"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


Friday, May 10, 2019

Jihadist rebels launch massive counter-offensive to retake lost territory in northwest Hama- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:30 A.M.) – The jihadist rebels have launched a large-scale counter-offensive in the northwestern countryside of the Hama Governorate this morning.
Led by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, the jihadist rebels stormed several areas near the key town of Kafr Naboudeh in a bid to overwhelm the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and National Defense Forces (NDF) troops that are protecting this region.
According to a Syrian Army source near the front-lines, the jihadist rebels have reached the outskirts of Kafr Naboudeh; they are now engaged in a fierce battle for this strategic town in northwestern Hama.
The Syrian Army’s Tiger Forces previously captured Kafr Naboudeh on Wednesday after launching a swift assault on the militant positions inside the town.
However, despite capturing Kafr Naboudeh, the Syrian Army has been unable to secure the area because they do not control the strategic hilltop of Tal Sakher.
The Syrian Army has repeatedly tried to capture Tal Sakher from the militants; however, all of their attacks have been beaten back by the jihadist rebels thus far.
On Thursday, the rebel groups in northern Syria announced the formation of a new coalition dubbed “Fatah Dimashq”; they are tasked with defending their areas from the Syrian military in northwestern Syria.

Russian Military Registers 5 Ceasefire Violations in Syria Over Past 24 Hours- Sputnik News

The Russian side of the Russian-Turkish commission monitoring the implementation of the Syrian ceasefire has registered five truce breaches in the country over the past 24 hours, while the Turkish side has recorded 15 ceasefire violations, the Russian Defence Ministry's Centre for Syrian Reconciliation said Thursday.

The number of areas that have signed reconciliation agreements in Syria remained same and totals 2,518. The number of armed formations that have pledged to observe the ceasefire also did not change, standing at 234.
Russia, Turkey and Iran are the guarantors of the ceasefire in the conflict-affected Syria. Russia carries out humanitarian operations across the country on a regular basis and helps Damascus in providing safe passage for the return of Syrian refugees.

Army conducts operations against al-Nusra terrorists in northern area- SANA

Idleb/Hama, SANA- Syrian Arab Army’s units on Friday inflicted heavy losses upon terrorists in retaliation to their violations of the de-escalation zone agreement.
SANA reporter said that army units carried out intensive operations against Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists’ movements from Khan Sheikhoun in Idleb countryside towards the liberated areas in Hama northern countryside, and Kafar Sajnah and al-sheikh Moustafa in Idleb southern countryside, killing or injuring scores of them , and destroying their dens and fortified points.
The army units also conducted operations against the terrorists’ gatherings in Abdein, Hirsh al-Qassabin, killing or injuring many of the terrorists and destroying their gatherings.
The reporter indicated that the army units thwarted terrorists’ attack on the military points in the areas of al-Hamamiyat and Kafar Nabouda in the northern countryside of Hama.

Terrorist Groups Launch Surprise Attack In Northern Hama, Renter Kafr Nabudah- South Front

In the morning of May 10, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies launched a surprise attack on positions recently captured by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the northern and northwestern Hama countryside.
The terrorists managed to enter the town of Kafr Nabudah, which was captured by the SAA earlier this week, in the first hours of the attack. However, large parts of the town remained under the army’s control.
HTS and its allies also advanced in the northwestern Hama countryside and attacked the SAA’s positions north of the town of al-Shariaa.
The Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL), which is supporting HTS’ attack claimed that its fighters had destroyed several vehicles of the SAA, including a BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), with ATGMs in northern Hama. These claims are yet to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Tigers Forces, which are leading the ongoing operation of the SAA in northern Hama, said that the army is repelling the attack. According to the sources, HTS and its allies, especially the Ahrar al-Sham Movement, suffered from massive loses while storming Kafr Nabudah.
Local observers believe that the SAA, backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces, will fully repel HTS’ attack within a few hours.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Russian, Syrian servicemen hold WWII Victory Parade at Hmeymim airbase- TASS

HMEYMIM /Syria/, May 9. /TASS/. About 750 personnel of the Russian military contingent in Syria and the Syrian government troops and around 20 items of military hardware took part in the parade at the Hmeymim airbase to mark the 74th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

The foot columns included officers of the contingent’s command and the tactical group, servicemen of the anti-aircraft missile regiment, the special-purpose medical group, the consolidated parade unit of female service members and units of the Russian military police and Syrian personnel.

