By Peter Clifford     ©      (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2)


Has Assad’s military overstretched itself?  Despite taking Qusair away from the Opposition, since then Assad’s army has launched a major offensive into Homs city but at the same time also attempted to break through to Aleppo and drive Opposition fighters out of Damascus.

Despite reinforcements from Hezbollah and Iranian advisers, this all may be a step too far, too soon.


Assad Military Casualties Growing by the Day

A report from Tartous today says that a total of 374 dead or injured regime troops have been taken to the regime military’s Basel Al-Assad Hospital there after being killed or injured in fighting against FSA forces in Homs.

Elizabeth O’Bagy, an anlayst for the Institute for the Study of War, says:

Consecutive large-scale offensives remain difficult for the Syrian government, and the rush to Aleppo was premature. Given the distribution of its resources and the forces required to conduct major offensives at this point, it also remains difficult for the Syrian government to conduct simultaneous large-scale offensives.

Although the Syrian government has been able to maintain its current level of operations in Aleppo, it has been unable to launch a major offensive against the city while simultaneously conducting an offensive in Homs. Assad’s forces are too limited to conduct decisive operations in multiple fronts simultaneously, and once they move on from one location, they risk losing it again”.

(EDITOR: My thanks to EAWorldView for this quote

Lose territory, is just what appears to have happened in Damascus where the Government has been trying to launch yet another major offensive, pushing its way, after a rocket and artillery blitz, into Qaboun and other Sunni suburbs.

Latest reports from Darraya, a suburb that has held out against Assad’s forces for more than 10 months, suggest that over the last 2 days Opposition fighters have fought fiercely to retake a large residential area they had lost earlier.

The retaken territory includes over 30 strategic buildings overlooking the industrial zone near Abu Suleima Addarani Mosque. Opposition fighters say that they killed many regime soldiers and captured lots of ammunition and weapons including a wire-guided missile.

Activists also say that the Opposition has managed to bring in reinforcements into the Damascus area to help resist the Assad Army advance.

Elsewhere in Damascus the Opposition were reported this morning, Wednesday, to be bombarding Damascus International Airport again with Grad missiles and to have killed 10 members of the pro-regime Abu Al-Fadi Al-Abbas Brigade and Hezbollah in fighting around the Sayeda Zeinab shrine.

A car bomb exploding near the Amari Mosque in Kanaker, north of Damascus this morning is reported to have killed 3 people, including a father and his son, and wounded 10 others.


In Homs province, Rastan, which has been under attack for more than a year, is once again suffering brutal bombardment, residents reporting the shaking of buildings and brave medics trying to cope with the injuries without the benefit of decent medical supplies.


Battles Continue Across Homs Province

Little news from Homs city at the moment, though it is safe to presume that regime attacks are ongoing.

However, 6 men who were trying to mediate between Alawite and Shia communities,  were reported killed by pro-Assad Shabiha near the Alawite village of Hajar al-Abyad, a Government stronghold.

The men, including 2 retired military men and an Imam, were trying to set up talks between the 2 sides after fighting errupted in the area last week. The Shabiha accused them of secretly working for the Opposition.

In Aleppo, where the Opposition continue to control entry and exit to the western Government held suburbs of Syria’s largest city, food supplies are once again flowing across the central crossing between the two distinct sides in Bustan Al Qasser, known to local people as the “crossing of death”.

The crossing is busy and vital to the local economy but every now and again regime sniper fire rings out and someone falls dead.  An excellent article on the crossing, which criticises both sides, isHERE:

And the BBC has a video report, HERE:

Video has also emerged of the Tawheed Brigade using sniper fire in their siege and attack on the Alawite enclave of Nubl, HERE:


In Deraa province Opposition fighters have captured a major checkpoint and a tank at Nawa,HERE:   though the Government has since retaliated with an airstrike, killing a small boy.

