Syria’s information minister warns of retaliation after air strikes destroyed military targets. – ABCNews·
Syria’s information minister warns of retaliation after air strikes destroyed military targets. – ABCNews·
President Barack Obama has announced that the U.S. will formally back Syria’s main rebel group to pursue a common goal of bringing an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship. The recognition puts the U.S. on the same page with its European allies who have already given their full support for the opposition.
In an interview with ABC News, President Obama said that the opposition coalition is representative enough of the Syrian people to the extent that they have earned the support of the U.S.
The Syrian National Coalition for revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed in November and received immediate support from European nations. The U.S., however, was a little hesitant as it was concerned with Islamist rebels and extremists within the organization.
Western nations have also opened a window to engage in talks with Russia, which is one of Syria and Assad’s greatest allies. Obama has said that while it supports the opposition, it will also make sure to weed out those within the group who has ties to al Qaeda.
The Obama administration recently released intelligence reports that identify an opposition group as an affiliate of al Qaeda. The group is Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been linked to close to 600 terrorist attacks in Syria since November of last year. The U.S. has now barred all Americans from doing business with the organization. In addition, sanctions have also been imposed against two Jabhat al-Nusra members for their connection to al Qaeda in Iraq.
Plans for an international meeting will be held in Morocco where 80 nations from around the world will convene to discuss how it can further their collective support for the rebel groups. The conference is being dubbed as the “Friends of Syria” meeting. The conference will be held as the U.S. continues to monitor Assad’s government for signs of chemical weapons that it may deploy against its own people.
Reports are emerging that Syrian President Assad may seek political asylum. – CNN
Syria condemns Turkey for requesting missile deployment by NATO. – AlJazeera
A missile was fired into Syria courtesy of Israel as a warning sign. The shot was delivered to send a clear message to Syria after one of its mortars hit an Israeli military post in the Golan Heights. No injuries, casualties or significant damages were reported.
This is not the first time the incident has occurred. There have been multiple instances where mortar rounds from Syria have found its way into the Golan Heights. Israel believes the incidents are unintentional though it still holds Syria accountable.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, a spokesperson for the Israeli Army, the missile shot was sent as a retaliatory warning simply to let Syria know that while they understand the mortars were accidental, they better be more careful from now on. In addition to the warning, Israel has also filed a formal complaint with the United Nations.
Israel and Syria have been bitter enemies who have fought against one another in several wars in the past. However, they do share a border and the two countries have mostly stayed out of the other’s affairs. Israel has expressed concerns that Syria’s civil war could spread into their territory. There is also concern that Islamist extremists could take over the region in the event that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and his government are overthrown.
It is currently believed that Syria has a stockpile of chemical weapons, which Israel fears could end up in the hands of Hezbollah if Assad is ousted. There are also worries that Syria is very close to turning into a lawless region and can be exploited by Islamist insurgents as a focal point for delivering rocket launches against Israel.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has publicly announced that the government is monitoring the situation and will be ready to act on any late breaking developments.
A tense situation is unfolding between Turkey and Syria after the latter shot down a fighter jet belonging to the former. According to Turkish officials, one of their aircrafts was shot down while in international space. Authorities are now convening with NATO allies to decide what kind of measures should be taken in response. Syria claims that the jet crossed over to its airspace, which is a violation of its sovereignty.
Members of NATO will be gathering for a conference in Brussels to discuss the issue. No military action is expected at this point.
Jihad Makdissi, Syria’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, said that Syria was merely acting out of self-defense and dismissed claims that the aircraft was in international space. It was also reported in the Syrian media that the jet may have been on an espionage mission and flew over the area to spy on the country’s radar system located in Latakia.
Turkey has said that no actions will be taken until it has discussed the matter with NATO, but has warned that the incident will not go unpunished. The matter may escalate even further after a claim that a second plane was fired at while on the search for wreckage of the downed jet.
Taner Yildiz, Turkey’s Energy Minister, said that a possible response may be to cut off Syria’s electricity supplies, since Turkey currently supplies Syria with about 10 percent of its power.
