Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

Syrian soldiers reportedly arrested in connection with downed spy plane; IAF commander to fly to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A munitions warehouse in a Syrian military facility appears to have been completely obliterated in an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian port city of Latakia late on Monday, satellite images released Wednesday show.

A Russian military reconnaissance plane was shot down by Syria during the Israeli strike, killing all 15 crew members.

On Wednesday Syria released video footage from the site of the attack, reiterating its claim that Israel targeted an aluminium factory, not a weapons warehouse in Monday’s strike, according to the Ynet news site. The veracity of the footage could not be independently verified.

On Monday, Syria accidentally shot down the Russian reconnaissance plane when its air defenses swung into action against the Israeli strike on Latakia. The Russian defense ministry initially blamed Israel, saying the IAF jets used the Russian plane as cover.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin later told reporters that the downing of the plane by Syrian air defenses was a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”

The remains of a Syrian ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a base in Latakia, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

On Wednesday, the Russians approved Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal to fly air force commander Major General Amiram Norkin to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident.

Syrian media and opposition sources reported Wednesday that several Syrian soldiers who were involved in the downing of the Russian spy plane were arrested and interrogated.

The fighters from the air force base in Latakia were reportedly arrested by members of the Russian military police. A Syrian unit was also reported to have taken part in the arrest, according to Hadashot TV.

Meanwhile, the remains of another plane, a Boeing 747 aircraft that was destroyed in an earlier alleged Israeli strike at Damascus airport on Saturday, and believed to be in the use of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, can be seen in separate images provided by ImageSat International (ISI).

The remains of a suspected Iranian aircraft which was hit in an Israeli airstrike, Damascus, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the rising tensions between the two countries in the wake of Monday’s airstrike.

In the call, the Israeli leader “noted the importance of the continued security coordination between Israel and Syria that has managed to prevent many casualties on both sides in the last three years,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

The Kremlin said that Putin emphasized that the Israeli attack violated Syria’s sovereignty and also breached the Russian-Israeli agreements on avoiding clashes in Syria. The Russian leader urged Netanyahu “not to allow such situations in the future.”

Israel said its jets had attacked a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Netanyahu told Putin that Israel was “determined” to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry to be used against Israel.

Netanyahu also reiterated that Israel would completely share all the information it had on the circumstances of the raid and suggested sending Israel’s air force chief to Moscow to “deliver all the needed information.”

The conversation came on Tuesday evening just before Israel began observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

Earlier Tuesday, Putin confirmed that Israel did not shoot down the plane, rejecting any comparisons with the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attends the inauguration ceremony for Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyaninin on September 18, 2018. (AFP/Sputnik/Alexey Filippov)

“An Israeli jet did not shoot down our plane,” the Russian leader said.

The Russian defense ministry on Tuesday morning had blamed Israel for the accident and warned of reprisals.

Putin said he had signed off on the defense ministry statement. “No doubt we should seriously look into this,” Putin said, speaking at a news conference after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Israel said its deputy ambassador in Moscow Keren Cohen-Gat was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said there would be no comment on what was discussed.

Putin also said Moscow would beef up security for Russian military personnel in Syria as a priority response. “These will be the steps that everyone will notice,” he said, without providing further details.

He expressed condolences to the families of the victims, calling the accident a “tragedy for us all.”

The incident was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia’s game-changing military intervention in September 2015.

The Russian plane was downed by a Russian-made S-200 air defense supplied to Syria.

The Israeli military on Tuesday acknowledged conducting the airstrike the night before and “expressed sorrow” for the deaths of the 15 Russian airmen.

In a statement, however, the IDF denied all responsibility for the downing of the Russian spy plane, saying that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah were the ones at fault.

“Israel expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire,” the IDF said, and noted that the Russian plane that was hit “was not within the area of the operation.”

A photo taken on July 23, 2006 shows an Russian IL-20M (Ilyushin 20m) plane landing at an unknown location.
Russia blamed Israel on September 18, 2018 for the loss of a military IL-20M jet to Syrian fire, which killed all 15 servicemen on board, and threatened a response. (AFP PHOTO / Nikita SHCHYUKIN)

The Israeli strike was conducted at approximately 10 p.m. by four F-16 fighter jets, according to the Russian military.

Syrian air defenses opened fire at the incoming missiles, at the attacking aircraft and — according to Israel — at nothing in particular. The Russian Il-20 was shot down in the air battle.

“The Syrian anti-air batteries fired indiscriminately and, from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” the army said.

According to the IDF, the target of its Monday night strike was a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Explosions seen in the Syrian city of Latakia after an attack on a military facility nearby on September 17, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The target of the Israeli strike was identified by Syria as a subsidiary of its defense ministry, known as the Organization for Technical Industries, which has suspected ties to the country’s chemical weapons and missile programs.

“These weapons were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it,” the army said.

