position:military spokesman

  • Turkey Eyeing Further Expansion in Northern Syria, Say Rebels

    After establishing a presence in northern Idlib and western Aleppo over the past month, Turkish troops and Turkey-backed rebels are now looking to expand their area of control along the border by moving further east into Aleppo’s countryside, a rebel spokesman told Syria Deeply.

    Although Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that his country’s operation in northeast Syria was nearly complete, Ankara recently dispatched reconnaissance teams to new areas, and some rebels reported being in talks to hand over their positions to Turkish forces, according to a military spokesman for the Syrian opposition faction Nour al-Din al-Zenki.

    Ankara began its cross-border operation with the purported aim of enforcing a de-escalation zone in Idlib, which was agreed upon by Russia, Turkey and Iran in the Kazakh capital of Astana in September. So far, its troops have deployed only in areas separating the opposition and Kurdish forces. The Turks have not moved into front-line areas between rebels and the Syrian regime.

    According to Abdul Salam Abdul Razzaq, Turkey is looking to replicate this strategy further east. He told Syria Deeply that Nour al-Din al-Zenki had already agreed to hand over its positions in rural Aleppo to Turkish forces.

    He added that although it had not been determined exactly where the Turkish troops would be stationed, Ankara was looking to establish observation posts in the Sheikh Aqil Mountains, located in the al-Bab district, which Turkey liberated from the so-called Islamic State last year.

  • US Officials Ask How ISIS Got So Many Toyota Trucks - ABC News

    U.S. counter-terror officials have asked Toyota, the world’s second largest auto maker, to help them determine how ISIS has managed to acquire the large number of Toyota pick-up trucks and SUVs seen prominently in the terror group’s propaganda videos in Iraq, Syria and Libya, ABC News has learned.

    Toyota says it does not know how ISIS obtained the vehicles and is “supporting” the inquiry led by the Terror Financing unit of the Treasury Department — part of a broad U.S. effort to prevent Western-made goods from ending up in the hands of the terror group.

    “We briefed Treasury on Toyota’s supply chains in the Middle East and the procedures that Toyota has in place to protect supply chain integrity,” said Ed Lewis, Toyota’s Washington-based director of public policy and communications.

    Toyota has a “strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities,” Lewis said. He said it is impossible for the company to track vehicles that have been stolen, or have been bought and re-sold by middlemen.

    Obtained by ABC News
    ISIS militants race through Raqqa in a propaganda training film released online in September 2014.more +
    Toyota Hilux pickups, an overseas model similar to the Toyota Tacoma, and Toyota Land Cruisers have become fixtures in videos of the ISIS campaign in Iraq, Syria and Libya, with their truck beds loaded with heavy weapons and cabs jammed with terrorists. The Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily, told ABC News that in addition to re-purposing older trucks, his government believes ISIS has acquired “hundreds” of “brand new” Toyotas in recent years.

    “This is a question we’ve been asking our neighbors,” Faily said. “How could these brand new trucks... these four wheel drives, hundreds of them — where are they coming from?”

    ISIS propaganda videos show gunmen patrolling Syrian streets in what appear to be older and newer model white Hilux pick-ups bearing the black caliphate seal and crossing Libya in long caravans of gleaming tan Toyota Land Cruisers. When ISIS soldiers paraded through the center of Raqqa, more than two-thirds of the vehicles were the familiar white Toyotas with the black emblems. There were small numbers of other brands including Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Isuzu.

    “Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand,” said Mark Wallace, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who is CEO of the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit working to expose the financial support networks of terror groups.

    “ISIS has used these vehicles in order to engage in military-type activities, terror activities, and the like,” Wallace told ABC News. “But in nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet — a convoy of Toyota vehicles and that’s very concerning to us.”

    Toyota says many of the vehicles seen in ISIS videos are not recent models. “We have procedures in place to help ensure our products are not diverted for unauthorized military use,” said Lewis, the Toyota executive.

    But, Lewis added, “It is impossible for Toyota to completely control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated.”

    Questions about the ISIS use of Toyota vehicles have circulated for years. In 2014, a report by the radio broadcaster Public Radio International noted that the U.S. State Department delivered 43 Toyota trucks to Syrian rebels. A more recent report in an Australian newspaper said that more than 800 of the trucks had been reported missing in Sydney between 2014 and 2015, and quoted terror experts speculating that they may have been exported to ISIS territory.

