Syrian Coalition: We all Must Unite Against ISIS and Assad

Nasr al-Hariri, Secretary General of the Syrian Coalition, calls on the Syrian people and the revolutionary forces to support and develop the plan put forward by the Syrian Coalition. “We call on everyone to provide initiatives and recruit their expertise to make this plan successful.” he said. Al-Hariri promised “to exert every effort to support the Syrian revolution and achieve its goals, and to end the suffering of the Syrian people through cooperation with all the revolution forces. In these difficult times and successive tribulations caused by the criminality of the Assad regime and the escalation of extremism, there is a growing need to unify and counter our enemies and renew our pledge to continue the struggle for freedom and dignity. We all must endorse a practical plan that leads to toppling the Assad regime, lifting the siege on cities and towns, supporting the northern, eastern and southern fronts, defeating the extremist groups and rebuilding the institutions of the civil society. It is also vital in this critical stage of the revolution to boost the principles of transparency and accountability in the national institutions to ensure achieving the transitional justice and the activation of civil and local councils to provide services to the population.” Al Hariri concluded his letter to the Syrian people and the revolutionary forces stressing that the revolution triumphed when it stripped the regime of legitimacy, and when to the flag of the revolution was raised in the international forums and in the capitals of the world. Total victory will be sealed when the last foreign fighter leaves our land, a task which is not difficult for our heroes in the Free Syrian Army.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 13.07.2014)

Al Qaeda cleric issues fatwa ‘annulling’ Islamic State caliphate

An Islamic militant speaks to people during a celebration of their declaration of an Islamic state at a mosque in Fallujah, 65 kilometres west of Baghdad, Iraq on Friday

AMMAN — A prominent Al Qaeda aligned Jordanian cleric has issued a fatwa declaring the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s recently announced caliphate “null and void” and urged Muslims to boycott the so-called state, in the strongest move yet against the jihadist group.

In a detailed fatwa issued on Friday, Issam Barqawi aka Abu Mohammed Al Maqdissi, an Al Qaeda spiritual leader and vocal critic of ISIL, declared the jihadist group’s recently announced caliphate “illegitimate”, urging Muslims across the world to boycott the “failed attempt” by the jihadist group to establish an Islamic State.

“They have distorted the project of a caliphate with bloodshed and intimidation… over time they have dissuaded and repelled people from the project of an Islamic State through their unsuccessful attempts to achieve it through abuses, violations and offences,” Maqdissi said of ISIL’s self-styled caliphate, which was announced earlier in July. 

“The Islamic State must be a haven and a secure space for all Muslims… not one built on threats, attacks, fear and concern.”

Al Qaeda cleric reserved harsh words for ISIL’s leadership, whom he claimed were “misguided” in their attempts to declare an Islamic State. 

“The caliphate is not achieved through announcements, names or by desire, but through application on the ground,” read the statement, titled “Do not like those swayed by force”.

“Under these conditions…a caliphate has not been achieved,” Maqdissi said.

In the fatwa, Maqdissi criticised ISIL for “voiding” the jihadist missions of other Islamist groups fighting in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere with its declaration, claiming that the Islamic State “lacks the authority” to make such a move.

“The bigger danger is that with the announcement… they overthrew the leaders and scholars of the jihadist movement simply because they did not join them in their choices or join them in their excesses.” 

The statement comes as the strongest move by hard-line Islamists against ISIL since its declaration in early July of a caliphate, or Islamic state, on territories currently under the group’s control in northern Iraq and eastern Syria. 

The fatwa also marks the strongest statement issued by Maqdissi, who, along with fellow Al Qaeda clerics, has been locked in a bitter ideological war with ISIL over control of the global jihadist movement and has remained largely silent since his release from a Jordanian jail in June. 

Maqdissi had reportedly been the subject of death threats from ISIL supporters leading up to his release and was allegedly the target of a failed attack, an attempt which was later blamed on the Islamic State late last month. 