Though Israeli officials have said, generally, that the military conducts operations inside Syria against Iranian and Hezbollah targets, the IDF rarely acknowledges specific airstrikes, preferring instead to adopt a formal policy of neither confirming nor denying the attacks attributed to it.

The military said its initial investigation found that its strike was completed before the Russian plane entered the area of the operation and that the reconnaissance aircraft was shot down after the Israeli fighter jets had returned to Israeli airspace.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident,” the army added.

This appeared to refute the claim made by Moscow that the Israeli pilots used the surveillance plane as cover for their attack.

A Russian military official gives a briefing on the downing of an IL-20 military plane near Syria on September 18, 2018. (screen capture: Sputnik)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also accused Israel of failing to inform the Russian military of its plans, which he said would have been in the “spirit” of Israeli-Russian coordination in Syria. The Russian defense ministry said Israel warned them of the impending strike “less than a minute” before it began, which left them insufficient time to clear their personnel from the area.

The Israeli and Russian militaries maintain what they call a “deconfliction mechanism,” which is meant to coordinate their activities in Syria in order to avoid incidents like this one. Until Monday night, these efforts had largely succeeded in preventing direct or indirect clashes since Russia became more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war three years ago.

The Israeli military said it had coordinated with Russia ahead of the attack, though it did not address Moscow’s specific claims about the amount of time between the notification and the airstrike itself.

The IDF also said it would “share all the relevant information with the Russian government to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

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Jordan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Jordan

Introduction Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country’s long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, despite several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he reinstituted parliamentary elections and gradual political liberalization; in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, the son of King HUSSEIN, assumed the throne following his father’s death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were held in November 2007 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. In November 2007, King Abdallah instructed his new prime minister to focus on socioeconomic reform, developing a healthcare and housing network for civilians and military personnel, and improving the educational system.
History Beginnings

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations created the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate Palestine. Approximately 90% of the British Mandate of Palestine was east of the Jordan river and was known as “Transjordan”. In 1921, the British gave semi-autonomous control of Transjordan to the future King Abdullah I of Jordan, of the Hashemite family. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 on the steps of the Mosque of Omar. At first he ruled “Transjordan”, under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following this approval, the Jordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, which had been under its control since the armistice that followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (de facto in the case of East Jerusalem).

In 1965, there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a relatively large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.

Jordan signed a mutual defence pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war against Israel along with Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel (the western sector having been under Israeli control). In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

Refugees and Black September / AKA White September

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians, especially from the West Bank, living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population — 700,000 in 1966 — grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The fedayeen were targeted by King’s (Hussien) armed forces, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September, it is also known as white September to many.

The heaviest fighting occurred in northern Jordan and Amman. The Syrian army battled the Jordanian army in Amman and other urban areas. The global media portrayed King Hussein as a corrupt King slaughtering the Palestinian refugees. Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but subsequently retreated. It is said by some people, such as Ahmed Jibril, that King Hussein asked for help from Israel,[1] then Israel threatened that it would invade Jordan if Syria intervened. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces led by Habis Al-Majali with the help of the Iraqi forces (who had bases in Jordan after the war of 1967),[1] won a decisive victory over the fedayeen on July 1971, expelling them from the country.

At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan agreed, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank.

Post Black September and Peace Treaty

Fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf War of 1990–91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian fedayeen representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on July 25, 1994 (see Washington Declaration). As a result, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was concluded on October 26, 1994. Following the outbreak of Israel-Palestinian Authority fighting in September 2000, the Jordanian government offered its good offices to both parties. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

Recent events

On November 9, 2005 Jordan experienced three simultaneous bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”, a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a native Jordanian, claimed responsibility.

Geography Location: Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 31 00 N, 36 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 92,300 sq km
land: 91,971 sq km
water: 329 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Indiana
Land boundaries: total: 1,635 km
border countries: Iraq 181 km, Israel 238 km, Saudi Arabia 744 km, Syria 375 km, West Bank 97 km
Coastline: 26 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)
Terrain: mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Jabal Ram 1,734 m
Natural resources: phosphates, potash, shale oil
Land use: arable land: 3.32%
permanent crops: 1.18%
other: 95.5% (2005)
Irrigated land: 750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 0.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.01 cu km/yr (21%/4%/75%)
per capita: 177 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and as the Arab country that shares the longest border with Israel and the occupied West Bank
People Population: 6,053,193 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33% (male 1,018,934/female 977,645)
15-64 years: 63% (male 2,037,550/female 1,777,361)
65 years and over: 4% (male 117,279/female 124,424) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 23.5 years
male: 24.1 years
female: 22.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.412% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 20.69 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 2.68 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.146 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.943 male(s)/female
total population: 1.102 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 16.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.55 years
male: 76.04 years
female: 81.22 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.55 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 600 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Jordanian(s)
adjective: Jordanian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi’a Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.9%
male: 95.1%
female: 84.7%

Lebanon: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This War Torn Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Lebanon