In the Idlib countryside the Opposition have also made progress storming the Maarbalet Military checkpoint near the “Brick Factory”, HERE:

While in Hasaka to the north at Ras Al-Ain near the Turkish border, following several days of fighting the Kurdish militia, the YPG, is reported to have driven out the Islamist groups, the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, killing 9 of the Jihadists while losing  1 of their own.

Fighting has started when the Al-Nusra Front stopped a YPG patrol and kidnapped one of their fighters. The YPG has since vowed to clear out the Islamists from all the surrounding villages. Unfortunately the fighting spilled across the Turkish border killing a Turkish man and a teenager with random gunfire  on Tuesday.

The Turkish Army is reported to have retaliated against stray shots this morning by firing 14 rounds back across the border.

In Lebanon a prominent Syrian political analyst, Mohammed Darrar Jammo, was assassinated in the early hours of this morning, by unknown gunmen who cut him down near his house in the Bekaa valley. Jammo often appeared on TV stations throughout the Middle East in support of Assad and his regime.

A roadside bomb is also reported to have severely injured 2 men in a Hezbollah SUV convoy that was heading for Syria on Tuesday, the men being removed to the Hezbollah hospital in Beirut.


Wounded Syrians “Kicked Out” of Hospital in Lebanon

According to other reports, the Minieh hospital in north Lebanon was less helpful, “kicking-out” 28 Syrians because, they claimed, their fees had not been paid.

The 28 men, who had been wounded in the fighting around Qusair, were not allowed to take any personal belongings with them or even X-rays or splints for fractures.

Some of the men were left by the roadside for 2 hours in high temperatures before being collected by the Red Cross and transferred to another medical facility.

Internationally, the UK has gifted 5,000 anti-chemical weapon kits, including “escape hoods, nerve-agent pre-treatment tablets and chemical-weapon detection paper to the Syrian National Council (SNC), and Irleland has agreed to supply troops to man the UN “peacekeeping force” in the Golan Heights, subject to parliamentary approval.

Commenting on the worsening crisis in Syria the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guerres,  said that this was the worst situation since the genocide in Rwanda nearly 20 years ago, with 6,000 people fleeing Syria every day and 5,000 a month being killed. Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:


Learning the Ropes of the Call to Prayer


Kerry Threatens Cutting US Aid To P.A.

An Israeli political source stated that, during his latest visit to the region, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, told Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, that the United States would cut all economic aid to the P.A. should the Palestinians insist on what he called “preconditions” for the resumption of direct peace talks.

Kerry And Abbas - PNN
Kerry And Abbas

Israeli Walla News Agency quoted the unnamed source stating that Kerry threatened Abbas during their Ramallah meeting, when he visited the region late last month, that the White House would cut all aid, and would hold Abbas responsible for the failure of peace talks.

Kerry claimed that Abbas insists on “preconditions” such as the release of Palestinian political prisoners, freezing Israeli settlement activities, and the Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders.

Just before leaving the region, Kerry told reporters “he is glad for achieving some progress”, and promised to continue close talks to ensure the resumption of negotiations.

The Israeli source told Walla that Israel is not willing to “continue to pay the price to convince Abbas to resume direct talks”, and claimed that Israel even offered to agree to a time frame for talks on vital issues such as borders, the refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements.

However, he also reiterated Israel’s demand that the Palestinian must recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”, and added that Abbas rejected the “offer”.

Palestinian sources said that the Israeli statements are just test strips that carry no significance, as the Palestinian Authority cannot resume direct talks as long as Israeli continues its violations and its illegal settlement activities.

(Source / 17.07.2013)

3 Palestinians arrested, others injured in clashes with IOF in Jerusalem



OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces on Tuesday evening arrested three Jerusalemites, while dozens were injured during violent clashes in the vicinity of the Damascus Gate.

The clashes broke out when the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) suppressed a mass protest against the Prawer scheme.

Local sources said that the soldiers surrounded and attacked dozens of citizens from the occupied city of Jerusalem and the 1948 occupied territories, who took part in the vigil staged to protest against Prawer plan.

