"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


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Syrian, Bahraini Foreign Ministers Shake Hands For First Time Since Years- Muraselon

Syrian and Bahraini foreign ministers were caught on camera shaking hands at the UN General Assembly for the first time for almost 7 years.

Syria’s Walid al-Moallem and Bahrain’s Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa warmly hugged each other and had a brief cordial conversation before saying goodbye.

Russia-Iran rivalries over Syria’s future- Sami Moubayed

The Syrians say Iran is no longer able to provide substantial funding after US sanctions were reimposed by the Trump White House.

BEIRUT - In January 2017, Syria granted Iran the right to develop phosphate fields south-west of Palmyra. The agreement, trumpeted at the time by Iranian media, was part of a bundle of bilateral projects that included providing Iran with 5,000 hectares of agricultural territory in the Syrian heartland, along with preliminary approval to establish the country’s third telecom company.
Nearly two years later, however, none of these agreements has seen the light, much to the displeasure of the Iranians.
The telecoms deal has been frozen and Damascus offered to give the Iranians agricultural land in the countryside of the demolished city of Raqqa, which is technically impossible since that territory is in the hands of US-backed Kurdish militias. The Iranians wanted land that was far more strategic, between Daraya in the Damascus countryside and the Sayyda Zeinab Shrine. The Syrians said no.
Adding insult to injury, the prized phosphate deal was formalised in August but with Russia, not Iran. Moscow was given a licence to operate the fields until 2068.
There are fears in Tehran that the rest of the projects might go to the Russians as well.
Since the Russian military entered the Syrian battlefield in 2015, Tehran and Moscow have worked together, very diligently, on supporting their allies in Damascus and wiping out the armed opposition. Now that the guns are going silent, cracks are emerging with regards as to who gets what in Syria’s post-war reconstruction.
Russian Middle East analyst Dmitry Frolovskiy said, despite their emerging competition in Syria, there was a substantial technological gap between the two countries and, ultimately, Russia’s economic capabilities were much higher than Iran’s.
“Russian companies will clearly prevail,” he said, adding that Iranian ones “will fill some niches but of smaller scale.” He said he didn’t expect the competition to lead to confrontations, however, because both countries’ presidents wish to maintain “good relations in times of uncertainty.”

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pro-Berri MP Says Aoun's Term Will 'Destroy Lebanon' in Leaked Audio- Naharnet

An audio recording in which MP Yassine Jaber warns that the new presidential tenure will “destroy Lebanon” has spread on social networking websites and created a wave of controversy over the country's chronic power generation crisis.
“Unfortunately this presidential tenure will destroy Lebanon in an unacceptable manner... The president and the energy minister are pressing to get $500 million on top of the $1.5 billion to provide electricity for a number of hours until the end of 2018. Unfortunately the country is being taken into the abyss,” Yassine says in the recording, referring to a Cabinet session that was held around the time German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Lebanon.
He also notes that Merkel had proposed a plan that enables Lebanon to provide a 24/7 power supply for a cost of $800 million with the help of the German company Siemens.

Israel Claims Russian Version Of Il-20 Incident Is Fake- South Front

On September 23, the Israeli military rejected the Russian statement that it is responsible for the downing of the Il-20 intelligence plane on September 17 and insisted that the coordinate mechanism with Russia was used properly prior to the incident.

“The deconfliction mechanism operated in the relevant timeframe (as it has been operating over the last two and a half years,” the Israeli military said in an official statement.

Furthermore, the Israeli military repeated its claims that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) warplanes were in Israeli airspace at the time of the downing of the Russian plane. The Israeli military went on to blame Syria for the incident once again and vowed to continue its operations against Iranian forces in the war-torn country.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Rifi: Hizbullah Implicating Lebanon in Iran’s Interest- Naharnet

Former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi urged Lebanese officials to make a “formal reaction” regarding Hizbullah and how it reportedly keeps “implicating lebanon in financial and economic problems.”
Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan “Nasrallah is authorizing the state to dissociate itself while keeping (his own fighters) involved in Syria and Yemen as he stands besides Iran in the face of (US) sanctions,” said Rifi in a tweet.
“Hizbullah is implicating Lebanon financially and economically in favor of Iran and so far we have not heard an official reply to that,” he added.
On Wednesday, Nasrallah announced that his group will stay in Syria “until further notice,” as he noted that “a lot” of Israeli airstrikes in Syria were not targeted against weapons shipments for Hizbullah.
“No one can force us to withdraw from Syria and as long as the Syrian leadership needs us we will stay there,” Hizbullah's chief emphasized.
"We will remain there even after the Idlib accord," Nasrallah said, referring to a Russia-Turkey deal to prevent a Syrian regime offensive on the country's last rebel-held stronghold.

