"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)

Lübnan Marunîleri / Yasin Atlıoğlu


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bassil, Energy and Water Minister should be dismissed: Joumblatt- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Joumblatt indicated Tuesday in a tweet from his official account that Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil should be dismissed because of their poor performance.
“In Iraq, after weeks of protest, the Energy Minister who wasted $40 billion was sacked. ... Is this not an opportunity to dismiss the current minister and his mentor to solve the ministerial knot and the electricity issue together?” Joumblatt tweeted. He added that the amount of wasted funds in Iraq and Lebanon was nearly equal.
Abi Khalil responded on Twitter, claiming that Joumblatt wanted the state to buy electricity from generation units affiliated with Cogico, a company in which Joumblatt owns a majority of shares. If the state did not, Abi Khalil said, Joumblatt would make it seem like the financial waste “you have caused since 1990” was the fault of the Free Patriotic Movement, the party to which Abi Khalil belongs.
Lebanon has not had 24/7 electricity since the Civil War (1975–1990).

İsrail ordusu Dürzi istifalarıyla sarsılıyor- Sputnik News

İsrail'de devlete tam sadakatle hizmet etmeleriyle tanınan ve askerlik yapan nadir azınlıklardan olan Dürziler, 'Yahudi ulus devlet yasasını' protesto için ordudan istifa etmeye başladı.

İsrailli Dürzi yüzbaşı Amir Jmall, pazar günü Facebook'tan Başbakan Benyamin Netanyahu'ya hitaben açık bir mektup yayımlayarak istifasını duyurdu. 'Yahudi ulus devlet yasasını' protesto için İsrail ordusuna artık hizmet etmeyeceğini belirten Amir Jmall, şöyle yazdı:
''Bu sabah kalktım, karargaha gitmek için yola çıkacaktım ki, kendime şunu sordum: İsrail devletine niye hizmet edeyim? Babam, iki erkek kardeşim ve ben kendimizi adayarak, görev bilinciyle ve vatan sevgisiyle hizmet ettik de sonunda ne elde ettik? İkinci sınıf vatandaşlık.''

Israeli Army Suspends Druze Officer Who Published a Facebook Post Against the Nation-state Law- Haaretz

A Druze Israeli army officer who published a post on Facebook in which he said he decided to end his service in the military in protest over the passage of the nation-state law will be suspended from the Israel Defense Forces.

The officer's commanders had a conversation with him in which they clarified that they expected him to refrain from making his opinions known on such matters via social media as part of the military's policy.

The officer, 23-year-old Shady Zaidan, has been suspended from duty for two weeks. 

Hariri Says Some Lebanese Politicians ‘Outrunning’ Refugees to Syria- Naharnet

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri criticized in a tweet on Tuesday what he described as “the rush of some Lebanese politicians to go visit Syria,” in light of the conflict in Lebanon over its ties with the neighboring country largely blamed for the assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri.
“Some politicians in Lebanon are rushing to go to Syria even before the displaced (Syrians) do…,” said Hariri in a tweet.
“I wonder why?” he asked.
Hariri was indirectly referring to a visit paid by caretaker Minister of Industry Hussein Hajj Hassan who participated in a business and investment conference in Syria on July 26.
On Tuesday, Hassan said “Lebanon won’t benefit from maintaining a state of hostility with Syria, especially after opening the transit line with Iraq and Jordan through Syria.”

UN Envoy Plans September Talks on New Syria Constitution- Naharnet

The UN peace envoy for Syria said Tuesday that he plans to host Iran, Russia and Turkey for talks in September on finalising a committee to write a new Syrian constitution.
Staffan de Mistura, whose past efforts to push forward a Syrian peace deal have achieved no breakthroughs, was tasked with setting up the committee during a Russian-backed congress held in Sochi in January.
"The Special Envoy looks forward to holding formal consultations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey, very early in September in Geneva, in order to begin to finalise the constitutional committee," de Mistura's office said in a statement. 
Russia and Iran have supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad through the conflict, while Turkey has backed opposition groups.
The UN envoy told the Security Council last week that he wants to have the constitutional committee in place before world leaders meet at the General Assembly in late September. 

