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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Aleppo’

That’s It for the Aleppo Cease Fire

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Syria’s President Assad recommenced his bombardment of the city of Aleppo on Saturday night, just a few hours after the Russian/Syrian ceasefire expired.

There are unconfirmed reports that Assad’s planes used cluster bombs in one town near Aleppo. Cluster bombs are illegal under international law.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Aleppo Brings Hizbullah Back Into The Frame

Friday, October 28th, 2016

The Obama administration has finally taken some action against the Lebanese Islamist terror organization Hizbullah.

The Treasury Department has applied sanctions on four Hizbullah operatives reportedly planning terror attacks, as well as a company, Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting LLC, controlled by a senior Hizbullah financier.

Meanwhile, the State Department has sanctioned Hizbullah commander Haytham Ali Tabataba’i, also known as Abu Ali Al-Tabataba’i, under U.S. counterterrorism rules. He has lead Hizbullah special forces, operated in Syria, and reportedly was with Shi’a rebels in Yemen, according to the State Department.

These measures are small but they are, at least, a reminder of destructive forces in the Middle East beyond ISIS. Hizbullah, created by the Iranians as a proxy force to wage war on Israel, is now an integral element of the Russian-Iranian-Syrian regime axis that has successfully exploited the emergence of ISIS to establish itself as the current dominant power bloc in the Middle East.

As the price of his flimsy deal with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, President Obama has allowed this bloc to rise unchallenged, and even downplayed the threat it represents. As Secretary of State Kerry put it at the end of September, the U.S. isn’t going to take the fight to Hizbullah because “Hizbullah is not plotting against us.”

Given that Hizbullah has remained faithful to Islamist ideology since its founding, and carried out shocking acts of global terror, like the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marines in Beirut and the Buenos Aires bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in 1994, one wonders what “not plotting against us” means exactly.

Hizbullah, after all, only exists to plot against “us:” Israel, the United States, the Sunni Arab countries, Europe, indeed, anyone who stands against the terror organization. Perhaps it’s Kerry’s way of saying Hizbullah isn’t a priority in the way ISIS is – leaving us in the grotesque position of enabling one lot of Islamist barbarians from the Shi’a side, as we confront another lot of Islamist barbarians from the Sunni side.

Make no mistake, Hizbullah is barbaric, and its current alignment with Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship in Russia doesn’t make it acceptable. Since at least February, Hizbullah has played a critical role on the ground in northern Syria, fighting on behalf of the tyrannical Assad regime. As the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, “Hizbullah along with members of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard unit, and thousands of Iran-funded and trained Shiite fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere, are leading the current ground assault in…Aleppo.”

The significance of holding Aleppo was underlined in a bloodcurdling speech back in June by Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, broadcast live on the terror group’s Al Manar television station. “The defense of Aleppo is the defense of the rest of Syria, it is the defense of Damascus, it is also the defense of Lebanon, and of Iraq,” Nasrallah asserted. “We will increase our presence in Aleppo. Retreat is not permissible.”

Nasrallah has made good on that pledge. In August, Hizbullah deployed its elite Radwan Forces, a special operations unit, to the Hamdaniyeh quarter of Aleppo. As Russian and Syrian jets have pummeled Aleppo from the air, killing thousands of civilians, Hizbullah has engaged in combat on the ground.

The sobering fact is that Assad and his allies are calling the shots. That’s why Russia has been able to introduce a draft resolution on Aleppo to the UN Security Council. With all the focus on ISIS, there is nary a mention of the war criminals the Moscow regime is supporting.

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, countered the Russian draft by pointing out that if we don’t explicitly name Russia as the main party behind “the unspeakable horrors we are witnessing,” we thereby “obscure responsibility.” But that assessment is shared half-heartedly, at best, by the administration she serves. If there’s a fresh approach to Islamist designs on the Middle East that will be the task of the next president.

Donald Trump, certainly, is not up to that particular job. (That moment during the third presidential debate when he grunted, with the faux empathy of a reality TV show host, “Aleppooo…soooo saaad,” was one of the most skin-crawling of the current cycle.)

