Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Leader of Aleppo’s powerful Islamic militia – Liwa al-Tawhid – explains (in Arabic video) why his troops and people want an Islamic democracy and why Syria’s revolution is an “orphan revolution.” Abdal Qadr al-Salih explained that just as Europe’s leaders are Christian because the people are Christian, Syria’s leaders would be Islamic and that Syrians want Islam to govern them. The US has not supported the Syrian revolution, he claimed, because it knows that Assad best protects Israel. Syria’s revolutionaries will want to liberate Jerusalem after liberating Syria.
France announced that it plans to give $1.5 million in emergency aid to the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces.
Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusra militia looks pretty serious
By Dan Murphy, CSM / November 27, 2012
Some eye-catching video shows a disciplined jihadi militia on the move in eastern Syria after ransacking a regime artillery base.
Video was placed on YouTube today of Syrian rebels celebrating a crushing victory in Mayadin, a town in Syria’s oil-rich northeast last week.
The cameraman is traveling in a convoy of fighters from the Jabhat al-Nusra, the main jihadi fighting group in eastern Libya and one that has attracted veterans of both the war against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya last year and of the wars against the US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Though the men are clearly delighted with their victory and seizure of a temporary government artillery base in Deir al-Zour Province, with shouts and smiles as a captured tank charges along the desert sand next to the road, there is very little of the random shooting in the air and other goofing off common among rebel militias. Though the scene looks chaotic, these fighters are disciplined as such groups go….
Now it appears that rebels aligned with the Free Syrian Army have scored their first hit of a government helicopter with a surface-to-air missile (hat tip to Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch), with video released online of the shot… rebels reported securing a cache of surface-to-air missiles earlier this month. The missiles look like Russian-made Strela-2s, a type of heat-seeking missile that’s been in service sine the 1970s….
Islamist militias have been the most committed and capable fighters of the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Syrian Euphrates river towns like Mayadin have strong tribal and general cultural ties to Iraqi Euphrates river towns to their southeast, like Haditha, Ramadi, and Fallujah. It was in those tough Sunni Arab towns, clinging to a narrow river valley in the middle of the desert, where Al Qaeda-inspired fighters found their most success during the US war in Iraq, and they were helped from their cousins to the north. Now the Iraqis, and other jihadis, are returning the favor….
High stakes as Syrian opposition tries to form government, Reuters
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
CAIRO | Tue Nov 27, 2012
Syria’s new opposition coalition will hold its first full meeting on Wednesday to discuss forming a transitional government crucial to win effective Arab and Western support for the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
The 60 or so delegates, chosen after marathon talks in Qatar this month, are meeting in Cairo ahead of a gathering of the Friends of Syria, a grouping of dozens of countries that had pledged mostly non-military backing for the revolt but which are worried by the rising influence of Islamists in the opposition.
“The objective is to name the prime minister for a transitional government, or at least have a list of candidates ahead of the Friends of Syria meeting,” said Suhair al-Atassi, one of the coalition’s two vice-presidents.
Atassi is only one of three female members of the coalition, in which the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies account for around 40 to 45 percent.
The two-day meeting will also select committees to manage aid and communications, a process that is developing into a power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and secular members.
Rivalries have also intensified between the opposition in exile and rebels on the ground, where the death toll has reached 40,000 after 20 months of violence.
But the new coalition has given rise to hopes that Assad’s enemies can set aside their differences and focus on securing international support to remove him.
“We have ideological differences with the coalition, but it will achieve its mission if it brings us outside military help,” said Abu Nidal Mustafa, from Ansaral-Islam, an Islamist rebel unit in Damascus….
Syria’s Islamist Militia Leaders Explain what they are expect from the new Syrian National Council and why they made their “Islamic State” video in Syria’s new opposition in race to convince skeptical Islamists By Erika Solomon and Mariam Karouny
“We are with the coalition – for now. We want to see what it is going to do for us,” said a fighter from one of the biggest Islamist brigades in the capital Damascus.
“It is known that we want weapons, we want a no-fly zone. Can it do that? We will see. We are not going to wait forever. With or without them, we are fighting and we are going to win.”….
Some put their frustration on display earlier this week when they announced the creation of an Islamic state in a video rejecting the National Coalition.