Turkey has also leaked news that several high ranking military members from Syria have defected due to souring relations between the two nations. Syria, in the meantime, has vowed that it will not stand idly by if NATO responds in an aggressive nature.
From the start of the Syrian crisis, Turkey has taken a firm stance against Syria’s government and has provided a refuge for defectors. About 33,000 Syrians have crossed over to Turkey for shelter.
The unending onslaught of violence brought on by Syria’s regime has resulted in an unimaginable death toll of civilians. News has been surfacing of military generals and other high ranking commanders defecting from the regime and fleeing the country with their families.
There is now rumor that Syria’s Prime Minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, has packed up his bags and fled as well. If the news is true, then this will make Hijab the highest ranking administer to defect from President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The news of Hijab’s defection was initially reported by opposition forces. Syria’s government-run media, however, has denied all rumors of Hijab making an about-face. The media has insisted that Hijab was fired and did not defect as reported by the opposition. There are also reports that the country’s finance minister defected as well; this is also being disputed by the media.
Since the conflicts began about 17 months ago, Syria’s regime has consistently been fazed by the sudden defection of top military and civilian officials. According to an activist, while Hijab had close ties to President Assad’s brother, he appeared to be deeply disturbed by the atrocities committed by the government he was heading.
Aside from the defections, Iran’s role in the melee is also becoming more tangled. Rebel fighters have reported the capture of 48 Iranians in Damascus. Iranian officials have also called for an international emergency conference to be held in Tehran. According to the rebels, the captured Iranians are members of the country’s Revolutionary Guards. Iran has denied the claims and insisted the men were merely visitors embarking on a pilgrimage to a religious shrine in the city of Tadamon.
Iran has been an ardent supporter of President Assad and has continuously blamed Syrian rebels for the violence and civilian deaths. It has also blasted neighboring countries for siding with the opposition.
Syrian authorities have issued a stern warning that it will not hesitate to employ an arsenal of chemical weapons against foreign invaders. The threat appears to be directed at Western nations in the event that they decide to deploy ground troops to the region.
For the U.S. and its allies, this appears to be an admission by Syria that they indeed own a stockpile of chemical weapons. The Syrian authorities have also issued a statement that its chemical arms will only be used to ward off a foreign invasion and would never be used against its own citizens.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Jihad Makdissi, the weapons will only be used to defend itself from foreign aggression and will be up to the generals whether they are to be deployed. However, when asked whether this was confirmation that Syria possesses such weapons, Makdissi would not give a direct confirmation. He only says that if such weapons exist, that they would only be used against foreign invaders and never be used domestically.
It is believed that Makdissi’s ambiguous statements were directed particularly at the U.S., Israel and Turkey. According to a report sent to Congress, Syria has steadily built a cache of chemical weaponry, which includes cyanide, sarin nerve agent and mustard gas, all of which can be spread through the use of firing from artillery rockets, missiles and aerial bombs.
While Syria continues to keep its enemies guessing over what it possesses in its arsenal, a diplomat from the United Nations said that in a conference with Kofi Annan, a message was leaked suggesting that any chemical weaponry Syria may own is stored in a safe location.
Aside from Syria, Israel has also been just as equally ambiguous about its own stockpile of chemical weapons. In fact, Syria and Israel are two of eight nations that continue to refuse to relinquish its cache of chemical arsenal, despite a 1997 convention for all countries to dismantle their collection of chemical-related weaponry.
According to a new report released this week, it appears that the import of foreign weapons to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad increased dramatically in recent years, just before the revolution began in Syria. Compared to the previous five years, the shipments of foreign arms were much higher, and most of them came from Russia. The report, prepared by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show some impressive numbers as to what the state of military weapons appeared to be.
Since the revolution started last year, an estimated 9,000 people died so far, most of them civilians, including many children. The SIPRI reports comes just as the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, was travelling to Moscow in order to meet with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to help negotiate with the Syrian government so that aid could be brought in the most affected regions of the country. Mr Kellenberger said that the humanitarian situation in the country was most likely to get worse.
