Syrian Coalition: We will not accept the Reproduction of the Assad Regime in Geneva II

Abdel Basset Sida, member of the Syrian Coalition, condemns statements made by the regime’s minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haider that described the systematic killing and destruction by Assad’s forces as a military victory. “It’s strange how such statements can be made by the so-called minister of National Reconciliation. These remarks reveal the criminal nature of the Assad regime, belie its endorsement of a political solution and reflects utter disregard for international norms and laws,” Sida was responding to Haider’s statement that “the solution to the crisis is in Syria, not in the second conference of Geneva or even the tenth. The solution has already begun and will go on till a military victory is achieved.”  Which continues the triumph of the state joins the military.” Sida criticized Russia’s lack of seriousness in dealing with the Syrian crisis to bring about a solution based on the items of Geneva I, although the Russians took part in the wording of Geneva I Communique.” Furthermore, Sida lashed out at Russia’s insistence on restricting the goals of Geneva to “combatting terrorism and the release of detainees, while letting go of the formation of transition ruling body with full powers. This means that Russia is not interested in bringing about a political solution and tries to reproduce the Assad regime.” Sida points out that Russia and the Assad regime seek to create their own version of Geneva that tally with their position of the conference. However, they must know that the Syrian people will not give up the demands they rose up for.” Moreover, Khalid Saleh, the Media Office head said that “Assad must realize that Geneva II should not be a waste of time at the expense of the blood of the Syrian people. The goal of the conference is undoubtedly the formation of a transitional governing body with full powers and free of Assad and his close associates.” Saleh stresses that the regime’s practices and statements suggest “that a political solution is far from being part of its political agenda.” He also said that “We no longer trust the promises and statements made by of the Assad regime,” referring the regime Foreign Minister’s call for mutual cease-fire.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 17.01.2014)

Yemen ‘set up a counselling centre’ for children because of drone strikes

Drone from beneath

A Yemeni delegation to the UN yesterday admitted that it has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of traumatisation caused by US drone attacks in the country is so high.

At a periodic review of Yemen by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child yesterday, the Yemeni delegation was asked by the Committee about the psychological impact of drone strikes on children. The Yemeni official said that following a drone attack on a residential area, they had found it necessary to set up a counselling centre.

The delegation also stressed that the country’s Parliament has voted to stop US drone strikes, saying:

“The Yemeni Parliament one month ago adopted a prohibition of American drones carrying out attacks in Yemen and we will continue to review and discuss this issue.”

When asked by a member of the committee how Yemen is trying to prevent drone strikes, the delegation said:

“We have signed an agreement with the US and other countries to fight terrorism…We will fight terrorism wherever it occurs in conformity with our agreement with the US.” The delegation then went on to admit that, “Of course mistakes have been made.”

These statements follow on from a report from UN Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon, to the Security Council last year by stating that drones were violating a range of children’s rights from their right to life to their right to education.

CIA drone strikes in Yemen have killed an estimated 42 children. In March last year Dr Peter Schaapveld, an expert in psychological trauma assessment and treatment told British MPs, following a trip assessing victims and communities in Yemen, that US drones in the country were “causing a psychological emergency.”

Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “In places like Yemen, the US drone programme is terrorising entire civilian populations, nearly half of which are children. President Hadi’s agreements with the US are trumping Yemen’s responsibility to protect its children. Instead of allowing the US to bomb his country to pieces and then setting up a recovery centre, President Hadi should listen to his Parliament and stop the drone strikes.”

(Source / 17.01.2014)

Russia Steps Up Military Aid to Syria’s Assad – Sources

An Antonov An-124 with two Sukhoi Su-27sAn Antonov An-124 with two Sukhoi Su-27s

In recent weeks Russia has stepped up supplies of military gear to Syria, including armored vehicles, drones and guided bombs, boosting PresidentBashar al-Assad just as rebel infighting has weakened the insurgency against him , sources with knowledge of the deliveries say.

Moscow, which is trying to raise its diplomatic and economic influence in the Middle East, has been a major provider of conventional weapons to Syria, giving Assad crucial support during the three-year civil war and blocking wider Western attempts to punish him with sanctions for the use of force against civilians.

