"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, March 31, 2024

IS kills eight Syrian soldiers: Monitor - L'Orient Today

Islamic State group militants have "executed" eight Syria soldiers following an ambush, a war monitor said Sunday, reporting 14 troops killed by the jihadists in recent days.

IS overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming its "caliphate" and launching a reign of terror.

It was defeated territorially in Syria in 2019, but its remnants continue to carry out deadly attacks, particularly in the vast Badia desert which runs from the outskirts of Damascus to the Iraqi border, mainly targeting pro-government forces and Kurdish-led fighters.

IS cells "executed eight members of the regime forces … including an officer" following the ambush this week in the desert in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Sunday.

The troops were heading from Sukhna towards the city of Deir Ezzor when they were attacked, the Observatory said, without specifying when exactly they were killed.

IS jihadists also killed six other soldiers this week "after they were taken prisoner" following a separate ambush along the road between Sukhna and Palmyra in Homs province, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

Since the start of the year, more than 200 soldiers and affiliated fighters have been killed in IS attacks, ambushes and explosions in the Syrian desert including in Deir Ezzor, Homs and Raqqa provinces, the Observatory said.

Jihadist attacks have killed at least 37 civilians during the same period, while government forces and affiliated fighters have killed 24 IS members, according to the Observatory.

Last week, the monitor said an IS attack in northern Syria killed at least 11 people who were searching for desert truffles, a delicacy that fetches a high price in the war-torn country.

Between February and April each year, hundreds of impoverished Syrians risk their lives to forage for truffles in the Syrian desert, which in addition to being a jihadist hideout is also littered with mines.

A United Nations report released in January said IS's "combined strength" in Iraq and Syria "was assessed at between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters." 


Dozens of casualties after deadly car blast in northwest Syria - The Cradle

 At least ten were killed and 30 injured in a massive car bomb that exploded early on 31 March in a crowded marketplace in the city of Azaz, in the countryside of Syria’s northwestern Aleppo province. 

Ambulances rushed to transport the killed and injured to hospitals across the city. The death toll is expected to rise. 

The Turkish-backed local council in Azaz announced the closure of schools in mourning for the victims of the attack. The bombing took place in an area under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) coalition of armed groups. 

The bombing took place two days after a joint attack in Aleppo early on 29 March, launched by Israeli warplanes and drones belonging to the Idlib-based Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) extremist group – formerly known as the Nusra Front, which enjoyed significant Israeli support throughout the war on Syria. 

It also comes as there is continued tension between HTS and the Turkish-backed SNA. 

HTS leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani recently led a purge campaign against his own group, aimed at rooting out dissent and opposition to his rule. Hassan Aqeel, a journalist linked to Syria’s armed opposition, told Al-Mayadeen last month that Julani aimed to wipe out opposition to focus on his rivalry with SNA groups

Over the past two years, Julani and HTS have had political and territorial disputes with the SNA factions in the Aleppo countryside, including in the city of Azaz.

Julani had been moving against them to secure control over Syrian border crossings and strengthen HTS economically. 

The Azaz car combing also comes as there have been large protests against Julani in both Idlib and the Aleppo countryside recently. 


Lebanon's precarious sectarian balance tipping amid Hezbollah-Israeli war - Mtv

As the Lebanese Christian village of Rmeish marks its first Easter since the Gaza war erupted, residents say a parallel confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel is dragging them into a conflict they did not choose.

Like many Christians elsewhere in southern Lebanon, residents are angry and fearful their homes could be caught in the cross-fire and their families forced to flee -- permanently -- from their ancestral villages near the Lebanon-Israel border.

Earlier this week, a Rmeish resident confronted a group of armed men trying to launch rockets at Israel from within the village. Some villagers rang church bells to sound the alarm, and the armed men moved off to fire rockets from another neighbourhood, according to mayor Milad al-Alam and Rmeish residents.

"What we've been saying for the last six months is: among our own homes, keep us neutral. Any strike in return would have brought huge losses," Alam told Reuters.

Hezbollah began launching rockets from hilltops and villages in southern Lebanon at Israel on Oct. 8 in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas, which carried out a cross-border attack into Israel the previous day that triggered a fierce Israeli land, air and sea offensive on the Gaza Strip.


The villagers' resentment reflects criticism from Christian clerics and politicians opposed to Hezbollah, who have long accused the group of undermining the state through its possession of a controversial arsenal that outguns the national army, and of monopolising decisions of war and peace.

"We have nothing to do with this war. Do they (Hezbollah) want to displace us?" said a 40-year-old resident of Rmeish who asked not to be identified, fearing that criticizing Hezbollah could bring reprisals.
Iran-backed Hezbollah, which holds sway over much of the Lebanese state, denied its fighters had tried to launch rockets from Rmeish.
More than a dozen sects coexist in a precarious balancing act in tiny Lebanon, reflected in a power-sharing system that reserves government posts by religion. The presidency and central bank governor – two top posts reserved for Maronite Christians – have been vacant since Oct. 2022 and July 2023 respectively due to divisions over choosing successors.

United Nations secretary general condemns explosion that injured UN observers in southern Lebanon - The Guardian

 The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has condemned an explosion that left three UN military observers and a Lebanese interpreter wounded when a shell exploded near them while they were patrolling the southern Lebanese border.

The blast came as clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah militants escalated in recent weeks.

