Posts tagged Syria
Israel says further attacks from Syria will “illicit a vigorous response” from IDF, sends letter to UN warning Syrians to avoid spillover; Incident marks first time IDF has fired at Syria since 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The IDF fired a warning shot at the Syrian military on Sunday, after a Syrian shell landed in the Golan Heights for the second time in recent days.
Israel has not fired at Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. source – JPost
Israeli air force on high alert
Tension shot up on the Israeli-Syrian Golan border Monday night, Nov. 5, after Syrian small-arms fire from 1 kilometer over the Golan border hit the jeep of the Golani Brigade’s Patrol Battalion commander on a routine border patrol. There were no injuries. The jeep was badly damaged. DEBKAfile’s military sources: The incident occurred after a gunfight between Syrian troops and rebels over the Golan town of Quneitra ended in the town falling to the rebels.
Israeli air force planes are patrolling the Golan and Galilee skies of northern Israel after the Syrians were observed preparing aircraft and helicopters to fly to the aid of their defeated ground forces in Quneitra.
After the Syrian army’s 90th Brigade was forced to retreat, Damascus is reported by Western sources about to send reinforcements over to the Golan to recover Quneitra. IDF contingents on the Golan and the Israeli-Lebanese border are high alert in case the Syrian combat spills over the border.
DEBKAfile reported Sunday: Israeli warplanes flew over the divided Golan Sunday, Nov. 4, in a show of strength and as a deterrent against the Syrian civil war seeping across the border,DEBKAfile’s military and Western intelligence sources report. In Paris, President Francois Hollande vowed Sunday that “France would oppose with all its strength any bid to destabilize Lebanon. Lebanon must be protected.”
He spoke regardless of the 5,000 Lebanese Shiite Hizballah fighters who have poured into Syria from their Beqaa Valley stronghold of al-Harmel to fight Bashar Assad’s war. Our sources reveal that these Lebanese fighters have now advanced 50-60 kilometers deep into southwestern Syria, up to the outskirts of the embattled town of Homs.
On the Golan, further to the east, Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz visited the IDF contingent stationed there to reinforce the message broadcast by the IAF. Hizballah is now openly flaunting the presence of its regular troops in Syria. They are armed with heavy artillery and Chinese WS-1 multiple-launch rocket systems made in Iran. These “Katyushas,” shoot 302mm rockets at targets up to 100 kilometers away and can operate in the rugged mountain terrain of Lebanon, Syria and Israel and in harsh weather conditions, including snow.
Hizballah fighters are reported by our sources to have already used this weapon with deadly effect in a battle with Syrian rebels over the town of Quseir opposite the Lebanese Beqaa Valley. It ended in Hizbalah’s capture of the town.
Coordination is tight: Hizballah forces on the ground get in touch with Iranian command headquarters in Beirut and Damascus to call up Syrian helicopters for air cover. The Hizballah commander in Syria is Ibrahim Aqil, a veteran of the Hizballah militia and one of the most trusted by Hassan Nasrallah and Tehran.
Aqil took part in the 1983 assault on US Marines Beirut headquarters in which 241 American troops were killed, the highest death toll in a single event after World War II. In the year 2000, Aqil, then commander of the southern Lebanese front against Israel, orchestrated the kidnap from Israeli territory and murder of three Israeli soldiers, Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Sawad.
Hizballah’s expeditionary force in Syria has been assigned three missions:
1. To seal off the routes used by the rebels to smuggle fighters and arms from Lebanon into Syria, most of which run through the Beqaa Valley. This mission is near completion.
2. To defend the clusters of Syrian Alawite and Shiite villages in the area of Hizballah control.
3. To provide a strategic reserve force for the Syrian units defending the main hubs of Syrian highways running west to east from the Mediterranean coast to the Syrian-Iraqi border and crisscrossed from north to south by the route running from the Turkish border up to Damascus. Control of these hubs makes it possible for the Syrian army to move military forces between the different warfronts at high speed. source – DEBKA
Preparing for the coming Middle East war
BRUSSELS (AP) — The United States has sent military troops to the Jordan-Syria border to bolster that country’s military capabilities in the event that violence escalates along its border with Syria,Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday.
Speaking at a NATO conference of defense ministers in Brussels, Panetta said the U.S. has been working with Jordan to monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria and also to help Jordan deal with refugees pouring over the border from Syria. The troops are also building a headquarters for themselves.
But the revelation of U.S. military personnel so close to the 19-month-old Syrian conflict suggests an escalation in the U.S. military involvement in the conflict, even as Washington pushes back on any suggestion of a direct intervention in Syria.
