Friday, September 28, 2007 

Extremist shot dead in Aleppo

Followers of extremist leader Mahmoud Abu al-Qaqaa say he's been shot dead after Friday prayers in Aleppo.

Al-Qaqaa is accused of recruiting militants to fight in Iraq. It's thought he has thousands of followers in Syria.

It is not clear who killed him, but the government has been cracking down on extremists over the past three years, including a number of gun battles in the north of the country and near the Lebanese border.

A year ago, a group of militants killed during an attack on Damascus were found to be carrying CDs of sermons by Al-Qaqaa.

Soon after, Al-Qaqaa was made head of a religious school by the government, so they could keep him under control - since then, his anti-American speeches have been toned down.

The government is trying to stop fighters crossing into Iraq, because of American warnings they aren't doing enough. Shooting this man seems to be key to the government's battle against extremism.

In 1982, an insurgency led by the Muslim Brotherhood left around 20,000 people dead. The uprising began in Aleppo and culminated with the razing of the central city of Hama.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 

Press freedom in Jordan and Egypt

The sad state of journalism across the Arab world.

From Amman: "Websites offensive to the political sensibilities of the country, are still banned. .. Writers, politicians, and dissenters of any kind are still jailed."

From Cairo: "It’s “hunt-the-editor” season! In two weeks 5 editors-in-chief and 3 journalists working for opposition newspapers have been arrested and sentenced to jail and/or a big fine."

Monday, September 24, 2007 

Now is the time for peace

Israel feels like it has regained its honour, lost after last year's defeat.

Days after the attack on Syria this month, Israel said it would drop pre-conditions on peace talks. No longer, it said, would Syria need to end support for Hizbollah and Hamas.

Now America has invited Syria to wide-ranging Middle East peace talks.

The time has never been better for Syria.

Syria has been asking for peace talks for the past seven years. Again and again Israel ignored the calls. Recently there has been pressure in Israel for Bashar's intentions to be tested, for Israel to dip its toes in the water. But America held Israel back.

Now America is itself asking Syria to talk.

And what is Syria doing? On Israel - it says 'no chance', not after an attack. And on America - the summit is useless unless there are clear aims.

Throwing away the chance of a generation. And it doesn't take much reading between the lines to see where this is coming from. Have a look at who in Syria is giving these juicy quotes. Not the Foreign Minister, not the President's office. But Vice-President Farouq Ash-Sharaa.

It's time for a new generation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 




Tuesday, September 18, 2007 

Israel attacks Lebanon

Israel has carried out a series of air raids over Lebanon.

Jets targeted the port cities of Sidon and Tyre as well as the Bint Jbeil region.

They created sonic booms, in defiance of the UN Resolution which ended last year's war. Sonic booms serve no purpose, except to create terror among civilians. The attack happened at 7am, when most people would have been asleep.

Since the end of the war, it's reported Israel has breached the ceasefire more than 1000 times - mainly by overflights. Hizbollah has breached it twice.

Sunday, September 16, 2007 

Clutching at straws

"There has also been deep scepticism about the claims from other officials and former officials familiar with both Syria and North Korea. They have pointed out that an almost bankrupt Syria has neither the economic nor the industrial base to support the kind of nuclear programme described, adding that Syria has long rejected going down the nuclear route.

Others have pointed out that North Korea and Syria in any case have also had a long history of close links - making meaningless the claim that the North Koreans are in Syria."

Friday, September 14, 2007 

No visas required for Iraqis

Another change of heart.

Syria imposed a visa restriction on Iraqis for the first time just three days ago, on September 10. Reporters said the border was empty for the first time in years.

Now, for the whole of Ramadan (which has just started), Syria says it will not require visas.

Syria has been the only country allowing Iraqis in without restriction. Jordan puts limits on the entry of refugees. Iran, Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi have completely blocked entry for all Iraqis.

There are at least 1.2 million Iraqis in Syria, and 800,000 in Jordan. Both countries have been promised help by the UN and even the US. So far, nothing has been given.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 

US confirms Israeli attack on Syria

Despite claims by Israel's supporters that Syria was making it up, we now have unofficial confirmation by Israel, physical evidence from Turkey, and proof from America.

America says the Israeli attack was aimed at interrupting the supply of weapons to Hizbollah. It dismissed claims that it was aimed at Syrian 'nuclear' facilities.

