drawings increase enmity, hatred and feelings of hostility among Muslims towards these governments and these countries."

ISIS Shows its Most Popular Execution Style is Crucifixion

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 21:17
crucified1The brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization that has conquered large swathes of Iraq and Syria continues to impose Islamic Sharia law sprinkled with generous helping of executions - one of its favorite methods, crucifixion, was put on display this week in rare form.
 
In the last two days, ISIS terrorists crucified 15 Syrian civilians in several villages of the Deir ez-Zur region in the country's east, over accusations of "opposing" the Islamic State.
 
Two of the murdered were from the Shitat tribe, which has come in for mass executions by ISIS recently for daring to question the administrative authority the organization has claimed for itself in eastern Syria.
 
ISIS has perfected its brutal execution techniques, first shooting its victims and then crucifying their bodies and leaving them in the town square for three days as a message of deterrence to the rest of the residents to fear their iron rule.
 
The Syrian human rights group "Al-Musad" reported that in the northern city of Kara, ISIS also executed a man who was accused of photographing ISIS bases and one of their terrorists, and putting the pictures on Facebook.
 
In that case as well, the murdered man's body was crucified and left in the city square.

ISIS Shows its Most Popular Execution Style is Crucifixion

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 21:17
crucified1The brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization that has conquered large swathes of Iraq and Syria continues to impose Islamic Sharia law sprinkled with generous helping of executions - one of its favorite methods, crucifixion, was put on display this week in rare form.
 
In the last two days, ISIS terrorists crucified 15 Syrian civilians in several villages of the Deir ez-Zur region in the country's east, over accusations of "opposing" the Islamic State.
 
Two of the murdered were from the Shitat tribe, which has come in for mass executions by ISIS recently for daring to question the administrative authority the organization has claimed for itself in eastern Syria.
 
ISIS has perfected its brutal execution techniques, first shooting its victims and then crucifying their bodies and leaving them in the town square for three days as a message of deterrence to the rest of the residents to fear their iron rule.
 
The Syrian human rights group "Al-Musad" reported that in the northern city of Kara, ISIS also executed a man who was accused of photographing ISIS bases and one of their terrorists, and putting the pictures on Facebook.
 
In that case as well, the murdered man's body was crucified and left in the city square.

Nasrallah Vows Attack on Israel 'For Syria Strikes'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 20:59
Hassan Nasrallah01Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization, threatened to attack Israel on Thursday, citing the pretext of reported Israeli airstrikes on missiles in Syria headed for Hezbollah.
 
Nasrallah, who spoke in an television interview with Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen to be broadcast Thursday night, said his Iran-proxy Shi'ite terrorist group is well armed and always ready to fight Israel, according to excerpts of the interview issued ahead of its broadcast.
 
The interview came after Nasrallah gave an interview on Tuesday in which he threatened to conquer Israel's Galilee region in the north - he restated that threat in the Thursday interview as well.
 
A key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said that reported Israeli strikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis," which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.
 
"The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he said. "The axis is capable of responding. This can happen any time."
 
The IAF has carried out several raids against terror targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah to use against Israel, since the conflict there started nearly four years ago; Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to defend Assad's regime.
 
The most recent strike was in December, when Israeli jets struck weapons warehouses near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
 
Israel has never confirmed it carried out the strikes, but it says it has a policy of preventing arms transfers to terrorist groups including Hezbollah. It was widely reported that the December strikes had targeted arms convoys or depots of Iranian-made rockets.
 
The last major conflict with Hezbollah was in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah missile strikes forced Israel to defend its northern border.
 
In Thursday's interview, Nasrallah said his group was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel.
 
Hezbollah fighters "must be prepared", he said. "When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership...asks you (fighters)...to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee."
 
Asked about Hezbollah's arsenal, Nasrallah said the group had "all (the weapons) you can imagine...and in great quantities." He added: "We are now stronger than we ever were as a resistance movement."

Nasrallah Vows Attack on Israel 'For Syria Strikes'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 20:59
Hassan Nasrallah01Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization, threatened to attack Israel on Thursday, citing the pretext of reported Israeli airstrikes on missiles in Syria headed for Hezbollah.
 
Nasrallah, who spoke in an television interview with Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen to be broadcast Thursday night, said his Iran-proxy Shi'ite terrorist group is well armed and always ready to fight Israel, according to excerpts of the interview issued ahead of its broadcast.
 
The interview came after Nasrallah gave an interview on Tuesday in which he threatened to conquer Israel's Galilee region in the north - he restated that threat in the Thursday interview as well.
 
A key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said that reported Israeli strikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis," which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.
 
"The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he said. "The axis is capable of responding. This can happen any time."
 
The IAF has carried out several raids against terror targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah to use against Israel, since the conflict there started nearly four years ago; Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to defend Assad's regime.
 
The most recent strike was in December, when Israeli jets struck weapons warehouses near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
 
Israel has never confirmed it carried out the strikes, but it says it has a policy of preventing arms transfers to terrorist groups including Hezbollah. It was widely reported that the December strikes had targeted arms convoys or depots of Iranian-made rockets.
 
The last major conflict with Hezbollah was in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah missile strikes forced Israel to defend its northern border.
 
In Thursday's interview, Nasrallah said his group was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel.
 
Hezbollah fighters "must be prepared", he said. "When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership...asks you (fighters)...to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee."
 
Asked about Hezbollah's arsenal, Nasrallah said the group had "all (the weapons) you can imagine...and in great quantities." He added: "We are now stronger than we ever were as a resistance movement."

Five Canadians Killed in Syria Fighting with ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 18 January 2015 10:52
The face of ISISFive Canadians have died fighting alongside Islamic State terrorists in Syria, including a man who called for lone wolf attacks in Canada, local media reported Wednesday.
 
The National Post said Ottawa-born John Maguire, who joined ISIS terrorists in Syria in January 2013, died Wednesday in the flashpoint town Kobane.
 
In a video message last year, the former University of Ottawa student warned Canada it faces retaliation for participating in United States-led airstrikes against ISIS.
 
Calling himself Abu Anwar al-Canadi, Maguire urged Muslims to follow the example of a driver in a hit-and-run killing of a soldier near Montreal and of a gunman who killed an unarmed soldier in Ottawa.
 
Meanwhile, broadcaster CBC said that four other Canadians from a single family of Somali origin died in recent months while fighting with the Islamic State terrorist organization in Syria.
 