Sweida attacks: Syria's Druze will not be turned against Assad- MEE

The Druze will continue to be Syrian nationalists - and as such they will be consistent in supporting the Syrian government

A recently published book on Iraq under Saddam Hussein suggests that contrary to common perception, the country was not always doomed to fall into a sectarian war because of the artificial nature of the state. The author, Lisa Blaydes, goes into some length to dispel the myths of the Sunni versus Shia narrative.
One could use the same analogy when looking at the war in Syria and the recent terrorist attacks that have brought devastation to the lives of hundreds in Sweida Province. The Lebanese Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, has immediately pounced and politicised the tragedy playing the Druze card and saying the Syrian government failed in its effort to protect the Druze.

Large-scale operation in Syria’s Idlib out of question, says Russia’s chief negotiator- TASS

The diplomat has commented on the possibility of a military operation in Syria's Idlib

SOCHI, July 31. /TASS/. A large-scale operation to storm the Syrian city of Idlib is out of the question, Russian president’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said on Tuesday.

"I’d rather refrain from speaking about the city’s storming or a pending operation. There are too many rumors and they are ungrounded," he said.

"Any large-scale operation in Idlib is out of the question."

Prisoners' exchange 

Russia hopes the pilot project for the exchange of prisoners between the Syrian government and the opposition will be implemented swiftly, Russian envoy for Syria emphasized. 

"A certain positive result was achieved by the group on the release of detained people, exchange of bodies of those killed and the search for the missing people. It gives grounds to hope for the swift implementation of the pilot project," he said. "Although it is a small project, it is a good beginning all the same."

Nationality law makes Israel's Druze second-class citizens- Al-Monitor

Israel's Nationality Law has elicited an angry reaction from the country's small Druze community, which feels betrayed. The law officially declares Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people and makes Hebrew the sole official language, downgrading Arabic, which had previously also been recognized as an official language. In short, it relegates non-Jews, including the Druze — who serve in the Israeli military and have paid the ultimate price in Israel’s military conflicts and occupation — to being second-class citizens.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Russia, Iran, Turkey to meet in Sochi to discuss Syrian War- Al-Masdar News

Representatives of the guarantor nations for the Syrian ceasefire (Russia, Iran and Turkey) will meet in Sochi on Monday to discuss issues regarding the formation of the Syrian constitutional committee, the situation in de-escalation zones, as well as humanitarian items on the agenda, including strengthening trust measures and returning Syrian refugees home. On the first day, expert consultations will take place. On July 31, there will be a plenary session.

“The participants will exchange opinions on the process of facilitating inter-Syrian dialogue based on the Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council and the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. They will continue the discussion of further steps in the interest of launching the constitutional committee as soon as possible, as a key element of promoting political regulation of the Syrian crisis,” the Russian Foreign Ministry informed.

More Senior Terrorist Commanders Killed in Northern Syria- FARS News Agency

Hossein Jamal nom de guerre Abu Zeid, a security commander of the National Liberation Front, along with two other commanders namely Osama al-Jaqmara and his aide were killed after unidentified raiders opened fire at them in the town of Ma'arat al-Nu'aman in Southern Idlib.

In the meantime, Mahmoud Zab'an, a senior field commander of the National Liberation Front was also killed in a bomb blast near the town of Dar al-Izzah in Western Aleppo.
On Saturday, Mohammad Saleh Qatish, a field commander of Jund al-Aqsa, was killed after unknown raiders who opened fire at him in the village of Ma'ar Zita South of the town of Kafr Nubl in Southern Idlib.

In the meantime, Abu Aisha Tunisi, a notorious commander of Tahrir al-Sham, was also killed by unknown attackers in the village of Hass Southwest of the town of Ma'arat al-Nu'aman in Southern Idlib.

Also, a number of Tahrir al-Sham militants were killed or wounded after unknown attackers stormed their base in the town of Sarmada in Idlib province.

A base of Tahrir a-Sham also came under rocket attack in the town of al-Dana in Northern Idlib that left a number of fighters dead or wounded.

