Game is over for Israeli militarism: Gilad Atzmon

Interview with Gilad Atzomon, writer, activist and saxophonist 

“The game is over for Israeli militarism. In spite of that they are still killing quite a few, but their power of deterrence really belongs to the past. They do not [have] a future in the region. It is over.”

A political analyst tells Press TV that the game is over for Israeli militarism and their power of deterrence really belongs to the past and they do not have a future in the region.

The recent Israeli war on Gaza is Tel Aviv’s second in four years. Israeli regime waged a 22-day war on the densely-populated Palestinian enclave in 2008, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians, including at least 300 children.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Gilad Atzimon, writer, activist and saxophonist, to further discuss the issue. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Amidst all the mainstream media coverage of the conflict, have you been reading what’s been happening in Gaza?

Atzimon: Yes I am following it closely. Unlike most of our friends, actually I monitor Israeli press and it is shocking to see how confused they are, how divided they are. It is very clear that quite a few of them want to see blood, they want to see Palestinians, they want to see invasion, they want to see a lot of Palestinians, and they want to see Palestinian civilization.

Press TV: But wait a minute, the Israeli left is against it and they are on the streets demonstrating against it.

Atzimon: I do not know what is left out of the Israeli left but on the other hand some people within the right and I would even include Benjamin Netanyahu, are very worried of the escalation.

We have to remember that this war was initially a limited election operation. Usually before an Israeli election the serving Prime Minister decides to kill some Palestinians, it is very good, it is very good, it is realized as an electoral asset.

And what happened there. We could see that they met serious resistance, they see Palestinians defiance.

Press TV: Why is it serious, with three, four, five, single digits of Israeli casualties compared to Palestinians?

Atzimon: It is not the number of casualties. What has been proven is that the Palestinians, Hamas and other factions in the region were accumulating a lot of ballistic weapons and it is true that these missiles do not inflict a lot of damage on Israel, it is true that Israel found a way to deal with it – the Iron Dome is so efficient that is almost legitimate to rocket Israel. … It can’t really hurt you.

In spite of that, the Palestinians are now capable of delivering the message, the necessary message to the people in Tel Aviv and I actually regard those rockets as a peaceful message. It is a message to stolen land and what it says, we are here surrounded by barbed wires but we did not forget orchards, we did not forget our cities, we did not forget our villages, we are tired of this oppression.

Press TV: I’m not sure if the relative of the Israelis who died would say that.

Atzimon: By the way it is very clear that quite a few Israelis are not capable to interpret this message appropriately, but I will tell you something else. Israel is regarded by itself and by world Jewry as the Jewish national shelter.

When I see these pictures of Israelis lying under the cars when they hear the siren, it does not look like a shelter. It looks like the most dangerous place for Jews ever. And I think that the Palestinians have managed to come up with a tactic with very limited sources that deliver this message and it is actually, I find it adorable. They proved again that they can take penalty, which is very painful for us to watch, and are united while the Israeli society is not united.

Everything, all reports from Gaza suggests that the Palestinians in spite of the Israeli bombardment, in spite of the targeting of Hamas and targeting of civilians, the Palestinians in Gaza are united and this is adorable.

Press TV: Well then Netanyahu who you are going to paint him like a dove in the situation… People like Lieberman and others, what are they going to be saying in your scenario if they understand it the way you are?

Atzimon: By the way, I did not paint Netanyahu as a dove. Netanyahu does not want to engage in a land invasion or postponed it for a while because he realizes that from his own political perspectives this is an unpredictable domain. He does not know what is going to happen.

I think that as Sharon’s son and as I wrote about it the other day, Sharon’s son’s ideas are actually totally consistent with the Zionist philosophy, with Jabotinsky’s, Iron Wall, you just said it basically the Israeli army is too wiped out, Gaza too oblivion.

This is totally consistent with the Zionist philosophy, devastatingly enough it is also consistent with the Israeli secular interpretation of the Old Testament.