Islamic State supporters in Jordan were quick to dismiss the fatwa as “non-binding” and “propaganda”.

“Sheikh Abu Mohammed [Maqdissi] has been removed from jihad and realities on the ground; he no longer has the authority to speak in the name of mujahedeen… this so-called fatwa will not even fool a child,” said Khalil Al Maani, a key supporter of the Islamic State.

“The Islamic State has been established, and no fatwa can stop it.”

Currently some 1,400 Jordanians are reportedly serving under the banner of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, compared to some 800 fighting alongside ISIL’s rival, the Jabhat Al Nusra coalition, in Syria.

Once evenly divided between ISIL and Al Qaeda, Islamist sources say the Islamic State’s recent gains have won over a vast majority of Jordan’s 8,000-strong hard line Salafist movement. 

(Source / 12.07.2014)

Sepah Pasdaran commander: Al-Assad is fighting Syria war as ‘our deputy’

همدانی130,000 Iranian fighters ‘ready to be deployed in Syria’

A senior Sepah Pasdaran commander has made yet another humiliating and revealing remark about the Syrian president. Bashar al-Assad is “fighting this war [in Syria] as our deputy,” said Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani, implying that the Iranian regime is the one who is in charge in Syria.

Hamedani, who oversees Sepah Pasdaran’s operations in Syria, also threatened to send more Iranian fighters to Syria, saying 130,000 trained Basij fighters are “ready to be deployed” there if the war escalates further.

The unprecedented comments were reported by Iranian state-controlled news agency Fars News on 4 May 2014, but the report has since been removed from the agency’s website.

In one of the boldest official admissions of Iranian interference in Syria, Hamedani described the Iranian regime’s role in the country as a “sacred defence” of Iran, a term that was used by the regime during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Urging normal Iranian citizens and businesspeople to support “the troops of Islam and the people of Syria as they did so during the Sacred Defence”, the Brig. Gen. also revealed that the Iranian regime is establishing “centres for supporting Syrian people” in various Iranian provinces, where each Iranian province will be “responsible for one Syrian province” (twinning).

These centres are expected to be used by Basij and Sepah Pasdaran to recruit fighters for Syria, as well as raising funds and spreading regime propaganda about Syria.

In September 2012, Hossein Hamedani acknowledged that members of Sepah Quds force were in Syria to “assist and train” Bashar al-Assad’s regime (seehttp://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390443720204578000482831419570). He is also well-known for leading the Iranian regime’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters during the 2009-2010 election protests in Iran, known as the Green Movement.

In April 2014, another prominent Iranian general admitted that Sepah Pasdaran played an important role in setting up a Syrian paramilitary militia known as the National Defence Forces, which was modelled on the Iranian Basij (see http://www.naameshaam.org/en/iranian-general-admits-advising-syrian-regime-on-establishing-shabbiha-paramilitary-force/).

In his latest statement, Hossein Hamedani has revealed more details about this paramilitary force, which he described as “young Alawite, Shiite and Sunni men”. According to him, the National Defence Forces now comprise some 70,000 fighters, organised in 42 groups and 128 battalions. Iran has established a “second Hezbollah” in Syria, he boasted.

(Source / 12.07.2014)

ISLAMIC STATE REPORTED TO HAVE TAKEN ANOTHER ARMY BASE NEAR RAMADI AND NUCLEAR MATERIALS FROM MOSUL UNIVERSITY

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


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

   SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

IRAQ: In renewed fighting around Ramadi in Anbar province this morning, Friday, the Islamic State Jihadists (IS) and their allies are reported to have taken control of the Brigade 8 headquarters west of the city.

Additionally, 11 Iraqi police officers have been killed and 24 injured as the insurgents try to strengthen their grip on Anbar province, which borders Syria, and on the provincial capital of Ramadi in particular.

