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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Damascus’

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

Document Shows Abbas Was KGB Agent

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was a KGB agent in 1983, according to a report on Israel’s Channel 1 News which presented Soviet-era documents from the archive of Vasili Mitrokhin, a former Soviet intelligence archivist who defected to the UK with a treasure trove of historic documents after the fall of the USSR. Mitrokhin died in 2004. The report was broadcast Wednesday night, during a week that had seen Russian President Vladimir Putin pushing for a prestigious peace summit in Moscow between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Tuesday, Abbas told reporters in Poland that he had been on his way to a preliminary meeting in Moscow with the Israelis September 9, when Jerusalem issued a call for a delay.

The timing of the revelation did not escape PA Arab representatives, who have been flooding Israeli media Thursday morning with profuse denials of the charges, as well as accusations that the Netanyahu government is trying to torpedo the peace efforts.

The document, which lists people the KGB was recruiting in 1983, names “Abbas, Mahmoud,” born 1935 in Palestine, as “Krotov,” or mole, in Damascus, Syria. Abbas was born in 1935 in British Palestine, and after 1948 fled with his family to Damascus, where he grew up.

And, in the clandestine spy world John le Carré books are made of, where being together at the same place and time is proof for plots and conspiracies, the following has to be a fine nugget: Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian deputy foreign minister who has been Putin’s envoy pushing Abbas and Netanyahu to meet in Moscow, was stationed in Damascus from 1983-89 and from 1991-94. Put that in your hookah and smoke it.

Dr. Isabella Ginor of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, who together with Gideon Remez, an Israeli journalist and analyst of post-Soviet affairs, researched the Mitrokhin documents, rejected the claims by senior PA Arabs saying she and her colleague have no ties to the Israeli government and they certainly do not receive their orders from Netanyahu. As to the Timing of the revelation, Ginor told Israel Radio on Thursday morning that there has always been tension between Netanyahu and Abbas, meaning that whenever her team’s revelations were to be publicized it would have boosted Israel’s case against the PA Chairman.

Ginor added that the KGB also had an agent in the Israeli government, starting in 1972, a relatively unknown person who came to Israel from Moldova.

The PA officials argued that there was no need for the Soviets to recruit Abbas as a Soviet agent because the PLO was openly collaborating with Moscow. Indeed, Abbas was the head of a Palestinian-Soviet friendship foundation and as such served as a liaison to Moscow for PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The documents are now in storage at the Churchill Archives Center of Cambridge University and have been open to the public for the past two years. Ginor and Remez came across the document naming Abbas while researching the Soviet involvement in the Middle East.

JNi.Media

ISIS Takes Weapons in US Retreat, But Where Else Are American Arms?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

The Amaq media outlet of the Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist organization disseminated photos of American arms this past weekend showing the new military treasure it acquired when U.S. troops who were supporting government soldiers in Afghanistan retreated in the face of terrorist fire during a clash that took place in July.

Among the seized items were a rocket launcher, grenades, machine gun ammunition, an encrypted radio and military identification cards, the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday. One of the identity cards was that of an American soldier, but U.S. officials denied he was taken prisoner and said he was with his unit.

U.S. Brigadier-General Charles Cleveland, deputy chief of staff for the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan confirmed the loss, saying the clash had taken place in the eastern province of Nangarhar as American forces were moving a “casualty collection” area. Cleveland said in his statement the soldiers came under “effective enemy fire” and were forced to retreat. “In the course of moving the [casualty collection point] to a safe location, some equipment was left behind. For understandable reasons, the lives of soldiers were not put at risk to recover the equipment,” he said. “The loss of equipment is regrettable but no equipment is worth undue risk to those involved,” Cleveland pointed out. “And we do not expect any measurable operational impact due to the loss.”

This is not the first time that American military hardware and weapons have ended up in hands other than those for whom they were intended.

Weapons that were sent to Syrian opposition forces via Jordan last year by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia were reported stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives, according to an investigative report by the New York Times.

Instead, they ended up in the hands of arms merchants who sold them to the highest bidders on the black market, American and Jordanian officials told the newspaper.