You know, you can find verses in the Old Testament that tell you wipe them all, do not leave a single breathing species and unfortunately in Israel…

Press TV: You might get charged with anti-Semitism if you say any Jewish doctrine to wipe out the whole society…

Atzimon: I did not say that there is a Jewish doctrine. I said that there are definitely Old Testament verses. It is actually not Judaic. This is what is so interesting about Judaism. Religious Jews do draw their religious inspirations not from the Bible, but from the Talmud. Now the Talmud is devastating enough, but for different reasons.

Press TV: As are all older elements from big religions.

Atzimon: For sure. In different religions you also find some devastating ideas. What is so frightening about Israel is that Israel and Zionism, the philosophy has managed to drain out the spiritual context from the Bible and from Judaism and they managed to turn God into a state agent. If I’m regarded as an anti-Semite fro saying it, I can live with it.

Press TV: I think you have a view about just in terms of pure quantitative death numbers, illustrate your point.

Atzimon: No this is very crucial point and it is a very devastating point.

As we know in 1948, 750, 000 Palestinians were expelled and massacred on their land, from their land and the world was laughing–yes, 750,000 expelled, you know obviously massacres was on a smaller scale. 67 Israelis invaded huge territories and the world was applauding.

In 1982, I was a soldier. I remember the figures that we spoke about, 20,000 Lebanese who lost their lives and I did not hear much condemnation from world leaders, but it was the beginning of something. Even in this country I think that the PFC, I don’t know that I am that impressed with the PFC anymore – it was formed by the way by a few Jews, actually.

And in 2006, Israel was actually defeated. It could not mobilize as much power as it wanted because it started to see some condemnation. I think around five or six thousand Lebanese, Hezbollah lost their lives.

In Operation Cast Lead, Israel murdered 1,400 people, the numbers are going down; and they ended up with the Goldstone Report and serious condemnation and now in this operation from day one they can see that they cannot mobilize their destructive power.

The game is over for Israeli militarism. In spite of that they are still killing quite a few, but their power of deterrence really belongs to the past. They do not [have] a future in the region. It is over.

(www.presstv.ir / 23.12.2012)

Strike in Health and Education sectors in Jenin

 

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JENIN, (PIC)– The education sector in the district of Jenin has continued its strike on Sunday while health unions announced strike after 11 pm in the various West Bank districts.

The General Teachers Union in Jenin has announced that the strike will continue on Sunday, while other union sources called for a strike after the third session, which led to confusion at the scene where some have abided by the strike while others have partially abided by the strike.

For their part, the health unions decided in the West Bank to continue working with less hours and fewer employees by introducing reduced shifts and reduce the number of employees. The union intends to make total and partial stoppage of work to protest against the continuing salaries crisis without any attempt to resolve it according to the statement.

“Sunday will be part time staff until 11 am, and on Wednesday and Thursday a full stoppage of work will be launched,” health unions announced in a statement.

“In light of the continuing crisis, we will work until next Sunday on developing austerity time-table that includes reducing the number of health services to commensurate with the reduction of staff numbers within the austerity plan,” the statement added.

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 23.12.2012)

Nine Palestinians killed in Yarmouk refugee camp in new round of violence

 

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LONDON, (PIC)– The violence resumed in Yarmouk refugee camp of Syria on Saturday and resulted in the killing of nine Palestinian refugees.

Consequently, the Palestinian death toll rose to 806 victims killed during attacks on different refugee camps in Syria.

The action group for the Palestinians in Syria said the armed clashes between the regime army and the Syrian free army returned to Yarmouk camp, especially on street 30.

Many soldiers were seen positioned at all entrances leading to the camp and snipers topped the roofs of homes in different areas.

In Husseiniyeh refugee camp, a Palestinian woman was killed when a shell fell near the old bakery.

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 23.12.2012)

Hamas celebrates its anniversary in Beirut

 

 

BEIRUT, (PIC)– Thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon commemorated today the twenty-fifth anniversary of the inception of Hamas movement and celebrated Gaza’s recent victory over the Israeli aggression.

The masses and the representatives of Lebanese and Palestinian political parties and figures; including MP Abdul Majid Saleh, representing the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and MP Jamal Jarrah, representing former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, met in the Sports City Hall in the Lebanese capital Beirut .

