region:northern syria

  • Kurdistan 24 captures completion of first US observation post on Syria-Turkey border

    Last week, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US-led coalition had decided to set up observation posts in northern Syria along parts of the border with Turkey.

    Mattis further explained that recent Turkish attacks on Kurdish areas of Syria had delayed efforts of the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in the war-torn country.

    #Syrie #Turquie #etats-unis #Kurdes

  • ‘Criminal negligence’ or disregard to Russia-Israel ties : MoD details chronology of Il-20 downing — RT World News

    A minute-by-minute account of the Il-20 downing shows Israel’s culpability and either its military bosses’ lack of appreciation of relations with Moscow, or their control of commanding officers, the Russian defense ministry said.

    We believe that the blame for the Russian Il-20 aircraft tragedy lies entirely with the Israeli Air Force,” said spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, before revealing a detailed account of events leading to the downing of the Russian Il-20 military aircraft on September 17. The plane was shot down by the Syrian air defense units as Israeli’s F-16s effectively used it as a cover during the attack on its neighbor.

    The report featured previously undisclosed radar data and details of communications between Russian and Israeli militaries, and concluded that “the military leadership of Israel either has no appreciation for the level of relations with Russia, or has no control over individual commands or commanding officers who understood that their actions would lead to tragedy.

    On the evening of September 17, the Russian Ilyushin IL-20 with 15 crew on board was circling over the Idlib de-escalation zone on a special reconnaissance mission, when four Israeli F-16 fighter jets left their country’s airspace and flew over the neutral Mediterranean waters towards the Syrian coast. The Israeli Air Force gave the Russian side less than a minute’s warning before dropping the precision-guided glide bombs, leaving virtually no time for any safety maneuvers, Konashenkov said, calling such actions “a clear violation of the 2015 Russian-Israeli agreements.

    Moreover, the Israeli military failed to provide the location of their jets or properly specify their targets, claiming they were going to attack several ’industrial facilities’ in northern Syria, close to the Il-20’s area of operation. The misinformation prompted the Russian Command to order the recon plane back to the Khmeimim air base. The Israeli jets, however, instead almost immediately attacked the western Syrian Latakia province.

      (article paru avant la conférence de presse du ministère de la Défense russe)

      It would seem that there were two significant contributory factors here: i) the Israeli ‘bad-faith’ abrogation of the proper protocols for communication between themselves and the Russian Military, in order to attain a deliberate advantage for carrying out their attack; and ii) the regrettable features of outmoded air-defence hardware which ultimately lead to the shoot-down.

      The solution to the second issue is rather straightforward: Russia had earlier proposed selling S-400 systems to Syria – a move which wound up effectively ‘veto’d’ by Israel stating in no uncertain terms that they would carry out airstrikes against any such systems before they had been fully installed, regardless of whether they were still Russian crewed at that point. Given Israeli airstrikes are presently causing Russian casualties anyway; as well as the fact that the Russians have already had their own advanced SAM systems for Russian defence set up in Syria for some time now, in the present situation of Israeli diplomatic weakness created by Monday’s events, now is the ideal time to engage in such technology-transfer directly to Syria with an explicit view to ensuring that Monday’s events do not recur thanks to half-century old hardware malfunctioning.

      The first issue is much more complex, as I would be rather surprised if Russia genuinely wanted to seriously contemplate abandoning its significantly close relationship with Israel – although it may potentially be convinced to ‘downgrade’ it somewhat, assuming that we do not see a repeat of what happened following Turkey’s downing of a Russian military aircraft in 2015 (ironically, a seeming catalyst for the two countries beginning to work more closely together than ever before). Whether Russia chooses to remain on ‘friendly’ ‘terms with Israel in a militaristic sense or not, the plain reality is that the Israelis have demonstrated that they cannot and should not be trusted to behave in an up-front manner when it comes to the communication and co-ordination protocols essential to allowing them to continue to operate with relative impunity above Syrian airspace.

      Russia should therefore suspend this facility they have provided to the Israelis forthwith – and openly state that future instances of Israeli military aircraft turning up unannounced above Syria will simply be treated as hostile, and dealt with accordingly. After all, from the perspective of that IL-20 crew, what else characterizes the Israeli conduct than this designation? Certainly not the actions of something approaching a ‘trusted’ ally! The net effect of this would be to impose a ‘no-fly zone’ of sorts over Syria – thus allowing operational freedom for Russian and Syrian air assets, and denying precious, vital air-cover to the extremist forces which theoretically everybody agrees need to be wiped out.

    • Avec, au passage, l’utile rappel de la possibilité de perte de contrôle des vieux missiles anti-aériens S-200.
      C’était il y a longtemps, le 4/10/2001 époque où il y avait encore des manœuvres communes russo-ukrainiennes.

      Vol 1812 Siberia Airlines — Wikipédia

      Un rapport préliminaire russe confirma les évaluations de responsables militaires américains faites à titre privé : le missile S-200 avait dépassé sa cible téléguidée qui avait été détruite avec succès par un S-300 tiré au même moment. Au lieu de s’autodétruire, le missile S-200 prit pour cible le long courrier qui se trouvait à près de 200 kilomètres ; le projectile explosa en projetant des billes d’acier (shrapnel) 15 mètres au-dessus de l’avion.

      Les responsables militaires ukrainiens nièrent d’abord que leur missile avait abattu l’avion ; ils déclarèrent que le S-200 avait été lancé vers la mer et qu’il avait réussi à s’autodétruire. Le porte-parole du ministère de la Défense Konstantin Khivrenko affirma que « ni la direction ni la portée (des missiles) ne correspondaient à l’endroit réel ou théorique où l’avion avait explosé. » Toutefois, les responsables ukrainiens admirent par la suite que c’était bien leur armée qui avait abattu l’avion de ligne.

