Sīrija

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 22 Jūl 2013 03:09

Free Syrian army clashes with jihadists in wake of commander's assassination
Fighting in Aleppo widens cracks in splintering opposition as military gains are reversed
Martin Chulov, Beirut
The Observer, Sunday 14 July 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/ju ... hes-aleppo
Months of uneasy calm between jihadists and the mainstream Syrian opposition spilled into fierce fighting in Aleppo on Saturday, days after a senior Free Syria army commander was assassinated by a jihadi group.
The fighting was in Bustan al-Qasr in the south-east of the divided city, near a main checkpoint between the regime-held west and the opposition-held east. The east has been under the nominal control of units associated with the FSA for much of the past year. However, jihadists who have also been trying to assert themselves and this week took over the checkpoint, stopping people and supplies from crossing.
The battle underscored the fast-splintering nature of the Syrian opposition, which made sweeping military gains across much of northern Syria last year, but has been unable to advance from its key strongholds in Aleppo and elsewhere since January.
Using a mix of charity and conciliation, the jihadists had initially won the trust of reluctant communities in Aleppo and the countryside between Syria's second city and the Turkish border. However, their more strident posture in recent weeks is now earning them enemies among their hosts.
The anger is centred towards foreign jihadists who, while still a minority among the myriad groups, are often aggressively operating outside the control structures of the Syrian extremists and the FSA. Foreign fighters are believed to have led the attack on the Aleppo checkpoint and killed the senior commander, Kamal Hamami, in the Jebel al-Krud country side north of Latakia on Thursday.
Jabhat al-Nusra, the main jihadist group, and the FSA had until recently worked alongside each other during major operations in the north. While relations between them have not yet broken down, the rise in prominence of fringe organisations is eroding discipline across opposition ranks.
The infighting comes as the regime, heavily backed by Hezbollah forces from Lebanon and a large contingent of Shia foreign fighters, many from Iraq, continue to slowly advance into rebel-held areas of Homs, Syria's third city 150 miles to the south of Aleppo, which has been under intensive air and ground attack for much of the past week.
Opposition groups posted a video online on Saturday, which purports to show Syrian air force jets attacking a crusader castle, Krak de Chevaliers, near the city. Some opposition strongholds in Homs, which is now a divided city, have been bombed more heavily than at any time since February last year, activists say. Syrian military formations to the south and east suggest a ground invasion may follow the bombardment. The battle comes one month after Hezbollah and Syrian forces took the town of Qusair, 30 kilometres to te south it what was seen as the first leg of a summer offensive.

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 24 Jūl 2013 17:19

Syrian rebels to start receiving US weapons amid anxiety from Congress
Paul Lewis in Washington
The Guardian, Tuesday 23 July 2013 17.35 BST
CIA could begin shipping arms in the coming weeks after clearance from House and Senate intelligence committees

The CIA could begin shipping arms to Syria in the coming weeks, after two US congressional panels cleared the way for the controversial transfer of weapons.
The White House announced in June that it would provide limited military support for vetted rebel groups, which have recently been struggling in their campaign against President Bashar al-Assad.
Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees have expressed concerns that arms could end up in the hands of Islamist militants fighting in the region – or not do enough to tip the balance in the civil war.
Mike Rogers, chairman of the House committee, said on Tuesday that the panel had agreed to support the plan to arm the opposition fighters. However, the committee made clear it has only agreed reluctantly and retained serious anxieties about whether Barack Obama's new policy would work.
"The House intelligence committee has very strong concerns about the strength of the administration's plans in Syria and its chances for success," he said in a statement, after Reuters reported the decision. "After much discussion and review, we got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration's plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations."
Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat among the minority on the House committee who opposes sending arms, said: "It's too late to affect the outcome with a small amount of arms."
The Senate committee decided earlier this month that it would back the plan to back the rebels, on the condition they received updates on the covert programme. Both committees have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss Obama's desire to transfer light weapons and ammunition to rebel insurgent organisations, as well as to supply some training.
The timeline for the weapons transfer is unclear, but reports suggest the process could take place over the next several weeks. Syrian opposition groups have said publicly they hope they will begin receiving the deliveries in August.
US secretary of state John Kerry and other senior officials in the administration have been lobbying hard behind the scenes to persuade Congress to back the new policy.
Obama, who has been reluctant to engage too deeply in the Syrian conflict, changed its position on arming opponents of Assad's regime last month, after concluding Syrian forces had used chemical weapons against civilians. The White House described that development as Assad crossing a "red line".
For now, a limited policy of supplying small arms to rebel groups appears to be as far as the Obama administration will go.
The top US military officer warned senators on Monday that taking military action to stop the bloodshed in Syria was likely to escalate quickly and result in "unintended consequences". Alluding to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said that once the US became embroiled militarily in the Syrian civil war, "deeper involvement is hard to avoid".
He said: "We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/ju ... s-congress