The mechanized column comprised about 20 pieces of modern Russian weapon systems, including Taifun and Tigr armored vehicles, BTR-82AM armored personnel carriers and other military hardware. The static parking area featured Su-35, Su-34, Su-24, Su-25 and A-50 aircraft, Mi-8 and Mi-35 helicopters.

Weapons, ammo, explosive belts seized in Damascus Countryside- SANA

Damascus, SANA- The General Directorate of Customs on Thursday seized amounts of weapons, ammunition, and explosive belts left behind by terrorists in Damascus countryside.
Members from the Directorate of Combating Smuggling uncovered a cache of weapons and ammo left behind by the terrorist groups in a hill in Damascus countryside, Head of Directorate of Combating Smuggling in the Customs Department Ghiyath Hamdan told journalists.
The seized weapons included rifles, machineguns, RPGs, improvised explosive devices, explosive belts, shoulder-mounted launchers, satellite communication devicesand large amounts of various munitions.

Syrian ground troops capture rebel enclave- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Syrian troops pushed their way into a northwestern rebel-held enclave Wednesday, clashing with insurgents and capturing a strategically located village at the southern edge, widening an offensive that had previously involved mainly aerial bombings and shelling.
The pro-government Central Military Media said the troops entered Kafr Nbouda, a rebel-held village on the southwestern edge of the enclave, igniting heavy clashes with the insurgents. The CMM said the government forces seized control of Kafr Nbouda after hours of fighting and began clearing it of land mines. This is the most serious challenge yet to a cease-fire in the region brokered by Russia and Turkey in September.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the ground operation, which was launched with close air support. It also said government forces captured the village after clashes that killed at least nine soldiers and 18 rebels. There was no report of casualties in the pro-government media.
Rebel groups said they targeted government vehicles and detonated a car bomb.
Capturing Kafr Nbouda severs the link between the southern edge of the rebel-held enclave in Hama province with its western and eastern flanks, as well farther to the north. Activist-operated media group Enab Baladi called Kafr Nbouda the “first line of defense of Idlib.”
Rebel spokesperson Nabji al-Mustafa confirmed the government seized the village, adding his fighters remain on its edge. He said the new fighting has a caused a new wave of displacement from rebel-held Khan Sheikhoun town, which sits on the highway linking Aleppo and Damascus and is less than 15 kilometers to the east of Kafr Nbouda.
Khan Sheikhoun has come under increasing fire after Kafr Nbouda was captured, Mustafa said.
The latest wave of violence, which began April 30, has raised fears the government may launch a wider offensive to retake the area, home to around 3 million people. Already, over 150,000 have been displaced within the enclave, according to the U.N., mostly civilians escaping front lines.“They entered Kafr Nbouda but the clashes continue with government forces at the edge,” Mustafa said.

Ex-Patriarch Sfeir in stable condition: Bkirki spokesperson- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Former Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir is in stable condition, Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayad said Thursday.
“Patriarch Beshara Rai received assurances from Sfeir’s doctor that his situation today is stable and that his response to treatment today was better than yesterday,” Ghayad told reporters in televised comments.
Sfeir was in a critical condition Wednesday evening after suffering from a chest infection and being admitted to Hotel Dieu Hospital 10 days ago, according to his doctor.
Sfeir, who would turn 99 next week, is a critic of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Syrians protest government fuel crisis in Sweida- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:30 A.M.) – Protesters gathered in front of a government building in Sweida city on Wednesday morning to protest the ongoing fuel crsis, the Sweida 24 channel reported.
The protesters are demanding the government solve the fuel crisis as the situation has become dire for many Syrians.
Due to the ongoing U.S.-led sanctions, the Syrian government has been forced to put a restriction on the amount gas a consumer can purchase.

Jihadists launch massive counter-attack to retake key town in northwest Hama- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:00 P.M.) – The jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham launched a massive counter-assault in northwestern Hama this evening, targeting the key town of Kafr Naboudeh, which was captured by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) earlier in the day.
Using VBIEDs (vehicle borne improvised explosive device) under the cover of night, the jihadist rebels stormed the Syrian Arab Army’s positions in a bid to overwhelm them and reclaim Kafr Naboudeh.

Map update from northwestern Hama: Syrian Army shifts attention to last militant stronghold- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:00 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army scored an important advance today when they seized the town of Kafr Naboudeh from the Turkish-backed rebels.
Since capturing Kafr Naboudeh, the Syrian Arab Army has secured the town in preparation for the next major battle, which is expected to take place at the militant stronghold of Qal’at Al-Madiq.

