Saturday, 18 June 2016

Russia bombs U.S.-backed Syrian rebels near Jordan border

Image result for Russia bombs U.S.-backed Syrian rebels near Jordan border

 'Russian warplanes bombed U.S. backed Syrian rebels near the Jordanian border, Pentagon officials say, causing the U.S. to divert armed aircraft to the scene of the strike.

 The strikes, which the U.S. says killed some New Syrian Army troops, occurred about six miles from the Jordanian border, according to a U.S. defense official. The U.S. diverted armed FA-18s to the area after the first round of two strikes, and the pilots then tried to call the Russians on a previously agreed-upon pilot-to-pilot communications channel but did not receive an answer.

 As soon as the U.S. jets left the area to refuel, the Russians came back for another round of bombing, the defense official said.

 "Russia's latest actions raise serious concern about Russian intentions. We will seek an explanation from Russia on why it took this action and assurances this will not happen again." '

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Home of Syria’s Only Real Rebels

 'Syrian rebels, Idlibi activists, Western officials and others describe an Idlib pulled between Syrian al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and opposition faction and Islamist movement Ahrar al-Sham, with each trying to outmaneuver the other for control of the province. Yet they also said that all sides in Idlib are too interdependent militarily and too tangled up at the local level to really turn on each other. Syrians who spoke to The Daily Beast described a sense of a coming showdown—but only at some vague point in the future, maybe after the fall of the regime.

To the east of Idlib, Aleppo province was long a bastion of the mainstream opposition—the rebel-held eastern half of Aleppo city was a hub for revolutionary civil society, and non-jihadist, “Free Syrian Army” rebels dominated the city and countryside. But the regime has relentlessly attacked rebel positions in Aleppo, and a Russian-backed regime offensive in February cut rebel Aleppo to pieces. Now Free Syrian Army units only really dominate an isolated triangle of territory along the Turkish border and areas in and around rebel-held Aleppo city, whose single, precarious supply route is in constant danger of being cut by a new regime offensive.

 Most of what is left of the rebel north could be called “greater Idlib.” Idlib itself is almost entirely rebel-held, and so fighters man front lines against the regime where rebel territory spills into neighboring provinces: the western and southern Aleppo countryside, the northern Hama countryside, and remaining rebel-held areas in coastal Latakia. Any major new moves by rebels are likely to come from Idlib. While other rebels’ backers have pressured them to respect the U.S.- and Russian-sponsored nationwide “cessation of hostilities,” Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra are excluded from the main conduits of international support and thus less susceptible to foreign pressure. Ahrar has its own revenue streams—including effective control of Idlib’s Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, now the sole major inlet for trade into the rebel northwest—and alternate backers in Qatar and Turkey. Meanwhile, interviewees said al-Nusra has no state backers who can pull its strings, although that also means it has had to create its own resources.

 “Ahrar al-Sham has a lot of Arab support,” said  Idlib activist  Obeidah. “Jabhat al-Nusra doesn’t have backing, so it resorts to any means it can to get support, including kidnapping journalists.”

 Now, along with the rest of Jeish al-Fateh, the two factions are waging battle against the Syrian regime and its allies in the southern Aleppo countryside and retaking the towns Russia helped the regime seize earlier this year.

 “Ahrar are Islamists, true, but they don’t interfere in your business,” said Idlib activist “Omar,” who spoke to The Daily Beast in Gaziantep, Turkey. “In Ahrar areas, for example, you can smoke, no problem. In Armanaz, which is controlled by Ahrar, there are lots of stores that sell cigarettes and shisha. But in Jabhat al-Nusra areas, it would be impossible to sell shisha—they’d break it over your head.”

 Part of the split, Syrians say, is because Ahrar al-Sham’s commanders are Syrian and tend to be locals. While many are religiously conservative, they have ties with other local rebels and activists from early in the revolution. Jabhat al-Nusra’s rank-and-file is mostly Syrian, but many of its commanders are “ghuraba” (strangers)—either foreign fighters or Syrians from elsewhere in the country.

 Ahrar al-Sham is seen by many as protecting not just local civil society, but also the various Free Syrian Army factions in and around Idlib. Jabhat al-Nusra and its jihadist allies have attacked and destroyed more than a dozen Free Syrian Army factions in the past two years, including some with a reputation for criminality and predation, but others that just fell afoul of al-Nusra.

