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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Al Nusra Front’

Another US-Russian Ceasefire Deal for Syria, Again

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov shook hands Friday on a deal to impose a new cease-fire in Syria after marathon talks in Geneva. More than half a million Syrians have died since the start of the savage civil war that has raged in the country since March 2011.

The truce is scheduled to begin Monday together with the start of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But few have faith the deal will hold up for more than a few minutes.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), itself little more than a name on paper for a collection of secular opposition groups backed by the West, quickly dismissed the possibility that this time the deal would bring peace.

Fares al-Bayoush, head of the FSA’s Northern Division group, pointed out that Russia and Syrian government troops had not complied with the previous cease-fire. Likewise, Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, military spokesperson for the Nour al-Din al-Zinki Brigades opposition group said the agreement would only give government troops the opportunity to gather forces and reinforce troops in Aleppo with more Iranian-backed military forces.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also welcomed the agreement but reminded that “broken promises” had been heard before, The Guardian reported. “I call on all parties to the Syria conflict and all countries with influence upon them to do what is needed to end violence and lift sieges,” he said. “In particular, it’s vital that the regime in Damascus now delivers on its obligations, and I call on Russia to use all its influence to ensure this happens.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Kerry by phone on Saturday that Ankara welcomes the cease-fire. Two and a half weeks ago, Turkey launched its own invasion of Syria after dealing with an endless flood of Syrian refugees through its southeastern border, and numerous “overflow” attacks from the war. Now Ankara has said it will provide humanitarian aid to Aleppo, in northern Syria, in cooperation with the United Nations, following the cease-fire.

It’s not the first time such a cease-fire has been proposed the same two parties; just six months ago, a similar truce was made, and violated repeatedly by both sides almost immediately. Before that, the two sides worked out a cease-fire deal in 2013. That one didn’t happen, either.

Kerry told reporters at a joint news conference with Lavrov, “The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe Russia and my colleague have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and come to the table and make peace.

“Out of complexity in Syria, there is emerging a simple choice between war and peace,” he said.

The plan is for the U.S. and Russia to establish a joint operation center to coordinate military efforts against the Da’esh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations.

Russia informed President Bashar al-Assad about the agreement and, according to Lavrov, the regime agreed to comply. Although the terms were documented and agreed to by both sides, they would not be made public, he told reporters, according to the UK-based newspaper, The Telegraph.

The deal rides on Russia’s ability and willingness to stop attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, and the same cooperation by the United States to halt attacks by “moderate” opposition forces who unite with Al Nusra and other radical Islamists when it suits their needs.

Other forces that have become involved in the Syrian conflict include Iran and Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the Kurds.

It’s a coin toss whether anyone will actually pay more than five minutes’ attention to the terms of the deal in Damascus this time — and some bookie is probably making good money on the estimates of how long the quiet will last, or if it will even be quiet at all by Monday night.

Hana Levi Julian

Iran lets Russian Bombers Use Its Air Base for Strikes Against ISIS

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, announced Tuesday that Iran is letting Russia use its infrastructure to fight against terrorism in Syria, IRNA reported.

According to TASS, citing a Russian Defense Ministry report, “Long-range bombers Tupolev-22M3 and frontline bombers Sukhoi-34 took off from the Hamadan air base in Iran carrying the full bomb load to deal a massive air strike against facilities of the terrorist groups Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib provinces.”

The bombers destroyed five large armament depots, three command posts and militants’ training camps used by terrorists for operations in Aleppo, the report said.

The report added that Russia’s Sukhoi-30SM and Sukhoi-35 from the Hmeymim base in Syria provided protection, and “all planes coped with their tasks and returned to base.”

This is the first time Russian planes have used an Iranian airfield for the operation in Syria. On all previous occasions Russia’s long-range bombers operated from airfields in Russia, and front-line bombers flew out of Hmeymim in Syria.

JNi.Media

Al-Nusra Front Changes Brand Name, Severs Affiliation with Home Office

Friday, July 29th, 2016

The leader of Syrian rebel organization Jabhat a-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, on Thursday announced the severing of his group’s ties to Al Qaeda. In his first video broadcast, which was later carried by Al Jazeera, Al-Julani said that his organization will now be named Fatah al-Sham, and will have no outside affiliations. He explained that the move was a measure to enhance unity in the ranks, and thanked Al Qaeda for supporting his move.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who replaced founder and original CEO Osama bin Laden, gave his blessings to the move in an audio cassette. Jabhat a-Nusra, the largest rebel army in Syria, operated from its inception as an offshoot of Al Qaeda.