Tensions among terrorist groups have gone high amid reports of the Syrian Army's upcoming large-scale operation in Idlib province.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Lebanese minister accuses Joumblatt of conspiring against Syrian Druze- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:45 A.M.) – The Lebanese Minister of Displaced Persons and leader of the Lebanese Democratic Party, Talal Arslan, slammed his political foe, Walid Joumblatt, in a statement on Saturday evening.

Arslan, a prominent Druze politician, began his statement on Saturday by offering his condolences to the families that lost loved ones as a result of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) terrorist attack on Wednesday.

The Lebanese minister then accused the U.S. military of conspiring with Islamic State to carry out this deadly attack that killed more than 250 people in the Al-Sweida Governorate.

“Washington has not wanted to withdraw from any area in Syria, but their primary objective of protecting Israel has failed,” Arslan stated.

Syrian army fights Daesh despite hostage threat- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Pro-Syrian government forces advanced in a Daesh (ISIS) pocket in southwest Syria Sunday, a military media center run by Damascus' ally Hezbollah reported, despite a threat to hostages the militants seized last week.
Syrian state television broadcast footage from near the scene of the fighting showing military vehicles moving along a road.
Daesh holds only a small area of Deraa province near the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, after army advances last week that forced it to retreat.
The group staged a sudden coordinated attack on Wednesday on the city of Sweida and nearby villages from a separate pocket about 65 km from Deraa, killing more than 200 people including many civilians, and seizing some women as hostages.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army had bombarded the remaining Daesh territory in Deraa province. Hezbollah’s war media center said the Syrian army had advanced towards the town of al-Shajara.
A non-Syrian source close to Damascus said the army had paused its offensive early Sunday, but that this was for logistical reasons rather than because of the hostages.

Russian jets begin nonstop attack on ISIS terrorists in northeast Al-Sweida- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:00 P.M.) – The Russian Aerospace Forces have begun a nonstop air attack against the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in the northeastern countryside of the Al-Sweida Governorate.

Russian jets reportedly began their attack this afternoon, following a powerful assault that was launched by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and National Defense Forces (NDF) near the Safa Canyon of northeast Al-Sweida.

The Russian airstrikes have proven effective thus far, as the Islamic State terrorists have been forced to pull back from several posts in order to avoid mounting casualties.

Meanwhile, at the southwestern countryside of Daraa, the Russian Aerospace Forces have resumed their air attack against the ISIS-affiliated Jaysh Khaled bin Walid terrorists.

Militants In Idlib Form Joint Operations Room To Fend Off Syrian Army- South Front

Most of the armed groups in the northern governorate of Idlib have united forces and formed a new operations room to fend off any possible attack of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies on the governorate, the news outlet Radio Idlib reported on July 29.
According to the pro-opposition news outlet, more than 70,000 militants in Idlib will fight under the command of the new operations room.
Syrian pro-opposition sources said that the new operations room will include Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian Liberation Front (SLF) and the National Front for Liberation (NFL). Furthermore, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups such as the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) and Horas al-Din will work under the operations room.
Idlib Radio’s claims are yet to be confirmed by any of the armed groups in Idlib. However, such a step seems possible after the recent defeats of opposition forces around the Syrian capital of Damascus, in northern Homs and in southern Syria.
It’s not clear if the new operations room will stick to defensive operations or if it will launch attacks on the government-held areas. Some HTS supporters claimed that the operations room may attack government positions near the Syrian coast. However, these claims sound far-fetched.

Israeli Druze feel abandoned over new Nationality Law- Al-Monitor

In the week when hundreds of people from the Druze community were massacred in Syria by Islamic State terrorists on July 25, their Israeli peers are struggling for their status in the state following the passage of the Nationality Law. According to the Druze, the Nationality Law, anchoring the Jewish character of the state, hurts them. And they feel particularly hurt because many members of the community are loyal citizens who serve in the army.
The Nationality Law that passed in the Knesset July 19 is a basic law. It has greater legal standing than a regular law, as Israel has no constitution, and it enshrines the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The legislation was intended, among other things, to act as a counterweight to the basic law of Human Dignity and Liberty, which is the main basis for the defense of the rights of citizens, including minorities.