Ali Baraka, Hamas representative in Lebanon, delivered a speech in which he hailed the movement military wings, all the Palestinian people and the prisoners for their steadfastness and the free people of the world for their support to Palestine.

He added that “resistance is the shortest way towards the liberation of Palestine”, and emphasized on the unity of the Palestinian people in confronting the occupation and on the adherence to the right of return.

Baraka called on the political forces in Lebanon to make a unified Palestinian strategy to confront the settlement projects and the displacement of people, stressing that the Palestinians will not be part of the political conflicts in Lebnon.

He also demanded the Lebanese parliament and government to approve the humanitarian rights of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and to maintain the security and stability of the refugee camps, and appealed to the UNRWA to help those displaced from Syria’s refugee camps.

For his part, the Palestinian Premier Ismail Haniyeh said that the resistance represents Hamas’s strategic option, through which Palestinians will be able to achieve victory and the right of return and to liberate the prisoners.

(www.palestine-info.co.uk / 23.12.2012)

Fragile Egypt economy overshadows Mursi’s vote win

 A man rests at his desk at the Egyptian stock market in Cairo, November 25, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi will have little time to savor victory in pushing through a new constitution as it may have cost the Islamist leader broader support for urgent austerity measures needed to fix the creaking economy.

By fast-tracking the constitution through to a referendum that the opposition said was divisive, he may have squandered any chance of building a consensus on tax rises and spending cuts that are essential to rein in a crushing budget deficit.

Unofficial tallies from Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood showed the charter was approved by a 64 percent majority. But opponents said he lost the vote in much of the capital, while across the nation he alienated liberals, Christians and others worried by the text that was drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly.

Opponents say such divisions will fuel more unrest in a nation whoseeconomy has been pummeled by turbulence since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown almost two years ago, scaring off investors and tourists that are both vital sources of capital.

Without broad support, Mursi’s government will find it harder to implement reforms needed to secure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The Muslim Brotherhood’s party, which propelled Mursi to office, may also face a tougher fight in a parliamentary election expected in about two months.

“For austerity measures to be made at a time when the political system is being opened and millions of people are being enfranchised, you need political consensus within the political class,” said Amr Adly, an expert on the economy.

Yet, even though there is broad acceptance of the urgency of fixing the battered economy, Adly said Mursi’s approach in pushing through a constitution that angered opponents would encourage his rivals to capitalize on any public backlash against austerity rather than help sell reforms to the nation.

“His political rivals are already dealing with these problems on a very opportunistic basis,” said Adly, head of the social and economic justice unit at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “There won’t be any prospect of ending … violence in the streets or very deep political divisions.”

UNITED

Egypt’s fractured opposition, defeated at the ballot box by Islamists in each poll since Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011, unified their ranks after Mursi expanded his powers in a decree on November 22 to push through the constitution.

“What Mursi did has united us,” said Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party and a leading member of the National Salvation Front coalition, adding he expected a unified approach to the upcoming parliamentary election.

That would give the opposition a much better chance in parliamentary polls against disciplined Islamists, who have built a broad grass-roots network across the nation over decades that liberals and other non-Islamists cannot yet match.

Though Said agreed steps were needed to fix Egypt’s economy, he said Mursi had made no effort to discuss it with his rivals although they were a national concern. The IMF has long said a broad political consensus to reforms was needed for a loan.

“Who wouldn’t agree with economic reforms?” Said asked, but added: “We have not been consulted at all with regard to supporting such policies or not, we are not sure what is going on in the country.”

Mursi now faces the prospect of having an opposition seeking to score political points from any tax rises and measures to reduce spending, particularly steps to rein in fuel subsidies in a nation where rich and poor have become used to cheap energy.

That could make it more of a challenge for Islamists to win votes in the parliamentary election.

Though the opposition have drawn tens of thousands of Egyptians to the streets on occasion, Islamists have done so with greater regularity and also have a strong record of getting out the vote in the more local politics of a parliamentary poll.

But nation’s political divisions have already taken their toll on the president’s initial economic reforms.

