Syrian Revolution News & Discussions

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Mattis: Unclear if Russia directed attack against U.S. allies in Syria
By: Aaron Mehta
5 minutes ago
18.02.2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has yet to see a direct link between Russia and an attack against U.S. backed forces in Syria, but is not ruling anything out following the confirmed deaths of five Russian contractors during the incident.

“I still cannot give you any more information on why they would do this. They took direction from someone, with some local direction. Was it from external sources? Don’t ask me, I don’t know,” Mattis told reporters Feb. 17 while returning from Europe.

“But I doubt that 250-300 people all just decided on their individual own selves to suddenly cross the river into enemy territory and start shelling the location and maneuvering tanks against it. So whatever happened, we’ll try to figure it out. We’ll work with, obviously, anyone who can answer that question.”

During his week in Europe, Mattis talked openly about being “perplexed” by the attack, which seemed to fly in the face of both self-perseverance, in attacking a U.S. backed base capable of calling in massive amounts of airpower for support, and established boundaries.

Days earlier on the Trip, Mattis he was not willing to say that the attack is a sign that Russia is losing some direct control over the Syrian military, which could potentially set up more clashes with American forces.

“I’m not sure if it’s the same influence and this is a group that set off on its own agenda. I’m not willing to say if the Russians have lost influence or gained influence,” he said then.

On Feb. 7, forces supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad crossed over the demarcation line in Khusham and targeted a base controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces, accompanied by U.S. advisers, in the province of Deir el-Zour.

The pro-regime forces began the attack with 122mm artillery pieces, before maneuvering T-55 and T-72 battle tanks against an SDF headquarters, according to the Pentagon. An approximately battalion-sized dismounted formation followed the tanks, which began indirect fire towards SDF positions.

As the forces approached the SDF base, the American officials reached out to their Russian counterparts via a deconfliction line to make sure there were no Russian military in the convoy. The Russians reported back that there were none, something Mattis underlined as a confusing data point in this whole situation, citing the “apparent unawareness of the Russian officers we coordinate with on the deconfliction communication line” that Russian military contractors were involved in the group.

After the call to the deconfliction line, the U.S. launched a wave of airstrikes that chased off the group, leaving at least 100 estimated casualties.

After multiple media reports of Russian dead, including some claiming as many as 200 Russian contractors killed, Moscow finally confirmed Feb. 15 that five Russian nationals were killed by the U.S. strikes.

https://www.defensenews.com/flashpoints/2018/02/17/mattis-unclear-if-russia-directed-attack-against-us-allies-in-syria/
 

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Words haven't failed Syrian children; human compassion has
Syria is now the most dangerous place on the planet to be a child
National Editorial
February 21, 2018

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Bashar Al Assad will not pause to consult his conscience just because the world has been left speechless by his crimes. EPA

“No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones.” This was the single-sentence statement issued by Unicef, the UN’s children’s fund, this week in response to the Syrian government’s ongoing siege of Eastern Ghouta. The rest of the statement was left deliberately blank, intended as testament to the inadequacy of language to convey the full horror being experienced by Syria’s children. Of the 250 civilians estimated to have been killed in Eastern Ghouta over a 48-hour period, 58 are children. A footnote to the statement asks: “Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?”

The answer is that Bashar Al Assad will not pause to consult his conscience just because the world has been robbed of words. Unicef’s speechlessness might be little more than a publicity stunt to generate traction on social media but as the hellish footage shows, the bodies of little girls and boys continue to pile up in Eastern Ghouta as Mr Al Assad stamps out the last remnant of resistance to his rule. Syria, according to a report released by the charity Save the Children at this month's Munich Security Conference, is now the most dangerous place on the planet to be a child. The war there is “the single largest contributing factor to many of the worsening global trends in children and armed conflict” across the world, which over the past two decades has witnessed an alarming rise in the number of children exposed to violence.

A total of 357 million children – equivalent to one in six – live in conflict zones. Children in parts of the Middle East are at the greatest risk of experiencing conflict while Asia has the ignominy of having the largest number of children (166 million) living in constant fear for their lives. The UN toll of “grave violations” of children makes for horrific reading: maiming and killing, sexual violence, abduction, recruitment as child soldiers, denial of humanitarian services and attacks on schools and hospitals. Millions live with the constant risk of being endangered in conflicts not of their making.