The immediate backlash from most rebel leaders and Syrian activists pushed many fighters in the video to retract their remarks the next day. But it laid bare the deep mistrust which the coalition has to overcome.
“Our video caused a big racket internationally, which is what we needed,” said one fighter present at the Islamic state meeting, who asked not to be named.
“We need to know we are going to get help and support from the coalition because Jabhat al-Nusra don’t want us to have anything to do with them. And right now, al-Nusra is our main support. So they need to show us they can do something for us.”
Iraq tensions rise as Syria crisis deepens
By Lauren Williams | November 28, 2012 12:45 AM
The Daily Star
BAGHDAD: The crisis in Syria is threatening to rupture Iraq’s precarious sectarian divide, which some say may re-ignite into a civil war.
Wedged between Syria’s greatest ally, Iran, and its greatest foe, Turkey, with its own volatile ethnic makeup, oil riches and fresh out of years of civil strife, Iraq is desperately clinging to a neutrality on the Syrian crisis.
That policy is being increasingly put to the test as players from across Iraq’s fragile political spectrum begin to take sides in a war of increasing sectarian dimensions.
“This situation is not going away,” said U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Joel Rayburn, former U.S. military intelligence officer in Iraq, now at the National War College.
Fighters from across Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite and Kurd communities have crossed from Iraq into Syria to assist their compatriots in Syria.
Sunni fighters from Iraq’s Anbar province, where familial and tribal affiliations span a porous border, openly told The Daily Star they are assisting mainly Sunni fighters battling President Bashar Assad’s forces with money, men and weapons.
Syrian Kurds are being trained to fight alongside other Kurdish forces by Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan government against Free Army and Assad forces.
And Shiite fighters, encouraged by clerics in Najaf and northern Mosul, are reportedly being sent from Iran and Iraq to Syria to defend Shiite shrines and fight alongside Assad’s regime, dominated by members of the Alawite sect….accusations are rife that Maliki is pursuing a sectarian agenda to consolidate Shiite power in Iraq and that the crisis in Syria is pushing Iraq closer to Iran’s orbit.
Facing a revived Sunni insurgency that has killed hundreds of Shiites inside Iraq this year alone, and without the cover of recently departed American troops, Maliki is wary of a Sunni-led state in Syria that could join forces with the Sunni opposition at home.
Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, whose Iraqiya parliamentary bloc reluctantly entered a power-sharing agreement with Maliki’s Dawa Party and is now facing multiple death sentences in absentia on terror charges, has accused Maliki of stoking sectarian tension.
Mass arrests of former Baathists and Sunnis accused of terrorism are frequent, along with allegations that Maliki is stacking parliamentary bodies, the army, and security institutions with Shiite sympathizers.
Hamed Obeid al-Mutlaq, an MP with the Iraqiya bloc who sits on Iraq’s parliamentary security and defense committee, said sectarian strife is a direct result of Iranian intervention.
“The best way that the government can avoid these consequences is by not taking sides with the Syrian government, but by being neutral and fair,” Mutlaq said. “We must not comply with Iranian pressure to stand by Assad. We must have a good relationship with the Syrian people because I believe the Assad government will be finished eventually.”…
Rayburn said Maliki’s motivations on Syria were a combination of “sectarianism and pragmatism.”
“They have made up their mind that the outcome of a Sunni Syrian state would result in the transport of Sunni jihad through their borders,” he said. “That is their overriding concern, second is Iranian pressure.”…..
Political analyst Ibrahim al-Soumaydaie said he is “terrified we are on the brink of a new civil war.”
“Arab … monarchies are trying to push the bad Arab Spring to Iraq. They are trying to remove the Shiites from the region.”
He said he feared that may “push” Baghdad to take preemptive action by “taking total control of the security forces and tacitly supporting Shiite militia to confront Sunni insurgents.”
Moreover, he said there was a danger Kurdish forces may align with Sunnis in confrontation with Baghdad.
Government troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces clashed last week in the disputed northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
“It is a very dangerous situation. The sectarianism here in Iraq is deeper than in Syria. When someone triggers the sectarianism here, no one can stop it,” Soumaydaie said.