Iraq News

 

IS Capture Field Artillery Guns

IRAQ NEWS

 

US-Made Truck Seized At Base Near Ramadi

In seizing Brigade 8, IS have once again taken over vast military stores, including operational vehicles and field artillery guns.

Many pictures have also emerged on the Internet of a destroyed Iraqi Army convoy, including US-made M-1 Abrams tanks and M113 armoured personnel carriers.

The Iraqi Government has also admitted that its troops are surrounded within the Baiji oil refinery west of Mosul, but disputes news reports that its force only contains 75 commandos.

According to the Iraqi Government it still has “1,500 special forces inside the refinery” which they are reinforcing with air dropped supplies. This does not explain how therefore they are unable to defeat a Islamic State force said to be of just 500 surrounding the installation.

The troops are “responsible for protecting the refinery only” and there has been no “concerted effort to clear the area”, said a government spokesman lamely.

Video from both the towns of Baiji and Tikrit, both under IS control, suggests, apart from insurgents firing rifles in the air, that all is much as normal, HERE:  and HERE:

There were also reports yesterday that the Islamic State has also gained 40 kilos of nuclear material which was held in a research facility within Mosul university. The material is un-enriched, so could not be used for a nuclear weapon, but could be used for a “dirty bomb” spreading dangerous material over a wide area.

IS Destroy Iraqi Army Convoy

 

IS Destroy Iraqi Army Convoy

IRAQ NEWS

 

IS Destroy Iraqi Army Tanks

North-east of Baghdad near Mukdadiya in Dijala province, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the capital, the Islamic State are said to have breached the perimeter of yet another military base, though exact details remain sketchy.

Local tribal chiefs were said to be trying to “negotiate a truce”.

In Baghdad itself early this morning, Friday, heavy gunfire from an unknown source was heard coming from near the Umm Al-Qura Mosque.

Jeremy Bowen has an interesting audio report from a major mortuary in Baghdad, where the military and civilians compete for body space in the freezers, while the temperature outside hovers near 50 degrees C. From the BBC.

South of Mosul, the Iraqi military has hit back with an airstrike on the Qayyarah refinery. Across Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State are said, according to unconfirmed reports, to be selling 100 tanker loads of oil a day, bringing them a net daily revenue of $1 million.

The Kurds in northern Iraq, in a long running dispute over an agreed share of oil revenue with the Iraqi Government, have also been accused of taking over oil facilities at Kirkuk and Bai Hassan. The combined output of the 2 fields is 400,000 barrels a day.

Things came to a head between the Kurds and the Government on Wednesday when Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki accused them of “harbouring Islamic State” fighters in their capital Irbil. The Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani called Al-Maliki “hysterical” and suggested he stood down. Kurdish MPs have also been recalled from the Parliament in Baghdad.

The Kurds are dealing with a huge influx of Iraqi refugees fleeing from assault by the Islamic State. In Sinjar 58,000 have arrived so far, flooding the town after Tal Afar fell to the insurgents and overwhelming its meagre resources, particularly sewage, electricity and food. You can read more HERE: 

According to the France 24 website, the “Caliphate Passport” story reported on Wednesday was false and the picture of the actual passport design photoshopped in 2012 or 2013.

A representative of ISIS has reportedly said they have no intention of producing passports but instead want to create a caliphate stretching across 7 existing countries (EDITOR: Allah/God help us all! My thanks to @shaan for pointing this error out.)

DEATHS IN SYRIA EXCEED 171,000, ALMOST 38% PRO-ASSAD FIGHTERS, 27% OPPOSITION FIGHTERS AND 33% CIVILIANS:

In Syria, recorded deaths have now reached 171,509. Of this total 56,495 (32.9%) were civilians, including 9,092 children.

65,803 (38.4%) of the dead were regime troops and pro-Assad militia, including 39,036 regular troops, 24,655 members of pro-regime militias, 509 fighters from Hezbollah, and 1,603 other non-Syrians fighting on Assad’s side.