 Speaking in the offices of the Toran Center in the Turkey border town of Reyhanli, center director Muhammad Mustafa told The Daily Beast that most Free Syrian Army brigades are essentially local, something he blamed on foreign backing that had kept them small and divided. As a result, they have been incapable of any collective defense when al-Nusra has picked off individual factions.

 “We’re talking about something with a regional character,” said Mustafa of the Free Syrian Army. “According to this regionalist logic, there’s no coordination. Someone looks at the whole revolution—or what he considers the revolution—through the lens of his area. If his area is fine, he’s fine. If his faction is fine, he’s fine.”

 The Assad regime and its terrifying violence against residents of opposition areas is still most opposition Syrians’ main concern. Even through the cessation of hostilities, the regime and its allies have periodically launched air strikes on civilian centers in the heart of Idlib that have killed and injured dozens at a time. Al-Nusra has fought the regime ferociously, and its sacrifices have earned the appreciation of many opposition Syrians. 

 “Jabhat al-Nusra has popularity in Syria,” Dr. Rami al-Dallati, a rebel political representative who has been involved in the armed opposition since early in the revolution, told The Daily Beast in an Istanbul cafĂ©. “Where does it get its fighters from, Europe? No, from the people.” And given how much effort al-Nusra had put into earning credibility and building a base of popular support, interviewees who spoke to The Daily Beast all discounted recent reports that al-Nusra might unilaterally announce a jihadist “emirate” in Idlib. Al-Nusra was smart enough not to make such a provocative move, they said, one they thought would turn Ahrar al-Sham and the broader Syrian opposition against al-Nusra.

“The strongest relationships you have on the ground aren’t intellectual or organizational in nature; they have to do with family and regional ties,” said an Ahrar al-Sham official who spoke to The Daily Beast over a messaging app. “You have families with members in Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar, and the Free Syrian Army.”

 Interviewees told The Daily Beast that macro splits between “al-Nusra” and “Ahrar” did not necessarily mean that the young Syrian men actually flying these factions’ flags—many of whom are not hugely different from each other, or from other rebels—are at each others’ throats.
 “At the leadership level [there are tensions between al-Nusra and Ahrar],” said the Ahrar official, “but not at the base level—especially among Syrians—because the base doesn’t see the big picture. They just view each other as very similar, in terms of their approach and orientation, in addition to whatever social ties that might exist.
 “They’re sharing the same fronts and the same religion, and you can’t really tell the difference in terms of behavior,” he said. “You hear acute differences when you talk to religious officials and theorists, but those aren’t always communicated to the lower levels.” '

Clashes erupt between Assad forces and Hezbollah, in Aleppo, Syria

hezbollah flag  assad

 'Heavy clashes were reported by Syrian news site, Syrian Mirror between the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters early Thursday morning in two villages in Aleppo’s southern suburbs.

 According to the report the first signs of a rift between Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, which have been cooperating over the past five years in the Syrian civil war began emerging amid heavy fighting against rebel factions in Aleppo.

 The fighting between the parties escalated to such an extent that the Syrian Air Force carried out three airstrikes against Hezbollah fighters, which resulted in the killing and injuring of dozens of militants, according to the report.

 The clashes reportedly took place after Russia announced a ceasefire. Hezbollah militants rejected the truce while the Assad regime forces approved it. Hezbollah disagreed with the regime’s decision to withdraw its forces from strategic positions in Aleppo, because the party sacrificed many fighters and wanted to prevent opposition factions from gaining hold.'

 Sharif Wafiq Al-Hariri:

 "Reliable and proven information from inside the city of ‪#‎Aleppo‬ about the arrival of 131 carcasses corpses to the hospitals as a result to the battles that broke out this morning between the gang of ‪#‎Hezbollah‬, Fatimioun, Aboul Fadel Abbass and Nujabaa on one hand and Assad forces (gangs) on the other hand, the source has pointed out that the number of injuries is very large and the tension between these parties has leaded to the decision of full withdrawal of Hezbollah and the Shiite militias but still they are searching a safe way to get out of Aleppo by the Iranian mediation as these militias are fearing the Assad forces treachery as soon as they might start their withdrawal as most of the dead are belonging to Hezbollah and the other Shiite militias ...

This would be the fate of all Assad mercenaries and all who might think to cooperate with him ..."

ElDorar Reveal s Why the Assad forces Clash with Hezbollah in Aleppo

 ' “Mayer” city neighboring to the towns of “Nubul and Zahra” in the northern countryside of Aleppo seen a fierce fighting between the Lebanese Hezbollah militia on the one hand, and the forces of al-Assad and the elements of national defense on the other hand.