There is reason to have a scintilla more faith in Hillary Clinton, who unlike her opponent, hasn’t tried to obscure Russia’s role in backing some of our worst enemies in the region. Ironically, the latest dump of WikiLeaks email revelations on this score actually does Clinton some favors, revealing that she has a much more cynical view of Iranian strategy than does Obama. That cynicism extends to Russia and Hizbullah as well.

If Hizbullah comes out of the Syrian war with its prestige strengthened and its threat level boosted, there’s every reason to fear the next target will be Israel. A renewed war on this front will be far more costly and destructive than in 2006. That’s why we should prepare ourselves for a visceral propaganda assault on Israel, if it does end up doing what should have been done long ago – cutting Hizbullah to size, and with it, its Russian, Iranian and Syrian allies.

Ben Cohen

Moscow Could Face War Crimes Charges Over Syria Bombing Campaign

Monday, October 17th, 2016

The European Union strongly condemned Russia on Monday for causing “untold suffering” with its bombing of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

The air strikes by Moscow and the Syrian regime it backs, said the EU, could constitute war crimes.

In a statement after talks held in Luxembourg, European Union foreign ministers said: “Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate. The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict … and may amount to war crimes.”

The specific reference to Russia and war crimes in the same statement is significant in that a case may be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague with this accusation.

Prior statements have referred to “allies” of the Assad regime. Although Britain and the United States also pressured for sanctions against Russia, this did not succeed, according to international media reports. Extensive EU sanctions are already imposed against Syria, including those involving embargoes on oil and arms, plus bans on more than 200 individuals and 70 entities and institutions.

Moscow announced an eight-hour cease fire set for Thursday as the EU statement was being released to reporters. The truce is to coincide with the opening of a summit for European Union leaders in Brussels at which relations with Russia tops the agenda.

Hana Levi Julian

Trump in 2nd Debate: Aleppo Has Already Fallen

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Focusing, as we always do, on the Jewish-Israeli niche of presidential politics, we paid great attention Sunday night to the exchange between candidates Trump and Clinton on the situation in Syria. In general, both debaters agreed the situation was tough, and neither was eager to get into specific solutions. What stood out for us was the statement by Donald Trump that the battle of Aleppo between the US-backed rebels and the coalition of Assad, the Russians, Iran and Hezbollah will go to the pro-Assad forces.

Martha Raddatz (ABC News) asked Trump: “What do you think will happen if [Aleppo] falls?” Which Trump answered, “I think that it basically has fallen. OK? It basically has fallen.”

It should be noted that on Saturday in the UN Security Council Russia vetoed a French resolution calling for an immediate halt to its air strikes on east Aleppo, where reportedly hundreds of civilians are being killed, including many children. The Russian delegation, accusing the rest of the council of “Russophobia,” watched many council members walk off as the Russians were giving the floor to an envoy of the Assad regime. The Russians are fast running out of friends over this campaign — except, apparently, for Trump, who described Allepo as collateral damage of the effort to destroy the real enemy of the US in the Middle East — ISIS.

“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” Trump said during Sunday night’s debate. “Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”

Raddatz pointed Trump’s attention to the fact that not only the entire Western world objects to what the Russians have been doing in Syria, but his own running mate, Mike Pence, had said a week ago, that the “provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in air strikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.”

Trump, who had praised Pence’s debate performance, came right out and said, “OK, he and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”

Raddatz: “You disagree with your running mate?”

Trump: “I think you have to knock out ISIS. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran, who [Clinton] made strong and Kerry and Obama made into a very powerful nation and a very rich nation, very, very quickly, very, very quickly.

“I believe we have to get ISIS. We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved. She had a chance to do something with Syria. They had a chance. And that was the line. And she didn’t.”

To delineate Trump’s foreign policy point on Aleppo from all of the above, the defeat of ISIS justifies permitting Russia, Iran, the Assad regime and its Hezbollah satellite to recapture all of Syria and turn it into their permanent base, with all the ramifications for Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and, of course, Israel.

A debate then ensued between Raddatz, who as her network’s Chief Global Affairs Correspondent is probably familiar with the issue, and Trump, over the need for secrecy before attacking a target like the oil rich city of Mosul in Iraq. “The biggest problem I have with the stupidity of our foreign policy, we have Mosul,” Trump argued. “They think a lot of the ISIS leaders are in Mosul. So we have announcements coming out of Washington and coming out of Iraq, we will be attacking Mosul in three weeks or four weeks.”