The new Russian supplies come at a critically fluid stage of the conflict, with peace talks scheduled for next week in Switzerland, the factious opposition losing ground, and Western support for the rebellion growing increasingly wary of the role played by foreign militants. Syria has even said some countries formally opposed to Assad have begun discussing security cooperation with his government.

Several sources told Reuters that Assad’s forces had since December receiveddeliveries of weaponry and other military supplies, including unmanned spy drones known as UAVs, which have been arranged by Russia either directly or via proxies.

Dozens of Antonov 124s (Russian transport planes) have been bringing in armored vehicles, surveillance equipment, radars, electronic warfare systems, spare parts for helicopters, and various weapons including guided bombs for planes,” a Middle East security source said.

Russian advisers and intelligence experts have been running observation UAVs around the clock to help Syrian forces track rebel positions, analyze their capabilities, and carry out precision artillery and air force strikes against them,” said the source, who declined to be identified. . . .

NEED FOR SUPPLIES

Tom Wallace, of U.S. based non-profit conflict research group C4ADS, said: “Assad absolutely needs to keep refreshing his supplies. People’s mind most obviously goes to bullets, but they underestimate what an incredibly heavy logistical burden a modern mechanized military really is.

“Tank treads, helicopter blades, jet fuel, ball-bearings, gyroscopes – virtually every component of every piece of equipment can and will break down without maintenance and/or replacement.”

James Bevan of Conflict Armament Research, who tracks weapons for governments and other organizations, said Syria’s munitions use had been high for over two years.

“Further evidence of that is that they have been using barrel bombs dropped out of helicopters, which may suggest that they are running low on air-launched or air-delivered munitions,” he said. . . .

A Syrian opposition source said some supplies had been delivered to Syria’s Latakia airport around three weeks ago, with further equipment reaching through the country’s major cargo ports in Tartous and Latakia.

The source said the port of Tartous, which is also the location of Russia’s naval base, had been sealed off for several hours over three to four weeks ago.

“During the time, non-authorized personnel were not allowed to enter, and it is a sure sign a delivery came through. This happens from time to time when supplies come in, usually at night.”

The Middle East security source added: “Given the risk of rebel attack on arms depots and landing strips at Syrian air bases, Russia has also been shipping large amounts of small arms and munitions to Tartous and Latakia, allowing Assad’s forces to keep fighting apace.”

(Source / 17.01.2014)

Hariri says could share power with Hezbollah

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (C) is seen at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague Jan. 16, 2014.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says he is now ready to share power with his rivals Hezbollah if that’s what it takes to help Lebanon finally form a government after nine months of political deadlock.

Linking up with the powerful Shi’ite group would be a sharp turnabout for Hariri and his Future party, a Sunni Muslim group that supports the Sunni revolt against Shi’ite-backed President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria’s civil war.

It also presents a personal challenge for the son of former premier Rafiq Hariri, whose 2005 car bomb assassination was widely blamed on Hezbollah, which denies the allegation.

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But Hariri told Reuters in The Hague, where he is attending the trial in absentia of four Hezbollah members charged with his father’s killing, that he’s not only ready to share power with Hezbollah but is optimistic they can come to an agreement.

“We’re trying to run the country with everyone, because we do not want to keep anyone outside,” he said in an interview late on Thursday after attending the opening session of the Special Tribunal For Lebanon.

“Lebanon is having a difficult time, especially since the international community has failed miserably to do anything for Syria,” he said. “I think it is our duty towards the people of Lebanon to stabilize the country … I am very optimistic.”

Asked why he was willing to work with a group accused of playing a role in his father’s killing, he said he was committed to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

“We know that they are allegedly persons who committed these crimes… But at the end of the day, this is a political party that has a big coalition, with Aounis (the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun) and other political parties,” he said.

Not returning yet

Lebanon, still struggling to recover from its own 1975-1990 civil war, has been without a fully functioning government since Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned last March. A caretaker cabinet with minimal powers is running the country until the squabbling parties can reach a deal to form a government.