 Clashes erupted in the "Al-Bureij," the area north of Aleppo between the parties, has evolved to the use of artillery and heavy weapons in the incident is the first of its kind.
ElDorar AlShamia news network has conducted a number of meetings with military leaders, as well as the civilians in the villages of “Mayer and Marstah” who clarify the causes of the clashes, and when triggered began, "Abu Tamim" one of the residents of “Mayer” City said that "the dispute in northern Aleppo countryside, especially near “Nubul and Zahra” because of the resentment of the people in those villages due to the Hezbollah’s actions, especially with respect to forcing young people to go to the front liness of the southern countryside of Aleppo, volunteering compulsory under the banner of the party. 

 Hezbollah deliberately force dozens of young people from “Nubul and Zahra” towns to station in the villages of Ratyan , Marstah and Tal Jebin", which met with great opposition from the people of the region who have expressed an unwillingness to get out of their towns and fighting in other areas, Abu Tamim added.

 "Abu Tamim" continued saying that Hezbollah has arrested about 27 fighters from the al-Zahraa a week ago , because of refusing to go to fight in “Khan Tuman” and detained in one of its headquarters in the town of “Marstah Khan”after the mediation of the city people to release them but the militia refused to do so, which develops to the fighting began with light weapons, and soon evolved to use artillery fire exchanged by both parties, and spread to areas where the two parties exist, such as the “al-Bureij” area and “Almiasat”.

 "Abu Mustafa," one of the field commanders stressed that the differences between the Shiite militias north of Aleppo increasing, especially in light of the high casualty toll Aleppo southern countryside, and: "fighters of Nubul and Zahra refuse flatly to get out of their towns and fighting in other regions under the banner of Hezbollah, both in South fronts or even neighboring towns areas, while Hezbollah considers itself the responsible side for the fighters and funded them for the duration of the siege imposed by the rebels between 2013 and 2015,"Abu Mustafa added.

  It is noteworthy that Afghan, Lebanese and Iraqi militants had managed to open a route from the town of ”Pashkoy” to the camps of “Nubul and Zahra” in February in 2016, after the Russian airforce support.

Dozens of U.S. Diplomats, in Memo, Urge Strikes Against Syria’s Assad

 'More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.

 The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”

 Such a step would represent a radical shift in the administration’s approach to the civil war in Syria, and there is little evidence that President Obama has plans to change course. Mr. Obama has emphasized the military campaign against the Islamic State over efforts to dislodge Mr. Assad. Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, have all but collapsed.

 Robert S. Ford, a former ambassador to Syria, said, “Many people working on Syria for the State Department have long urged a tougher policy with the Assad government as a means of facilitating arrival at a negotiated political deal to set up a new Syrian government.”
In the memo, the State Department officials wrote that the Assad government’s continuing violations of the partial cease-fire, known as a cessation of hostilities, will doom efforts to broker a political settlement because Mr. Assad will feel no pressure to negotiate with the moderate opposition or other factions fighting him. The government’s barrel bombing of civilians, it said, is the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”

 The memo acknowledged that military action would have risks, not the least further tensions with Russia, which has intervened in the war on Mr. Assad’s behalf and helped negotiate a cease-fire. Those tensions increased on Thursday when, according to a senior Pentagon official, Russia conducted airstrikes in southern Syria against American-backed forces fighting the Islamic State.

 The State Department officials insisted in their memo that they were not “advocating for a slippery slope that ends in a military confrontation with Russia,” but rather a credible threat of military action to keep Mr. Assad in line. 
In the memo, the State Department officials argued that military action against Mr. Assad would help the fight against the Islamic State because it would bolster moderate Sunnis, who are necessary allies against the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

 During a debate in June 2013, after the Assad government had used chemical weapons against its own people, Mr. Kerry brandished a State Department report that argued that the United States needed to respond militarily or Mr. Assad would view it as “green light for continued CW use.”

 Three years later, the sense of urgency at the State Department has not diminished. The memo concludes, “It is time that the United States, guided by our strategic interests and moral convictions, lead a global effort to put an end to this conflict once and for all.” '

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Syrians view Israel as the defender of the Assad regime


 'Regarding the American policy toward the Syrian conflict, Susan Ahmad, a Syrian human rights activist from the Damascus suburbs and a reporter of Akhbar al-An, a Syrian site that documents ISIS crimes in the Middle East, fiercely criticized the American administration for ignoring the distress of the Syrian people.