SYRIA NEWS

 

A Boy Dives into a Bomb Crater in Aleppo

On the Opposition side 46,301 (27%) fighters are recorded killed, including 15,442 non-Syrians who have entered Syria to join Jihadist or local Islamist groups.

2,910 victims remain to date unidentified. All information from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as of 6th July.

But the real figures may be much higher.

Another 20,000 people held by the Assad regime remain completely unaccounted for, as well as 7,000 regime troops held by Opposition fighters.

Another 3,500 people are thought to be held by the Islamic State.

The UN has also reported that so far 8,300 separated and unaccompanied children from Syria have now been registered outside of the country.

Also according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (different from SOHR above), despite much regime publicity at the time, only 694 people out of the 215,000 estimated to be in Assad’s prisons were released after the “presidential election”, far short of the numbers promised under an “amnesty”.

OPPOSITION ATTACK ASSAD DEFENCE MINISTER’S HOME VILLAGE AND IN JIHADIST RIVALRY, RUMOURS OF AL NUSRA FRONT ALSO “DECLARING AN ISLAMIC STATE”:

Across Syria, despite it being the holy month of Ramadan, barrel-bombs still fall and fighting and killing continue.

In Aleppo, Opposition fighters are seen shelling suspected Assad regime troops hiding in the ruins of an apartment block, HERE:

And north of the city an Islamic Front brigade is seen firing at Jihadist Islamic State positions with heavy caliber weapons, HERE:

North-east of Damascus at Mesraba in Eastern Ghouta Opposition fighters are reported to have killed 50 Islamic State followers in heavy fighting, HERE:  and HERE:

And after forcing the Jihadists out of the area, the Opposition managed to dismantle 2 prepared car bombs as well,HERE:

In the Damascus suburbs of Saqba and Kafr-Batna this morning regime jets unloaded their deadly cargo, HERE:

SYRIA NEWS

 

Car Bomb Goes Off at Rahjan, Defence Minister’s Village

In Hama province reports say the Opposition fighters blew up one of the Government’s largest checkpoints at Rahjan in the north of the region with a car bomb, capturing part of the village and apparently killing as many as 18+ troops and militia.

The village is the family home of Assad’s Defence Minister, General Fahd Jassem al-Freij.

Footage has also been released of the Opposition blowing up the Dahman checkpoint in Idlib province reported earlier (scroll down – see below), HERE:

An interesting rumour on the Internet that the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) chief in Syria, Al-Jolnai is going to declare an “Islamic State” as well, but no details yet.

One of the brigades in Aleppo has apparently pledged allegiance to ANF, which remains, unlike the Islamic State”, firmly allied with the worldwide AL-Qaeda network.

Based on flash-drives captured in Mosul before it fell, the structure of the Islamic State and how it is run is known and analysed, HERE: 
And in the Telegraph as well.

And from Asia comes a report that Tehreek-e-Khilafat, a terrorist group normally associated with the Taliban on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, has sworn allegiance to the new “Caliph” and wants to fly the Islamic State flag,HERE:

Depressingly, much of Syria’s ancient heritage is being destroyed by all sides in the conflict, especially as the country has thousands of sites. An excellent report from Diana Darke via the BBC with lots of photographs.

The BBC is also reporting that 2 x 16 year old girls of Somali origin, but living in Manchester in the UK, have disappeared and are now thought to be with Jihadists in Syria.