“Well, all of these bad leaders from ISIS are leaving Mosul,” he continued. “Why can’t they do it quietly? Why can’t they do the attack, make it a sneak attack, and after the attack is made, inform the American public that we’ve knocked out the leaders, we’ve had a tremendous success? People leave. Why do they have to say we’re going to be attacking Mosul within the next four to six weeks, which is what they’re saying? How stupid is our country?”

Raddatz suggested, “There are sometimes reasons the military does that. Psychological warfare.”

Trump retorted, “I can’t think of any. I can’t think of any. And I’m pretty good at it.”

Raddatz: “It might be to help get civilians out.”

Perhaps. Trump could also be correct in pointing out that the US campaign in Iraq has remained as undisciplined and as badly coordinated as it has been since the 2003 invasion, under two different administrations.

Hillary Clinton sounded as hapless as the Obama Administration when she said the Russians don’t care about ISIS, and are instead “interested in keeping Assad in power.” As remedy, she proposed: “…when I was secretary of state, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones. We need some leverage with the Russians, because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution, unless there is some leverage over them. And we have to work more closely with our partners and allies on the ground.”

Of course, there’s no way the US and its allies would be able to enforce a no-fly zone on the Russian air force, short of starting WW3, which is why Clinton sounded hollow when she declared, “I’ve stood up to Russia. I’ve taken on Putin and others, and I would do that as president.” And she sounded even less realistic when she warned, “…I do support the effort to investigate for crimes, war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.”

Hillary Clinton then committed a blunder that could haunt her in the future should she be elected president, when she suggested, “There are a lot of very important planning going on, and some of it is to signal to the Sunnis in the area, as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, that we all need to be in this. And that takes a lot of planning and preparation. … I would also consider arming the Kurds. The Kurds have been our best partners in Syria, as well as Iraq. And I know there’s a lot of concern about that in some circles, but I think they should have the equipment they need so that Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground are the principal way that we take Raqqa after pushing ISIS out of Iraq.”

That’s not something an American president should say if he or she wish to elicit Turkey’s support in the Syrian campaign. Proposing to arm the Kurds sounds about as bad to Ankara as the idea of the US arming Hamas would be received in Jerusalem. That would be one of those cases where Clinton would be well advised to have one policy for public consumption and another for insiders.

You probably noticed we did not deal at all with the Trump tapes or the Clinton emails, because everyone else in the media are offering a wealth of information on those. We only tried to point out that when it comes to one of Israel’s most burning issues, the escalation of the war north of its border, neither candidate has offered a particularly convincing formula, and Clinton actually declared she would definitely keep US ground troops out of the Syrian civil war.

We should note with satisfaction that Israel was not mentioned even once in the debate and neither was the two-state solution or Jewish settlements. Thankfully, both candidates are too clever to step on that landmine.


Aleppo Becomes No. 18 on UN ‘Besieged Areas in Syria’ List

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

The northern Syrian city of Aleppo — specifically, the eastern portion of the city — has officially been classified by the United Nations as a “besieged area.”

The designation follows an unending stream of attacks over a period of months in which Syrian regime forces have been battering away at the eastern side of the city, a stronghold of opposition forces.

Aid workers have been unable to gain access to the area to deliver humanitarian supplies, despite several negotiated ceasefires, all of which have been violated.

UN Humanitarian Agency spokesperson Jens Laerke announced Wednesday that in light of the most recent violation of the ceasefire arranged by Russia and the United States, Aleppo meets all three official criteria for designation of a besieged area: 1. military encirclement 2. lack of humanitarian access, and 3. lack of free movement for civilians.

An estimated 250,000 to 275,000 civilians remain trapped in eastern Aleppo, without the means to access medical or other care, or supplies.

Because the western portion of the city is controlled by the Syrian government, those residents do have access to some aid.

There are 17 other areas in Syria with similar designations.

