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July 3, 2015 / 16 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bashar al-Assad’

US Army Website Breached by ‘Syrian Electronic Army’ Hackers

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

A Syrian hacker group breached a declassified U.S. Army web site on Monday, officials revealed at a news briefing late in the day.

U.S. military officials confirmed that Syrian government supporters hacked into the website, uploading various propaganda in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before the site crashed.

The hackers, who identified themselves online as being linked to the “Syrian Electronic Army,” also redirected visitors to a page that championed the Syrian regime.

It is not clear whether United States national defense was compromised in the breach. Thus far, the Obama administration has denied reports that internal databases were compromised – but just to be sure, the site was temporarily shut down. It has since been returned to the Internet.

“Today an element of the Army.mil service provider’s content was compromised,” Army Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost said in a statement. “After this came to our attention, the Army took appropriate preventive measures to ensure there was no breach of Army data by taking down the website temporarily.”

The SEA has claimed in the past to have breached news web sites such as The New York Times, CBS News, The Washington Post and BBC.

The group, which launched in 2011, states its mission is to attack the enemies of the Syrian government, mainly those who “fabricate” stories about the Syrian civil war. SEA wrote on its web site in 2011 that it is not officially affiliated with the government but is a group of Syrian youths.

A separate cyber attack traced to China announced several days ago, involved hackers who penetrated the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Interior. The personal data of some four million federal employees, past and present, were stolen in the breach of that computer system.

Earlier in the year, the personal data of more than 100,000 U.S. taxpayers was stolen after the Internal Revenue Service network was hacked in a massive cyber attack traced to Russia.

Bennett Looks for Attention with Appeal to World to Recognize Golan

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) chairman Naftali Bennett called on the world to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in speech to the annual Herzliya Conference on Sunday.

Israel annexed the strategic and water-rich Golan in 1981, but many foreign media articles are preceded with the dateline “Golan Heights, Occupied Territories.”

Bennett’s initiative might be the first small step towards what is going to be an eventual reality. As Syria falls apart, the idea of handing over the Golan to Bashar Al-Assad doesn’t even enter the imagination of Secretary of State John Kerry.

However, Bennett’s call for recognition was welcomed with a resounding thud by foreign media, such as AFP, whose first words in its report were “Far-right Israeli minister.” The description is outlandish, if not libelous, unless the same news agency were to call Labor party chairman Yitzchak Herzog “far-left.”

Bennett said yesterday:

I call on the international community… to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan…. I understand that there is a disagreement on Judaea and Samaria, what the world calls the West Bank. I understand that on this we shall agree to disagree.

But the Golan, to ban agricultural exports from the Golan? Where is the logic, where is your morality? Who would you like us to give the Golan Heights to? To Assad? To Al-Nusra Front? To the Islamic State group? To Hezbollah?

There is a consensus among Israelis that the Golan Heights should remain in Israel. The 20,000 Jews in the Golan Heights make up 50 percent of the population, the other half being Druze, approximately half of whom live in the city of Majdal Shams.

Prime Minister Netanyahu took the air out of Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party, which in the early stages of the election was polled to win 16 seats in the Knesset. By Election Day, the number was down to 12, the same it had in the previous government.

The day after the election, Netanyahu’s frantic call for Jews to vote had reduced the party’s strength to eight.

Bennett is not making the mistake of previous nationals religious parties to become a party of “Yesha,” the acronym for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.

He is trying to shed the party of the stigma that nationalists must be religious. Secular Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked was at the top of the heap in the elections and won the prize of Justice Minister.

Now Bennett needs even broader support in Israel to strengthen his position in the government, and his call on the world to recognize the Golan was more for local consumption than any expectation that the United Nations or even the Obama administration will admit to the truth.

ISIS in Syria Nears Israel’s Golan Heights Border

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

ISIS (Da’esh) terror fighters in southern Syria are nearing the border with Israel in the Golan Heights, sources said over the weekend. IDF officials are watching closely.

The leaders of both Da’esh and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror organization threatened Israel over this weekend — but military officials have their eye on ISIS. The terror entity is in southern Syria and heading for that country’s border with northern Israel in the Golan Heights, according to military sources and Israeli media.

Also of concern is the fact that Da’esh has established branch bases in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, along the Iraqi-Jordanian border, and in Gaza – thus effectively surrounding Israel and her allies on three sides as well. The terror group is also well established in Nigeria, Libya and Somalia.