Medic Bassem Zidani pointed out that there have been dozens of injuries and that the IOF attacked all the citizens; including the women, children and old people, who were present in the vicinity of the Damascus Gate even those who were not involved in the protest.

Meanwhile, Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowments and Heritage warned in a statement on Wednesday of a new Israeli plan to build hotels and tourist and commercial facilities on parts of the land of the Islamic historical cemetery of Ma’man Allah in Jerusalem.

The Foundation considered such procedure a crime and a flagrant violation of the sanctity of the dead, and asserted that it will spare no effort to respond to and thwart this scheme.

Hebrew newspaper Ma’ariv published on Wednesday morning on its website news item stating that the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem began to develop plans and draw blueprints to build hotels and tourist and commercial facilities on parts of the cemetery.

The newspaper pointed out that the Finance Committee in the municipality allocated 200 thousand shekels (about 75 thousand U.S. $) for the planning of the project, in collaboration with the Israeli Eden Company.

Al-Aqsa Foundation pointed out that the Israeli enterprise seized the cemetery and swept away hundreds of graves, then it has established schools and playgrounds for the Israelis.

The Foundation has launched a few months ago a local and international campaign to address all the Israeli plans targeting the Islamic cemetery of Ma’man Allah.

(Source / 17.07.2013)

Israel Set To Approve 900 Settlement Units

Civil Administration to meet Wednesday to confirm the decision.

Civil Administration to approve 900 units today, with the largest portion of the plan to include 732 units in the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Ilit. Objections come primarily from neighboring town of Deir Qadis.

The Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council is set to approve the construction of 900 homes today in various different parts of the West Bank. The largest portion of this plan is the building of 732 units in Modi’in Ilit, a West Bank settlement west of Ramallah, sitting 2.3 km from the Green Line.

The settlement is the largest in its region of the West Bank, with a population of 52 060 people. The nearby Palestinian village of Dir Qadis objected to the plan on the basis of a claim that the settlement building would take place on their territory. The Civil Administration have responded by saying that the building will not be built on “private land”, according to Ha’aretz.

The plan is to be put in place in a meeting on Wednesday. There are number of instances of retroactive approval for settlement building which previously had been rejected which will be taking place today.

Other planned building today includes the building of 17 homes in Shiloh, the construction of which had been stopped previously by the High Court of Justice. Kokhav Yaakov, near Ramallah, will also have 35 units built.

Palestinian residents of Deir Qaddis village, near Ramallah, filed various appeals against the plan, especially as it includes constructions on privately owned lands. Israel rejected the appeals.

It is worth mentioning that the Construction and Planning Committee intends to approve more units in smaller Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on Thursday.

Abdul-Hady Hantash, a Palestinian expert in Jewish settlements, stated that Israel is just wasting time, and is acting on foiling international efforts to resume direct peace talks.

Hantash told the Palestine News Network (PNN) that Israel is trying to convince the United States and the international community that it is interested in peace, but its actions on the ground prove the opposite.

He added that Israel’s ongoing settlement activities are direct and serious obstacles to peace in the region, as they comes in direct violation of International Law.

(Source / 17.07.2013)

Why boycott can’t be limited only to Israeli occupation and settlements

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy has been writing for Haaretz for at least two decades, and notably since I’ve been following him, his writings have brilliantly illuminated the reality ofIsraeli apartheid, as it affects Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians living in the Gaza Stip, as well as in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

Levy describes himself as writing to “(re)humanize the Palestinians,” and focus on how they are treated by Israel.

Yet when it comes to the campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel called for by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, he has on numerous occasions explained why he does not support the movement. He even – at one point – went so far as to accuse civil society organizations elsewhere in the world of having a“moral double standard” for supporting the boycott.

But he has written supportively of selective boycott actions, limited to what are referred to as settlement or occupation-only boycotts. On 14 July, after seven years of dancing around it, Gideon Levy wrote a column declaring outright support for an economic boycott of Israel:

Anyone who really fears for the future of the country needs to be in favor at this point of boycotting it economically.