Sunni Leaders Gaining Clout in Mideast
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR- NYTimes
The United States is left somewhat wary about the rising Sunni Muslim alliance of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey and its potential for anti-Western sentiment….For years, the United States and its Middle East allies were challenged by the rising might of the so-called Shiite crescent, a political and ideological alliance backed by Iran that linked regional actors deeply hostile to Israel and the West.
But uprising, wars and economics have altered the landscape of the region, paving the way for a new axis to emerge, one led by a Sunni Muslim alliance of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey. That triumvirate played a leading role in helping end the eight-day conflict between Israel and Gaza, in large part by embracing Hamas and luring it further away from the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah fold, offering diplomatic clout and promises of hefty aid.
For the United States and Israel, the shifting dynamics offer a chance to isolate a resurgent Iran, limit its access to the Arab world and make it harder for Tehran to arm its agents on Israel’s border. But the gains are also tempered, because while these Sunni leaders are willing to work with Washington, unlike the mullahs in Tehran, they also promote a radical religious-based ideology that has fueled anti-Western sentiment around the region…. The Gaza conflict helps illustrate how Middle Eastern alliances have evolved since the Islamist wave that toppled one government after another beginning in January 2011. Iran had no interest in a cease-fire, while Egypt, Qatar and Turkey did.
But it is the fight for Syria that is the defining in this revived Sunni-Shiite duel. The winner gains a prized strategic crossroads….
The new reality could be a weaker Iran, but a far more religiously conservative Middle East that is less beholden to the United States. Already, Islamists have been empowered in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, while Syria’s opposition is being led by Sunni insurgents, including a growing number identified as jihadists, some identified as sympathizing with Al Qaeda. Qatar, which hosts major United States military base, also helps finance Islamists all around the region.
The emerging Sunni axis has put not only Shiites at a disadvantage, but also the old school leaders who once allied themselves with Washington….“The resistance,” said Tha’er al-Baw, 23, referring to Hamas, “proved that they are much better than the negotiating camp. In the days of Arafat, we used to think peace could be achieved through negotiations, but nobody believes this now.”…. Mr. Morsi changed little from Mr. Mubarak’s playbook, though his tone shifted. He sent his prime minister to lift morale. Ten foreign ministers, including those of Turkey and the newly Islamist government in Tunisia, also part of the new axis, visited Gaza during the fighting…. Those countries will not supply arms, however, so Hamas will maintain contacts with Tehran. Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader,told CNN that ties are “not as it used to be in the past, but there is no severing of relations.”…
A PRECARIOUS BALANCING ACT: LEBANON AND THE SYRIAN CONFLICT
Middle East Report N°132 – 22 November 2012 – Good ICG report
Conflict has left Syria a shell of its former self
Millions of homes, schools, mosques, churches and hospitals have reportedly been damaged or destroyed since the uprising began in March 2011.
Much of Syria has become a disaster zone: In September, the opposition group Syrian Network for Human Rights estimated that more than 2.9 million homes, schools, mosques, churches and hospitals had been damaged or destroyed since the uprising began in March 2011. More than half a million are a complete loss, it said.
Weeks later, the group’s founder, Sami Ibrahim, estimated that 600,000 more buildings had been shelled or bombed, as the government of President Bashar Assad escalated its campaign with daily airstrikes by helicopter and warplane. The rebels are fighting back, claiming to have captured half a dozen military bases in recent weeks in eastern and northwestern Syria and around Damascus. On Monday, they said they captured a hydroelectric dam in northern Syria.
Although the toll on structures is impossible to verify, the weapons the government is turning against civilian populations have become increasingly destructive, activists say, with TNT barrel bombs and vacuum bombs wiping out entire buildings in one blow…..
“Truly they have burned the country,” Melad said. “For the country to stand on its feet again it needs 20 years, because the country has become a mere skeleton.”
A friend writes me that a new set of government profiteers are emerging in Aleppo who demand exorbitant fees to process government papers. He writes:
1 . I renewed my mother’s passport. She is too sick to go to the passport office. We had to bring guy home. Total cost of renewal was 25,000 syp
2. I needed to renew my wakale to register a piece of land in Kasab. The official fee is 100 syp. There is no way to get anyone to do it, so I asked our moukhtar who had been working on it for two weeks. Got it done yesterday but before I got the paper in my hands, I had to pay 20,000 syp.