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Re: Sīrija

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 29 Jūl 2013 02:07

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian government forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militants forged ahead with their assault on a key rebel district in the central city of Homs Sunday, activists said, as President Bashar Assad's forces try to crush resistance in the few remaining opposition-held neighborhoods in the city known as the "capital of the revolution."
The push on Homs is part of a broader government offensive on rebel-held areas that has seen regime troops retake some of the territory they have lost to opposition fighters in Syria's more than 2-year-old conflict. Assad's forces turned their sights on Homs, the country's third-largest city, after capturing the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanon border last month.
Government troops have made headway in Homs in recent days, capturing a 13th century landmark mosque in the contested Khaldiyeh neighborhood that had been in rebel hands for more than a year. Homs holds immense symbolic and strategic importance to both sides, and the ferocity of the fighting for control of it has left much of the city in ruins.
The opposition accused the regime of pulverizing Khaldiyeh and said their victory was "hollow."
On Sunday, Syrian state TV had live coverage from Khaldiyeh, which is located on the northern edge of the Old City, broadcasting footage that showed gaping holes in apartment blocks, shattered buildings with collapsed floors and blackened facades. Soldiers and reporters walked through rubble-strewn streets. The military took TV crews working for pro-regime media outlets deep into the neighborhood, suggesting the army was confident it had secured the area.
An unidentified Syrian army commander standing before a destroyed building in Khaldiyeh told an embedded state TV reporter that the military expected to "liberate" the last part of the district within the next two days.
Syrian government forces captured the ancient Khalid Ibn al-Walid Mosque in Khaldiyeh on Saturday. Syrian TV aired a report with video from inside the mosque, showing heavy damage. The video showed debris littering the floor and a portion of the mosque appeared to have been burned.
Famous for its nine domes and two minarets, the mosque has been a symbol for rebels in the city, and the government takeover dealt a powerful symbolic blow to the rebellion. On Monday, government troops shelled the mosque, damaging the tomb of Ibn al-Walid, a revered figure in Islam. Video showed the tomb's roof knocked down.
The Observatory and other activists said government troops are backed by members of Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside regime forces in their assault on rebel-held territory in the central region.
Syria's main exiled opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, acknowledged that rebels had retreated from parts of Khaldiyeh, calling it a "tactical withdrawal."
"After the heavy bombardment of the Khaldiyeh area of Homs, using thousands of rockets, explosive barrels and large amounts of heavy weaponry ... Assad forces have managed to overtake a few yards of the land that they have pulverized," it said in a statement.
It said Assad was attempting the lift the sagging morale of his soldiers by exaggerating its victory in Homs, and vowed that rebels would soon retake the area.
In addition to its symbolic value, Homs is a geographic lynchpin in Syria. The main highway from Damascus to the north and the coast, a stronghold of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, runs through Homs.
An official in the Homs governor's office said a car bomb exploded near a checkpoint on the Homs-Tartous highway, killing three people and wounding 5 others. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.
In northeastern Syria, the death toll from nearly two weeks of clashes between al-Qaida-linked fighters and Kurdish militiamen rose to 120, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group. It said the dead include 79 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra, both al-Qaida-affiliated rebel groups. The Observatory monitors the Syrian war through a network of activists on the ground.
The latest round of fighting flared in Ras al-Ayn on July 6 in the predominantly Kurdish province of Hassakeh in the northeast near the Turkish border. Kurdish gunmen are fighting to expel the militants, whom they see as a threat.
Also on Sunday, the Coalition condemned the reported execution of scores of government soldiers by rebels in a northern Syrian village several days ago, and said "those involved in such crimes will be held accountable."
The group, made up of exiled opposition leaders, said in a statement that it was forming a commission of inquiry to investigate the incident in Khan al-Assal.
Syrian activists say rebels killed 150 government soldiers, some after they surrendered, on Monday and Tuesday in the village outside Aleppo, the country's largest city.
State media said that 123 "civilians and military personnel" were killed in a "massacre" and others were still missing.
The Coalition said initial reports showed "armed groups" not affiliated with the main rebel coalition were involved. It did not elaborate, but the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra says its fighters participated in the battle.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the crime "will not pass without punishment," vowing that the perpetrators will pay a "dear price."
In an interview with Syrian TV late Saturday, he said the "massacre" aimed to spread fear and panic among people at a time when the Syrian military was achieving significant progress on the ground.
In a separate statement, the Coalition urged Egypt to release dozens of Syrians it said were arrested last week allegedly for violating residency regulations.
It said Egyptian police arrested at least 72 Syrian men and nine boys at checkpoints on main roads in Cairo. Some had valid visas or residence permits but were arrested "on the pretext of not having residence permits," it said.
The Coalition said regulations concerning Syrians' entrance into Egypt were changed. Since July 8, Syrians have been required to obtain entry visas and security clearance before they are allowed to enter Egypt.
It urged the Egyptian government not to deport Syrians, saying Cairo has an "ethical and humanitarian duty to protect the Syrian people fleeing the tyranny" at home.

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Re: Sīrija

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 28 Aug 2013 14:48

28/08/2013
Syria warns of ‘surprise’ military capabilities
Assad allies waiting in wings

Moualem said on Tuesday he was confident that Russia, a key ally of the Bashar al-Assad regime, would not abandon Damascus. "I can assure you that Russia has not abandoned Syria. Our relations continue in all fields, and we thank Russia for its support," he said.
The intensity of the pro-Assad response will depend greatly on the type of action taken against his regime, analysts say.
Iran and Russia are Assad's principal international allies, while Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah has fought alongside Syrian army forces against rebels in the country.
"Everything depends on the nature, the extent and the goals of a Western strike and, for the moment, I expect nothing more than a warning strike," Joseph Bahout, a Syria expert and professor at Sciences Po in Paris, told AP.
"In this scenario, neither Hezbollah nor Iran will go too far. We can expect 'lateral and indirect' moves like aggression towards UNIFIL [the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon] or anonymous rockets against Israel but, in the end, it will not be anything new."
But if Western powers attempt to overthrow the regime, Bahout says “an extreme response, particularly from Iran,” cannot be ruled out.
A top Iranian military chief warned on Sunday that the US will face "harsh consequences" if it intervenes in Syria over the chemical attack claims.
"For the moment, Iran is launching warnings, but if the Americans decide to intervene, they will fall into their [Iran's] trap," said Amir Mohebian, an analyst and journalist based in Iran.
"Iran will sit back and watch as the Americans and their allies sink into a quagmire."
Moscow meanwhile has warned that a military intervention in Syria could have "catastrophic consequences" for the region, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said his country would not get involved in a military conflict.
Russian news agency Interfax said on Tuesday that Damascus government had enough air defence systems to rebuff attacks.