He concludes:

It’s difficult and painful, almost impossibly so, for an Israeli who has lived his whole life here, who has not boycotted it, who has never considered emigrating and feels connected to this country with all his being, to call for such a boycott. I have never done so. I have understood what motivated the boycott and was able to provide justification for such motives. But I never preached for others to take such a step. However, with Israel getting itself into another round of deep stalemate, both diplomatic and ideological, the call for a boycott is required as the last refuge of a patriot.

“Artificial” distinction between Israeli and occupation products

But to me, these were not the most significant declarations he made. Rather, it is the one that explains his shift from supporting the idea of “occupation-only” boycott to supporting the boycott of the state.

Levy summarizes the argument as he references Tzipi Livni’s complaint that a proposed European policy of boycotting Israeli settlement products would not stop there but would morph into a full boycott of the state:

Justice Minister Livni said that the discourse in Europe has become ideological. She knows what she’s talking about. She also said that a European boycott would not stop at products made in West Bank settlements. There’s no reason it should. The distinction between products from the occupation and Israeli products is an artificial creation. It’s not the settlers who are the primary culprits but rather those who cultivate their existence. All of Israel is immersed in the settlement enterprise, so all of Israel must take responsibility for it and pay the price for it.

This is a particularly significant point in the context of growing calls over the past few years to limit a boycott of Israel to the occupation and settlements, despite the breadth of the2005 call from Palestinians which is aimed at the state itself.

The Israeli economy is the occupation economy

Writers like Noam Sheizaf and Shir Hever, as well as organizations like Who Profits, have documented the underlying facts behind Levy’s logic regarding the artificiality of distinguishing “occupation” and “Israeli” products.

The data highlighting the level of co-mingling between the occupation/settlements and the state strikes at the heart of the argument that many in the US make when urging selective boycotts of only settlement or occupation-profiteering products/companies.

It’s simply dishonest to perpetuate the myth that the settlements or the occupation are somehow disconnected from the Israeli state, the very government that fundsequipsandprotects settlements, deploys its army to maintain its occupation of 1967, and that systematically discriminates against Palestinians who constitute 20 percent of its citizens.

Will Levy come aboard all the way?

It is important to note that Levy declares support for economic boycott, but does not mention the other elements of the boycott: cultural and academic. I would be remiss not to point out the complicity of Israel’s academic institutions [PDF] in its systems of oppression, or the clearly-defined role of culture in whitewashing Israel’s crimes, as articulated in 2009 by deputy director general for cultural affairs of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Arye Mekel.

“We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits,” Mekel explained. “This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

One can only hope that Gideon Levy will not stray from the very same logic he used to conclude an economic boycott was necessary, in thinking about academic and cultural boycott.

(Source / 17.07.2013)

Iran’s Rowhani brushes off Netanyahu threats

Iranian president-elect Hassan Rowhani waves as he attends a press conference in Tehran.

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rowhani has brushed off threats of military action against the Islamic republic by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying such warnings only made him “laugh”, media reported Wednesday.

“When some (the United States and Israel) say that all options are on the table and when a miserable regional country (Israel) says such things, it makes you laugh,” Rowhani said in an address to Iran-Iraq war veterans, according to Iranian media reports.

“Who are the Zionists to threaten us?” the moderate cleric said, insisting that warnings of an Iranian retaliation had stopped Israel from carrying out its threats to launch strikes on Iran.

Netanyahu on Sunday renewed his threat to take unilateral military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program, disparagingly referring to Rowhani as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” who would “smile and build a bomb”.

“We’re closer than the United States. We’re more vulnerable. And therefore, we’ll have to address this question of how to stop Iran, perhaps before the United States does,” Netanyahu said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

“They’re edging up to the red line. They haven’t crossed it yet,” the Israeli premier said, referring to the point at which Iran would be able to make its first nuclear weapon.

“They’re getting closer and closer to the bomb. And they have to be told in no uncertain terms that that will not be allowed to happen.”

Israel is the Middle East’s sole but undeclared nuclear power.