  • Dutch government faces outcry over reported support for Syrian rebels

    The Dutch government faced a storm of protest from lawmakers on Monday after a news report said it supported a Syrian opposition group which Dutch prosecutors had labelled a “terrorist” organisation.

    Parliamentarians demanded answers after the report aired by the national public broadcaster said the Netherlands gave “non-lethal assistance” (NLA) to 22 armed opposition groups battling Syrian government forces.

    The television programme, which worked together with the respected Trouw newspaper, identified one group as Jabhat al-Shamiya, which it said had been supplied with pick-up trucks, uniforms and other equipment last year.

    But at the same time, Dutch officials in the port city of Rotterdam were prosecuting a suspected militant for belonging to Jabhat al-Shamiya, which they labelled in court papers as a “Salafist and jihadist movement striving for a caliphate”.

    It was nothing more than a “criminal organisation with a terrorist aim”, the prosecutors added in the court papers.

    Jabhat al-Shamiya, also known as the Levant Front, is an umbrella group for Turkey-backed rebel fighters based in northern Syria. In 2016, Amnesty International accused it of carrying out summary executions and establishing courts that enforce a strict Islamic-based penal code.

    Monday’s revelations come days after Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok’s announcement that the government was cutting all support to “moderate” opposition groups.

  • Syrian opposition arresting those who promote reconciling with regime

    Regime opponents have been cracking down on people it accuses of spreading rumors about or urging reconciliation with the government and its allies in northern Syria.

    Since mid-July, such rumors have been circulating in opposition-controlled parts of Idlib and neighboring areas in rural Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces, along with al-Ghab Plain in Idlib and Hama provinces. There have been reports that an increasing number of people in these areas are calling for reconciliation. The regime’s Ministry of Reconciliation also reports that dignitaries of these areas have contacted the ministry and officials at Khmeimim air base, which is operated by Russia in Latakia, to discuss their surrender.

    The rumors, according to regime opponents, broke out a few days before the regime took full control over the southern province of Daraa in a bloody mid-July campaign. President Bashar al-Assad said Idlib would be next, sparking concerns in opposition-held areas in the north.

    Capt. Abdel Salam Abdel Razzaq is a leader of the Syrian Liberation Front, which is affiliated with the opposition’s Free Syrian Army (FSA). He told Al-Monitor, “After the regime took over Daraa, we were expecting those collaborating with the regime [in the north] to come out and make their voices heard about the need to reconcile with the regime. … We also warned residents about people promoting reconciliation and stressed the need to track them down.”

  • ’Nothing is ours anymore’: Kurds forced out of #Afrin after Turkish assault

    Many who fled the violence January say their homes have been given to Arabs.
    When Areen and her clan fled the Turkish assault on Afrin in January, they feared they may never return.

    Six months later, the Kurdish family remain in nearby villages with other Afrin locals who left as the conquering Turks and their Arab proxies swept in, exiling nearly all its residents.

    Recently, strangers from the opposite end of Syria have moved into Areen’s home and those of her family. The few relatives who have made it back for fleeting visits say the numbers of new arrivals – all Arabs – are rising each week. So too is a resentment towards the newcomers, and a fear that the steady, attritional changes may herald yet another flashpoint in the seven-year conflict.

    Unscathed through much of the Syrian war, and a sanctuary for refugees, Afrin has become a focal point of a new and pivotal phase, where the ambitions of regional powers are being laid bare and a coexistence between Arabs and Kurds – delicately poised over decades – is increasingly being threatened.

    The small enclave in northwestern Syria directly reflects the competing agendas of four countries, Turkey, Syria, Russia and the US – though none more so than Ankara, whose creeping influence in the war is anchored in Afrin and the fate of its peoples.

    Turkey’s newfound stake has given it more control over its nearby border and leverage over its arch foe, the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which had used its presence in Afrin to project its influence northwards.

    But the campaign to oust Kurdish militias has raised allegations that Ankara is quietly orchestrating a demographic shift, changing the balance of Afrin’s population from predominantly Kurdish to majority Arab, and – more importantly to Turkish leaders – changing the composition of its 500-mile border with Syria.

    Ahead of the January assault, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said: “We will return Afrin to its rightful owners.”

    Erdoğan’s comments followed a claim by US officials that it would help transform a Kurdish militia it had raised to fight Islamic State in northeastern Syria into a more permanent border force. The announcement incensed Turkish leaders, who had long feared that Syria’s Kurds would use the chaos of war to advance their ambitions – and to move into a 60-mile area between Afrin and the Euphrates river, which was the only part of the border they didn’t inhabit.

    Ankara denies it is attempting to choreograph a demographic shift in Afrin, insisting it aimed only to drive out the PKK, not unaffiliated Kurdish locals.

    “The people of Afrin didn’t choose to live under the PKK,” said a senior Turkish official. “Like Isis, the PKK installed a terrorist administration there by force. Under that administration, rival Kurdish factions were silenced violently. [The military campaign] resulted in the removal of terrorists from Afrin and made it possible for the local population to govern themselves. The vast majority of the new local council consists of Kurds and the council’s chairperson is also Kurdish.”

    Many who remain unable to return to Afrin are unconvinced, particularly as the influx from elsewhere in Syria continues. Both exiles and newcomers confirmed to the Guardian that large numbers of those settling in Afrin came from the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where an anti-regime opposition surrendered to Russian and Syrian forces in April, and accepted being transferred to northern Syria

    Between bandits, militiamen, and wayfarers, Afrin is barely recognisable, say Kurdish locals who have made it back. “It’s not the Afrin we know,” said Areen, 34. “Too many strange faces. Businesses have been taken over by the Syrians, stores changed to Damascene names, properties gone. We feel like the Palestinians.

    “The Syrian government couldn’t care less to help us reclaim our property, they won’t even help us get back into Afrin. We want to go back, we couldn’t care less if we’re governed by the Kurds or Turks or Assad, we just want our land back.”