“Within a few days, we will conquer the Syrian border with Israel,” a spokesperson for Da’esh told journalists this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group is continuing to fight — and lose scores of men — on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad as Syria’s civil war continues into its fifth year. They are joined by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, who direct the fighting.

“Millions” of Israelis will be displaced and become “refugees” in any war between Hezbollah and the Jewish State, terror leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Friday. In a speech broadcast on the Hezbollah-linked Al Manar TV station, Nasrallah said, “In Israel, they are aware of the power of Hezbollah and recently they conducted exercises which showed their concern about our ability to strike their Home Front with strength, and defeat them.”

Nasrallah was referring in his remarks to the “Turning Point” civil defense drill carried out each year at this time in Israel by Home Front Command. The nationwide exercise tests wartime readiness and cooperation by various emergency response and municipal agencies as well as that of the general population.

Today for the most part Syria is no longer; it has been carved up into a collection of small fiefdoms or emirates, each headed by a leader pledged to one of the terror groups. Very few areas are still controlled by the moderate, Western-backed Free Syrian Army that was once the hope of so many.

Even fewer areas are controlled by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who apparently has resigned himself to the takeover of his nation by ISIS and has chosen not to target the terror group in his attacks.

And although his Iranian allies have made a great show of “helping to protect” Iraqis against ISIS and doing the same with Yemenis via the Houthi rebels, the truth is much more complicated.

It’s not really clear, for instance, how passionately the Islamic Republic is actually fighting Da’esh in Yemen or in Iraq — if at all — but it is crystal clear that Iran is not harassing ISIS north of Israel’s border.

In fact, it is probably just a matter of time before Iran openly patronizes the terrorist entity, if only to help in the attempt to annihilate Israel.

The once-proud nation of Syria is bloodied and worn, torn apart with years of internal warfare that really just began with a revolution against President Assad as part of the Arab Spring.

But that was long ago, before Assad recruited his allies, Iran and Russia, to help him in his war against his own people.

Before the Syrians who were fighting to raise a new government themselves, began to fight each other and instead split into factions.

Before the fundamentalist Islamist factions among them suddenly discovered they had attracted foreign fighters as well, like Al Qaeda and Da’esh – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The latter was considerably more extreme than most had expected or bargained for and once present, they stayed.

The Ramifications of ISIS’ Conquest of Palmyra

Monday, June 1st, 2015

I first got to visit the magnificent ancient site of Palmyra on a family trip as a teenager. Getting to the desert town by car was, back in the nineties an absurdly arduous journey with only a single two-lane road connecting it to the rest of Syria. But the ancient Roman ruins more than made up for the difficult trip. Experiencing their splendor first hand, I could see why their images featured prominently on Syria’s currency.

Years later, I made a point of taking my younger brothers to visit the ruins once they were old enough to appreciate them. Fifteen years after my first visit, the road to Palmyra was still as atrocious as ever, and the nearby town of Tadmor hadn’t developed much in the intervening years, but the ruins themselves were as magnificent as ever. Had they been more accessible, they would have rivaled Egypt’s Pyramids for sheer number of visitors.

Sadly, the ancient city would eventually succumb to the ravages of the conflict tearing Syria apart, and the town of Tadmor, with its population having swelled to five times its pre-conflict numbers with displaced persons, has fallen to Da’esh — the Islamic State (ISIS). The prospects for both the town’s inhabitants and its famous ruins could not be any bleaker, judging by ISIS’ past behavior in Iraq and the east of Syria.

It is impossible to overstate the dire implications of the Islamic State’s conquest of the city. Culturally, Palmyra has been the crown jewel of Syria’s heritage; its loss is akin to the United Kingdom losing Stonehenge.

Militarily and strategically, ISIS’ control of this central Syrian city is a monumental and disastrous setback to all the efforts undertaken to defeat the extremist group. Despite being subjected to months of air bombardments on the part of an American-led coalition, ISIS is now well positioned to strike at Syria’s major population centers in the western provinces of Homs, Hama and Damascus.