Lavrov: Rusya ve Türkiye, İdlib'de kurulacak silahsızlandırılmış bölgenin sınırları üzerinde mutabakat sağladı- Sputnik News

Rusya Dışişleri Bakanı Sergey Lavrov, Rus ve Türk askeri yetkililerin Suriye'nin İdlib kentinde kurulacak silahsızlandırılmış bölgenin sınırları üzerinde mutabakat sağladığını açıkladı.

Moskova'da Bosna Hersek Dışişleri Bakanı İgor Crnadak ile görüşmesinin ardından düzenlenen ortak basın toplantısında konuşan Lavrov, "Rus ve Türk askeri yetkililer, önceki gün İdlib'deki silahsızlandırılmış bölgenin kesin sınırı üzerinde mutabakat sağladı. Dolayısıyla, Soçi'de varılan anlaşmaları ifa süreci, son derece aktif şekilde ilerliyor" dedi.
Rusya ve Türkiye'nin İdlib kararını 'ara adım' olarak nitelendiren Lavrov, silahsızlandırılmış bölgenin Suriye ordusuna ve Hmeymim üssüne saldırıları engelleyeceğini kaydetti.
Lavrov, "Bu elbette ara adım, zira sadece bir silahsızlandırılmış bölge kuruluyor. Ancak bu aynı zamanda gerekli bir adım, zira bu bölgenin kurulması, İdlib gerilimi azaltma bölgesinden Suriye ordusu mevzilerine ve Hmeymim'deki Rus üssüne saldırıları önleme imkanı sunacak. İdlib anlaşması, her şeyden önce terör tehdidinin ortadan kaldırılmasını amaçlıyor" ifadelerini kullandı.
Lavrov, El Nusra Cephesi (yeni adıyla Fetih el Şam) militanlarının ve tüm ağır silahların ekim ayı ortasına doğru silahsızlandırılmış bölgeden çıkması gerektiğini de söyledi.
Diğer taraftan Lavrov, Suriye'nin bütünlüğüne yönelik ana tehdidin ABD'nin kontrolündeki Fırat Nehri'nin doğu kıyısından yükseldiğini belirtti.
Suriye muhalefetinin İdlib anlaşmasının ülkenin bütünlüğünü bozacağı yönündeki değerlendirmelerine değinen Rusya Dışişleri Bakanı, sözlerini şöyle sürdürdü: "Bu değerlendirmelerin BM Güvenlik Konseyi kararında altı çizilen Suriye'nin egemenliğine ve toprak bütünlüğüne saygı gösterme amacına hizmet ettiğini söyleyemeyiz. Suriye'nin toprak bütünlüğüne yönelik ana tehdit, ABD'nin doğrudan kontrol ettiği ve fiiliyatta bağımsız özerk yapıların kurulduğu Fırat'ın doğusundan yükseliyor."

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Syrian Army Is Building New Helicopter Base In Northern Hama- South Front

A military source told the Syrian al-Masdar News Blog, on September 20, that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is building a new helicopter base near the village of Jubb Ramlah in the northern Hama countryside. According the source, the new base will support upcoming operations of the army in northeast Lattakia and southwest Idlib.
The Syrian pro-opposition SMART news agency confirmed the al-Masdar report saying that the SAA is even building an air traffic control (ATC) tower, which suggests that the new base may be also used to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Leith Abou Infidel, the founder of al-Masdar News, doubted that the base is being built to support upcoming attacks of the SAA, because northeast Lattakia and southwest Idlib are now part of the new Russian-Turkish demilitarized zone.

Nasrallah welcomes Idlib agreement, says Hezbollah staying in Syria- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Wednesday welcomed the agreement between Russia and Turkey on the Syrian rebel holdout of Idlib, but said Hezbollah would remain in Syria until further notice.
The deal would take Syria “to a new phase” and there could be “a widespread calm without battles,” but that, based on consultations with the Syrian government, Hezbollah had decided to remain “after the settlement [in Idlib].”
The broad terms of the agreement outlined by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this week will create a force between the two powers that will jointly oversee the creation of a 15-kilometer demilitarized zone between rebel forces and Syrian government forces.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham & Other Groups Reject Turkish-Russian Agreement To Establish Demilitarized Zone In Idlib- South Front

