7 Places You Didn’t Know Were UNESCO World Heritage Sites

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

7 Places You Didn’t Know Were UNESCO World Heritage Sites

From national parks and natural wonders to ancient cities and historic buildings, World Heritage Sites are selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for being significant places.

As of December 2018, there are 1,092 World Heritage Sites, recognized for their cultural, historical, scientific or natural standing. Italy, China and Spain have the most sites on the list with 54, 53 and 47, respectively.

While every travel destination has some degree of importance, World Heritage Sites are legally protected, promoting their conservation.

Here are 7 places you may not have known were UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

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The capital city of Ecuador, Quito, was one of the first places marked as a World Heritage Site in 1978, mainly due to its pristine historic center, which UNESCO calls the “best-preserved, least altered” in all of Latin America. The integrity of the city’s original configuration is noted as one of its reasons for being included.

Ancient City of Damascus

Ancient City of Damascus

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One of seven Syrian sites on the list that are in danger due to conflict in the region is the Ancient City of Damascus. Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., it’s one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. It has around 125 monuments from different periods of its history, including the famous 8th century Great Mosque of the Umayyads, which has thus far survived the Syrian Civil War.

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

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Also on the World Heritage Sites “in danger” list is South Florida’s Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Home to rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile and Florida panther, the Everglades itself is threatened by the “serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem,” UNESCO announced when it re-added the park to the list in 2010.

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Rock Drawings in Val Camonica

Rock Drawings in Val Camonica

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Located in northern Italy, Val Camonica has one of the world’s greatest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs. There are more than 140,000 symbols and figures carved in the rock over a period of 8,000 years. The valley, located in the Lombardy region, has petroglyphs throughout that depict themes linked with agriculture, duels and deer hunting.

Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

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The Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal, Mexico was founded in the year 700 by roughly 25,000 inhabitants. It was selected as a UNESCO site in 1996 because of the layout of its buildings, dated from 700 to 1000, which reveal a knowledge of astronomy. The Pyramid of the Magician — known to the Spaniards as the Pyramid of the Soothsayer — is at the city’s ceremonial center. It is among the high points of Mayan art and architecture.

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

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Running from Beijing in the north to the Zhejiang province to the south, the Grand Canal was added as a World Heritage Site in 2014. Construction on the vast Chinese waterway system began in the 5th century B.C. By the 13th century, it consisted of more than 2,000 kilometers of artificial waterways that link five of China’s main river basins.

Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona

Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona

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Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau are listed as a singular World Heritage Site, recognized as “two of the finest contributions to Barcelona’s architecture by the Catalan art nouveau architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.”

5 Oldest Cities in Asia (Middle-East)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Oldest Cities in Asia

Humans have been building communities for a long time. A really long time. There are people living in places that have seen millennia of human settlement, particularly on the Asian continent, widely considered to be the place where civilization started. Ranking the age of some of these cities is going to be mind-boggling, to say the least, so we’d recommend trying to think about time less as a human would and switch more to a geological scale. It might make it easier. These are the five oldest cities in Asia.

Erbil, Iraq

Erbil, Iraq

Credit: sadikgulec/iStock

~7,000 Years

You may remember learning in elementary school that the earliest civilized people in the Fertile Crescent built their homes out of mud bricks. We do, anyway. We also remember thinking bricks like that can’t be as permanent as ours. Well, they aren’t, which is how the city of Erbil got its start. Roughly located in the center of the city is the Erbil Citadel, a massive fortified dirt mound on an otherwise flat plain. The mound is man-made and the result of thousands of years of settlements built on top of settlements built on top of settlements. The reason people were able to build on top of settlements is the wearing down of those mud bricks we mentioned earlier. Over time, the bricks disintegrate in place, adding a thin layer of dirt to the growing mound. Multiply that by a few thousand years and thousands of residents and Erbil grows from the result.

Byblos, Lebanon

Byblos, Lebanon

Credit: benedek/iStock

~7,000 Years

In Phoenician mythology, Byblos was founded by the god El at the beginning of time. While that might not be completely factual, the mythological truth of the statement can’t be denied. It’s a city so old it’s at least partially responsible for naming the Bible, thanks to its booming papyrus trade (the main thing the Bible was printed on at the time) and the Greek word for book, biblos. Before it accidentally named the second largest religion’s main publication, it was famous for its shipbuilding industry and enabled the Phoenicians to solidify their reputation as world-class sailors. Even before that it was an important port for Mediterranean trade, exporting prized Lebanese cedar to the powerful Egyptian empire. The city’s declined somewhat since its ancient glory, though Ernest Renan, a prominent French historian, contributed to its rejuvenation when he published the mostly forgotten history of Byblos in 1860.