Introduction Following the capture of Syria from the Ottoman Empire by Anglo-French forces in 1918, France received a mandate over this territory and separated out a region of Lebanon in 1920. France granted this area independence in 1943. A lengthy civil war (1975-1990) devastated the country, but Lebanon has since made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions. Under the Ta’if Accord – the blueprint for national reconciliation – the Lebanese established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater voice in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, Lebanon has conducted several successful elections, most militias have been disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizballah, a radical Shi’a organization listed by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, retains its weapons. During Lebanon’s civil war, the Arab League legitimized in the Ta’if Accord Syria’s troop deployment, numbering about 16,000 based mainly east of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley. Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the passage in October 2004 of UNSCR 1559 – a resolution calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and end its interference in Lebanese affairs – encouraged some Lebanese groups to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well. The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq HARIRI and 20 others in February 2005 led to massive demonstrations in Beirut against the Syrian presence (“the Cedar Revolution”), and Syria withdrew the remainder of its military forces in April 2005. In May-June 2005, Lebanon held its first legislative elections since the end of the civil war free of foreign interference, handing a majority to the bloc led by Saad HARIRI, the slain prime minister’s son. Lebanon continues to be plagued by violence – Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 leading to a 34-day conflict with Israel. The LAF in May-September 2007 battled Sunni extremist group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp; and the country has witnessed a string of politically motivated assassinations since the death of Rafiq HARIRI. Lebanese politicians in November 2007 were unable to agree on a successor to Emile LAHUD when he stepped down as president, creating a political vacuum.
History Ancient history

The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered in Byblos, which is considered to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world,[15] remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars which are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago. [5]

Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great. After two centuries of Persian rule, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Persian, Assyrian, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and Ottoman.

French mandate and independence

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, in a region known as Greater Syria,[17] until 1918 when the area became a part of the French Mandate of Syria following World War I. On September 1, 1920, France formed the State of Greater Lebanon as one of several ethnic enclaves within Syria.[18] Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druzes. On September 1, 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. The Republic was afterward a separate entity from Syria but still administered under the French Mandate of Syria. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany.[19] General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon’s unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Christian and its prime minister be Muslim.

Lebanon’s history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut’s position as a regional center for finance and trade.

1948 Arab-Israeli war

Five years after gaining independence, Lebanon reluctantly joined the Arab League but never invaded Israel[20] during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It took over logistical support of the Arab Liberation Army after it found itself cut off from its bases in Syria while going on an attack on the newly-proclaimed Jewish State.[20] After the defeat of the Arab Liberation Army in Operation Hiram,[21] Lebanon accepted an armistice with Israel on March 23, 1949. Approximately 100,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon in 1949 as a result of the creation of Israel and the subsequent war. The Lebanese-Israeli border remained closed, but quiet, until after the Six Day War in 1967.

Civil war and beyond

In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country’s economy, and resulting in the massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 maimed.[23] The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.

During the civil war, the Palestine Liberation Organization used Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel. Lebanon was twice invaded and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978 and 1982,[25] the PLO expelled in the second invasion. Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when there was a general decision, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw due to continuous guerrilla attacks executed by Hezbollah militants and a belief that Hezbollah activity would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence.[26] The UN determined that the withdrawal of Israeli troops beyond the blue line was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, although a border region called the Shebaa Farms is still disputed. Hezbollah declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area was liberated.

Recent history

On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion near the Saint George Bay in Beirut. Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack[29] due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending pro-Syrian President Lahoud’s term in office. Others, namely the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.

This incident triggered a series of demonstrations, known as Cedar Revolution, that demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1595 on April 7, 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.[31] The findings of the investigation were officially published on October 20, 2005 in the Mehlis report.[32] Eventually, and under pressure from the international community, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon.[33] By April 26, 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria.[34] The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that led to the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and that led to a conflict, known in Lebanon as July War, that lasted until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect on 14 August 2006.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria
Geographic coordinates: 33 50 N, 35 50 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 10,400 sq km
land: 10,230 sq km
water: 170 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.7 times the size of Connecticut
Land boundaries: total: 454 km
border countries: Israel 79 km, Syria 375 km
Coastline: 225 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers; Lebanon mountains experience heavy winter snows
Terrain: narrow coastal plain; El Beqaa (Bekaa Valley) separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Qurnat as Sawda’ 3,088 m
Natural resources: limestone, iron ore, salt, water-surplus state in a water-deficit region, arable land
Land use: arable land: 16.35%
permanent crops: 13.75%
other: 69.9% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,040 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 4.8 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.38 cu km/yr (33%/1%/67%)
per capita: 385 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; air pollution in Beirut from vehicular traffic and the burning of industrial wastes; pollution of coastal waters from raw sewage and oil spills
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: Nahr el Litani is the only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity
Politics Lebanon is a parliamentary, democratic republic, which implements a special system known as confessionalism.[69] This system, allegedly meant to insure that sectarian conflict is kept at bay, attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of religious sects in the governing body. As such, high-ranking offices in are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Catholic Christian, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Deputy Prime Minister an Orthodox Christian.