In theory, the armies of Bashar Assad based in Tadmor should have been able to easily fend off any conceivable attack by ISIS. The place is surrounded by open desert, supplied by a nearby airport, with a garrison at Tadmor’s infamous prison, a place that, pre-conflict, represented the worse horrors and brutalities of the Baathist dictatorship, but had since been surpassed by dozens of equally brutal prisons and dungeons all over the country. It put the Syrian Army in the enviable position of defending against an ISIS force that was far from its main areas of control, with highly vulnerable and exposed supply lines. The logistics of the battle were heavily in favor of the regime.

But the Syrian Army’s sudden and unexpected collapse in the face of ISIS’ offensive serves to illustrate the high toll the conflict has taken on the army and the degree to which it has been degraded as a fighting force. The regime’s swift defeat also highlights the unfortunate fact that ISIS remains very much a dangerous force.

Tadmor was the first town that the extremist group managed to conquer directly from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. For years, the regime had comforted itself with the fact that ISIS’ main focus was to battle rebel brigades in areas the regime considered to be of secondary strategic importance.

With its conquest of Tadmor, ISIS can no longer be regarded as a group whose influence is confined to the periphery of the country. The regime’s collapse at Tadmor — despite its strategic advantages in the area — is the final nail in the coffin of the idea that a Western alliance with Assad can jointly take on the Islamic State.

ISIS Captures Most of Syria; Assad Escape Plan Revealed

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

The Islamic State terrorist entity made significant gains this week in its territorial control over an ever-growing swathe of the Middle East. Its barbarism continued apace as well. In addition to the capture of the Iraqi city of Ramadi just a few days ago, ISIS appears to have also succeeded in capturing the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, with its capture of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, ISIS now controls nearly 50 percent of Syria. Palmyra is located between the Syrian capital of Damascus, in southwestern Syria, and the centrally located city of Deir al-Zour. It is in Syria’s Homs province.

The capture of Palmyra is hugely important not only because it is the first major Syrian city ISIS has captured unassisted by various other anti-Assad forces, but also because it is of enormous historical significance. The city dates back to the first century of the Common Era, and was a central crossroads for trade from the east to the Roman Empire. Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its architectural, historical and art treasures.

The capture of Palmyra by ISIS was announced by the terrorist entity on Twitter, and most major media outlets are treating this account as factual.

The outcries against the capture of Palmyra by historians and art curators has angered many who see this as valuing art over human lives.

As part of its conquest of Palmyra and surrounding areas, ISIS now controls not only more land than the regime, but it also controls most of Syria’s oil and gas fields.

As noted on the news site Western Journalism, control over Palmyra also provides a strategic base from which ISIS can advance on other cities held by Assad, including Homs and Damascus.

At least one Israeli Middle East expert, Tzvi Yechezkieli of Channel 10, predicted that the fall of Palmyra may signal the end of Assad’s central government. He pointed to the fact that Assad is losing territory to Islamic State every day and is now in control of only a quarter of Syria’s territory.

The Israeli commentator also reported that Assad has prepared an escape plan should ISIS capture Damascus. Assad’s plan, according to Yechezkieli, is that the Syrian dictator will withdraw his forces to the Western part of Syria, the stronghold of Assad’s own Alawite minority. Alawites are a small sect within Shia Muslims, and comprise less than 15 percent of Syria’s population.

ISIS has achieved such dramatic victories for many reasons, not only because of the west’s initial refusal to take it seriously and its barbarism acting as a lure for disaffected global sadists. One successful method of recruitment, as Yechezkieli also pointed out, has been the massive jailbreak orchestrated by ISIS during its capture of Palmyra.

The thousands of released Syrians, many of whose crimes were that they were opponents of the regime, were welcomed into ISIS’s forces. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is a slogan the newly-released Syrians may embrace, to Assad’s dismay.

UN Peacekeepers Wounded by Syrian Shelling — Will UN Probe This One?

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Two members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were hit by mortar fire Monday in the Golan Heights in Israel in what was allegedly a “spillover” attack on their base from Syria.

One of the two was taken to a hospital in serious but stable condition. The second, a female soldier, was treated at the scene. She is in good condition, the Hebrew-language Ynet site reported. Both were stationed in their base on the Israeli side of the border with Syria at the time of the attack. There has been no confirmation of the above information from the IDF Spokesperson, who issued a terse statement saying only that two UNDOF soldiers were slightly wounded in a “spillover” attack on their base from the Syrian civil war across the border in the Golan Heights.