Meanwhile the report itself found that Syria’s most important weapons import went up 580% between 2006 and 2011. Their most important seller was Russia with 78% of the arms provided to the regime. These Russian weapons included surface to air missiles, coastal defense missiles, and other small arms. Moscow acknowledged in the past selling arms to Assad, despite a UN arms embargo proposal. How many weapons were delivered however remained unclear.
In a speech to Russia’s parliament last week, Mr. Lavrov claimed that the weapons sent to Rysia were for external threats only, and had not been used against civilians or demonstrators. However, many humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch believe otherwise. For example, Russian-made mines were used extensively to block the traffic of people between Turkey and Lebanon, including many fleeing refugees. Nearly $1 billion worth of Russian missiles and airplanes were apparently sold to Syria in 2011 alone. These included some modern Mig planes along with weapons able to take down any invading aircraft.
Meanwhile, Russia is trying to keep its business relationship with the country intact, and has been supporting the Assad regime all this time, which prompted a lot of worldwide criticism. Moscow wants to prevent an outside intervention in Syria like the one that happened in Libya, where Nato countries used a UN resolution to support rebels against Muammar Gaddafi. Despite calling for Mr. Assad to step down, the western powers have been hesitant to provide arms to rebels, fearing an escalation of the war. The EU has banned arms exports to Syria last year.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached the Red Cross and offered to send assistance to the Syrian people. Lieberman: “The Jewish nation cannot sit by and do nothing while citizens of our neighboring country are being slaughtered”.
As the Syrian people flee Syria by the thousands and make their way to Lebanon, Israel’s foreign affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that Israel is willing to send humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Under Lieberman’s orders, Evyatar Manor, CEO of international organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approached the Red Cross and suggested that Israel will send the assistance. Red Cross representatives in Israel replied that they will examine the Syrian people’s needs and will inform Jerusalem with the requirements forth with.
Lieberman said in regards to the humanitarian assistance:
“the Jewish nation cannot sit by and do nothing while our neighbor country is being slaughtered and people are losing their world. We cannot interfere due to lack of diplomatic relations, but we will at least offer our hand with humanitarian assistance as it is our moral duty to awaken the world and stop the massacre”.
Earlier this week official representatives of the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that approximately 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees fled Syria and are now making their way to Lebanon. The report is consistent with other reports that reached news agencies earlier this morning. According to which, refugees are fleeing Syria by foot from the town of Qusair that has been bombard under the orders of President Assad, the refugees mainly consist of women and children.
Eye witnesses report the shelling began suddenly and that they had to flee their homes immediately. The Syrian army has been reported to bombard rebel camps all over Syria. The number of refugees is predicted to rise unless serious action will be taken to stop this genocide.
Syria has been plunged into a civil war for many months now, with the latest casualty report being 68 dead amongst the latest clashes in various flash points around the country. Mostly civilians died this time, as is often the case, as the Syrian army and the rebel fighters battle an endless struggle. Wady Barada, a small town near Damascus, was severely hit, with 35 of the deaths being there. Activists on the ground say the casualty report could mount to 200 for the previous 3 days but numbers could not be verified. A local coalition called the Local Co-ordination Committees monitors the uprising and reports those figures to the media. Meanwhile, the world powers on Tuesday appealed to the UN to do something, but there’s disagreements.
The US, England and France urged the UN Security Assembly on Tuesday to pass a tough resolution that would ask president Bashar al-Assad to stop the violence and hand over his power. Hillary Clinton spoke in behalf of the US to the UN council, saying “We all know that change is coming to Syria. Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end.” And it’s not just the western powers that called for Assad to resign. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister, spoke in the name of the Arab League and said that Syria’s president failed to make a sincere effort to end the violence, and instead keeps killing his own people. It’s rare to see so many people asking for a similar action, however the vote will likely not be quick. Russia is a long time ally of the Assad regime and trades weapons with Syria. A Russian deputy said that they prefer a political solution, and a text must be agreed upon by all the members. He said there would thus be no vote in the coming days. Russia also said the Security Council has no right to ask for a rule change in Syria.