Today the world celebrated the 18th year of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Children who grow up witnessing atrocities are haunted by their memories for the rest of their lives. Many who lived through the Second World War as children are still traumatised by it. Boys conscripted as child soldiers in Uganda and Sierra Leone might never outgrow their agonising past. Their experiences give a horrifying indication of what lies in store for children who survive the war in Syria and for the millions more trapped in conflicts elsewhere. Reacting with speechlessness simply doesn't do them justice. The world's silence is complicit in the Syrian nightmare. It is time to atone with meaningful action to protect the most vulnerable members of society and speak up, loud and clear, for those who have been robbed of a voice.

https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/editorial/words-haven-t-failed-syrian-children-human-compassion-has-1.706871
 

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Syria is becoming a black hole of Cold War entanglements
The chaos on the ground is providing opportunities for the Russians and Americans to come to blows, writes Alan Philps

Alan Philps
February 21, 2018

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The rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, photographed on February 21. AFP

It was only two months ago that Vladimir Putin declared victory in Syria and announced – not for the first time – that he would start withdrawing Russian forces. It was understood that Mr Putin, facing an election campaign next month, was keen to move the Syrian war to a new stage, that of diplomacy where Russian diplomats and generals would oversee a difficult peace process.

The war has indeed reached a new stage – but it is one of escalating violence and grotesque chaos as the cast of outside powers and foreign mercenaries clash in a blood-soaked scramble for power and influence. How has this come about, and when might the longed-for endgame come to pass?

The salient feature is that Russia and the US are more deeply engaged in Syria than ever. Despite their premature claim of victory, the Russians are there to stay as the leading outside power. It had been thought that the Americans might withdraw from Syria now that ISIL have been defeated there and in Iraq. But Washington has made clear that the 2,000 military personnel will remain for the foreseeable future to counter Iran.

Despite their enduring commitment, the two former superpowers are determined on one thing: not to get sucked into a full-scale war, such as was the case in Afghanistan with the Russians and Iraq for the Americans. For Mr Putin the stakes are clear: Russian history shows that losing a war topples regimes – the Tsars in the First World War and the Communists in Afghanistan.

The two big powers share another common issue: their allies are unruly, with disruptive goals inside Syria. Some of the loudest rhetoric heard in recent days is from the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a treaty ally of the United States in Nato – who has sent troops into northern Syria and is threatening to crush the US-backed Kurdish militia on his southern border. For Turkey, the Kurdish proto-state to the south looks like an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, which has battled the Turkish state for decades.

Just as tense – though not aired in public – is the relationship between Russia and its ally Iran, which persuaded the Russians to intervene in 2015 to save the Assad regime. Now the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the spearhead of Iran’s expeditionary forces, is setting up bases in western Syria under the guise of opening up a new front with Israel. Whether this constitutes a genuine threat to Israel is open to question. What is certain is that it further entrenches Iranian power in the heart of the Arab world, establishing a Tehran’s influence all the way to the Mediterranean.

Russia meanwhile maintains close relations with Israel. So when the Israeli air force goes on bombing raids against Iranian targets in Syria, the Russians who control the airspace turn a blind eye while their allies are being pummelled.

The outcome of all these contradictions is diplomatic paralysis such that the UN admits it has no peace process, a humanitarian catastrophe almost unprecedented in more than six years of conflict, and the ever-present threat that a military misjudgment could turn into a new shooting war between the outside powers.

The Syrian regime, with Russian support, has chosen this time to destroy the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, home to 400,000 people. More than 200 have been killed in air raids and artillery bombardments over the past two days, with six hospitals and clinics targeted for destruction and no access for humanitarian convoys.

Eastern Ghouta was one of the “de-confliction zones” set up by the Russians last year after the fall of rebel-held Aleppo to reduce the violence and encourage peace talks. Now it seems that the Aleppo model is being revived, though the numbers of civilians is far greater in Eastern Ghouta than in the besieged part of that city. If the regime achieves this goal it will liquidate a rebel strongpoint which has been able to send rockets and mortars into Damascus.

At the same time as peace efforts are being abandoned, the chaos on the ground is providing opportunities for the Russians and Americans to come to blows.

In the Cold War, the two superpowers threatened each other with mutually assured destruction through nuclear weapons but it was extremely rare for US or Russian soldiers to kill each other. Not so this time. On February 7, members of Mr Putin’s “shadow army” of mercenaries were killed by US air attacks when they crossed the Euphrates River near the city of Deir Ezzor to attack an oil processing plant controlled by a US-aligned Kurdish militia.

The Russian foreign ministry has acknowledged that “several dozen” citizens of Russia and other former Soviet states were killed by US forces. But the government has not been keen to talk about a “deniable” contingent of Russians who work for a Kremlin-connected private military company. The Russian press has indicated that this attack was a “commercial” adventure, hinting at the benefit which would accrue to the contracting company if it gained control of the oil facility. If this is true, it adds another tier to the armed chaos in Syria.

