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January 29, 2015 / 9 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Artillery Field Camp

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

An Israeli artillery field encampment on high alert after they responded to several rockets hitting the Mount Hermon Resort, in the Golan Heights, northern Israel, January 27, 2105

Israeli Night Strike on Damascus is ‘Warning to Beirut’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Three Israeli air strikes late Tuesday night on Syrian army bases in Quneitra, Damascus and surrounds were a warning to Beirut, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said early Wednesday.

The attacks came in response to a double rocket attack on the Israeli Golan Heights fired by Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists from Syrian territory on Tuesday afternoon. One of the rockets, which were later identified as M307s, landed in the Herman region. The other exploded in El Ram.

The IDF responded immediately with artillery fire directed at the source of the rocket launches and reported that it had destroyed both. IDF Spokesperson Peter Lerner informed media in a text message that the Syrian missile fire had indeed been “intentional” and “not spillover from the Syrian civil war” as has been claimed in past incidents.

“The air force strike tonight on territory controlled by [President Bashar] al-Assad in Syria against targets of his regime is a clear message that we will not allow any fire on the territory of Israel and breach of its sovereignty, and that we will respond with force and firmness,” Ya’alon said.

“As the Assad regime is responsible for the fire from its territory on Israel, we will know how to collect a heavy price from any regime or organization from whose territory our sovereignty is breached and fire of this or another type is conducted on Israel.

“We don’t intend to just move on and be tolerant towards terrorist activities and attempts to harm our citizens and soldiers,” Ya’alon continued. “We act with restraint and firmness, with responsibility and consideration to preserve the security of citizens of Israel against countries and terrorist sources whose goal is to disrupt our lives.”

Shortly after midnight, Israeli residents of the Golan Heights awakened to the sound of the Code Red incoming rocket alert siren again, just 12 hours after the first attack earlier in the day. No rocket landings were identified, however, and officials later concluded that perhaps the siren had activated in response to the nearby IAF air strikes instead.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing that Washington had seen the news of Tuesday’s attack on Israel and did not want “an escalation of the situation.” “We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense and have been clear about our concerns over the regional instability caused by the crisis in Syria,” she told reporters.

“We call upon all parties to avoid any action that would jeopardize the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria and abide by the 1974 disengagement of forces agreement,” she added.

The escalation in the region follows the death of six Hezbollah terrorists – including three top commanders – and six Iranian Revolutionary Guards – including Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi – in an air strike on a convoy traveling through Quneitra province in Syria a week ago Sunday. The attack has been attributed to Israel although there has been no confirmation by the IDF.

Following the attack, the Islamic Republic of Iran sent a message to the United States “through diplomatic channels,” warning that Israel should suffer the consequences of its “wrongful act of aggression.”

But despite avowals of taking revenge against the Jewish State, Iran’s proxy in the region, Hezbollah, has made it clear through various means that the terror group does not seek another full-scale war.

Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has lived underground in permanent hiding, speaking to his followers solely through video hookups, out of fear he will be assassinated by Israel.

Hezbollah-Israel Conflict: an Unwanted Development

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

The two rockets fired from Syria that exploded in Israel’s Golan Heights at 1 PM today signifies a new peak in tensions being felt in Israel’s northern borders. Whether tensions on Israel’s northern front continue to flare or dwindle down remains to be seen.

Tensions began to flare on January 18, after the bombing of a Hezbollah convoy on Syrian territory. Twelve people were killed in the attack; all of them Iranian and Hezbollah soldiers. The bombing was widely attributed to Israel.

Since the convoy bombing, high levels of tension have been felt all along Israel’s northern borders. The main concern is a Hezbollah retaliation that could drag Israel into an unwanted military campaign.

In a couple of incidents during the last nine days, the IDF detected suspicious movements on the Lebanese-Israeli border. The immediate suspicion was that Hezbollah terrorists were trying to infiltrate Israel. Precaution measures were taken as roads were blocked and civilians were ordered to remain at home in the Upper Galilee region.

Tamir Duadi, a volunteer at Kibbutz Manara’s Emergency Squad, spoke to Tazpit News Agency about one of those incidents. “We were on lockdown for about 90 minutes. It is not a common event but we do get high threat levels from time to time. Since the bombing of the Hezbollah convoy, IDF forces are much more present in our region,” Duadi told Tazpit News Agency.

Dr. Ely Karmon, an expert on terror and Hezbollah from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, told Tazpit News Agency that he doesn’t think a war between Hezbollah and Israel is likely to erupt. “Hezbollah can’t handle a Syrian front and an Israeli front. Hezbollah has already lost more than 1,000 combatants in Lebanon; a second front will weaken their organization substantially.”