(Ed. Note: The UNDOF force is comprised of some 800 soldiers from the Republic of Ireland, Fiji, India, Nepal and the Netherlands. It has been monitoring the cease-fire line that separates Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights since 1974. Israel won the territory after a defensive battle with Syria in 1967, and was forced to defend in again in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was subsequently annexed by Israel.)

According to military sources, the mortar fire was launched from Syria. But it is not clear who fired the two shells.

They could have been launched by a number of terror organizations or the Free Syrian Army which whom the revolt began. It is also possible they were fired by the government troops fighting to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power.

Likewise, it is possible the mortar fire came from Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps troops, who have been fighting alongside Assad’s troops for years, together with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror guerrillas from Lebanon.

The undisputed fact is that this is not the first time mortars have been fired across the border on the Golan Heights. This time IDF designated the area a “closed military zone” following the attack – even though the IDF again determined it to be another “spillover” from the four-year-long Syrian civil war.

UNDOF transferred its Golan Heights base last year across the border from Syria to Israel due safety concerns. Irish soldiers serving in the force say “It’s a unique mission; danger lurks around every bend,” according to a report posted Monday in the Irish Times.

In that, UNDOF soldiers are facing circumstances similar to those of their colleagues in UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) and the former European Union monitors at the Rafa border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

That is, when things get a little too hot, they acknowledge the danger and back down – fast.

In this case, they were allowed to move their base to the Israeli side of the border, but today’s attack on the base — “errant mortar fire” — proves such a move is no sinecure.

This past January – just a couple of weeks after the Paris terrorist massacres, in fact – a UNIFIL unit got caught in the crossfire when Hezbollah terrorists attacked an Israeli civilian convoy with a military escort traveling along a road a few kilometers from the northern border.

Hezbollah fired six missiles at the convoy from a position three kilometers deep into southern Lebanese territory in the cross-border attack. The convoy was traveling on a road also deep into Israeli territory.

Two IDF soldiers and a civilian died; several others were wounded. A home in an Israeli Druze village took a direct hit and went up in flames; it was completely destroyed and most of the residents were badly traumatized.

Latest EU Brilliance: Have Iran Star in Syrian Civil War Negotiations

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief of the European Union, expressed hope that Iran would play an important but constructive role in a renewed United Nations effort to restart negotiations towards ending the years-long Syrian civil war.

Mogherini met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on Tuesday, April 28. Prior to her meeting, Mogherini said that she sees her role as ensuring that “negotiations proceed in a speedy and good way.”

What she meant by “good,” she explained to reporters in New York, is that the negotiations should result in Iran being prevented from developing nuclear weapons, but that it be allowed the “right to deploy a peaceful program as everybody else.”

Mogherini told Zarif it is crucial that the P5+1 powers successfully conclude nuclear negotiations with Iran. She said that doing so could boost Iran’s regional role in a positive manner, Reuters reported.

The EU foreign policy chief said she understands the concerns of many countries regarding Iran, but said it would be “naive to imagine that a country like Iran could simply disappear from the map.”

Mogherini said it was important “for Iran to play a major, major but positive, role on Syria in particular, to encourage the regime to … (support) a Syrian-led transition,” she said, referring to a 2012 U.N. plan for a political transition in Syria.

The deadline for a final nuclear deal with Iran is June 30. Iran and the six major global powers – the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany – reached a tentative framework agreement on April 2.

The U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said he will begin meeting in May with the various players both within and outside Syria, in order to assess whether there is any hope of brokering an end to the war.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked de Mistura earlier this month to “focus much more to re-launch a political process” after his attempt to broker a local truce in Aleppo failed.

Many Arab countries in the region, Israel and the United States have resisted the inclusion of Iran in Syrian peace talks. That is because they, understandably, consider Tehran to be the problem, not the solution.

Iran has been supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a staunch ally. It was the widespread belief of many inside the country, and certainly of the current U.S. administration, that Assad had to step down. His refusal to do so, and the regime’s resort to extreme violence including the use of gas to murder citizens of his own nation, ignited the conflagration that has consumed entire cities and killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians over the past four years.

Mogherini is set to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington on Wednesday.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/latest-eu-brilliance-have-iran-star-in-syrian-civil-war-negotiations/2015/04/29/

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