The Special Force: Syrian Hezbollah Unit- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog

What does it mean to speak of a "Syrian Hezbollah" group? Do we just mean a group of Syrian fighters who adopt the Hezbollah brand, or one that has a direct relationship with Hezbollah? The case of the Special Force (Sayyida Zainab) sheds some light on this matter.
The Special Force's origins go back as far as 2013. The key figure behind its formation was Hezbollah commander Ali Shabeeb Mahmoud (known by the kunya of Abu Turab al-Ruways). Originally from Labaya in the Beqaa, Abu Turab grew up in al-Ruways in the al-Dahiya suburb of Beirut. He joined Hezbollah in 1991 at the age of 15 and he participated in the 12 July 2006 Hezbollah operation that captured two Israeli soldiers and was the immediate trigger for the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Abu Turab, who had served as a training official in Hezbollah's elite al-Radwan unit, participated in the Battle of Qusayr in 2013 when Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war first became widely known. He received responsibility for the Sayyida Zainab front and was killed in fighting in Hajera near the Sayyida Zainab area in November 2013. It should be noted that recapturing Hajera from the rebels was one of the first steps as part of securing the Sayyida Zainab shrine from the threat of rebel attacks. From Abu Turab, the Special Force takes its other name: "The Martyr al-Hajj Abu Turab Special Force." To this day, the Special Force's primary base is in the Sayyida Zainab area.
The Special Force is currently part of the Iranian-backed Local Defence Forces (LDF) network, which it joined after the administrative decisions issued in April 2017 regarding the LDF and personnel wanted for draft evasion and desertion. That said, the group does not claim to have a direct relationship with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Instead, the Special Force characterizes itself as a part of Hezbollah, and has received training, arming and financial support from Hezbollah. A monthly salary for a member of the Special Force, depending on assignments, can go up to 90,000 Syrian pounds.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Kurds eye decentralised Syria in talks with government- Yahoo News

Qamishli (Syria) (AFP) - A US-backed Kurdish-led alliance said on Saturday that it is seeking a roadmap for a decentralised Syria in talks with the government which opened in Damascus this week.
The Syrian Democratic Forces alliance, which controls a swathe of the north and northeast, said it had agreed with the government to form joint committees to discuss the major issues after a first round of talks on Thursday and Friday.
The SDF's political arm, the Syrian Democratic Council, said the aim was to "clear the way for a broader and more comprehensive dialogue" and forge a "roadmap leading to a democratic and decentralised Syria".
Sihanouk Dibo, an adviser to the main Kurdish faction, the leftist Democratic Union Party (PYD), said he expected the negotiations to be tough.

Syrian refugee group returns from Lebanon- Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hundreds of Syrian refugees returned to their country from Lebanon on Saturday in a bus convoy arranged by both governments, advancing an effort by Beirut to accelerate returns to areas where fighting has ended.

Syrian state television reported that about 1,200 refugees were expected to cross back into the country from Lebanon on Saturday before returning to their homes.

Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim said “the coming period will witness the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Lebanon” in comments reported by Hezbollah’s al-Manar television channel.

State television in Syria and the private al-Jadeed channel in Lebanon showed buses full of refugees at the crossing point on the frontier. It is the latest in a series of recent returns arranged by the two countries.

Lebanon hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, more than a quarter of its population, and leading Lebanese politicians have said many of them should go home as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has restored his rule across much of the country.

This week a senior official from Assad’s ally Russia was in Beirut to discuss a plan for mass returns of refugees and its defense ministry said over 1.7 million would be able to return to Syria from abroad in the near future.

ISIS threatens to burn alive women, children kidnapped from Al-Sweida- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 P.M.) – The Islamic State (ISIS) recently kidnapped several women and children inside the Al-Sweida Governorate after massacring over 250 people inside in the province.

According to military source in Al-Sweida, the terrorist group sent text messages to the families of the kidnapped civilians, demanding that they pay a ransom sum or else ISIS will burn alive all of the captives.