Three of the cousins are thought to have left Canada in October 2013, the CBC reported.
 
Ahmed Hirsi said his 20-year-old son Mahad was killed last fall along with cousins Hamsa and Hersi Kariye.
 
The CBC said another cousin from Minnesota, Hanad Abdullahi Mohallim, was also killed.
 
Hirsi said his son had called him from Egypt to say he was traveling to Syria.
 
Hamsa and Hersi's brother confirmed the two men had died, but did not say how or where. He denied they had traveled to Syria and said instead they went to Egypt to study Islam.
 
"That is the path my brothers wanted to take from day one," he told CBC. "These people left their country to go study their religion."
 
Canada has joined the US-led campaign against Islamic State, which has taken over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
 
Last week, three were arrested in Canada over "serious" potential threats, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Tuesday.

Five Canadians Killed in Syria Fighting with ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 18 January 2015 10:52
The face of ISISFive Canadians have died fighting alongside Islamic State terrorists in Syria, including a man who called for lone wolf attacks in Canada, local media reported Wednesday.
 
The National Post said Ottawa-born John Maguire, who joined ISIS terrorists in Syria in January 2013, died Wednesday in the flashpoint town Kobane.
 
In a video message last year, the former University of Ottawa student warned Canada it faces retaliation for participating in United States-led airstrikes against ISIS.
 
Calling himself Abu Anwar al-Canadi, Maguire urged Muslims to follow the example of a driver in a hit-and-run killing of a soldier near Montreal and of a gunman who killed an unarmed soldier in Ottawa.
 
Meanwhile, broadcaster CBC said that four other Canadians from a single family of Somali origin died in recent months while fighting with the Islamic State terrorist organization in Syria.
 
Three of the cousins are thought to have left Canada in October 2013, the CBC reported.
 
Ahmed Hirsi said his 20-year-old son Mahad was killed last fall along with cousins Hamsa and Hersi Kariye.
 
The CBC said another cousin from Minnesota, Hanad Abdullahi Mohallim, was also killed.
 
Hirsi said his son had called him from Egypt to say he was traveling to Syria.
 
Hamsa and Hersi's brother confirmed the two men had died, but did not say how or where. He denied they had traveled to Syria and said instead they went to Egypt to study Islam.
 
"That is the path my brothers wanted to take from day one," he told CBC. "These people left their country to go study their religion."
 
Canada has joined the US-led campaign against Islamic State, which has taken over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
 
Last week, three were arrested in Canada over "serious" potential threats, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Tuesday.

Syrian Jihadists Shoot Woman in Town Square for 'Adultery'

Category: Islam
Created on Sunday, 18 January 2015 07:48
Syrian Jihadists Shoot Woman for AdulteryAl-Qaeda-linked terrorists have publicly executed a woman accused of adultery in northwestern Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in total 14 people had been executed for alleged adultery or homosexuality in the war-torn country since July, half of them women.
 
It released a video showing fighters from Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, tying up a woman and shooting her in a square in the town of Maaret Masirin in the province of Idlib.
 
A crowd of civilians and fighters are seen watching, as a jihadist accuses the woman of "corrupting the earth, and adultery." Islamic law views all sex outside marriage as a punishable crime.
 
Other cases of execution documented by the Observatory include a man accused of adultery who was stoned to death by Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist groups in the town of Saraqeb in Idlib.
 
The rival Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist organization is also accused of executing several women and men for alleged adultery or homosexuality.
 
Another Islamist group threw a man thought to be gay off a building in the northern province of Aleppo.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said that more executions might have taken place elsewhere in Syria that were not documented.
 
ISIS has captured large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, declaring a "caliphate" and imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Syrian Jihadists Shoot Woman in Town Square for 'Adultery'

Category: Islam
Created on Sunday, 18 January 2015 07:48
Syrian Jihadists Shoot Woman for AdulteryAl-Qaeda-linked terrorists have publicly executed a woman accused of adultery in northwestern Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in total 14 people had been executed for alleged adultery or homosexuality in the war-torn country since July, half of them women.
 
It released a video showing fighters from Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, tying up a woman and shooting her in a square in the town of Maaret Masirin in the province of Idlib.
 
A crowd of civilians and fighters are seen watching, as a jihadist accuses the woman of "corrupting the earth, and adultery." Islamic law views all sex outside marriage as a punishable crime.
 
Other cases of execution documented by the Observatory include a man accused of adultery who was stoned to death by Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist groups in the town of Saraqeb in Idlib.
 
The rival Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist organization is also accused of executing several women and men for alleged adultery or homosexuality.
 
Another Islamist group threw a man thought to be gay off a building in the northern province of Aleppo.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said that more executions might have taken place elsewhere in Syria that were not documented.
 
ISIS has captured large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, declaring a "caliphate" and imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

'Russian Spies' Executed by Child Soldier in Shocking ISIS Video

Category: News
Created on Friday, 16 January 2015 19:31
ISIS child executioner - ScreenshotA shocking video posted online Tuesday appears to show ISIS using a young child soldier to execute two alleged Russian spies in Syria.
 
The slickly-produced video - which bears all the hallmarks of previous ISIS propaganda productions - shows two men being interrogated in Russian about their alleged attempt to infiltrate the jihadi group on behalf of Russia's FSB spy agency.
 
In the forced confession one of the men, a Kazakh national, says he was ordered to gather intelligence on a particular ISIS leader and use a flash drive to steal sensitive information to pass on to the FSB. The other alleged spy confesses to having been sent to assassinate a senior ISIS commander.
 
Although it is unclear whether their confessions were genuine or not (the confessions were clearly made under duress), the video itself does appear to be authentic - as does its grisly end.
 
After extracting the confessions a burly ISIS fighter previously hidden off-screen appears in the video's final "scene", standing in a field behind the two kneeling suspects and delivering a speech against "disbelievers," a Kalashnikov assault rifle slung across his shoulder. Standing next to him is a young boy with shoulder-length hair, apparently from the Caucuses. The boy, who is no more than nine or ten years old, casually brandishes a pistol.
 
After quoting from the Koran, the adult terrorist adds in Russian: "Allah has gifted the Islamic State's security agency with the apprehension of these two spies... By Allah's grace, they are now in the custody of the lion cubs of the Caliphate."
 
At that point the young boy is gently nudged forward, pistol in hand, and calmly shoots the two men repeatedly inThe young child calmly holds a pistol in his hand the head.
 
