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May 5, 2016 / 27 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Kerry on Syria: May Be Too Late to Keep Whole, May Get Much Uglier

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Tuesday the world community may not be able to save Syria – what once was Syria, anyway – if the current fighting continues much longer.

Speaking at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Department’s annual budget request, Kerry had a grim outlook for the future of Syria.

“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer,” the Secretary said, according to Reuters.

Even if the regime’s Russian-backed forces re-take the northern city of Aleppo – the largest commercial hub in the country – Kerry said it is hard to hold territory in Syria at this point.

For starters, the Secretary told the committee that he cannot guarantee that Russia will stick to the new cease-fire signed this week between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and moderate opposition forces. Moscow and Washington also signed on to that truce, which excluded the Da’esh (ISIS), Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front) terrorist groups.

The U.S. military is already looking ahead to a “Plan B,” he said, and will continue to support rebel efforts to overthrow Assad if Russia abandons its obligations under the truce.

“This can get a lot uglier,” Kerry warned. “Even if Russia took Aleppo… holding territory has always been difficult,” he said, according to Foreign Policy magazine. “Russia has to be sitting there evaluating that.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) asked Kerry what would happen if in fact “this cease-fire doesn’t hold? I don’t think Russia believes that anything is going to happen.”

Kerry ducked the question, replying instead, “I’m not going to say this process is sure to work because I don’t know. But I know that it’s the best way to end the war, and it’s the only alternative available to us if indeed we’re going to have a political settlement.”

The Arab world, on the other hand, may not be as willing to wait around and see.

Gulf nation governments and that of Saudi Arabia have already warned their citizens to leave Lebanon if they haven’t already. As early as last week, rumors were flying that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were preparing their troops for a ground invasion of Syria to deal with the Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist threat on their own.

Hana Levi Julian

Truce Signed in Syria by Assad Regime, Rebel Forces – Excludes ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

As the gunshots and sounds of mortarfire grow closer to Israeli communities in the Golan Heights, the Syrian regime has signed a truce with representatives of the rebel forces.

The truce, however, excludes Da’esh (ISIS), Al Qaeda and the Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front) terrorist organizations, according to a statement released Tuesday afternoon by the state-run SANA news agency, which raises the issue of how long it will actually last, and how relevant it really is.

“The Syrian Arab Republic accepts the cessation of fighting actions on the basis of continuing the military efforts for combating terrorism against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations according to the Russian-U.S. agreement,” said an official source at the Syrian Expatriates and Foreign Ministry.

The military picture in Syria is far from simple.

Both Russia and the U.S.-led coalition are still claiming to be bombing ISIS terror targets in Syria, but one can hardly separate those out from the general population, let alone from other combatants.

The Syrian regime forces include the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist guerrilla fighters and Russian military personnel on the ground and in the air.

The U.S.-led coalition forces in the air have been bombing targets on behalf of the more moderate Syrian opposition forces. But there have been overlaps and on more than one occasion the “moderate” rebels have united with radical Islamists when they deemed necessary to overcome an enemy target. In this way, weapons, ammunition and other foreign ordnance changes hands, and Da’esh (ISIS) and/or Al Qaeda-linked terrorists end up possessing American arms and military technology.

Moreover, Ankara — also a member of NATO along with the United States — has been bombing Kurdish sites in northern Syria, claiming the PYD and YPG groups are related to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group. Turkey alleges the PKK perpetrated last week’s horrific suicide car bombing in the capital city, Ankara, together with a PYD-linked Syrian national.

Regardless of who is dropping the bombs, after five years of one of the most savage civil wars in the Middle East very little is left of the “Syrian Arab Republic” that the world — or President Bashar al-Assad himself — once knew. At present, even the outlying districts of Damascus have been bombed into rubble in many areas, as seen in the video below, filmed by RussiaWorks.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry source noted that the cease-fire is set to begin on Saturday Feb. 27. In order to ensure the success of the cease-fire, “the Syrian government affirms readiness to continue to coordinate with the Russian side for identifying the areas and the armed groups that are to be included in the cessation along the period it is in effect,” the source said.