The source said that the Islamic State terrorists sent the family members of the kidnapped civilians these text messages via WhatsApp two days ago, which is a day after the terrorist attack.

The government is now working to pressure the terrorist group to release these kidnapped civilians.

Chinese, Syrian Diplomats Hold ‘In-Depth’ Talks- Muraselon

China’s special envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan travelled to Syria this week for talks with its top diplomat and senior officials, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
“The sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the Syrian problem,” the ministry said in a statement.
Xie Xiaoyan visited Syria on July 25-27. He met with Walid Muallem, minister for foreign affairs and migration, his deputy Faisal Mekdad and national reconciliation minister Ali Haidar.
Earlier, Xie Xiaoyan signalled Beijing’s willingness “to do its best” to contribute to ordinary Syrians returning back to normal life, noting that at least 260 billion dollars in aid money is needed to restore the war-torn Arab country, and that the restoration would take combined efforts of the entire international community.

DSM ve Şam, Adem-i Merkezi yönetim için uzlaştı- Şarkul Avsat

ABD öncülüğündeki Uluslararası Koalisyon Güçleri tarafından desteklenen Kürt ve Arap savaşçıların oluşturduğu Suriye Demokratik Güçleri’nin (SDG) siyasi kanadı Demokratik Suriye Meclisi (DSM) Şam rejimi ile uzlaşıya vardığını açıkladı.

DSM tarafından bugün yapılan açıklamada, Cuma günü, Suriye hükümeti yetkilileri ile başkent Şam’ı ziyaret eden DSM heyeti arasında yapılan toplantıda, ülkede Adem-i Merkezi bir yönetim kurulması için yol haritası belirlemek üzere iki tarafın katılacağı ortak bir komite kurulması konusunda uzlaşıya varıldı bildirildi.

Açıklamada, ayrıca, DSM heyetinin başkent Şam’a gerçekleştirdiği ziyaretin hedefinin “ülkedeki bütün sorunların çözümü için yapılacak kapsamlı müzakerelerin önünün açılması” olduğu ifade edildi.

'No one was spared': Sweida massacre leaves Syrians reeling- MEE

As the dust settles over IS attack that left 250 dead, some begin to wonder why the Damascus government allowed the disaster to happen

GAZIANTEP, Turkey- It was 6 am, and like any other day Asma al-Aswad was buying groceries for her family of five in the Syrian city of Sweida. 
Walking down the road where she would typically buy groceries, a man parked his car and began selling fruit and vegetables. 
Enticing people with his low prices, dozens began to approach the car. Aswad was one of those people, but, as she approached, the vehicle exploded. 
"The man blew himself up and turned everyone who was near him into small fragments," 28-year-old Aswad recalled. 
"I fell to the ground. The floor was full of dust and blood. Whoever did this wanted to kill as many people as possible. Most people would do their shopping at this time."
Assaults with guns and explosives followed the suicide bombing in the city of Sweida, on villages to its north and east. Government forces also killed two would-be suicide bombers, according to pro-Syrian government outlets. 
A fourth blast hit the provincial capital later in the day. The Islamic State group (IS) claimed the assault hours later.
Aswad survived the IS attack on Wednesday. However, about 250 people were killed in the attacks that day, which marked the worst bloodshed to hit Sweida province since the civil war began in 2011. 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group, at least 45 IS militants died while carrying out the attacks. 
But as Syrians inside Sweida come to terms with what took place, their anger is shifting towards Syria's government, which some believe turned a blind eye, letting the massacre take place.
Sweida, a province in southern Syria, is predominantly Druze. Since the outbreak of the civil war, the majority of the city has been under government control and seen relatively little fighting.  

At least 1,200 refugees to return to Syria from Lebanon- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:00 P.M.) – Up to 1,200 Syrian refugees are set to return to Syria, today, from eastern Lebanon, a government report stated this morning.

According to the report, the 1,200 Syrian refugees are set to leave the camp in the ‘Arsal District of Lebanon and make their way through the Jdeidat Yabous Crossing in western Damascus.

