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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Free Syrian Army’

Shelling on the Golan Heights: Syria Testing Israel’s Resolve?

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Although an open-ended cease-fire is in force with Gaza, two people were wounded in northern Israel on Wednesday in the course of three shelling attacks from Syria.

At around 10 pm, Syrian forces fired two mortar shells from across the Golan Heights, both exploding in open areas north of the Quneitra valley. It was the third attack in a single day, the most intensive shelling from Syria in months. No one was physically injured and no property damage was reported in the attack.

Earlier in the evening, a 52-year-old kosher supervisor at a winery on the Golan Heights was lightly wounded by Syrian tank fire aimed at an Israeli kibbutz along the border. The victim was evacuated to Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat (Safed). A local vineyard and a gas pipeline were both damaged in the attack.

Hours earlier, in the morning, an IDF officer was moderately wounded and two Israeli vehicles were damaged in a similar attack. A barrage of Syrian mortar shells was fired from across the border  – again, from the Quneitra area. The officer, who sustained shrapnel wounds to the chest, was airlifted to Rambam Medical Center.

The IDF attacked two Syrian positions in response to the mortar fire. IDF officials said Jerusalem holds the Syrian army responsible for maintaining order on the Syrian side of the border.

Originally security sources said the attacks were due to “errant fire” due to the conflict taking place between government troops and opposition forces in Syria.

Fierce fighting is reportedly taking place between the forces fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, and rebel fighters. It is not known which opposition forces are involved in this battle, nor whether some or all of the factions have banded together to fight Assad’s army.

The Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing has fallen into rebel hands, only 200 meters (219 yards) from the border with Israel. But whose?

At least two of the three opposition factions involved in the war have vowed to dedicate themselves to Israel’s destruction when they have ‘completed their task’ in Syria. One of those is the Islamic State, or ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.)

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have been assisting Assad since the start of the civil war in March 2011, as have the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla terrorists. Other mercernary fighters have joined the effort as well.

Opposing them are three major, separate streams of rebels: the Western-backed ‘moderate’ secular and Muslim factions led by the Syrian National Coalition and its Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front which is headed by the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front (Jabhat al Nusra) along with the Ahrar el-Sham, and which includes some 13 rebel brigades, all rejecting the Syrian National Coalition; and the ISIS  ‘Army of Islam’ comprised of 43 Salafi Muslim factions was formed last year in Syria, led by Sheikh Mohammed Zahran.

Last year Al Nusra also clashed with Kurdish militias over control of local gas resources and over the institution of Shari’a Islamic law in Kurdish areas. The same Al Nusra recently handed over long-missing American journalist Peter Theo Curtis, kidnapped by the group and held hostage since October 2012, to U.S. authorities via the Quneitra crossing, into Israel.

The IDF has ordered farmers and civilians to stay away from the border and part of the area has been closed to civilians as a precaution.

Report: Commander of Syrian Rebels Trained in Israel

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, the new commander of the Free Syrian Army, secretly trained in Israel last year after being admitted into to the country for medical treatment, according to the Arabic language Al-Ahd website.

He was transferred to a hospital in Israel after he was wounded in a military operation. Rumors spread that he died and was buried in Syria, allegedly to distract attention from his training in Israel.

Syrian Rebels Ready for ‘Temporary Truce’ for Humanitarian Aid

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

The Free Syrian Army (FSA)  is prepared to honor a “temporary truce” in two provinces,  Homs and Rif Dimashq, to allow humanitarian aid to enter but as rejected a long-term ceasefire, the Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

A nine-month ceasefire has been suggested to allowed the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to oversee he destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

FSA media and political coordinator Louay Miqdad told the newspaper, “We are fighting to overthrow the regime, and protect civilians. There are no chemical weapons stores in the areas that are under our control, which is something that the Assad regime itself acknowledges, while these storehouses are also not located on the front, so why should we stop fighting? On what basis has this ceasefire request been made?”

The FSA said it is “possible” to arrange a halt in fighting during the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday, as suggested by the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Liberman: No Confirmation that Assad Sent Poison Gas to Iraq

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Israel has no information to confirm Syrian rebel claims that the Assad regime has sent part of its stockpile of chemical weapons to Iraq, Knesset Member and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Voice of Israel radio Sunday.