    Attempts to track the path of the trucks into ISIS hands has proven complicated for U.S. and Iraqi officials.

    Toyota’s own figures show sales of Hilux and Land Cruisers tripling from 6,000 sold in Iraq in 2011 to 18,000 sold in 2013, before sales dropped back to 13,000 in 2014.

    Brigadier General Saad Maan, an Iraqi military spokesman, told ABC News he suspects that middlemen from outside Iraq have been smuggling the trucks into his country.

    “We are spending our time to fight those terrorists so we cannot say we are controlling the border between Iraq and Syria,” he conceded. “We are deeply in need for answers.”

    In a statement to ABC News, Toyota said it is not aware of any dealership selling to the terror group but “would immediately” take action if it did, including termination of the distribution agreement.

    Toyota distributors in the region contacted by ABC News said they did not know how the trucks reached ISIS.

    Sumitomo, a Japanese conglomerate that ships vehicles to the region, wrote to ABC News, “In terms of how anyone operating outside of the law obtain vehicles for misappropriation, we have no way to know and therefore cannot comment.”

    A spokesman for former owners of the Toyota dealership in Syria said its sales operation was halted in 2012.

    The former owners, a Saudi company called Abdul Latif Jameel, said it “made the decision to cease all trading activities in the country and fully divested the business in October, 2012,” according to a spokesperson.

    Wallace, of the Counter Extremism Project, said his organization wrote directly to Toyota earlier this year to urge the company to do more to track the flow of trucks to ISIS, and noted that the trucks are stamped with traceable identification numbers.

    “I don’t think Toyota’s trying to intentionally profit from it, but they are on notice now and they should do more,” Wallace said. “They should be able to figure it out... how are these trucks getting there. I think they should disclose that, put a stop to that, and put policies and procedures in places that are real and effective to make sure that we don’t see videos of ISIS using Toyota trucks in the future.”

    Earlier this year, Toyota responded to Wallace’s organization with similar language the company has used to answer questions from ABC News, writing that Toyota stopped entirely its sales of vehicles in Syria several years ago.

    Toyota told ABC News that after company officials briefed the U.S. Treasury team and that Treasury indicated the meeting was “helpful.”

    “We cannot provide further details of our interaction with Treasury as we do not want to compromise its efforts to understand and prevent diversion, or make it easier for illicit groups to penetrate our supply chains or those of any other company,” Lewis said.

    Treasury officials told ABC News they could not comment publicly about the agency’s engagement with specific private companies. But in response to questions about Toyota, the officials said investigators are “working closely with foreign counterparts and stakeholders” on the issue.

    ABC News’ Randy Kreider and Mazin Faiq contributed to this report.

  • U.S. boosts support role in Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen - LA Times

    “We are confident that the intelligence and advice we pass on to Saudi Arabia and other coalition members is sound, giving them the best options for military success consistent with international norms and mitigating the potential for civilian casualties,” said Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a U.S. military spokesman in Bahrain. “The final decisions on the conduct of operations in the campaign are made by the members of the Saudi-led coalition, not the United States.”

    The coalition maintains that it primarily uses satellite- and laser-guided munitions, but Human Rights Watch says unguided bombs and U.S.-supplied cluster munitions have been dropped in densely populated urban areas.

  • Ukraine Rebels Withdraw From Front-Line Villages Near Mariupol

    Pro-Russian rebels have withdrawn from front-line villages near the strategic port city of Mariupol.

    Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said on July 3 that the separatists “withdrew to the east, leaving the settlement of Shyrokyne completely destroyed."

    The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine said it observed that all positions and bunkers previously occupied by the rebels in the village were “vacant.

    Meanwhile, separatist leader Denis Pushilin was quoted as saying the rebels are “waiting for a similar step [from Kyiv].

    Bien sûr, cela n’empêche pas l’annonce de l’imminente offensive russe…

    Vladmir Putin ’planning fresh assault’ on Ukraine as drone reveals build up of Russian tanks | Daily Mail Online

    Fears that Putin is planning fresh assault on Ukraine as drone footage reveals build up of Russian tanks just 10 miles from the frontline
    • Drone footage appears to show a Russian military camp in eastern Ukraine
    • The video was released by a group supporting the Ukrainian government [Dnipro-1 battalion]
    • Was first shot on May 20 and then on June 4 showing how camp had grown

  • Kremlin’s separatists launch psychological warfare on Donbas residents

    Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have begun manipulating residents by sending out mass text messages to discredit Ukrainian authorities, a military spokesman said.