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Re: Sīrija

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 29 Aug 2013 15:12

Eksperti: Uzbrukums Sīrijai būs simbolisks un ierobežots
Parīze, 29.aug., LETA--AFP. Iespējamie militārie triecieni Sīrijā, par ko pēdējās dienās aktīvi tiek debatēts Vašingtonā un dažās rietumvalstu galvaspilsētās, tiks vērsti pret armijas un izlūkdienesta objektiem, kā arī pret vietām, kam ir simboliska saistība ar Damaskas režīmu, tomēr šie triecieni neizmainīs spēku līdzsvaru valstī, uzskata eksperti.
Iespējamo triecienu mērķis būs sodīt Sīrijas prezidenta Bašara al Asada režīmu un paust viņam skaidru vēstījumu, nevis satriekt viņa militāro spēku un sniegt nemierniekiem izšķirošu atbalstu, norāda eksperti.
"Konkrēto mērķu vidū būs ceturtās un Republikas gvardes tanku divīziju Damaskas apvidus štābi, kazarmas un aizmugures dienestu objekti. Šīs divas vienības ir nopietni iesaistītas civilistu apvidu bombardēšanā," uzskata Vašingtonas Tuvo Austrumu institūta pārstāvis Džefrijs Vaits.
"Sabiedroto spēkiem vajadzētu arī uzbrukt augstākā līmeņa armijas un izlūkdienestu galvenajiem birojiem, pavēlniecības un kontroles struktūrām, kas ir saistītas ar militārajām operācijām galvaspilsētas apkaimē," skaidroja eksperts.
Analītiķi paredz, ka no ASV un to sabiedroto zemūdenēm, kuģiem un lidmašīnām, kas neatradīsies Sīrijas teritoriālajos ūdeņos un gaisa telpā, uz Sīriju tiks izšautas spārnotās raķetes.
Triecieni būs "vairāk simboliski, nevis militāri", paredz Francijas ģenerālis, bijušais militārās akadēmijas "Ecole de Guerre" direktors Vensāns Deports.
"Tas ir jautājums par Rietumu reputācijas atjaunošanu, izdarot kaut ko. Nedrīkst pieļaut, ka deklarētā "sarkanā līnija" tiek pārkāpta tādā mērā un nekas netiek darīts, pretējā gadījumā ASV reputācija tiks sagrauta, īpaši jau attiecībā uz Irānu," norāda Deports.
"Tomēr nedrīkst arī pārspīlēt, jo, ja prezidents Asads mirst vai arī režīms sabrūk, tas varētu novest pie šaušalīgas asinspirts, nacionāla mēroga haosa. Tā būtu vēl viena stratēģiska kļūda, kādu jau mēs pieredzējām Lībijā," atgādināja Francijas ģenerālis.
Triecieni tiks veikti īsā laika posmā un tie būs vērsti pret simboliskiem objektiem - valdības ēkām, armijas komandcentriem, gaisa spēku bāzēm un pat pret prezidenta pili, ja vien skaidri būs zināms, ka tajā neatrodas pats prezidents.
Uzbrukums Sīrijai, ja tāds tiks īstenots, būs ierobežots laika un telpas ziņā, liecina medijiem nopludinātā stratēģiskā informācija dažās Rietumu galvaspilsētās.
Tie nebūs tik jaudīgi, lai vājinātu Sīrijas militāro potenciālu un grozītu spēku līdzsvaru par labu nemierniekiem.
ASV prezidents Baraks Obama vēl nav pieņēmis lēmumu, vai uzbrukt Sīrijai, taču uzsvēris, ka jebkura Savienoto Valstu reakcija būs brīdinājums, ka ķīmiskos ieročus labāk nelietot. Vašingtonas atteikšanās no mēģinājumiem iegūt ANO Drošības padomes mandātu liecina, ka trieciens, visticamāk, ir neizbēgams.
Ideju par uzbrukumu Sīrijai līdz šim atbalstījušas Lielbritānija, Francijas un Turcija. Tiesa gan, Lielbritānijas premjerministrs Devids Kemerons, sastopot parlamentāriešu pretestību idejai par uzbrukumu Sīrijai, bijis spiests trešdien paziņot, ka viņš nedos rīkojumu uzsākt militārās operācijas, kamēr nebūs publicēts ANO inspektoru ziņojums.
Daudzas rietumvalstis - arī Austrija, Beļģija, Itālija un Polija - paziņojušas, ka neatbalsta uzbrukumu Sīrijai, norādot, ka tam ir nepieciešams ANO Drošības padomes pilnvarojums, ir jāsagaida ANO inspektoru ziņojums par iespējamo uzbrukumu vietā iegūtajām liecībām. Beļģija arī norādīja, ka nav pietiekamu pierādījumu, ka Asads būtu pielietojis ķīmiskos ieročus pret savu tautu.
Kategoriski uzbrukuma ideju noraida tuvākās Damaskas sabiedrotās - Krievija un Irāna.
Arī lielākās jaunattīstības valstis - Indija un Brazīlija - norādījušas, ka ir jāsagaida ANO inspektoru ziņojums.
LETA jau ziņojusi, ka pēdējo dienu laikā arvien skaļāk izskan ASV un dažu to sabiedroto draudi uzsākt militāru uzbrukumu Sīrijai. Rietumvalstu retorika kļuvusi asāka pēc 21.augusta notikumiem Damaskas pievārtē, kur atbilstoši nemiernieku versijai valdības karaspēka uzbrukumā pielietoti ķīmiskie ieroči.
Sīrijas valdība šīs apsūdzības kategoriski noraida un ķīmisko ieroču izmantošanā apsūdz nemierniekus, kas šādi cenšas diskreditēt valdību.
Intervijā, kas pirmdien publicēta Krievijas laikrakstā "Izvestija", Asads sacīja, ka rietumvalstis neuzbruks Sīrijai, jo tās saprot, kas šajā valstī patiesībā notiek, ka to plosa terorisms. Viens no šķēršļiem kara sākšanai ir tas, "ka visi saprot - tas, kas notiek Sīrijā, tā nav nedz tautas revolūcija, nedz prasības pēc reformām. Tas ir terorisms," skaidroja prezidents. "Šajā situācijā Rietumu līderi nevar pateikt saviem pilsoņiem: "Mēs ejam uz Sīriju, lai atbalstītu terorismu."
Publicēta: 29.08.2013 12:50
LETA, AFP