Those same weapons were used by a Jordanian officer to murder two U.S. government security contractors, a South African trainer and two Jordanians in an attack at a U.S.-funded police training facility for Jordanian intelligence in Amman last November, both NYT and Al Jazeera reported. The killer was later shot dead in a shootout.

The site was set up in 2003 as a center for the U.S. to train Iraqi police. It then was used to train Palestinian Authority security forces, who were ultimately equipped with new American military equipment. Although (USSC) U.S. Security Coordinator (2005-2010) Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton repeatedly stated, “We don’t give out any guns or bullets,” the forces received them from Jordan and Egypt with approval from Israel.

Numerous Palestinian Authority security forces have since used their vastly improved military skills to target Israelis in terror attacks.

In his report, The Implications of United States Military Training of Palestinian Security Forces, journalist David Bedein points out that in addition to the United States, the European Union also started training and equipping Palestinian Authority security forces in 2007. (see page six)

Under the European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EU COPPS), about one thousand police officers were trained and at least a dozen police stations were opened in Judea and Samaria. By mid-2008, European donor states had already pledged $242 million to the Palestinian Authority, all this in addition to the USSC effort.

At present, a similar issue is taking place in Syria with American weapons once again going astray. Western-backed “moderate” opposition forces are fighting government troops defending the regime of President Bashar al-Assad together with Russian, Iranian and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla terrorist fighters.

The Western-backed opposition forces, supplied in part by the United States, are not in any way linked to Al Qaeda or Da’esh (ISIS). But in the heat of battle and for the purposes of achieving their objectives, all opposition forces often band together as one in Syria — regardless of ideological affiliation.

Hana Levi Julian

Syrians Prepare for Last Stand in Aleppo

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Syrian residents in the once-beautiful commercial hub of Aleppo are gathering their strength — what little remains — to seek whatever safe spaces they can find in the next 24 hours.

The splintered fragments of opposition forces are about to launch their final stand against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

Thus far, opposition forces appear to have the upper hand in this vicious, years-long civil war that has ripped the soul from a lovely land that for decades was the Republic of Syria, but no longer. Today Syria has been torn apart and divvied up among hungry competing warlords like a bleeding carcass about to be butchered for lion cubs.

Some 250,000 residents are beginning to slowly starve in Aleppo, trapped in the eastern part of the city since early July, while the western part of the city remained under government control. The residents of the eastern party of the city are almost without food and water now, after the main artery into that section was shut down by regime forces nearly six weeks ago.

The water pumps in the city are without power. That means two million people are without running water and facing a full siege.

Syrian state media reports government and Russian warplanes are continuing to bomb opposition forces.

But those opposition forces cut off the key access route into the western part of the city Sunday to block the entry of regime soldiers.

According to media sources in Tehran quoted by A-Sharq al-Awsat, “around 2,000 fighters came from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to assist regime forces,” but the infusion of foreign aid didn’t faze the opposition.

Jaish al-Fatah, the Islamist opposition group, released a voice recording on Monday of a phone-tapped conversation by a Hezbollah guerrilla fighter describing the situation on the southern Aleppo front. The fighter said in a Lebanese accent that Hezbollah and regime fighters were collapsing and were left to fight alone. Other militias had already abandoned the front, fleeing the debacle to save their own lives.

According to a Ahrar al-Sham leader who spoke with A-Sharq al-Awsat, “The collapse in the ranks of regime forces is clear and it continues as long as Jaish al-Fatah fighters advance in the city.”

Both sides are now preparing for “the great battle of Aleppo,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The United Nations is urging both sides to cease their fire — or at least to pause it — long enough to allow repairs to the water and electricity grids.

According to UN sources, some two million people are without basic supplies — such as sugar, wheat, food cans and water — and children in the city are at “grave risk” of disease.

Opposition forces, meanwhile, say they are poised to take control of the entire city. The fragmented forces are united in this goal, at least, and it is this unity that allows the exchange of Western-supplied weapons between so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition forces and those who are dubbed “radical Islamist groups” linked to Al Qaeda and Da’esh (ISIS).

