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July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Homs’

Gigantic Explosion at Syrian Ammo Depot Kills Dozens (Video)

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Syrian rebels carried out a massive rocket attack on a Syrian army ammunition depot in Homs Thursday, killing more than 40 people and wounding more than 100.

The blast stopped, for the time being, slowed down a relentless Syrian army offensive to take back control of Homs, a key commercial center and a stronghold of rebel forces in the civil war.

The ammunition depot is located in a pro-government area of the city, and the casualty count is expected to rise.

The Syrian official news agency SANA denied there was a blast and said that “terrorists” struck at the entrance of Homs, wounding dozens of civilians, four of whom “were later martyred.”

“Those reports broadcast by channels, which are partners in the Syrian bloodshed, are categorically untrue and aim at raising the morale of the armed terrorist groups after the big losses they inflicted in many regions of Homs, particularly in al-Khaldiye,” it reported from “a source.”

“The source added that this coward [sic] act will not affect the army courageous soldiers, but it will increase their determination to rescue Syria from the dirtiness of terrorists,” the news agency stated.

Meanwhile, the United Nations continues to talk and set up teams to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the war, which officially has killed 100,000 people while unofficial estimates warn of twice as many deaths.

Millions of people have fled their homes, many of them to neighboring countries.

The Troubling Timing of Obama’s Syria Epiphany

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Originally published at The American Thinker.

Last August, President Obama declared that the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons was a “red line.” About four months later, Al Jazeera released unconfirmed reports that a gas attack killed seven civilians in a rebel-held neighborhood of Homs. Last April, the UK, France, and Israel each claimed that there was evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Aleppo, Homs, and/or Damascus. By April 25th, the U.S intelligence assessment was that the Assad regime had likely used sarin gas, but President Obama dodged his red line by announcing that a thorough investigation was still needed (as if the Syrian government would ever allow one). Meanwhile, reports from foreign intelligence agencies and journalists continued to corroborate the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. So why did Obama’s requirement of a thorough investigation to confirm the crossing of his red line suddenly vanish last Friday?

Viewed through the lens of domestic politics, Obama’s Syria epiphany looks conveniently timed to deflect attention from an ever-swelling wave of scandals: Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate, AP/Fox-gate, and now NSA-gate and State Department prostitution-gate. As the film Wag The Dog highlights, international crises are great at diverting attention from domestic scandals.

But from the perspective of the Syrian rebels, the timing and nature of U.S. military assistance may be viewed as either too little, too late, or a cynical attempt to ensure a perpetual stalemate. After all, the outgunned rebels have needed lethal weapons from the U.S. for over two years. Chemical weapons use by the Assad regime is old news. So what has changed? The Syrian regime recently defeated rebel forces at the crucial battle in Qusayr, a town providing a strategic supply conduit for rebel forces in Homs. After the military gains enabled by the robust battlefield support of Iran-backed Hezb’allah, the Syrian regime is now preparing for a major offensive to retake Aleppo. With another crushing blow to a key rebel stronghold, the regime could ultimately prevail in the conflict, unless the U.S. provides just enough rebel support to restore the pre-Qusayr stalemate.

Obama has already made it clear that any lethal weapons or no-fly zone provided by the U.S. would be limited. Such tentative U.S. involvement is unlikely to end the carnage, given the vigorous support that the Assad regime enjoys from Iran, Hezb’allah, and Russia (which could undermine a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone by supplying Syria with its potent S-300 missile defense system). Indeed, the New York Times reported on June 14th that “the president’s caution has frayed relations with important American allies in the Middle East that have privately described the White House strategy as feckless. Saudi Arabia and Jordan recently cut the United States out of a new rebel training program, a decision that American officials said came from the belief in Riyadh and Amman that the United States has only a tepid commitment to supporting rebel groups.”

What a difference two years makes. In 2011, the relatively non-sectarian Free Syrian Army (FSA) was the main force fighting for freedom from Assad’s tyranny. Sunni Islamists had not yet felt compelled by FSA failures to join (and ultimately lead) the military effort in large numbers. In 2011, Obama also had far more credibility and political capital — important presidential assets when undertaking a foreign military intervention.

But now the Syrian crisis has deteriorated into a regional sectarian war, increasingly creeping over Syrian borders and into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Israel, and Jordan. The Syrian belligerents have also radicalized, decreasing the odds that the ultimate victor will be friendly to the U.S. or able to achieve a postwar reconciliation and reconstruction in Syria.

Today, with a death toll exceeding 90,000 Syrians (and increasing by 5,000/month) and millions displaced, the humanitarian need for intervention is greater than ever. But Iran and Russia are redoubling their support for the Assad regime, so the U.S. must not enter the Syrian cauldron with half-measures or it could suffer a costly setback with far-reaching repercussions. If Obama’s “red line” was crossed months ago and the tardy “consequences” are America’s feeble and ineffective entry into the Syrian civil war, then Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, and other U.S. adversaries will only feel emboldened to challenge U.S. interests.