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Re: Sīrija

Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 06 Sep 2013 12:40

Syria sends reinforcements to Christian village
Sep. 6 5:55 AM EDT

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say the Syrian government has dispatched reinforcements to a predominantly Christian village north of Damascus where rebels have clashed with regime troops this week.
The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the government forces sent to Maaloula include tanks and armored personnel carriers. Rami Abdul-Rahman says that they have taken up positions outside the village, which is still under the control of local pro-regime militias.
Al-Qaida-linked rebel factions attacked Maaloula on Wednesday, and briefly entered the mountainside sanctuary before withdrawing late Thursday.
Abdul-Rahman says the two sides were skirmishing around the village on Friday.
The attack on Maaloula spotlighted fears among Syria's religious minorities about the growing role of extremists in the rebel ranks fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime.

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 11 Sep 2013 14:29

Syria agrees to give up its chemical weapons
11/09 02:46 CET
http://www.euronews.com/2013/09/11/syri ... l-weapons/
Syria has accepted a Russian proposal to give up chemical weapons and even to join an international convention on the prohibition of such armaments.
It was a major announcement by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem, whose government until now has refused to acknowledge they had any.
“We are ready to reveal the location of our chemical weapons, halt the production of them and also show these facilities to representatives of Russia, other states and to the United Nations. Our adherence to the Russian initiative has the purpose of halting the possession of all chemical weapons.”
But the White House wants a United Nations resolution to back the proposals, with the option of military force to make sure Syria complies – something which Russia’s president has said is unacceptable.
“This all just makes sense if the United States rejects the use of force, because it’s difficult to force any country – Syria or any other country in the world – to disarm unilaterally when there is military action being prepared against it,” said President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile Syria’s President Bashar al Assad continues to deny his forces were responsible for the alleged chemical attack last month and has warned of serious repercussions if the US launches any military strikes.

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 12 Sep 2013 15:37

Free Syrian Army rejects Russian plan for chemical arms
The rebel Free Syrian Army categorically rejected Thursday a Russian proposal for placing Syria's chemical arms under international control, and called for regime officials to be brought to justice.
The Syrian National Coalition opposition group also questioned the initiative, saying it is a "political manoeuvre aimed at buying time" for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"The Free Syrian Army announces its categorical rejection of the Russian initiative that foresees placing chemical weapons under international control," FSA military commander General Selim Idriss said in a video posted on YouTube.
Idriss told world powers they should not "be satisfied only by removing the chemical weapon, which is the tool of a crime, but judge the author of the crime before the International Criminal Court, who has clearly acknowledged possessing it and agreed to get rid of it."
Questioning the motives for the initiative by Russia, a close ally of Assad, the Coalition's overnight statement also said it would be unacceptable unless it "called to account the crimes against the Syrian people."
And any measures should be adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for possible military measures.
It said that if the "response to Syria of the international community is not efficient and effective, Iran, North Korea and the militia of Hezbollah (Lebanon's powerful Shiite movement and an Assad ally) will consider it a green light to manufacture and use chemical weapons."
Idriss also called on countries backing the 30-month uprising against Assad to increase the supply of arms to the rebels so that they can "continue to liberate the country".
And he exhorted his fighters to "intensify operations in all regions of the country".
The United States claims that the regime carried out chemical weapons strikes on a number of Damascus suburbs on August 21, killing more than 1,400 people and threatened to carry out punitive strikes.
Assad's government denies that, saying it was rebels that did so.
Russia on Monday announced a proposal under which Syria would turn over its chemical weapons, and US President Barack Obama postponed any military action to consider the Russian initiative.
The four-point plan, details of which were disclosed on Wednesday, would see Syria becoming a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, according to a report in Moscow.
Syria would then have to declare the location of chemical weapons arsenals and, then allow OPCW inspectors to examine them and finally decide, in cooperation with the inspectors, how to destroy them.
UN inspectors have already visited the sites of the alleged attacks in Damascus, and France has said their report will probably be issued on Monday.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French radio Thursday "it will say that there was a chemical massacre" and that "there will certainly be indications" of the origin of the attack.
(AFP)