It also exposes a weakness of Mr Putin’s low-casualty policy. For understandable reasons, he wants to limit the deaths of Russian soldiers. Yet he is now the master of Syria and whatever happens, it is up to him to deal with the consequences. That may require much more than air power. As things look now, the winding down of the war which seemed just about possible last year is still far away.

https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/syria-is-becoming-a-black-hole-of-cold-war-entanglements-1.706808
 

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UN Chief Appeals for Truce for Syria's Besieged E. Ghouta
By Margaret Besheer
February 22, 2018

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A man carries an injured boy in the rebel-held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, Feb. 21, 2018.

UNITED NATIONS —
U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Thursday he hopes the Security Council will approve a proposed cease-fire, saying there is no alternative to halting the fighting and allowing humanitarian access.

Secretary-General António Guterres is appealing to the council to approve an urgent 30-day halt in fighting across Syria and to help the 400,000 besieged residents of eastern Ghouta, who he said, "live in hell on earth."

“I believe eastern Ghouta cannot wait,” Guterres said of the northern rebel-held enclave that has been under siege by pro-government forces since 2013. “My appeal to all those involved, is for an immediate suspension of all war activities in eastern Ghouta, allowing for humanitarian aid to reach all those in need.”

Last year, the enclave was designated as one of four de-escalation zones in a deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s supporters Russia and Iran, along with Turkey.

But fighting has escalated recently as the Syrian military and its allied forces appear to be launching an all-out operation to retake the area, which is one of the last areas near Damascus still under control of the armed opposition.


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The U.N. human rights office said Wednesday at least 346 people have died in eastern Ghouta since Feb. 4.

In a statement late Wednesday, the United States called for Russia and its partners to meet their obligations for the de-escalation zones, particularly in eastern Ghouta, while also expressing support for a halt in violence to facilitate humanitarian deliveries.

Guterres urged the parties in the Syrian conflict to allow for the evacuation of the 700 people urgently awaiting medical attention.

“This is a human tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes, and I don’t think we can let things go on happening in this horrendous way,” he told council members.

The 15-country Security Council is discussing a draft resolution that would implement U.N. demands for the pause. Council members Sweden and Kuwait have drafted the text, which could come to a vote as soon as Thursday, but it is not clear if all council members will support it.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia has urged the Security Council to call an open meeting for Thursday to discuss Syria.

“We are asking for a cessation of hostilities for 30-days throughout Syria,” Sweden’s U.N. envoy Olof Skoog told reporters. “Forty-eight hours after that access for weekly U.N. humanitarian aid convoys to areas in need, particularly urgent besieged areas. Forty-eight hours after that, emergency medical evacuation from areas the U.N. currently cannot access.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said every council member should support the cease-fire measure, while criticizing pro-government attacks on eastern Ghouta that she said "grow worse by the day."

"It's time to take immediate action in hopes of saving the lives of the men, women, and children who are under attack by the barbaric Assad regime," Haley said in a statement. "It is simply preposterous to claim that these attacks on civilians have anything to do with fighting terrorism."

Medical facilities targeted
Skoog said the draft text also calls for the lifting of sieges in four specific locations, including eastern Ghouta, as well as the protection of hospitals and other medical facilities.

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This photo released Feb. 21, 2018, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows a member of the Syrian Civil Defense group rescuing a young girl from a building damaged by airstrikes and shelling by Syrian government forces, in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria.

Health facilities in the enclave have been particularly targeted in the offensive. U.S.-based medical relief organization the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said in a statement Wednesday that 13 medical facilities have been targeted in the last two days. Four were destroyed and two had to temporarily close. Scores of civilians have also been killed or injured in the attacks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for restraint and access to the wounded.

“Our teams need to be allowed to enter Eastern Ghouta to aid the wounded,” Marianne Gasser, ICRC’s head of delegation in Syria said in a statement. “Wounded victims are dying only because they cannot be treated in time,” she added.

'We can't continue to look away'
The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent last accessed Eastern Ghouta in December to evacuate 29 wounded and their last delivery of humanitarian aid to the enclave was in November.

“It is time for us to realize that we can’t continue to look away,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told council members.

Former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon participated in Wednesday’s council meeting, a thematic discussion of the practices and principles of the U.N. Charter. Before the session he said the situation in Syria is “totally unacceptable.”