Flight records say Russia sent Syria tons of cash
By Dafna Linzer, Michael Grabell and Jeff Larson, ProPublica, November 26, 2012- (via War in Context)
This past summer, as the Syrian economy began to unravel and the military pressed hard against an armed rebellion, a Syrian government plane ferried what flight records describe as more than 200 tons of “bank notes” from Moscow. The records of overflight requests …..
Many believe the planeloads of banknotes sent from Russia are fueling the recent inflation in Syria, as the government is simply printing money at this rate.
Prospects for Syria’s civil war in 2013
Monday, November 26 2012
An Oxford Analytica Prospect
The stalemate between government and rebel forces is set to break in 2013. The balance of power has begun to tip in the rebels’ favour with their attacks growing, the political opposition forming a new and more effective body, and the government losing control of increasing swathes of territory. However, the regime remains united and is escalating its use of heavy weapons and air power. The manner of its fall will shape the government which follows it, and alter geopolitical alliances in the region.
· A wide-scale humanitarian disaster is likely as the conflict intensifies — and could prompt more active Western intervention.
· Rises in border violence and refugees will add to the severe internal challenges faced by Jordan and Lebanon.
· Tensions will escalate between Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the one hand, and Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah on the other.
· France, the United Kingdom and Turkey are likely to provide more active support to the opposition.
A re-organised opposition will enable greater Western support — however, this will fall short of military intervention. The civil war will intensify and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is likely to collapse by the end of 2013.
The regime has failed to dislodge opposition militants from Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs. Its Praetorian Guard, the most reliable part of the armed forces, can no longer control large parts of the country consistently. Rebel groups cannot defeat the regime, but are able to attack military bases, economic targets and intercept main communication routes.
The economy is suffering from sanctions and damage to its infrastructure. The regime is being propped up by a flow of money, oil and other assistance from Iran, Iraq and pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon, but can no longer deliver basic services to the people (see SYRIA: Civil war driving country to economic collapse – November 6, 2012).
Syria’s new opposition body is on course to achieve wide international recognition
The balance will change in favour of the opposition in early 2013 in several areas:
· Organised opposition. The formation of the National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NC ) under a moderate and inclusive leadership, will not resolve the differences that have undermined the political (and largely external) opposition, but will enable its leadership to achieve greater focus, provide a more credible body to liaise with militants inside Syria, and pave the way for a government in exile.
· Arms flows. The NC will enable the West to provide non-lethal support to the fighters and this is likely to encourage the Saudis, Qataris and others to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.
· Western intervention. The West is also engaged in contingency planning for more direct involvement if the humanitarian situation or concerns about Syria’s chemical and biological stockpiles warrant it. Russia and China will remain opposed to this in the UN, but the West may seek to bypass it.
Rebels gain strength
Efforts to improve communication and cooperation between the mainly locally organised militants will be stepped up via the main umbrella group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), based in Turkey. Improving their capacity to mount larger scale attacks will be key. The West and the NC will seek to reduce the influence of jihadi groups who are prominent in Aleppo.
As the rebels gain in strength, the regime will lose its northern strongholds, facilitating the establishment of a largely-contiguous rebel area by mid-2013. This should provide a launchpad for an effective campaign on the remaining regime forces concentrated in Damascus (see SYRIA: Rebel gains clear way to partition – November 21, 2012).
The three main scenarios in decreasing order of probability are as follows:
· War of attrition. The regime shrinks to enclaves in the Allawi heartlands and Damascus where its elite troops remain stationed in force. The rest of the country falls into the hands of local groups with varying degrees of loyalty to the NC and FSA.
· Coup. New leaders try to negotiate a settlement with the opposition after removing Assad. The narrowing down of the regime to a core of Allawi clans commanding the Praetorian Guards makes this less feasible than in early 2012.
· Negotiated settlement. Assad seeks a negotiated settlement, in line with Russian and Chinese preferences. However, this is unlikely; Assad continues to rule this out, believing that he can win.
The post-Assad regime will need massive international support to establish its authority over the whole of Syria, bring stability to peoples’ lives, rebuild the economy and deal with systemic issues, such as the grossly over-manned public sector.