The "lion cubs of the Caliphate" is a name given by ISIS to it's child soldiers, which the Islamist terror group regularly shows off in a bid to encourage Muslim parents to indoctrinate their children to become "mujahideen", or "holy warriors".
 
Indeed, the video ends with a scene from a previous ISIS propaganda video released in November, showcasing a training camp for "the next generation" of jihadis. The same young boy features prominently in that video, telling the camera of his ambitions to grow up to "kill infidels" and identifying himself as "Abdullah" from Kazakhstan.
 
A recent study by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) revealed the growing use of children by ISIS both in its propaganda and in military roles, but this is the first such graphic use of a young child in a public execution.

'Russian Spies' Executed by Child Soldier in Shocking ISIS Video

Category: News
Created on Friday, 16 January 2015 19:31
ISIS child executioner - ScreenshotA shocking video posted online Tuesday appears to show ISIS using a young child soldier to execute two alleged Russian spies in Syria.
 
The slickly-produced video - which bears all the hallmarks of previous ISIS propaganda productions - shows two men being interrogated in Russian about their alleged attempt to infiltrate the jihadi group on behalf of Russia's FSB spy agency.
 
In the forced confession one of the men, a Kazakh national, says he was ordered to gather intelligence on a particular ISIS leader and use a flash drive to steal sensitive information to pass on to the FSB. The other alleged spy confesses to having been sent to assassinate a senior ISIS commander.
 
Although it is unclear whether their confessions were genuine or not (the confessions were clearly made under duress), the video itself does appear to be authentic - as does its grisly end.
 
After extracting the confessions a burly ISIS fighter previously hidden off-screen appears in the video's final "scene", standing in a field behind the two kneeling suspects and delivering a speech against "disbelievers," a Kalashnikov assault rifle slung across his shoulder. Standing next to him is a young boy with shoulder-length hair, apparently from the Caucuses. The boy, who is no more than nine or ten years old, casually brandishes a pistol.
 
After quoting from the Koran, the adult terrorist adds in Russian: "Allah has gifted the Islamic State's security agency with the apprehension of these two spies... By Allah's grace, they are now in the custody of the lion cubs of the Caliphate."
 
At that point the young boy is gently nudged forward, pistol in hand, and calmly shoots the two men repeatedly inThe young child calmly holds a pistol in his hand the head.
 
The "lion cubs of the Caliphate" is a name given by ISIS to it's child soldiers, which the Islamist terror group regularly shows off in a bid to encourage Muslim parents to indoctrinate their children to become "mujahideen", or "holy warriors".
 
Indeed, the video ends with a scene from a previous ISIS propaganda video released in November, showcasing a training camp for "the next generation" of jihadis. The same young boy features prominently in that video, telling the camera of his ambitions to grow up to "kill infidels" and identifying himself as "Abdullah" from Kazakhstan.
 
A recent study by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) revealed the growing use of children by ISIS both in its propaganda and in military roles, but this is the first such graphic use of a young child in a public execution.

Syria: Turkey is Allowing Terrorists to Freely Cross the Border

Category: News
Created on Friday, 16 January 2015 05:34
IHH 00The Syrian government on Monday accused Turkey of allowing "terrorists" to freely cross the border, after Ankara said the wife of one of the Paris attackers entered Syria from Turkey earlier this month, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
 
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that the woman, Hayat Boumedienne, arrived in Turkey from Madrid on January 2 before crossing into Syria on January 8, the day after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
 
In response, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that Turkey had aided terrorists who "shed the blood of Syrians and innocent people worldwide".
 
Damascus called on the international community "to stop Turkey's destructive policy," as it put it.
 
Boumeddiene, 26, is the lone remaining suspect wanted in connection with the France terrorism spree, which included a shooting rampage at the Charlie Hebdo satirical news magazine on Wednesday, the killing of a French policewoman Thursday, and a dual hostage crisis in a printing company and a kosher supermarket Friday. 
 
CCTV footage which surfaced on Monday corroborates remarks from Turkish officials Saturday night, who said that Boumeddiene had arrived in Turkey and then made her way to Syria - and that during routine screening of passengers, the couple were flagged by Turkey's Risk Assessment Center and a decision made to maintain surveillance on their movements after landing. 
 
Syria’s comments are a reflection of the deterioration of ties between Syria and Turkey ever since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
 
Turkey is a strong backer of Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad, whose government views all of its armed opponents as "terrorists."
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has several times called on Assad to resign. In August of 2013 Erdogan, then the Prime Minister of Turkey, said that the goal of any military intervention in Syria should be to topple Assad’s regime.
 
The heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria have led to several cross-border incidents, including the explosion of a Syrian mortar in Turkish territory, which killed five civilians.
 
The Turkish army responded by attacking several targets in Syria. Turkey's parliament later gave the government the green light to use military force against Syria if necessary.
 
In another incident, Turkey intercepted a Syrian Airbus A320 flying from Moscow to Damascus and escorted it to the Esenboga Airport in Ankara.
 
Turkey later claimed it had seized "objectionable cargo" aboard the Syrian passenger plane. Syria, in turn, accused Turkey of lying.

Syria: Turkey is Allowing Terrorists to Freely Cross the Border

Category: News
Created on Friday, 16 January 2015 05:34
IHH 00The Syrian government on Monday accused Turkey of allowing "terrorists" to freely cross the border, after Ankara said the wife of one of the Paris attackers entered Syria from Turkey earlier this month, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
 
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that the woman, Hayat Boumedienne, arrived in Turkey from Madrid on January 2 before crossing into Syria on January 8, the day after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
 
In response, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that Turkey had aided terrorists who "shed the blood of Syrians and innocent people worldwide".
 
Damascus called on the international community "to stop Turkey's destructive policy," as it put it.
 
Boumeddiene, 26, is the lone remaining suspect wanted in connection with the France terrorism spree, which included a shooting rampage at the Charlie Hebdo satirical news magazine on Wednesday, the killing of a French policewoman Thursday, and a dual hostage crisis in a printing company and a kosher supermarket Friday. 
 
CCTV footage which surfaced on Monday corroborates remarks from Turkish officials Saturday night, who said that Boumeddiene had arrived in Turkey and then made her way to Syria - and that during routine screening of passengers, the couple were flagged by Turkey's Risk Assessment Center and a decision made to maintain surveillance on their movements after landing. 
 