However, before they can attack Qal’at Al-Madiq, the Syrian Arab Army has to capture the large hilltop of Tal Sakher, which is located just east of the small town of Mughayr.
Once Tal Sakher is captured, the Syrian Arab Army can move onto Al-Hobeit, which will be the last area they need before they can storm Qal’at Al-Madiq.
Qal’at Al-Madiq is a historical Syrian town that is historically very difficult to capture. The jihadist rebels will have the territorial advantage once the battle begins.
For the Syrian Army, they will need to secure as much territory as they can and isolate the militant forces at Qal’at Al-Madiq before making the difficult push to capture this town.

Video footage from recently captured Kafr Naboudeh in northwest Hama- Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:50 A.M.) -The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) seized the key town of Kafr Naboudeh, today, after a short battle with the Turkish-backed rebels in northwestern Hama.
Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army seized Kafr Naboudeh after overwhelming the National Liberation Front’s fighters at the southern axis of Kafr Naboudeh.

Militants Fire 12 Rockets at Hmeymim Air Base in Syria: Russian MoD- TASS

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Militants fired 12 rockets, from Syria's Idlib de-escalation zone on Wednesday, toward Russia's Hmeimim air base in Syria, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s center for Syrian reconciliation Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchishin said Wednesday.

He said the militants' rockets fired toward Hmeymim had been downed by air defense systems, no people were injured, and no destruction was reported as a result of the attack, adding that two firing positions used by militants to attack Hmeimim on Wednesday were destroyed by Russian combat jets and the Syrian government troops' artillery.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier stated following a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that Russia wuold continue to shell the positions of terrorists who are bombing the Russian Hmeymim military airbase.  
Previously, the head of the Russian Defence Ministry's Centre for Syrian Reconciliation, Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchishin, said on Tuesday that militants had violated the ceasefire regime in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia.  

Syrian War Report – May 8, 2019: Syrian Army Liberates Another Town In Northwestern Hama- South Front

By May 8, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies had repelled a series of counter-attacks by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-led forces keeping control of all the positions captured in northwestern Hama. Especially intense clashes took place near Tell Ottman where, according to pro-government sources, the SAA eliminated at least 5 militants.
Despite this, the SAA has not been able to develop on its success and push further into the militant-held area. An initial attempt to advance in the direction of Kafr Nabuda was repelled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its radical counterparts.
In the morning of May 8, the SAA advanced on Kafr Nabuda and entered the village. Clashes are ongoing.
The Damascus government employed only a limited force in this area. This means that the SAA is likely focussing on limited operations to neutralize the militant threat in particular parts of the de-militarized zone rather than undertaking a major advance on Idlib.
If the SAA adopts this kind of strategy, it will likely attempt to pull apart the militants’ strike force in Hama and Idlib through a series of tactical advances and to make gains in areas where their defense is weakened.
Meanwhile in northeastern Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have continued their steady operations against existing ISIS cells on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The SDF is also working to strengthen its positions on the contact line with the government-controlled area. After the collapse of Trump’s determination to withdraw US forces from the country, the US-backed group once again believes in its ability to establish a pseudo-state under Washington’s protection in this part of Syria.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Syrian forces shell militants' positions near Aleppo: media- TASS

MOSCOW, May 7. /TASS/. /TASS/. The Syrian government forces' artillery has shelled the positions of armed groups to the south and west of Aleppo, Syrian News Channel reported on Tuesday.

Syrian forces shelled Aleppo's suburbs Kfar-Hamra and Halsa and the Rashidin-5 neighborhood controlled by militants.

Militants earlier opened fire from multiple rocket launcher systems at the Masaqin al-Sabil neighborhood in Aleppo, injuring several civilians.

In the neighboring province of Hama, Syrian government forces ousted militants from the Jebhat al-Nusra terrorist group (banned in Russia) from the settlements of Al-Janabira and Mazraat al-Radi on Monday. The Syrian forces are currently launching an offensive at the Tell Osman heights. Over the last 24 hours, at least 15 terrorists were killed in clashes, while the Syrian army lost 11 servicemen.

Militants shell settlements in three Syrian provinces: Russian reconciliation center- TASS

MOSCOW, May 7. /TASS/. Militants have shelled settlements in the Syrian provinces of Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo over the last 24 hours, chief of the Russian Center for reconciliation of the conflicting sides Viktor Kupchishin said on Tuesday.