Remaining Militants In Al-Quneitra Governorate Hand Over Their Weapons- South Front

On July 28, the remaining militants of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the southern governorate of al-Quneitra began handing over their weapons to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) as a part of an evacuation agreement, which was reached a day earlier.
According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), the militants handed over an upgraded T-55 battle tank, an up-armored BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), a BRDM-2 amphibious armored patrol vehicle, a D-30 122mm towed howitzer, a modified Grad rocket launcher, three vehicle armed with 14,5mm machineguns and loads of ammunition.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the fourth batch of al-Quneitra militants and their families arrived in the northern governorate of Idlib on July 28. According to the UK-based monitoring group, the batch consisted of 450 militants and civilians.
In the upcoming hours the remaining militants will depart towards Idlib and the SAA will enter the towns of Bariqa, Ufaniyah, Turnejeh, Jubata al-Khashab and Beer Ajam.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sweida province: Isis knocked on doors then slaughtered families- The Guardian

In villages militants left one survivor per family to witness their brutality, while in Sweida city suicide bombers entered.

Karam Monther’s mother placed the ammunition box in her youngest son’s car, holding back her tears as he drove off in the dawn light to the frontline. News had come that Islamic State militants were storming homes on the eastern edges of his home province, Sweida, in southern Syria.

Monther joined two dozen other young men who had picked up arms and together they battled through to the edge of the nearby town of Rami. Fallen fighters lay strewn in the streets – the remains of the Isis militants in pieces after they detonated suicide vests.
A woman stumbled out of one of the the houses, repeating: “They slaughtered them.” Inside, she pointed to the bathroom.
“I felt in my heart that a crime had happened there,” Monther said. “I opened the door slowly, and I saw a mother holding her children, but it appeared she hadn’t been able to protect them from Daesh’s [Isis] gunshots.”
“I will never forget this scene all my life. No words can describe it. I knelt and wept in grief,” he said.
Residents of Sweida began burying their dead on Thursday, a day after the worst Isis atrocity in recent months claimed the lives of nearly 250 people – a toll that may yet rise.
Dozens were kidnapped and wounded, many are missing, and the slaughter has upended the peace of the ancestral homeland of the minority Druze sect, which had so far largely escaped the violence that devastated much of Syria.
Interviews with Sweida residents offered a glimpse into a brutal but well-planned, 12-hour attack that appeared to have evaded government security forces – and displayed the terror that Isis can still sow despite its repeated battlefield defeats and retreat across Syria and Iraq.
The raids began at about 4am on three simultaneous fronts. Under the cover of darkness, the militants infiltrated Druze towns and villages in the east and north-east of Sweida, some using local Bedouin as guides.

Lebanon welcomes Russian proposal on refugees- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Lebanese officials Thursday welcomed Russia’s proposal for the return of Syrian refugees, pledging to form a committee to oversee the return with General Security playing a key role, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Lebanon took its position during talks between high-level Lebanese and Russian delegations at Baabda Palace, which included the Russian president’s Syria envoy, Alexander Lavrentiev, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin.
President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, along with caretaker Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf, Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and others, were briefed on the Russian proposal.
“The Russian delegation presented its suggestions, and the Lebanese did so as well, and [it was agreed that] a security and logistic Lebanese-Russian committee will be formed for the return process,” the source told The Daily Star.

Remaining Militants In Al-Quneitra Governorate Accept Evacuation Agreement- South Front

On July 27, the remaining fighters of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the southern governorate of al-Quneitra accepted an evacuation agreement, which was proposed by the Damascus government few days ago, according to Syrian pro-government activists.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that dozens of buses entered the HTS-held towns of Bariqa, Ufaniyah, Turnejeh, Jubata al-Khashab and Beer Ajam in al-Quneitra. According to the pro-opposition monitoring group, the buses will evacuate hundreds of fighters of HTS and the FSA along with their families to the opposition-held areas in the northern governorate of Idlib in the upcoming hours.
A day earlier, the SAA entered the historical city of Quneitra and several villages and town around it under a reconciliation agreement with local FSA groups.