Ray, Iran

Ray, Iran

Credit: mazzo1982/iStock

~7,500 Years

The true age of Ray is difficult, maybe impossible, to determine. A lot of the “archaeology” that went on in the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s amounted to little more than destructive treasure hunting, meaning the trace evidence that could prove the city’s true edge may have been permanently destroyed. But the city’s resilience proved more than treasure hunters could completely destroy. Excavations in the 1990s and 2000s turned up what would be classified as “horizon pottery of Češmeh Ali” and puts Ray’s founders among the very first settlers of the Iranian plateau around 5,500 B.C.

Today, Ray’s been incorporated into the larger metropolitan area of Tehran, no slouch of a city itself. But Ray still has the Iranian capital beaten by a few centuries at least.

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Jericho

Jericho

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~11,000 Years

Jericho’s roots grow so deep that the term “settlers” is more accurate than it is for other places. The earliest traces of human habitation around Jericho point to Mesolithic hunters who just decided to stay put one day. Like the hunters simply got tired and literally settled down. A thousand years after that, the hunters’ descendants started work on a huge stone wall around the town, with evidence of at least one huge tower incorporated into the wall. That’s 10,000 years of walled defense. So while Jericho might not be the oldest settlement in human history, its famous wall certainly is.

Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria

Credit: uchar/iStock

~10,000 — 12,000 Years

Twelve thousand years is a ridiculously long time, almost too long to conceptualize. To put it in some kind of perspective, Damascus possibly being 12,000 years old would put its founding during the Ice Age. During. Humans were settling down in Damascus at the same time half the Northern Hemisphere was buried under 4 kilometers of ice.

To make an even more of a dramatic statement of humanity’s ability to build cities, Damascus retains excellent examples from each of the major civilizations to contribute to its construction. Examples of Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic architecture are all on full display in the city, with the major examples being the Roman Temple of Jupiter, Roman walls and gates, and the Great Mosque built by Umayyad Caliphate. Essentially, what the city is today is a living, breathing Arabic city built on a hybrid Greek and Roman city plan in a location that’s seen human habitation since most of the Earth’s surface was made of glaciers.

Damascus, Tel Aviv Exchange ‘Goodwill’ Gestures

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

 

Damascus, Tel Aviv Exchange ‘Goodwill’ Gestures

Sunday, 28 April, 2019 – 06:30
An Israeli soldier stands next to signs pointing out distances to different cities at an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Moscow, Beijing, London – Raed Jaber and Asharq Al-Awsat
A series of “goodwill gestures” emerged on Saturday between Damascus and Tel Aviv related to a prisoner exchange.

An Israeli official said Tel Aviv decided in the past few days to release two Syrian prisoners as a goodwill gesture after the return of the remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel.

Baumel went missing during in a battle between Israeli and Syrian forces in Sultan Yaqub during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. His remains were recovered by Russian forces in Syria and returned to Israel earlier this month.

A Syrian regime source told Reuters that authorities had pressured Moscow to secure the prisoners’ release after news emerged that the Israeli soldier’s remains were being handed over.

Israel’s Prison Service identified the two prisoners as Ahmed Khamis and Zidan Taweel.

Khamis, from a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, was a member of the Palestinian Fatah group and was jailed in 2005 after he tried to infiltrate an Israeli military base in order to carry out an attack.

Taweel, from the Syrian Druze village of Hader, was jailed in 2008 for drug smuggling.

Meanwhile, Syria’s representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari said on Saturday that “Turkey’s occupation is four times larger than Israel’s and that Turkey’s negative attitude to Syria is thus four times worst than Israel.”

He compared the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights to Ankara’s “occupation” of Syrian territory in the North. He charged that Turkey was occupying some 6,000 kms of Syrian land, encompassing Afrin and Idlib.

He also accused it of constructing 70-km wall south of Manbij to separate it from Aleppo and imposing a Turkish curriculum at schools.