Al-Julani told the Al Jazeera audience that the move was “a response to the wishes of the people of al-Sham (Syria), to remove a possible excuse the Russians and the Americans might use in bombing and expelling the Muslims of Syria under the guise of fighting Jabhat a-Nusra, over its loyalty to Al Qaeda.

Abu Mohammad al-Julani is the nom de guerre of this mysterious man, whose real name is only known to the Al Qaeda leadership. The name is a reference to the Golan Heights, which Israel liberated from Syria in the 1967 war. Back in 2013, Syrian state television reported that al-Julani had been killed near Latakia, but a year later he released an audio statement in which he promised to fight the “United States and its allies” and urged his men not to accept help from the West in their battle against ISIS — so the Syrian state-run news agency SANA withdrew its report of his demise.

He is commonly known as “al-Sheikh al-Fateh” — the Conqueror Sheikh. In October 2015, al-Julani called for indiscriminate attacks on Alawite villages in Syria (the Alawite is an offshoot Islamic sect, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs), saying, “There is no choice but to escalate the battle and to target Alawite towns and villages in Latakia.”

JNi.Media

ISIS Declares ‘State of Emergency in Raqqa’ But Reasons Are Unclear

Monday, May 16th, 2016

The Da’esh (ISIS) terror organization has reportedly declared a “state of emergency” in its de facto capital in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa but its reasons are not clear.

Although the U.S.-led coalition forces believe that recent battles have caused the group’s anxiety, it’s more likely the prospect of the arrival of the Mother Ship that has worried the leadership.

A coalition spokesperson said the “declaration of state of emergency is a response to recent military progress by Syrian government forces in the area. “We have seen this declaration of emergency in Raqqa, we know this enemy feels threatened, as they should,” U.S.-led coalition spokesperson Col Steve Warren told CNN. “They see the Syrian Democratic Forces, along with the Syrian Arab Coalition, maneuver both to their east and to their west. We’ve had reports of ISIL (Da’esh/ISIS) repositioning both their combat capabilities, and we’ve seen reports of them repositioning personnel … either within the city of even out of the city.”

The report followed news that Da’esh had killed at least 35 soldiers from the Syrian armed forces, losing 24 fighters in the process, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

But social media and news reports that Da’esh believes it may soon come under siege in Raqqa, its self-declared capital, may not have much to do with the months-long strikes by coalition forces at all.

It turns out that after a decade of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Al Qaeda appears to have decided to relocate its headquarters to Syria. According to a report quoting unnamed U.S. and European intelligence and counter terror sources in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, Al Qaeda recently sent a delegation of its top veterans to Syria to start the process of creating a new headquarters for the terror group.

The Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al Nusra (Al Nusra Front) terrorist organization broke its cooperative agreement with Da’esh in 2013. The group led radical Islamists in splitting from moderate opposition forces and was involved in the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad from the start of the civil war.

Since that time, various groups have begun to set up independent emirates – small sovereign states – within the geographic area that once was referred to as Syria.

Senior Al Qaeda operatives have also now been told to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate there, possibly through Al Nusra, which has yet to formally declare one.

Al Qaeda supreme leader Ayman al-Zawahri released his first audio statement in months about two weeks ago, giving his blessing to the venture.

The presence of a consolidated Al Qaeda headquarters in Syria would, of course, mean a bloody battle indeed between the group and Da’esh, which broke off as a splinter group from Al Qaeda.

It would also mean a massive infusion of new blood for Al Qaeda from a region bursting with passionate youths looking for something to do and somewhere to go, other than school and the prospect of a “regular life.” It would provide an alternative for those who are filled with Islamic fundamentalism, hatred and bloodthirsty excitement, but who just can’t deal with the mindless brutality of Da’esh — which has been the only option up to now.

Such a headquarters, strategically located in the heart of the Middle East near the borders of Turkey, Iran and Russia between Europe, Africa and North America, spells the start of a brand new nightmare for the next American president, regardless of who it is.

For Israel, it means unrelenting vigilance along the northern and southern borders.

Da’esh is already ensconsed in the Sinai Peninsula, where its affiliate, the former Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis, now known as “Sinai Province,” has firmed up its bond with Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization. Since the start of this month, the IDF has already uncovered two Hamas cross-border terror attack tunnels leading from Gaza into Israeli territory. Each time, the military engineers were forced to carry out their search under mortar fire directed at them by terrorists from Gaza.