This trend continues in the distribution of the 128 parliamentary seats, which are divided equally between Muslims and Christians. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975-1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions.[72] According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every four years, although for much of Lebanon’s recent history, civil war precluded the exercise of this right.

The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term. At the urging of the Syrian government, this constitutional rule has been bypassed by ad hoc amendment twice in recent history. Elias Hrawi’s term, which was due to end in 1995, was extended for three years. This procedure, denounced by pro-democracy campaigners, was repeated in 2004 to allow Émile Lahoud to remain in office until 2007.

The President appoints the Prime Minister on the nomination of the parliament (which is, in most cases, binding).Following consultations with the parliament and the President, the Prime Minister forms the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

Lebanon’s judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Lebanese law does not provide for Civil marriage (although it recognizes such marriages contracted abroad); efforts by former President Elias Hrawi to legalize civil marriage in the late 1990s floundered on objections mostly from Muslim clerics. Additionally, Lebanon has a system of military courts that also has jurisdiction over civilians for crimes of espionage, treason, and other crimes that are considered to be security-related. These military courts have been criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for “seriously fall[ing] short of international standards for fair trial” and having “very wide jurisdiction over civilians”.

After Rafic Hariri’s assassination on 14 February 2005, the country has seen turbulent political times, and it shaped the Cedar Revolution and the rise of the March 14 alliance which is made of: Lebanese Forces, Future Movement and the PSP.

People Population: 3,971,941 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26% (male 526,994/female 505,894)
15-64 years: 66.8% (male 1,275,021/female 1,380,131)
65 years and over: 7.1% (male 128,002/female 155,899) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 28.8 years
male: 27.6 years
female: 30 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.06 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 22.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.08 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.41 years
male: 70.91 years
female: 76.04 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.87 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,800 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Lebanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Lebanese
Ethnic groups: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1%
note: many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendents of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians
Religions: Muslim 59.7% (Shi’a, Sunni, Druze, Isma’ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%
note: 17 religious sects recognized
Languages: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 87.4%
male: 93.1%
female: 82.2%

Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria

Noting facility’s apparent similarity to Iran’s Parchin complex, report says site likely spared from Israeli strike due to nearby Russia anti-aircraft battery

Satellite photos published Thursday purported to show the establishment of an Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria, raising fresh concerns over the extent of the two countries’ military cooperation on Israel’s northern border.

The photos, which were taken by ImageSat International and published by Channel 10 news, were said to show a facility outside Wadi Jahannam in northwest Syria resembling Iran’s Parchin facility, which has been linked to the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Beyond noting an apparent surge in construction work at the site and the building’s seeming similarity to Parchin, Channel 10 did not say how it was identified as a missile factory.

Unlike other Iranian facilities in Syria that have been targeted in Israeli airstrikes, the report said the site was likely spared due to its close proximity to a Russian S-400 ant-aircraft battery, which is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.

Satellite image of the Parchin facility in April (photo credit: Institute for Science and International Security/AP)

Satellite image of the Parchin facility, April 2012. (AP/Institute for Science and International Security)

In July, Israeli jets reportedly targeted a missile production facility in nearby Masyaf, where a leading Syrian chemical weapons and missile scientist was killed earlier this month in a car bombing attributed to Israel.

According to a New York Times report, Israel believed that Dr. Aziz Asbar was leading a classified weapons development program called Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, and was busy rebuilding an underground weapons factory to replace the one said destroyed by Israel.

Israel did not comment on its alleged involvement in the July airstrike on the facility, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement following the raid that Israel “will not stop taking action in Syria against Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence there.”

Iran has been one of the top military backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the over sever-year-long civil war in the country, as has been its Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah terror group.

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian president Bashar Assad, right, meeting with Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami, in Damascus, Syria, on August 26, 2018. (SANA via AP)

Both Israel and the United States have called for the removal of all Iranian-backed forces from Syria. Russia, which like Iran is fighting on behalf of Assad, has expressed support for this goal but said it can’t force Iranian forces out of the country.

Iran for its part has vowed to remain in Syria, and earlier this week the two countries signed a defense agreement during a visit by Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami to Damascus.

Hatami said the pact would include the rebuilding of Syria’s military and defense programs.

Netanyahu this week reiterated that Israel will continue to take action against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria, and issued an emphatic warning against those who call for Israel’s annihilation, such as the Islamic Republic.

“Whoever threatens us with destruction puts himself in similar danger, and in any case will not achieve his goal,” Netanyahu said during a ceremony at the nuclear research facility in Dimona.