“The Security Council has not been effective in addressing the Syrian situation,” Ban said. “I’m going to really urge the Security Council to be united in addressing this.”
https://www.voanews.com/a/un-appeals-cease-fire-syria-eastern-ghouta/4264312.html
 

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Pentagon Says U.S. Was Told No Russians Involved In Syria Attack
Mike Eckel
February 23, 2018

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon says U.S. military commanders were told by their Russian counterparts that there were no Russians in a paramilitary force whose attack on a base in eastern Syria earlier this month led to a massive counterstrike by U.S. forces.

The comments by Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White on February 22 add another piece to the puzzle surrounding the February 7 incident, which Moscow said this week caused dozens of casualties among fighters from Russia and other former Soviet republics but did not involve uniformed Russian troops.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that U.S. military commanders were in contact with their Russian counterparts at the time of the clash. But White's comments are the clearest to date that the U.S. military was told there were no Russians in the attacking force.

"The strike in Syria -- our strikes were done out of self-defense. We were very clear about that. We saw those -- that group moving towards us. We still don't know, and I won't speculate, about the intentions or the composition of that group," White said.

"What I can tell you is that we used our deconfliction phone line, and we used it before, during, and after the strike. And we were assured by the Russians that there were no Russians involved," she said.

The clash in Deir al-Zor Province appears to be the first time that U.S. forces engaged directly with Russians in Syria, where Russian forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad's government in a devastating seven-year civil war.

The revelation that Russian mercenaries were killed stoked fears of an outright hostile confrontation between Russians and U.S. forces. But the Russian government has distanced itself from the incident and its public comments have been subdued.

The United States has said that air and artillery strikes launched after as many as 500 pro-government forces attacked a base housing U.S.-backed opposition forces and U.S. military advisers killed about 100 of the attackers.

Mounting Evidence

No Russian official directly acknowledged that Russian citizens were involved until February 15, when Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that about five people who were "presumably Russian citizens" may have been killed.

On February 20, the Russian Foreign Ministry said "several dozen" citizens of Russia and other former Soviet republics were wounded in the lopsided exchange.

With accounts from relatives and acquaintances of Russian fighters in Syria mounting, some open-source researchers and media reports have said that dozens or hundreds of Russians were killed.

Russia has given Assad's government crucial support throughout the war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on protests.

Moscow helped turn the tide of the conflict in his favor by launching a campaign of air strikes in 2015 and stepping up its military presence on the ground.

In Russia, anger is growing among relatives of the dead and survivors, and supporters of private military companies like Vagner, which is believed to have sent hundreds of contract soldiers to Syria.

The company is financed by a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known for his close ties to the Kremlin.

Some relatives have said their loved ones were lured by the company's relatively high wages, but were deceived into thinking they were going to work on construction projects.

https://www.rferl.org/a/syria-deir-zor-attack-pentagon-russians-involved/29058555.html
 

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Top UN officials urge stronger support for Syrians and host communities amid escalating violence
23 February 2018

Senior United Nations officials on Friday called for greater support for Syrian refugees as well as the communities hosting them amid escalating violence in the war-torn country.

"We are deeply shaken and distraught by the brutality and utter disregard for civilian lives we are witnessing in Eastern Ghouta and other parts of Syria today," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock in a joint press release.

"We are urging an immediate ceasefire, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure and unfettered humanitarian access to Eastern Ghouta, swift evacuation of sick and injured people and safe passage for civilians wishing to leave," they said.

"Now more than ever, it is critical to sustain and reinforce international support to the neighbouring countries and communities hosting some 5.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. They continue to provide a profound service to humanity at a time when inside Syria, inhumanity seems to be prevailing," they added.

According to the UN, nearly seven years of relentless violence in Syria has displaced half of Syria's population, including 6.1 million internally displaced, and 5.5 million Syrians living as refugees in the region.

Despite the generosity of the neighbouring countries, most Syrian refugee families – and many in their host communities – fall below the poverty line and struggle to meet basic needs, the release said.

In December last year, UN agencies and some 270 non-governmental organizations released the 2018 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan seeking $4.4 billion to support Syrian refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries.

The Plan aims to provide protection for refugee populations, education, health, food security, livelihoods, and water and sanitation services to vulnerable groups.

The UN Security Council is considering adopting a resolution that would establish a 30-day ceasefire across Syria.

UN migration agency seeks $194 million in funding to help Syrians

Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday launched an appeal for $194 million to help displaced Syrians living in and outside their war-torn country as well as the communities hosting them.

Seven years into the armed conflict in Syria, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. Over 13 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance inside the country, with nearly 3 million people living in hard-to-reach or besieged areas.