Shortly before the referendum, Mursi introduced increases on the sales tax on goods and services that ranged from alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and mobile phone calls to automobile licenses and quarrying permits. He withdrew them within hours under criticism from his opponents and the media.

An immediate result of Mursi’s policy U-turn was a delay in approving the IMF loan. The IMF said it would postpone its meeting in mid-December to approve the loan. Egypt’s government said it might now be approved in January.

Farid Ismail, a senior official in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said Egypt could not be described as divided when two-thirds of those who voted backed the constitution but said all sides needed to discuss the economic issues ahead.

“We have an economic and social challenge and this is the time for people to present initiatives and engage in a national dialogue,” he said, adding that passing the constitution meant one major hurdle to stabilizing the nation had been overcome.

EXPECTATIONS

Yet expectations run high in a nation where demands for social justice and a better standard of living helped drive the 2011 uprising as much as calls for political freedoms.

“We had a revolution to make life easier and prices lower, not higher,” said 19-year-old student Sally Ahmed Kotb referring to Mursi’s tax plans as she went to the polls on Saturday to vote “no”. “This will lead to a hunger revolution.”

Once a darling of emerging market investors, Egypt’s economy has taken a hammering. The budget deficit surged to a crippling 11 percent of gross domestic product in the financial year that ended in June 2012 and is forecast to exceed 10 percent this year.

Without swift action, it could hit 13 percent, said Adly.

Among belt-tightening measures in the pipeline are steps to reduce how much subsidized gasoline drivers can buy, which is bound to be unpopular.

In the meantime, Egypt has been bleeding foreign reserves at a rate of about $600 million a month, cutting them to about $15 billion, less than half their level before Mubarak’s fall.

Some Egyptians are still ready to give Mursi a chance. Many of those who voted “yes” in the referendum backed the charter as a vote for “stability”, even if they had some reservations. But, even from supporters, Mursi may have limited leeway.

“Just as people rose against Mubarak, they can rise against Mursi,” said Mohamed Mohsen, a civil servant and Islamist backer who voted “yes” in the referendum. “Let’s give him two, three, four or five months to solve our problems then we can see.”

The government says it is already engaged in a “national dialogue” with political forces, unions and others to win public support for an economic plan it insists will not hurt the poor.

“Passage of the new constitution is unlikely to ease recent discord, but it nevertheless marks a significant step forward in Egypt’s labored political transition,” Simon Williams, HSBC economist in Dubai, wrote in a note after the constitution was approved in the first of the two-stage referendum.

He said progress on the IMF program could now resume swiftly, but added: “The temptation to avoid pressing ahead with unpopular policy measures may also prove ever harder to resist, particularly ahead of the parliamentary polls.”

(www.reuters.com / 23.12.2012)

Tunisian MP receives life threatening letters for suing Tel-Aviv

A Tunisian MP has received threatening letters after he planned to file a lawsuit against the Israeli regime for the 1988 assassination of the deputy of late Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat, Press TV reports.

“I have received six letters from people threatening to kill me… I think Israel is the reason for what’s happening,” Tunisian Parliament Member, Abderraouf Ayadi said on Sunday.

This comes after Ayadi announced on November 5 that he planned to sue Israel for the killing of Khalil al-Wazir, known as Abu Jihad, in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis, 25 years ago.

He made the announcement after Israel’s dailyYedioth Ahronot reported on November 1, that the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, and the Israeli General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, Sayeret Matkal, had planned a joint operation that led to the assassination of the PLO official.

Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon were also involved in the operation at that time, the report said. However, the offices of both Israeli officials have refused to comment on the issue.

Abu Jihad was killed in a raid on the headquarters of the Palestinian organization in Tunis. He was shot in the head with a gun equipped with a silencer that had been hidden in a box of chocolate.

Wazir was the number two man in the PLO and played an important role in directing the 1987-1994 Palestinian uprising, Intifada, against the Israeli occupation.

(www.presstv.ir / 23.12.2012)

Gaza Official: Israeli Fire Wounds 2 Palestinians

A Gaza health official says two men have been wounded by Israeli fire in the central Gaza Strip.