According to Dr. Yehuda Blanga, an expert on Middle-East politics from Bar-Ilan University, “respect and prestige will probably compel Hezbollah to retaliate against the alleged Israeli convoy bombing, though, retaliation will be specific and well measured, because Hezbollah does not want a war with Israel.” He told Tazpit News Agency.

The two rockets which were fired today compelled an Israeli retaliation. Artillery shells were fired into Syrian territory. In addition, roads were blocked by the IDF, and Israeli civilians were instructed to remain in proximity to protected spaces.

A security source told Tazpit News Agency that “Israel has no desire in a violent escalation. We hope our retaliation to the two rockets exploding in the Golan Heights will suffice. We are now waiting to see what will be the response on the Syrian side of the fence.”

Mount Hermon Ski Resort Reopens After Rocket Attack

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

After a day in which a double rocket attack sent security and military officials to evacuate nearly a thousand people, visitors are being invited to return to the Mount Hermon Ski Resort site.

The decision came in the wake of a security assessment by the IDF and managers of the ski resort. The site was closed for most of the day Tuesday after Code Red rocket alert sirens sounded throughout the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.

Both rockets fired from Syria landed in open areas, reportedly causing no property damage and no injury to civilians. The IDF returned artillery fire to the source of the attack and said it identified “a direct hit.”

A senior Israeli security source told reporters that the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror organization was behind the attack.

Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against rebel factions in the ongoing civil war taking place in the north.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that “Israel regards with severity the attack today from Syrian territory.

“Those who play with fire get burned,” he warned.

Israel Extends Reservists’ Duty in North

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

The IDF has extended duty for Reservist units in the north as part of its maximum later presence in the wake of Hezbollah threats to retaliate against Israel for last week’s aerial strike that killed a dozen Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards soldiers and commanders..

The high tension that is gripping the north was illustrated on Sunday by an IDF order that temporarily closed roads because of a “possible security incident.”

The defense establishment is jumpy, to say the least. It is not taking any chances with the lives of Israelis, even if it means lots of false alarms and extending reserve duty for soldiers who are bored stiff by the lack of action, which is exactly why the IDF has deployed them. A bored soldier is a lot better than his absence, which is a sign for the enemy to attack.

One important deterrent to Hezbollah retaliation is increasing anger against Hezbollah among  Lebanese politicians. The Lebanese army has tightened its security along the eastern border with Syria following attacks on Friday by radical Islamists who killed eight Lebanese soldiers and wounded 22.

The spillover into Lebanon  form the war of what remains of Syria is hurting Lebanon economically.

The U.S. Department of State issued a new travel warning advisory to Lebanon and cited reports of a possible suicide attack at a casino and hotel.

“The development serves as an important reminder of the ongoing security concerns in Lebanon – even in areas which are normally considered less dangerous,” the advisory stated.

It urged U.S. citizens not to travel to Lebanon due to “safety and security concerns.”

Obama’s Policies Bring the Golan to a Boil

Sunday, January 25th, 2015
The attack in the Golan this week, on a convoy of

Hezbollah operatives and Iranian military officials, is a sign that things are going to get worse in the volatile area that encompasses southern Lebanon, Syria, northern Jordan, and northern Israel.  (See also here and here.)

Among those killed were high-ranking Iranian officials connected with Hezbollah’s use of Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles, and with Iranian Special Forces units that focus on raids and small-unit tactics.  In the words of a retired Israeli general (see first link, and below), this was a very high-level convoy, clearly preparing for serious incursions against northern Israel.

Meanwhile, we’ve reached the point in the post-Arab Spring Middle East at which many of the spin-off developments – perhaps most of them – are a consequence of the policies followed by the Obama administration.  Although there have been long-term policy failures, it’s a specific, proximate policy failure that opened the door to the current result in the Golan Heights.

Because of the strategic importance of the terrain, Iran and Hezbollah have been building infrastructure there for some time.  But their interest in the Golan skyrocketed in December.

A door opened by the Obama administration

The reason: ISIS gained a foothold there when the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade of the Free Syrian Army “defected” from the de facto alliance with the U.S.-Arab coalition against Assad, and declared its allegiance to ISIS.  The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade had been one of the most active rebel factions holding territory directly adjacent to the “area of separation” between Syria and Israel administered (in theory) by the UN.  In particular, it has held the southern line of confrontation with Syrian regime forces, in the transit corridor leading to the Quneitra border crossing.

That defection didn’t happen in a vacuum.  It happened because in early December, the Obama administration disclosed (through the back door), after more than two years of cooperation with the FSA, that it would not be working with them to build a defense force in Syria.