It also follows several days of shelling between Turkey and Syria, an indication that the civil war could spill across Syria’s borders and become a regional conflict.
“We have a group of our forces there working to help build a headquarters there and to insure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so that we can deal with all the possible consequences of what’s happening in Syria,” Panetta said.
The development comes with the U.S. presidential election less than a month away, and at a time when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has been criticizing President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, accusing the administration of embracing too passive a stance in the convulsive Mideast region.
The defense secretary and other administration officials have expressed concern about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s arsenal of chemical weapons. Panetta said last week that the United Statesbelieves that while the weapons are still secure, intelligence suggests the regime might have moved the weapons to protect them. The Obama administration has said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” that would change the U.S. policy of providing only non-lethal aid to the rebels seeking to topple him.
Pentagon press secretary George Little, traveling with Panetta, said the U.S. and Jordan agreed that “increased cooperation and more detailed planning are necessary in order to respond to the severe consequences of the Assad regime’s brutality.”
He said the U.S. has provided medical kits, water tanks, and other forms of humanitarian aid to help Jordanians assist Syrian refugees fleeing into their country.
Little said the military personnel were there to help Jordan with the flood of Syrian refugees over its borders and the security of Syria’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
“As we’ve said before, we have been planning for various contingencies, both unilaterally and with our regional partners,” Little said in a written statement. “There are various scenarios in which the Assad regime’s reprehensible actions could affect our partners in the region. For this reason and many others, we are always working on our contingency planning, for which we consult with our friends.”
A U.S. defense official in Washington said the forces are made up of 100 military planners and other personnel who stayed on in Jordan after attending an annual exercise in May, and several dozen more have flown in since, operating from a joint U.S.-Jordanian military center north of Amman that Americans have used for years.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the mission on the record.
In Jordan, the biggest problem for now seems to be the strain put on the country’s meager resources by the estimated 200,000 Syrian refugees who have flooded across the border — the largest fleeing to any country.
Several dozen refugees in Jordan rioted in their desert border camp of Zaatari early this month, destroying tents and medicine and leaving scores of refugee families out in the night cold.
Jordanian men also are moving the other way across the border — joining what intelligence officials have estimated to be around 2,000 foreigners fighting alongside Syrian rebels trying to topple Assad. A Jordanian border guard was wounded after armed men — believed trying to go fight — exchanged gunfire at the northern frontier.
Turkey has reinforced its border with artillery guns and deployed more fighter jets to an air base close to the border region after an errant Syrian mortar shell killed five people in a Turkish border town last week and Turkey retaliated with artillery strikes.
Turkey’s military chief Gen. Necdet Ozel vowed Wednesday to respond with more force to any further shelling from Syria, keeping up the pressure on its southern neighbor a day after NATO said it stood ready to defend Turkey. source – Yahoo News
BEIRUT — Turkey’s parliament voted Thursday to authorize military cross-border operations into Syria, a day after an apparently errant mortar strike from inside Syria killed five Turkish civilians.
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told the Associated Press that the 320-129 vote “is not for war,” but is intended to deter Syria from further violence that could spill over the border.
Atalay also said that Syria has taken responsibility and formally apologized for the death of the five Turkish civilians, and reassured the United Nations that “such an incident will not occur again,” AP reported.
Though this was not the first time the Syrian conflict has spilled over into Turkey, the five people killed Wednesday after a shell launched by the Syrian military crashed into the Turkish border town of Akcakale were the first Turkish civilians to die.
Within hours of the strike, Turkey launched two artillery attacks against Syria in retaliation, marking the most serious escalation in international tensions since the Syrian revolt erupted 19 months ago.
“Our armed forces in the border region responded immediately to this abominable attack in line with their rules of engagement; targets were struck through artillery fire against places in Syria identified by radar,” said a statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted activists in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad as saying that an unspecified number of Syrian soldiers were killed by artillery fire that struck a military base Thursday morning.
Turkey has shown a willingness in the past to send troops into neighboring countries to address perceived threats to its safety. Specifically, it repeatedly sent forces into Iraq to combat Kurdish guerrillas who had struck at Turkish targets.
Amid growing international concerns that the conflict could escalate further, Syria’s ally Russia on Thursday urged Syria to publicly admit that its forces had fired the shell that killed the civilians.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Syrian authorities had told him the incident “was a tragic accident and that it will not happen again,” the Russian news agency RIA quoted him as saying during a visit to Islamabad.
“We think it is of fundamental importance for Damascus to state that officially,” he added.