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(Peace, no peace, ever, there is to much inbred hate and distrust on all three sides, Sunni, Shiite and Judaism,  but thats just my thought on this issue.) (oldpoet56)  

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

No injuries or damage in Israel; Israeli planes said to be behind attack near Syrian capital against Hezbollah or Iranian depot; Damascus claims to shoot down ‘enemy targets’

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israel said Tuesday night it had deployed its air defenses against a missile shot from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel an alleged Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah or Iranian targets near the capital.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

Embedded video

Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

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Syrian state media said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down, in what was reported to be an Israeli airstrike.

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

Embedded video

Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

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SANA said the strikes beginning at about 10 p.m. were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted.

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

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News reports tied between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.

By midnight the flight was en route back to Iran.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

READ MORE:

Syria: Flooding in Damascus as Dumayr Dam Collapses

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

 

Flooding in Damascus as Dumayr Dam Collapses

Monday, 22 October, 2018 – 08:15
A general view of Damascus, Syria. (AFP)
Damascus – Asharq Al-Awsat
The Syrian capital’s Adra district was left devastated by flooding caused by the collapse of the al-Dumayr dam in the western Damascus countryside on Saturday.

An official told Asharq Al-Awsat: “A real catastrophe has taken place in the Adra suburb and in the industrial city.”

Adra is seen as a vital district in attempts to revitalize Syria’s economy that has been ravaged by years of war.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that a technical malfunction caused the collapse.

The dam has a capacity of 2.150 million liters and lies some 14 kms away from the industrial city. Dam workers were swept away by the rushing waters and many remain missing.

The losses are estimated a millions of dollars, said the official.

Residents of the industrial city were left trapped by the floods for several hours before rescue teams could reach them.

The SANA state news agency reported that two children and a youth in the towns of Deir Muqrin and Kafir Zeit in Wadi Barada were killed. Dozens of houses were also damaged.

Damascus and its suburbs witnessed similar devastating floods last year.

This year’s flooding was compounded by the blockage of drainage pipes.

The Damascus chamber of industry blamed the flooding on poor planning in the city and the rescue teams’ lack of preparedness.

It demanded that authorities take the necessary measures to avert such disasters in the future and to compensate those affected by the flooding.

RUSSIA MILITARY SAYS U.S. CEASEFIRE IS OVER IN SYRIA

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

RUSSIA MILITARY SAYS U.S. CEASEFIRE IS OVER IN SYRIA AS ISRAEL REPORTEDLY ATTACKS IRAN WEAPONS IN DAMASCUS

The Russian military’s main air force base in Syria announced on Tuesday an end to a ceasefire agreement reached with the U.S. and Jordan in southwest Syria, citing breaches by insurgent groups. The decision comes at a time when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stages a new offensive to retake one of the last rebel-held regions in the country.

The Hmeymim base, an airfield located in the west coast province of Latakia, is one of two major Russian-leased military installations in Syria, the other being a naval base about 40 miles down the coast in Tartous. Russian warplanes—likely based in Hmeymim—reportedly struck targets Monday in the southwestern province of Daraa, where Russia and Syria had agreed last year to a ceasefire with rebel groups attempting to overthrow Assad since a 2011 uprising backed by the U.S., Turkey and Gulf Arab states.

“The end of the period of reduced escalation in southern Syria can be confirmed after it was breached by extremist groups and illegitimate armed groups operating against Syrian government forces, while the agreement remains in the Syrian province of Idlib,” the Central Channel for the Hmeymim Military Base wrote on Facebook.

The base also denied reports of civilian casualties in a later message, maintaining that “Russian bombers do not target civilian sites by any means. Our missions are limited to the destruction of the terrorist bases belonging to the Nusra Front and ISIS [Islamic State militant group] terrorists, in order to support friendly land forces advancing on the ground.”

GettyImages-984308400Smoke rises above opposition-held areas of Daraa during airstrikes conducted by the Syrian military, June 26, 2018. Russia-backed Syrian troops have for weeks been preparing an offensive to retake Syria’s south, a strategic zone that borders both Jordan and the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.MOHAMAD ABAZEED/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The news, which was also reported by Saudi Arabian newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, came as elite Syrian troops stormed through southern towns and villages held by various rebel groups, including elements of the Free Syrian Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadi coalition recently added to the list of U.S.-recognized terrorist organizations due to its Al-Qaeda ties. Quick government gains have prompted Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to issue a series of statements calling on rebel factions to unite against the military and condemned those currently attempting to broker reconciliation deals with Damascus.