Hana Levi Julian

Emergency Session on Syria at UN Security Council

Monday, September 26th, 2016

The United Nations Security Council held urgent talks Sunday in response to a summons by the United States, UK and France for an emergency meeting over the ongoing bombing of Aleppo by Russia and Syrian regime forces.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters the incendiary munitions that have been dropping on Aleppo are “indiscriminate and a clear breach of international law. The barrel-busting bombs are falling from the skies likewise.”

French Ambassador Francois Delattre was more blunt: “War crimes are being committed in Aleppo. They must not be unpunished and impunity is simply not an option in Syria.”

According to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, more than 150 air strikes targeted the northern Syrian city between Friday and Sunday night. The death toll has reached 115 in the assault, including at least 19 children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A number of cluster bombs remain undetonated and sitting in the streets of eastern Aleppo where some 250,000 civilians are under siege in a section of the city that is populated by many who support the opposition forces.

Close to half a million people have died in the conflict since March 2011, and some 11 million others have been driven from their homes.

According to local Syrian sources, most of the air strikes currently targeting Aleppo are being carried out by Russian fighter jets. “No ISIS fighters are in the targeted areas; all the victims are civilians,” the source tweeted.

UNICEF reported that although repair efforts are ongoing at the damaged pumping station for east Aleppo, 100,000 children have had no safe drinking water for the past three days.

Hana Levi Julian

Massacre in Aleppo As Syrian War Escalates After Collapse of Ceasefire

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

An existential battle raged Saturday night between government troops and opposition forces for control over the Handarat Arab refugee camp on the northern outskirts of the Syian city of Aleppo.

Regime loyalist troops and its allies seized control over the camp on Saturday, according to Reuters journalist Tom Perry, but opposition forces counter attacked at nightfall.

More than 250,000 residents are still trapped in besieged east Aleppo, a rebel stronghold. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battle that began Thursday was still ongoing late Saturday night.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died since the start of the war in March 2011, and approximately 11 million others have been driven from their homes. A fragile ceasefire worked out two weeks ago between the United States and Russia lasted barely a week. Syria’s regime forces announced an end to the truce nearly simultaneously with a ferocious attack on a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy that was to be allowed to deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies to east Aleppo last week. At least 20 civilians, including a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) medical staff worker, were killed in the assault for which neither side has been willing to take responsibility.

But that attack unleashed a storm of fury at the United Nations and among humanitarian agencies, not least of which included those that were attacked. In a statement released last week following the massacre, the SARC and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said they were “outraged by [the] horrific attack on a SARC warehouse and an aid convoy in Orem Al Kubra in rural Aleppo…. The attack deprives thousands of civilians of much-needed food and medical assistance. We’re totally devastated by the deaths of so many people, including one of our colleagues, the director of our sub-branch, Omar Barakat.

“Syria is one of the most dangerous conflicts for humanitarian workers in the world. During the past six years, 54 staff and volunteers of SARC have lost their lives whilst carrying out their duties.”

According to a UN official quoted by the Associated Press, nearly two million people in the northern part of Aleppo are currently without running water; the pumps were destroyed in one of the air strikes.

A report by the AFP news agency described scenes in eastern Aleppo of “pools of blood and shredded bodies on the streets” and said the city has been “reduced to an apocalyptic battlefront.”

At least 100, possibly more civilians, including women and children, were killed and hundreds more injured in intensive air strikes that are being described by international reporters across the board as a massacre. Photographic tweets showing the result of the air strikes have been deemed too graphic for our readership and so are not included here.

Some 200 air strikes have pounded the city since Friday, according to the Syria Civil Defense volunteer emergency medical group. At least five members of the group, also called the White Helmets, were injured in one of the air strikes, according to CNN. One is in critical condition.

A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Saturday that the use of bunker-buster bombs, incendiary weapons and the intensive air strikes that had taken place in densely populated areas such as Aleppo may amount to war crimes.

“The secretary-general is appalled by the chilling military escalation in the city of Aleppo, which is facing the most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict,” the statement said. “The secretary-general considers this a dark day for the global commitment to protect civilians,” Ban’s spokesperson said.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/massacre-in-aleppo-as-syrian-war-escalates-after-collapse-of-ceasefire/2016/09/25/

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