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 25 Sep 2013 12:28

Rebels slam opposition
By BASSEM MROUE
— Sep. 25 5:55 AM EDT
BEIRUT (AP) — Several Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful al-Qaida-linked faction, said Wednesday they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition, as U.N. inspectors returned to the country to continue their probe into chemical weapons attacks.
In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.
The statement reflects the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad's regime. Syria's civil war has killed over 100,000 people so far.
The statement also called on all those trying to topple Assad's government to unite under a "clear Islamic framework" — an apparent reference to the al-Qaida faction's aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 13 Nov 2013 17:10

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/n ... cus-suburb
Syrian troops capture rebel-held suburb south of Damascus
Town of Hejeira is latest suburb of capital to fall into government hands, and Assad forces making inroads near Aleppo
Syrian troops captured a contested suburb of Damascus on Wednesday as the government forged ahead with a military offensive that has already taken four other opposition strongholds south of the capital, state media said.
For more than a year, much of the belt of neighbourhoods and towns just south of Damascus has been a rebel bastion and a key arms conduit for the opposition. But government forces – bolstered by fighters from Lebanon's Shia militant group Hezbollah and Shia militants from Iraq – have made significant headway in the area in recent weeks.
The advances could give the government a stronger position in proposed peace talks that the US and Russia have been trying to convene since May.
On Wednesday the town of Hejeira became the latest rebel-held suburb to fall into government hands. The state news agency Sana said the army had seized control of the town but was still battling rebels on its outskirts.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces were in control of most of Hejeira but there were still small pockets of resistance.
Lebanon's al-Mayadeen TV, which had a reporter embedded with Syrian government forces in the offensive, broadcast what it said were live images from the streets of Hejeira, showing shattered storefronts, sandbags piled at street corners and the gutted concrete hulks of apartment buildings.
The opposition's hold on Hejeira became untenable after the military captured the adjacent town of Sabina in recent days.
While the government has driven the rebels from several of their footholds around the capital, the opposition is still within striking distance of the centre of Damascus, and fires barrages of mortar rounds into the city daily.
On Wednesday mortar shells slammed into the Bab Touma and Zablatani neighbourhoods of Damascus, killing at least two people and wounding 20 others. The Observatory put the death toll at three.
In addition to its advances on the periphery of Damascus, the government has made inroads in recent weeks outside the northern city of Aleppo. Government forces have wrested back a military base near the city's international airport as well as two towns along the road south-east of the airfield.
The Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said government helicopters were dropping barrel bombs on rebel positions in Tel Hasel, the sole town along the road still in opposition hands.
Aleppo has been a major battlefield in the Syrian conflict since last summer when rebels launched an offensive on the city. More than a year later it is now carved up into rebel- and government-held areas, and fighting has left much of the city in ruins.
The rebels are clearly concerned about the government's latest push: a group of six prominent rebel brigades has called for all fighters in the city to come together to repel the military offensive, activists say.
The armed opposition in Aleppo and the surrounding countryside has been crippled by recent infighting, which has undermined the rebels in their efforts to oust the president, Bashar al-Assad.
The government offensive falls against the backdrop of diplomatic efforts to convene a peace conference in Geneva to find a political solution to the conflict.
The main western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said this week it was ready to attend the proposed peace talks but only if certain conditions were met. It wants the government to allow humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas and to release political prisoners, demands the Assad government is unlikely to meet.
The prospects for the conference are further muddied by a dispute over a potential transitional government. The opposition, which has little support inside Syria, wants any future transitional government to exclude Assad and his close allies, a demand the Syrian government has rejected.