The ceasefire collapse also occurred as airstrikes reportedly struck Damascus International Airport on Tuesday. While the attack remains unclaimed, it has been widely blamed on Israel, who rarely takes responsibility for strikes against Iranian and pro-Iran targets in neighboring Syria. The U.K.-based, pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Israeli warplanes struck “a shipment of Iranian weapons” that had arrived at the airport, while Russia’s state-run Sputnik News highlighted reports claiming an Iranian cargo plane may have been the target.

Related: Iran Says ‘War’ with U.S. and Israel Is ‘Possibility’ But It Has ‘a Plan for Every Possible Threat’

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said that two Israeli missiles fell near the country’s main airport, without specifying the target. The channel connected the suspected Israeli attack to the Syrian military’s retaking of large swathes of territory in the Al-Lajat region in Daraa, where international powers have rushed to prevent an even larger escalation between Iran and Israel.

Anticipating last year’s ceasefire agreement to unravel as the Syrian military retook rebel enclaves outside the capital, the U.S. and Russia entered quiet negotiations with Jordan aimed at excluding Iranian and pro-Iran forces from taking part in the Syrian campaign. Israel considers their presence a provocation and has for years bombed military assets allegedly associated with Iran. When these forces reportedly responded to a deadly pre-emptive Israeli attack last month by launching rockets at the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, Israel retaliated with its largest aerial assault on Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

GettyImages-890107316Russian President Vladimir Putin (3r-L), his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (4th-R), and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) pose with Russian air force pilots during their visit to the Russian air base in Hmeymim in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia, December 11, 2017. Russian air support has been vital in helping the Syrian military and its allies defeat insurgents and jihadis.MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Despite their opposition to Assad, the U.S. and Jordan have stepped back their support for rebel groups as they became increasingly saturated with jihadi movements. Washington told Free Syrian Army commanders that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us” in a stern message published Saturday by Reuters. Jordan has repeatedly stated that it would not grant entry to any fighters or civilians fleeing to Syria’s southern border with the kingdom, with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi asserting “our borders will remain closed” in a tweet Tuesday.

Iran-backed groups, such as the Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement, have reportedly pulled back from southwestern Syria as part of a recent agreement, but Iran has maintained that it would not leave Syria unless asked to do so by the local government. The latest airstrikes in Damascus, however, may indicate that the deal has fallen apart or did not preclude Israeli attacks elsewhere in the country. Last week, unclaimed airstrikes blamed on both the U.S. and Israel reportedly killed dozens—including Iraqi militias—in Syra’s far eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Assad has welcomed both Russia and Iran as partners in the battle against insurgents and jihadis, but he has called the U.S. and Turkey to withdraw their forces immediately. Iraq, while deeply critical of U.S. and Israeli targeting of pro-Syrian government forces, has managed to maintain close relations with both the Syria-Russia-Iran axis as well as the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

Syria blames Israel for missile strike near Damascus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Syria blames Israel for missile strike near Damascus

Screenshot from Syrian state TV apparently the downing of Israeli missiles near DamascusImage copyrightAFP
Image captionSyrian state TV broadcast footage it said showed the downing of Israeli missiles near Damascus

Israel is reported to have carried out a missile strike on a military outpost south of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Syria’s state news agency Sana said two missiles were shot down in the Kiswah area on Tuesday night, and that two civilians were killed in an explosion.

But a monitoring group said the missiles hit an Iranian weapons depot, killing 15 pro-government fighters.

Israel declined to comment. But the reports came after it noted “irregular activity” by Iranian forces in Syria.

The Israeli military placed its troops in the occupied Golan Heights on high alert and urged civilians to prepare bomb shelters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile flew to Moscow to discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of the Syrian government.

Syrian state television broadcast video footage overnight which it said showed air defences intercepting two missiles fired towards Kiswah, about 10km (6 miles) south-west of Damascus.

Sana reported that a man and his wife were killed by an explosion resulting from the interceptions as they drove along the Damascus-Deraa motorway.

A commander in a regional military alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters news agency that the missiles targeted a Syrian army base.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that the missiles struck weapons depots and missile launchers belonging to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards force.

Eight members of the Revolutionary Guards and several other non-Syrian nationals were among at least 15 pro-government fighters who were killed, it said.