"The behavior of the American administration is the utmost weakness and hypocrisy of humankind and is a mark of disgrace in the history of America, which paints itself as the champion of human rights. Unfortunately, while the US preaches for freedom and honor, it has not done enough to stop the fighting and put the killer (the Syrian president, Bashar Assad) on trial. It is hard to predict how the new American president will act toward Syria, especially if it will be Donald Trump, who expressed hatred for Muslims. If he would be elected, I hope that he would at least not damage Syrians if he would not help them.

 The Kurdish units are part of the regime that kills civilians. ISIS is humanity's enemy, but the decision to support Kurds and strengthen them is another sign of weakness. It enables the Syrian regime to kill civilians and draw the world's attention to the fighting between the Kurds and ISIS.

 The UN can enforce a resolution of military intervention in Syria under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The entire world can pressure Russia and the regime to stop carrying out airstrikes against hospitals and civilians. Aleppo is exterminated while the entire world watches, sitting idly by and allowing the Syrian regime to continue massacring civilians.

 How could it be that after five years of bloody war, Israel is still considering whether to help the Syrian people get rid of their dictator?! Honestly, many Syrians view Israel as a mere defender and partner of Assad's regime, claiming that it provides Assad's forces military and political support that enables them to continue killing Syrians.

 If the world would have wanted to solve the refugee problem, it would have stopped Assad's crimes and put him on trial for the war crimes he had committed. If the world would have wanted to prevent people from starving to death, it would have obligated Assad to lift the siege on besieged areas or it would have dropped food to people by airplanes instead of allowing airplanes to shell these people." '

UN attacked for giving control of aid 'to Assad regime' in Syria

A convoy delivers aid to besieged Damascus suburb Daraya

 'The United Nations has lost all impartiality in Syria's civil war, effectively allowing Bashar al-Assad’s regime to control billions of dollars of aid, according to a new investigation.

 After interviewing dozens of current and former staff, researchers accused the UN of allowing Mr Assad a veto over the delivery of humanitarian supplies, thereby “enabling” the regime’s use of “sieges as a weapon of war”.

 Almost one million people are living in 52 blockaded areas of Syria, of which 49 are under siege by Mr Assad’s forces. The UN is failing the most desperate by acquiescing in the regime’s policy of denying food and medicine to the 49 rebel-held areas, according to The Syria Campaign, the advocacy group which completed the investigation.

 Last year, almost 90 per cent of UN requests for aid deliveries were either ignored or denied by the regime. One UN official said that these were already “censored at the agency level”, meaning that the number of requests was kept low so as not to “annoy” the authorities. The result is that most aid is distributed solely to areas under regime control. This has unintentionally bolstered Mr Assad, allowing him to spend less of his own money on aid and more on military operations, as well as allowing him to pose as a reliable provider of help. Mr Assad’s starvation tactic has forced hundreds of thousands of people out of rebel-held enclaves and into areas under the regime’s control.

 The report, released on Wednesday, outlines how the UN’s fear of having their employees’ visas revoked or being asked to leave Damascus has led to “far-reaching and unnecessary” capitulations to Mr Assad. This has included downplaying his regime’s role in enforcing blockades, revising down the number of people living in these besieged areas, and taking rebel-held towns such as Madaya off the list of besieged areas at a time when residents were starving to death.

 Baby milk formula in regime-held Damascus costs 500 Syrian pounds (£1.50), while in the besieged suburb of Daraya it goes for nearly 30,000 Syrian pounds (£96). Residents who cannot afford these inflated prices have resorted to killing stray animals and eating bark and leaves.

 Bissan Fakih from The Syria Campaign, a non-governmental group that advocates for an end to the sieges, said: “A UN with the backbone to stand for its principles would help get aid to hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians under siege, many of them only a few minutes’ drive from where the UN is based in Damascus."

 Palestinian refugee camps, including Yarmouk in Damascus, are among the areas besieged by the regime.