That unity when it comes to fighting the Assad regime is not well understood by the United States and other Western nations, and it is this Western lack of familiarity with the regional culture codes that has repeatedly led to disaster when trying to fight worldwide terror.

For all of these reasons, and because of the utter chaos taking place north of Israel’s border, the IDF is being especially watchful now.

Hana Levi Julian

Tim Kaine’s Decision to Boycott Netanyahu’s Speech Could Hurt Hillary

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

When Hillary Clinton’s choice for VP, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, joined the Democrats who avoided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to a joint session of Congress, he announced: “There is no reason to schedule this speech before Israeli voters go to the polls on March 17 and choose their own leadership.” Revealing that he had labored to delay the Netanyahu appearance, Kaine said, “I am disappointed that, as of now, the speech has not been postponed. For this reason, I will not attend the speech.”

Before Kaine made his announcement, only three other senators had planned to boycott the speech: the two anti-Netanyahu Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders and Pat Leahy, and Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz. All the other Democratic senators were reluctant to commit either way, and told the press they were thinking about it. Even the biggest Democratic opponent of the Iran deal, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, did not forcefully call on his fellow Democrats to show—not willing to upset an already irate President Obama. Most Democratic legislators who said they’d avoid the speech came from blue states and blue districts. But when Kaine, whose state of Virginia until 2008 voted Republican for president, gave permission to Democrats from red states to boycott Netanyahu when he declared he was skipping the speech.

The Forward on Friday wrote that Kaine “Will be the Jewiest Vice President” under Hillary Clinton, describing him as “a friend to the Jewish community for about as long as he’s been in public service.” But when one reads the reasons why Kaine is so “Jewey” according to the Forward, one realizes Kaine would be a bonanza to leftwing Israeli Jews, very much like the folks who are currently in the White House.

Kaine supports a two-state solution, argues the Forward; also, he is a religious Catholic (so he knows all about the auto-da-fé); during his time as the governor of Virginia, Sabra built the world’s largest hummus factory outside Richmond, and hummus is Jewish, isn’t it, ask anyone from Cairo to Ramallah to Damascus; and Kaine hosted several Passover seders and played matchmaker to Conservative Rabbi Jack Moline’s daughter.

So, in considering Kaine’s pros and cons regarding Israel, you have his support for a nuclear deal with Iran, and his support for a Palestinian State, while on the plus side you have lots of hummus.

JNi.Media

Nasrallah: Everything Hezbollah Eats and Drinks, Its Weapons and Rockets, Come from Iran

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

In a Friday speech marking 40 days after the death of senior Hezbollah commander Mustafah Bedreddine in Damascus, the leader of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah announced that his group is “open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Which is why no matter how many new sanctions the US and the West would place on it, Nasrallah said, Hezbollah “will not be affected.”

Nasrallah said: “As long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it…”

As Al Arabia pointed out, the Nasrallah speech is a major embarrassment to the Obama Administration, since it appears that by approving the thawing of Iranian funds in return for a dubious nuclear agreement the US is now “playing a critical role in assisting and facilitating the ways through which Hezbollah receives this significant aid from the Iranian government.”

Two of the major beneficiaries of the sanctions relief have been Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Iran has also been able to increase its military budget by $1.5 billion from $15.6 billion to $17.1 billion.

Nasrallah’s speech now indicates that US money transfer to Iran’s bank and the sanctions relief have empowered both the Iranian government and Hezbollah, this after a few years in which the Lebanese terror organizations has suffered the worst string of casualties in its proxy war in Syria alongside the IRGC.

With that in mind, Nasrallah said on Friday that since thousands of Hezbollah’s Sunni enemies have recently entered Syria through Turkey to take over the northern city of Aleppo, he will send more fighters to the Aleppo area, where Hezbollah has suffered heavy losses in the past. “We are facing a new wave […] of projects of war against Syria which are being waged in northern Syria, particularly in the Aleppo region,” Nasrallah said, declaring, “The defence 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 also admitted that 26 Hezbollah fighters had been killed so far in June, adding to the estimates of more than a thousand Hezbollah dead, including several senior leaders, in the Syrian civil war.