Presentational grey line

‘Deepening sense of crisis’

By Jonathan Marcus, defence correspondent, BBC News

Israel’s reported pre-emptive strike on an Iranian missile battery in Syria last night underscores the deepening sense of crisis in the region.

These are the opening skirmishes in what could develop into a brutal war that may sweep across Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Both the US and Russia (which the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting on Wednesday) have a crucial role in determining both the context and scope of any conflict; of determining whether it will be more or less likely. US President Donald Trump is likely to embolden Iran’s hardliners with his decision to pull out of the nuclear deal.

Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and its relationship with Tehran present worrying possibilities for Israel. If it wanted, Moscow could significantly limit the Israeli Air Force’s freedom of action, either by supplying advanced air defences to Syria or by using its own assets already located in the country.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Putin have a lot to talk about.

Presentational grey line

Last year, a Western intelligence source told the BBC that the Iranian military had established a compound near Kiswah. It was subsequently targeted in a missile strike attributed to Israel.

Iran is an ally of Mr Assad and has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria. Thousands of militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran – mostly from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, but also Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen – have also been fighting alongside the Syrian army.

Israel has not commented on the reports, but its government has vowed to stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.

On 8 April, Israeli missiles are alleged to have hit an airbase in Homs province – reportedly serving as an Iranian drone command centre and containing an advanced Iranian air defence system – killing seven Iranian personnel.

And on 29 April, a suspected Israeli missile strike on an Iranian missile depot near the city of Hama reportedly killed a number of pro-government fighters.

High alert

Tensions in the region escalated on Tuesday when the Israeli military said it had detected “irregular Iranian activity” by Iranian forces in Syria and placed troops on “high alert for an attack”.

The military said it was “prepared for various scenarios” and warned Iran and its proxies that “any aggression against Israel will be met with a severe response”.

Local media said it was the first time there had been an order for local authorities in the Golan to prepare shelters in the occupied area since the Syrian civil war began.

Israeli outlets also reported that the military was calling up a number of reservists.

It came as President Donald Trump said the US would quit the Iran nuclear deal.

Going against advice from European allies, he said he would reimpose economic sanctions that were lifted when the deal was signed in 2015.

Israel’s prime minister said he fully supported Mr Trump’s decision, asserting that the deal had “dramatically increased” Iranian “aggression” across the Middle East.

Map of Golan Heights

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

( I FIRST POSTED THIS ARTICLE ON SEPTEMBER 19th OF 2016. I FEEL THAT THIS IS AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE, ONE THAT i HOPE YOU WILL TAKE A MOMENT OF YOUR TIME TO READ AS IT IS VERY ‘TELLING’)

Special Dispatch Memri
Iranian General Discusses Shi’ite Liberation Army Under Command Of Qassem Soleimani, Who Is Subordinate To Supreme Leader Khomeini September 15, 2016 Special Dispatch No.6611

On August 18, 2016, Ali Falaki, a retired general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who commanded a brigade in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and claims to have volunteered to fight in Syria, gave an interview to the Iranian website Mashregh, which is close to the IRGC. In it, he spoke of the “Shi’ite Liberation Army” that Iran has deployed on its three battlefronts in the Middle East – in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – stating that it comprises divisions based on ethnicity that Iran has established for this purpose. These divisions, he said, are the Afghan division (Fatemiyoun), the Pakistani division (Zaynabiyoun) and the Iraqi division (Hayderiyoun), in addition to the Lebanese Hezbollah division that is operating in Lebanon and Syria. Falaki explained that these divisions comprise the Shi’ite Liberation Army that operates according to the ethnic model adopted by Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.[1]


Ali Falaki (Image: Farsnews.com)

Falaki stressed that while the Shi’ite Liberation Army forces on the various fronts are divided by ethnicity, their command structure is Iranian, and is headed by IRGC officers under the command of Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force, which operates outside Iran’s borders. He added that Soleimani answers directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini.

Falaki, who said that he maintains direct contact with the top echelons of the Iranian Army and IRGC, proudly reported that he had commanded, as part of the Afghan division, many Iranian Army soldiers who had volunteered to fight in Syria since February 2016. He said that it had been decided that they would be incorporated into the Afghan division of the Shi’ite Liberation Army as commanders. Falaki appears to be referring to February reports that Iran had replaced IRGC officers in Syria with Iranian Army soldiers and to relations between the IRGC and the Iranian Army, which have had their ups and downs.