Hana Levi Julian

Oops! Russian Air Force Bombs Iranian Forces in Syria

Friday, May 13th, 2016

According to the Iranian Al-Alam TV, the Russian air force accidentally bombed Iranian forces stationed in Aleppo, Syria.

It appears this incident happened as Syrian army and friends (Hezbollah, Iran) were launching a new offensive against the Free Syrian Army and al-Nusra front who control areas of northern Aleppo.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Does an ISIS Affiliate Have Chemical Weapons on Israel’s Syrian Border?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Israel is currently investigating the possibility that the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, an ISIS-affiliated group fighting in Syria’s civil war in the southern Golan Heights region, possesses chemical weapons, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 10.

Israel’s concern is largely based on reported chemical weapons attacks by ISIS in eastern Syria and western Iraq, two regions where the border is porous between both countries. However, there is also some concern that the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade might have also been able to get hold of remnants from the Syrian government’s chemical weapons arsenal.

The Syrian government had agreed to relinquish its chemical weapons as part of an arrangement initiated by Russia in September of 2013. In return, the US agreed to abort a potential strike against Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack by regime forces a month earlier.

There is speculation that the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade intends to conduct tests with tactical chemical weapons such as artillery shells with mustard gas.

The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades continues to concentrate its focus on fighting with the other rebel groups in the surrounding areas, including the Al-Qaeda Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

However, the prospect of an ISIS affiliate possessing weapons on the Syrian-Israeli border is no doubt concerning to Israel’s defense establishment, which reportedly intends to prepare for the possibility that the group will shift its attention towards Israel.

ISIS has repeatedly threatened to attack Israel. In a menacing video released in October, a masked ISIS fighter speaking fluent Hebrew warns that the terror attacks Israel has suffered from the Palestinians will be “child’s play” compared with what ISIS is planning, and that “not one Jew will remain in Jerusalem or the entire country.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

IDF Preparing for Conflicts Along Southern, Northern Borders

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Israel’s defense establishment appears to be preparing military forces and civilians for a possible outbreak of hostilities either in the north or the south sometime soon.

A major civil defense drill – the largest since the 2014 war with Hamas – was held this past Thursday in southern Israel at Kibbutz Erez, barely a mile from Gaza.

Civilian response teams, IDF soldiers, Magen David Adom emergency medical teams, police officers, firefighters and others participated in the drill, Channel 2 reported Friday.

The exercise simulated an attack by Hamas terrorists on an Israeli kibbutz which included abduction of Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers overpowering the terrorists in the kibbutz dining hall.

According to the report, recent IDF preparations to meet a possible conflict have included the infusion of additional forces along the Gaza border. In addition, the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency reported Thursday that four IDF bulldozers leveled ground along the security fence a few meters inside Gaza, east of the city of Rafah, which straddles the enclave’s border with Egypt.

Nevertheless, defense officials continue to say that although Hamas is gathering its forces within Gaza, the terrorist group does not appear to be preparing for a direct war with Israel in the near future.

While the IDF is preparing to meet whatever threat may present itself in the south, forces are also making preparations in the north for much the same reason.

The IDF has beefed up its forces in northern Israel along the border with Lebanon and in the Golan Heights, near Syria. A major military drill began in the north on Wednesday and continued through the end of the week.

IDF Northern Command alerted civilians from the western Galilee all the way east to the Golan Heights not to be alarmed at the sounds of artillery and other ordnance.

The latest round of peace talks between opposition forces and the Syrian government started Wednesday (April 13) in Geneva but by the weekend had achieved nothing.

The Syrian regime has escalated the fighting near Aleppo, and local residents who had not yet fled are now making an effort to flee while they can. Opposition forces are accusing Syrian government chief mediator Bashar Ja’afari of not being serious about seeking a solution to the five-year civil war.

United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura is trying to keep the talks focused on political transition but with intensified battles continuing, the opposition is losing its resolve.

In addition, Da’esh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, Army of Islam and Jabhat Al Nusra (Al Nusra Front) radical Islamist terror organizations are not at the table. Since they control at least half of the territory in Syria, even if negotiations succeed in resolving the issue of who governs Syria, the question still remains whether there is anything geographically, territorially left to govern.

Al Nusra controls the territory closest to the sole border crossing between Israel and Syria, at Quneitra. Last Tuesday (April 12) Syrian sources told international media that Da’esh (ISIS) now controls 90 percent of the Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus. The community is home to Arabs from the Palestinian Authority and is also a stronghold for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization.

So far, the capital, Damascus is still in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/idf-preparing-for-conflicts-along-southern-northern-borders/2016/04/16/

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