The official, Ashraf al-Kidra, says Israeli forces fired at the men east of Deir al-Balah late Sunday. Their identities were unclear. The official initially said the men had been killed, but he said that the two were found to be seriously wounded.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Such incidents have been rare since Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers wrapped up an eight-day battle last month. Israel launched the offensive to stop years of rocket fire at Israeli communities.

(abcnews.go.com / 23.12.2012)

At least 300 killed in regime airstrike near Syrian bakery

Bloodied bodies lay on the road, while others could be seen in the rubble after an airstrike near a bakery in the town of Halfaya in the central Syrian province of Hama. (Video on Al Arabiya)

More than 300 people were reportedly killed in airstrike near a bakery in the town of Halfaya in the central Syrian province of Hama.

“There is no way to really know yet how many people were killed. When I got there, I could see piles of bodies all over the ground. There were women and children,” Samer al-Hamawi, an activist in the town of Halfaya, where the strike hit, told Reuters. “There are also dozens of wounded people”

Halfaya was seized by rebels last week as part of a campaign to push into new territories in the 21-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “dozens of people were killed in an air strike on Halfaya.”

“In Halfaya, regime forces bombarded a bakery and committed a massacre that killed dozens of people, including women and children, and wounded many others,” said the Local Coordination Committees, a grassroots network of activists.

“A MiG (jet) has attacked! Look at (President Bashar al-) Assad’s weapons. Look, world, look at the Halfaya massacre,” says an unidentified cameraman shooting an amateur video distributed by the Observatory.

Activists said more than a thousand people had been queuing at the bakery. Shortages of fuel and flour have made bread production erratic across the country, and people often wait for hours to buy bread.

The footage showed a bombed one-storey block, and a crater in the road beside it.

Bloodied bodies lay on the road, while others could be seen in the rubble.

Men carried victims out on their backs, among them at least one woman, the video showed.

On Monday, rebels launched an all-out assault on army positions across Hama, which is home to strong anti-regime sentiment.

During the summer, rights groups accused government forces of committing war crimes by dropping bombs and using artillery on or near several bakeries in the northern province of Aleppo.

One of the bloodiest attacks was on a bread line in the Qadi Askar district of Aleppo city on August 16 that left 60 people dead, according to local hospital records.

New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned army air strikes on bakeries earlier this year, arguing that in some incidents the military was not using enough precision to target rebel sites and in other instances may have intentionally hit civilians.

“We hadn’t received flour in around three days so everyone was going to the bakery today, and lots of them were women and children,” Hamawi said. “I still don’t know yet if my relatives are among the dead.

(english.alarabiya.net / 23.12.2012)

Journalists hold silent protest against attacks on press freedom

Dozens of journalists held a silent protest at the headquarters of the Journalists Syndicate Sunday to protest repressive media censorship policies and the killing of a colleague at a protest earlier this month.

The journalists, from various independent newspapers such as Al-Wafd, Al-Dostour and Al-Fagr, wore masks and wielded pens and cameras to protest what they decry as government attacks on freedom of journalism and expression.

Protesters raised banners reading: “No to handcuffing the media and journalism,” “No to a constitution that suppresses the freedoms of media and journalism,” “No to attacking newspapers’ headquarters,” and “Down with the Shura Council,” in reference to the body’s control over selecting the heads of state-owned newspapers.

They also mourned Al-Fagr photojournalist Al-Husseini Abu Deif, who was killed at a protest outside the presidential palace on 5 December.

Gamal Fahmy, deputy chief of the Journalists Syndicate; Alaa al-Attar, editor-in-chief of the Al-Ahram website; and Yehia Qallash, head of the committee in defense of freedoms, took part in the protest, which aimed to pressure the ruling regime to stop harassing journalists.

Since being elected president, Mohamed Morsy has attacked the media in general, accusing it of serving the ousted regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. Dozens of journalists have been summoned to trial in recent months for expressing critical views of Morsy.

Last August, Morsy issued a decree to prohibit the pre-trial detention of journalists accused of “publishing offenses,” after a court remanded into custody a newspaper editor standing trial for defaming the president.