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and some other groups, including the Islamic Turkistan Party and Jaish al-Izza, have rejected a Turkish-Russian agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in the Syrian province of Idlib and the nearby areas, according to pro-militant sources.
On September 18, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated that work to establish a new security system in the Idlib de-escalation zone had started. He recalled that all heavy weapons have to be withdrawn from the demilitarized zone by October 10 and radical groups have to withdraw their forces by October 15.
So, Turkey and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance have to force the militants to obey the agreement if they seek to enforce the demilitarized zone in time.
Pro-militant media outlets have already started spreading speculations that Damascus will not act up to its part of the agreement thus creating a media environment to justify actions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

FPM, PSP look to calm tensions after sparring- Daily Star

BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party Monday called for calm among their supporters after a week of intense rhetoric between officials from both groups.
The FPM issued a circular directing its representatives, MPs and caretaker ministers to adopt a “media calm” with the PSP and refrain from making comments to media outlets or publishing social media posts about the PSP after “the debates and campaigns took a loathful sectarian course,” the FPM said.
The PSP issued a similar circular, asking its affiliates to avoid engaging in political or media debates with the FPM, according to a statement that was released.
The relationship between the PSP and the FPM has soured since the May 6 parliamentary elections, but it reached a particularly new low last week after caretaker Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh removed Hilda al-Khoury from her role as head of the ministry’s official exams department.
The move by Hamadeh, who represents the PSP in Cabinet, was interpreted by the FPM as a jab against it as Khoury is affiliated with the FPM.

Idlib deal ends Assad's hope of regaining full control: Syrian rebel- Daily Star

AMMAN: A Syrian rebel official said Tuesday a deal between Russia and Turkey to create a buffer zone in Idlib had ended Syrian President Bashar Assad's hopes of regaining full control of his country.
"The Idlib deal preserves lives of civilians and their direct targeting by the regime. It buries Assad's dreams of imposing his full control over Syria," Mustafa Sejari, a Free Syria Army (FSA) official, told Reuters.
Sejari said the deal reached in Sochi on Monday between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin led to de facto control by the opposition of a "geographic area" that would be a springboard for a political transition that ends Assad's "authoritarian" rule.
"This area will remain in the hands of the Free Syrian Army and will force the regime and its supporters to start a serious political process that leads to a real transition that ends Assad's rule," Sejari said.
Russia, the biggest outside backer of Assad in his fight against rebels, has been preparing for an offensive on the city of Idlib, which is controlled by rebels and home to about 3 million people.

Iran welcomes agreement between Russia and Turkey on Syria’s Idlib- TASS

MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. Tehran welcomes the agreement between Russia and Turkey on the situation in Syria’s Idlib Governorate that was signed in Sochi, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Tuesday.

"The agreement declared after a meeting between the Russian and Turkish leaders in Sochi became an important step towards solution to the issue of terrorist groups remaining in Syria," reads the statement published on the website of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. 

Qassemi added that "this measure helps solve the Syrian issue with regard to all humanitarian aspects and is bringing us closer to establishing peace in the country."

He highlighted that "the main goal of the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is ending bloodshed in the region and liberating it from terrorists." "We hope that the meeting in Sochi will play an important role in the Astana process, which is directed at solving the Syrian issue as quickly as possible," the diplomat noted.

Aoun, Hariri to Start Trips Abroad- Naharnet

President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri prepare to kick off separate trips abroad as the delay in forming a new government persists.
Aoun is expected to travel to New York to take part in the UN General Assembly next week, said al-Joumhouria daily on Tuesday.
Hariri’s trip to France comes one day after the French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher held series of meeting with Lebanese officials.
He announced that French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to visit Lebanon in February.
Early in September, Hariri presented a government format to President Michel Aoun which "failed" to meet approval.

Govt. Formation Paused, New Format Unlikely- Naharnet

Negotiations to end the government stalemate are “blocked” and reports claiming that a new government formula is being prepared to replace the one presented by the PM-designate Saad Hariri to President Michel Aoun early in September are “untrue,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday.
Center House sources (Premier’s residence) told the daily that “negotiations have stopped. None of the political parties have given up on their demand ceiling in order for the Premier to meet them halfway,” they said.
The sources stressed there is “no amended version” (taking the reservations of President Michel Aoun into consideration) of the latest government formula presented by Hariri.
“A breakthrough is unlikely,” they said, emphasizing that Hariri won’t prepare another government formula other than the one he presented to Aoun.