Fears over Syria-inspired violence have only added to the pressure on politicians to find a compromise.

Hezbollah backs Assad, himself from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

In the past two years, two prominent figures linked to Hariri’s Future Party have been killed in car bombs many Hariri supporters blamed on Hezbollah, which denies the accusation.

Hezbollah’s strongholds in Beirut have also been attacked with a series of car bombs and rocket strikes that have killed dozens of civilians. Many of those attacks were claimed by al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebel groups.

Negotiations to form a new government were revived in December. A prominent Lebanese political source told Reuters that “great strides have been made in the negotiations and a new government may see the light this month.”

Hariri’s government was toppled by Hezbollah’s political bloc in 2011 and he soon left the country. He has been living between France and Saudi Arabia, fearing for his security.

He was reluctant to give any date for his return.

“Eventually I will return. There is a security problem in Lebanon, especially as you know the assassination of (Mohammad) Chatah the year before, and (Wissam) al-Hassan the year before that,” he said, referring to the targets of two car bombs in Beirut in 2013 and 2012.

“I don’t want to go back and end up like the others. I want to go back and play my role as I should.”

(Source / 17.01.2014)

Twitter suspends English account of Hamas military wing

Twitter closed the official account of the Ezzeldin al-Qassam Brigades following pressure from Zionist groups and Christians.

Social media platform Twitter suspended the official English account of the Ezzeldin al-Qassam Brigades – the military wing of Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement – without prior notice, the Palestinian daily news website Safa reported on Saturday.

Twitter closed the group’s official account on Thursday following pressure from Zionist groups and Christians, the supervisor of the military wing‘s Twitter page said in a statement released on the group‘s online website.

The closure came after the group‘s success in portraying a positive image of the Palestinian resistance to a Western audience, he added.

The page supervisor also described Twitter’s policy as “unprofessional,” blaming the social networking platform for giving more space to the Israeli army “despite the terrorism practiced by the [Israeli] occupation against the Palestinian people from siege and killing.”

The group subsequently launched a new page on Twitter called @qassambrigade.

Hamas is blacklisted as a terror group by both the European Union and the United States, despite winning Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006.

(Source / 17.01.2014)

Israel summons EU ambassadors to protest ‘pro-Palestinian bias’

Israel has summoned the ambassadors from four EU countries to protest what it described as their “one-sided” stand in favor of Palestinians. This is the latest move in a row over Israeli settlement homes.

Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem 11.11.2013

A statement released by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday said he had summoned the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain to “stress to them that their perpetual one-sided stance against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians is unacceptable and creates the impression they are only seeking ways to blame Israel.”

The move came a day after the governments of the same four EU member states had called in their respective Israeli ambassadors to protest the country’s latest announcement regarding settlement construction.

Lieberman also accused the EU countries of damaging the Middle East peace process through criticism of Israel’s settlement policy.

“Beyond being biased, unbalanced and ignoring the reality on the ground, the positions held by these states significantly harm the possibility of reaching some sort of agreement between the sides,” his statement said.

Last week, Israel announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which most of the international community regards as illegal.

Anger at EU reaction

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily to a statement issued by Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy coordinator, in which she criticized the latest settlement construction as “illegal under international law” and “an obstacle to peace.”

“The EU calls our ambassadors in because of the construction of a few houses? When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors about incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction?” Netanyahu asked at a reception on Thursday. He also described the summoning of Israel’s ambassadors over the construction plans as “hypocritical.”

Last week’s settlement announcement came just after US Secretary of State John Kerry departed from the region following his latest round of peace talks with the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Last summer, Kerry succeeded in bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table after a three-year deadlock; however, little progress appears to have been made since then.

(Source / 17.01.2014)

Israel challenges EU anti-settlement stances

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says four European states called over ‘one-sided’ view of settlement conflict.

Last week Israel announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in the occupied West Bank
Israel has summoned envoys from four European states to protest their “one-sided” stand in favour of the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said.

The action on Friday is likely to escalate a quarrel over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal by much of the world.