"Over the last 24 hours, militants shelled the settlements of Jubb al-Mgara, Quinshiba, Ruieset Iskander, Qesab, Safar in the province of Latakia; Safsafa, Niha in the province of Idlib; Rashidin in the province of Aleppo," Kupchishin said.

He added that officers of the Russian reconciliation center carried out a humanitarian operation in the province of Deir ez-Zor, handing out around 500 food sets to local residents.

Airstrikes in rebel-held northwestern Syria kill at least 8- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Government forces intensified their bombardment of rebel-held towns and villages in northwest Syria, killing at least eight people Tuesday, including five in an airstrike on a market, opposition activists said.
Al-Watan daily said the army had captured the villages of al-Janabara and Tel Othman, where rebels said on Monday they had repulsed government assaults. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops had seized Tel Othman.
Northwest Syria is the only significant territory still in rebel hands. The area being targeted in the latest bombardment was the subject of a Russian-Turkish agreement last September to hold off a government offensive.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based activist group that monitors the war, said 69 civilians had been killed by bombardments since April 30. At least 41 insurgents had been killed by air strikes and fighting, it said.
The dominant rebel force in the northwest said on Monday it would meet any government attempt to advance with "iron and fire". The group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, includes al Qaeda's former affiliate the Nusra Front.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has recaptured most of the country from rebels since Russia joined the war on his side in 2015, deploying its air power in support of the army and allied Iran-backed militias.
The United Nations has said the northwestern Idlib region is home to 3 million people, half of whom have already fled their homes at least once during the conflict, and that a big battle there risks causing a new humanitarian disaster.
Bombardments since April 28 have displaced more than 158,000 people, the U.S.-based Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) said on Monday.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Russian Hmeymim airbase in Syria twice comes under shelling by militants- TASS

MOSCOW, May 6. /TASS/. Russia’s airbase at Syrian Hmeymim came under shelling by militants twice during the day, no casualties or damages were reported, chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Oppositing Parties in Syria Viktor Kupchishin said on Monday.

"The Hmeymim airbase came under shelling from multiple missile launcher systems twice during the day, in the morning and in the evening. In both cases, shelling was conducted from the settlement of Zawiya in the Idlib de-escalation zone that is controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia)," he said.

According to Kupchishin, a total of 36 missiles were fired, with fire being guided with the help of a drone. "The attacks were repelled by missile defense systems. No casualties or damages were reported from the base. All militants’ firing points were detected and hit by Russian warplanes and artillery units of the Syrian army," he said.

He also said that the situation in the area has deteriorated dramatically, with an increased number of ceasefire violations by militants acting in the Idlib de-escalation zone. "During the day, militants opened fire from multiple missile launcher and artillery systems at the settlements of al-Saqlabiya (thrice), Mgair (twice), Braidij (twice), Taibe al-Imam and Hamamiyat in the Hama governorate, Safsara (five times), Qalat Marza, Ikko, Ain al-Hanzir and Kastal al-Burj in the Latakia governorate, Abu al-Duhur and Niha in the Idlib governorate," he said, adding that fire was conducted from the settlements of Kbana (twice), Qalat al-Mudik (twice), Herbet al-Arus and Tuffakhiya.

The Syrian authorities continue work to amnesty people dodging military service, including refugees and former members of illegal armed groups. Thus, as of May 5, 2019, as many as 57,872 people were amnestied, he added.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Army retaliates to al-Nusra attacks, destroys their dens and rocket launch pads in Hama northern countryside- SANA

Hama/Idleb, SANA- Syrian Arab Army units on Sunday carried out concentrated strikes on hideouts and bases of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in Hama and Idleb province in response for the terrorists’ breaches of the de-escalation zone agreement.
SANA’s reporter in Hama said that army units conducted intensive strikes destroying dens and rocket launchers belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in al-Latamina and al-Zakat in retaliation to their rocket attacks on the safe villages in Hama northern countryside.
The reporter said other army units targeted hideouts and positions of terrorists affiliated with al-Nusra in the villages of al-Sahriye, al-Amiqiye, al-Hawash, and al-Qarqour in Hama’s northwestern countryside, killing and injuring a number of terrorists and destroying their hideouts.
In Idleb’s southern countryside, army units targeted with concentrated strikes the supply and movement routes of al-Nusra terrorists in the towns of al-Fatira and Ehsem, inflicting losses upon them and destroying their bases and fortified positions.
On Saturday, army units conducted bombardments on infiltration axes of terrorists and their fortified positions in the depth of the areas where they spread on the sides of the administrative borders of the countryside of Hama and Idleb, destroying dens and equipment of al-Nusra terrorists.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Syrian government has few options to battle fuel sanctions- AP

BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian government is scrambling to deal with its worst fuel crisis since the war began in 2011, aggravated by U.S. sanctions targeting oil shipments to Damascus.