With its 2018 appeal, the UN migration agency seeks to assist:

- 1 million people with non-food items and shelter support
- 800,000 people with access to safe water and services
- 500,000 people with health services
- 500,000 people with community-led protection services
- 200,000 people with livelihood opportunities
- 135,000 displaced people to receive adequate services in camps
- 35,000 children to attend school

"These interventions are vital to ensuring that Syrians get the life-saving assistance and livelihood support that many desperately need," said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing, from the Organization's headquarters in Geneva.

Since the crisis began, economic growth within host countries has been severely affected. With high unemployment rates, especially among young people, and limited resource availability, it is challenging for governments and municipalities to provide basic services.

IOM tracked 850,000 internally displaced persons returning to their areas of origin during 2017. During the same period, however, 2.9 million people continued to flee their homes, illustrating the continuing adverse effect of violence and conflict on the Syrian population.

Access to primary health care has been drastically reduced inside Syria, while agricultural production has been cut in half compared to 2011 levels.

In 2017, IOM organized the transportation of over 37,000 Syrian refugees from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt to 23 countries including Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Norway, the United States and the Netherlands, among others.

https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/syria/2018/syria-180223-unnews01.htm?_m=3n.002a.2234.uf0ao06fso.221x
 

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UN demands ceasefire as warplanes pound Ghouta
Some 500 people have been killed in the last week in the rebel-held enclave

The National
February 24, 2018

The UN Security Council on Saturday demanded a 30-day truce across Syria as rescuers in the country's eastern Ghouta region said bombing had not let up long enough for them to count bodies during one of the bloodiest air assaults of the seven-year war.

Shortly after the unanimous vote by the 15-member council, warplanes struck a town in eastern Ghouta, the last rebel enclave near Syria's capital, an emergency service and a war monitoring group said. Warplanes have pounded the region for seven straight days while residents holed up in basements.

UN chief Antonio Guterres appealed on Wednesday for an immediate end to "war activities" in eastern Ghouta, where nearly 400,000 people have lived under government siege since 2013 without enough food or medicine.

While Syrian ally Russia supported the adoption of the UN resolution, its UN Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, cast doubt on its feasibility. Previous ceasefire deals on the ground have had a poor record of ending fighting in Syria, where President Bashar Al Assad's military has gained the upper hand.

“What is necessary is for the demands of the Security Council to be underpinned by concrete, on-the-ground agreements,” Nebenzia told the council after the vote. He later told reporters it was unrealistic to expect an immediate ceasefire and that the parties had to be encouraged to work for it.

After several days of delay and last-minute negotiations to win the support of Russia, the council adopted the resolution – drafted by Sweden and Kuwait – demanding hostilities cease for 30-days “without delay” to allow aid access and medical evacuations.

"We accept that it might take a number of hours before it can all be fully implemented ... we just have to keep the pressure up. Implementation is key now," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told Reuters.

Russia did not want to specify when a truce would start, so a proposal for the truce to begin 72 hours after adoption was watered-down to demand it start "without delay".

Further talks on Saturday added a demand for all parties to "engage immediately to ensure full and comprehensive implementation".

“As they dragged out the negotiation, the bombs from Assad's fighter jets continued to fall. In the three days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombing and shelling?” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council.

"We are deeply skeptical that the regime will comply," Haley said.

A surge of rocket fire, shelling and air strikes has killed more than 500 people since last Sunday night, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The dead included more than 120 children.

The monitor said raids hit Douma, Zamalka and other towns there on Saturday, killing 40 people.

After the UN vote the two dominant rebel factions in Ghouta – Failaq Al Rahman and Jaish Al Islam – both committed to implementing the truce and facilitating aid access, but also reiterated their right to respond to any attacks on them.

Medical charities have decried attacks on a dozen hospitals. The Syrian government and Russia say they only target militants. Moscow and Damascus have said they seek to stop mortar attacks injuring dozens in the capital, and have accused insurgents in Ghouta of holding people as human shields.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.

“We are combating terrorism on our territories,” Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told the Security Council.

“Our government will reserve the right to respond as it deems appropriate in case those terrorist arms groups are targeting civilians in any part of Syria with even one single missile.”

Ja'afari said his government interpreted the resolution as also applying to "Turkish forces in Afrin, and the operations of the anti-ISIL coalition in Syria ... Israeli forces in Syria, especially the occupied Syrian Golan."