Putin: İl-20 uçağının düşmesini, Türkiye ile olan uçak olayı ile karşılaştırmayın- Sputnik News

Rusya Devlet Başkanı Vladimir Putin, İsrail'in dün Suriye'de yol açtığı İl-20 uçağı trajedisi ile TSK tarafından 2015 yılında Rus uçağının düşürülmesinin karşılaştırılmaması gerektiğini, iki durumun birbirinden farklı olduğunu söyledi.
Rusya Devlet Başkanı Vladimir Putin, Macaristan Başbakanı Viktor Orban'la Moskova'da yaptığı görüşmenin ardından verilen basın toplantısında, İsrail uçaklarının dün Lazkiye yakınlarında, Suriye ordusunun füze savunma sistemlerinin hedefi haline getirdiği İl-20 uçağı ve içerisindeki 15 Rus askerinin öldüğü trajedi ile ilgili açıklamada bulundu.
Putin "İnsanların ölümü, özellikle de böyle trajik koşullarda ölümü, her zaman bir felakettir. Hem bizim için, hem ülkemiz için, hem de ölen arkadaşlarımızın yakınları için böyledir. Bu bağlamda ölen askerlerin yakınlarına başsağlığı diliyorum" ded

Possible Look Of Demilitarized Zone In Northwestern Syria Agreed By Russia And Turkey- South Front

This map shows a possible look of the Idlib demilitarized zone in northwestern Syria agreed by Russia and Turkey. 

Rusya: İl-20 uçağı Suriye'nin S-200'ü tarafından düşürüldü, İsrail kalkan olarak kullandı- Sputnik News

Rusya Savunma Bakanlığı’ndan yapılan açıklamada, dün Hmeymim üssü yakınlarında 14 askerle birlikte radardan kaybolan İl-20 tipi uçağının Suriye ordusunun S-200 savunma sisteminden fırlatılan bir füzeyle vurulduğu belirtildi. Açıklamaya göre İsrailli pilotlar uçağı Suriye hava savunma sisteminin bulunduğu bölgeye sürükleyip kalkan olarak kullandı.
Rusya Savunma Bakanlığı Sözcüsü İgor Konaşenkov, dün Suriye’de kaybolan İl-20 uçağıyla ilgili açıklamalar yaptı. "İl-20 uçağımız S-200 sistemi tarafından vuruldu" ifadesini kullanan Konaşenkov, uçağın İsrailli pilotların sorumsuzluğu yüzünden düştüğünü ifade etti.
Konaşenkov "İsrail tarafından yapılan bu provokasyonu düşmanca olarak nitelendiriyoruz. İsrail askerlerinin sorumsuz davranışı yüzünden 15 Rus askeri öldü. Bu kesinlikle Rusya-İsrail ilişkilerinin ruhuna aykırı" dedi.
Konaşenkov, pilotların uçağı Suriye ordusunun füze savunma sistemlerinin bulunduğu bölgeye, ateş hattına sürüklediğini, uçağı kalkan olarak kullandığını ifade etti.
Konaşenkov "İsrail hava kontrol sistemleri ve F-16 pilotları Rus uçağını görememiş olamaz, zira uçak 5 kilometre irtifadan sonra inişe geçmişti. Kasıtlı olarak bu provokasyonu yaptılar" dedi. Konaşenkov, olanları değerlendirdiklerini ve İsrail’in bu eylemine gerektiği gibi karşılık verme hakkını ellerinde bulundurduklarını vurguladı.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Suspected Israeli Strikes Target Syrian State Company- Naharnet

Syrian state media reported loud explosions in the Syrian coastal Latakia province on Monday evening, saying they likely resulted from Israeli strikes targeting a state company for technical industries.
A military official said more strikes targeted the provincial capital from the sea but Syrian air defenses intercepted them.
The state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV reported the explosions late Monday. Nearly half an hour later, it said the strikes continued. It showed footage of what appeared to be fire in a pitch black area. The TV said the target was the Institute for Technical industries in Latakia province.
A military official quoted on state media said Syrian air defenses intercepted strikes coming from the sea.
State media reported another suspected Israeli attack on Damascus' International Airport Saturday night.

FPM, PSP Urge Supporters to End Social Media War- Naharnet

The Free Patriotic Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party have called on their supporters to halt a war of words that has been raging between them for several weeks now on social networking websites.
“The best thing is to contemplate the situations of this world. Engaging in futile debates will not make any difference,” PSP leader Walid Jumblat tweeted.
He also urged Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and caretaker Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh to address the file of Nizar Hani and Raja al-Ali.
“I have always supported the principle of dialogue, which is the best approach... Enough with incitement articles from cheap journalists,” Jumblat added.
“To the fanatics on social networking websites: the issues of electricity, water pollution, garbage, treasury deficit, unemployment and other social affairs are more important than what a son-in-law, a theoretician or a fanatic might do,” the PSP chief went on to say.
He also described Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's call for a “neutral government” and an end to futile debates as “profound and wise.”