Assad's Barrel-Bombs Continue to Kill the Innocent

Assad’s Barrel-Bombs Continue to Kill the Innocent

Syrian regime forces carried out two air strikes

#Syria: Syrian regime forces carried out two air strikes this morning on the Jobar district of Damascus as well as on the Mleha suburb, which witnessed also heavy artillery shelling in its outskirts in parallel to heavy clashes between opposition and regime forces. Rocket shelling from the Mezzeh military airport targeted several areas of Eastern Ghouta, in the suburb of Damascus, and clashes took place in the outskirts of the Zebdeen suburb in parallel to mortar and rocket shelling from regime forces.
Syrian warplanes carried out air strikes also on the Talmanas area of Idlib province and the Mohassan area of Deir Ezzor province, and dropped barrel bombs this morning on the Masaken Hanano district of Aleppo as well as on the Nawa, Tseel, Inkhel and Edwan areas of Daraa province. The Nawa area and Ein Dhekr village in Daraa province witnessed also mortar and heavy artillery shelling.
Clashes between opposition and regime forces took place the past night till morning in the Zahraa area of Aleppo after a regime building near the Air Force Intelligence was blown up yesterday evening.

- Aleppo

The moment opposition forces blew up Friday night a building occupied by regime forces in the Zahraa area of Aleppo
http://youtu.be/raDCqtnGeLY
Video showing the tunnel that was dug under the building occupied by regime forces in Al Zahraa area of Aleppo, near the Air Force Intelligence building
http://youtu.be/2UKXHOh2uzk

- Damascus

The moment a Syrian fighter jet carried out an air strike on the Mleha suburb of Damascus
http://youtu.be/-LddIyjzpH4

- Daraa

Aerial shelling on the Nawa area of Daraa
http://youtu.be/aBqluZ8BkuU
Scenes of destruction in the Nawa area of Daraa province as a result of aerial shelling from Syrian regime forces
http://youtu.be/M7ifW0EJ7BQ
Smoke rising after a barrel bomb landed in the Tseel area of Daraa
http://youtu.be/AiyvHSEoq3I
Smoke rising from the Inkhel area due to aerial shelling
http://youtu.be/9R5Ayo6Fqso

- Deir Ezzor

Shelling from regime forces targeting the Haweeqa neighborhood of Deir Ezzor
http://youtu.be/1MLs0Ot5W4o

- Hama

Scenes of destruction in the Morek area of Hama province as a result of continuous shelling
http://youtu.be/sfSaWNQOclo

Photo below shows smoke rising from the Jobar district of Damascus after an air strike.

(Source: ANAPRESS – Facebook / 12.07.2014)

Syrian Coalition’s President-elect Promises to “Get Back on Track”

In his first speech to the Syrian people, the Syrian Coalition’s president-elect Hadi al-Bahra said that “Syria is going through one of its darkest chapters. Circumstances are difficult as the Syrian people have to put up with a criminal regime with no respect for human values on one hand, and the indifference of the international community on the other. One of the aims of our glorious revolution is to defend human values. Thousands of our people have sacrificed their lives to reach a democratic pluralistic state.” Al-Bahra points out that “today, more than ever, we need to stand together. The political opposition, the military opposition, and the Syrian people need to unite to defend our freedom and dignity. The revolution of human dignity is undoubtedly victorious. We shall carry on until we reach our goals. We promise the Syrian people that the previous mistakes will be corrected and that we will get back on track to reach, and we will reach, a point where we can build Syria. A place where everyone, regardless of their backgrounds, is equal, where freedom and dignity are secured, and equal opportunities are provided for all.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 11.07.2014)

ISIS steps up assault on Kurds in Syria’s north

Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters prepare to fire a mortar during what the FSA said was an offensive to take control of al-Zaalana checkpoint in Wadi al-Deif military camp, which remains under government control, in the southern Idlib countryside July 9, 2014.

BEIRUT: Militants from the Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS using weapons recently seized in Iraq have intensified an offensive against Kurdish areas in northern Syria as they fight to expand the territory under their control, activists said.

The clashes come after ISIS, which has changed its name to the Islamic State, declared a caliphate across areas they control in Syria and Iraq. Most of the land was seized in June during a push across Iraq. They captured large amounts of weapons left behind by Iraqi troops including U.S.-made armored personnel carriers, Humvees and artillery.