The truce demanded by the Security Council does not cover militants from ISIL, Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/un-demands-ceasefire-as-warplanes-pound-ghouta-1.707458?mc_cid=ea99ee78e2&mc_eid=fb1f092842
 

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Demonstrators show support for Ghouta amidst feelings of hopelessness
Approximately 500 civilians killed in one week

David Enders
February 25, 2018

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A Lebanese woman holds a placard during a protest in solidarity with residents of the Syrian capital's eastern suburb of Ghouta. Bilal Hussein / AP
Demonstrators in Lebanon filled a square on Sunday to decry the violence that has gripped eastern Ghouta over the past week.

Despite the protesters' pleas, resignation reigned amongst the people that gathered in the small square in downtown Beirut in support of the ravaged suburb of Damascus. Many expected the carnage would continue.
“It’s to express solidarity,” said Ali Khedr, a 26-year-old photographer from the central Syrian city of Hama. “We all know that no matter what we do, it’s the same.”

Mr Khedr compared the demonstration to a funeral.
“You have to be there for the family,” he said. “This is what the people I’m talking to there are asking us to do.”

The Syrian government, with support from Russia, has carried out a week of intense air and artillery bombardment in eastern Ghouta, the collective name for a string of suburbs close to Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that approximately 500 civilians were killed in airstrikes in the last week.

The United Nations estimates that between 300,000 and 400,000 people have been under siege in Ghouta since 2013, a situation that worsened last year when regime forces shut the main routes of entry for civilian goods.

The blockade sent food prices skyrocketing and created a shortage of medical supplies and basic care that has seen people die from treatable conditions.

Obaida, a Syrian man from the city of Homs who asked that his last name not be used, said he was in daily contact with his friends in Ghouta and that nothing had changed despite a UN security council vote on Saturday in support of a 30-day ceasefire.

“They are still in the basements,” he said, referring to the makeshift shelters people have crowded into in order to escape the bombs. “We are just here to support them. We can’t do anything else. We are helpless.”

In better times, eastern Ghouta was home to as many as two million people. Its orchards and farms provided food to Damascus and its factories were known for furniture and handmade wooden goods.

The demonstration was largely a silent vigil, with chants against the Syrian government, Iran and Hezbollah - whose intervention in the war has been key to the government’s survival.

The protesters also called on other foreign actors, including the US, Russia and Turkey, to stop intervening in Syria.
“We all know that our voice does not affect the international community,” said a woman from the coastal Syrian city of Lattakia who asked that her name not be used.

“But we have to support the people in Ghouta who are dying,” she said, adding that she couldn't have imagined today's conflict when she joined demonstrators calling for democracy seven years ago.

“We didn’t think the whole world would be fighting in our country,” she said. “Even after a few years, we still had hope. Not that we would win, but at least to have a life in Syria. Now we have no hope.”

On Sunday, Humam Husari, a filmmaker in eastern Ghouta, said that the bombardment and clashes were continuing despite the UN vote.

“They tried testing the UN Security Council agreement this morning by going out, but the shelling forced them to go back to basements again,” Mr Husari said.

Rand, a 23-year-old student from Damascus who asked that her last name be withheld, said that she had been trying to keep in touch with friends in Ghouta but that the necessity of staying underground meant they often had no mobile phone service.

“We know that so far no one has died,” she said. “But we don’t think a 30-day period of calm is enough. We want an end to the war.”
“We know it’s not going to change anything,” said Ahmad Qusair, one of the organizers of the demonstration. It’s about getting out anger.”

“It’s symbolic,” agreed Nabil Al Halabi, a Lebanese human rights lawyer and activist.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/demonstrators-show-support-for-ghouta-amidst-feelings-of-hopelessness-1.707927
 

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How Russian power of veto helps perpetuate Syria's war
Moscow's votes safeguard Bashar Al Assad and prolong civilian suffering

by Mina Aldroubi
February 25, 2018

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Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya votes against a bid to renew an international inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria in November 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The death of more than 500 people in eastern Ghouta has prompted a unanimous vote by the UN Security Council in favour of a 30-day ceasefire to allow medical evacuations and aid delivery.

Over 20 resolutions have been passed since the start of the Syrian war in 2011 and while most of them have been unanimous, Russia has used its power of veto to stop 11 of them from going through.

Russia - often along with China - has made use of its permanent seat in the Security Council to protect President Bashar Al Assad's interests.

Last week Moscow threatened to veto a proposal for a ceasefire in Syria if the sponsors pushed their draft to a vote.

But even unanimous resolutions have failed to be upheld by key players on the ground. The last major ceasefire negotiated with Russia, in eastern Aleppo in late 2016, collapsed on the day it was due to take effect.

More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes in a war that is soon to enter its eighth year with no solution in sight.