It comes a day after Britain, France, Italy and Spain called in Israeli ambassadors to hear protests against Israel’s latest announcement of settlement-building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the European criticism “hypocritical”, and in a tit-for-tat move, Lieberman said envoys from the four EU countries had been summoned to a meeting in the foreign ministry in Jerusalem.

In a statement, he said Israel would make clear “that the one-sided position they constantly take against Israel and in favour of the Palestinians is unacceptable and creates a feeling that they are only looking to place blame on Israel.”

Last week Israel announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than 500,000 Jewish settlers already live.

Israel and the Palestinians resumed US brokered peace talks in July after a three-year deadlock.

‘Obsessive and messianic’

The negotiations, which have shown little sign of progress so far, were dealt a further blow after a diplomatic row erupted after the Israeli foreign minister described US Secretary of State John Kerry as obsessive and messianic.

“The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us isn’t worth the paper it was written on,” Yaalon was quoted as saying in private conversations with Israeli officials.

Defence minister Moshe Yaalon apologised for the remarks after the US State Department said his remarks were “offensive.”

The future of settlements is a core issue in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel says the issue should be solved within negotiations.

“Israel is making great effort to allow the dialogue with the Palestinians to continue and the position these states are taking, beyond it being biased and unbalanced, is significantly harming the chances of reaching an accord,” Lieberman said.

(Source / 17.01.2014)

DEATHS IN OPPOSITION INFIGHTING TOP 1,100, PERHAPS MANY MORE, AS ASSAD FAILS SO FAR TO CAPITALISE ON DISARRAY

By Peter Clifford               ©                 (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

Deaths in the Opposition infighting between the extreme Jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (knows as ISIL or ISIS) and the more moderate fighters of the Islamic Front (IF) and former FSA brigades, are now thought to be at least 1,100 over the last 2 weeks according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Jihadists in Training

However, there could be hundreds more as battles between the 2 sides continue to break out across the Aleppo countryside and in Idlib, Hama and Raqqah provinces.

The moderates seem to have come off worst with at least 608 deaths but overall the seem to be winning the fight in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

At least 312 members of ISIL, whose members are mainly foreign, non-Syrian Jihadists, are recorded as being killed, but this could well be an understatement.

At least 130 civilians have been killed in the clashes, some executed by ISIL but most caught in crossfire or killed by car bombs or other suicide explosions.

SOHR estimates that there could be at least another 400 deaths as a result of this infighting which are so far unrecorded and as ISIL retreats, a number of mass graves are coming to light which could push the totals even higher.

More worryingly, hundreds of detainees held in secret ISIL prisons are still unaccounted for, despite a number being freed by the moderate Opposition advance.

Reports this morning, Friday, suggest that another mass grave has just been found at a recently vacated ISIL position in the western Aleppo countryside, probably the former regime Base 46 south-west of Aleppo city. Moderate Opposition forces captured the base yesterday, HERE:

Also in the south-west the moderate Opposition have driven ISIL out of the village of Urem al-Kubra.

Additionally ISIL have this morning at dawn been forced to retreat from the major town of Saraqeb, heavily outnumbered by moderate forces and almost completely surrounded. The appear to have set up a new base at nearby Sarmin.

Interestingly, the expected response from the Assad regime, who were thought to be ready to take advantage of the Opposition disarray, has so far been rather limited and muted. An attempted regime advance is reported today at Qmenas, north-north-west of Saraqeb and again on the outskirts of the the Najjar Industrial district north-east of Aleppo city.

In 2 areas of the Najjar complex there is still a battle going on between the Jihadists and the moderate forces, but hopefully they will finally turn their attention to the main enemy, Assad himself.

Opposition infighting has also blocked the road running north-west from Aleppo city to Azaz and Afrin near the Turkish border, with ISIL expelled from Kaljibrin, Kafer Kalbeen and Hardatnin and fighting around Kafr Naya.

While ISIL continue to attack the moderates in Manbej from the east where they are strongest, there are reliable reports that they have now been driven out of Jarablos on the Turkish border.