Since last week's attack, there has been a lot of talk about whether Syria is trying to develop nuclear weapons with the help of: Iran, North Korea, China and others. This is dangerous chatter spread by Israeli/US hawks, aimed at getting the world behind the failed boycott of Syria and creating a new momentum. But we know where that chatter eventually leads, don't we. Just look next door.

Sometimes the talk takes on a momentum of its own, which no-one can stop. And with the Iraqi quagmire, it seems Washington realises this. So it is interesting that the dismissal of these Syrian nuclear claims has come from the top level of US government.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 

Syria supplied weapons to the Lebanese Army to fight Fateh Al Islam

ANB has revealed that Syria has been supplying weapons to the Lebanese Army.

Their aim was to support the fight against Fateh Al Islam. The leader of Fateh Al Islam was on the run from Syrian forces, and set up the organisation because he was angry about Syrian support for a different group, called Fateh Al Intifada.

At the beginning of Lebanon's fight against Fateh Al Islam, the government was blaming Syria.

But suddenly, mid-way through the conflict, the government and army stopped fingering Syria, and switched their attention to Al Qaeda. Even bombings in Beirut were blamed on Al Qaeda, rather than Syria.

Could that significant change of direction have happened at exactly the same time weapons started coming across the border?


Israel confirms invasion of Syria - and confirms ground forces were used

The astonishing revelations come from CNN's Christine Amanpour.

First, Israel has confirmed the operation did take place, and left a "big hole in the desert".

And second, Israeli ground forces were used inside Syria - possibly to direct the air strike. (Thanks Norman)

Monday, September 10, 2007 

Turkey confirms Israel's invasion of Syria did happen, and complains

Syria said it happened, Israel denied it.

Then an Israeli minister hinted it might have happened.

Now Turkey has confirmed it.

Turkey has "requested information" from Israel about Israeli fuel tanks dropped inside Turkey, near the Turkey-Syria border.

We know that the air invasion happened at Tell Al-Abyad, right on the Turkish border. We also know that the Israeli jets dropped something (munitions/fuel tanks) on their way out.

Israel has refused to respond to the Syrian claims, and the Turkish request.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 

Syrians could face jail for visiting Syria

A group of 330 Syrians living under occupation are to be charged by police for traveling to Syria.

They live in the Syrian Golan Heights, which is occupied by Israel. The group was allowed to cross the border into Syria. But now Israel says they didn't have the proper permits - even though Israel allowed them to travel.

The group are all Druze clergymen who were visiting the tomb of Habil in Zabadani, near the Syria-Lebanon border.

One of them is a Syrian member of the Israeli parliament.

Israel has allowed the annual pilgrimage to happen every year for the past 19 years.


"As if they were Israeli"

A Lebanese view on Palestinians:

Abou Mohammed, a resident of Akkar:

"We cannot ever trust them again. The Palestinians say that they do not support Fatah al-Islam, but we know there were only 100 members of the group. The army has found more than 300 bodies and captured 200 more fighters. This tells us they all fought our army and shelled our homes. We see them as the enemy, just as if they were Israeli."

Saturday, September 08, 2007 

Israel (almost) admits the air invasion did take place

Via Aussie Dave:

"Israel’s Science, Sport and Culture Minister, Ghaleb Majadele, has pretty much admitted we [Israel] flew into Syrian airspace, saying we regularly do so, and that he doesn’t believe this latest incident will spark a war."

Thursday, September 06, 2007 

What happened?

Conflict Blotter:

"It seems that the Syrians decision to dub it an “ammo drop” rather than an air strike is an indication that the Syrians are intent on deescalating and downplaying whatever actually happened last night. The Israelis, by refusing to confirm or comment on the incident, are playing along, and thus also helping to defuse what could have been a prickly situation."

A plausible analysis. Many times before, both Syria and Israel have rushed to downplay growing tension. Look at last year's attack on the Lebanese-Syrian border post. Both Syria and Israel were extremely keen to announce that no bomb landed on the Syrian side of the border.

Conflict Blotter also says Israeli jets train in Turkish airspace. This incident was right on the Turkish border. Could Israeli jets have strayed into Syria on their way to Turkey?


Israel responds - unofficially

So here's what we know: Israeli planes flew from the Mediterranean, and managed to get halfway across the country before being fired on at Tell Al-Abyad, north of Raqaa, near the Turkish border.