İsrail yine tehdit peşinde: Esad'ın sarayının uydudan çekilmiş fotoğrafını yayımladı- Sputnik News

İsrail, yörüngüye ilk kez uydu oturtmasının 30. yıldönümünde en yeni casus uydusunun çektiği Suriye'nin derin köşelerinin görüntülerini yayımladı. İçlerinde Suriye Devlet Başkanı Beşar Esad'ın sarayı da var.
Suriye'ye savaşın başlamasından beri sürekli hava ve füze saldırısı düzenleyen İsrail, bu kez de askeri üslerle Esad'ın başkanlık sarayı gibi stratejik bölgelerin uydudan çekilmiş görüntülerini yayımladı.

Syrian air defense confronts missiles above western Syria- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:00 P.M.) – Minutes ago, the Syrian military activated its air defenses after a number of potential missiles/drones swarmed the provinces of Latakia, Homs, and Tartous.

According to one source, the attack was carried out by a number of armed drones that belonged to the jihadist rebels; however, another military source said that while it is still unclear, they believe it may be a foreign entity.

What is known at the moment is that the Syrian military has deployed several S-200 anti-aircraft missiles to defend the provinces.

Putin & Erdogan agree Idlib buffer zone to avert new Syria crisis- RT

Russia and Turkey have agreed a “demilitarized zone” between militants and government troops in Syria’s Idlib, President Vladimir Putin said after hours-long talks with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan focused on solving the crisis.

We’ve focused on the situation in the province of Idlib, considering presence of large militant groups and their infrastructure there,” Putin said at a press conference after the talks.

“We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15-20km wide, with full withdrawal of hardline militants from there, including the Jabhat Al-Nusra.”

As part of solving the deadlock, all heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery, will be withdrawn from the zone before October 10, Putin said. The zone will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian military units.
Before the end of the year, roads between Aleppo and Hama, and Aleppo and Latakia must be reopened for transit traffic, he said.
The agreement has received “general support” from the Syrian government, according to Putin.
The deal and other issues of Russian-Turkish ties apparently took almost 5 hours to hammer out. In what appears to a breakthrough solution, Putin and Erdogan have agreed to ensure peace with the help of Russian and Turkish troops.
“The territory controlled by the Syrian opposition must be demilitarized and the Syrian opposition that is holding these territories will remain there. But together with Russia we will make efforts to clear these territories of radical elements,”Erdogan said.

The agreement is designed to prevent a new “humanitarian crisis” in Syria, Erdogan stressed, and will help Turkey to avoid an even more “difficult situation.” He had previously warned of a surge in refugees hitting the country should a full-blown war break out in Idlib.

Putin: Erdoğan'la kapsamlı ve yapıcı görüşmeler yaptık, mutabakata vardık- Sputnik News

Rusya Devlet Başkanı Vladimir Putin, Soçi'de Cumhurbaşkanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ile görüşmelerinin ardından ortak basın toplantısında, kapsamlı ve yapıcı görüşmeler yaptıklarını söyledi.

Soçi'deki kritik zirvenin ardından düzenlenen ortak basın toplantısında konuşan Putin, yaklaşık 4.5 saat süren görüşmelerde özellikle Suriye'deki durumu ve İdlib'deki gelişmeleri ele aldıklarını kaydetti.
Görüşmeler sonucunda önemli kararlar aldıklarını anlatan Putin, ''Militanların Halep'e ve Rusya'nın Tartus ile Hmeymin üslerine saldırı tehlikesi var'' diyerek şu bilgiyi verdi:
''İdlib'de silahlı muhalefet ve hükümet güçleri arasındaki kesişme bölgesinde silahsızlandırılmış bölge kurulması konusunda mutabakat sağladık.''