However, the regime still is planning to ship the illegal weapons to Iraq and to Hezbollah, Free Syrian Army (FSA) spokesman Luai Al-Mekdad told the London-based pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. He claimed that Syrian President Bassar al-Assad is “returning the Iraqi chemical arsenal, which Saddam Hussein had sent to

Syria before the 2003 Iraq war.”

He also that Hezbollah “received the first batch of chemical weapons almost a year ago…and now is preparing to receive the second batch, which it will stockpile in areas along the border with Syria, as…in the Beqaa Valley.”

The rebels already have gained a reputation for spreading propaganda and lies just as much as Assad, but if Assad succeeds in transferring even a small amount of chemical weapons to Hezbollah, it would make mockery of Russian-Syrian agreement to turn its weapons over to international authorities.

Report: Israeli, US, Jordanian Commandos Operating in Syria

Monday, August 26th, 2013

American, Israeli and Jordanian commandos are currently deployed on the ground in Syria, training and operating alongside the rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Saturday. The report has not been corroborated by any official American, Israeli or Jordanian source.

The newspaper said that according to its sources, the joint operation, led by the CIA, began on Aug. 17, when the commandos joined some 300 Syrian rebels near the southwestern city of Deraa, just north of Syria’s border with Jordan. A second group of commandos reportedly crossed into Syria two days later, en route to training camps set up by the Free Syrian Army near the Jordanian-Syrian border.

According to military sources quoted by Le Figaro, the U.S. is very reluctant to send ground troops to Syria and is also hesitant about arming the rebels, as some groups are affiliated with radical Islamists, and would prefer to train opposition fighters to hold their own.

French experts quoted by the newspaper said that Washington was interested in created a buffer zone in Syria, free of Assad’s forces, while also enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, which would give the Free Syrian Army an advantage in their efforts to remove Assad from power.

Qatar’s Risky Overreach

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally pubished at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

With seemingly limitless wealth and a penchant for often supporting both sides of the argument, the State of Qatar has become a highly significant player in Middle East power-politics. Recent events in Egypt and Syria, however, have put the brakes on Qatar’s ambitions. In this second part of his analysis of its attempt to influence regional politics, Paul Alster considers how much its flamboyant foreign policy, centered on furthering the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, might be coming back to haunt Qatar.

July 3 was not a good day for Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood’s man was ousted from power after just a year as Egypt’s president, having lost the essential confidence of the country’s powerful military leaders. July 3 was also a black day for the State of Qatar, the country which had nailed its colors and its money firmly to the Muslim Brotherhood mast, and which suddenly found itself the target of outrage on the Egyptian street and beyond.

Morsi came to power in a democratic election, but misinterpreted the meaning of democracy. He and his Muslim Brotherhood backers – primarily Qatar – appeared to believe that having won the election, they could run the country according to their decree, not according to democratic principles as the majority had expected. A series of draconian laws, a spiralling economic crisis, and a feeling on the Egyptian street that the Muslim Brotherhood was paid handsomely by foreign forces, spurred street protests of historic proportions, prompting the military to intervene.

With Morsi gone, Qatar suddenly became “persona non grata” in Egypt.

Qatar sought to extend its influence and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired view of how countries like Egypt, Syria, Libya, and others should be. Qatar was also playing a power-game against Saudi Arabia, another hugely wealthy regional power whose vision of an even more strictly Islamist way of life for Muslims drove a wedge between the two parties.

Another seismic change hit the region just nine days before Morsi’s fall. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani – in power since overthrowing his own father back in 1995 – voluntarily abdicated in favor of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim.

Tamim, educated in England and a graduate of the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy, became the region’s youngest leader, with the eyes of the world watching to see if he would maintain his father’s aggressive policy of extending Qatar’s regional influence. Few could have imagined that he would very quickly find himself at the center of a major political crisis as Egypt – a country in which Qatar had so much credibility and money invested – imploded before his eyes.

Within hours of Morsi’s departure, the streets of Cairo were awash with anti-Qatari banners accompanied by the obligatory anti-US and anti-Israel slogans. Al Jazeera – a staunch promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood view in Egypt – was vilified, its reporters attacked on the streets, its offices ransacked. Al Jazeera also had been hit seven months earlier after supporting Mohammed Morsi’s crackdown on young Egyptian demonstrators opposed to the rapid Islamisation of Egypt under the new government.