Syria’s comments are a reflection of the deterioration of ties between Syria and Turkey ever since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
 
Turkey is a strong backer of Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad, whose government views all of its armed opponents as "terrorists."
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has several times called on Assad to resign. In August of 2013 Erdogan, then the Prime Minister of Turkey, said that the goal of any military intervention in Syria should be to topple Assad’s regime.
 
The heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria have led to several cross-border incidents, including the explosion of a Syrian mortar in Turkish territory, which killed five civilians.
 
The Turkish army responded by attacking several targets in Syria. Turkey's parliament later gave the government the green light to use military force against Syria if necessary.
 
In another incident, Turkey intercepted a Syrian Airbus A320 flying from Moscow to Damascus and escorted it to the Esenboga Airport in Ankara.
 
Turkey later claimed it had seized "objectionable cargo" aboard the Syrian passenger plane. Syria, in turn, accused Turkey of lying.

Pentagon: Training of Syrian Rebels Could Begin in Spring

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 06:42
PentagonThe United States military has made progress in its effort to identify moderate Syrian rebels to train for the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists and a U.S. training mission could begin this spring, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
 
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, welcomed statements from Ankara indicating Turkey and the United States plan to conclude a deal this month on training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels, part of the campaign to counter Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.
 
Kirby said Major General Michael Nagata, commander of U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, was in the process of talking with Syrian opposition groups in an effort to identify individual recruits to train and equip.
 
"I think if we continue to make the progress that we're making now, that we believe that we could start conducting some training of moderate opposition by early spring," Kirby told a news conference, according to Reuters.
 
The United States began conducting air strikes against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria last year after the group overran part of northwestern Iraq and Baghdad asked for Washington's assistance.
 
President Barack Obama has authorized more than 3,000 U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraqi forces and to train 12 brigades of Iraqi troops, including three from the Kurdish peshmerga forces.
 
He also approved a mission for the American military to train and equip a moderate force of Syrian rebels to counter Islamic State terrorists active in Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war between President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents.
 
The Pentagon hopes to be able to train about 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels a year for three years. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to host training sites for the rebels, but Kirby did not specify where the training might start.
 
Even before ISIS gained power in Syria and Iraq, 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 ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, might get their hands on these weapons.
 
House Republicans recently started working on legislation that would keep the Obama administration on a short leash when it comes to arming and training Syrian rebels.
 
The legislation would require the Obama administration to send a progress report to Congress every 90 days if the arming and training is approved.

Pentagon: Training of Syrian Rebels Could Begin in Spring

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 06:42
PentagonThe United States military has made progress in its effort to identify moderate Syrian rebels to train for the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists and a U.S. training mission could begin this spring, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
 
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, welcomed statements from Ankara indicating Turkey and the United States plan to conclude a deal this month on training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels, part of the campaign to counter Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.
 
Kirby said Major General Michael Nagata, commander of U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, was in the process of talking with Syrian opposition groups in an effort to identify individual recruits to train and equip.
 
"I think if we continue to make the progress that we're making now, that we believe that we could start conducting some training of moderate opposition by early spring," Kirby told a news conference, according to Reuters.
 
The United States began conducting air strikes against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria last year after the group overran part of northwestern Iraq and Baghdad asked for Washington's assistance.
 
President Barack Obama has authorized more than 3,000 U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraqi forces and to train 12 brigades of Iraqi troops, including three from the Kurdish peshmerga forces.
 
He also approved a mission for the American military to train and equip a moderate force of Syrian rebels to counter Islamic State terrorists active in Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war between President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents.
 
The Pentagon hopes to be able to train about 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels a year for three years. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to host training sites for the rebels, but Kirby did not specify where the training might start.
 
Even before ISIS gained power in Syria and Iraq, 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 ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, might get their hands on these weapons.
 
House Republicans recently started working on legislation that would keep the Obama administration on a short leash when it comes to arming and training Syrian rebels.
 
The legislation would require the Obama administration to send a progress report to Congress every 90 days if the arming and training is approved.

Syria Complains to UN: McCain Violated Our Sovereignty

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 06 January 2015 19:28
John McCainhas complained to the United Nations (UN) about several officials who, it claims, entered the country without visas in violation of its sovereignty.
 
These include Republican Senator John McCain, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, according to Reuters.
 
Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the 15-member Security Council to pressure governments to take "the necessary measures against their nationals who enter Syrian territory illegally."
 
"Such actions are a blatant violation of Syria's sovereignty and of the resolutions of the Security Council concerning Syria," Ja'afari wrote in a letter dated Dec. 30 and seen by Reuters on Monday.
 
He complained generally about "certain journalists and prominent figures" entering Syria illegally but singled out McCain for entering Syria in June 2013. McCain visited Syria in May 2013 and met with some Syrian rebels, his spokesman said at the time.
 
Ja'afari also cited Kouchner for visiting in November 2014, Galbraith for traveling to Syria in December 2014 with other U.S. political and military leaders, and former Kuwaiti politician Walid al-Tabtaba'i for entering Syria in September 2013.
 
McCain, been a vocal opponent of President Barack Obama's Syrian policy, has in the past repeatedly called for his country to take action in the civil war in Syria, saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will make no effort to end the country’s civil war as long as he is winning on the battle field.
 
Syria has used the tactic of complaining to the UN over “violation of its sovereignty” in the past, including complaining against Israel over alleged airstrikes in the country.

Syria Complains to UN: McCain Violated Our Sovereignty

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 06 January 2015 19:28
John McCainhas complained to the United Nations (UN) about several officials who, it claims, entered the country without visas in violation of its sovereignty.
 
These include Republican Senator John McCain, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, according to Reuters.
 
Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the 15-member Security Council to pressure governments to take "the necessary measures against their nationals who enter Syrian territory illegally."
 
"Such actions are a blatant violation of Syria's sovereignty and of the resolutions of the Security Council concerning Syria," Ja'afari wrote in a letter dated Dec. 30 and seen by Reuters on Monday.
 
He complained generally about "certain journalists and prominent figures" entering Syria illegally but singled out McCain for entering Syria in June 2013. McCain visited Syria in May 2013 and met with some Syrian rebels, his spokesman said at the time.
 
Ja'afari also cited Kouchner for visiting in November 2014, Galbraith for traveling to Syria in December 2014 with other U.S. political and military leaders, and former Kuwaiti politician Walid al-Tabtaba'i for entering Syria in September 2013.
 
McCain, been a vocal opponent of President Barack Obama's Syrian policy, has in the past repeatedly called for his country to take action in the civil war in Syria, saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will make no effort to end the country’s civil war as long as he is winning on the battle field.
 