The current draft resolution that so many UN members were hoping to vote on was introduced by the Arab League, and asks for a unity government through a transparent and free election. It also asks that there be no foreign military presence in Syria, like what happened in Libya. It also says that the Assad regime must ultimately hand over powers. Observers on the ground say that the chance for a peaceful resolution is practically nil, with the government relying more and more on violence to get its way. It’s difficult to know the total number of death in total, but France believes that number to be over 6,000 since the conflict began over 11 months ago. The UN Human Rights group said they had stopped counting since it had become so difficult to get information from the Syrian government.
Overall, with the UN resolution blocked, and violence on the ground at an all time high, it’s likely that the death toll will keep going up for the foreseeable future. Even if a resolution were passed, there’s no enforcement power, and no military intervention planned, which means Syria would keep going the way it currently is. There’s little hope for the civilians currently stuck in the war zone.
The IDF is preparing for a possible flood of Syrian refugees following the potential fall of President Bashar Assad, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Tuesday.
Speaking at the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, the army chief said that members of Assad’s Alawite sect are expected to seek shelter in Israel should the Syrian leader, an Alawite himself, be removed from power.
“The day the Assad regime falls, this is expected to hurt the Alawite sect,” Army Chief Gantz said. “We are preparing to take in Alawite refugees on the Golan Heights.”
Addressing other possible implications of the Syrian upheaval, the chief of staff added that Israel fears that weapons could make their way from Syria to Lebanon. “We must monitor the process,” Gantz said.
Turning his attention to Iran, the army chief said that 2012 is expected to be a “critical year in the meeting place between ongoing nuclear efforts, the domestic changes in Iran’s leadership, increasing pressure from the international community, and things that are happening there unnaturally.”
Meanwhile, President Assad delivered a two-hour speech Monday, charging that foreign elements are aiming to topple his rule. The Syrian president claimed that a “foreign conspiracy” was causing the unrest in his country but was failing. The civil unrest in Syria was a test of the country’s national resilience, he added: “Outside forces did not find a foothold in the revolution that they had hoped for… Nobody is deceived anymore.”
He further claimed that it was his idea to send observers to Syria “to find out the truth… Syria will not close doors to Arab solutions,” he continued, as long as “they respect Syria’s sovereignty.” The Syrian leader also rejected Western and human rights groups’ claims about the violence in his country, insisting that he did not order troops to direct live fire at innocent civilians, “unless it’s a case of self-defense.”
NATO is considering a no-fly zone in Syria after Bashar al-Assad, warned that any western intervention would cause an “earthquake” which would “burn the whole region…” reported the guardian.
Some Syrian anti-government groups have called on the west to defend them as fighting between security forces and armed protesters continues to escalate – however a war like the one that will end in Libya on Monday is doubtful.
The UN security council would have to approve any operation in Syria – a step which would be unlikely given Chinese and Russian opposition. “We would need a clear mandate from the international community, as well as support from the Arab League and Syria’s neighbours,” a NATO official said, adding that so far “no-one had asked” for NATO’s help.
NATO’s reluctance to get embroiled in Syria’s internal conflict came as Assad warned that outside intervention in his country’s affairs could lead to “another Afghanistan.”
On Sunday, a Syrian delegation met in Doha with an Arab League ministerial committee. On 16 October the league gave Damascus a 15-day deadline to put in place a ceasefire, that is over on Sunday. Since then 343 people have been killed, including 40 last Friday, one of the worst days of bloodshed since the uprising began.
Protests have intensified amidst events in the Arab world: the brutal death of Muammar Gaddafi, and Tunisia’s successful democratic elections last week. In a show of support for Assad’s regime on Sunday thousands of Syrians carrying the national flag rallied in Sweida, a city 70 miles south of Damascus.
The situation in Syria is at the top of the international agenda. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, said the latest civilian killings were alarming and called for Assad to carry out “far-reaching reforms, not repression and violence.”
Beyond the Pale
According to a survey taken last month by Ben Gurion University pollsters, 60 percent of Israelis say they would be in favor of seeing NATO troops deployed in both the West Bank and Gaza. According to the “Israeli Positions on the European Union” survey, 64 percent of Israeli Jews and 63 percent of Israeli Arabs citizens are in favor of seeing peacekeeping forces, (aside from the United Nations) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Back in 2009, 54 percent of Israeli Jews and Arabs supported the idea.
