Posts tagged Syria
A ruinous heap
“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” Isaiah 17:1
Israel has warned Damascus that if President Assad chooses to hit back at Israel for any further Israeli military strikes, Israel will bring down his regime.
An Israeli official confirmed Wednesday night that a dramatic and unprecedented message to this effect had been conveyed to Damascus, Channel 2 news reported.
The report said that Israel’s position to this effect also came up during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency meeting in Russia on Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin, during which Netanyahu also told Putin of Israel’s profound opposition to Russia’s sale of sophisticated S-300 missile defense batteries to Assad.
The warning came hours after mortar shells hit the Mount Hermon areafor the first time in the two-year Syrian civil war, and as Arabic newspapers reported talk of Hezbollah opening “a new front” against Israel on the Golan Heights.
Syria vowed last week to respond “immediately and harshly” to any further Israeli airstrikes, after Israel carried out two early morning attacks earlier this month on weapons consignments being stored in and around Damascus en route from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The shipments contained highly sophisticated Fateh-110 missiles.
Confirmation of Israel’s warning to Assad came soon after the New York Times quoted an Israeli official issuing the same threat. The New York Times said Israel was “considering further military strikes on Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic militants,” and that an unnamed Israeli official had contacted the paper to warn: “Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region. If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”
“Israel will continue its policy of interdicting attempts to strengthen Hezbollah, but will not intercede in the Syrian civil war as long as Assad desists from direct or indirect attacks against Israel.”
The New York Times report speculated that Israel “could be trying to restrain Syria’s behavior without undertaking further military action, or alerting the international community to another strike. That would ratchet up the tension in an already fraught situation in Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than two years.”
Channel 2 on Wednesday night showed satellite images of what it said was a surgical strike, reportedly carried out by Israel at Damascus airport to target the Iranian missile consignments. It showed before and after pictures of specific buildings that had been blown up, while neighboring buildings remained intact. Israel has not formally confirmed either of this month’s attacks.
Channel 2 said Netanyahu had made clear to Putin — as he also had in recent conversations with US President Barack Obama and the Chinese leadership — that Israel would hold to its “red lines” as related to Syria, which included preventing the transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and other rogue organizations. source – Times Of Israel
Israel used depleted uranium shells in the alleged strike in Syria on Sunday, a senior Syrian military source told Russia Today on Monday.
“When the explosion happened it felt like an earthquake, then a giant golden mushroom of fire appeared. This tells us that Israel used depleted uranium shells,” the source said.
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the production of enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors. It is 2.5 times as dense as steel, which allows it to penetrate heavy protection. The material is known to be toxic, but not dangerously radioactive.
Syrian state television claimed the bombing occurred around a military research facility at Jamraya. The New York Times reported that the strike also targeted the bases of the elite Republican Guard and storehouses of long-range missiles.
VIDEO: Click Here to see the video of this enormous explosion
The senior official speaking to RT downplayed the strategic importance of the weapons targeted in the attack, saying the military losses were “negligible” and that valuable equipment was removed from the site of attack after a previous strike.
“The target was just an ordinary weapons warehouse. The bombing is an ultimatum to us – it had no strategic motivation,” he was quoted by RT as saying.
A Western intelligence source told Reuters the attack targeted “stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah,” while a senior Hezbollah source denied to Kuwaiti daily Alrai on Monday that the weapons targeted belonged to his organization.
Another high-ranking Syrian military source told the Times that dozens of elite troops stationed near the presidential palace in Damascus were killed in the Israel strike.
A doctor at the Syrian military’s Tishreen Hospital said there were at least 100 dead soldiers and many dozens more wounded, the Times reported.
The Syrian military official accused Israel of working with opposition forces trying to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the strike had targeted members of the Republican Guard in an area of Damascus where rebels have made few inroads.
Reuters contributed to this report. source – JPost
“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” Isaiah 17:1
From JPost: Blasts shock Damascus, Israel blamed by Syrian television for the strikes. IDF spokesman says, ‘we don’t respond to this kind of report.’ One site targeted is the Jamraya military research center; a previous Israeli target.