Syria has used the tactic of complaining to the UN over “violation of its sovereignty” in the past, including complaining against Israel over alleged airstrikes in the country.

ISIS Holds 'Surprise' Public Amputation for Convicted Thief

Category: Islam
Created on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 20:29
ISIS - Public Amputation for Convicted ThiefThe Islamic State (IS), which has firmly established itself as the ruling entity in a large portion of Syria and Iraq, has recently begun instituting Shari'a Islamic law as the law of the land – in its full and literal sense.
 
According to classic Islamic law, a thief must have his right hand cut off – and last Friday, that is exactly what IS representatives did in the town of Al-Bab in northern Syria, near Aleppo. In a “surprise” event, members of the congregation of the town's main mosque (attendance at services is mandatory) were directed to the town square, where a large platform had been erected.
 
On the platform was a table, containing a knife, bandages, and what appeared to be medicines. An individual convicted of theft was brought to the platform and was held forcibly still by police officers. A large individual – the “hatchet man” - quickly grabbed the knife and cleanly cut off the thief's hand. A doctor quickly bandaged the victim's bleeding stump.
 
Friday's incident was just one of dozens IS has announced in recent weeks, delineating the crime and offense against Islamic law, and the punishment. So far, adulterers and homosexuals have been stoned or thrown off the roof of buildings, thieves have had hands and/or legs cut off, Muslims not deemed to be “religious” enough – goofing off during prayers, for example – have been whipped in public, and so on.
 
With that, witnesses in the IS-held areas said that fighters for the group were recently given an official religious ruling that stated that they could take women and girls who were not Muslims as their “sex slaves.” The men and boys, of course, are killed.

ISIS Holds 'Surprise' Public Amputation for Convicted Thief

Category: Islam
Created on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 20:29
ISIS - Public Amputation for Convicted ThiefThe Islamic State (IS), which has firmly established itself as the ruling entity in a large portion of Syria and Iraq, has recently begun instituting Shari'a Islamic law as the law of the land – in its full and literal sense.
 
According to classic Islamic law, a thief must have his right hand cut off – and last Friday, that is exactly what IS representatives did in the town of Al-Bab in northern Syria, near Aleppo. In a “surprise” event, members of the congregation of the town's main mosque (attendance at services is mandatory) were directed to the town square, where a large platform had been erected.
 
On the platform was a table, containing a knife, bandages, and what appeared to be medicines. An individual convicted of theft was brought to the platform and was held forcibly still by police officers. A large individual – the “hatchet man” - quickly grabbed the knife and cleanly cut off the thief's hand. A doctor quickly bandaged the victim's bleeding stump.
 
Friday's incident was just one of dozens IS has announced in recent weeks, delineating the crime and offense against Islamic law, and the punishment. So far, adulterers and homosexuals have been stoned or thrown off the roof of buildings, thieves have had hands and/or legs cut off, Muslims not deemed to be “religious” enough – goofing off during prayers, for example – have been whipped in public, and so on.
 
With that, witnesses in the IS-held areas said that fighters for the group were recently given an official religious ruling that stated that they could take women and girls who were not Muslims as their “sex slaves.” The men and boys, of course, are killed.

ISIS Establishing Itself as Political Entity in Every Way

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 13:23
Islamic State terrorists paradeSince the terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS), which controls wide expanses of territory in Syria and Iraq, proclaimed a worldwide Islamic caliphate in June, it has gradually formed into a fledgling political entity. 
 
The latest propaganda video distributed by Islamic State presents footage of the General Services Department in the al-Raqqah region of Syria. This department is responsible for providing government services to the public. 
 
In the video, teams of local government members, working on behalf of Islamic State inspectors, prepare flour and wheat to make bread to distribute to local residents.
 
ISIS has been able to develop into more than just a terrorist militia, primarily through the takeover of existing government institutions in Syria and Iraq and their subordination to the new Islamic regime.
 
Some of the institutions in al-Raqqah include the Communications Department, which oversees the management of postal services and contacts.
 
Another, the Electricity Department, is responsible for repairing power lines and electrical water pumps. One of its first projects was providing power to villages around al-Raqqah. 
 
Other local departments manage infrastructure work in the public domain, such as the maintenance and cleaning departments, as well as oversee the licensing of motor vehicles. 
 
These departments work in conjunction with other government systems operated by Islamic State. Those include the education system, which is engaged in creating a new generation taught on the values of jihad, and the health system. 
 
The other major government system is the Islamic legal system which enforces law and order through security forces and morality police. 

ISIS Establishing Itself as Political Entity in Every Way

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 13:23
Islamic State terrorists paradeSince the terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS), which controls wide expanses of territory in Syria and Iraq, proclaimed a worldwide Islamic caliphate in June, it has gradually formed into a fledgling political entity. 
 
The latest propaganda video distributed by Islamic State presents footage of the General Services Department in the al-Raqqah region of Syria. This department is responsible for providing government services to the public. 
 
In the video, teams of local government members, working on behalf of Islamic State inspectors, prepare flour and wheat to make bread to distribute to local residents.
 
ISIS has been able to develop into more than just a terrorist militia, primarily through the takeover of existing government institutions in Syria and Iraq and their subordination to the new Islamic regime.
 
Some of the institutions in al-Raqqah include the Communications Department, which oversees the management of postal services and contacts.
 
Another, the Electricity Department, is responsible for repairing power lines and electrical water pumps. One of its first projects was providing power to villages around al-Raqqah. 
 
Other local departments manage infrastructure work in the public domain, such as the maintenance and cleaning departments, as well as oversee the licensing of motor vehicles. 
 
These departments work in conjunction with other government systems operated by Islamic State. Those include the education system, which is engaged in creating a new generation taught on the values of jihad, and the health system. 
 
The other major government system is the Islamic legal system which enforces law and order through security forces and morality police. 

Rival Syrian Rebels Clash over War Booty

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 22 December 2014 06:56
Syrian TerroristsDespite facing common enemies in the Assad regime and Islamic State/ISIS terrorist group, Syrian rebels appear as fractured as ever.
 
As Syria's bloody civil war continues to rage on with no end in sight, a recent video obtained and translated by MEMRI offered an insight into the tensions simmering between different rebel battalions - including rival Islamist groups.
 
