Friday 27 July 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Approximately 130 Syrians have been killed on Friday 28/7/2012: 73 unarmed civilians:
- In Dera’a province 23 were killed. 12 civilians, including a child with an unknown identity who passed away in the al-Watany hospital under unknown conditions, and another by wounds four days ago, 1 from heavy machine gun shootings and clashes on the refugees camp(mukhayam al nazheen). 1 killed in the town of al-Shajara. A child from Homs province after being shot on the Syrian-Jordanian boarders. 2 women because of the bombardment on Busr al-Hareer town. A citizen killed after his car was targeted next to Saida town, a citizen due to the bombardment on Otman town, 3 citizens due to the bombardment of al-Hirak amd Da’el towns. A citizen was found dead on the Der’a al-muzayreb road, 2 days after his detainment in Reef Dera’a.
-In Aleppo province 17 citizens were killed.10 because of the bombardment on al-Fardoos neighborood of Aleppo, which is now controlled by the armed rebels. 4 citizens including a girl due to the bombarment of al-Marjeh and Saif al-Dawleh neighbourhoods. A citizen was shot in Maysaloon Neighbourhood. A child by wounds due to the bombardment of al-Zabadiye earlier. A citizen’s corpse was delivered to his parents after being abducted two days ago in the Tariq al-Bab neighbourgood.
-In Homs province 8 citizens were killed. 3 in al-Qusair area, one was shot by a sniper and the other 2 due to the bombardment of the village of Kamam reef al-Qusair. 2 citizens (a man and a woman) were killed due to bombardment and shooting on Houla and al-Ghento. 1 citizen was killed in Talbiseh during clashes in the town. 1 citizen was killed by wounds. Another was killed by regime fire at the Syrian Lebanese boarders. In the city of Homs a citizen was shot in Homs al-kadeemeh, 1 citizen killed in al-Khalidiya.
-In Idlib province 10 citizens were killed. 3 of them in Ma’aret al-Nu’man city, including a lady and her son, as a result of shooting and bombardment on the city. A citizen was shot by a sniper stationed at the Iza’a checkpoint in Saraqib. 2 citizens in the city of Idlib were killed, 1 by sniper the other by wounds from an explosion in the city. 4 citizens were killed tonight by the bombardment on Kurween town in Reef Aleppo.
-In Hama province 2 citizens, including a girl, were killed. She died due to a raid by the government forces on the town of al-Zakat this morning. The other was killed by the bombardment of al-Latamineh in Reef Hama.
-In Reef Dimashiq province 8 citizens were killed. A young man was shot in Yalda town during an attempt by the government forces to control it. A citizen was shot by a sniper in al-Dumeir town. A child was killed as a result of bombardment on Misraba town. 2 citizens died of wounds in Dareyya. The bodies of 3 citizens were found in the orchards of Dareyya.
-In Damascus province 2 citizens were killed, one was shot down by a sniper in the neighborhood of Jobar. 1 by the government forces in al-Hajar Aswad neighberhood.
-In Deir al-Zoor province 16 citizens were killed. A woman in al-Boukmal city as a result of a missile that targeted her house. 9 citizens in al-Mayadeen city, including 2 women, a child and a media activist, due to shooting and shelling on the city. 5 citizens were killed in the city of Deir Izzor, 1 by sniper in al-haweeka neighbourhood yesterday (his name was only documented today), 1 civilian was summarily executed by regime forces in the al-Urdi neighbourhood this morning, 3 killed by the bombardment on the al-Jebeila and al-Joura neighbourhoods.
Unknown gunmen assassinated Sheikh Abdel-Latif al-Shami, speaker and Imam of the Aminah mosque in the Sayf al-Dawla neighbourhood of Aleppo. His body was found today after he was kidnapped from yesterday’s evening prayers.
18 Rebel fighters:
Deir Izzor province: 5 rebels killed. 4 rebel fighters due to clashes with the government forces in al-Mayadeen. A rebel leader died of wounds he received during clashes in the Urdi neighbourhood, Deir Izzor city.
Damascus: 2 rebel fighters were killed during clashes in the Qadam are in Damascus
Homs prov: 3 rebel fighters killed. 1 by clashes in the town of Talbiseh. In the city of Homs, 2 rebel fighters were killed during clashes in Joret al-Shayah in the old city by regime forces.