In the first part of my analysis of Qatar’s policy in the region, I focused on Al Jazeera’s huge influence on opinion in the Arab world and the West, portraying the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood version of events in a way that the uninformed viewer might believe to be objective reporting. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Al Jazeera’s carefully crafted smokescreen as the moderate voice of the Arab world has taken a significant battering with the events in Egypt. That should serve as a wake-up call to those trumpeting the imminent launch of Al Jazeera America scheduled for August 20.

“There is a lingering perception in the U.S. –right or wrong – that the network [Al Jazeera] is somehow associated with terrorism, which could slow its progress in gaining carriage,” Variety Magazine‘s Brian Steinberg suggested last month.

Dubai-based writer Sultan Al Qassemi observed in Al-Monitor: “Qatar has dedicated Al Jazeera, the country’s most prized non-financial asset, to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood and turned it into what prominent Middle East scholar Alain Gresh [editor of Le Monde diplomatique and a specialist on the Middle East] calls a ‘mouthpiece for the Brotherhood.’” The channel has in turn been repeatedly praised by the Brotherhood for its ‘neutrality.’”

The Economist, reporting in January, reflected the growing dissatisfaction amongst many in the Arab world. “Al Jazeera’s breathless boosting of Qatari-backed rebel fighters in Libya and Syria, and of the Qatar-aligned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have made many Arab viewers question its veracity. So has its tendency to ignore human-rights abuses by those same rebels, and its failure to accord the uprising by the Shia majority in Qatar’s neighbor, Bahrain, the same heroic acclaim it bestows on Sunni revolutionaries.”

In June, a vocal and agitated group of nearly 500 protesters took to the streets in Benghazi, Libya – the city where U.S Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three colleagues were killed last fall – demanding that Qatar stop meddling in Libyan internal affairs.

“Much of the opposition was directed at Qatar which protesters claimed was supporting Libyan Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Middle East Online reported at the time. “Analysts believe that Qatar is trying to take advantage from a scenario repeated in both Tunisia and Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood, which was an active participant in revolutions, seized power,” the story said.

To the casual observer, it might appear strange that the country that was perhaps as instrumental as any in helping bring about the downfall of the hated Colonel Muammar Gadaffi in Libya back in 2011 should be the target of such vitriol. Qatar, a close U. S. ally, was the main conduit through which weapons transfers were made to Libyan rebels who eventually overpowered forces loyal to the long-time dictator.

As Libyans attempt to create a new order in their fractured country, many now believe that the Qatari regime’s Salafist sympathies contribute to a growing influence of radical Islamist groups in Libya with similar ideological beliefs to the Qatari royals. Concerns had surfaced as early as January 2012.

“But with [Muammar] Gaddafi dead and his regime a distant memory, many Libyans are now complaining that Qatari aid has come at a price,” reported Time magazine’s Steven Sotloff. “They say Qatar provided a narrow clique of Islamists with arms and money, giving them great leverage over the political process.”

Sotloff quoted former National Transitional Council (NTC) Deputy Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni as saying, “I think what they [Qatar] have done is basically support the Muslim Brotherhood. They have brought armaments and they have given them to people that we don’t know.”

And then there’s the question of Qatar’s meddling in Syria’s civil war.

“I think there are two [Qatari] sources of mostly ‘soft’ power – their money and Al Jazeera,” Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “They are using their soft power to advance their regional goals. In Libya it was not necessarily a negative. In Syria they are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood [allied to the Free Syrian Army].”

“Now, what you have to assess,” Yadlin continued, “is whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than Bashar [al-Assad], and whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than the Jihadists and the Al Nusra Front [supported by Saudi Arabia].”

Yadlin’s pragmatic view reflects the dilemma of many considering intervention on behalf of the rebel forces in Syria. Is it better to try to arm the moderate elements of the FSA and have them replace the Assad regime? Would risking weapons supplied by the West and countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia falling into the wrong hands, possibly usher in an even more dangerous Jihadist regime that could destabilise the region even further?

Qatar played on these fears by presenting the Muslim Brotherhood as a relatively moderate force, but many now fear it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and no less dangerous than the Al Nusra Front terror group, which was added to the UN sanctions blacklist May 31.