 Roger Hearn, a former head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Damascus – the branch of the UN charged with helping Palestinian refugees – said: “There has been a systematic failure in the UN-led response. Rather than basing its response on need, it has developed into a billion dollar response programme that is largely controlled by the regime and its proxies.” '

Monday, 13 June 2016

Childhood's end in Assad's prisons

Childhood's end in Assad's prisons

 'In 2011 the Syrian revolution spread to Baniyas, the home of then-17 year old Omar al-Shogre. Omar's father had served in the Syrian army for more than 24 years which protected him for some time from mass arrests that were taking place in Baniyas.  However soon the army came for him and violently arrested him and his three cousins in al-Bayda village.  

 "They harassed Noor (his cousin) in the car.  It wasn’t normal at that point to beat girls so every time she refused to answer a question they beat us instead," he said.

During Omar’s horrific time in prison his father and brothers were killed in the Baniyas massacre in May 2013, although he would not know until after his release.  

 After they were arrested, a bus came and took them to a detention facility in the city of Tartous, where they were immediately welcomed with a beating. "During the registration they asked us to strip naked, we didn’t want to take off our undergarments so they started talking about my mothers and sisters in a way bad way," said Omar. 

 "The soldier asked: 'What is your name?' I said my name is Omar al-Shogre from al-Bayda village. The man said it is not a problem that you were demonstrating, that you are from this village and from this family.  But your name is not welcome here."  (Omar is an easily identifiable Sunni-affiliated name).
 "My cousins were tortured despite being badly injured.  They used their wounds as a way to torture him.  They threatened to harm one of cousins' sister and made them confess to things that they didn’t know," he said.  

 Omar would later learn that his cousins Bashir and Rashad died in prison after eight months.

e was sent to the notorious Sednaya prison where he was held for one month before being referred to the military court.

 "I was placed in a section that held 1,250 prisoners.  I had to stay standing all the time. Everyone there was suffering from skin disease and there were a lot of lice everywhere," said Omar. 

 Omar saw emaciated people weighing no more than 30 kilos each. He said he saw the two men fighting with each other for a place to sit, who were brothers. 

 "One of them died when it was around lunch time.  Eight people eat from the same plate.  One of them had a choice - either to eat it or to put it in the corpse room.  They put the food on top of the dead brother," said Omar. "Being in these conditions makes your forget that that you are human, you don’t think normally."

Omar said his cousin Bashir was interrogated and tortured by a screwdriver and electrocution before his death.

 "You can start to tell the torture methods apart by the screams," said Omar.  "When you are in that situation you are on high alert and everything is super sensitive. They started by electrocuting me, poured hot and cold water on me. They put me on the Doulab and whipped me,” he said, referring to putting detainees on a large tire to whip them.

Omar also told of horrific sexual abuse in Sednaya prison.

 "They made everyone strip in prison. The guard would choose the slimmest and largest prisoners and then ask the large one to rape the small one. If they don’t they would get killed," said Omar.   

 Omar said one of the guards' divisions targeted young boys. They would take them upstairs to join the investigation in exchange for better conditions or force them too by raping them. Omar relayed that these younger detainees were also especially subject to sexual assault. 

 "One of these young boys was raped in a really bad way and he lost his mind and decided to become one of the people upstairs. He started torturing people in a bad way and burnt people," said Omar.

Omar told stories of corruption and hierarchy within the communities of prisoners themselves.  

 He alleged that that one prisoner who was a doctor became so corrupt that he carried out executions himself.  

 "If you have money when you are detained you could become head of a could get your own boy service and sexually abuse him," said Omar. "Sexual abuse was a daily occurrence.  People got used to it."    

 "One of my good friends was transferred to the room where they did the shabha - torture method involving hanging by hands - almost no one survived this room. My friend did bu he came back he was really disturbed and depressed." 

 Omar asked him what happened to him. His friend didn’t want to tell him how he was tortured and raped and how he was wounded and he died two days later.
Omar was given the job of taking bodies to the corpse room.

 "I was involved in carrying the bodies from downstairs to upstairs. People kept counting the number of dead because people started dying from sickness and lack of ventilation. Some of the guards told me to go to the corpse room and take bodies to the room. The bodies would be heavily deformed and some would have missing organs." 

Omar suspected that organ trafficking was taking place.  

 "We witnessed many fires when we were in Sednaya.  Although the guards told us it was from electricity or other stories, we knew better.  We knew that this was the smell of body burning." 

Omar finally escaped prison after his mother made a deal with high-ranking officer, and paid a ransom for his release.  

 "The detention system in Syria turned people into merchandise.  Whoever pays the most gets out," he said.

Omar is now in Sweden with his youngest brother. He recently shared for the first time his story with his Swedish host family.'