NATO, of which Turkey is a member, met in emergency session Wednesday at Turkey’s request and issued a strongly worded statement calling the Syrian shelling “a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security of one of its Allies.” Although NATO pledged to continue to “stand by Turkey,” it proposed no immediate action.
In Washington on Wednesday, the White House also condemned the Syrian shelling and affirmed the United States’ solidarity with Turkey. “We stand with our Turkish ally and are continuing to consult closely on the path forward,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Pentagon spokesman George Little condemned what he called “the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime.” source - Washington Post
TEL AVIV — A top Syrian government official speaking to KleinOnline denied that a rocket launched from Syria that landed in northern Israeli territory today was misplaced Syrian army firing, as has been widely reported.
“I am not aware of any clashes between the Syrian Army and the rebels taking place so close to the Israeli border,” added the Syrian official. “In any case, the Syrian army does not fire rockets against the rebels.”
The official further said that mortars launched from Syria that landed in Israel yesterday were not related to any fighting between the rebels and the Syrian army.
The official refused to say whether he believed the mortars or rocket were fired at Israel deliberately either by Syrian forces or by jihad groups.
As Israelis celebrated Yom Kippur today, one rocket landed in the Golan Heights and several mortars landed yesterday near Kibbutz Elrom in the northern Golan Heights.
The projectiles were widely reported as mortars apparently fired by the Syrian army at the Syrian village of Jubata Al Khashab in response to Syrian rebel activity in the area.
A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told KleinOnline the Israeli army is investigating the incidents.
source Aaron Klein
Beware the Muslim confederacy
“They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee” Psalm 83
Saudi King Abdullah invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for an extraordinary summit of Muslim leaders to be held this month in the holy city of Mecca, state news agency SPA reported Sunday.
The Saudi monarch “sent a written letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inviting him to attend the extraordinary Islamic solidarity meeting which will be held in Mecca” in mid-August, SPA reported.
Tensions have been running high between the Sunni-dominated kingdom and Shiite Iran as both regional powers had taken opposite stances on the uprisings in Bahrain and Syria.
Iran had voiced support to a Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain which Saudi Arabia had sent troops to crush last year.
In Syria, the kingdom had called for arming rebels against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad — who belongs to the Alawite minority, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam — while Iran has been repeatedly accused of sending military aid to the Syrian government. Tehran has denied the claims.
Saudi Arabia last month called for the summit in a bid at “unifying the ranks” of Muslims.
Saudi Arabia hosts the headquarters of the 57-member pan-Muslim body — the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation which is based in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. source Yahoo News
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, sources familiar with the matter said.
Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence “finding,” broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.
This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad’s armed opponents – a shift that intensified following last month’s failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.
The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.
But U.S. and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad’s opponents as a disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble.
Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.
The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment.
A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.
Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.
This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.
Turkey’s moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S. government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.
European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad’s departure.
On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, weapons that could be used against Assad’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Syrian government armed forces have employed such air power more extensively in recent days.
NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.
On Wednesday, however, Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the Free Syrian Army, denied the NBC report, telling the Arabic-language TV network Al-Arabiya that the group had “not obtained any such weapons at all.” U.S. government sources said they could not confirm the MANPADs deliveries, but could not rule them out either.
Current and former U.S. and European officials previously said that weapons supplies, which were being organized and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were largely limited to guns and a limited number of anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas.
Indications are that U.S. agencies have not been involved in providing weapons to Assad’s opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a supplement, known as a “memorandum of notification, to his initial broad intelligence finding.
Further such memoranda would have to be signed by Obama to authorize other specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels.
Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive authorizing greater U.S. covert assistance to Syrian rebels. It was unclear at that time whether Obama had signed it.
Separately from the president’s secret order, the Obama administration has stated publicly that it is providing some backing for Assad’s opponents.
The State Department said on Wednesday the U.S. government had set aside a total of $25 million for “non-lethal” assistance to the Syrian opposition. A U.S. official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including encrypted radios.
The State Department also says the United States has set aside $64 million in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid agencies.
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury confirmed it had granted authorization to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of one of the most active rebel factions, the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the rebel group’s behalf. The authorization was first reported on Friday by Al-Monitor, a Middle East news and commentary website.
Last year, when rebels began organizing themselves to challenge the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Obama also signed an initial “finding” broadly authorizing secret U.S. backing for them. But the president moved cautiously in authorizing specific measures to support them.
Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.
Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.
Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.
U.S. and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not believe the militants’ role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.
While U.S. and allied government experts believe that the Syrian rebels have been making some progress against Assad’s forces lately, most believe the conflict is nowhere near resolution, and could go on for years. source – Yahoo News