BEIRUT – Powerful explosions struck the outskirts of Damascus early on Sunday, sending columns of fire into the night sky, and Syrian state television said Israeli rockets had struck a military facility just north of the capital.
Israel declined to comment on the attack, but the blasts occurred a day after an Israeli official said his country had carried out an air strike targeting a consignment of missiles in Syria intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
“The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army,” Syrian television said, referring to recent offensives by President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted eyewitnesses in the area as saying they saw jets in the sky at the time of the explosions.
It said the blasts hit Jamraya as well as a nearby ammunition depot. Other activists said a missile brigade and two Republican Guard battalions may also have been targeted in the heavily militarised area just north of Damascus.
Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by activists showed a series of explosions. One lit up the skyline over the city, while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.
There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials on Sunday’s explosions. “We don’t respond to this kind of report,” an Israeli military spokeswoman told Reuters.
The Jewish state has repeatedly made clear it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons from Syria reaching Lebanon’s Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah guerrillas, who fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006. Assad and Hezbollah are allied to Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy. source – JPost
American sources reported Israeli air strikes Saturday, May 4, against a number of targets in Syria including a chemical weapons depot outside Damascus. They were carried out remotely from Lebanese air space and the Golan starting Friday and continuing up until early Saturday, May 3. Neither Damascus nor Jerusalem has yet confirmed the attack. According to one report, Israeli jets were seen early Saturday circling over Assad’s presidential compound in Damascus before moving on to target a weapons site. The Israeli jets reportedly received fire but returned to base unscathed.
Some sources say the target attacked was a convoy transporting chemical arms to the Lebanese Hizballah, which Israeli leaders have vowed to prevent.
DEBKAfile’s military sources say the start of the Israeli air force operation can be fixed by the sirens set off over the Golan Friday afternoon and again before dawn Saturday. The IDF spokesman said they were set off by a “technical glitch.” They now prove to have been triggered automatically by the Israeli aerial movements.
Friday, Lebanon reported a number of Israeli warplane intrusions of its air space.
DEBKAfile reported earlier that this week, thousands of Basij militiamen landed in Syria, establishing an Iranian military presence opposite Israel from Syria as well as Lebanon. They joined a comparable number of Hizballah militiamen fighting for the Bashar regime.
See this earlier DEBKAfile report:
US officials recently gave Israel a video demonstration of the new features which enable its biggest bunker buster bomb (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) to destroy Iran’s underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordo near Qom, in a bid to dissuade Israel from a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This is reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The video displayed the improved bomb, which Israel does not have, as hitting the ground near its target and setting off a massive underground explosion.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that this videotaped demonstration was in line with the Obama administration’s latest campaign to convince Israel that the US is getting ready to strike Iran itself.
In actual fact, the improved American MOP is not news – any more than the Israeli Air Force’s possession of bombs capable of penetrating the Fordo underground plant. This capability has given Israeli officials the confidence to assert that Israel can destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own.
What Washington has in common with Jerusalem is that while both make no secret of their capabilities – and Israeli leaders are also free with threatening rhetoric – neither is actually exercising them.
The only parties on the move are Iran and Hizballah.
At the end of the week, DEBKAfile’s military sources report that both established a military presence in Syria and Lebanon, just across Israel’s two northern borders. An Iranian airlift placed Iranian boots on the ground in Syria for the first time in more than two years of its civil war. It was also the first time Israel had ever seen uniformed Iranian soldiers present at close quarters on the soil of a close neighbor.
The arrivals are members of the violent Basij volunteer militia which is trained in urban combat tactics for suppressing anti-regime unrest in Iranian cities. They are the first Iranian troops to confront Syrian rebels in combat. Roughly 6,000-8,000 militiamen have arrived so far – a figure comparable to the size of the Hizhballah elite units fighting for Bashar Assad in Syria.
The Basij militiamen were stationed in Damascus and sent to guard Syrian Shiite border villages situated opposite Hizballah-controlled South Lebanon. This deployment has placed Iranian troops opposite the intersection of the Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese borders.