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The Insider Attack In Syria That The Pentagon Denies Ever Happened

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK AND PURPOSE’ NEWS)

 

Exclusive: The Insider Attack In Syria That The Pentagon Denies Ever Happened
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It was a pitch black Saturday evening at a remote outpost in Syria last February when Sgt. Cameron Halkovich and Cpl. Kane Downey began their rounds, checking Marines on perimeter security.

As sergeant and corporal of the guard, their job was to set up the watch schedule, man the radios, and most importantly, ensure Marines on post were watching for signs of ISIS fighters, who for months had been under blistering attack from artillery at the small, Army-run base in Deir al-Zour Province. Besides an Army Special Forces team, it hosted a forward surgical team, more than dozen Marine infantrymen, and a platoon-sized element of Syrian Democratic Forces allied with the U.S.

But on that late-winter night, one of the Americans’ SDF partners would turn on them and fire two shots — marking the first known instance of an insider attack during Operation Inherent Resolve. And while the Pentagon often announces when service members are killed or wounded during these “insider” or “green on blue” attacks, it made no such announcement for Halkovich, a combat engineer, who was shot twice in the leg and survived.

This account of the Feb. 17 shooting of a U.S. Marine by a member of the Syrian militia he was supporting is based on interviews with multiple sources, military award documents, and scant details released by the Pentagon. It has also become an open secret among the 1,000-plus Marines and sailors of the unit Halkovich was attached to — 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, California.

“It’s kind of ridiculous that a Marine gets shot and nobody hears about it,” said one source familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal. “It kind of blows my mind.”

In fact, when asked by Task & Purpose whether there had ever been an insider attack during Operation Inherent Resolve, a coalition statement flatly denied it: “We have no recorded incidents of insider attacks during OIR.”

* * *

halko wounded

The small contingent of Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment had a boring and often thankless job providing security at the outpost, a so-called “mission support site” which Task & Purpose has chosen not to name for operational security reasons. Though they occasionally left the wire, the Marines spent most of their time on rooftops or in the turret of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected truck, as Army artillerymen safely pounded ISIS positions and Special Forces soldiers trained and supported the SDF in battle.

They settled into a familiar routine after about five months in Syria: Some Marines slept or ate, while others manned a vehicle-mounted .50 caliber machine-gun or looked for infiltrators in the surrounding desert with night vision and thermal imaging devices. Meanwhile, the SDF had their own routine, manning a gate that served as the main entry point into the camp.

The Marines mostly kept to themselves, except to share an occasional cigarette with the Kurdish-dominated SDF. Sometimes the Kurds would slaughter a goat and cook it up for their American patrons. But for reasons that remain unclear, relations began to deteriorate in early February.

“There was an incident with an SDF guy racking his AK… but the Marine somehow deescalated the situation and nothing was fired,” the source said of a Kurdish soldier who chambered a round in his AK-47 rifle, threatening a Marine about a week prior to the Halkovich shooting. That SDF soldier was subsequently kicked off the base.

“Tensions were super high at this point,” the source added.

But just as one potential insider threat was removed, a new one seemed to present itself just a week later, illustrating the fragile nature of some of America’s partnerships with foreign militaries — which are increasingly being used to fight terror groups through a strategy of “advise and assist.”

2-7marines

It began with a radio call. Alerted to a commotion at the SDF-manned gate, Halkovich and Downey ran to check it out. When they got there, SDF soldiers told the Marines a truck outside the gate was just having car trouble.

It was a lie, one that was quickly exposed when a Syrian civilian in the vehicle held up a dead child that was “soaked in blood,” according to the source. Looking closer, the Marines saw a truck bed filled with about eight dead or wounded civilians. It was a mass-casualty incident, and they knew they had to help.

The SDF told the Marines no, in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, which strictly prohibits withholding medical assistance or discriminating in providing care.

“SDF was trying to tell us that we weren’t allowed to treat them, but… we’re going to help anybody we can,” the source said, adding that the partner force “was super upset about it.”

Another source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, said the injured group, comprised mostly of women and children, was turned away by the SDF because they were not Kurdish.

The first source gave a similar account: “It was purely racial. They refused to give them an ambulance.”

Halkovich and Downey pushed the SDF soldiers out of the way and opened the gate, amid screaming from both sides in English and Arabic. They moved concertina wire aside while another Marine called in a mass casualty to the Army surgical team. Others placed victims on litters and shuffled them in.

halkovich

Army medics managed to save four of the victims, according to the first source. But the SDF “was not happy,” the other source said. The Kurds even threatened to kick the Marines out of the compound for their humanitarian act.

Eventually, tensions settled and things went back to normal — until dark.

Around 9 p.m. that night, Halkovich and Downey decided to check on Lance Cpl. Jay Smith, who was stationed in the MRAP turret behind a .50 caliber machine gun.

After walking the 100 meters or so from their quarters, Halkovich stopped to urinate. Not thinking anything of it, Downey kept going. But as he crossed an intersection between buildings near the main gate, he realized something seemed strange.