    A second Afrin exile, Salah Mohammed, 40, said: “Lands are being confiscated, farms, wheat, furniture, nothing is ours anymore; it’s us versus their guns. It’s difficult to come back, you have to prove the property is yours and get evidence and other nearly impossible papers to reclaim it.

    “There is definitely a demographic change, a lot of Kurds have been forcibly displaced on the count that they’re with the PKK when in fact they weren’t. There are barely any Kurds left in Afrin, no one is helping us go back.”

    Another Afrin local, Shiyar Khalil, 32, said: “When the Kurds try to get back to their house they have to jump through hoops. You cannot deny a demographic change, Kurds are not able to go back. Women are veiled, bars are closed; it’s a deliberate erasing of Kurdish culture.”

    Umm Abdallah, 25, a new arrival from Ghouta said some Kurds had returned to Afrin, but anyone affiliated with Kurdish militias had been denied entry. “I’ve seen about 300 Kurds come back to Afrin with their families in the past month or so. I don’t know whose house I am living in honestly, but it’s been registered at the police station.”

    She said Afrin was lawless and dangerous, with Arab militias whom Turkey had used to lead the assault now holding aegis over the town. “The Turks try to stop the looting but some militias are very malicious,” she said. “They mess with us and the Kurds, it’s not stable here.”

    Both Umm Abdallah and another Ghouta resident, Abu Khaled Abbas, 23, had their homes confiscated by the Assad regime before fleeing to the north. “The Assad army stole everything, even the sinks,” said Abbas.

    “These militias now are not leaving anyone alone [in Afrin], how do you think they will treat the Kurds? There are bad things happening, murder, harassment, rapes, and theft. They believe they ‘freed’ the land so they own it now.”
    #Kurdes #Kurdistan #occupation #dépossession #Syrie #déplacés_internes #IDPs #destruction
    cc @tchaala_la

  • Erdogan Threatens to Expand Syria Offensive as the U.S. Establishes New Front-Line Positions

    ❞Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that his forces would press on with a campaign to drive Kurdish fighters from northern Syria, the Associated Press reported.

    Speaking at a joint news conference with his Iranian and Russian counterparts in Ankara, Erdogan said that Turkish forces would first push eastward into Manbij, which is held by the Kurdish militia known as the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).

    “I say here once again that we will not stop until we have made safe all areas controlled by the (YPG), starting with Manbij,” Erdogan said.

    This is not the first time Erdogan has threatened to attack the area, where U.S.-led coalition forces are based. However, his comments come at a time when U.S. forces are said to be establishing new front-line positions outside Manbij in anticipation of a potential attack, according to the AP.

    A front-line commander in Manbij, a member of the Manbij Military Council, told the AP that fortified U.S. positions were meant to deter attacks. “It is to protect the area and to ensure that there is no attack from Turkey or from the mercenaries in the area,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.❞

  • Hatay Province

    Erdogan semble préparer une deuxième édition du coup de 1938 mais cette fois la Turquie agit loin de la mer méditerranée.

    Sovereignty over the province remains disputed with neighbouring Syria, which claims that the province was separated from itself against the stipulations of the French Mandate of Syria in the years following Syria’s independence from the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Although the two countries have remained generally peaceful in their dispute over the territory, Syria has never formally renounced its claims to it.

    The War Nerd : Cleanse Thy Neighbor

    It’s hard for us now to remember how big, how scary the Germans were in those days, but remember, they took all of Western and Central Europe in 1940 and only lost 30,000 men doing it. That’s somebody worth being scared of.

    And the French had had enough. Nobody in the Anglo world gives them much credit, but they’re the ones who held off the WW I era Germans and suffered 1.5 million dead in the process, out of a population of 40 million. They didn’t want to do it again and were desperate to make a deal.

    And that’s where the Sanjak of Alexandretta, now known as Hatay Province, comes in. The French needed friends, and Turkey had proved itself a serious military power when it crushed the Greeks, who had the advantage in weapons and international support. Turks can fight; nobody ever argued about that.

    And in WW I, they’d fought on the German side, wiping out a Commonwealth force at Gallipoli, where Ataturk made his bones with a motivational speech that went—seriously—like this: “Soldiers, I do not tell you to go out and fight; I tell you to go out and die.” And they did, along with a whole bunch of poor Kiwis and Aussies who believed that Kitchener poster.

    The French wanted the Turks to stay out of whatever next big war with Germany was brewing on the horizon. They had to offer something, and that something was Alexandretta/Hatay. Turkey was still hungry for territory, still pissed off over losing the Ottoman lands, and here was this dangling bit of coastline in northern Syria, with a mixed population: mostly Alawite Arabs and Armenian Christians, but about one-third or one-quarter Turks.

    Well, if you’re a French administrator sweating over Hitler, that’s an easy one: throw the Turks a bone, keep ’em happy. Nobody ever cared about the Armenians; nobody does even now, except the Israeli lobby that doesn’t want them talking about their genocide and ruining the total uniqueness of the Holocaust. And the Alawites, after all, had their little piece of land a little way down the coast; they could just move.

    So the French and the Turks made a deal in 1937: there’d be an official plebiscite (those were big years for phony plebiscites; the word just reeks of the 30s) but the Turks were old hands at creating ethnic unity even where there wasn’t any.

    And they did, using their usual methods: they marched into the Sanjak, expelled all the Alawites and all the Armenians and imported loyal Turks. When the Alawites and Armenians objected, the Turks pulled a classic move and blamed the rioting for the crackdown, a nice reversal-on-reality that still works.

    By 1939—just two years after taking over—the official language of Hatay Province was Turkish. French, not Arabic, was the official second language. The Turks wanted to de-Arabize their new Hatay province at all costs, and kept shunting Turkish-speaking loyalists to Hatay to make sure they swamped the native Arab population. The city that used to be Alexandretta, a Franco-Latin name, was renamed “Iskander,” the Turkish version of “Alexander” (and the name of a damn good type of kebab, too).