Writing for the Russian website Oriental Review.org on May 23, Alexander Orlov reminded readers that Qatar was on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism during the 1990s, and sheltered Saudi nationals who were later revealed to have contributed to the 9/11 atrocities. He suggests that the U.S. turned a blind eye to Qatar’s previous record in return for using the massive Al Udeid facility as a forward command post in 2003 for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Orlov reminds us that Qatar was a major financier of the Islamist rebellion in Chechnya in the 1990s, and that after the Islamists had been routed by the Russian army, the [now former] Qatari emir gave sanctuary to one of the most wanted leaders of the Islamist rebellion, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a figure who has inspired Chechen Islamists ever since. Yandarbiyev was subsequently assassinated by a car bomb in the Qatari capital Doha in 2004.

Qatar long ago signed up to the Muslim Brotherhood cause. It believed that this alliance would promote Qatar to being the foremost player in Sunni Muslim affairs at the expense of its main rival, Saudi Arabia. Recent events suggest that gamble may have blown up in its face.

Sheikh Tamim’s rise to power appears to have created an opportunity to mend bridges with Saudi Arabia after his father Sheikh Hamad’s antagonistic relationship with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia was a key Brotherhood supporter from the 1950s until the 9/11 attacks. Then, in a bid to distance itself from the damning fact that 15 of the 19 bombers were Saudis, Riyadh insisted that Muslim Brotherhood radicalization of the bombers was a significant factor. Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad quickly stepped into the breach and became the Muslim Brotherhood’s biggest supporter, offering Doha as a base for spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

It is significant, then, that the new Qatari leader’s first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia. He arrived there last Friday, reported the Gulf Times. “Talks during the meeting dealt with existing fraternal relations between the two countries and ways to develop them in various fields,” the official Qatar News Agency said.

Tamim’s outreach to Saudi Arabia suggests that the two countries may be on the verge of rapprochement. Where that development leaves the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar’s huge investment in underwriting the Egyptian economy, the funding of rebel forces in Syria, and Qatar’s previous foreign policy in the region, remains to be seen.

The choices Qatar’s newly appointed young leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, makes over the next few weeks and months may have a significant impact on regional politics and on Qatar’s future role on that stage for years to come.

“I suspect the Qataris will draw back somewhat,” former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told Reuters. “Their infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood has probably been dampened. They’re likely to come around to a position closer to the Saudis.”

Rebels Claim Israel Bombed Russian-Made Anti-Ship Missiles

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Syrian rebels have implicitly fingered Israel for the bombing of Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles near the Syrian port of Latakia last week, a bombing that the Assad regime has blamed on a group linked with Al Qaeda terrorists.

It was not the FSA [Free Syrian Army] that targeted this,” the rebels’ army spokesman Qassem Saadeddine told Reuters. “It is not an attack that was carried out by rebels. This attack was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean.”

The rebels maintain that they do not have the capability to stage an attack that was a powerful as the bombing near Latakia.

Israel remained officially non-committal, but Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told inquiring reporters, “We have set red lines in regards to our own interests, and we keep them. There is an attack here, an explosion there, various versions – in any event, in the Middle East it is usually we who are blamed for most.”

Israel has struck several times in Syria and Lebanon the past several years, most notably the bombing of a  nuclear installation under construction with the help of North Korean scientists. Israel is assumed to have assassinated Hezbollah’s mastermind terrorist Imad Mughniyeh five years ago and has bombed stockpiles of advanced missiles that were on their way from Syria to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.

The target at Latakia, according to the rebels, was a cache of Yakhont anti-ship missiles, which could be used to attack Israel’s offshore natural gas and oil rigs and would have been at least the fourth time Israel has bombed a site in Syria this year.

Between 10 and 12 Syrian soldiers were killed in last week’s blast, according to Arab sources. It is not clear if the bombing was form the air or from sea.

Syrian blamed the bombing on a group linked  Al Qaeda, a departure from its previous policy of charging that Israel is the guiding hand behind the Syrian rebellion against President Bassar al-Assad.

However, the official Syrian statement, in typical language of propaganda, could be read as implying Israel.

“The attack in Latakia was not carried out from the air or the sea, but by a terrorist group aligned with Al Qaeda,” according to Syria’s official state media. ”

Assad for the past year or so has equaled Israel with terrorists, and given his state of mind, he may not want to credit Israel with having the power to continually break through Syrian defenses and attack at will.

It is perfectly reasonable and logical for him to define Israel as linked to Al Qaeda.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/rebels-claim-israel-bombed-russian-made-anti-ship-missiles/2013/07/09/

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