At the entry control point, at least one SDF soldier normally watched the gate at all times. But nobody was there.

Neither Marine was aware that hidden in the shadows, one of the SDF soldiers had abandoned his post and was lying in wait.

Downey got to the door of the MRAP and reached for the handle. But before he opened it, he heard two gunshots, the distinctive report of an AK-47.

He turned around and saw Halkovich on the ground, his face obscured. Downey would later recount to his fellow Marines and military investigators that he saw a lone SDF soldier, standing over Halkovich with a rifle.

Downey then aimed in with his M4 rifle and dropped the attacker with a “hammer pair” — a well-aimed series of two quick shots to the chest. With the SDF soldier now dead, Downey kicked his weapon away and yelled to Smith in the turret: “Halko was shot! Halko was shot!”

Halkovich took two 7.62mm bullets to the left leg that went clean through — though, in the darkness, Downey initially thought his comrade was dead. With Downey’s red-lens headlamp shining down on his face, Halkovich looked up. Then he looked at his leg, then back at Downey, and finally, he screamed.

According to the award citation for the Joint Service Commendation Medal that Downey would receive in March for what was called a “shooting incident,” the Marine “acted decisively to eliminate the threat to his comrade” before applying a tourniquet to Halkovich’s leg and fireman-carrying him to the surgical facility. (The citation, signed by OIR Commanding General Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, however, takes pains to avoid identifying “the shooter.”)

Smith, for his part, remained at his post and called in the shooting on the radio, prompting the rest of the Marines to respond to the scene. Just as the Marines had done earlier in the day for civilians, they now watched as one of their own was brought to the Army surgeons stationed nearby.

Halkovich was medically evacuated from the post soon after, while Downey was brought back to a larger camp to explain what had happened to military investigators.

But for months afterward, the Marines continued to live side-by-side with the Syrian partners they had come to fear.

“It’s really terrifying,” the first source said. “You’re literally surrounded.”

Spokesmen for the Syrian Democratic Forces did not respond to a request for comment.

purpleheart halko

The Marines of 2/7 returned with little fanfare from their combat deployment in April. Halkovich received the Purple Heart that same month and is still recovering from his wounds at the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California. At Marine Corps Base 29 Palms in March, Downey would receive his Joint Service Commendation Medal for saving Halkovich’s life.

Meanwhile, a new group of Marines has taken 2/7’s place on the Corps’ Special Purpose MAGTF Crisis Response-Central Command, where, like their counterparts, they could potentially deploy to a theater of war where friends can become enemies in the blink of an eye.

Were they warned of the shooting in February? Told to prepare for the possibility of an insider attack by the SDF? A spokesperson for the unit did not respond to those questions.

“They said it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country and yet no justice was ever done for my wounded brother,” the second source told me. “That is the only reason I’m telling you this because no one knows what happened out there… and nothing came of it.”

Russia to deploy military police on Golan Heights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Russia to deploy military police on Golan Heights

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will deploy its military police on the Golan Heights frontier between Syria and Israel, its defense ministry said on Thursday, after weeks of mounting volatility in the area.

Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi speaks during a news briefing, with a map showing the territory of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria seen in the background, in Moscow, Russia August 2, 2018. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s sweeping away of rebels in southwestern Syria has worried Israel, which believes it could allow his Iranian backers to entrench their troops close to the frontier.

Underlining the tensions, Israel killed seven militants in an overnight air strike on the Syrian-held part of the Golan Heights, Israeli radio said on Thursday.

Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian defense ministry official, said that Russian military police had on Thursday begun patrolling in the Golan Heights and planned to set up eight observation posts in the area.

He said the Russian presence there was in support of United Nations peacekeepers on the Golan Heights who, he said, had suspended their activities in the area in 2012 because their safety was endangered.

“Today, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police conducted their first patrols in six years in the separation zone,” Rudskoi told a briefing for journalists in Moscow.

“With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the ‘Bravo’ line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia’s armed forces’ military police,” Rudskoi said.

He said the Russian presence there was temporary, and that the observation posts would be handed over to Syrian government forces once the situation stabilized.

The deployment of the Russian military police highlights the degree to which the Kremlin has become an influential actor in Middle East conflicts since its military intervention in Syria which turned the tide of the war in Assad’s favor.

Israel has been lobbying the Kremlin to use its influence with Assad, and with Tehran, to try to get the Iranian military presence in Syria scaled back.

Israel sees Iran, and Iran’s allies in the Hezbollah Shi’ite military, as a direct threat to its national security.

That message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin when they met in Moscow last month, a senior Israeli official said.

Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons in Syria to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, TASS quoted a Russian envoy as saying on Wednesday, but Israel deemed the pullback inadequate.

Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Christian Lowe, Richard Balmforth

ISIS Spreads Influence through Libyan Mosques

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

ISIS Spreads Influence through Libyan Mosques

Saturday, 28 July, 2018 – 09:15
Libyan police guard a checkpoint in Tripoli (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)
Cairo – Waleed Abdul Rahman
Libyan mosques have fallen victim to the ISIS terrorist group which has turned them into centers for the recruitment of militants, an Egyptian study said.

“The organization has worked on recruiting some imams” so that they lure young men into the fight alongside the extremist group in Syria and Iraq, it said.

An imam has been recently arrested in the Libyan capital Tripoli on such charges.

The report, headlined “How ISIS Took Advantage of Mosques in Libya,” said that since chaos spread in the country in 2011, extremist groups have taken control over several regions, which has resulted in mosques being run by such organizations.

The researchers said that ISIS began influencing the minds of young men, mainly in the eastern city of Derna, which is seen as the stronghold of extremist groups.

The main aim of the organization was not just to recruit fighters locally, but also to send them to Syria, they said.

ISIS also resorted to the distribution of fliers in areas that fell under their control to inform residents on the importance of mosques in encouraging and facilitating the travel of young men to Syria.

The report quoted a woman as saying that ISIS sought to recruit her sons through one of Libya’s mosques.

She told the researchers that she had sent her children to the mosque to learn the Quran because schools had shut down due to the deteriorating security situation in Derna. But her sons ended up being recruited by the organization.

The report made some suggestions on how to limit ISIS’ influence through mosques, saying the authorities should raise awareness among the people on the dangers of extremist practices.

It also said that the Libyan government should have full supervision over mosques.

IDF shoots down Syrian fighter jet that entered Israeli airspace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF shoots down Syrian fighter jet that entered Israeli airspace

Two Patriot missiles fired at Sukhoi aircraft that penetrated two kilometers into Israeli territory, military says

Smoke trails from two Israeli Patriot interceptor missiles that Israel says shot down a Syrian fighter jet are seen in northern Israel on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Smoke trails from two Israeli Patriot interceptor missiles that Israel says shot down a Syrian fighter jet are seen in northern Israel on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israeli Air Force shot down a Syrian fighter jet that traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace on Tuesday afternoon, the military said.

“Two Patriot missiles were fired at a Syrian Sukhoi-model fighter jet,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The IDF said the aircraft was monitored as it approached the border with the Golan Heights.

“It penetrated two kilometers into Israeli airspace and was shot down,” the army said.

According to Sky News Arabia, the plane crashed inside southwest Syria, in the Yarmouk Basin, an area still under the control of the Islamic State terrorist group. It was not immediately clear if the pilots ejected before the fighter jet was shot down or what their condition was.

The official Syrian news outlet SANA confirmed that Israel had shot at one of its fighter jets, but said the plane was inside Syrian airspace at the time it was targeted.

According to SANA, Israel fired at “one of our war planes, which are leveling [terrorist] encampments in the Saida region on the outskirts of the Yarmouk Basin, in Syrian airspace.”

A military source quoted by SANA accused Israel of aiding “terrorists” in the country’s southwest, where the Syrian air force has been conducting extensive bombing raids throughout the day against a number of opposition groups.

File: A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber lands at the Russian Hmeimin military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015. (Paul Gypteau/AFP)

It was not immediately clear if the plane was a Sukhoi-22 or a Sukhoi-24, two different types of Russian-made fighter jets in use by the Syrian Air Force, the Israeli military said.

The IDF said it had noticed increased air force activity in southwestern Syria, near the border, since the morning.

“We have passed a number of messages, in a number of languages, in order to ensure that no one violates Israeli air space,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

The spokesman said Israel has been in regular contact with the Russian military, which operates extensively in southwestern Syria, in order to prevent any conflict with Moscow.

According to the IDF, the fighter jet took off from the Iran-linked T-4 air force base in central Syria, which Israel has bombed in the past, and traveled “at high speed” toward the Golan Heights.

Conricus said there was no “confusion” about the fact that this was a Syrian fighter jet. In the past, Israel has hesitated in shooting down incoming aircraft out of concerns they might belong to Russia.

Israel stressed that it will continue to enforce the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which requires Syria to abide by a demilitarized zone between the two countries

A Syrian fighter jet is seen in flames after it was hit by the Israeli military over the Golan Heights on September 23, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/JALAA MAREY)

This was the first time that Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet since 2014, when another Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet entered Israeli airspace and was targeted with a Patriot missile.

“Israel has a very clear policy: No plane, and certainly not a Syrian plane, is allowed to enter our airspace” without the appropriate authorization, Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told Army Radio soon after Tuesday’s incident. “Any plane identified as an enemy plane is shot down,” he said.

In February of this year, the Syrian military shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet as it was taking part in a bombing raid against an Iranian-linked airfield in central Syria after an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace, according to the IDF. The F-16’s pilot and navigator were injured as they bailed out of the aircraft, which crashed to ground in northern Israel.

Tuesday’s breach of Israeli airspace and the interception set off incoming rocket alert sirens throughout northeastern Israel, sending thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters for the second day in a row.