The transition could be prolonged and difficult. A particular problem will be the role of the Allawi community and other pro-Assad minorities in the new government. Kurdish areas have acquired a significant degree of autonomy (see SYRIA: Kurdish autonomy could divide post-Assad state – August 29, 2012. Parts of its leadership have strong links with the Iraqi Kurdish administration, whilst the Turkish Kurdish militant group the PKK has also established itself in the region. The post-Assad regime will also have to deal with jihadi groups.
Lebanon and Jordan are most vulnerable to overspill
The fighting’s intensification will have a profound effect on Syria’s neighbours:
· Lebanon. The assassination of an anti-Syrian intelligence chief and clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups in Tripoli have indicated the potential for greater instability in 2013. However, Hezbollah, Syria’s main ally, has a major interest in maintaining a stable Lebanese government, of which it is a part, and may well remain on the sidelines. As the civil war escalates, it could come under greater pressure to choose between its domestic interests, and its alliance with the Assad regime which is a vital conduit of support from Iran (see LEBANON: Assad’s fall will upend political landscape – October 11, 2012).
· Jordan. The refugee flow has placed an extra burden on the economy and already overstretched water and power resources. King Abdallah faces growing unrest as he imposes subsidy cuts to alleviate the budget deficit. He will come under greater pressure from public opinion and his Gulf and US donors to increase support to the Syrian opposition — which incurs the risk of fighting spreading into Jordan (see JORDAN: Syria overspill will test stability – August 16, 2012).
· Turkey. Ankara will step back from unilateral intervention even as the fighting on its border increases. However, further artillery strikes against Assad’s forces appear likely, and the Turkish military may begin providing active support for Syrian rebel operations from its side of the border (see TURKEY: Syria policy carries regional risks – October 12, 2012). Ankara is keeping a close eye on the PKK’s activities in Syria and may act if it becomes a serious threat.
· Iraq. The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad is helping Assad and remains nervous about a Sunni regime in Damascus which it believes would strengthen the hand of its own Sunni population.
· Iran. Iran will seek to salvage its influence in post-Assad Syria. After over 30 years bolstering the regime, strong social, economic and military ties are likely to remain (see IRAN: Tehran will stand by Assad despite risks – August 31, 2012).
The regime’s fall will pose a problem for Moscow, which has provided weapons to Syria and has a strategic stake in the country. Russian leaders say that they are not committed to Assad, but have profound fears of the impact of Syria’s emergent jihadi Islam on Muslims in Russia and the former Soviet states. They and the Chinese will try to ensure that the UN stays involved and will reject Western efforts to sideline them or use the UN mandate for the Libyan campaign as a precedent for Syria.
Riyadh sees Assad’s downfall as a means of reducing Iranian influence in the region, but, unlike Doha, does not want the Muslim Brotherhood to dominate a successor regime.
Battling Rebels, Syria Flattens ‘Slums’
DAMASCUS—All that remains of Abu Mohammed’s ancestral home here in Syria’s capital are two small adobe brick rooms and a few fig, loquat and mulberry trees.
It was bulldozed as part of a government slum-clearance program that appears to have a political motive: isolate neighborhoods sympathetic to Syria’s armed insurrection, and then obliterate them, according to critics, human-rights groups and even some officials within the government itself. “We are like gypsies now,” says Mr. Mohammed, who took his wife and five children to another part of the city after sections of his neighborhood, Qaboun—one of the first to rise up …
Senior security officials within the Assad regime say partial demolitions of pro-rebel neighborhoods in and around Damascus are a key element of an ambitious counterinsurgency plan now unfolding. The plan also involves the expansion of regime-funded militias known as “Popular Committees” within the capital.
These officials say the strategy applies lessons learned from other offensives against the rebels since the start of the conflict more than 20 months ago, most notably in the central city of Homs.
The government’s official position is that the destruction is part of a long-discussed master plan to rid Damascus of illegal slums. City officials say illegal settlements account for nearly 20% of the capital’s 26,500 acres.
Based on several extended visits to Damascus and vicinity last month—some of which coincided with demolition by military authorities—the destruction appears to be occurring only in areas where opposition fighters have been active. In addition, much of it has been overseen by the military rather than municipal authorities, residents say.
“There’s still work to be done, we are not finished yet with cleansing operations that are in response to popular demand,” says Hussein Makhlouf, a relative of Mr. Assad and governor of Rif Damascus, the province surrounding the capital.