Dera’a prov: 8 rebels killed. 5 during clashes after they attacked a police station in the refugee camp in Dera’a. A rebel fighter was killed by a bomb aimed at his car in the area of al-Ajami in the country side. A rebel fighter during clashes in the town of al-Ghariya al-Gharbiya. 1 during the clashes on Dera’a international road.
A defected officer, with the rank of captain, was killed during clashes in Reef Dera’a.
No less than 35 members of the syrian armed forces were killed during clashes in all of Deir Izzor, Idlib, Aleppo, and Dera’a.
Unknown gunmen assassinate a religious figure in Aleppo: The body of sheikh Abdul Latif al-Shami, Imam of the Amina mosque, in the Saif al-Dawla neighbourhood of Aleppo, was found today after he was abducted by unknown gunmen during the Tarawih prayers in his mosque last night.
[local time] 21:50 The United States said it was “very concerned” about a Syrian offensive in Aleppo, Syria, but rejected comparisons to Libya where NATO-led forces intervened last year to protect civilians.
21:31 Syria’s envoy to Belarus, Farouq Taha, defected from the regime, Al-Jazeera television reported.
21:10 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows Syrian MP Ikhlas Badawi announcing her defection from the regime.
21:04 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows about 100 regime fighters detained by Syrian rebels. The detainees identified themselves as army troops and Shabeeha (thugs).
20:51 Ninety people were killed on Friday by the Syrian security forces, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
19:33 Two Syrian opposition activists unfurled an enormous rebel flag at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Friday and were arrested by police.
19:18 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Assad regime Friday to stop its offensive on Syria’s second city Aleppo, amid fears of an all-out onslaught against rebel forces and civilians.
19:01 Syrian rebels on Friday captured 50 troops in Edleb, including 14 officers, AFP cited activists as saying.
18:30 The EU on Friday announced that it was donating an additional €5 million through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to assist Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon.
18:24 Poland said it evacuated its embassy staff from Damascus Friday, cutting short its diplomatic work on behalf of the United States which pulled out its own diplomats in February.
18:16 Iraqi Kurdish security forces have prevented soldiers sent by Baghdad from reaching a disputed north Iraq area that borders Syria, a top Kurdish security official said on Friday.
18:15 Syria’s Kurds, hostile to a regime that has oppressed them and suspicious of the opposition, were putting aside differences to unite and manage their own region in the face of an uncertain future.
17:31 Syrian rebels on Friday captured 150 regime troops and militia members in the northern city of Aleppo and the northwestern province of Edleb, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
16:47 The Red Cross said Friday it will pull some members of its humanitarian team out of conflict-ravaged Syria in the next few days.
16:25 Syrian army troops are surrounding the As-Said Hospital in the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Mayadeen, amid fierce clashes between the regular forces and the rebels. (S.N.N.)
16:16 Syrian forces have been shelling the town of Basra as-Sham. (S.N.N.)
16:12 Turkey said Friday it would not tolerate the presence of “terrorist” groups such as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or Al-Qaeda on Syrian soil near the Turkish border.
15:43 Britain on Friday said a Syrian regime attack on the second city of Aleppo would be unacceptable and could lead to huge loss of civilian life and a humanitarian disaster.
15:38 Syria’s Friday death toll increases to 61 people killed by security forces, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
15:35 Syrian forces shelled Edleb’s Al-Habeet. (S.N.N.)
15:19 The UN human rights chief voiced alarm Friday at reports of atrocities in Syria and warned that civilians were at “grave risk” amid fears of a major battle in the second city of Aleppo.
14:42 France on Friday said it feared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was preparing to carry out a “slaughter” of his own people in the second city of Aleppo.
14:42 Syrian security forces opened fire to disperse a demonstration in Edleb. (S.N.N.)
14:39 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows an anti-regime protest in Kobani. Protesters are chanting against President Bashar al-Assad.
14:36 Al-Arabiya is broadcasting live images of an anti-regime protest in Hama’s Al-Hamidiya.
14:30 Syrian forces shelled Maarat an-Naaman in Edleb, Al-Arabiya television reported.