There was temporary relief when reserves or smuggled oil made their way to the market. Long lines outside gas stations slightly receded, as did public panic that had translated into widespread criticism of government policies.

But more dramatic measures are necessary for the government of President Bashar Assad, which needs to procure more than 75 percent of its fuel from outside sources.

Experts say Damascus either has to regain control of oil-fields in the east, currently controlled by the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or replace oil supplies that used to come from Iran with new ones from Russia — at a political cost.

Government forces and their allies could make a quick move on the east if Washington goes ahead with talk of withdrawing its troops based there and working with the SDF. A U.S. withdrawal would also offer Turkey a chance to launch its own assault to push away the SDF, which it considers a threat, and extend its borders. There are signs, however, the U.S. may be reconsidering its plans.

Eventually, an offensive on the east is inevitable, said Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert at the University of Lyon.

“When Turkey (attacks) the Kurds, Assad’s forces will (re)take al-Omar oil field. After 3 months? 6 months? One year?”

For now, Syria needs oil. Domestic production this year reached 24,000 barrels a day — only around 20-25 percent of total needs — down from 350,000 barrels a day before the war. Government officials say they need $2.7 billion worth of subsidized fuel every year.

Iran, which offered vital military support to Assad, was the main provider. But Tehran is feeling the heat as the U.S. squeezes sanctions tighter.

The credit line Iran extended to Damascus since 2013 to supply oil has run dry and its oil shipments stopped late last year. This followed U.S. Treasury sanctions imposed in November on a network that spanned Syria, Iran and Russia and was responsible for shipping oil to the Syrian government. The Treasury also issued a global advisory warning of sanctions for illicit oil shipments, naming specific vessels and pressuring insurance companies. At least one tanker with Iranian oil headed to Syria remains docked outside the Suez Canal since December, according to TankerTrackers.com.

The Syrian pound dropped to one of its lowest values in years, going for 590 liras to the dollar on the black market compared to the official rate of 430 liras, and prices have skyrocketed.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

‘Ain Dara’ Augments Contention between PSP, Hizbullah- Naharnet

The relation between the Progressive Socialist Party and Hizbullah has “never” experienced a “break-like stalemate” and a “unilateral” decision taken by Hizbullah without prior “warning,” Asharq al-Awsat said on Thursday.
Ties between the two have reportedly been tense against the backdrop of a decision taken by PSP Industry Minister Wael Abou Faour, cancelling a cement factory permit in Ain Dara -in the district of Aley not far from the Chouf cedar reserve- issued by his predecessor Hizbullah ex-Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan.
Political sources following on the course of relations told the newspaper that the PSP leadership has “informed Hizbullah of Jumblat’s will to meet Hizbullah secretary-general's political aide, Hussein Khalil, to discuss the political developments and the relationship between the two parties.”
The sources said that Jumblat’s desire was “conveyed” to Khalil but the latter did not give an answer despite knowing that Jumblat was ready to meet him, they said. “It turned out that Abou Faour's permit cancellation was considered an insult to Hizbullah and to its Minister.”
This cement project has long been controversial between its owners of the Fattoush family, on the one hand, and the Ain Dara municipal council and many citizens and activists, on the other.
Jumblat and former minister Nicolas Fattoush are at loggerheads over the cement factory in Ain Dara area.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Syrian Army Is Preparing To Launch Military Operation Within Idlib’s Demilitarized Zone: Reports- South Front

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is preparing to launch a large-scale military operation within the demilitarized zone around the northern governorate of Idlib, the Syrian al-Watan newspaper, which is known for its close ties with the Damascus government, reported on May 1.
The 15-20km zone was established last September under a Russian-Turkish agreement designed to stabilize the situation in Idlib by peaceful measures. The agreement prevents terrorist groups from having any presence within the zone. However, earlier this year the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), imposed control of the entire zone following a series of clashes with Turkish-backed militants.
According to al-Watan, the SAA deployed several offensive units around the demilitarized zone over the last few days. These units, which are reportedly from the elite Tiger Forces, are expected to lead the upcoming operation.
The deployment of these units coincided with intense Russia and Syria strikes on terrorists’ positions in Idlib and its surroundings, especially the northern Hama countryside.
Despite these preparations, its remains unclear if Moscow would green light such a military operation. During his recent visit to China, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stressed that a ground operation in Idlib “is not expedient now.”