Iran for years has been at loggerheads with world powers over its nuclear drive, which Western nations and Israel believe is aimed at developing an atomic weapons capability. Tehran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Rowhani will succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president on August 3.

(Source / 17.07.2013)

Jihadists ‘expelled from flashpoint Kurdish Syrian town’

Residents pass by destroyed buildings in the frontier Syrian town of Ras al-Ain.

BEIRUT (AFP) — Kurdish fighters have expelled jihadists from the Syrian flashpoint frontier town of Ras al-Ain and well as the nearby border crossing with Turkey, a watchdog said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a car bomb attack killed at least seven people, among them a child, southwest of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Kurdish fighters took total control of Ras al-Ain “after 24 hours of fighting. The (jihadist) groups were expelled from the whole of Ras al-Ain, including the border post” with Turkey, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Earlier, the Britain-based group had reported clashes pitting Kurds against Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other groups.

Ras al-Ain is home to a majority Kurdish population and is of strategic importance given its location close to Turkey.

Kurdish fighters are trying to ensure neither the regime of President Bashar Assad nor the opposition takes control of its areas.

The clashes between Kurdish fighters and jihadists broke out after Al-Nusra Front attacked a convoy of Kurdish women fighters, Abdel Rahman said.

Nine jihadists and two Kurdish fighters have been killed since the fighting broke out, the Observatory said.

Activists in Ras al-Ain said members of the jihadist groups had taken advantage of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began last week, to try to impose their extreme version of Islam.

In the early days of the Syrian conflict, when opponents of the Assad regime were desperate for assistance from any quarter, jihadist fighters were welcomed but a spate of abuses has fueled a major backlash.

Elsewhere, a child and six men were killed when a car bomb attack hit Kanaker, in Damascus province, said the Observatory.

In the north of the capital, troops renewed their shelling campaign on rebel parts of Barzeh, while clashes raged in the neighborhood, the group added.

And in the central city of Homs, an army onslaught aimed at taking back rebel districts went into its 18th day, activists said.

Troops launched a new attempt to break into the rebel area of Bab Hud, which like other areas of Homs has been under tight army siege for more than a year, Homs-based activist Yazan told AFP via the Internet.

Meanwhile, “the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate day after day because of the suffocating siege”, said Yazan.

The lack of medical equipment in Homs’ flashpoint areas means “there is a growing need to evacuate dozens of wounded, who urgently need operations that cannot be performed here”, he added.

More than 100,000 people have died in Syria’s 28-month war, says the Observatory.

Wednesday’s violence comes a day after at least 112 people were killed across Syria, the group added.

(Source / 17.07.2013)

Oproep Palestijnen aan Tweede Kamer

Bescherm de Palestijnse bedoeïenen: neem actie binnen de Interparlementaire Unie

Op 9 juli, de dag van haar achtjarig bestaan, deed het Palestijnse BDS National Committee een oproep aan internationale parlementariërs om het Israëlische lidmaatschap van de Interparlementaire Unie op te schorten. Middels deze oproep zoeken de Palestijnen bescherming tegen de volgende fase in de etnische zuivering van de Naqab-woestijn (Negev). Die komt neer op de verdrijving van 70.000 Palestijnse bedoeïenen en de confiscatie van hun land. 

Het plan dat deze massale etnische zuivering een wettelijke status moet verschaffen, het Prawer Plan, past in de sinds 1948 door Israël genomen maatregelen om de Palestijnse bedoeïenen-bevolking uit haar traditionele leefgebied te verdrijven. Al in 1963 formuleerde Moshe Dayan het einddoel als het binnen twee generaties transformeren van een trotse, onafhankelijke bevolking tot verpauperde, vernederde en kansloze ‘stedelingen’, die vanzelf hun heil elders zullen zoeken. Als het plan wordt uitgevoerd betekent dit de grootste verdrijving van Palestijnen sinds de jaren vijftig. Naar schatting 40.000 bedoeïenen worden van hun land gejaagd en gedwongen ondergebracht in desolate ‘townships’. Later volgen er nog 30.000. Het totaal aantal Naqab-bedoeïenen bedraagt ca. 200.000.