Like other Iranian spokesmen, Falaki stressed that Iran is not sending Iranian forces to directly fight on the various fronts in the Middle East, but is creating local fighting forces that it provides with “guidance, organization, and management” by means of IRGC officers, and, when necessary also reinforces with the ethnic divisions of the Shi’ite Liberation Army. Wherever “there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized and supplied with the necessary forces,” he said. He added that the Shi’ite Liberation Army was established “because of the existence of Israel,” which Khamenei has vowed will cease to exist in about 20 years, though in practice the Shi’ite Liberation Army is fighting against Sunnis in the Middle East.

It should be mentioned that Falaki uses the term “Shi’ite Liberation Army” to mean two things: one, that its mission is to liberate Shi’ites, and two, that it is itself distinctly Shi’ite.

Following are excerpts from Falaki’s interview on the Mashregh website:[2]

“The First Seed Of The Shi’ite And Muslim Liberation Army Was Germinated In Syria”

“We have certain weaknesses in Syria that I do not wish to currently discuss, but some of them stem from a weakness we have in Iran. From here [in Iran], we come to South Lebanon and support the Shi’ites there; we come to Bahrain and Yemen at great expense and support the Shi’ites there.

“In Lebanon, we found [Hizbullah secretary-general] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, but here [in Iran], we could find no leader among all the active revolutionary [Afghan] clerics willing to be on the frontlines [like he is], nor could we organize such large forces [as Hizbullah]. We were not able to properly support the three million Shi’ite Afghans [living in Iran as refugees], and it is very unfortunate that for 30 years we ignored Afghan Shi’ites who, despite their oppression, resisted the arrogance of the east [Russia] and the West [the U.S.] in Afghanistan. We saw them as mere laborers waiting [for work] at intersections or as criminals. This generation [of Afghans in Iran] stepped up and showed heroism, altruism, courage, and daring in Syria. They shone under the command of the Iranian forces…

“Under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem [Soleimani], the Afghans prevented Zaynabiyya, Damascus, and the airport from falling [to the Syrian rebels]… We must not think that we [Iranians] are fighting in Syria, [but rather that] the Afghans are being courageous there under our command…

“The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ refers to explicit aid from God. The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ produced two great events… [for Iran] in the world of Islam. First, during the [Iran-Iraq] War, we were tasked with creating unity among [ethnic] sects [in Iran] – Lors, Kurds, Baluchis, Persians, and Arabs – [albeit] in separate frameworks,  [which all fought] the Ba’ath Party [in Iraq]. We transformed all the [ethnic] sects into military divisions, and during the war never dared to say that some of the brothers were Sunnis and some were [Shi’ite] Afghans.

“The Fatemiyoun banner was raised, and thus the first seed of the liberation army of Shi’ites and Muslims was germinated in Syria. Today we have the privilege [of forming the Shi’ite Liberation Army] because back then, we created the unity among the [ethnic] sects; now, we have created international [Shi’ite] unity. The [Pakistani] Zaynabiyoun division comprises Pakistanis under the command of IRGC officers. The [Afghan] Fatemiyoun division has several brigades comprising Afghans, and even has some Sunni members. IRGC [officers] guide this division. These divisions include IRGC commanders and [Afghani] commanders, from squad commanders to staff officers. These divisions have a single uniform and a single banner. They come under a single umbrella organization and fight on a single battlefront. We also have the Hayderiyoun division, which comprises Iraqis. We also have a Hezbollah division, which is divided into two: one part is Hezbollah in Lebanon and the other is Hezbollah in Syria, which comprises the people of Damascus, Nubl, and Al-Zahraa.

“The [Shi’ite] Liberation Army was formed because, with God’s help, in 23 years there should be no such thing as Israel. These divisions are on the Israeli border. The Fatemiyoun have laid the groundwork for this fight.