    "They have equipment that mimics the work of mobile phone operators. On April 6, for example, they sent out mass text messages to mobile users with the following message: ‘Hr 10 has been deducted from your account to support anti-terrorism operations.’ In reality, no money was taken from these accounts. It’s a psychological operation aimed at inattentive mobile phone users. We call on all residents to be careful and not fall for these provocations from our enemy,” Ukraine military spokesman Andrey Lysenko said on April 10.

    Lysenko also said three Russian electronic reconnaissance stations had been spotted not far from Gorlovka and Dokuchayevsk, and 14 drone sightings had been recorded within the past day alone.

  • Ukraine Retreats in Effort to Isolate Rebel Stronghold - WSJ

    (ordre des extraits inversé)

    Along Ukraine’s southern coast, where Kiev said Russian forces helped open a third front this past week, the Russians and rebels dug in at the border town of Novoazovsk and shelled Ukrainian positions on the road to the port city of Mariupol, said Col. Andriy Lysenko, a Ukrainian military spokesman.

    But rebel claims that they had that city nearly encircled weren’t confirmed by witnesses. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who arrived in Mariupol on Friday, reported the situation was calm, while noting “significant movement of Ukrainian military vehicles—mainly armored personnel carriers.”

    Elsewhere, however, the rebels appear to gaining ground after weeks of losses.

    On Friday, a volunteer unit fighting for Kiev said it was outnumbered and was forced to abandon two key villages on a road linking Luhansk to Russia, a blow for Kiev’s efforts to encircle that city.

    There were conflicting reports of whether Kiev’s forces were driven out of the strategic highland of Savur-Mohyla, south of Donetsk, which Ukrainian forces retook after heavy fighting last month.

    “The situation remains very complex,” said Col. Lysenko.


    Adding to the tension, the Ukrainian government proposed repealing a law banning membership in military blocs and moving toward joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a day after NATO said more than 1,000 Russian troops are fighting alongside the rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russia has said such a move would be a threat to its national interest.

  • Israel Says Its Forces Did Not Kill Palestinians Sheltering at U.N. School - NYTimes.com


    On Sunday, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, acknowledged that an errant mortar round fired by Israeli troops had exploded in the school’s courtyard that afternoon but said the yard had been empty at the time. He provided a video with 10 seconds of black-and-white footage shot by an Israeli drone that showed a blast in what appeared to be an empty courtyard. “It is extremely unlikely that anyone was killed as a result of that mortar,” he said.

    Comme en 2009, la bataille sur les responsabilités commence. L’armée israélienne commence subtilement à semer le doute (notre obus a été tiré dans une cour vide, il n’y avait personne, ces morts ne sont pas nos morts - sans préciser « c’est les morts de qui »). Et une enquête indépendante pour identifier l’origine du tir, la nature ds munitions va être rendue difficile ou impossible par les autorités israéliennes, etc...)

    JERUSALEM — Israel and Hamas went back and forth on Sunday over proposals for a new cease-fire in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, and Israel sought to bolster its claim that its forces were not responsible for the deaths of 16 Palestinians reportedly killed in an attack on a United Nations school.

    Palestinians who brought their dead and wounded relatives to a Gaza hospital after the attack on Thursday said that hundreds of people who sought shelter in the school had gathered in its courtyard, believing that buses were on the way to take them somewhere safer. Then a number of munitions fired by Israeli forces hit the school, they said, killing and wounding scores of people.

    #gaza #israël #massacre #responsabilités

  • Army’s ’gay soldiers’ photo was staged, is misleading (attention, pour archive: juin 2012)

    A picture of two male Israeli soldiers holding hands, posted by Israel’s military spokesman and circulated widely on the web this week as part of gay pride month, was staged and is misleading, The Times of Israel established Tuesday.

    The newly hip, multimedia-savvy IDF Spokesperson’s Office posted Monday on its Facebook page a photo of two ostensibly gay soldiers, one seeming to belong to the Givati Brigade and the other to the Artillery Corps, holding hands and walking on a city street.

    In fact, the two soldiers in the photo are not a couple, only one of the two is gay, and both the soldiers serve in the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.