The first time a Security Council resolution failed to pass came just six months after the start of the war in October 2011.

The council drafted a statement “expressing grave concern at the situation in Syria.” The only solution to the crisis was "through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population." The draft resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.

In order to be passed, a resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by any one of the five permanent members - the US, France, Russia, China and the UK.

Last November Moscow used its veto to block the resumption of a UN investigation into the use of chemical weapons by Mr Assad's forces.
Additionally, Russia and china also blocked a draft resolution in February that called for sanctions on the parties involved in the chemical weapons investigation, despite passing a resolution in September 2013 that called for the verification and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

A joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) was created in 2015 to identify who should be held responsible for chemical attacks. Russia has accused JIM of bias and argues that major changes are needed to be put in place for it to continue.

In the wake of the gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province last April, where more than 80 people were killed, a draft resolution was drawn up to condemn the attack and call for an international investigation into the perpetrators.

Russia used its veto power while China abstained.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/how-russian-power-of-veto-helps-perpetuate-syria-s-war-1.707844
 

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Russia declares daily cease-fire in Syria to deliver supplies
By Ed Adamczyk
Feb. 26, 2018


Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared a daily cease-fire in fighting in Syria's Eastern Ghouta region, his defense minister said.

The area has been under intense bombardment for over a week by Syrian military forces, with Russian support. Nearly 400,000 people remain trapped in the fighting, and over 550 deaths have been reported.

The daily, five-hour cease-fire will begin Tuesday to open a "humanitarian corridor" for supplies deliveries and the evacuations. Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu made the announcement at a ministry board meeting Monday that was attended by Putin.

"Being aware that Eastern Ghouta is not the sole trouble spot on the territory of Syria with regard to civilians and refugees, we know that the Rukban refugee camp, controlled by the U.S., is located in al-Tanf," Shoigu said. "We propose organizing the same humanitarian corridors and humanitarian pauses in the al Tanf and Rukban areas as well so that civilians can freely return to their homes and start
restoring peaceful life."

Russia's decision to implement a cease-fire came after the United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously called for a 30-day cessation of fighting in the Ghouta region. The vote was delayed for days so that Russia could make revisions to the draft of the plan. The U.N. resolution calls for rebels to refrain from firing artillery shells into the capital of Damascus, which have also killed civilians.

Sunday, workers at a hospital operated by the relief agency Syrian American Medical Society said it admitted 18 patients with symptoms indicative of chemical attacks. While the Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons against its own citizens, a 2015 U.N. investigation concluded that the Syrian government has used choline, a nerve agent, as a weapon.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/02/26/Russia-declares-daily-cease-fire-in-Syria-to-deliver-supplies/3571519662910/?nll=1
 

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Israel concerned over Su-57 debut in Syria
  • 01 MARCH, 2018
  • SOURCE: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM
  • BY: ARIE EGOZI
  • TEL AVIV
Russia's surprise deployment of Sukhoi Su-57s to a base inside Syria has positioned its new stealth fighter within the same region of operations as the Israeli air force's Lockheed Martin F-35I.

Video footage appearing to show Su-57s arriving in Syria was confirmed by pictures captured by an Israeli imaging satellite. The new type's deployment marks the peak of Moscow's direct intervention so far in Syria's long-running civil war.

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ImageSat International

Israeli sources assess that Russia has sent dozens of new weapon systems to Syria, to undergo testing under combat conditions. But the Su-57's arrival – which places two of the world's most advanced stealthy combat aircraft within close proximity – creates a unique situation.

While Israel has not reacted officially to the development, a senior source says there is no doubt that Moscow has sent its newest fighter to the region in order to test it against Western technologies.

In mid-February, the biennial "Juniper Cobra" exercise, which also involves US forces, began in Israel. The three-week activity is aimed at improving the nation's defences against ballistic missile threats, using a scenario where US assets are deployed to provide assistance.
The exercise creates a situation where a large number of advanced radars are looking at the airspace across the region, making the Su-57's arrival of particular interest.

Russia claims to have developed a new radar system that can detect stealth aircraft, but sources suggest that the Sunflower system may lack the fidelity required to support targeting by missiles.

Syrian reports indicate that the Israeli air force is flying over the country on a daily basis using manned and unmanned platforms, and also striking targets. Moscow's new deployment – made two weeks after a border clash during which an Iranian-operated stealth unmanned air vehicle and an Israeli Lockheed F-16 were shot down – means the "hot line" established to deconflict the movements of Russian and Israeli aircraft will become more critical.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/israel-concerned-over-su-57-debut-in-syria-446347/
 

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The Syrian crisis is a lost case unless an international joint military action is taken to stop the madness.
 