“The second thing, that we are happy to see is spreading to everyone, is that our previous [patronizing] view of these [Afghan] brothers has changed…”

“Wherever There Is A Need For This Army, The People In That Region Will Be Organized And Supplied With Necessary Forces”

“The Shi’ite Liberation Army was established, and it is currently under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem Soleimani, who obeys the leader [Khomeini]. One of this army’s fronts is in Syria, another is in Iraq, and yet another is in Yemen. The forces in this army are not meant to be only Iranian; [instead], wherever there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized [to form it] and supplied with the necessary forces…

“We [Iranians] are not meant to come [to Syria] as forces operating [on the ground]. We want [Iranian] elements who know how to teach, organize, and manage to come to Syria. This way, the forces in that region can spring into action…

“Some of the commanders of the army [of the Syrian regime] fled abroad, and some of its bases were captured. The crushed Syrian army units have today regrouped with renewed strength. Therefore, there is no need for us [in Iran] to send an army there. We can stand alongside the Syrian army, organize Syrian forces, and prepare them for battle. [In the future] we can remove the enemy occupation of Syria, just as we did in [Iranian] Kurdistan, which took a year or two – but controlling foreign incursions into Syria is up to the Syrians themselves and we cannot prevent it.

“Regime change and changes of president can happen only when the enemy is no longer [in Syria]…  For example, we succeeded, within two years, to expel the enemy presence in Kurdistan in western [Iran], but it took us years to impose law and order there… Today, this region is considered one of the safest in Iran… even though 20 years ago, they were beheading IRGC personnel with pottery shards…”

The Iranian Army Felt It Had A Roll To Fulfill In Syria

“The Iranian army felt that it had to fulfill a role in this [Syrian] arena. According to my knowledge, the army told Qassem Soleimani that it wants to fulfill its duty in this matter [i.e. fighting in Syria]. Qassem Soleimani told this to the leader [Khomeini], and the leader gave his blessing… Some volunteers from various military units, who were mostly experts in aerial combat, were sent to Syria in mid-February 2016.

“These [Iranian army] forces were competent enough to operate independently, but we decided that they would operate as part of the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun [division]. God rewarded me by placing me in command of them as part of the Fatemiyoun [division]. I placed them in charge of the area and transferred means to them, and after a short period, the [Afghan] unit was placed under their command. Neither their rank nor their weapons in Iran were the same as they were [after they joined] the Fatemiyoun [in Syria]. But due to their presence in Syria and after a short time fighting alongside the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun brothers, they became one organization, wore the same uniform, and fought in the same trenches. They became fast friends.

“I also told [Iranian ground forces commander] Amir Pourdastan that I was proud to fight along with the brothers from the [Iranian] army on one of the global battlefront outside of Iran, just like during the sacred defense period [the Iran-Iraq War]. [Back then] there was no difference [between us and them] and they were like the Basij boys [of the IRGC].

“I spoke with the commander who was tasked with sending [Iranian soldiers to Syria] and he said: ‘One of my concerns is to curb the wave of volunteers who want to be sent [to Syria]. According to the needs of the [Iranian] General Staff, we only send the necessary amount of forces [to Syria]. Had I allowed it, we would have had several divisions of [Iranian] volunteers [in Syria].’

“The presence of these forces has been hugely beneficial [in the Syrian arena]. They also suffered martyrdoms and injuries, but this did not damage their morale or make them less determined. They were experienced, brave, and passionate…

“The [volunteers] coming from Iran to Syria are given a monthly stipend of $100.”

“We Do Not Wish To Produce An Atomic Bomb… [But Rather] Prove… That [We] Can Reach Higher Than France [And] England… In All Fields… Even On The Military Level”

“Until our power grows, the world of the arrogance [the U.S.] will never let us be. Some wonder why there is a need for tension between us and the Western world. I must say that if we tolerate this tension for a while, we will be a match for [the enemy] and then they will no longer dare fight us. We do not wish to produce an atomic bomb. We only want to prove that our people and country can reach higher than France, England, Austria, and Denmark in all fields – humanities, science, economy, technology, as well as human rights, and even on the military level.

“If we destroy the enemy that is currently mobilizing against us, there will be no room for any other country [to mobilize against us]. When we show our true might, they will no longer be able to do anything against us…”

 

End notes:

 

[1] In the first part of the interview Falaki refers to the problem of the Afghan refugees in Iran, who number some 3,000,000. The Iranian regime recruits young men from among these refugees to fight in Syria as part of the Afghan division. The fighters receive a monthly stipend and, if they fall in battle, their families’ social status is enhanced.

[2] Fars (Iran), August 18, 2016. It should be mentioned that the interview was deleted from the Mashregh website shortly after publication.