Maronite bishops call for speeding up budget passing- Daily Star

BEIRUT: The Council of Maronite Bishops Wednesday called for speeding up the study and passage of the 2019 draft state budget.
Following the council’s monthly meeting, chaired by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, the bishops praised the austerity measures included in the draft.
At the same time, they expressed concern over the absence of a general socioeconomic policy and a plan to ensure the steady development of the economy, and whether the proposals are sufficient to actually lower the deficit.
Lebanon’s economy suffers from a significant national debt of $85 billion, slow growth and a high budget deficit. Last year’s deficit was estimated at $6.7 billion, or 11 percent of GDP, though the final figures have not been released.
On Tuesday, Cabinet held its first session to discuss the 2019 draft budget, which has been dogged by criticism because of its austerity proposals, including a 3 percent cut to the retirement wages of military personnel. President Michel Aoun has called for Cabinet to move quickly on the draft so that it can be sent to Parliament and ratified before the end of the month.

Army kills scores of terrorists in Hama and Idleb countryside- SANA

Hama/Idleb, SANA – Syrian Arab Army units on Wednesday targeted dens and gatherings of  Jabhat al-Nusra and groups affiliated to it in Idleb and Hama provinces in response for their breaches of the de-escalation zone agreement.
SANA reporter said that an army unit carried out rocket strikes targeting vehicles belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists at the outskirts of Tarmala town in Idleb southern countryside, killing a number of terrorists and destroying their vehicles.
Other army units targeted fortified positions of the “Turkistani Party” terrorists in al-Minzar and Khattab hill in the surroundings of Jisr al-Shughour city in Idleb’s southwestern countryside, killing and injuring a number of terrorists and destroying some of their hideouts and positions.
In Hama’s northern countryside, SANA reporter said that army units targeted with rocket and artillery fire vehicles belonging to “Jabhat al-Nusra” and “al-Ezza Brigades” terrorists at the outskirts of al-Madiq Castle and al-Zakat villages and in al-Ankwai village, Jaata town, and the surroundings of al-Qasabiya at Shahashbo mountain, killing a number of terrorists and destroying their hideouts and rocket launchers.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

In Syria, Tensions Persist between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and al-Qaeda Loyalists- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

In early February 2019, the Syrian insurgent group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which evolved out of Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda loyalists represented in the group Hurras al-Din came to an agreement to put aside a dispute over ownership of weapons.
The two sides also agreed to cease attacks on each other in the media, as there have been multiple disagreements between the two sides that have played out on the internet. For instance, the al-Qaeda loyalists argue that HTS' breaking ties with al-Qaeda was illegitimate and constituted disobedience to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. They also argue that HTS' strategies for the future survival of the insurgency and cause of jihad in Syria are mistaken.
Glossing over these disputes, the February agreement highlighted supposedly common ideological ground by affirming that the two sides are 'mujahid groups on the manhaj striving to establish the religion through dawa and jihad'.
More recently, HTS has reportedly attempted to conciliate the al-Qaeda loyalists on the ground in north-west Syria. Indeed, HTS allegedly offered payments of $100 for each slain enemy fighter to Hurras al-Din and Ansar al-Tawheed (the latter the successor group for the al-Qaeda-loyalist elements of Jund al-Aqsa, which fractured because of Islamic State sympathizers in its ranks) for operations conducted in Aleppo and Hama provinces. In total, these payments purportedly amounted to $400 for Hurras al-Din and $3,000 for Ansar al-Tawheed.
A member of HTS's 'Red Bands' unit affirmed the reports of these payments, describing them as a "step to conciliate the hearts. And God willing there will be unity with time." He elaborated: "The aim is to bring together all the fighters to repel the aggressor, especially in the stage that we are in." However, the general military official for Ansar al-Tawheed deniedthat any payments were made to the group by HTS for a recent raid conducted in northern Hama.
Even if these supposed HTS payments are true, more partisan pro-al-Qaeda types are not convinced by apparent HTS gestures of conciliation, reflecting the fact that the February agreement did not resolve the more fundamental disputes between HTS and the al-Qaeda loyalists. The foremost case in point is the Telegram channel Shibl al-Aqeeda. Commentingon the initial reports of the payments, Shibl al-Aqeeda published the following on the assumption they were true (the channel subsequently circulated the denial by the Ansar al-Tawheed official):
"Let us be fair and start out with the words of the Prophet: "Whoso does not thank the people, does not thank God." So may God reward best the one who undertook this matter. But let us also be honest with ourselves and all, because there are many question marks about this deed, and what is the secret in the timing of this publicizing and broadcasting!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Russian Warplanes Carry Out New Wave Of Airstrikes On Northern Hama. Putin Says Military Operation In Idlib “Not Expedient”- South Front

In the afternoon of April 27, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a series of airstrikes on terrorists’ positions in the vicinity of the town of al-Lataminah in the northern Hama countryside.