14:30 An anti-regime protest took place in the town of Zamlka in the Damascus district in support of Aleppo and Damascus. (S.N.N.)
14:25 Two people were killed and others wounded during the Syrian forces’ shelling of Daraa’s Al-Harak, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
14:24 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the town of Sarmin in Edleb. (S.N.N.)
14:21 Al-Jazeera television station is broadcasting live footage showing an anti-regime protest on the main road linking Hama to Aleppo.
14:13 Syrian regime forces stormed the Damascus’ Al-Hajjar al-Aswad neighborhood amid fears of renewed “massacres,” Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
14:05 Clashes broke out between Syrian regime forces and rebels in Al-Mayadin in Deir az-Zour, the Local Coordination Committees said.
14:04 Syrian forces shelled Daraa’s Al-Harak and Al-Kirk, Al-Jazeera television reported.
14:04 Syrian forces opened fire on an anti-regime protest in the Latakia neighborhood of Al-Aouwayni, Al-Jazeera television reported.
14:02 Syrian regime forces shelled the town of Houla in Homs following anti-regime protests in support of Aleppo and Damascus. (S.N.N.)
14:01 An anti-regime protest took place in Jabala in the Latakia district following Friday prayers. (S.N.N.)
14:00 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the town of Al-Tall in the Damascus district. (S.N.N.)
13:57 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the Al-Halak neighborhood of Aleppo. (S.N.N.)
13:52 An anti-regime protest took place in the neighborhood of Masaken Hananou in Aleppo. (S.N.N.)
13:46 Anti-regime protests in condemnation of “the massacres of the regime” kicked off in most towns in Jabal al-Zawiya in Edleb. (S.N.N.)
13:46 An anti-regime protest calling for the fall of the regime kicked off in the Aleppo neighborhood of Tariq al-Bab. (S.N.N.)
13:44 The former head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Robert Mood, said Friday that President Bashar al-Assad’s fall was only a matter of time but that his exit might not end the conflict.
13:44 An anti-regime protest took place in the Al-Zahera al-Qadima neighborhood in Damascus following Friday prayers. (S.N.N.)
13:44 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the town of Dael in Daraa. (S.N.N.)
13:43 Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters near the Imam Al-Shafaai mosque in the Masaken al-Sabil neighborhood in Aleppo. (S.N.N.)
13:42 Ten people were killed and others wounded during the Syrian regime forces’ shelling of the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Fardous, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said.
13:40 An anti-regime protest in support of Damascus and Aleppo kicked off in the town of Harasta in the Damascus district. (S.N.N.)
13:38 An anti-regime protest started in the town of Al-Ghariya expressing support for the rebel Free Syrian Army. (S.N.N.)
13:34 Friday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 35 people, most of them killed in Damascus, Aleppo and Daraa, Al-Jazeera television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
13:28 An anti-regime protest kicked off in Abu Kamal in Deir az-Zour despite continuous shelling. (S.N.N.)
13:27 Anti-regime protests took place in most mosques in Al-Yadouda in Daraa and called for the execution of President Bashar al-Assad. (S.N.N.)
13:24 The rebel Free Syrian Army took over the Serail and a security headquarter in Daraa, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying on Friday.
13:21 An anti-regime protest calling for the fall of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad kicked off in Tadef in Aleppo. (S.N.N.)
13:20 An anti-regime protest started in Serin in Aleppo. (S.N.N.)
13:19 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the neighborhood of Saif al-Dawla in Aleppo. (S.N.N.)
13:19 Anti-regime protests began in Aleppo’s neighborhoods of Al-Shaar and Al-Izaa. (S.N.N.)
12:45 Syrian security forces killed 25 people on Friday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
12:38 A former Syrian general who is now trying to plot the downfall of the Assad regime from a refugee camp in Turkey has called for an inclusive interim government to avert a descent into all-out civil war.
12:26 Syrian troops opened fire on a group of civilians fleeing into neighboring Jordan, killing a three-year-old child, Jordanian officials said on Friday.
11:59 A British and a Dutch photographer have been freed after being held hostage eight days in Syria and are now in Turkey, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said Friday.
10:21 Syrian forces shelled the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Fardous, the Local Coordination Committees said.