STL defense teams to present closing arguments- Daily Star

LEIDEN, Netherlands: The defense teams representing the Hezbollah-affiliated men accused of involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri are scheduled to begin their closing arguments Monday, after which only the final judgment will be left for the trial.
Emile Aoun, lead counsel for the defense for Salim Ayyash, is slated to begin first, followed by the defense teams for Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra and Hassan Merhi, respectively. As they are being tried as individuals rather than a group, each of the accused possesses his own team of attorneys at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
“Each counsel has their own views and strategies in how they believe their case should move forward,” Aoun previously told The Daily Star. Mohamed Aouini, lead counsel for Merhi, agreed, stating, “We are all [working] independently from one another.”
As the four accused are being tried in absentia for their alleged roles in the Feb. 14, 2005, assassination of the former prime minister, both sides’ arguments have centered on circumstantial evidence – especially the digital footprints left by cellphone records allegedly belonging to the accused.
The prosecution has argued these data trails point directly to Ayyash, Oneissi, Sabra and Merhi as the organizers and perpetrators of the bombing that left a crater in Downtown Beirut and killed 21 others in addition to Hariri.
As they have had no contact whatsoever with their clients – who have yet to be found by Lebanese authorities – the defense has depended on debunking the acceptability of the cellular records.
In some cases, the defense teams have argued that insufficient evidence has been presented linking their clients to a particular cellphone.
Other arguments have been made that the cellular records are not enough to pinpoint their user’s location and therefore their movements.
After the prosecution concluded its case in February, the Oneissi defense team filed for a “judgment of acquittal,” arguing that not enough evidence was presented linking their client to the crime.
“The prosecution has not proven that Mr. Oneissi had the intent to commit a crime against the state security, or that he knew that an act of terrorism was to be committed,” lead counsel Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse said at the time.

Airstrikes On Government Facilities Reported In Latakia, Tartus, Homs Provinces. Russia Allegedly Employs Own Air Defenses- South Front

UPDATE 2: A Russian IL-20 military plane disappeared from radars over the Mediterranean Sea during the strike, the Russian military says. According to the released statement, the strike on Syria was carried out by four Israeli F-16 warplanes. Russian radars also fixed missile launches from the French frigate Auvergne.

UPDATE 1: According to the Syrian state media, the SADF intercepted a number of missiles coming from the sea.

Late on September 17, airstrikes targeting government facitlities were reported in the Syrian provinces of Latakia, Tartus and Homs. Particularly, the strikes allegedly hit an industrial area in the city of Latakia.
The Syrian Air Defense Forces (SADF) are responding to the attack. Some sources report that air defense systems deployed at Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base were also employed.
According to Syrian sources, the airstrikes were reportedly carried out by the Israeli military.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

srael targeted Iranian cargo plane at Damascus Airport – report- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:10 A.M.) – The Israeli Air Force targeted a cargo plane that traveled from Iran to the Damascus International Airport, yesterday, a source in Syria’s capital city told Al-Masdar this morning.

According to the source, the Israeli Air Force fired several missiles towards the cargo that was removed from the plane.

The source said that the Iranian cargo plane was likely transporting weapons to Syria.

SANA: first local elections held in Syria in seven years of conflict- TASS

TASS, September 16. The first municipal elections began in Syria on Sunday in seven years of conflict, according to the state agency SANA.

More than 6,500 polling sites opened at 07:00 local time and will close at 19:00. If necessary, working hours can be increased by 5 hours.

More than 40,000 candidates are competing in 88 electoral districts. It was reported earlier that the Syrian authorities have completed preparations and took all measures to ensure the security of voters.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

SA to Appoint New Ambassador to Lebanon, UAE Praises Hariri- Naharnet

Saudi Arabia is reportedly set to appoint its Saudi charge d'affaires to Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari as the country's ambassador to Lebanon, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday.
Al-Bukhari had replaced ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Yaacoub back in March after less than three months in office. He headed the Saudi diplomatic team in Lebanon.
The Saudi move comes as “observers” noted the “words of praise” from UAE Ambassador Hamad al-Shamsi to PM-designate Saad Hariri during a tour on Friday to inspect development projects in Iqlim al-Kharroub.

Syrian Army launches offensive against ISIS near Tanf- Al-Masdar News

The Syrian army has launched a surprise offensive against Daesh terrorists north of al-Tanf in Homs province. The government forces have struck militant positions in the settlements of Kobajjep and al Rashwaniyah, control of which opens the way to the strategically important area of Humeimah, which lies along the border with Deir ez-Zor province.
A military source told Sputnik that “the Syrian army is dealing the final blow to the last enclaves of Daesh fighters in a desert in central Syria. This is an area between Homs, Deir ez-Zor and Damascus. The army managed to liberate vast territories, destroy dozens of militants and shelters that were located in the rocks.”