Situation in the Golan and southwestern Syria. (Map source: Wikimedia Commons; author annotation)

Situation in the Golan and southwestern Syria. (Map source: Wikimedia Commons; author annotation)

The point here is not that Obama should have stayed with the wrong allies.  The point is that passivity, lack of leadership, and ally-hopping have consequences.  Part of picking allies is shaping who they are and what expectations they have.  It starts with having common and enduring goals with those allies, which keep both sides committed.  These things matter to a responsible power, at any rate.  The Obama administration has consistently failed to exhibit signs of being one.

The failure has had a game-changing result in the Golan.  Now ISIS is there, with an entrenched infrastructure handed to it by FSA factions, and Iran can’t afford to ignore that.  Iran isn’t going to let ISIS build up a stronghold of its own on the Syrian border with Israel.

But don’t imagine that that means Iran and ISIS will be having at it.  Think Persian.  Certainly, the Iranians and Hezbollah want to be able to operate in the Golan, and attack Israel from it.  But Iran and Hezbollah don’t want to invite retaliation from Israel on southern Lebanon, where it’s important to them to protect their own stronghold.  Iran would like to get Israel shooting into Syria.

Israel has so far managed to keep that necessity limited.  Until very recently, the impression of the situation in the Golan has been that it is relatively stable: worrisome, but not unstable to the point of being an exploitable opportunity for one or more bad guys.  Iran would like to change that, in part because preoccupying the Israelis with self-defense is the key to limiting Israel’s strategic reach against Iran.  The objects of that reach include, but are not limited to, the nuclear and missile programs inside Iran.

Berlin Won’t Name German Companies Involved in Syria’s C-Weapons Program

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Berlin steadfastly refuses to reveal the names of German companies who helped Syria develop its chemical weapons program according to a new report published this week by Der Spiegel. The information was made available in documents that were declassified after a 30 year embargo.

The list of firms involved in the program was handed over to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government coalition 16 months ago by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.” Last year the OPCW organized and helped destroy Syria’s chemical weapons – those that were uncovered, that is – together with experts from the United Nations.

But 16 months later, Merkel has done nothing with the list, saying that publicizing the names would “significantly impair foreign policy interests and thus the welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

The Merkel government added that doing so would be similar to releasing “trade secrets” and therefore constitute a violation of Germany’s constitution.

According to a lengthy report in Der Spiegel, however, the government did not need the OPCW list to know that German firms were involved in the Syrian chemical weapons program.

Apparently the government-funded Institute for Contemporary History published an inventory dating back to 1984 including a government document with names of companies suspected of supplying the Syrian chemical weapons program.

The release may have been accidental; it was a memo regarding the Dec. 6, 1984 visit to a deupty section head in the German Foreign Ministry by then-Israeli Ambassador to Germany Yitzhak Ben-Ari.

The Israeli official brought with him “intelligence service findings” which showed that since the mid-1970s scientists had been working on producing chemical weapons for Syria, “disguised as agricultural and medical research.”

Included were the glass producer Schott, laboratory equipment producer Kolb, technology company Heraeus, the former Hoechst subsidiary Riedel-de-Haen, pharmaceutical company Merck and the company Gerrit van Delden.

The top secret program was being carried out in the chemistry department at the UNESCO-funded Centre d’Etudes et des Recherches Scientifiques in Damascus. A pilot facility was already built. Contracts were already signed for three production lines and Ben-Ari believed that within the year, Syria would have the capacity to produce 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of sarin – enough to kill several million people.

On December 12, 1984, a representative of the U.S. State Department told the German Embassy in Washington that Karl Kolb GmbH & Co. KG, from the town of Dreiech in Hesse, had delivered “chemical research and production equipment for the manufacture of large quantities of nerve gas” to Iraq.

At that time, Dictator Saddam Hussein was busy building “the most modern chemical weapons factory of its time,” disguised as a pesticide factory, according to international experts who testified in 2004, Der Spiegel reports. Though only Kolb is mentioned in the files, it turns out that a related firm, Pilot Plant GmbH, delivered four facilities at a total cost of 7.5 million Deutsche marks.

American officials were trying to pressure then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to force Kolb to withdraw its technicians and “via pressure on the company prevent Iraq from producing C-weapons.”

Germany’s long-standing love affair with chemical weapons was notorious: the Nazis had used hydrocyanic acid, manufactured by German chemical companies, to murder inmates in the death camps during the Holocaust. Millions died, including six million Jews.

As it turns out, Kohl and Genscher did indeed promise to curb the companies and issued orders to that effect. Foreign Ministry internal memos clearly showed the “minister places high value on a complete investigation” and demanded “assurances that nothing more will be delivered” to Samarra.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/berlin-wont-name-german-companies-involved-in-syrias-c-weapons-program/2015/01/24/

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