9:39 Troops fired from helicopter gunships on several neighborhoods of Syria’s second city Aleppo on Friday, as the army faced off against rebel fighters, activists told AFP.
8:30 MORNING LEADER: Rebel forces were bracing Friday for a decisive “mother of all” battles in Aleppo, as Washington warned the Syrian army could be preparing to carry out a massacre in the country’s second city.
8:20 Islamist militants are probably active in Syria but they wield less influence on the ground than the other rebel forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, the Pentagon said Thursday.
8:16 The battle between rebels and regime for Syria’s second city Aleppo is a crucial fight that could determine the trajectory of the more than 16-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, experts said.
7:58 Syrian lawmaker Ikhlas Badawi, who represents the embattled second city of Aleppo in the assembly elected in widely criticized May polls, has defected and fled to Turkey, the opposition said on Friday.
7:46 Defected Syrian general Manaf Tlass met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglo on Thursday after visiting Saudi Arabia, where he said he was working on a plan to end the Syrian conflict.
Reuters: U.N. rights chief urges Syria fighters to spare civilians: GENEVA – U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay urged both Syrian government forces and rebels on Friday to spare civilians in Aleppo, voicing deep concern at the “likelihood of an imminent major confrontation” in the city reminiscent of other deadly assaults.
Turkey may be some way from acting on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to strike Kurdish separatists in Syria, but week by week it finds itself sucked ever further into its neighbor’s worsening war.
The shooting down of a Turkish reconnaissance jet last month was seen by many as a turning point, prompting Ankara to join Saudi Arabia at Qatar in semi-covert support for the Free Syrian Army fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.
On Friday, Reuters revealed the existence of a secret Turkish operations centre where it worked with the two Gulf states to provide aid and weaponry to the rebels.
For most foreign powers, events in Syria’s Kurdish provinces are largely seen a sideshow compared Assad’s battle to survive. But Erdogan’s comments on Thursday made it clear that Turkey is alarmed by worries over Kurdish PKK rebels taking advantage of the chaos.
The Turkish leader – once a friend to his Syrian counterpart who helped to rehabilitate Assad on the international stage, but now apparently an increasingly implacable foe – accused Damascus of allocating five provinces to the PKK.
Both Ankara and most Western powers view the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist group, blaming it for a long-running conflict that has killed some 40,000 people since it took up arms in 1984. Turkey regularly strikes PKK bases in Iraq’s northern self-ruled Kurdish enclave, and Erdogan made it clear the same option was being discussed for Syria.
“We will not allow a terrorist group to establish camps in northern Syria and Turkey,” he told a news conference before travelling to London for the opening of the Olympics. “If there is a step which needs to be taken against the terrorist group, we will definitely take this step.”
Rising numbers of refugees crossing the border could put further pressure on Turkey. If, as many expect, Assad’s forces target the partially rebel-held city of Aleppo in the coming days, numbers could soar. Turkey has already closed its borders to commercial traffic but says it will allow fleeing civilians through.
Whatever might happen on the Kurdish front, a senior Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity said support for the rebels was set to continue – although clear caution remains.
“Naturally we are watching developments in the Kurdish region, but Ankara will not give up on its support for the whole revolution because something has happened in the Kurdish region,” he said.
“We have been saying from the start, we do not think it is right to impose a regime from outside… The Syrian people must decide its own future.”
The official declined to comment on what Turkey might do if the PKK established itself in the region.
CROSSING RED LINES
What Turkey is desperate to avoid is a scenario in which Kurdish parts of Syria quietly break away from the rest as the government, rooted in Assad’s Alawite minority sect, slugs it out with the predominantly Sunni Muslim opposition.
“Any area which serves as a potential haven for the PKK or its affiliated groups poses a direct threat to Turkish security and Ankara’s jingoistic rhetoric should be judged in this context,” says Anthony Skinner, head of the Middle East practice at UK-based security consultancy Maplecroft.
“Any government which allows the PKK to set up training camps represents a red line for Ankara…. Ankara is again warning Damascus not to cross Turkey.”
But if it is to take military action, Turkey’s options are somewhat limited. Turkey might have the largest military in the region, but a large-scale ground incursion is seen as unlikely for now.