The Suwayda' Attacks: Interview- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog

In what may have been an effort to divert focus away from the Syrian government's ongoing offensive against the remaining Islamic State pocket in the Yarmouk Basin in southwest Deraa province, Islamic State fighters based in the Suwayda' desert launched attacks against Druze villages in the eastern Suwayda' countryside in addition to suicide bombings targeting Suwayda' city. The Islamic State's attacks in Suwayda' have proven to be bloody, killing hundreds of people. Note for context that Suwayda' province's population is primarily Druze.
To discuss the Suwayda' attacks further, I interviewed Abbas Abu Shaheen of the group Katibat Jalamid 'Urman, which is part of the loyalist-leaning Liwa al-Jabal conglomeration of Suwayda' factions. Liwa al-Jabal has participated in the fight to repel the Islamic State attacks in Suwayda' province.
This interview was conducted on the afternoon of 27 July 2018. Any explanations of terms and important place references are in square brackets. Some of the questions and answers have been reordered for clarity.

Jumblatt blasts Assad at memorial for Syria massacre- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblatt Friday blasted Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying that Daesh (ISIS) was Assad’s primary ally after the group attacked a Druze-majority area in Syria Wednesday, killing roughly 200 people.
Jumblatt, the primary representative of Lebanon’s Druze community, said Assad would use the attack in the provincial capital of Swaida earlier this week to enlist Druze in to fight Syria’s next major battle. This battle, Jumblatt said, will be over the last rebel holdout - Idlib province.
“We refuse to sacrifice the people of the Jabal Arab [region] in the battle for Idlib,” Jumblatt said at a memorial held for the victims in Abay in Aley.
“We want a guarantee that the Druze will remain in the Jabal al-Arab [region] and that Bashar won’t use them for his personal gain,” he added.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Lebanese divided over efforts to repatriate Syrian refugees- Al-Monitor

BEIRUT — A batch of 850 displaced Syrians in Lebanon — out of more than 1.5 million, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR — left the town of Arsal in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley for Qalamoun in Syria July 23. The return was coordinated by the Lebanese General Security agency and relevant security services in Syria.
This batch is the largest to exit the Lebanese territories. In April, 500 displaced Syrians left Chebaa in southern Lebanon for Beit Jinn in the southwest of Syria. They were followed by two batches of dozens of displaced who left Arsal for the Qalamoun villages in June and July.
Arsal Mayor Basel Hujeiri told Al-Monitor, “The Lebanese General Security agency is coordinating the return of the displaced persons with the municipal council. Such a crucial move is, however, insufficient. Coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian governments is needed to accelerate the displaced Syrians’ return from Lebanon [in general] and Arsal in particular, where nearly 40,000 displaced Syrians are accommodated."

Suriye'nin Süveyde kentinde IŞİD'den koordineli saldırı: En az 144 ölü- Sputnik News

Suriye'nin güneyinde, Ürdün sınırı yakınındaki Süveyde'de IŞİD militanlarının intihar ve silahlı saldırılarında ölü sayısı en az 144'e, yaralı sayısı en az 178'e yükseldi.

IŞİD'in aylar sonra Suriye'nin güneyinde düzenlediği en kanlı saldırı Süveyde'yi vurdu. Vilayetin aynı isimli başkentinde pazar yerinde ve meydanda büyük patlamalar meydana geldi. Aynı zamanda militanlar kentin ve vilayetin çeşitli bölgelerinde saldırıya geçip şiddetli çatışmalara girdi.
Suriye resmi haber ajansı SANA, hükümet güçlerinin saldırıları geri püskürttüğünü duyururken çok sayıda ölü ve yaralı olduğunu belirtti, ama ilk etapta sayı vermedi.
Ardından koordineli saldırıların sorumluluğunu IŞİD'in ''Halifenin askerleri düzenledi'' diyerek üstlendiği haberi geldi.
İntihar saldırıları ve silahlı saldırılarda saatler ilerledikçe kurban sayısı arttı. TSİ 16.57'de gelen haberde bölgedeki sağlık görevlilerine dayanarak ölü sayısı en az 144'e, yaralı sayısı en az 178'e yükseldi.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Russia Offers to Keep Iran Forces in Syria Far from Golan, Says Israel- Naharnet