But critics say that the detention of journalists is still possible following any convictions in these “publishing offenses” trials. And since the incident, the president’s office has continued to file complaints against journalists and other public figures expressing critical views of Morsy.

This month, the president’s office reportedly complained about psychiatrist Manal Omar, who critically analyzed Morsy’s character on television.

The complaints against journalists have not only come from the president’s office, with Islamist activists bringing charges of their own.

On Sunday, Public Prosecutor Talaat Abdallah ordered an investigation into charges brought by former Salafi MP Mamdouh Ismail saying that Ibrahim Eissa, a prominent newspaper editor and television presenter, committed religious blasphemy and threatened national unity on his TV show. In his charge, Ismail said Eissa mocked verses of the Quran and spoke ill of the president.

Essam Sultan, vice president of the Wasat Party, demanded on Facebook Sunday that President Mohamed Morsy waive all charges against journalists.

He also called on the Shura Council to reduce the punishment for anyone convicted of insulting the Egyptian president to a fine, instead of the current penalty of imprisonment.

Protest at syndicates of journalists<br />

 

(www.egyptindependent.com / 23.12.2012)

In Ravaged Syria, Beach Town May Be Loyalists’ Last Resort

TARTUS, Syria — Loyalists who support the government of PresidentBashar al-Assad are flocking to the Mediterranean port of Tartus, creating an overflowing boomtown far removed from the tangled, scorched rubble that now mars most Syrian cities.

The port city of Tartus is sheltered by a mountain range.
There are no shellings or air raids to interrupt the daily calm. Families pack the cafes lining the town’s seaside corniche, usually abandoned in December to the salty winter winds. The real estate market is brisk. A small Russian naval base provides at least the impression that salvation, if needed, is near.

Many of the new residents are members of the Alawite minority, the same Shiite Muslim sect to which Mr. Assad belongs. The latest influx is fleeing from Damascus, people who have decided that summer villas, however chilly, are preferable to the looming battle for the capital.

“Going to Tartus is like going to a different country,” said a Syrian journalist who recently met residents here. “It feels totally unaffected and safe. The attitude is, ‘We are enjoying our lives while our army is fighting overseas.’ ”

Should Damascus fall to the opposition, Tartus could become the heart of an attempt to create a different country. Some expect Mr. Assad and the security elite will try to survive the collapse by establishing a rump Alawite state along the coast, with Tartus as their new capital.

There have been various signs of preparations.

This month, the governor of Tartus Province announced that experts were studying how to develop a tiny local airfield, now used mostly by crop-dusters, into a full-fledged civilian airport “to boost transportation, business, travel and tourism,” as the official Syrian news agency, SANA, reported. The announcement coincided with the first attacks on the airport in Damascus, forcing it to close temporarily to international traffic.

More important, security forces are continuously tightening an extensive ring of checkpoints around the potential borders of an Alawite canton. The mountain heartland of the Alawites rises steeply to the east of Tartus, separating it from much of Syria. Across the mountains, the Orontes River creates a rough line separating Alawite territory from central Syria. Rebel military commanders from adjoining Hama Province said government soldiers vigorously maintain checkpoints on routes leading up into the mountains.

“If we bomb a checkpoint, it is back in place sometimes within hours,” said Basil al-Hamwi, a rebel fighter, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of opposition military commanders in Turkey. “Once, in Hama Province, we destroyed five in one day and they were all back the next day. This area is even more important for them than Damascus.”

Mr. Hamwi and other rebel leaders said there were about 40 government checkpoints along more than 60 miles in Homs and Hama Provinces alone. Many Alawite commanders of Mr. Assad’s army have sent their families to their home villages, so they are particularly aggressive in protecting the area, said Hassan M. al-Saloom, a rebel battalion commander. They have formed committees to guard the outskirts of their villages, he said, and often negotiate local truces.

“Nobody goes inside, and they don’t come out,” he said.

There are widespread suspicions within the opposition that the military is shipping weapons into the Alawite hinterland, or has already positioned them. “The mountains and the coast make it hard to raid,” Mr. Saloom said.

Castles left by the Crusaders dot the coastal range, a testament to its strategic value.