Kurdish official Nawaf Khalil said members of ISIS are trying to capture an area near the Turkish border that would link them with their positions in eastern Syria. The fighting is concentrated in the region of Ain al-Arab, or Kobani in Kurdish.

Mustafa Osso, a Turkey-based Kurdish activist, said the aim of the offensive is to take the entire Kobani area. Osso says those standing against ISIS are mostly members of the YPG or People’s Protection Units, the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

“We have called for support from Kurds around the world,” said Khalil, an official with the party.

ISIS captured three villages near Ain al-Arab and pressed forward toward the border town Wednesday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime group, said 18 Kurdish fighters were killed Wednesday alone.

The clashes continued Thursday while elsewhere in Aleppo province, ISIS militants clashed with fighters from several Islamist militias and an allied Kurdish rebel group near the border town of Rai.

In neighboring Idlib province, Islamist rebel militias have been busy on two fronts – battling against regime troops, and against ISIS. The Observatory said 16 rebel fighters were killed in clashes with regime troops Wednesday near the Hamidieh and Wadi Deif military bases.

Separately, the head of the Suqour al-Sham militia, a member of the Islamic Front rebel alliance, issued a strong warning to the commanders of two smaller rebel groups in Idlib, whose members this week defected to ISIS, taking with them more than 100 vehicles.

Abu Issa al-Sheikh, the commander of Suqour al-Sham, instructed the two smaller groups to dissolve themselves and turn over their weapons to his militia or become the target of attacks.

The Daoud Brigade and the Sham Army militias were involved earlier this week in a murky incident in which rebels in a convoy of some 160 vehicles claimed they were headed to Aleppo to reinforce their rebel comrades – before heading instead to the city of Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold on the Euphrates River.

The death toll in Syria’s 3-year-old war has eclipsed 170,000 people, one-third of them civilians, the Observatory said Thursday.

“Ever since the first casualty of the Syrian revolution was registered on March 18, 2011, in Deraa province, the deaths of 171,509 people have been documented,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Among the dead were 56,495 civilians, including 9,092 children, according to the toll, which included casualties documented up to July 8 this year.

Another 65,803 were regime troops and pro-regime militiamen, while 46,301 were rebels seeking President Bashar Assad’s ouster and members of ISIS.

The rebel toll includes 15,422 non-Syrians who travelled to the war-torn country to join the ranks of jihadists or local Islamist opposition groups.

Among the ranks of loyalists killed were 39,036 regular troops, as well as 24,655 members of pro-regime militias, 509 fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and 1,603 other non-Syrians fighting on Assad’s side.

Meanwhile, the deaths of 2,910 unidentified victims were also documented, the Observatory said.

The Britain-based group said the actual number of those killed among fighters on both sides was likely to be much higher.

Another 20,000 people detained by the regime were completely unaccounted for, it said, as were some 7,000 regime troops held by rebel fighters.

(Source / 10.07.2014)

Syrian Coalition’s New Leadership: We Will Spare no Effort to Serve the Revolution

The General Assembly of the Syrian Coalition elected Hadi al-Bahra as president of the Coalition, Mohammed Qaddah, Nora al-Ameer and Abdul Hakim Bashar as his deputies, and Nasr al-Hariri as Secretary General. Al Ameer vows that “we will spare no effort to support the Syrian people politically, legally and militarily in their battle against the Assad regime. We will also strengthen the relationship between the people and political figures of the revolution to protect it from the regime’s attempts to undermine it and to sow division among the Syrian people.” Al Ameer also said that “we will activate the role of women in the political field so as to restore their rights which were usurped by the Assad regime, which has marginalized women and assigned them meaningless positions in its government.” Mohammed Qaddah, Vice President of the Syrian Coalition, said that “our top priority will be the restoration of the political relationship with the revolutionary movement, as the legitimacy of any political bloc is achieved through the support it receive from the grassroots movement. Furthermore, we will carry out projects in the next phase to provide adequate support to the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.” Qaddah also said that “we will work on consolidation of the Syrian Coalition relations with the international players to achieve total reconciliation with revolutionary movement and the international powers, and also to unite all our political efforts that seek to help topple the Assad regime.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 10.07.2014)