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First aid trucks in weeks arrive in Syria's Ghouta region
By Ed Adamczyk
March 05, 2018
March 05 (UPI) -- Convoys of humanitarian aid arrived in Syria's eastern Ghouta region on Monday, but not before some supplies were taken by government forces.

A convoy of 6 vehicles, organized by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners, brought enough food for more than 27,000 people into the city.

Monday's arrival is the first humanitarian convoy sent to eastern Ghouta since a smaller delivery last month.
Ghouta has been the site of two weeks of shelling and combat between rebel groups and the Syrian government, backed by Russian airpower.

About one-third of Ghouta, on the edge of the city of Damascus, was retaken by government troops, Sky News reported. It added that a World Health Organization official said, "All trauma kits, surgical, dialysis sessions and insulin were rejected by security." The official said 70 percent of the items on its trucks had been removed during the inspection.

About 400,000 people remain trapped in eastern Ghouta, which has been under attack by government forces since 2013. The intensity of the attacks has accelerated in the past two weeks, during which about 700 civilians were reported killed.

Approval came Sunday for delivery of supplies to the suburban city of Dhouma during a planned daily ceasefire period.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/03/05/First-aid-trucks-in-weeks-arrive-in-Syrias-Ghouta-region/7371520257710/?nll=1
 
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Open link to view crash Video on website : https://fighterjetsworld.com/2018/03/06/russian-antonov-26-transport-plane-crashed-in-syria-32-died/
Russian Antonov-26 plane Crashed near Russian military’s Hmeimim Air Base in the Syrian province of Latakia resulted in killing of all 32 people aboard including 26 passengers and six crew members , he Russian Defense Ministry said.
According to the ministry, the aircraft crashed near Hmeimim air base at 3 pm on Tuesday when landing, hitting the ground 500 meters short of the runway.
According to the preliminary information, a technical malfunction led to the aircraft crash
This is not the first time that an An-26 has crashed in Syria. In January 2015, an aircraft operated by the Syrian armed forces crashed while landing at the besieged Abu al-Duhur military airport in the Idlib Governorate.
An-26 is a military transport aircraft, capable of carrying up to 38 people excluding the crew, and some 5500 kilograms in cargo.


HT-plane-crash-ml-170530_31x13_992.jpg
 

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Russian Antonov An-26 Transport Crashes in Syria. 32 Reported Dead.
Mar 06 2018
An-26-crash.jpg

By Tom Demerly
The Russian MoD has confirmed the crash. 26 passengers and 6 crew member killed in the accident.

A Russian Antonov An-26 (NATO reporting name “Curl”) is reported to have crashed near Hmeymim Air Base in Syria. News agencies report 32 fatalities. The BBC World News said the aircraft was carrying 26 passengers and 6 crew members when it went down.

Russian news agency TASS reported that, “Around 15:00 (Moscow time), a Russian An-26 transport aircraft has crashed while coming in for landing at the Hmeymim airbase.” TASS indicated this statement was issued by Russian Defense Ministry.






The Antonov An-26 is a twin-engine, high-wing turboprop utility transport aircraft that first flew in 1969. Since then, nearly 1,500 have been built by Russian aircraft company Antonov. In the nearly half-century since the aircraft has been flying it has established a somehow good record for dependability and the ability to operate from undeveloped, rough field airstrips.

While no cause was observed according to immediate reports, the TASS agency news report was updated minutes after it appeared to read, “The defense ministry is investigating the crash, but preliminary data suggests it could be a technical malfunction.”


Top image credit: Fedor Leukhin /Wiki

https://theaviationist.com/2018/03/06/russian-antonov-an-26-transport-crashes-in-syria-32-reported-dead/


A Russian military transport plane crashed as it was about to land in Syria on Tuesday, killing all 32 people on board.

The Antonov-26 aircraft crashed at Russia's Khmeimim airbase in the Latakia province, killing the 26 passengers and six crew members on board, according to a Russian state news agency.

Preliminary data suggest a technical malfunction could be to blame, causing the aircraft to crash about one-third of a mile short of the runway, according to the defense ministry, which is investigating the crash.

Deaths in Syria are mounting as weeks of combat continue between rebel groups and the Syrian government, backed by Russian airpower.

The airbase is the main site for Russia's military campaign in Syria but officials say the plane did not come under fire.
https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/03/06/Russian-transport-plane-crashes-in-Syria-killing-32/7281520349780/?nll=1
 
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