{youtube}3yPE20zafaA&list=UUpBvIBfZ-foo5ZbLH5O0N4g%3Fautohide%3D1{/youtube}
 
The video shows an angry group of fighters from several allied battalions belonging to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) - a loose coalition of rebel groups - clashing with members of Al Qaeda's Nusra Front. 
 
The FSA fighters were led by Sharif Al-Safouri, Commander of the Haramain Battalion, who claimed that Nusra fighters had stolen war booty taken from Assad regime troops.
 
"As we were loading the booty taken from the Bashar Al-Assad regime... We in the Haramain Battalion were loading the booty, along with the Murabiteen Battalion and the Al-Sabatten Battalion. Then we were attacked by Jabhat Al-Nusra people, who brandished their weapons in our faces," he says. "They brandished their weapons at their Muslim brothers. Everybody here can attest to that."
 
After a brief tussle with a masked Nusra Front fighter Al-Safouri can be heard shouting: "Aren't we Muslims?! Aren't we Muslims?! They are not our brothers. Anyone who points his gun at me is no brother of mine."
 
"See what kind of foreign fighters have come to our aid... They point their guns at their Muslim brothers," he adds sarcastically of the Nusra fighters, many of whom are non-Syrians.
 
At one point other commanders direct the camera to the Nusra commander, calling for him to be punished.
 
Despite the angry protests it appears that the detachment of Nusra fighters were able to make off with the weapons - an illustration of just how much more powerful the Al Qaeda affiliate is than many other rival rebel groups.
 
In fact, according to MEMRI, the angry exchange backfired completely on Al-Safouri, who was arrested by Nusra and forced to "confess" to being a collaborator with Israel - a charge which could result in his execution.

Rival Syrian Rebels Clash over War Booty

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 22 December 2014 06:56
Syrian TerroristsDespite facing common enemies in the Assad regime and Islamic State/ISIS terrorist group, Syrian rebels appear as fractured as ever.
 
As Syria's bloody civil war continues to rage on with no end in sight, a recent video obtained and translated by MEMRI offered an insight into the tensions simmering between different rebel battalions - including rival Islamist groups.
 
{youtube}3yPE20zafaA&list=UUpBvIBfZ-foo5ZbLH5O0N4g%3Fautohide%3D1{/youtube}
 
The video shows an angry group of fighters from several allied battalions belonging to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) - a loose coalition of rebel groups - clashing with members of Al Qaeda's Nusra Front. 
 
The FSA fighters were led by Sharif Al-Safouri, Commander of the Haramain Battalion, who claimed that Nusra fighters had stolen war booty taken from Assad regime troops.
 
"As we were loading the booty taken from the Bashar Al-Assad regime... We in the Haramain Battalion were loading the booty, along with the Murabiteen Battalion and the Al-Sabatten Battalion. Then we were attacked by Jabhat Al-Nusra people, who brandished their weapons in our faces," he says. "They brandished their weapons at their Muslim brothers. Everybody here can attest to that."
 
After a brief tussle with a masked Nusra Front fighter Al-Safouri can be heard shouting: "Aren't we Muslims?! Aren't we Muslims?! They are not our brothers. Anyone who points his gun at me is no brother of mine."
 
"See what kind of foreign fighters have come to our aid... They point their guns at their Muslim brothers," he adds sarcastically of the Nusra fighters, many of whom are non-Syrians.
 
At one point other commanders direct the camera to the Nusra commander, calling for him to be punished.
 
Despite the angry protests it appears that the detachment of Nusra fighters were able to make off with the weapons - an illustration of just how much more powerful the Al Qaeda affiliate is than many other rival rebel groups.
 
In fact, according to MEMRI, the angry exchange backfired completely on Al-Safouri, who was arrested by Nusra and forced to "confess" to being a collaborator with Israel - a charge which could result in his execution.

UN Attempt to Save Jewish Sites from ISIS - Too Little Too Late?

Category: Press Releases
Created on Monday, 08 December 2014 14:57
Wall fresco from ancient -Dura Europos- synagogue in Syria - ReutersLast week, a UNESCO conference was hastily convened at its Paris headquarters to discuss what can be done to preserve what's left of heritage sites in Iraq and Syria. The iconoclastic jihadists of Islamic State - or Da'esh (ISIS) - had captured a region in northern Iraq which contained 15 percent of Iraq's registered archaeological sites. Believing that shrines ought to be destroyed lest they encourage idol-worship, they have already blown up or burnt to the ground shrines such as the tombs of Jonah and Seth, Christian churches and Shi'a mosques. 
 
Like most UN agencies, UNESCO has blown hot and cold towards Israel and the Jewish people. On the one hand it has admitted Palestine as a member and backed Palestinian claims to Jewish holy sites like Rachel's tomb. On the other it has named Tel Aviv "creative city for media arts". On the one hand, it hosted an exhibition on "the Holy Land." On the other had it insisted that the word Israel not appear in the title and that "politically incorrect" aspects of the Jewish state, like wars and Jewish refugees from Arab lands, were left out.
 
But this time, UNESCO had made a point of including the Jews in its conference. The UNESCO director-general, Irina Bokova, has  condemned the destruction in May 2014 of the Jobar synagogue near Damascus, which, legend has it, goes back to the time of Elijah the Prophet.
 
When a JJAC delegation, accompanied by CRIF, the body representing French Jews, submitted a list of 100 endangered Jewish sites to Mrs Bokova in June, she lent a sympathetic ear. And when Professor Shmuel Moreh, who has worked long and hard for the preservation of ancient Jewish sites in Iraq made his case, Mrs Bokova  - or her aides - were listening. Professor Moreh was flown over from Israel to be a special guest at the conference, along with representatives of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen and Yazidis.
 
Mrs  Bokova herself has said: "Culture and heritage are not about stones and buildings - they are about identities and belongings."
 
A conflict against culture is by extension an effort to erase the identity of a people, especially vulnerable non-Muslim minorities.
 
No doubt, Irina Bokova's heart is in the right place, but when I arrived in the imposing glass and concrete building, the institutional bias was there in subtle ways. 
 
An exhibition of photographs in the foyer called "Palestine and Jerusalem" marked "International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people". The photographs were taken by the French order of the Dominican friars at the turn of the 20th century. To judge by the images on display, Palestine was a pastoral land of monasteries and Arab shepherds, processions of Muslim and Christian pilgrims. Not a Jew in sight - yet we know that Jerusalem then had a Jewish majority. So much for not "erasing a people's identity".
 