    Every single village, well, palm tree and stray dog in the province went through the same process, which is why there is now not one single Arabic name in the whole province, though it used to be Arab land.

    Der türkische Nationalismus in neuer Blüte | Telepolis

    19. Februar 2018 Elke Dangeleit
    Politik hat nichts mit Moral zu tun, das ist eine bittere Wahrheit. Und so können wir nur staunend zuschauen, wie sich der amtierende Außenminister Gabriel mit der Freilassung von Deniz Yücel brüstet. Yücel hatte deutlich gemacht, dass er für Deals zu seiner Freilassung nicht zur Verfügung stände. Das ist politische Größe und zeigt Rückgrat. Aber er hat die Rechnung ohne die Bundesregierung gemacht.

    Nicht nur die Türkei hat ihn als Geisel benutzt. Auch die Bundesregierung hat auf seine Kosten agiert. Was mussten sich Journalisten alles anhören? Nicht zu viel Protest, wir können es uns nicht verscherzen wegen der Verhandlungen zu Deniz Yücel etc.

    In den letzten Wochen seit dem Angriff auf Afrin kommt zu Tage, was ein Preis für Yücels Freilassung war: Eine weitere Verschärfung der Kriminalisierung der kurdischen Bevölkerung in Deutschland, die mittlerweile nicht mehr nur die Fahnen von der YPG/YPJ auf Demonstrationen zeigen dürfen.

    Dem kurdischen Dachverband Nav-Dem wurde im Zuge des Demonstrationsverbotes in Köln mitgeteilt, sie bräuchten überhaupt keine Demos mehr anmelden, denn diese würden sowieso verboten werden.

    Auch die türkischen Militärangehörigen, die in Deutschland um Asyl gebeten hatten und anerkannt wurden, haben sich offensichtlich aus Angst, dass die deutsche Politik sie ausliefert, in ein europäisches Land außerhalb des Schengenraums aus dem Staub gemacht.

    Zur Situation der kurdischen Bevölkerung in Afrin und in der Türkei schweigt die Bundesregierung bzw. gibt sich höchstens besorgt - und schaut dem herannahenden Genozid zu. Wie gesagt, Politik hat nichts mit Moral zu tun.

    #Turquie #Syrie #France #Allemagne #histoire #guerre

  • Syria : You Own It, You Fix It, So Just Rent It - The New York Times

    Where else can you find Syrian, Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish troops or advisers squaring off on the ground and in the air — along with pro-Iranian Shiite mercenaries from Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan; pro-U.S. Kurdish fighters from northern Syria; ISIS remnants; various pro-Saudi and pro-Jordanian anti-Syrian regime Sunni rebels and — I am not making this up — pro-Syrian regime Russian Orthodox Cossack “contractors” who went to Syria to defend Mother Russia from “crazy barbarians” — all rubbing against one another?

    Pour la variété du vocabulaire utilisé pour désigner les « participants », ainsi que le contexte d’emploi de ces différents mots :
    soldat, conseiller, mercenaire, combattant, débris, rebelle, fournisseur.

    Sans oublier les observateurs de l’ONU (ici, sans doute de l’UNTSO et non de l’UNDOF, vu le badge…)

  • Syria Does Not Fear War With Israel: The Rules Of Engagement Have Changed – Elijah J. Magnier | ايليا ج مغناير

    It is not in the interests of Russia to see war break out in Syria where its forces are present on the ground and in the Mediterranean. Russia considers it has the right to intervene because its official presence on Syrian territory is at the request of and in agreement with the Damascus government. In its role as a superpower, it is in its interest to stop the tension on the Syrian border and show it has the power to impose peace on would-be belligerents.

    It is also in Moscow’s interests to push Syria to react to Israel’s violations, even at the cost of downing an Israeli jet- especially when Russia accuses Washington of supplying the Faylaq al-Sham militants (al-Qaeda’s allies in northern Syria city of Idlib and its surroundings) with the anti-aircraft missiles which downed the Russian jet over Idlib and to the murder of its pilot who refused to surrender to the militants and jihadists.

    All of this took place one day after the liberation of the entire area from the “Islamic State” (ISIS) group in rural Aleppo, Homs and Idlib, with over 1200 square kilometres returned to government control. This freed over fifteen thousand officers and soldiers from the Syrian army and special units which were engaged there to move to another front, the one against Israel if necessary, with al-Qaeda as the only remaining threat to the Syrian state.

    This shows that the government of Damascus – which lived in a state of war for more than six years – is ready to fight its battle with Israel and begin now. The Lebanese Second War in 2006 proved that air force power does not give superiority and does not finish off the opponent, Hezbollah, whose militants continued firing missiles and rockets consistently throughout the 33 days of war. The thousands of missiles delivered to Syria from Russia and Iran in the last years represent a major threat to Israel in the event of war, invalidating its air superiority.

  • Israeli army warns: Danger of violence escalating into war is growing -

    With eye on recent events, military intel warn of potential war ■ Abbas may have backed himself into a corner ■ Gaza threat looms over Israelis

    Amos Harel 13.01.2018
    read more:

    The odds of a neighboring country, or one of the terrorist organizations operating inside of it, launching a war against Israel this year are almost nonexistent, according to the Israeli army’s intelligence assessment for 2018.
    Sounding remarkably similar to the 2017 assessment provided to the defense minister, the military noted there is not much left of the Arab armies, and Israel’s neighbors are mostly preoccupied with themselves, while internal problems are distracting Hezbollah and Hamas.
    Is there any difference from 2017? Well, the danger of deterioration – perhaps even to the point of war – has grown significantly, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot stated. The intelligence branch and the chief of staff, who is beginning his fourth and final year at the helm of the army, are concerned about two possible scenarios. 
    The first would be the result of a reaction by one of Israel’s enemies to an Israeli show of force. The second would stem from a flare-up on the Palestinian front. When the terrorism genie gets out of the Palestinian bottle, it takes many months or even years to put it back.
    The first scenario, which the army terms “the campaign between the wars,” might happen when Israel tries to prevent rivals from obtaining advance weaponry they might want to use during a future war, according to Eisenkot.