If Mr. Assad fled to Tartus, he could seek protection from the Russian naval base here, or flee aboard a Russian vessel. Russia announced Tuesday that it was sending a small flotilla toward Tartus, possibly to evacuate its citizens who live in Syria. But Tartus residents said that the Russian families from the naval base had already left, while the officers do not leave the base, which is little more than an enclosure near the civilian port.

There is a precedent for a rump state. France, the colonial power in the region in the early 20th century, fostered an Alawite state from 1920 to 1936, but it eventually merged with what became an independent Syria.

Opposition military commanders vow to block any attempt to create an Alawite state.

“We want to prevent the regime from leaving Damascus at all, to ensure that when Damascus falls, the regime falls, too,” said a senior rebel military commander from Homs, who asked not to be named for security reasons. At a recent meeting of opposition military commanders in southern Turkey, none showed up from the meager forces around Tartus.

The war has only augmented the reputation of people from Tartus for living the indolent life of a relaxed resort. Unlike much of Syria, the town still has bread, diesel fuel and electricity, with minimal power cuts. The local cinema club maintains a robust schedule and recently screened both “Finding Nemo” and “Cinema Paradiso.”

The city experienced a few small antigovernment demonstrations after the revolution first started in March 2011, but none since.

Abu Mohamed, 35, a real estate agent here, has tracked the fighting elsewhere in Syria by the license plates showing up outside his office. First they were from Homs, then Deir al-Zour, then Aleppo and now Damascus.

He gets 20 to 30 calls a day, he said, from people looking for houses to buy or rent.

“Most of them have never been here before, but they seem to be rich or at least middle class because they have nice cars,” he said. Recently, he said, more black government limousines have appeared, and middlemen have materialized, telling him that they are looking for big houses for some unidentified “important and influential figure who wants it for his family.”

Ahmed Jibril, a Palestinian commander still loyal to Mr. Assad, fled with his son to Tartus from Damascus after rebels there gained the upper hand in the Palestinian neighborhood of Yarmouk, activists said.

“Usually at this time of year, the city is empty,” said Abu Mohammed, using a nickname to avoid alienating any clients. “But now it is the opposite. All the hotels, motels, small sea cottages, anything furnished is full.”

Precise numbers are difficult to gauge. Azzam Dayoub, the head of the political office for the underground revolutionary council of Tartus, said there were at least 230,000 war refugees in the city. Others said the population of the entire province, once around 1.2 million, was now closer to two million. Most are Alawites, including countless government employees who have returned to their home province. But many are Sunnis, Christians or others close to the government who no longer felt safe elsewhere.

Mr. Dayoub said Alawites in the town barred other minorities and members of Syria’s Sunni majority from entering their neighborhoods, and the two sides no longer frequent each other’s stores. The Sunni population has been collecting weapons to fight any future attempt to drive them out, he said.

The large presence of non-Alawites along the coast prompted many residents to suggest that building an Alawite state would be impossible. Latakia, for example, a larger coastal city to the north with an international airport, would seem a more natural choice for a capital, but it is considered less safe for its large Alawite population because of repeated clashes there.

There are few public conversations in Tartus about the crisis enveloping Syria, several residents said. “No one on either side discusses their feelings openly,” said a 29-year-old woman who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the tensions there. “They want to keep things calm because both sides are scared.”

Privately, some Alawites dismiss the chances of having their own state. Abu Haidar, 55, the owner of a small import and export business in Tartus, said dreams were one thing, but reality was something else. “What do we have in Tartus Province that would aid us to stand alone as a state?” he asked. “We have neither the infrastructure, nor the resources. It is basically lemon and olive orchards along with a small city with simple services.”

But until the day of reckoning arrives, Tartus seems bent on blocking out the war raging over the horizon.

“The people who came to Tartus are looking to live their lives, not to sit and remember what happened to their brothers and other relatives in their hometowns,” Abu Mohamed said. Given the lavish wedding parties here, the mobbed restaurants and the buzz of daily activity, he said, “Sometimes, when I drive around the streets and squares of Tartus, I forget what is happening in Syria.”

(www.nytimes.com / 23.12.2012)