Earlier, Russian attack helicopters targeted terrorists’ positions, vehicles and gatherings in al-Lataminah and the nearby town of Kafr Zita.

These intense airstrikes appear to be an attempt to deter the terrorists, who launched a barrage of Grad rockets at the Russian Hmeimim airbase a day earlier. The attack was a major violation of the Russian-Turkish demilitarized zone on Idlib, which was reached last September.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said earlier that a large-scale military operation against the remaining terrorists Idlib “is not expedient now.” However, the president didn’t rule out the possibility of such operation in the future.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Petrolle ya terbiye ol ya terörize! (Fehim Taştekin- Gazete Duvar)

Savaş ortamında da olsa petrol nerede bir açık varsa oraya akmanın yolunu buluyor. Silah gibi. SDG kapısı bir şekilde açıldı. Bölgenin insanı petrolü yürütmede ustadır. Bu maharet son 8 yılda inanılmaz boyutlara ulaştı.
Suriye’de petrol istasyonlarının önünde uzayan kuyruklar ve dışa vuran öfke ‘buruk devrim’ hayallerini yeniden karıncalandırdı. Fakat bu seferki kurgu devirmekten çok evirmekle ilgili.
Suriye sahnesinde bir süredir “Cephe savaşlarından kurtulabilirsin ama ekonomik savaştan çıkamayacaksın” diyen yaklaşımın yakıcı-yıkıcı yansımaları görülüyor. İran’ı, petrol satışını sıfırlayıp ekonomik çöküşe sürükleme stratejisiyle bağlantılı olarak, Suriye de kıskaca alındı.
İran ve Rusya’nın desteğiyle Suriye yeniden toparlanmaya başlayınca Batı-Körfez bloku geçen yıl havuç-sopa taktiğiyle yeni bir stratejiye yöneldi. Havuç kısmı, Devlet Başkanı Beşşar el Esad’ın kulağına şunu fısıldıyordu: “İran’la bağlantıyı kes, Hizbullah’ı gönder, Filistin’le ilgilenme, Golan’ı hepten unut ve İsrail’e düşmanlığa son ver. Karşılığında diplomatik köprüleri kuralım, Arap Birliği’ndeki koltuğunu iade edelim ve yeniden inşa sürecine destek olalım.”
Stratejinin sopa kısmı ise “Suriye’nin yeniden inşasını imkânsız hale getiririz, ekonomik çöküşü daha da hızlandırırız ve sana boyun eğmekten başka şans bırakmayız” diye buyuruyordu.
Şam kapısında diyalog denemeleri olurken çöküş senaryosu da yoldaydı. Bu minvalde Eylül 2018’de yaptırım listesi güncellendi. Kasım 2018’de Suriye’ye petrol temin etmek üzere 5 kişi ve 4 şirketten oluşan bir ağ kara listeye eklendi. Ocakta ‘2019 Caesar Suriye Sivil Koruma Yasası’ ile Suriye hükümeti, güvenlik teşkilatları ve merkez bankası ile iş yapan herkes yaptırım kapsamına alındı. 25 Mart 2019’da Hazine Bakanlığı, Suriye’ye petrol taşıyan gemiler, bu gemilerin sahipleri, işletmecileri ve yöneticileri, gemileri sigortalayan şirketler, bu transferde lojistik şirketler ve para transferine aracılık eden finansal kuruluşların Amerikan yaptırımlarıyla yüzleşeceği uyarısında bulundu. 2016’dan beri Suriye’ye petrol taşıyan onlarca geminin listesi yayımlandı.
ABD ve AB’nin zaten Suriye’ye petrol ambargosu vardı. Ama yeni tehdit bütün dünyaya yönelikti.
Bu arada Suriye’ye giden İran gemileri birden bire Süveyş Kanalı’ndan geçemez oldu. Suriye Başbakanı İmad Hamis nisan başında, Mısır’ın Süveyş’ten İran gemilerine izin vermediğini ve altı aydır tanker gelmediğini açıkladı.
Bunlara ABD’nin Suriye Demokratik Güçleri’nin (SDG) kontrolündeki El Ömer ve Cafra yataklarından Suriye hükümetine petrol satışını engellediğine dair spekülasyonlar eklendi. Bu yataklar Suriye petrolünün önemli bir kısmını teşkil ediyor. Bu tesislerin hükümete devri ya da paylaşımı konusundaki pazarlıklarda ilerleme sağlanamadığı gibi Amerikalılar da Şam’la diyaloğa taş koyuyor. (SDG’nin petrolü sattığı aracı konumundaki Muhammed ve Hüsam Katırcı kardeşlere ait Katırcı şirketi, 6 Eylül 2018’de ABD’nin yaptırım listesine alınmıştı. Katırcı aynı operasyonu bölge 2014-2017 arasında IŞİD’in elindeyken de yürütüyordu. Yerel bağlantılarını kullanarak petrol işine giren ve bir savaş ağasına dönüşen Hüsam Katırcı 2016’da Halep’ten milletvekili seçilmişti.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Car bomb hits Damascus, killing civilian and injuring others- Muraselon