    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, center, being briefed by Col. Gilad Amit, commander of the Samaria Brigade, following the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, January 18, 2018.IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
    Most of these operations occur under the radar, far from Israel’s borders. Usually, such operations draw little media attention and Israel invariably dodges the question of responsibility. The previous Israel Air Force commander, Gen. Amir Eshel, told Haaretz last August there were nearly 100 such attacks under his five-year command, mostly on Syrian and Hezbollah arms convoys on the northern front.

    However, the more Israel carries out such attacks, and the more it does so on increasingly sophisticated systems (according to foreign media reports), the higher the chances of a confrontation with other countries and organizations, increasing the danger of a significant retaliation.
    A similar thing is happening on the Gaza border. Work on the defense barrier against cross-border attack tunnels is advancing, while Israel is simultaneously developing and implementing more sophisticated methods to locate these tunnels.
    At least three tunnels were seemingly located and destroyed near the Gaza border in recent months. However, this success could exact a price if Hamas or Islamic Jihad decide to try and use the remaining attack tunnels before they are completely destroyed or redundant.

    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, accompanied by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot during a visit to a military exercise in the Golan Heights in 2017.Ministry of Defense
    It is usually accepted practice to call out intelligence officials over mistaken forecasts. But we received a small example of all these trends on various fronts over the past two weeks. The cabinet convened for a long meeting about the northern front last Sunday. Arab media reported early Tuesday morning about an Israeli attack on Syrian army weapons depots near Damascus. A base in the same area, which Iran had reportedly built for one of the Shi’ite militia groups, was bombed from the air in early December. In most of the recent attacks, the Syrians fired at the reportedly Israeli aircraft. The Syrians also claimed recently that the attacks have become more sophisticated, made in multiple waves and even included surface-to-surface missiles.
    A few days beforehand, there was a report about an Israeli aerial attack – apparently on a cross-border attack tunnel – next to the Gaza border. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the demonstrations to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital were dying down, out of a seeming lack of public interest. Then, on Tuesday evening, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, from the illegal outpost of Havat Gilad, was killed in a drive-by shooting attack near Nablus. The army responded by surrounding villages and erecting roadblocks around Nablus, for the first time in two years. The IDF moves were acts of collective punishment the chief of staff would normally rather avoid, but they were approved on a limited basis due to the murder of an Israeli.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that the Shin Bet security service is close to solving the murder, but at the time of writing it was still unclear who did it. Hamas and Islamic Jihad released statements praising the deed, while, in a rare move, Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – which has been virtually inactive for a decade – took responsibility for the attack.
    Its statement, which was posted on several Facebook pages, attributed the attack to the “Raed Karmi cell,” marking the anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades leader’s death. Israel assassinated Karmi – the military leader in Tul Karm responsible for the killing of many Israeli civilians and soldiers during the second intifada – on January 14, 2002.

    U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a more amicable time, May 3, 2017Carlos Barria, Reuters
    Woe to Abbas
    The Palestinian Authority, whose leadership has avoided condemning the murder of an Israeli citizen, is making an effort nonetheless to capture terrorists in designated areas in Nablus under its jurisdiction. The Israeli moves in the area added to the humiliation of the PA, which looks like it has navigated itself into a dead end. 
    President Mahmoud Abbas is in trouble. The Trump declaration on Jerusalem provided him with a temporary escape. Last November the Palestinians received worrisome information that the Trump administration’s brewing peace plan was leaning in Israel’s favor. Trump’s so-called deal of the century would likely include leaving settlements in the West Bank in place, and declaring Abu Dis the Palestinian Jerusalem, capital of a prospective state.
    These planks are unacceptable to Abbas. However, the Trump declaration allowed the PA leader to accuse the Americans of giving up any pretense to being an honest broker. He found refuge in the embrace of attendees at the Islamic Conference in Turkey, and in halting all discussion of renewing negotiations.
    Abbas soon discovered that rejecting a reopening of talks with Israel didn’t stop the drumbeat of bad news coming his way. UNRWA was facing a severe financial crisis well before the Trump administration threatened to freeze the U.S. share of funding for the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugee assistance. The crisis, incidentally, also worries Jordan, which hosts at least 3 million Palestinian refugees and descendants. The flow of funds from the donor nations to the territories is dissipating, at a time that the reconciliation process between the PA and Hamas has ground to a halt, with Abbas saying he doesn’t see any benefit that can come of it.
    Meanwhile, Fatah members from activists in the field to the aging leadership are despairing of the chance of realizing the two-state solution. Israel protests the statements of senior Fatah officials about the right to wage armed struggle. It recently arrested a retired Palestinian general on the charge that he had organized protests in East Jerusalem. Fatah plans a council meeting next week, in which participants are expected to adopt a militant line.
    Abbas, who turns 83 in March, is increasingly feeling his years. His health has deteriorated and so has his patience and fitness to work, although it seems his love for travel has not faded. Claims of widespread corruption, some of which allegedly involve his family, are increasing. Other forces in the West Bank are aware of his weakened physical and political condition. Hamas is vigorously encouraging attacks against Israel, probably in expectation of humiliating the PA. Last week the Shin Bet asserted that for the first time, an Iranian agent was operating a Palestinian terror cell in Hebron.
    Meanwhile, a multiparty effort is being made to halt the violence and prevent a sliding into a military confrontation. Under the shadow of rockets by Salafi groups in Gaza, Israel and the PA announced the transfer of additional funds from the PA to pay for increasing the electricity supply from Israel to the Strip. There has not been a single rocket fired this week, but the situation remains fragile. The army increased security around communities close to the border and has stepped up exercises that simulate terrorists using tunnels to infiltrate under the border to kidnap and kill Israelis. The chief of staff watched the elite Shaldag unit going into action in such a scenario this week.

    Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants take part in the funeral of their comrade in the central Gaza Strip October 31, 2017. SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS
    The army has to stay alert because Islamic Jihad has yet to avenge the killing of its people together with Hamas operatives in a tunnel explosion on the border last October. In November, Jihad militants fired over 20 mortar shells in a four-minute span at an army outpost near Sderot (no one was injured).
    Shells were fired a month after that, probably by Islamic Jihad, at Kibbutz Kfar Aza during a memorial ceremony for Oron Shaul, who was killed in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge and whose body is being held in Gaza. Army officials expect more attempts.
    The large number of gliders the Palestinians have launched near the border recently likely attests to intelligence gathering ahead of attacks. Israeli officials are also kept awake by recent reports from Syria of a mysterious glider attack against a Russian air force base in the country’s north. Organizations in Gaza are in arm’s reach of this technology.

    An opposition fighter fires a gun from a village near al-Tamanah during ongoing battles with government forces in Syria’s Idlib province on January 11, 2018.OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP
    Syria war still isn’t over 
    The civil war in Syria, which enters its eighth year in March, has not completely died out. The Assad regime, which has restored its rule over most of the country’s population, is still clashing with rebels in the Idlib enclave in northern Syria and is preparing for an eventual attack to chase the rebels out of the border area with Israel, along the Golan. The two attacks on the Russian base in Khmeimim (artillery shelling, which damaged a number of planes and helicopters, preceded the glider attack) indicate that some of the groups are determined to keep fighting Assad and his allies.
    The war in Syria started with a protest by residents of Daraa, a town in the south, against a backdrop of economic difficulties for farmers whose incomes were suffering from desertification. The regime’s brutal methods of oppression led to the spread of protest, and things quickly descended into civil war, in which several countries have meddled until today. The war often has consequences on nature. There has been a rise in the number of rabies cases in Israel in recent months, mainly in the north. One of the possible explanations involves the migration of rabies-infested jackals from Jordan and Syria. During the war Syria has suffered a total collapse of civilian authority, and certainly of veterinary services. When there are no regular vaccinations, neighboring countries suffer as well.
    The Middle Eastern country suffering the second bloodiest civil war, Yemen, gets only a tenth as much attention as Syria. The war in Yemen has raged for three years. Some 3 million residents out of a total of 28 million have fled the country as refugees. Over half of those remaining suffer from food insecurity. The UN recently estimated that about a million residents have contracted cholera from contaminated water or food.
    Such outbreaks can erupt easily, even closer to home. The European Union is expected to hold an emergency session in Brussels about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The Israeli defense establishment has confirmed the frequent reports by humanitarian organizations of the continued collapse of civilian infrastructure, mainly water and sanitation, in Gaza. Wastewater from Gaza, flowing straight into the sea, is reaching the beaches of Ashkelon and Ashdod. I recently asked a senior Israeli official if he doesn’t fear an outbreak of an epidemic like cholera in Gaza.
    “Every morning, I am surprised anew that it still hasn’t happened,” he replied.

    Amos Harel

  • Against the Grain by James C Scott review – the beginning of elites, tax, slavery | Books | The Guardian

    One of the key sites is Abu Hureyra in the upper Euphrates valley in northern Syria. Here it is possible to trace a hunter-gatherer community occupying the same site from 11000BC to 9600BC. Settlement began after the end of the last ice age at a time when vegetation was becoming lush and the land well provided. Gathering food and hunting animals was easy, encouraging a more sedentary existence and a rise in population. Through the next climatic downturn, the community survived by cultivating wild grasses, particularly rye, and by taking increased control over animals such as wild sheep and cattle. The harsher conditions intensified these specialisations in favoured locations throughout the near east and, as the climate began to improve after 9600BC, agricultural practices started to spread. The Neolithic period had begun.

    Against the Grain
    James C Scott (l’auteur de Zomia)

    #agriculture #chasse-cueillette #croissant_fertile #livre

  • Jabhat Al Nusra and #Al_Qaeda: the riddle, the #ruse and the reality - The National

    In this context, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham invited western and regional journalists to visit and see for themselves. Mousa Al Omar, a celebrity Syrian journalist, made a visit after the group’s invitation. He recorded a video from Idlib affirming that Al Qaeda does not exist in northern Syria. His remarks prompted dozens of Syrian activists to attack him as serving as an apologist for Al Qaeda, after which he filmed a new video defending himself against “the campaign” and asserting his position.

    The tendency to downplay the existence of Al Qaeda is often well meaning, such as to prevent the regime from using it as a pretext to raze Idlib, where around two million people live. But, as the responses from Syrians to assertions that Al Qaeda does not exist in the north show, the solution is not to whitewash the group or give it a free pass. Nothing is analytically useful or morally honourable in advancing the group’s propaganda, especially before it proves that it has truly abandoned its ways.


  • 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.

  • Iraq/Syria : Danger From US White Phosphorus

    (Washington, DC) – The use of artillery-delivered white phosphorus by the United States-led coalition fighting Islamic State (also known as ISIS) forces in Syria and Iraq raises serious questions about the protection of civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. This multipurpose munition should never be used as an incendiary weapon to attack personnel or materiel in populated areas, even when delivered from the ground.
    #Irak #armes #conflit #guerre #Syrie #phosphore #phosphore_blanc (?) #white_Phosphorus #armes_chimiques

  • From Qamishli to Qamishlo: A Trip to Rojava’s New Capital - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

    I had not been to Qamishli for twenty years. As a Ph.D. student at the French Institute for the Near East, I went with two friends in the late 1990s to explore northeast Syria. This journey led us to Raqqa, Deir al-Zour, Hasaka, and Qamishli. Since 1997 I have returned to other Syrian cities on several occasions but did not have the opportunity to go to Rojava. Twenty years ago, I stayed in the venerable Semiramis Hotel. This luxurious Art Deco hotel was built in the 1950s, the ‘’Golden Age’’ of Jazira when Qamishli was the economic center of this rich grain and cotton producing area. The Semiramis welcomed the tradesmen, textile merchants, and millers of Aleppo who came to buy crops, and the restaurant hosted the high society of Qamishli who came to taste French wines and eat filet mignon. The city was mainly Christian, the rural exodus having not yet engulfed Qamishli. The Armenian and Syriac populations had fled Turkey for France after the First World War, and the French installed them in this almost empty region in order to limit the land claims of Mustafa Kemal in northern Syria. The Christians made the desert bloom using the land that was granted to them by the authorities.