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 16 Nov 2013 23:01

Assad gaining ground in Syrian civil war
By RYAN LUCAS
— Nov. 16, 2013 12:14 PM EST
BEIRUT (AP) — Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have firmly seized the momentum in the country's civil war in recent weeks, capturing one rebel stronghold after another and triumphantly planting the two-starred Syrian government flag amid shattered buildings and rubble-strewn streets.
Despite global outrage over the use of chemical weapons, Assad's government is successfully exploiting divisions among the opposition, dwindling foreign help for the rebel cause and significant local support, all linked to the same thing: discomfort with the Islamic extremists who have become a major part of the rebellion.
The battlefield gains would strengthen the government's hand in peace talks sought by the world community.
Both the Syrian government and the opposition have said they are ready to attend a proposed peace conference in Geneva that the U.S. and Russia are trying to convene, although it remains unclear whether the meeting will indeed take place. The Western-backed opposition in exile, which has little support among rebel fighters inside Syria and even less control over them, has set several conditions for its participation, chief among them that Assad must not be part of a transitional government — a notion Damascus has roundly rejected.
"President Bashar Assad will be heading any transitional stage in Syria, like it or not," Omar Ossi, a member of Syria's parliament, told The Associated Press.
The government's recent gains on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, and in the north outside the country's largest city, Aleppo, have reinforced Assad's position. And the more the government advances, the easier it is to dismiss the weak and fractious opposition's demands.
"Assad wants to go to Geneva with credit, not debit," said Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general who heads the Beirut-based Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research. "He is trying day after day to gain on the battlefield, and when he goes to Geneva he can say, ... 'OK, here's the situation — we are strong on the field. What do you have?'"
The government has made its biggest gains in the suburbs south of Damascus, where army troops backed by guerrillas from the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group and Shiite militants from Iraq have captured five towns since Oct. 11. The latest to fall was Hejeira, which army troops swept through Wednesday, just days after capturing the adjacent suburb of Sbeineh.
The troops were quickly followed by state television cameras eager to broadcast the victory: a two-starred government flag triumphantly planted amid bombed-out buildings, twisted rebar and rubble-strewn streets.
In northern Syria, Assad's forces have captured two towns this month — Safira and Tel Aran, southeast of the battlefield city of Aleppo — and have retaken a military base near Aleppo's international airport.
Aleppo, the country's largest city and former commercial capital, is a major prize in the war. Assad's military and the rebels have been battling over it since the summer of 2012, carving it up into rebel- and government-held areas and leaving much of the city in ruins.
In some ways, the recent run of government victories fit into the regular back-and-forth rhythm of the conflict over the past nearly three years, with the pendulum swinging in Assad's favor at the moment.
But the government advances around Aleppo hold greater trouble for the opposition since they suggest the rebels' grip on the north — much of which fell to anti-Assad fighters over the past year — is far more tenuous than once believed.
A confluence of factors has increasingly hampered the opposition's war effort in the north.
The rebels have been crippled by infighting since the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant aggressively pushed into rebel-held areas of the north this year. Fighters from the extremist group, most of them foreigners, have clashed repeatedly with more moderate rebel brigades, leaving scores dead on both sides.
Rebel groups, particularly the Islamic State but more mainstream factions as well, also have been engaged in a brutal side conflict with Syria's Kurdish minority, which has a large presence in the northeast and parts of Aleppo province.
Combined, these two wars-within-a-war have sapped the opposition's strength and undermined the effort to oust Assad.
They have also provided an opening for the Syrian leader to exploit.
"Fighting among ourselves has done a lot of damage," Abu Thabet, the commander of the Aleppo Swords Battalion, said by telephone. "Six months ago, the regime was always on the defensive and we would attack first. Now, after we started infighting, the regime is always on the offensive. They attack, and we defend." Abu Thabet spoke on condition he be identified only his nom de guerre to protect his security.
Rebels also have been frustrated by U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to seek a diplomatic path to disarming Damascus of its chemical weapons.
After an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus that killed hundreds, Washington accused Assad's forces of carrying them out — though his government denied it. The U.S. then threatened military strikes against Syrian forces. The strikes were averted when Russia brokered a deal to destroy Assad's chemical arsenal by mid-2014.
Many in the opposition had held out hopes that American military intervention — even if limited in scale — would help tip the scales of a deadlocked civil war in the rebels' favor. Compounding their disappointment, many rebels saw the diplomatic deal as a giving green light to Assad to continue killing people with conventional weapons, as well as effectively making the Syrian leader a partner with the international community at least until the arsenal is destroyed.
At the same time, the flow of weapons and ammunition from across the border in neighboring Turkey to fighters inside Syria has slowed to a trickle, rebels say, as Ankara has grown increasingly concerned about the prominent role of Islamic extremists.
"Support from the military council of Aleppo and its suburbs has stopped completely," said Abu Thabet, referring to the rebel body that coordinates the weapons flow from Turkey to rebel battalions doing the fighting.
"This has all stopped," he said. "I'm on the ground, I really don't know what's going on with Turkey or the council, all I know is that we're not getting anything."

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 05 Jan 2014 17:40

Syria rebels demand al-Qaeda group surrender
Protesters rally against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, accused of brutal killings and kidnappings.
Last updated: 04 Jan 2014 21:26
Rebels fighting in Syria have given rivals from an al-Qaeda affiliate 24 hours to surrender, according to activists in the country.
Saturday's ultimatum comes amid days of deadly infighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in two northern provinces, Idlib and Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels from an alliance of Islamist groups attacked positions of the fighters from ISIL, killing and capturing dozens of people on Saturday.
The ISIL has been blamed for brutal killings in areas under their control, turning many local residents against them and leading to a growing resistence to the al-Qaeda-linked group's grip on several areas of the country.
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut in Lebanon, said the developments could signal a turning point in the war.
"This is the most serious violence between armed opposition and ISIL," our correspondent said.
Sixteen ISIL fighters were reportedly killed in the fighting in Aleppo and nearby Idlib on Friday, while at least 42 other ISIL fighters were wounded in Idlib alone.
Meanwhile, protesters in opposition-held parts of Syria chanted slogans condemning the al-Qaeda affiliate.
Ammar, an activist on the ground, described it as "the start of the revolution against ISIL", according to AFP news agency.
ISIL and Western-backed rebel forces are all fighting to overthrow Assad's regime, but tensions between different groups have been rife in recent months.
Several opposition factions, including a number of fighters united under the name "Army of Mujahedeen", were involved in Friday's fighting, according to the Observatory and local activists.
Both the Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, two key groups made up of tens of thousands of opposition fighters, also condemned ISIL on Friday.