Friday, September 14, 2018

STL Prosecution: Ayyash Participated Intentionally in Terrorist Attack- Naharnet

The Prosecution of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon continued on Friday to present its closing arguments in the case of ‘Ayyash et al. case’ before the court in The Hague.
The STL said that Joseph Aoun, Lilianne Khallouf, Sahar Kalaoui, Wissam Naji and Sanaa El Sheikh – participating victims in the proceedings in the ‘Ayyash et al. case’ were attending the closing arguments in the courtroom.
In its final brief, the Prosecution stated that Ayyash participated directly and intentionally in the execution of the terrorist attack, the intentional homicide, and the attempted intentional homicide of ex-PM Rafik Hariri.
The Prosecution also stated that each Accused conspired to commit a terrorist act through the assassination of Hariri by means of a large explosive device in a public place.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

US Marines conduct military exercise with rebels in southern Syria- MEE

Rebels say hundreds of US Marines arrived this month in Tanf to join special operations troops already there.

A Syrian rebel commander said on Thursday that rare military exercises with US Marines in southern Syria sent a strong message to Russia and Iran that the Americans and the rebels intend to stay and confront any threats to their presence.
Colonel Muhanad al-Talaa, commander of the Pentagon-backed Maghawir al-Thawra group, told Reuters the eight days of drills that ended this week at the US military outpost in Tanf were the first such exercises with live-fire air and ground assault involving hundreds of US troops and rebel fighters.
"These exercises have a big importance and have beefed up the defences of the area and raised the combat capabilities and morale and that of civilians in the area," Talaa told Reuters by phone from Tanf, near Syria's borders with Jordan and Iraq.
A US military spokesman said the exercises were a show of force and that the Pentagon had notified Moscow through "deconfliction" channels to prevent "miscommunication or escalate tension".
"The exercise was conducted to reinforce our capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces within our area of operations," Colonel Sean Ryan told Reuters in an email response to questions.

38,500 Flee in Syria since September 1 Due to Idlib Hostilities, Says UN- Naharnet

Violence in northwest Syria has displaced more than 38,500 people in less than two weeks amid increasing hostilities and a looming regime assault on the opposition-held Idlib province, the UN said Thursday.
"Between 1-12 September, available information indicates that a sharp increase in hostilities and fears of further escalation has led to the displacement of over 38,500 people," the UN humanitarian agency said.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hariri suikastı davasında son aşamaya gelindi- AA

Eski Lübnan Başbakanı Refik Hariri'nin 13 yıl önce öldürüldüğü suikastla ilgili BM'ye bağlı özel mahkemede görülen davada karar öncesi son duruşmaya geçildi.

Lübnan'da eski Başbakan Refik Hariri'nin öldürüldüğü suikastla ilgili Birleşmiş Milletler'e (BM) bağlı Uluslararası Lübnan Özel Mahkemesi'nde görülen davanın son aşaması, ülkede aylardır netice vermeyen yeni hükümeti kurma süreciyle aynı döneme denk gelmesiyle dikkatleri üzerine çekti.
Refik Hariri ile 21 kişinin 13 yıl önce öldürülmesine ilişkin Hizbullah mensubu 4 zanlının gıyaben yargılandığı davanın son duruşması, Hollanda'nın Leidschendam kentinde bulunan Uluslararası Lübnan Özel Mahkemesi'nde dün başladı.
Refik Hariri'nin oğlu ve Lübnan'ın mevcut Başbakanı Saad Hariri'nin yanı sıra Eğitim Bakanı Mervan Hamade ve Kültür Bakanı Gattas Huri ile eski milletvekili Basim es-Sebi'nin katılımıyla başlayan duruşma süreci, 21 Eylül'e kadar devam edecek.
Saad Hariri, duruşma öncesinde sosyal medyada yaptığı paylaşımda, "Lübnan'ı savunan Refik Hariri ve tüm şehit arkadaşlarına yönelik suikastın arkasında kimin olduğu gerçeğini öğrenme tutumumuzu sürdürüyoruz. Katilin cezasını almasıyla adalet yerini bulacak." ifadelerini kullandı.
Lübnan Başbakanı, mahkeme önünde basına yaptığı açıklamada ise babasına düzenlenen suikast ile ilgili duruşmaya katılmanın zor olduğunu belirterek, "Can acıtan şeyler var ancak sorumluluk noktasında ülkenin çıkarını gözetmek zorundayız. Her zaman adalet istedik, intikama tevessül etmedik." diye konuştu.