foto: abirkopty.wordpress.com

Let wel: de bedoeïenen zijn Israëlische staatsburgers, in het bezit van volwaardige Israëlische burgerrechten. Waar de etnische zuivering van de Palestijnen op de Westelijke Jordaanoever is gefundeerd op verschillende rechtsstelsels, gaat die constructie voor de bedoeïenen van de Naqab niet op. Zij moeten plaats maken voor  Israëlische  nederzettingen, waarin zij als Israëliërs niet welkom zijn. Het Prawer Plan is het nieuwste bewijs dat Palestijnen als burgers binnen de zogenoemde democratie Israël hetzelfde overkomt als de Palestijnen die sinds 1967 onder bezetting leven. Niet voor niets spreken de Palestijnen zélf van de ‘voortgaande Nakba’ – de ‘catastrofe’ waarbij 750.000 Palestijnen rond 1948 door Europees-joodse kolonisten werden verdreven. Die verdrijving is na 65 jaar nog in volle gang: in Oost-Jeruzalem, op de Westelijke Jordaanoever, en in de Naqab. Onder het oog van de wereld raken de Palestijnen hun land en hun rechten kwijt.

Een ander verwaarloosd feit is dat de bedoeïenen – ook volgens joodse/Israëlische maatstaven – de rechtmatige eigenaren van het land zijn. Bedoeïenen begonnen vanaf 5.000 v.C. vanuit de Sinaï en het Arabisch schiereiland de Naqab-woestijn te bevolken. Lang voordat de Palestijnen en de joden in het latere Mandaatgebied Palestina arriveerden – ruim 3.000 jaar geleden –, hadden de bedoeïenen de Naqab tot hun huis gemaakt. Het (overigens onjuiste) klassieke joodse/Israëlische argument – ‘Wij wonen hier het langst, dus is het land van ons’ – werkt in dit geval tegen de Israëliërs.

Om dat te verhullen worden de bedoeïenen door de Israëlische politiek en media gepresenteerd als ‘invaders’ en zelfs ‘Palestinian settlers’ die het op ‘joods land’ voorzien hebben. Met deze propaganda worden de geesten in Israël en daarbuiten rijp gemaakt voor hun verjaging. De gebruikte terminologie lijkt sterk op die waarmee Afrikaanse migranten en vluchtelingen in Israël worden gebrandmerkt: als ‘infiltrators’ die een gevaar vormen voor ‘joodse vrouwen’. Ook de gedwongen isolatie en uitzetting van Afrikanen is in volle gang.

De Knesset, het Israëlische parlement, heeft zich eind juni in principe achter het Prawer Plan geschaard. Het wachten is op het definitieve besluit en de gewelddadige implementatie: de afbraak van huizen, nederzettingen en dorpen, en de massale deportatie van de inwoners. In reactie hierop heeft het Palestijnse BDS National Committee (BNC) een oproep gedaan aan internationale parlementariërs om Knesset-leden te weren uit de Interparlementaire Unie. Dat internationale samenwerkingsverband van parlementariërs is schatplichtig aan de uitgangspunten en doelen van de Verenigde Naties, en heeft ‘protection and promotion of human rights’ hoog in het vaandel staan. Dat gaat niet samen met het besluit van de Knesset.

De Interparlementaire Unie is een geëigend platform voor protest: acties raken de verantwoordelijke Knesset-leden en niemand anders. Het veelgehoorde excuus van (Nederlandse) parlementariërs om niet in actie te komen (‘Je raakt de gewone man’), is in dit geval niet van toepassing. Niets staat onze volksvertegenwoordigers in de weg om hun eed op de Grondwet gestand te doen – in het bijzonder Artikel 90, dat hen oproept tot bescherming van mensenrechten en het internationaal recht. Daar kunnen ze niet vaak genoeg aan herinnerd worden.

(Source / 17.07.2013)