Iran’s expanding military intervention in Syria accounts partly for this week’s surprise call-up of thousands of Israeli reservists for duty on the country’s northern borders. Although they were sent home after 24 hours to disguise their mission and calm rising tensions, they were in fact ordered to report back Sunday, May 5. These reservists will then pick up the gear and weapons needed for real combat, and take up positions along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon.
Sirens blared over parts of the Golan Friday, May 3, their sensors touched off by the preparations for these military movements. The official pretext offered of a “technical glitch” was about as convincing as the Israeli military spokesman’s attempt to deny knowing who sent a drone from Beirut towards Israel on April 25.
The sirens on the Golan were apparently not loud enough to be heard in Washington and Jerusalem. source – DEBKA
The pink president
When you think about the opposite of manly, virile presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama wearing a pink blazer springs immediately to mind. He is pro-gay, pro-baby killing, pro-Muslim, pro-Islam, pro-no Second Amendment. So whenever he tries to talk tough it invariably backfires on him. Such is the case with Syria. Obama said a little while back that if “chemical weapons were used in Syria”, that that would be a “red line” being crossed and the United States would (finally) step in and do something about the slaughter that’s been happening there since March 2012.
Well, Syria crossed Obama’s “red line”, and what is Obama doing about it? Nothing.
From Fox News: President Obama, who earlier said use of chemical weapons by Syria on its people would be a “red line” requiring action by the U.S., walked the stance back on Tuesday, saying he needs more information on the reported attacks before responding.
Administration officials recently said intelligence analysts had “varying degrees of confidence” the embattled government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has gassed civilians with sarin. However, Obama said the administration is using all its resources to determine the facts about a weapon that he has said would be a “game changer” for U.S. policy in the war.
“If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence … we can find ourselves in a position where we can’t marshal the international community in support of what we do,” Obama said. “It’s important for us to do this in a prudent way.”
The administration long ago called for Assad to step down and pave the way for a new government. But Obama has resisted calls from some Republicans in Congress to send U.S. military aid to the rebels and perhaps commit U.S. military resources directly.
So far, the war, which began in March 2011, has claimed an estimated 75,000 lives. While the U.S. has backed the Syrian rebels with non-military aid, critics have said that the forces include Al Qaeda fighters and other insurgents unfriendly toward the U.S., leaving uncertainty surrounding Syria’s future under a post-Assad government.
Republican Sens. John McCain, Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, S.C., said the president must do more to end the conflict.
“It will not be long before Assad takes this delay as an invitation to use chemical weapons again on an even larger scale,” they said in a joint statement. “The president needs to lead. He needs to articulate exactly what outcome in Syria would best serve America’s national security interests.”
Obama made the remarks at a wide-ranging White House press conference in which he also answered questions about his signature health-care law, defended the FBI in its efforts to crack down on terrorism before the deadly Boston Marathon bombing and said he’d renew efforts to close the terrorist prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Four months into his second term, Obama said he remains open-minded about the immigration legislation being hammered out by congressional lawmakers and that he would not support a bill that excludes a pathway to citizenship – a sticking point for most Democrats and a divisive issue for Republicans. Reforming the nation’s immigration system has been one of the president’s top legislative priorities this term.
Asked about the FBI’s investigation into a possible terrorist threat posed in the past by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings who died in an escape attempt, the president said, “Based on what I’ve seen so far, the FBI performed its duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.”
Obama also said he’d renew efforts to close Guantanamo Bay. His first-term campaign promise to shut down the terrorist camp has been met with strong objection from lawmakers who don’t want the prisoners transferred to American soil.
Asked about a hunger strike by some detainees, he said, “I don’t want these individuals to die.” The president also said the Pentagon was doing what it could to manage the situation.
Obama also noted that several suspected terrorists have been tried and found guilty in U.S. federal courts, a response to congressional critics who say the detainees must be tried in special courts if the United States is to maximize its ability to prevent future attacks.
On another contentious issue, the president said a variety of Republicans were working to foil the final implementation of the health care law he pushed through Congress three years ago.