An Israeli man watches the smoke trail of a David’s Sling interceptor missile in the northern Israeli city of Safed after the interceptor was fired toward a Syrian SS-21 missile, on July 23, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Residents of northern Israel reported seeing white trails in the sky.

The Safed municipality told residents that air defense systems in the area had fired interceptor missiles and said there were no special safety instructions in light of the situation.

The alarms could be heard in the Golan Heights and Jordan Valley regions, the army said.

The sirens came a day after Israel launched two David’s Sling interceptor missiles at a pair of Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives each that appeared to be heading toward Israel, but ultimately landed inside Syria. The Israeli interceptors did not strike the Syrian missiles: one was self-detonated by the IAF; the second reportedly fell to earth inside Syria.

The military’s air defense systems that detect and track incoming missiles and rockets are less accurate immediately after a projectile is launched, as they have less information on its trajectory. As the missile or rocket flies, the systems can better predict where it is likely to land.

Monday’s incident, which ultimately turned out to have been a false alarm, was the first known operational use of the David’s Sling system, which was declared operational last year.

The David’s Sling makes up the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layered anti-missile defense network.

In recent weeks, sirens in northern Israel have been triggered by the military shooting down unmanned aerial vehicles entering Israeli airspace from Syria.

On July 13, the Israeli military used an anti-aircraft Patriot missile to shoot down a Syrian army drone that was flying over the demilitarized zone separating Israel from Syria. Two days earlier, a Syrian military unmanned aerial vehicle penetrated some 10 kilometers (six miles) into Israeli territory before it too was shot down by a Patriot missile. The IDF said it had allowed the drone to fly so deeply into Israeli territory as it was not immediately clear if it belonged to the Russian military.

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Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 09:00
Israeli soldiers stand on tanks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli forces carried strikes against Syrian regime positions near the Golan Heights on Thursday in retaliation to a Syrian drone incursion a day earlier.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for the incursion by a Syrian drone, which was shot down over northern Israel.

“We are still looking into why it crossed – whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He said a stray drone was “not common”.

Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-storey structure and a five-storey structure amid hilly terrain.

The Israeli army “holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said after the strikes.

Syrian regime media said the positions were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of Iran during the seven-year war in Syria.

Its air force has struck scores of Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed “Hezbollah”.

In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Vladimir Putin, the regime’s key ally, to encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

David Keyes, a Netanyahu spokesman, said: “We don’t get involved in the civil war. We will act against anyone who acts against us.”

The Israeli official who requested anonymity said Russia was working to distance Iranian forces from the Golan and had proposed that they be kept 80 km (50 miles) away but that this fell short of Israel’s demand for their full exit along with that of Tehran-sponsored militias.

Russian officials had no immediate comment on the meeting.

Israel has been on high alert as regime forces advance on opposition factions in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel worries the regime could allow its Iranian allies to entrench near its lines.

Comments

‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

Monday, 9 July, 2018 – 08:15
Syrian refugees arrive in Wadi Hamayyed, on the outskirts of the Lebanese northeastern border town of Arsal, to board buses bound for the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on August 2, 2017. AFP
Beirut – Sanaa Al-Jack
Human trafficking is currently spread at the Lebanese-Syrian borders as a thriving business due to the presence of some Syrian refugees who wish to return to their country without paying imposed
fines.

Asharq Al-Awsat witnessed how a group of brokers managed the smuggling of Syrian refugees from a travel agency near the vegetable market in the Sabra area in the Southern Suburbs of Beirut.

Those brokers, who operate at “administrative” offices, hunt their clients and bargain their safe and secure penetration through the borders, prettifying the adventure, which in many times could cause
their killing.

Most clients include Syrian refugees with uncompleted Lebanese residency permits. The Lebanese Security General does not allow them to leave the country before paying fees related to arranging their
papers.

Here comes the role of the smuggling. Amal told Asharq Al-Awsat about her experience with one of the brokers responsible for smuggling Syrians.

The broker had promised her husband, who works in the construction sector, to secure his safe passage by car through the border to his village in the countryside of Hama in return of $400.

The man paid the sum and left with his wife to the Masnaa border crossing in the Bekaa where they spent the night and were asked to remain in complete silence.

The brokers had told Amal that crossing the mountains from Lebanon to Syria would take one hour and that a vehicle would wait for them in the Syrian part of the border to take them home.

“They lied. We stayed running for more than eight hours in the dark. I lost my shoes and my feet were bleeding,” she said.

Even during the periods of tight security measures implemented at the borders by the Lebanese authorities, the illegal smuggling of Syrians does not stop, but only witnesses an increase of fees.

A security official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the trafficking of humans and goods is almost as old as the age of the borders between the two countries.

“We are exerting all our efforts to contain the smuggling but such mission remains impossible at the eastern borders with Syria which stretches around 145 kilometers,” the official said.

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