“COMPASSIONATE” ASSAD RESPONDS TO STARVING IN YARMOUK REFUGEE CAMP BY HITTING THEM WITH ANOTHER BARREL-BOMB:

In the Damascus suburb of Daraya, Opposition fighters successfully and spectacularly downed a Mi-17 helicopter, killing the crew, reportedly Assad military consisting of a colonel, a lieutenant colonel, a first lieutenant and a sergeant, HERE:

According to activists the Opposition fighters were using newly obtained equipment. Some wreckage from the helicopter can be seen, HERE:

Whether this is the same helicopter that earlier dropped yet another barrel-bomb on Daraya is not known. Right at the very beginning of this footage you can see the bomb falling, HERE:

http://www.petercliffdonline.com/syria-news

The Starving of Yarmouk Hit by a Barrel Bomb 16.01.14

In response to the plight of the starving Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp, where relief supplies have still not penetrated, the Assad regime dropped a barrel-bomb there yesterday too. Such compassion.

Another 2 men are reported to have died in the camp on Thursday from lack of food and medicine.

As well as making it difficult for relief agencies to deliver food, Government snipers are reported to have killed several civilians foraging for something to eat in nearby fields.

Israel troops open fire on Gaza protesters, 2 injured

Palestinians carry a fellow protester wounded during clashes with Israeli forces near the Nahal Oz border crossing, east of Gaza City on January 17, 2014.
GAZA CITY (AFP) — The Israeli army fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters near the border fence in the Gaza Strip on Friday, wounding two Palestinians, medics and an AFP correspondent said.

Troops fired at some 300 demonstrators who were protesting against Israel’s destruction of farmland for its 300-meter buffer zone, the correspondent said.

Two protesters were moderately wounded and taken to hospital, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told AFP.

Israel’s army was “unaware of the incident,” a spokeswoman said.

The demonstrators were marching near the border fence in support of Palestinian farmers, whose citrus trees they said had been uprooted to make way for the Israeli-controlled buffer zone that runs along the border.

“Israel destroyed most of our citrus trees … (and) still prevents us from importing or exporting any products,” said a statement from protest organizers the Gaza Youth Coalition.

The statement deplored “daily Israeli attacks” against farmers near the border.

Israel allows “civilian access on foot to areas up to 100 meters from the perimeter fence for agricultural purposes only, and vehicular access to a distance of 300 meters,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israeli soldiers often fire at Palestinians who walk near border areas.

Israeli air strikes wounded a woman and four children near Gaza City overnight Wednesday to Thursday, medical sources said, with Israel confirming it had struck in retaliation for rocket fire.

(Source / 17.01.2014)

Clashes with Israeli forces spill onto Bethlehem main streets

The Israeli separation wall as it cuts through Bethlehem near the site of Friday’s clashes.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces spilled over onto Bethlehem’s Manger Street on Friday, after two weeks of daily confrontations in nearby Aida refugee camp.

Local activist Salah Ajarma told Ma’an that clashes between protesters and Israeli forces took place in the area around Rachel’s Tomb on the main road leading through Bethlehem from Jerusalem to Hebron as well as on nearby Manger Street.

Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters at protesters as they threw rocks towards the soldiers, who blocked off Bethlehem’s main streets.

There were unconfirmed reports by local activists and eyewitnesses that one protester was injured in the clashes due to excessive tear gas inhalation.

On Saturday, residents of Azza refugee camp, located near the scene of Friday’s fighting, will hold memorial services to commemorate the one year anniversary of the death of Salah al-Amarin.

The 15-year-old boy was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes in Aida refugee camp last January.

The clashes in Bethlehem come after nearly two weeks of daily clashes between Israeli forces and youth in Aida refugee camp near Rachel’s Tomb.

At least three protesters have been injured in the clashes in Aida refugee camp, two due to live bullets and one due to rubber bullets, according to Ajarma.

A border police spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The areas around the holy site are a frequent site of clashes because it is surrounded on three sides by the Israeli separation wall despite being in the middle of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

There are 19 refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, within which live about a quarter of the 771,000 registered refugees in the territory.

More than 760,000 Palestinians — estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants — were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

(Source / 17.01.2014)