Mrs Bokova opened the proceedings by thanking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for funding the conference. (No one appreciated the irony that Saudi Arabia had not exactly preserved its own heritage itself - having destroyed Muhammed's house and other ancient sites).
 
In both Syria and Iraq, she observed, Islamic State have demolished, pillaged and dug up archaeological sites, sometimes with bulldozers, and sold relics on the international black market in order to finance their malevolent deeds. She called for "cultural zones" to be established, starting with the great Umayyad mosque in Aleppo.
 
Conference speaker after speaker called for good neighbourliness and respect. The UNESCO motto was a mantra: "It is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." Education was the answer.
 
A cynic might ask: what planet do they live on? "Cultural zones" when people were starving? "Civic identity to be built from the bottom up" when people were being beheaded? "Good neighborliness and respect" when people were being sold into slavery?
 
One Syrian parliamentarian called for  refugees to return from exile to claim their heritage. But when the neighbors have been ethnically cleansed, as the Jews had been from Syria and Iraq, with no prospect of return, who will speak up for their heritage? Who would ensure that when the time came to rehabilitate and renovate, traditional Jewish shrines such as the most revered of all, Ezekiel's tomb, would not be turned into mosques?
 
It was already happening. The Hebrew inscriptions had been removed from the renovated tomb of Joshua the High Priest near Baghdad. Loudspeakers had already been affixed to Ezekiel's tomb, and Koranic inscriptions hung on the walls. Who would ensure that the original character of the shrine would be retained?
 
And if objects stolen from minority communities are recovered in the West, why should they be sent back to the Syrian or Iraqi governments? As the saga of the Iraqi-Jewish archive demonstrated - the personal possessions and mementos confiscated from their Jewish owners by Saddam Hussein and shipped for restoration to the US - they should be restituted not to governments, but  to the community which has been displaced.
 
Beyond the expression of high-minded sentiments, none of these questions were answered. 
 
In one important respect the conference might achieve results: museum chiefs declared they would treat with suspicion any artifacts offered to them from the Middle East, and would conduct "due diligence" checks as far as possible. But private collectors were less likely to be circumspect about the provenance of items. The international art market was a  vessel  too leaky to render watertight.
 
It is tempting to conclude that organisations like UNESCO, which were founded on the pillars of intergovernmental law, seem well past their sell-by date in a world where non-state actors ride roughshod over "kaffir" international treaties and conventions. Even before the era of Islamic state, neither Syria nor Iraq were signatories to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict.
 
The great and the good gathered on that foggy day in Paris were right: education was the answer. But it would take many generations to instil respect for the Other. Too late for the Jews of Iraq and Syria, at any rate.
 
Lyn Julius is a journalist and blogger and helped found Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa

UN Attempt to Save Jewish Sites from ISIS - Too Little Too Late?

Category: Press Releases
Created on Monday, 08 December 2014 14:57
Wall fresco from ancient -Dura Europos- synagogue in Syria - ReutersLast week, a UNESCO conference was hastily convened at its Paris headquarters to discuss what can be done to preserve what's left of heritage sites in Iraq and Syria. The iconoclastic jihadists of Islamic State - or Da'esh (ISIS) - had captured a region in northern Iraq which contained 15 percent of Iraq's registered archaeological sites. Believing that shrines ought to be destroyed lest they encourage idol-worship, they have already blown up or burnt to the ground shrines such as the tombs of Jonah and Seth, Christian churches and Shi'a mosques. 
 
Like most UN agencies, UNESCO has blown hot and cold towards Israel and the Jewish people. On the one hand it has admitted Palestine as a member and backed Palestinian claims to Jewish holy sites like Rachel's tomb. On the other it has named Tel Aviv "creative city for media arts". On the one hand, it hosted an exhibition on "the Holy Land." On the other had it insisted that the word Israel not appear in the title and that "politically incorrect" aspects of the Jewish state, like wars and Jewish refugees from Arab lands, were left out.
 
But this time, UNESCO had made a point of including the Jews in its conference. The UNESCO director-general, Irina Bokova, has  condemned the destruction in May 2014 of the Jobar synagogue near Damascus, which, legend has it, goes back to the time of Elijah the Prophet.
 
When a JJAC delegation, accompanied by CRIF, the body representing French Jews, submitted a list of 100 endangered Jewish sites to Mrs Bokova in June, she lent a sympathetic ear. And when Professor Shmuel Moreh, who has worked long and hard for the preservation of ancient Jewish sites in Iraq made his case, Mrs Bokova  - or her aides - were listening. Professor Moreh was flown over from Israel to be a special guest at the conference, along with representatives of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen and Yazidis.
 
Mrs  Bokova herself has said: "Culture and heritage are not about stones and buildings - they are about identities and belongings."
 
A conflict against culture is by extension an effort to erase the identity of a people, especially vulnerable non-Muslim minorities.
 
No doubt, Irina Bokova's heart is in the right place, but when I arrived in the imposing glass and concrete building, the institutional bias was there in subtle ways. 
 
An exhibition of photographs in the foyer called "Palestine and Jerusalem" marked "International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people". The photographs were taken by the French order of the Dominican friars at the turn of the 20th century. To judge by the images on display, Palestine was a pastoral land of monasteries and Arab shepherds, processions of Muslim and Christian pilgrims. Not a Jew in sight - yet we know that Jerusalem then had a Jewish majority. So much for not "erasing a people's identity".
 
Mrs Bokova opened the proceedings by thanking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for funding the conference. (No one appreciated the irony that Saudi Arabia had not exactly preserved its own heritage itself - having destroyed Muhammed's house and other ancient sites).
 
In both Syria and Iraq, she observed, Islamic State have demolished, pillaged and dug up archaeological sites, sometimes with bulldozers, and sold relics on the international black market in order to finance their malevolent deeds. She called for "cultural zones" to be established, starting with the great Umayyad mosque in Aleppo.
 
Conference speaker after speaker called for good neighbourliness and respect. The UNESCO motto was a mantra: "It is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." Education was the answer.
 
A cynic might ask: what planet do they live on? "Cultural zones" when people were starving? "Civic identity to be built from the bottom up" when people were being beheaded? "Good neighborliness and respect" when people were being sold into slavery?
 
One Syrian parliamentarian called for  refugees to return from exile to claim their heritage. But when the neighbors have been ethnically cleansed, as the Jews had been from Syria and Iraq, with no prospect of return, who will speak up for their heritage? Who would ensure that when the time came to rehabilitate and renovate, traditional Jewish shrines such as the most revered of all, Ezekiel's tomb, would not be turned into mosques?
 