Europe should accept more Syrian refugees, official says

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – A top European Union official appealed to the EU’s 28 member states on Monday to step up their efforts to resettle Syrian refugees, saying Europe must offer a legal alternative to migrants who risk their life to reach the continent by sea.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Syria’s neighbours were hosting three million refugees displaced by the country’s three-year-old civil war but Europe had accepted fewer than 100,000.

“That’s not a lot of people. Today around half of the (EU) countries have said that they would engage in resettlement from Syria. I think all 28 (EU member states) should,” she said.

If all EU countries resettled as many as the two EU countries that take most Syrian refugees, Sweden and Germany, did, “we could at least help 150,000 resettled refugees,” she said.

Malmstrom was speaking at a news conference to release the annual report of an EU agency, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which said the number of people applying for asylum in the EU rose 30 percent to 435,760 in 2013, the highest figure since the EU began collecting data in 2008.

In the first five months of this year, there was a further 19 percent rise in the number of applications for asylum compared with the same period of last year, EASO said.

Asylum applicants from Syria more than doubled last year to 50,495 while the second highest number of asylum applicants was from Russia, with more than 41,000 applicants.

Most of the Russian asylum applicants are from the republics of the northern Caucasus, where the EASO report said the human rights situation continued to be worrying.

Thousands of desperate refugees from the Middle East and Africa, including many from Syria, make a perilous crossing of the Mediterranean each year to reach Europe, mainly via Italy, which has been urging its European partners to do more to help it cope.

The U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR, says around 500 migrants have died so far this year in the Mediterranean.

“People do embark on rickety vessels on very dangerous travels because there are very few if any legal ways to get to Europe. One way … to come to Europe in a safe way would be through increased resettlement. We must increase this,” Malmstrom said.

The EASO also said there had been a significant rise in the number of Ukrainian citizens applying for asylum in western Europe since March, when Russia occupied and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.

In the last 20 years, the average number of applications was roughly 100 per month, but between March and May, more than 2,000 applications were made, the agency said.

For the most part, these people had not travelled from Ukraine to apply for asylum, but were already working in the EU, the agency’s executive director, Robert Visser, said.

(Source / 09.07.2014)

Syrian Coalition: ISIS Surge in Ain al-Arab May Lead to Syria’s Division

Abdul Basit Sida, member of the Syrian Coalition, said that ISIS’s latest attempts to extend its control on the predominantly Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab (Kobanî) can be attributed to the town’s strategic location near the Turkish border. “This terrorist organization follows a policy of sowing chaos and instability in the region as a step towards incorporating it into its so-called state. However, ISIS’s aggression against Ain al-Arab serves only to promote Assad’s claims that the Kurd’s interests are in allying with it to counter ISIS’s extremism. However, the Assad regime seems oblivious to the fact that the Syrian Kurds are an integral part of the revolution, and that they cannot be persuaded otherwise by Assad’s propaganda machine. The synchronized military operations of regime forces and ISIS aim to divide Syria, a step that is being faced with international resistance. The Assad regime’s intensification of its attacks on Aleppo and Homs, coincided with ISIS’s surge in eastern Syria, proves Assad’s intentions to divide Syria as an alternative plan to recapturing the large swaths of Syria that he lost to the armed opposition.” Sida concluded his statement calling on the international community to shoulder its responsibility towards the blockade imposed by Assad and ISIS on the Syrian Kurds in the town of Ain al-Arab, which has been witnessing a severe humanitarian crisis as a punishment for rebelling against the Assad regime since the early days of the revolution. 

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 09.07.2014)