An airstrike on a known PKK facility – or perhaps a Syrian government post believed supporting them – seems a much more probable approach. But while air defenses over Kurdish areas are seen as a much less sophisticated than those along the coast, the loss of one Turkish jet already points to the dangers of entering Syrian airspace.
“If Turkey could prove that there was an attack coming out of Syria against Turkey, then it could launch an air strike, if it could identify a specific PKK camp in Syria,” said Istanbul-based security expert Gareth Jenkins. “The problem is there would inevitably be civilian casualties because these camps would be put near civilians.”
Then, there is the risk of severe retaliation. Earlier this week, Syria’s government said that while it would not use chemical weapons against its own people, it might against any foreign intervention.
“Unlike with Iraq, attacks in Syria can very likely draw Turkey into a prolonged military confrontation with the Assad regime, which has a formidable military and the political will to respond,” says Hayat Alvi, lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at the US Naval War College. “Syria and Turkey are both heightening the rhetoric, but it would be a huge gamble for both sides to engage in military confrontation.”
Turkish leaders have long regretted the way in which northern Iraqi Kurdistan effectively seceded after the 1991 Gulf War. At worst, Turkey now fears Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish areas might try to come together to form a larger Kurdistan – an entity that might yearn for swathes of Turkish territory.
SIMPLY SABRE RATTLING?
Already, commentators in Turkish newspapers express growing concern that that is exactly what is happening. What the PKK may end up running in parts of Syria, they say, may not just be assorted training camps but a de facto Kurdish state.
The image of PKK members directing traffic and performing other civic duties, some Turks worry, could help swell its support both amongst Kurds and more broadly. At the very least, the PKK would probably have access to both new recruits and some of the weaponry made available by Syria’s wider and fast-growing conflict.
“The recent developments could provide the PKK with significant military opportunities. If the government doesn’t take any precautions and wastes this most precious time, Turkey will face serious security problems,” Nihat Ali Ozcan, a security analyst at the Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, wrote in Hurriyet Daily News.
“The PKK wants to harvest the political opportunities these military advantages would provide, will rise up and be more aggressive about reaching its aims.”
Exactly how much support Syria might be giving Kurdish separatists is far from clear, although some Syrian opposition figures accused the PKK’s local partners, the PYD, of acting as enforcers for Assad.
Under both Assad and his father, Hafez, Turkish accusations of Syrian backing for the PKK were points of contention and occasionally led to threats of outright conflict.
In 1998, Turkey moved tanks to the border and explicitly threatened to send them into Syria if Damascus did not expel PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, at the time sheltering in Syria. Hafez al-Assad took the threat seriously enough to evict Ocalan – who was shortly afterwards captured in Kenya by Turkish forces and probable US support.
Some kind of at least tacit agreement from Washington might still be needed for the Turks to be willing to take action.
“The Turks have been going for a gold medal when it comes to sabre rattling,” says David Lea, regional analyst for Control Risks, a consultancy firm.
“But someone – most likely the Americans – has been sitting on their tail. I don’t think the Turks would do anything unless they knew the Americans were with them. They want to act, but they don’t have any good options. It’s a microcosm of the whole Syria situation.”
(Reporting by Peter Apps; Editing by Peter Graff)
Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border, Gulf sources have told Reuters.
News of the clandestine Middle East-run “nerve centre” working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers – who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – have avoided military involvement so far in Syria.
“It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,” said a Doha-based source.
“The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes.”
The centre in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km (60 miles) from the Syrian border, was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it, a source in the Gulf said. The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations, he added.
A Saudi foreign ministry official was not immediately available to comment on the operation.
Adana is home to Incirlik, a large Turkish/U.S. air force base which Washington has used in the past for reconnaissance and military logistics operations. It was not clear from the sources whether the anti-Syrian “nerve centre” was located inside Incirlik base or in the city of Adana.
Qatar, the tiny gas-rich Gulf state which played a leading part in supplying weapons to Libyan rebels, has a key role in directing operations at the Adana base, the sources said. Qatari military intelligence and state security officials are involved.
“Three governments are supplying weapons: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” said a Doha-based source.
Ankara has officially denied supplying weapons.
“All weaponry is Russian. The obvious reason is that these guys (the Syrian rebels) are trained to use Russian weapons, also because the Americans don’t want their hands on it. All weapons are from the black market. The other way they get weapons is to steal them from the Syrian army. They raid weapons stores.”