It was already happening. The Hebrew inscriptions had been removed from the renovated tomb of Joshua the High Priest near Baghdad. Loudspeakers had already been affixed to Ezekiel's tomb, and Koranic inscriptions hung on the walls. Who would ensure that the original character of the shrine would be retained?
 
And if objects stolen from minority communities are recovered in the West, why should they be sent back to the Syrian or Iraqi governments? As the saga of the Iraqi-Jewish archive demonstrated - the personal possessions and mementos confiscated from their Jewish owners by Saddam Hussein and shipped for restoration to the US - they should be restituted not to governments, but  to the community which has been displaced.
 
Beyond the expression of high-minded sentiments, none of these questions were answered. 
 
In one important respect the conference might achieve results: museum chiefs declared they would treat with suspicion any artifacts offered to them from the Middle East, and would conduct "due diligence" checks as far as possible. But private collectors were less likely to be circumspect about the provenance of items. The international art market was a  vessel  too leaky to render watertight.
 
It is tempting to conclude that organisations like UNESCO, which were founded on the pillars of intergovernmental law, seem well past their sell-by date in a world where non-state actors ride roughshod over "kaffir" international treaties and conventions. Even before the era of Islamic state, neither Syria nor Iraq were signatories to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict.
 
The great and the good gathered on that foggy day in Paris were right: education was the answer. But it would take many generations to instil respect for the Other. Too late for the Jews of Iraq and Syria, at any rate.
 
Lyn Julius is a journalist and blogger and helped found Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa

Jihad's Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

Category: News
Created on Monday, 08 December 2014 12:48
ISIS terroristA series of letters from French nationals, who have left home to join the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, were published recently by the Le Figaro newspaper.
 
The letters offer a rare glimpse into the lives of these unhappy militants - some even begging to come home - whose complaints range from the practical to the absurd. 
 
"I'm fed up. My iPod doesn't work anymore here. I have to come back," wrote one Frenchman, complaining about his mission in Syria. 
 
"I've basically done nothing except hand out clothes and food," another militant wrote, exemplifying a common complaint - unhappiness with the duties these fighters been ordered to carry out. 
 
This militant in particular wants to return to France from Aleppo, Syria, citing his work and the coming winter. "I also help clean weapons and transport dead bodies from the front. Winter's arrived here. It's begun to get really hard."
 
Another militant wrote: "I'm fed up. They make me do the washing up."
 
And yet another letter revealed how one man objected to being sent to the frontline of fighting; his protests were ignored. "They want to send me to the front, but I don't know how to fight."
 
There are approximately 376 French nationals currently fighting in Syria, according to The Telegraph. Of about 100 jihadists who have actually returned to France, 76 are serving time in prison. 
 
Despite the high chance of being thrown into French jail, many nationals are beginning to leave ISIS behind. 
 
"Everyone knows that, the longer these people stay there, the worse it will be because having watched or committed atrocities, they become ticking time bombs," a lawyer was quoted as saying in Le Figaro.
 
"But, when it comes to having a discussion about whether France is ready to accept repentants, no politician is willing to take the risk. Imagine if one of these ex-jihadis(ts) is involved subsequently in an attack?" 
 
Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, told Al Arabiya News  that the fundamental reason for the spike in foreign nationals traveling to Syria and Iraq was their “sense of anomie” (a sociological condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals). 
 
But, Khashan added, “after spending time fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they came to a conclusion that no matter how bad in their opinion their life was in the West, it still remains much better to what they are currently encountering."
 
“This is a wakeup call for them, probably, and it might as well open new horizons for them once they get back… Western countries need to treat this phenomenon as a psychological case rather than as a criminal issue,” he concluded.

Jihad's Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

Category: News
Created on Monday, 08 December 2014 12:48
ISIS terroristA series of letters from French nationals, who have left home to join the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, were published recently by the Le Figaro newspaper.
 
The letters offer a rare glimpse into the lives of these unhappy militants - some even begging to come home - whose complaints range from the practical to the absurd. 
 
"I'm fed up. My iPod doesn't work anymore here. I have to come back," wrote one Frenchman, complaining about his mission in Syria. 
 
"I've basically done nothing except hand out clothes and food," another militant wrote, exemplifying a common complaint - unhappiness with the duties these fighters been ordered to carry out. 
 
This militant in particular wants to return to France from Aleppo, Syria, citing his work and the coming winter. "I also help clean weapons and transport dead bodies from the front. Winter's arrived here. It's begun to get really hard."
 
Another militant wrote: "I'm fed up. They make me do the washing up."
 
And yet another letter revealed how one man objected to being sent to the frontline of fighting; his protests were ignored. "They want to send me to the front, but I don't know how to fight."
 
There are approximately 376 French nationals currently fighting in Syria, according to The Telegraph. Of about 100 jihadists who have actually returned to France, 76 are serving time in prison. 
 
Despite the high chance of being thrown into French jail, many nationals are beginning to leave ISIS behind. 
 
"Everyone knows that, the longer these people stay there, the worse it will be because having watched or committed atrocities, they become ticking time bombs," a lawyer was quoted as saying in Le Figaro.
 
"But, when it comes to having a discussion about whether France is ready to accept repentants, no politician is willing to take the risk. Imagine if one of these ex-jihadis(ts) is involved subsequently in an attack?" 
 
Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, told Al Arabiya News  that the fundamental reason for the spike in foreign nationals traveling to Syria and Iraq was their “sense of anomie” (a sociological condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals). 
 
But, Khashan added, “after spending time fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they came to a conclusion that no matter how bad in their opinion their life was in the West, it still remains much better to what they are currently encountering."
 
“This is a wakeup call for them, probably, and it might as well open new horizons for them once they get back… Western countries need to treat this phenomenon as a psychological case rather than as a criminal issue,” he concluded.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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."

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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. 

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. 

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.
 
{youtube}BS9vf2jFopM{/youtube}
 
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.

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.

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.”

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.
 
{youtube}EX6BdJz0Ahg{/youtube}
 
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.

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.
 
{youtube}EX6BdJz0Ahg{/youtube}
 
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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.
 
{youtube}aEieWqsY45w{/youtube}
 
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.

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.
 
{youtube}aEieWqsY45w{/youtube}
 
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.

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.

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.
 
{youtube}ZbY9uU3kQc0{/youtube}
 
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.”