Russia has offered to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but Israel wants Tehran to completely withdraw, an Israeli official said Tuesday.
Moscow made the offer -- which would see Iranian forces stay 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Syria's border with the Golan -- during talks Monday in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the official said.
But Israel said the proposal did not go far enough. 
"We won't accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, not near the border, not beyond the 100-kilometre stretch, which by the way the Russians talk about and agree to," the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.  
"We said there are also long-range weapons beyond that distance, and all the forces must leave Syria," the official said.
The Monday meeting came after Moscow-backed Syrian government forces regained control of most of the two provinces in the country's south near the Golan Heights, through a combination of deadly bombardment and Russian-brokered surrender deals.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Syria Blasts Evacuation of White Helmets as 'Criminal'- VOA

The Syrian government on Monday condemned a multilateral operation to evacuate hundreds of rescue workers from the war-torn country as a "criminal process" intended to de-stabilize Syria.
Syrian authorities have long described the Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, which are popularly known as the White Helmets, as a terror organization.
The group rose to prominence as it filmed its operations to rescue civilians from Syrian government airstrikes in the country's brutal civil war. The government has said the group stages videos. Damascus's ally Russia has accused the group of staging chemical weapons attacks on civilians and blaming them on the government, a charge that has never been proven.

Patriarch Meets Jordanian Prince in Amman- Naharnet

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi met with Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal during his visit to Jordan, the National News Agency reported on Monday.
Discussions have touched on the general situation in the region and the need to face the different crises with “openness and dialogue between religions.”
Discussions have also focused on the “history and depth of the relationship between the Maronite Patriarchate and the Hashemite family and between Lebanon and Jordan,” NNA added.

Syrians Returning from Lebanon Dare to Hope that War's End May Be Near- Naharnet

Crossing into Syria from neighboring Lebanon, visitors are greeted by giant posters of President Bashar Assad.
The signs proclaim: "Welcome to victorious Syria."
In the capital of Damascus, many of the checkpoints that for years have snarled traffic are gone. The city is again connected to its sprawling suburbs once held by the opposition, and many former residents and visitors from other parts of Syria fill its streets.
There's a new feeling of hope that an end is near to Syria's seven-year civil war.
"It is almost over," Nazeer Habash, 60, said as he walked home near the Hijaz train station in central Damascus. "It is like a child when he starts to walk, taking one step after another, and victory will always be on our side."
In a central square not far from where rebel shells used to land just a few months ago, families and groups of teenagers took selfies. Children played on a large sculpture spelling out, "I (heart) Damascus."

Military Situation In Syria On July 23, 2018- South Front

This map provides a general look at the military situation in Syria on July 23, 2018:
  • Pro-government forces entered a final stage of retaking parts of southern Syria, which had been controlled by the Free Syrian Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda). Currently, they are finalizing their operation to recover weapons from the surrendered militants and to secure the recent gains. After this, government forces will start working to liberate the small area controlled by ISIS east of the Golan Heights.
  • Most of civilians and members of the National Defense Forces (NDF) evacuated from the villages of al-Fu’ah and Kafriya in eastern Idlib. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies entered the area.
  • The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are slowly developing their operation against ISIS in the border area with Iraq.

Russian And Israeli Top Officials Meet In Jerusalem Sparking New Round Of Rumors In MSM- South Front

On July 23rd, a Russian delegation led by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, part of which was the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, General Valery Gerasimov met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenko in Jerusalem. The meeting was reportedly held after a short notice visit, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation posted a press release on the meeting between the officials. It explains that the meeting included discussions on various aspects of the Middle East agenda focusing on the situation in and around Syria. They also mentioned the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process in continuation of the meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin in Moscow on July 11th. What was also discussed in detail is the completion of the anti-terrorist operation in southern Syria and the provision of security along the Israeli border, including the implementation of the 1974 Agreement on Separation of Forces. Topics of bilateral relations were also part of the meeting.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a neutral statement confirming that the situation in Syria and Iran’s role in it were discussed.