In his Damascus office, Mr. Makhlouf praised the government’s official slum-destruction decree, known as “presidential decree No. 66,” as a model for urban renewal. He said demolitions will soon begin in Daraya, Harasta and Yalda, all suburbs that have been at the center of the insurgency against Mr. Assad. Mr. Makhlouf was forthright about the motives behind the demolitions, saying they were essential to drive out rebels, or “terrorists” as he called them.
MEDVEDEV SAYS RUSSIA ISN’T CONSIDERING GIVING REFUGE TO ASSAD – BN 11/27 12:56
MEDVEDEV SAYS ASSAD, OPPOSITION ARE BOTH TO BLAME FOR CONFLICT
MEDVEDEV SAYS RUSSIA ISN’T TRYING TO PROP UP ASSAD’S REGIME
Syrian Refugees: A Moral and Humanitarian Imperative for the United States
Peter Billerbeck, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
Ensuring refugee camps in neighboring countries do not devolve into permanent squalor and misery is not only a moral and humanitarian imperative but also a necessary bulwark against broader trans-border sectarian instability and clashes with the potential to engulf the entire region…..
It wasn’t the Russian winter that stopped Napoleon.
BY JOHN ARQUILLA | NOVEMBER 26, 2012 – FP
Throughout the Cold War, and on into the post-9/11 era, the swarm — simultaneous attack from several directions — has been the favored fighting method of insurgents and terrorists. The Viet Cong swarmed helicopter landing zones and American foot patrols in Vietnam. Hezbollah did the same to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in southern Lebanon during the long war to evict the IDF — and then did so again during the 2006 conflict there. The Free Syrian Army today regularly strikes many places at once, too, giving the Assad regime’s military a problem it cannot solve. Iranian naval strategy embraces swarming as well, the idea being to attack the relatively few, large vessels of the 5th Fleet from all directions with hundreds of small, explosive-laden boats. Even in cyberspace one sees swarms in the form of the millions of hits to single sites, coming from all over the world, that often characterize debilitating “distributed denial-of-service” attacks. If al Qaeda were ever to develop a capacity for sustained swarming in the United States, rather than just mounting rare, one-off attacks, the consequences would be truly dire.
Palestinians in Syria
By Babak Dehghanpisheh and Ahmed Ramadan, 27 Nov 2012, The Washington Post
Palestinian refugees in Syria, in comparison with many countries in the region, are more integrated into society and have greater rights, such as the right to own property. As a result, the Assads have long touted themselves as ….
Other Palestinian groups have also been targeted. At least half a dozen commanders from the Palestine Liberation Army, an armed group that has been folded into the Syrian military, were assassinated this summer. There are conflicting accounts about whether they were targeted because of their loyalty to the Syrian government or because of their refusal to follow orders in taking part in the crackdown.
Yarmouk, home to about 150,000 Palestinians, has been ground zero for clashes among various Palestinian factions and between Palestinian fighters and the Free Syrian Army.
The Free Syrian Army and the Syrian military also have fought in the neighborhoods around Yarmouk, and on occasion Syrians have fled into the camp to escape the fighting.
The Syrian government, for its part, has turned to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a radical Palestinian group, to clamp down on any unrest in Yarmouk. In recent weeks, heavy clashes have broken out between the group and the rebels in and around the camp. And on Sunday, rebels took control of a PFLP-GC base on the outskirts of Damascus after heavy fighting.
“The General Command is almost a battalion of the Syrian army, pretending to protect the Palestinian camps but only sending their troops to attack the citizens and clashing with the Free Syrian Army,” said Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, a 24-year-old Palestinian activist who lives in Yarmouk and supports the Syrian uprising. “They even physically attacked activists and delivered them to state security.”
The Syrian military has shelled the camp repeatedly while clashing with rebel fighters in the neighborhoods near it. At least 50 Palestinians were killed in Yarmouk in the first two weeks of November.
While Yarmouk has been the hardest hit, half a dozen other Palestinian camps in the country have faced similar attacks, spurring thousands of Palestinians to flee to neighboring countries.
Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, roughly 10,000 Palestinians have crossed the border to Lebanon, already home to some 450,000 Palestinian refugees, and 1,600 have fled to Jordan, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.