“The Syrian government stresses the importance of border curbing, halting support provided by some countries to the armed groups, and preventing these organizations from boosting their capabilities or changing their positions so as to avoid anything that may undermine this agreement,” the source warned.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed that he and U.S. President Barack Obama had agreed on a joint statement announcing their plans to stop military operations in Syria. The U.S. State Department announced the agreement, which it said includes “plans to stop the military operations in Syria, [but] which exclude the Islamic State (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations.”

Hana Levi Julian

New IDF Barrier at Northern Border Frustrates Hezbollah

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Innovative new barriers under construction along Israel’s northern border seem to be frustrating Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist organization.

An article published by the Hezbollah-backed Al Manar TV news outlet commented this weekend (Feb. 20) that the “artificial barriers” were being built “in order to prevent Hezbollah fighters from invading Galilee.”

According to the report, the IDF has been building “cliffs and scarps that turns the military movement in the area very difficult.”

The news outlet claims the IDF is creating the barriers as an acknowledgment of its “incapability to face the Islamic Resistance fighters directly. An Israeli officer considered that Hezbollah has not abandoned the southern front despite [his] intervention in Syria.”

The article went on to predict a “victory” by the Syrian army and Hezbollah as the “probably outcome of the crisis.”

Hana Levi Julian

US Secy John Kerry, PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas to Meet in Jordan

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to meet with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Jordan on Sunday, according to the U.S. State Dept.

Kerry arrived in Amman on Saturday. The Secretary had meetings scheduled with Jordanian monarch King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Among the items on the agenda is the situation in Syria and the increasing impact the war is having on the Hashemite Kingdom.

Kerry and Judeh are scheduled to meet Sunday morning before the Secretary is to visit the king for a discussion on the military campaign against Da’esh (ISIS) in Syria.

According to Amnesty International, Jordan currently hosts approximately 635,324 refugees from Syria, about 10 percent of its own population.

More than 4.5 million refugees have fled Syria and are to be found in five host countries: Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt.

Kerry also discussed the Syria crisis with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Saturday morning in London, prior to his trip to Jordan.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a briefing the two men discussed efforts to broker a partial cease-fire in Syria, and ways to get humanitarian aid to civilians trapped and starving in villages and towns that are still under siege.

Hana Levi Julian

Explosions Heard in Golan Heights

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Israeli residents in the Golan Heights reported hearing explosions late Saturday night.

According to the IDF, “nothing out of the ordinary” has taken place in the area and no attacks were reported. Military sources said it was possible residents heard gunfire from across the border.

Northern District Police likewise searched the area and said they found nothing to report.

Hana Levi Julian

Turkey Shells Kurds in Syrian Border Village After Recapture

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Over the weekend, Turkish forces shelled the Syrian village of Maranaz and the Menagh airbase, both of which were re-captured recently by the Kurds.

Israel is watching the situation in Syria closely; events across the northern border have serious potential to affect Israeli national security. Although Israel coordinates its activities with Russia, that doesn’t mean every move by Moscow is one that works well for Jerusalem across the northern border. Nor does Russia necessarily take into consideration how its military activities might impact Israeli security. The same holds true for Turkey.

Coverage earlier in the day by international media claimed Turkish artillery was aiming its shelling at villages that were under the control of Jaysh al-Thuwar (Revolutionary Army), not YPG, (Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia). A Turkish government source told Reuters on Saturday that Turkey’s military force shelled YPG targets near the town of Azaz in northern Syria. The source did not explain the extent or reason for the shelling.

The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), like the YPG, is considered by Ankara to be a branch of the Turkish PKK terror organization.

The PKK is recognized by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist entity. However, neither considers the YPG or the PYD to be terrorist organizations.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the shelling struck areas of Aleppo, including Menagh, that were recently taken by YPG. The Syrian Kurdish YPG group confirmed the news in a tweet early Saturday evening. Local sources said the shelling did not have any major impact and was not hampering YPG efforts or operations at either location.

“It’s just a propaganda show to pretend they are not idle while al-Qaeda is smashed,” wrote a local source in a response on the Twitter social networking site.

But the artillery aimed Kurdish positions, rather than Da’esh targets, has raised more questions about the Ankara’s goals at a time when Turkey has turned up the pressure over its candidacy for European Union membership.