In the poll that was compiled by Sharon Pardo of the Department of Politics and Government, 68 percent of Israelis are in favor of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Roughly 81 percent of Israelis want the Jewish Country to join the European Union (EU). These figures are up from 69 percent in 2009, and 43 percent would like to see Israel have better relations with the EU, this is in comparison with 20 percent who would like to see the Jewish Country get along better with the United Nations and just seven percent with NATO.
“the message is quite clear, Israelis are not for isolationism, they want cooperation…Israelis are really into strengthening and deepening the cooperation between Israel and the EU…Israelis understand the importance of the EU for the future of Israel and they want to strengthen the relations.”
The poll surveyed 1,000 Israelis from all different walks of life in mid-June and had a 3.3 percent margin of error…
Iran to build nuclear war head?
On Monday, the head of the United Nations Nuclear Agency announced their plans to publish new information serving as supporting evidence that Iran could be working on a nuclear warhead.
The comments by International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Yukiya Amano were the first time he revealed plans to release some of the recent knowledge available to the IAEA that is causing concerns.
A Syrias Situation on the Jewish Country’s Border?
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has ordered his military chiefs to launch another operation on the Golan Heights.
Assad’s preparations entail three additional steps:
1. He has filled the vacant position of deputy chief of staff with Gen. Ali Ayub, commander of the 1st Formation made up of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th Divisions, deployed until now on the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon borders with Israel. Its personnel have been left out of Assad’s military campaign against the opposition until now.
2. Those divisions, made up mainly or Sunni conscripts, have begun pulling back from their positions on the Syrian-Israeli border and are heading north. For the first time, therefore, Assad feels he can safely send Sunni troops into battle against protesters and is not afraid to leave his borders undefended against an Israeli attack.
3. The Syrian president holds Erdogan responsible for authorizing the Turkish army and his National Intelligence Organization-MIT to set up a state-of-the-art command center for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood at Jabal al-Zawiya in the Syrian province of Idlib near the Turkey border. He believes it is working with a parallel command center on the Turkish side which directs the steps of Syrian protest tacticians against the Assad regime.
The situation in Syria is getting worse and worse. On Sunday, at least three gunboats pounded the indigent Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, once a summer tourism hot spot, killing 10 people and wounding at least 30.
As the gunships blasted waterfront districts, ground troops and tanks stormed nearby neighborhoods. Latkia is made of a population Sunnis, Alawites (Assad’s sect) an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and a small minority of Christians, ethnic Turks and other groups.
On Saturday, some 20 tanks carrying armored personnel rolled into the city’s al-Ramel district amid intense rebellion gunfire sending residents fleeing. At least ten people died in the shooting in al-Ramel.
Amateur videos posted on the Internet by activist showed at least one gunship patrolling the coast opposite al-Ramel, as well as tanks moving along the waterfront. Syria has banned most foreign media and has put a strong restriction on local coverage.
So far at least 1,700 civilians have been killed in bloody crackdowns on protests calling for the ouster of the Assad regime.
The United States has called for a global trade embargo on oil and gas from Syria, warning America’s closest allies they must “get on the right side of history” and cut links with a government that uses violence to repress protesters.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry said that the European Union may decide in the next week or two to broaden sanctions against the Syrian regime and its state-run businesses.
Canada has also broadened economic sanctions on Syria by banning additional members of Assad’s government from traveling to Canada and freezing assets of entities linked to the regime.
The Syrian uprising was mostly inspired by revolts and calls for reform sweeping the Arab world, as activists and rights groups say most of those killed have been unarmed civilians. An aggressive new military offensive which began with the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan at the start of August has killed several hundred people in just one week.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that Washington believes President Bashar al-Assad’s government is responsible for more than 2,000 deaths asserting that Washington believes Assad has “lost his legitimacy to govern the Syrian people”.
“We are working around the clock to try to gather up as much international support for strong actions against the Syrian regime as possible…I come from the school that actions speak louder than words…with actions that will send a very clear message to the Assad regime, the insiders there, that there’s a price to pay for this kind of abuse and attacks on their own people.”