Governments in the region are concerned that the new refugees might inflame political tensions in their own countries. This is especially true in Lebanon, where rival political factions supporting the Syrian government and opposition have clashed repeatedly in recent months. So far, there have been no major incidents of violence.
“There is an effort by the Palestinian leadership to keep the Palestinians as much as possible distanced from what is happening, in an effort to protect them,” said Hoda Samra, a spokeswoman for the U.N. agency in Lebanon.
Syria Renews Border Attacks as NATO Seeks Missile Sites
By Selcan Hacaoglu and Brian Parkin on November 27, 2012 – Bloomberg
Syrian warplanes attacked targets close to the Turkish border for the second consecutive day as North Atlantic Treaty Organization officers arrived to select missile sites to counter President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
U.S., Dutch and German officers representing the three NATO countries with Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries visited Turkish provinces near the Syrian border today, authorities said. As work began, Assad’s jets struck the town of Harim, the state-run Anatolia news agency said. That followed yesterday’s bombing of a Turkish-sponsored refugee camp near the Syrian town of Atma that sent thousands of people streaming toward the frontier.
Russia renewed its opposition to NATO’s involvement today, with Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Denisov telling a Berlin press conference “we don’t like this plan.” The alliance’s aims were unclear: “Who’s threatened? Where’s the threat coming from?” he said. Iran has also opposed the move.
Turkey’s military said yesterday that the Patriots were a purely defensive measure and won’t be used to enforce a “no-fly zone” or to launch attacks….
Activists say Syrian rebels have captured a hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates river in the country’s north in a strategic victory that followed days of fighting. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Tishrin Dam, near the town of Manbij, fell to the rebels before dawn on Monday.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, says the dam supplies several areas of Syria with electricity. The rebels have been making strategic advances recently. On Sunday, they briefly captured a regime helicopter base outside Damascus.
Against the odds, Syrian rebels begin to chip away at regime’s air advantage
Tom A. Peter, CSM 11.24.2012
Syrian opposition fighters have long decried their lack of anti-aircraft weapons and called on the international community to arm them with something that can counter the the Syrian regime’s military’s jets and helicopters. Such support has yet to come – and there are few indicators that it will arrive anytime soon….
Syrian opposition fighters have long decried their lack of anti-aircraft weapons and called on the international community to arm them with something that can counter the the Syrian regime’s military’s jets and helicopters. Such support has yet to come – and there are few indicators that it will arrive anytime soon.
Still, those in the Free Syrian Army fighting for control of Aleppo province say that they’re making some progress in the battle for the skies. Using truck-mounted, DShK heavy machine guns, more commonly referred to as dushkas, FSA fighters say that they’ve managed to establish anti-air defenses capable of challenging jets.
Dushkasare one of the more difficult weapons for FSA fighters to acquire and in almost all cases must be captured from the regime forces or brought over by defectors. The anti-air defense network has grown slowly over the last several months, but many now say it’s reached a point where it can effectively challenge airplanes and helicopters…..
“We control 70 percent of the sky, because if you compare the situation now to two months ago there are a lot less airplanes,” says Khlief Abu Allah, a dushka gunner who worked in an anti-aircraft unit in the Syrian Army during his obligatory military service before the revolution started.
While airstrikes remain a major threat in Aleppo, residents and FSA fighters say there’s been a noticeable drop in the number of attacks in recent weeks…..
Syrian rebels capture three military bases in a week
Martin Chulov in Beirut, Guardian, 11.24.2012
Attacks yield large number of weapons, which had been in short supply…
Syrian rebels’ success in seizing three military bases in less than a week has underscored the growing difficulty faced by Damascus in securing its outposts and stopping a rebel encroachment that has claimed large swaths of the east and north of the country.
Attacks on the bases, one north-east of Aleppo, a second at Mayedin in the far east and a third near Damascus, yielded a large number of weapons, which had been in desperately short supply, especially in positions across Syria’s second city.
The impact of the new weapons seemed to have been felt immediately along northern frontlines, where Kurdish groups loyal to the Assad regime were on Friday engaged in their heaviest clashes yet with rebel forces and jihadists, near the border town of Ras al-Ain…..
An excellent new Website that compiles good Mid East stories http://www.todaysmiddleeast.com/