  • Qatari jet sits on tarmac in Baghdad as royal hostages await release | World news | The Guardian

    A Qatari plane sent to collect 26 kidnapped members of Doha’s ruling family has remained in Baghdad for a fourth day, as a regional deal that ties their release to the evacuation of four besieged Syrian towns resumed earlier this week.

    The jet, which Iraqi officials suspect was carrying millions of dollars, arrived on Saturday ahead of the group’s expected release, which was later stalled by the bombing the same day of a convoy carrying residents of two Shia towns in northern Syria, Fua and Kefraya, whose fate had been central to the plan.

    The suicide attack killed 126 people and wounded nearly 300 more in one of the most lethal strikes of the Syrian war, further complicating 16 months of negotiations that were underwritten by Iran and Qatar and involved four of the region’s most powerful militias.

    Qatari officials arrived in the Iraqi capital on Saturday with large bags they refused to allow to be searched. Senior Iraqi officials said they believed the bags to be carrying millions of dollars in ransom money, to be paid to the Iraqi militia holding the royals, Keta’eb Hezbollah, and two Syrian groups who had agreed to secure the Shia leg of the swap, the al-Qaida inspired Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham.

    Two Sunni towns near Damascus, Madaya and Zabadani , are also being evacuated to rebel-held areas in a choreographed swap that Syrian opposition leaders say has clear implications for the country’s demography. Dozens of residents were bused out of all four towns on Monday as the deal resumed.

    As revealed by the Guardian on Saturday, the plan has immersed some of the Middle East’s most prominent players, exposing their support for powerful militias, and the influence that those same proxies wield over weak central governments in Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.

    The Syrian regime has played no role in the negotiations, and the Baghdad authorities have repeatedly said they did not known who was holding the Qataris. As their release has neared, it has shown no interest in confronting the hostage takers.

    Iran had been the main driver of the earliest phase of a plan to evacuate up to 50,000 Shias from Fua and Kefraya, and its officials had negotiated directly with Ahrar al-Sham leaders. Iranian-backed militias have been central to the defence of the two Shia villages, which had been besieged by Islamist groups and jihadis for much of the past four years.

    The talks had stalled, however, until the fate of the Qatari royals – many of them from the al-Thani tribe of which the emir’s family is part – were brought into negotiations in November. They were among a hunting party that was captured in southern Iraq by a convoy of up to 100 men in December 2015, and their whereabouts remained unknown until last November.

    Since then, the so-called four-towns deal has been given renewed impetus. Hezbollah from Lebanon, which is among the Syrian regime’s most powerful backers, and Ahrar al-Sham signed a memorandum earlier this month that was guaranteed by Qatar. At the same time, the Iraqi militia holding the royals moved their captives to Baghdad in preparation for one of the most sensitive – and politically loaded – hostage swaps in the region’s recent history.

    Sources close to the negotiations say the suicide attack delayed the process, but did not derail it altogether. A senior Iraqi official familiar with discussions said the hostages were likely to be held until all those who want to leave Fua and Kefraya have been able to do so. Their release had previously been expected to be staggered as the plan progressed.

    As many as 30 fighters from Ahrar al-Saham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham were killed in Saturday’s suicide blast. Preliminary investigations suggest the car carrying the bomb had been driven from nearby opposition-held villages. One theory advanced in opposition circles is that the attack was carried out by a faction that had missed out on the promise of payment.

    A resident of Fua said his family members were likely to be taken to a suburb of Homs in the coming days, but that their ultimate destination was not yet clear. Some residents said they expected to end up closer to Madaya and Zabadani, or in the western suburbs of Damascus.

  • How ’complete’ is normalization between Russia, Turkey?

    The presidents of Russia and Turkey say their recent meeting in Moscow produced encouraging results in diplomatic, trade and economic sectors and paved the way for further bilateral cooperation. The event was of special importance, as it marked the resumption of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council meetings for the first time since Turkey downed a Russian jet in late 2015.

    Read more:

    Probably the thorniest issue of dealing with the Kurds remains a “hidden agenda” and neither leader, rather expectedly, voiced any specifics. In a conversation with Al-Monitor, Russia’s Middle East experts were almost unanimous in their assessment of Erdogan’s major objective: to put an end to what Ankara calls a Federation of Northern Syria, a territory under Kurdish control. Referring to his sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry, a notable Russian specialist on the region, speaking on condition of anonymity, mentioned that there is an understanding that despite the pressure from Erdogan, cutting ties with Kurds is not in Russia’s interests.

    “If Moscow abandons the Kurds now, it will reinforce America’s position. They [the US] have already secured some of northwest Syria with their own military infrastructure. It will also allow Turkey to seize further control of the Syrian territory.”

    Ironically, the day after the meeting, Russian media outlets were racking their brains over what to make of the reported news that Turkey cut ferry services with Crimea, virtually halting the delivery of Turkish goods and food to the peninsula. The major storyline seems to be that Ankara is trying to trade some political preferences for the West, showcasing that it has a card to play in what has become a sensitive point between Russia and the West.

    Commenting on the presidents’ meeting and the news on what some are calling “the Crimea blockade,” a Russian-Turkey watcher close to the Kremlin told Al-Monitor, “The current trend is definitely toward a warming of the relations because both objectively need each other. But it’s still early to talk about a comprehensive partnership.”