One civilian was killed and five others were injured after a car bomb went off in a Damascus neighborhood on Wednesday.
The bomb was reportedly planted inside a car in the Nahr Aysheh district in southern Damascus suburbs and the driver was killed in the attack.
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said ‘the blast was caused by an explosive device planted by terrorists.
Soon after the attack, a militants group call themselves Saraya Qasioun claimed responsibility for the explosion saying they targeted an officer in the State Security branch with IED in his car.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Damascus Opens Airspace to Qatar Airways- Naharnet

Syria's government has agreed to allow planes from regional aviation giant Qatar Airways to fly over the country after eight years of conflict kept its planes at bay.
"Transport Minister Ali Hammoud has agreed to allow Qatar Airways to cross Syrian airspace, based on a request from the Qatari civil aviation authority," the ministry said late Monday in a statement.
Most airlines stopped flying over Syria after war broke out in 2011, instead taking longer routes to circumvent the war zone.
But the conflict has largely wound down in recent years, after major regime advances against rebels and jihadists with Russian military backing since 2015.
"The agreement came on the principle of reciprocity, as SyrianAir crosses Qatari airspace and never stopped flying to Doha throughout the war," it said.
The use of Syrian airspace would see "increased revenues in hard currency for the benefit of the Syrian state", it added. 
Qatar, a small Gulf state that has traditionally supported the Syrian opposition, suspended its ties with Damascus after the war broke out.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in November 2011, as the death toll was escalating and several regional powers bet on President Bashar al-Assad's demise.
But his regime today controls almost 60 percent of the country.
Fellow Gulf states the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have reopened their missions in Damascus.

Nasrallah: No new war with Israel- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Monday denied a widely circulating media report that he had warned of a likely war with Israel this summer. “Usually when there is something written in a newspaper, I don’t respond because most of it would be based on wrong information,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech on the 34th anniversary of the founding of the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts.
“But now I feel I am obliged to respond to this, given that many local media outlets picked the story up. I never said that during summer there would be an Israeli war on Lebanon; this has never happened in any meeting.”
Nasrallah was responding to an article published by Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper over the weekend and that claimed Nasrallah had told his commanders that Israel was planning for a surprise war on Lebanon.
“In my personal opinion, I rule out that Israel will launch a war on Lebanon,” he added Monday.
Hezbollah and Israel engaged in a 34-day war in July 2006. Although the border has been relatively calm since then, in recent years several reports have come out warning that another war was likely to erupt.
On previous occasions, Nasrallah has said Israel was unlikely to launch a war due to its own internal matters. He reiterated this Monday.
“Currently it is out of the question that any war can be carried out by the air force only,” he said. “Any upcoming military operation should be done through land, and there is a lot of talk in Israel that the Israeli land brigades aren’t ready.”
The Hezbollah chief, however, warned that Israel remained the enemy and this meant “all possibilities should remain on the table.”
Nasrallah said that in addition to the “wrong” content of the article, it came at a “bad” time. He questioned why the story would be published as Lebanon nears the summer tourist season, and called on media outlets to be more careful in picking stories up.
“I know some do it because they want the scoop, but I want to warn everyone that there is something that is happening and that is part of a systematic campaign,” he said. “We should be aware of everything is being said and written, especially if it has to do with Hezbollah. What is written in media outlets should be read with doubt, especially if it is coming from a Gulf newspaper.”