JNi.Media

Experts: Putin Sent Israel the Wrong Missing Tank

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted in a heartfelt ceremony from Russian President Vladimir Putin a Magach-3 Israeli tank that had been captured by the Syrians in the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the First Lebanon War, and had been on display in a museum in the Moscow area. Netanyahu posted in his Facebook page: “My wife Sara and I have participated today in an emotional ceremony of returning the tank that had fallen in Syrian captivity during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the First Lebanon War.” But now, according to Yedioth Aharonoth, one week after Israel received the tank in which the still missing in action Israeli fighters had met their demise, it appears, to the chagrin of the mourning families, that it may not be the same tank.

On June 10, 1982, IDF 90th Armored Division was rushed forward with orders to gain as much ground as possible before a cease-fire would come into effect. Late that night the force fought its way through Syrian infantry in the Lebanese village of Sultan Yacoub, in the eastern Beqaa Valley, only four miles from the Syrian border. Apparently, in its rush to gain ground, coupled with intelligence failures, the force was cut off and surrounded by Syrian army units. At dawn, the force broke out and escaped to the south, supported by Israeli artillery. The battle lasted six hours resulting in the force losing eight tanks and 30 men. The force was unable to destroy the disabled Magach-3 tanks they left behind and those were recovered by the Syrians, and were put on display in Russia and in the Tishreen Panorama Military Museum in Damascus. Three IDF soldiers remain missing in action: Zachary Baumel, an Israeli-US citizen, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman. These soldiers were captured and paraded through Damascus on top of their captured tank.

Returned tank lands in Israel / Courtesy

Returned tank lands in Israel / Courtesy

In his Facebook post, Netanyahu noted that the returned tank is “the only testimony to our missing soldiers from that battle… For 34 years we’ve been searching for our fighters and will not cease the search until we inter them in a Jewish cemetery in the State of Israel. For these 34 years the Baumel, Katz and Feldman families have not had a gravesite to visit. Now they’ll have this tank, a remnant from the Sultan Yacoub battle which they can visit and touch and remember their sons in Israel.”

Not really, says tank expert Lt. Col. (Ret) Michael Mas, who told Yedioth the returned tank is not the one inside which the three missing soldiers were fighting. “It’s very sad that the prime minister and the media follow misinformation,” Mas said. “This is not the tank that belonged to the missing. What was returned is a whole tank, and the tanks where the missing fought look different. While this is for sure one of the eight tanks captured by the Syrians in the battle, this tank bears no mark of any injuries. When Netanyahu said that the families who haven’t had a gravesite to visit will now find peace, he committed two errors: one, it’s not their tank; and two, they’re missing, not dead.”

Returned tank in Israel / Courtesy

Returned tank in Israel / Courtesy

Pirchia Heiman, Yehuda Katz’s sister, responded angrily, telling Yedioth: “All the families of the missing are enraged. What do we need all these spins for?” She asked, adding, “Since I’ve heard of the plan to return the tank I waited eagerly, I couldn’t sleep at night. Ten days ago they conducted the ceremony in Russia and there Ndetanyahu said the families would have this tank ‘to be able to touch it and the memory of their sons,” and he already knew it was the wrong tank, but we didn’t. Only the next day did we get the right shield number for the tank, not through the IDF, and I realized this wasn’t Yehuda’s tank.”

At this point it should be noted that PM Netanyahu could have avoided this embarrassment had he read up IDF reports filed 18 years ago, which determined after a thorough examination of the tank on display in Russia that it’s not the tank that belonged to the missing soldiers, and that the soldiers who fought in this tank were able to flee the scene unharmed and are alive and well.

Here’s another embarrassing point Netanyahu could have saved himself had he read the IDF reports: the three missing soldiers fought in two different tanks, one of which was burnt beyond recognition, and neither of which is the returned tank. Like cars, tanks receive identifying numbers, and this tank, 817581, is not the one.

Or, as Lt. Col. (res) Danny Krief put it, “Clearly, the Russians didn’t care which tank they handed over, and that’s what Netanyahu used for his gimmick.”

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/experts-putin-sent-israel-the-wrong-missing-tank/2016/06/17/

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