He said GOP lawmakers want to repeal the law and some Republican governors don’t want to have their states participate in establishing insurance pools where the uninsured can find coverage. In other cases, Republican legislatures object when governors are willing to go along.
“We will implement” the law, Obama said, though he conceded there will be glitches along the way. ”Despite all the hue and cry and sky-is-falling predictions about this stuff, if you’ve already got health insurance, then the part of ObamaCare that affects you is already in place,” he said. source – Fox News
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said it fired into Syria on Sunday and destroyed a machinegun position in the Golan Heights from where shots had been fired at Israeli soldiers in a further spillover of the Syrian civil war along a tense front.
It was not immediately clear whether Israel held Syrian troops or rebels responsible for what a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said had been a deliberate attack on Israeli patrols in the occupied territory.
Israeli forces “destroyed a Syrian machine gun nest that fired twice in the last 24 hours on Israeli patrols operating to safeguard the border,” the spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, said on his Twitter page.
Shells have fallen several times inside Israeli-controlled territory during Syria’s civil war. Some of the incidents have drawn Israeli return fire.
Syria’s southern provinces bordering Jordan and Israel have become an increasingly significant battleground as the capital Damascus – in Syria’s south – comes into play and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces fight hard to prevent rebel advances.
The Israeli military said one of its vehicles was hit late on Saturday by shooting from across the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line on the Golan Heights, but no one was hurt.
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, said, “Our understanding is that it wasn’t stray fire.”
After a second incident on Sunday, Israeli soldiers “responded with accurate fire toward the Syrian post from which they were fired on”, the military said.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement that Israel viewed shooting from Syria “with severity” and would not allow “the Syrian army or any other element to violate Israeli sovereignty by firing at our territory”.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the strategic plateau in 1981 in a move that has not won international recognition.
“Any … fire from the Syrian side will be answered immediately by silencing the sources of fire when we identify them,” Yaalon said.
Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defence Ministry official, said battles between Syrian government forces and Syrian rebels sometimes take place just a short distance from Israeli lines.
“At times, shells or bullets are fired at Israel. Usually the shooting (from Syria) is not deliberate, but it doesn’t matter,” he told Army Radio.
“Israel should not be the target of any attack, whether intentional or unintentional – because after all, if you accept something that was unintentional, that could lead to something intentional in the end,” Gilad said.
Israel has said for months that it expects Assad’s government to fall and has voiced concern that its chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas and al Qaeda. source – Reuters
DAMASCUS, Syria Syrian state media accused rebels of firing a chemical weapon for the first time on Tuesday in the north of the country, killing at least 15 people in the war-torn Aleppo province. Rebels quickly denied the report and accused regime forces of firing a chemical weapon on a long-range missile.
Neither of the accusations could immediately be verified, but a photographer for the Reuters news agency did say he had witnessed people come into hospitals with breathing problems after the attack. The Syrian state news agency SANA said “terrorists” had fired a rocket “containing chemical materials” into the area around the village of Khan al-Assal in the northern province of Aleppo. The regime regularly uses the term terrorists to refer to rebels fighting to overthrow authoritarian President Bashar Assad.
“The rocket which was launched from Kafr Da’el in Neirab is a grave escalation,” Syrian information minister Omran al-Zubi said in a televised statement. “The terrorists used a weapon that is banned in accordance with international law.”
“The states which are arming, financing and housing the terrorists should be questioned about this crime,” added al-Zubi.
“I saw mostly women and children,” the Reuters photographer, who was not identified, told his editors. He said after visiting the University of Aleppo hospital and the al-Rajaa hospital — both in state-controlled parts of Aleppo — that victims “said that people were suffocating in the streets and the air smelt strongly of chlorine.”
SANA said at least 16 people, most of them civilians, were killed and almost 90 more wounded. An activist in the area said rebels had recently seized much of the village of Khan al-Assal including a facility that housed a military academy. The opposition Syrian Media Center said 20 people had died from “asphyxia and poisoning after a SCUD missile fired from Damascus struck” Khan al-Assal. source CBS News