Thus, Obama effectively has two choices: 1) continue his disengagement from Syria to preserve whatever political capital and military deterrent he has left for the inevitable showdown over Iranian nukes, 2) enter the Syrian fray in a massive way that ensures a military victory and says to the Iranian regime: “you are next, unless you discontinue your nuclear program.” After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran feared that thousands of American troops would turn eastward and offered to negotiate the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration refused to engage but Iran still temporarily suspended its nuclear program out of trepidation.

U.S. entry into the Syrian conflict could defeat Assad and deter Iranian nukes, but only with the resolve and overwhelming firepower to demolish the Syrian-Iranian-Hezb’allah axis (ideally with help from NATO forces). Joining the conflict with insufficient commitment mainly to distract a scandal-weary U.S. audience could have catastrophic consequences for the U.S., and that would be the biggest scandal of all.

Turkey and Israel Should Launch Non-Violent Intervention in Syria

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

More than 1.5 million have fled Syria, 4 million more are displaced within other nations, meaning 30% of the Syrian people have left their homes. Just to give an example, Reyhanli, one of the Turkish border towns in the southern province of Hatay, where 51 people were killed by twin car bombs on May 11, has a population of 90,000—50,000 of which are Syrian refugees. Some 400,000 Syrians are now living in Turkey, nearly half of them sheltered in camps with poor conditions.

Of course they are more than welcome to Turkey; our doors are wide open to anyone seeking shelter in our land, but this is obviously not a solution to the suffering of 8.3 million people who are in need – not to mention the rest of the Syrians who are also living in fear – nor does it stop the ongoing bloodbath of the Assad regime.

Since March, 2011, the death toll has risen to nearly 100,000, and the real figure is, most probably, far higher.

Most of the victims are civilians.

UN top Middle East envoy Robert Serry is saying there are mounting reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria, and Israel has taken a few solitary, bold actions to eliminate these weapons while the world was still pondering what to do. Provided that there is zero human loss, I advocate that the production and storage facilities of chemical weapons and artillery ammunition be eliminated. As long as it spares human lives meticulously and guarantees that no living beings are affected, Israel’s action to stop lethal weapons from being used is a reasonable move.

On the other side, fighters from Hezbollah—which has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—have joined the battle on Qusayr, a settlement near the border with Lebanon. Because of the town’s strategic importance – since this residential area connects the capital Damascus to the coast – the Hezbollah-backed Assad regime does not want to give up this rebel stronghold in the central province of Homs and continue to kill more people to recapture the city.

While the spirit of protecting human lives is pressuring the conscience of every human being to interfere with the intention of stopping the bloodshed, some writers overseas either secretly support this situation in one sense, or embrace indifference, as long as they are not personally affected. I find this very unbecoming.

One of the Middle East experts that has disappointed me was Daniel Pipes, who has suggested overlooking the bloodbath in Syria and allowing both sides to destroy each other. In a TV interview, he restated his policy, suggesting that the West should back Assad, and keep Syrians killing each other. While he admits that his is not a humanitarian perspective, and offers this as a strategic view, we should remember that these are human beings we are discussing. I am against militant fundamentalism just like Daniel Pipes, and I am also against the communist Ba’ath regime; however, while innocent people are being killed on a daily basis, saying “Let us leave them to fight one another” is wholly unacceptable, standing in violation of both conscience and common sense.

Considering this bloodshed, it is obvious that there needs to be an intervention in Syria. However, what matters is to ensure that there will be no loss of life. Syria has a very complex and intricate structure; thus, any intervention needs to be well planned. First of all, an embargo—starting with air and trade sanctions—can be imposed. Second, world public opinion needs to be stirred up. They will be unable to withstand the pressure if the entire international public is fixed on them. We therefore need to establish a major shift in public opinion.

In addition, since the most dangerous aspect of Syria is its airforce, runways must be made unserviceable. Once it has been guaranteed there will be no loss of life, air bases should be bombarded, so that the air force is immobilized. But I would like to reemphasize: it is essential that nobody be caught up in these interventions; it must be established that the area under attack is empty.

Additionally, a game-changing force would develop from an alliance between Turkey and Israel, and that alliance will make the current Syrian regime tremble in their boots.

However, Assad must not be made to panic. It might prove dangerous if he is under the false impression that he is about to be killed. He must be treated kindly and made to feel that the aim is to save his life and his family. Since Assad is, in a way, seeking shelter behind Russia, Putin thinks he needs to protect him at any cost. An agreement can be reached between Russia, the USA, Turkey and the opposition parties: they can promise that Assad’s safety will be guaranteed, and that nothing will befall his wife and children. Since the opposition forces killed Qaddafi in a horribly humiliating way, guarantees need to be given that his honor will not be compromised, no matter what.

And as soon as we stop the shedding of blood in Syria, there must be peaceful elections accompanied by international observers. Bashar Assad should be a candidate if he wishes, and if he wins the elections, he can stay on. If the opposition is elected to govern, then they should be the ones ruling, or there can be some kind of coalition between Assad and the opposition parties. But the Syrian regime as it now stands is a dictatorship, and there must be legitimate and certified elections that will reflect the will of the Syrian people. Only in that way can a lasting and just peace come to Syria.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/turkey-and-israel-should-intervene-in-syria/2013/05/26/

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