Syrian air defences fired, the Israeli jets dumped ammunition (note the Syrian announcement said 'dropped' ammunition, rather than 'bombed') and made their way out of Syria.

Dumping ammunition or fuel is a technique to make a plane more maneuverable.

Now, Israeli Army Radio says there was no 'air raid', but has refused to comment on the veracity of the rest of the story.

This is important.

Israel felt the need to clear up the early confusion that they may have 'bombed' Syria. It seems they were only dumping ammunition.

Let's be clear, there is very little new here. Israeli jets regularly enter Syria, and Syrian Air Defences regularly fire back. What is different here is that Syria has been playing the media game by putting the story out and getting control of it before Israel had the chance.

Almost 24 hours on, the best Israel has managed is to deny anything happened, but then clarify one element of what 'didn't' happen.


SNAP SNAP SNAP: Syrian air defences fire on invading Israeli planes

Israeli planes have invaded Syria from the northwest Mediterranean coast, and Syria has fired air defence missiles forcing the jets to leave.

No casualties.

Israel dropped bombs.

The most interesting point is that this story has come from SYRIA and not from Israel. Israel seems to be very very slow off the mark on this one. They could easily have played this one as 'Syria attacks Israeli planes', as they did when Israel bombed Damascus a few years ago ('Israel destroys terror camp').

This has been happening for years, but both sides have kept it quiet. Syria has been accepting Israeli overflights, not making an angry noise in the same way Lebanon has, protesting to the UN.

But the fact that Syria has taken the lead on this story, putting it in the public domain, shows that finally, finally, they may be playing the news-game just right.

They are not using phrases like 'Zionist invaders', but simply sticking to the facts: the jets dropped 'munitions' they said.

Israel has refused to comment so far.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007 

Lebanon has been victorious over...hold on, hold on, I made a mistake...

It took one day. ONE DAY for Fouad Siniora to be humiliated.

Like Bush standing on the warship four years before him, he declared victory, mission accomplished.

And like Bush, he was proven wrong very very quickly.

The victory, Siniora said, is "an hour of pride, victory and joy". He was right about it being an hour.

Because today there have been new explosions and gunfire at Nahr Al Bared. That's the sound of dead terrorists fighting the Lebanese Army.

Monday, September 03, 2007 

Orientalism never died

When westerners come to Syria and 'discover' things about the country that have existed for years.

When we are told how we are 'changing' and becoming like them.

When they talk nostalgically about a past which they have never seen, but which they want to keep us in for their voyeuristic purposes.

Save your White Man's Burden for someone else.

Their women don't wear hijab? They have the internet? Their people know how to use mobile phones? They shop in Benetton?

The truth is, we have only ever been different in your camel-riding orientalist imagination.

Sunday, September 02, 2007 

Lebanese army claims victory...again

Lebanon's army says it has been victorious in the battle of Nahr Al-Bared.

It goes down in history with the Lebanese army's other notable victories:

Victory at Nahr Al-Bared 24 Aug 2007
Victory at Nahr Al-Bared 16 Aug 2007
Victory at Nahr Al-Bared 14 July 2007
Victory at Nahr Al-Bared 2 July 2007
Victory at Nahr Al-Bared 17 June 2007
Victory at Nahr Al-Bared 4 June 2007
Serving tea to invading Israeli soldiers Aug 2006

They achieved victory today by shooting the Fateh Al Islam terrorists in the back. Shooting anyone in the back (they were fleeing) is legal under international law - if you don't count the Geneva Conventions as part of international law.

Let's hope Hariri-puppet and presidential hopeful Boutros Harb gets his way, and makes Hizbollah's fighters join the Lebanese army. Today's victory shows who can really defend Lebanon.

Well done. My heroes.

Saturday, September 01, 2007 

Iraq's not so bad after all

The Iraqi city where American soldiers can walk through the souk to buy a kebab, and where journalism's cheap.


Syria helps Arab states hit by wheat shortage

Syria is donating hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat to Egypt, Jordan and Yemen.

Those three states have been hit by a shortage, while Syria - at the heart of the Fertile Cresent - has a surplus.

Jordan and Yemen will get 50,000 tons each, and Egypt gets 176,000 tons.

As Egyptian blogger D.B. Shobrawy points out, what is even more interesting is that Bashar and Mubarak and Abdullah don't exactly have the best relationship.

About me

  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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