Russian plane crashes in Syria, killing all 39 passengers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Russian plane crashes in Syria, killing all 39 passengers

The Russian transport plane, an Antonov An-26 (file photo), was carrying 39 people on board.

(CNN)Thirty-nine people were killed when a Russian transport plane crashed while trying to land at Hmeimin air base in northwest Syria, Russian state media reported Tuesday.

Citing the Russian Defense Ministry, state-run outlet RIA-Novosti reported that all 33 passengers and six crew members were killed in the crash. Earlier it had been reported that 32 people had died.
Russian military personnel were on the aircraft, according to RIA-Novosti.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the accident occurred when the Antonov-26 transport plane came down 500 meters short of the runway, in a statement quoted by the state run news agency Tass.
The ministry said it was investigating the crash and that “preliminary data suggests it could be a technical malfunction.” It also ruled out the possibility that the plane had been fired upon.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case over the crash, the committee’s spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko told Tass.
Last month, a Russian Su-25 warplane was downed in Idlib province in northwest Syria.
Hmeimin, which is near Latakia, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) north of Damascus, is Russia’s largest air base in Syria.
A February 3 picture shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Russian jet in Idlib.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Hmeimin in December last year, using the opportunity to meet with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.
Russia is a key ally of Assad, and its intervention during the long civil war — with troops and weaponry — has helped tilt the balance in the Syrian regime’s favor.

Death of 5 Russians in Coalition’s Strike in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE RUSSIAN OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY ‘SPUTNIK NEWS’)

 

US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles are designed to conduct airstrikes in Syria and Iraq

Moscow Preliminarily Confirms Death of 5 Russians in Coalition’s Strike in Syria

© REUTERS/ U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Handout

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Russian Foreign Ministry has confirmed the death of five Russian nationals in the US-led coalition’s strike in Syria, but their citizenship has yet to be verified.

“According to preliminary data, as a result of the armed conflict, the reasons for which are now being clarified, five people, presumably Russian citizens, could have been killed. There are also injured people, but all this requires verification — in particular, first of all, their citizenship — whether they are all citizens of Russia or other countries. I would like to stress once again that we are not talking about Russian servicemen,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing.

According to Zakharova, reports of hundreds of Russian citizens killed in the airstrike are “disinformation” by anti-government forces.

“Claims about the deaths of dozens and hundreds of Russian citizens are classic misinformation. There are not 400, not 200, not 100 and not ten [of them killed as a result of the US-led coalition’s airstrike],” she emphasized.

READ MORE: WATCH: US-Led Coalition Strike Syrian Government Forces

“Among the first to spread this information within their channels were Syrian anti-government militants, who for some reason took a photo of the surface of Mars, put on it an image of destroyed military equipment, perhaps even Ukrainian, dated June 2014.”

The spokeswoman emphasized that there were many people of different nationalities in Syria’s conflict zones.

“There is a large number of citizens from all regions of the world, including Russia and CIS countries, in the conflict zones. The purposes for their stay in war zones are different, including participation in hostilities,” Zakharova said, noting that it was hard to trace all of them.

US-Led Coalition’s Airstrike on Pro-Damascus Forces

Last week, US Central Command announced that the coalition conducted what it described as “defensive airstrikes” against pro-government forces near the Euphrates River as a response to an alleged attack against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters. The airstrikes have reportedly resulted in the death of at least 100 pro-government troops.Damascus has slammed the attack as “a new act of aggression that constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity,” while the Russian Defense Ministry said that the attack showcased that the real goal behind Washington’s “illegal military presence in Syria” was control over the country’s economic assets rather than defeating Daesh.

Later, media reports emerged, alleging that a large number of Russian “mercenaries” had been killed in airstrikes. So far, the death of one Russian citizen Kiril Ananyev from an activist group “Another Russia” has been reported by the organization’s coordinator.

READ MORE: US Attack on Pro-Damascus Forces ‘Attempt to Support Terorrism’ — Syrian TV

When asked to comment on the reports, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saidWednesday that he didn’t rule out that Russian nationals, who do not belong to the Russian Armed Forces, could be in Syria.

Earlier in the day, he emphasized that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not make any decisions to classify any information regarding Russian nationals in Syria.

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casualtiesUS-led coalitionMaria ZakharovaSyriaUnited StatesRussia
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