The source added: “The Turks have been desperate to improve their weak surveillance, and have been begging Washington for drones and surveillance.” The pleas appear to have failed. “So they have hired some private guys come do the job.”
President Barack Obama has so far preferred to use diplomatic means to try to oust Assad, although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled this week that Washington plans to step up help to the rebels.
Reuters has established that Obama’s aides have drafted a resolution which would authorize greater covert assistance to the rebels but still stop short of arming them.
The White House’s wariness is shared by other Western powers. It reflects concerns about what might follow Assad in Syria and about the substantial presence of anti-Western Islamists and jihadi fighters among the rebels.
The presence of the secret Middle East-run “nerve centre” may explain how the Syrian rebels, a rag-tag assortment of ill-armed and poorly organized groups, have pulled off major strikes such as the devastating bomb attack on July 18 which killed at least four key Assad aides including the defense minister.
A Turkish diplomat in the region insisted however that his country played no part in the Damascus bombing.
“That’s out of the question,” he said. “The Syrian minister of information blamed Turkey and other countries for the killing. Turkey doesn’t do such things. We are not a terrorist country. Turkey condemns such attacks.”
However, two former senior U.S. security officials said that Turkey has been playing an increasing role in sheltering and training Syrian rebels who have crossed into its territory.
One of the former officials, who is also an adviser to a government in the region, told Reuters that 20 former Syrian generals are now based in Turkey, from where they are helping shape the rebel forces. Israel believes up to 20,000 Syrian troops may now have defected to the opposition.
Former officials said there is reason to believe the Turks stepped up their support for anti-Assad forces after Syria shot down a Turkish plane which had made several passes over border areas.
Sources in Qatar said the Gulf state is providing training and supplies to the Syrian rebels.
“The Qataris mobilized their special forces team two weeks ago. Their remit is to train and help logistically, not to fight,” said a Doha-based source with ties to the FSA.
Qatar’s military intelligence directorate, Foreign Ministry and State Security Bureau are involved, said the source.
The United States, Israel, France and Britain – traditionally key players in the Middle East – have avoided getting involved so far, largely because they see little chance of a “good outcome” in Syria.
“Israel is not really in the business of trying to ‘shape’ the outcome of the revolt,”, a diplomat in the region said. “The consensus is that you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. The risk of identifying with any side is too great”.
A former U.S. official who advises a government in the region and other current and former U.S. and European security officials say that there has been little to zero direct assistance or training from the U.S. or its European allies.
The former official also said that few sophisticated weapons such as shoulder-fired bazookas for destroying tanks or surface-to-air missiles have reached the anti-Assad forces.
While some Gulf officials and conservative American politicians have privately suggested that a supply of surface-to-air missiles would help anti-Assad forces bring the conflict to a close, officials familiar with U.S. policy say they are anxious to keep such weapons out of the hands of Syrian rebels. They fear such weapons could make their way to pro-jihad militants who could use them against Western aircraft.
The CIA and the Israelis’ main concern so far has been that elements of al-Qaeda may attempt to infiltrate the rebels and acquire some of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Sima Shine, a former chief Mossad analyst who now serves as an adviser to the Israeli government, told Reuters: “It’s a nightmare for the international community, and chiefly the Americans – weapons of mass-destruction falling into the hands of terrorists. In parallel to its foreign contacts, Israel is taking this especially seriously. After all, we are here, and the Americans are over there.”
She envisaged two circumstances under which Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist group, could obtain some of the chemical weapons stockpile.
“Assad goes and anarchy ensues, during which Hezbollah gets its hands on the weapons. There is a significant Hezbollah presence in Syria and they are well-ensconced in the military and other national agencies. So they are close enough to make a grab for it.
“Another possibility is that Assad, knowing that he is on his way out, will authorized a handover to Hezbollah, as a message to the world about the price of encouraging his ouster.”
However, British and U.S. officials believe there is little or no sign of Assad being toppled imminently.
The situation, one senior European official said, is still likely to veer back and forth, like a tug-of-war between pro- and anti-Assad forces.
There is no indication, the official added, that Assad himself has any intention of doing anything but fighting on until the bitter end.