France warns Russia, allies of committing war crimes in Idlib- Daily Star

PARIS: France's foreign minister said Wednesday that the indiscriminate bombing of Syria's Idlib region by Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces could amount to war crimes.
"The hypothesis of war crimes cannot be excluded ... once one begins to indiscriminately bomb civilian populations and hospitals," Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.
An estimated 3 million people live in Idlib – the last major stronghold of active opposition to President Bashar Assad. Assad has vowed to retake the province, backed by his Russian and Iranian allies.
Syrian government and Russian warplanes began air strikes in Idlib last week in a possible prelude to a full-scale offensive and aid organizations said several medical facilities have already been targeted.
It is not the first time France has warned Assad, Russia or Iran that their aggression could amount to war crimes.
In 2016, the government of former president Francois Hollande said it was working to find a way for the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to launch an investigation into war crimes that it believed had been committed by Syrian and Russian forces in eastern Aleppo.

Exclusive: Turkey boosts arms to Syrian rebels as Idlib attack looms - rebel sources- Reuters

Turkey has stepped up arms supplies to Syrian rebels to help them stave off an expected offensive by the Syrian army and its Russian and Iran-backed allies in the northwest near the Turkish frontier, rebel sources told Reuters.

Senior rebel officials said Turkey had sent more military aid to rebels in and around the Idlib region since a summit meeting with Iran and Russia last week failed to agree a deal to avert a government offensive into the area.

MİT'ten Suriye'de operasyon: Reyhanlı saldırısının planlayıcısı Türkiye'ye getirildi- Sputnik News

Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT), Suriye'nin Lazkiye kentinde düzenlediği operasyon kapsamında 53 kişinin hayatını kaybettiği Reyhanlı saldırısının planlayıcısı Yusuf Nazik'i Türkiye'ye getirdi. Suçlamaları kabul eden Nazik, "Türkiye devletinden kaçamadım, pişmanım", "Türk devleti bize sahip çıkar" dedi.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fursan al-Din: Interview- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

Today the main epicentre of the remaining insurgency against the Syrian government is the province of Idlib and its environs. Within that milieu are multiple minor jihadi groups that have foreign fighters (muhajireen) in their ranks. Fursan al-Din (Knights of the Religion) is one such group. Fursan al-Din was founded by Turkish muhajireen, but it also has members from central Asia and Europe as well native Syrians. The group has most notably fought in the Latakia and Sahl al-Ghab areas.
Recently I was able to interview the amir of Fursan al-Din, who is himself Turkish, about the history of Fursan al-Din and the current situation. Note this interview was originally conducted in Turkish and the questions and answers have kindly been translated by an anonymous friend. Any explanatory insertions are in square brackets.

Russia says Turkey has key job of separating out militants in Syria's Idlib- Reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia hopes for a peaceful resolution of the situation in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib but believes it is up to Turkey to separate Islamist militants from the moderate opposition, Russia’s Syria envoy said on Tuesday.

Rus, Türk ve İranlı temsilciler ile BM temsilcisi Mistura arasındaki Suriye görüşmesi başladı- Sputnik News

Astana sürecinin garantör ülkeleri Rusya, Türkiye ve İran'dan temsilciler, Suriye anayasa komitesi kurulmasına ve İdlib'deki duruma ilişkin konuları ele almak üzere Cenevre'de bir araya geldi.

Sputnik muhabirinin Cenevre'den aktardığına göre garantör ülkelerin temsilcileri ve Mistura dörtlü görüşmelerin 2. gününde resmi toplantı gerçekleştirmek üzere buluştu.
Görüşmede Rusya'yı Devlet Başkanı Vladimir Putin'in Suriye Özel Temsilcisi Aleksandr Lavrentyev ve Dışişleri Bakan Yardımcısı Sergey Verşinin, Türkiye'yi Dışişleri Bakan Yardımcısı Sedat Önal, İran'ı Dışişleri Bakan Yardımcısı Hüseyin Ensari temsil ediyor.

STL Prosecution: Syrian Regime at Core of Hariri Assassination Conspiracy- Naharnet

The Prosecution of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon announced Tuesday that the Syrian regime was at the heart of the conspiracy that killed ex-PM Rafik Hariri.
At the beginning of its closing arguments at the STL's headquarters in The Hague, the Prosecution also described slain Hizbullah military commander Mustafa Badreddine as the mastermind of the assassination operation.
The Prosecution noted that Badreddine was a senior Hizbullah official and that his military expertise reflected itself in the modus operandi of Hariri's assassination.
It also said that Hizbullah suspect Salim Ayyash led a six-person assassination squad and that there is irrefutable evidence that condemns the four Hizbullah suspects.
Moreover, the Prosecution added that the “green phone network” that oversaw Hariri's assassination fully belonged to Hizbullah.
Prosecutors said their case -- which relies on mobile phone records allegedly showing the suspects conducting intense surveillance of Hariri from just after his resignation until minutes before the blast -- was "circumstantial" but "compelling."