Anti-ISIL protests

The fighting comes days after ISIL reportedly tortured and murdered a leading opposition figure, doctor Hussein al-Suleiman, known as Abu Rayyan.
His death was the latest in a string of beatings, kidnappings and killings attributed to the group, and prompted protesters to take to the streets under the slogan, "Friday of the martyr Abu Rayyan".
Amateur video shot in Aleppo on Friday reportedly showed protesters chanting: "Free Syrian Army forever! Crush ISIL and Assad!"
Abu Leyla, an Idlib-based activist, told AFP via the Internet: "I'd say about 90 percent of people in the opposition areas are against ISIL".
"They use violence and abuses to crush dissent. They are only Islamic in name. All they want is power," he said.
More than 130,000 people have been killed since the war in Syria broke out in 2011.

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 29 Jan 2014 15:11

In Syria, local ceasefires end shooting, but at what cost?
© AFP
Text by FRANCE 24
Latest update : 2014-01-27
While Syria peace talks in Switzerland crawl slowly forward, a different type of dialogue has been established on the ground in the war-torn country, where rebels and the regular army in several cities have agreed to ceasefires.
It is a phenomenon that is beginning to gain momentum. Truces have been signed in several Syrian cities, mostly in the province of Damascus, but local coordinating committees in the cities of Homs and Hama have also reported via social networks that they have concluded similar agreements.
"Yes, there has truces in Syria," a source who preferred to remain anonymous told FRANCE 24. "But they are not to the liking of everyone in the opposition; some refuse to recognize the deals.Most of the cities where there are agreements are around Damascus and were besieged and bombarded for months."
The most recent truce was agreed in Barzeh near Damascus in mid-January, but the source also cited the rebel strongholds of Douma and Daraya and other towns in the Ghouta region around Damascus.
At Moadamiyet al-Sham, three kilometers south of Damascus, a truce in late December broke a siege that had lasted for over a year and ended the daily bombardment. Food and medicine have reached residents .
"It’s working. Since the truce, not a single bullet has been fired in Moadamiyet al-Sham," said the source, who also emphasised that the local ceasefire gave the displaced, a third of the town's 15,000 population, a chance to return home.
These deals have been made for a variety of reasons, mostly humanitarian, but they follow a pattern. Rebels agree to hand over their heavy weapons while keeping their light arms. In exchange, the army stops shelling and allows the rebels to retain control of the area. The authorities allow food in and often restore electricity and running water.
After enduring bombardments and shortages the people in some towns have welcomed the truces, and the return of staple foods, with enthusiasm.

Regime stratagem?

One non-negotiable element of the agreements is that the rebels, who early in the uprising adopted their own flag, must hoist the Syrian flag over each town.
Fabrice Balanche, a Syria specialist and director of the Research Group in Mediterranean and the Middle Eastern studies at the University of Lyon, however, said that the demand that the official flag be flown where it could be seen as a sign of good faith was part of the regime’s strategy of using truces to retake territory, regain control and save its forces.
"Raising the official flag that the rebels view as representing the government is not only symbolic. The sight of the hated banner might make other rebel groups want to attack the town," Balanche said.
"Disarmed and weakened, those who have signed the truce might be driven to seek the protection of the army. That will further the regime’s objective of drawing them closer.”
This is precisely what happened in Khanasser, a small town north of Hama. After months of shelling and despite internal disagreements on the subject, the rebels in the city reached a truce with the army. As soon as the official flag was hoisted, the city was attacked by the al- Nosra Front, after which it had to seek help from the army.
The truces are recent a recent development and are linked to the rise of the jihadist groups,the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and al- Nosra.
“After almost three years of conflict, the rebels that can be described as moderate are exhausted," said Balanche, pointing out that those groups who were supported by the West no longer receive aid, unlike the jihadists who are supported by Saudi or Qatari donors.
The more moderate rebels remain caught between a rock and a hard place: at the mercy of the regime that is prepared to win the struggle by force, on the one hand, and the moderate rebels' former allies the jihadists, on the other, with whom they have been at war now for months.
Limited by time and scant resources, the moderate rebels are less focused on fighting the regime in order to concentrate their struggle against the jihadists they view has having hijacked their revolution.

No easy decisions

The decision to surrender heavy weapons to the regular army was not made without opposition in Moadamiyet.
At the end of December, AFP reported that Abu Malek, an official of the town's local council, said that the few thousand people still left there were highly divided over this condition. Some believed the most important thing was to feed population, while others wanted to continue fighting the regime until the end and not surrender their arms.
Nonetheless, the condition was accepted and the truces multiplying around Damascus are putting a stop the shooting and saving lives. For Balanche, such truces may foreshadow at least a part of a solution to the crisis.
While international diplomatic action is essential, Balanche said, the Syrian crisis will ultimately be resolved at the local level.