    #Turquie #Russie #Kurdes

  • Turkey’s Consolation Prize in the Battle for Northern Syria: Sunni State of #Al-Bab

    Kurdish displays of multi-directional alliances with Russia, Iran and the U.S. come as no surprise, as all sides, united in curtailing Turkey’s influence in the region, contemplate the preservation of an Alawite state
    #Syrie #Kurdistan

  • Why America was bound to fail in Syria

    Un article du mois dernier de David Ignatius, commenté ci-dessous par Gareth Porter

    US intervention in Syria ? Not under Trump

    The Ignatius account reflects a fundamental reality throughout northern Syria, from 2013 onwards, that was simply ignored in media coverage: all of the opposition groups have been absorbed into an al-Qaeda-controlled political-military order. The idea that the “moderate” groups could be a bulwark against al-Qaeda, which is now being peddled by #Lister, Cafarella and CNAS, no longer has any credibility even in those quarters in Washington that were once open to it.

    A tell-tale sign of the shift in attitude toward those groups’ mood in Washington is the fact that Ignatius used the past tense in referring to the CIA’s programme of arming the “moderate” groups in Syria in his article last month.

    The US military leadership was never on board with the policy of relying on those armed groups to advance US interests in Syria in the first place.

    It recognised that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting both al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

    It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.


  • Amid Syrian chaos, Iran’s game plan emerges: a path to the Mediterranean | World news | The Guardian

    The plan has been coordinated by senior government and security officials in Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus, all of whom defer to the head of the spearhead of Iran’s foreign policy, the Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards, headed by Major General Qassem Suleimani, who has run Iran’s wars in Syria and Iraq. It involves demographic shifts, which have already taken place in central Iraq and are under way in northern Syria. And it relies heavily on the support of a range of allies, who are not necessarily aware of the entirety of the project but have a developed vested interest in securing separate legs.

    #Iran #Syria

  • Reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, le 16.01.2017:

    According to Ara News, which self-describes as an “independent press agency reporting on local developments across Rojava, Kurdistan Region, Syria, Iraq,Turkey and Iran”, two people were killed and several injured by Turkish border guards.


    I was not able to find any other source in languages I can read. Can anyone confirm these allegations ? No NGO seems to have reported on this for now.

    Turkish border guards kill more civilians near Syrian border (Ara News, 12 January 2017)

    Hasakah – At least two civilians were killed and several others were injured on Wednesday when Turkey’s border police opened fire on a group of Syrians near the town of Sere Kaniye in Hasakah Governorate.

    Local sources reported that the unfortunate civilians were trying to escape the ongoing war in Syria.

    The would-be refugees had reportedly approached the Syrian-Turkish border from the Kurdish district of Sere Knaiye [also known as Ras al-Ain], when they were fired upon in a bid to keep them in Northern Syria – Rojava (NSR).

    The victims were identified as Amira Dawar, a Kurdish woman from the Makran village in Serek Kaniye suburb, and Abdullah Abdulhussein from the town of Sere Kaniye. “They were both killed by Turkish fire while trying to cross the border into Turkey,” Dilawer Kani, a local Kurdish rights activist, told ARA News.

    Also, three other civilians were injured and transferred to Hasakah city for treatment.

    “Turkish border guards have violated humanitarian and moral principles and passed all international laws and norms, by killing innocent Syrian civilians,” the Kurdish Asayish security said in a previous statement.

    Turkey has closed all its border gates with the Kurdish-populated NSR, forcing desperate civilians to seek alternative routes across the border.

    Hundreds of Syrians, mostly Kurds, have been killed by the Turkish border guards over the past five years.

    Reporting by: Haytham Haci and Ahmed Shiwesh | Source: ARA News

    #Turquie #décès #réfugiés_syriens #frontière #réfugiés #asile #migrations

  • Islamic State in #Yemen

    Since October 2016, Islamic State (IS) has increasingly been on the defensive. The terrorist group is losing territory in northern Syria – including the historic town of Dabiq lost to Syrian rebels – and is likely to lose the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to Iraqi forces in the coming months. Meanwhile, the group’s Libyan affiliate is close to losing the entirety of its stronghold in Sirte.

    While defeating IS in Iraq and Syria is one of the most pressing international security challenges facing the world, equal attention should be paid to the terrorist group’s regional affiliate in Yemen (IS-Y). IS Yemeni affiliate is steadily growing in strength, so much so that when the offensives on Mosul and Raqqa are finally over, IS leadership, as well as the rank-and-file, could potentially relocate their operations to Yemen.


  • Farsnews

    Si c’est vrai, on sera fixé assez vite. La bataille d’Alep est manifestement presque finie.

    Reports said that the ISIL has started a new scenario in the regions near Manbij in coordination with the Turkish government and has attempted in the past few days to reoccupy the villages in the Western and Northwestern parts of the Kurdish-held Manbij with the help of the Turkish forces who are stationed in the Northern villages.

    Manbij was taken from ISIL by the YPG Kurdish fighters several months ago. Turkey has repeatedly warned the Kurds to leave the strategic city that links two Kurdish Cantons on the Eastern and Western side of the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates. Turkey has repeatedly warned Kurds in the last several months to leave the Northeastern parts of Aleppo on the Western side of Tishrin and retreat to the East.

    According to field sources, the ISIL terrorists have also agreed to evacuate the strategic city of al-Bab in several stages and reoccupy Manbij again so that the Turkish government will be able to deploy forces in the city under the pretext of fighting against terrorism.

    Sources in the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) also disclosed that the US forces stationed in Northern Syria have also agreed with the Turkish scenario and have instead promised the Kurdish forces to give them control of the Southern parts of Raqqa province.

    In surprising remarks on Wednesday, Erdogan said that the Turkish Army entered Syria to overthrow the Syrian President Bashar Assad, and accused the Syrian government of terrorism.