Moreover, as a member of NATO, Turkey has flatly stated that it expects the world organization to come to its aid in the event that its borders are breached.

But what if those borders are breached by desperate Kurds fleeing flaming wrecks of cities shelled by Turkish artillery?

Those same Kurds are viewed by Turkey as “terrorists” and yet the United States does not view them in the same light. How would this conflict be resolved among two members of NATO, sworn to protect each other under “siege” ?

Meanwhiel, special forces from the United Arab Emirates are reportedly being sent to Syria to help Sunni fighters recapture Raqqa, the northern Syrian city seized by Da’esh (ISIS) for use as the capital of its world caliphate.

It is not clear how many forces the UAE plans to send to Syria for the mission. But Saudi Arabia has also pledged to send forces to train and help local fighters recapture Raqqa.

Numerous Kurds fell in the initial battle to hold the city.

Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, however, warned other nations they not interfere in the Syrian conflict. Medvedev said in an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt that more foreign intervention will only exacerbate the conflict and could lead to a “permanent war.”

Meanwhile, Israel could easily be caught between all parties and find itself dancing at numerous weddings all at the same time.

Having managed to maintain a cold peace with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for decades on the Golan Heights border, Israel has lately been forced to maintain a much closer watch in the area. The various groups jockeying for position in what is colloqually now being referred to as “the Syrias” are coming closer and closer to the Israel-Syria border — close enough to be seen with binoculars.

Hana Levi Julian

Ancient Central Synagogue of Aleppo In Danger of Destruction

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

As forces of the Assad regime draw closer to the heart of the city of Aleppo, the ancient ‘Central Synagogue of Aleppo’ is under the threat of destruction, due to the clashes with opposition forces in the city.

The synagogue, built in the 9th century CE, serves as one of the Jewish world’s oldest houses of prayer. This report features an exclusive photo of the synagogue, snapped from a hiding place by the Amaliah organization, which also reports about the synagogue’s status.

Ancient synagogue in Aleppo.

Due to its proximity to a large number of opposition snipers nests, the synagogue, which is already badly damaged, is currently under the threat of total destruction.

Efforts are being made in order to preserve its religious articles and ancient scriptures, which if destroyed might also destroy the last fragments of Jewish heritage in the city.

In light of that, the Amaliah organization, headed by Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana is working with opposition forces in the city in order to salvage as much as possible from the synagogue.

Last week, backed by intense Russian air support and Hezbollah reinforcements, forces loyal to the Assad regime in Syria began their push towards the city of Aleppo, a known opposition stronghold in the region.

As the clashes between the forces intensify, people of Aleppo flee the city in search of a safe haven or prepare themselves for the imminent siege of the city. This has endangered not just the civilian life Aleppo, but its buildings and religious monuments as well. One such building is the ancient Central Synagogue of Aleppo.

“We are doing everything in our power in order to save as many books and scrolls as possible”, says Moti Kahana, who for the last five years has been engaged in humanitarian work in Syria. “This synagogue is an important heritage site for the Jewish people, holding many historical and holy religious articles, which if destroyed, will take with them any memory of Jewish life from this ancient city.

“We are working together with opposition forces in order to salvage the synagogues religious articles, an effort which has proven to be very costly and difficult. Hence, we call upon all Jewish people and those who share the Jewish belief, to join us in our efforts. Together, we can save the story of the Jewish life in Aleppo, which is part of the unique tapestry of the ancient Jewish life in the area.”

In 2012 the synagogue suffered major hits during the Syrian civil war, as the first battles over the city of Aleppo began. The ancient synagogue was massively hit during the clashes, leading to the belief that it was completely destroyed.

In 2014, there were reports that the synagogue was destroyed in the attack and it indeed suffered massive damage, leaving its fate in the hands of the Syrian rebels controlling the city.

In 2015, as the last Jewish family in the Aleppo was smuggled out of the city by Amaliah, the synagogue stood as a lone remnant to the Jewish life in the city, which dates back to 12th century CE.

Kahana was also involved in 2014 in preserving the ‘Jobar Synagogue’ in Damascus; he was the first Israeli-American businessman to work with various opposition groups throughout Damascus.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ancient-central-synagogue-of-aleppo-in-danger-of-destruction/2016/02/10/

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