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Nelasītas ziņa tas_pats_lv » 07 Feb 2014 00:50

Despite turmoil, Syria regime feels new confidence
By LEE KEATH
— Aug. 24, 2013 12:30 PM EDT
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The signs would seem bad for President Bashar Assad. Blasts echo all day long over the Syrian capital as troops battle rebels entrenched on its eastern doorstep. The government admits the economy is devastated. Allegations of a horrific chemical attack have given new life to calls for international action against his regime.
Yet the regime appears more confident than ever that it weathered the worst and has gained the upper hand in the country's civil war, even if it takes years for victory.
Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil traces a slow arc in the air with his hand to show how the country has reached a turning point in "the events" — the most common euphemism here for 2 1/2 years of bloodshed.
"If the previous trajectory was all negative, it is now on a new course of a gradual reduction of violence, until it goes back to zero," he told The Associated Press.
"The turning point changes the course of things, but it will take a while," he said. "I don't think the path downward will take as long as the path of escalation did."
There are multiple reasons for the new sense of assurance. The military scored a string of victories on the ground the past few months that blunted a rebel surge early in the year. Army offensives stalled or pushed back rebels in Damascus' suburbs. A rebel drive into a regime heartland in the western province on the Mediterranean coast was swiftly reversed over the past week. The bleeding of defections from the military to the rebellion appears to have slowed.
The regime also believes it has shored up its most serious vulnerability: the economy. Prices for food and clothes have quadrupled in some cases, the Syrian pound has plunged in comparison with the dollar, and the war has crippled production and trade.
But this summer, Syria's allies Russia and Iran effectively handed the government a lifeline, with credit lines to buy rice, flour, sugar, petroleum products and other staples. With that, the regime hopes it can keep an exhausted population clothed, fed, warm in the winter — and firmly on its side — enough to endure a long fight.
When asked whether Syria would have to pay back the credit lines in the future, Jamil smiled, saying, "It's between friends."
Also, the increasing presence of foreign jihadi fighters, many linked to al-Qaida, has played in the regime's favor. The Islamic militants' strength has made the United States and its allies wary of sending badly needed weapons to the rebels and of taking direct military action against Assad, for fear of what could come next if he falls.
Those worries could overcome any sense of outrage over the alleged chemical attack Wednesday in a Damascus suburb that rebels say killed more than 100 people, including many children. The rebels blamed the attack on the regime, an accusation the government has denied, claiming that foreign jiahdis among the rebels were behind it.
Fear of foreign radicals is also a powerful tool for keeping the population's support for the regime. State television gives a steady stream of reports of the "barbaric" nature of the jihadis. One station recently aired an interview with a purported "repentant" female rebel who spoke of jihadi sheiks issuing religious decrees allowing foreign fighters to rape Syrian women. Another station aired alleged audiotapes of a phone call between a Saudi extremist and a Syrian rebel about transporting sarin gas and planning other attacks.
Every suicide bombing — the trademark of foreign jihadis — gets front-page coverage, like a blast that ripped through an Aleppo restaurant Thursday, killing a girl and six of her guests at a party celebrating her successful high school test scores.
Revulsion at the jihadis also has a strong resonance with the public.
"People get infected by ideas. I'm a Sunni, I pray and I fast and I have faith in God. But I'm moderate. But there are people who listen to these lunatic ideas," said Abu Ahmed, who works at a dress store in Damascus' historic Hamidiya market.
He contended that the extent of the bloodshed has disillusioned even some who supported the calls for reform when peaceful protests against the regime first began in March 2011, only to be met by a fierce crackdown.
"Some people thought, OK, we'll see some change. But they didn't think about the consequences and what would be unleashed. Now anyone who thought that is rethinking it," said Abu Ahmed, fled to Damascus from a rebel-held suburb, leaving behind his property. He spoke on condition he be identified only by his nickname for fear of reprisals against him.
"We never thought it would reach this point, that we would become like Iraq or Libya. It was unimaginable. No one could conceive of this sort of chaos and bloodshed."
Syria's Sunni majority makes up the backbone of the rebellion against Assad's rule, which was dominated by members of the president's own minority Alawite sect. The mounting death toll in the conflict — at least 100,000 killed so far — and its relentless viciousness have stoked sectarian hatreds in the country. Still, the sectarian lines are not clean-cut. During his 13 years in power, Assad elevated some Sunnis to prominent positions. Others in the community prize the stability that his rule — while autocratic — ensured in the country.
Adnan Dirkawi, a 67-year-old Sunni who runs a real estate office in an upper middle class Damascus neighborhood, enthusiastically lists what he bills as Assad's achievements: the spread of electricity and water facilities to villages around the country, free or cheap education and health care, new universities and growing business.
"The vast majority of the people, 90 or 95 percent, have nothing to do with the events. They didn't want this," he said. "All this is why I'm very confident that things can go back to normal. I'm totally at ease about that. People are just waiting for this to end so they can go back to their lives."
He dismisses the sectarian hatreds enflamed by the war. "Syrians were never sectarian," he insisted, recalling carvings of a Jewish menorah, Christian cross and Muslim crescent on buildings in the historic Ottoman marketplaces of his northern city of origin, Aleppo.
That picture is almost certainly rosy, reflecting Damascenes' relative isolation from carnage that has gone on in large swaths of the country. It also reflects a line pushed incessantly on state media — that once the "foreign terrorists" trying to destroy Syria on behalf of enemies like Israel are stopped, the country can return to what it was.
Even if the regime is confident now that the danger of Assad's fall has passed, it has seemed unable to take back rebel-held territory in the north and east. The bitterness and sense of vengeance on both sides may never be resolved. And all bets are off if the West, prompted by the images of children killed in Wednesday's alleged gas attack, takes the dramatic step of direct military action.
Jamil, who touts himself as a voice of dissent within the government since he heads of one of Syria's officially approved opposition parties, says there can be no outright military solution. It's an "illusion" to think the Syrian army can "crush completely" what he calls a foreign intervention.
"Just like the Syrian army can't achieve a complete military victory, the armed groups can't either," he said. So he backs a negotiated political solution "to stop the burning of Syria."

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