Both sides have been exchanging fire since war broke out between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Three UN Truce Supervision Organization (Untso) “military observers and one Lebanese language assistant on a foot patrol along the Blue Line were injured when an explosion occurred near their location”, UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said in a statement on Saturday.

The wounded were “evacuated for medical treatment”, Tenenti added.

Peacekeepers from Unifil patrol the so-called Blue Line, the border demarcated by the UN in 2000 when Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon.

The Untso supports the peacekeeping mission.

Norway’s defence ministry said a Norwegian UN observer was “lightly injured” and had been admitted to hospital.

“The circumstances surrounding the attack are unclear,” defence ministry spokesperson Hanne Olafsen told Norwegian news agency NTB.

Tenenti told AFP that the other two observers were from Australia and Chile, adding that all four wounded were in “stable” condition while Australia’s defence department said the Australian’s injuries were not life-threatening.

Local Lebanese media, citing security officials, said an Israeli drone strike targeted the observers in the southern village of Wadi Katmoun near the border town of Rmeich.

But the Israeli military posted on social media platform X: “Contrary to the reports, the IDF did not strike a @UNIFIL vehicle in the area of Rmeish this morning.”

Tenenti said Unifil had informed all warring parties of their patrols as usual and the observers’ vehicle was carrying clear UN markings. The three military observers were unarmed, he said.


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Al-Rahi urges Hezbollah to declare instant end of war in south - Naharnet

 Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Saturday stressed that “the south is the heart of Lebanon and is going through the severest and most difficult suffering.”

In his Easter message, al-Rahi saluted “the southerners who are resilient in their towns and villages under the bombardment” and “all those who lost dear ones, whose homes were destroyed or who were displaced to other regions.”

“The south and its land and people should not be turned into a card used by some to serve the causes and wars of others, seeing as Lebanon and its south are for all Lebanese, who should decide together the future, safety and security of their country, as well as when it fights and for whom it fights,” al-Rahi added.

“We call on the Lebanese to come together in declaring an immediate end of the war without any delay as well as commitment to U.N. resolutions and to sparing the south its plight that is coming from the Israeli killing machine,” the patriarch urged.


Nasrallah says Hezbollah and allies are seeking victory over Israel - Naharnet

 Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has stressed that the anti-Israel resistance movements in Lebanon and the region are not in “a position of weakness” in the ongoing conflict.

“What we are seeking is victory and not to end the matter in any way. Had we wanted that, we would not have treaded this path,” Nasrallah said in a Ramadan televised speech focusing on religious matters.

“There are no signs of weakness in our front,” Nasrallah added.


UN observers hurt in 'blast' in south, Lebanon blames Israel - Naharnet

 UNIFIL said three military observers and a translator were wounded Saturday in a blast in southern Lebanon, where Israel and Hezbollah trade frequent cross-border fire.

Peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the so-called Blue Line, the border demarcated by the U.N. in 2000 when Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon.

The U.N. Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) supports the peacekeeping mission.

Three UNTSO "military observers and one Lebanese language assistant on a foot patrol along the Blue Line were injured when an explosion occurred near their location," UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said in a statement.

The wounded were "evacuated for medical treatment" and UNIFIL is "investigating the origin of the explosion," Tenenti added.

"Safety and security of U.N. personnel must be guaranteed," the statement said, urging "all actors to cease the current heavy exchanges of fire before more people are unnecessarily hurt."

Israel and Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily fire since Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, triggering war in Gaza.

Hezbollah, which has a powerful arsenal of rockets and missiles, says its attacks on Israel are in support of the embattled residents in Gaza and Hamas.

Norway's defense ministry said a Norwegian U.N. observer was "lightly injured" and had been admitted to hospital.

"The circumstances surrounding the attack are unclear," defense ministry spokesperson Hanne Olafsen told Norwegian news agency NTB.

UNIFIL's Tenenti told AFP that the other two observers were from Australia and Chile, adding that all four wounded were in "stable" condition.

- 'Dangerous incident' -

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said an "enemy (Israeli) drone" raided the Rmeish area of southern Lebanon where the UNTSO observers were wounded.

The Israeli army told AFP in a statement: "We did not strike in the area."

Tenenti emphasized: "All actors have a responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure protection to non-combatants, including peacekeepers, journalists, medical personnel and civilians."

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned what he called a "dangerous incident."

Lebanon's foreign ministry said the attack was "in violation of international law."

Cross-border fire since October has killed at least 347 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters, but also at least 68 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in southern Lebanon and in northern Israel, where the military says 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed.

An uptick in deadly exchanges in recent days has fuelled concerns of an all-out conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, who last fought a war in 2006.

UNTSO was set up after the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation to monitor armistice agreements reached with its Arab neighbors.

It also assists other U.N. peacekeeping operations in the region, including UNIFIL, which was established after Israel's 1978 invasion of south Lebanon and expanded following the 2006 war.


Friday, March 29, 2024

6 Hezbollah members, 36 Syrian troops killed in Israeli raid in Aleppo - Naharnet

 A war monitor said Israeli air strikes Friday on Syria's Aleppo province killed at least 42 including 36 Syrian soldiers, the deadliest toll for the Syrian army since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes in Syria since civil war there broke out in 2011, targeting army positions as well as Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah, an ally of Damascus and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The strikes have increased since Israel's war with Hamas began on October 7, and Friday's was the second such attack in 24 hours.

"Israeli strikes" targeted "a rockets depot belonging to Lebanon's Hezbollah" close to Aleppo airport, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

It reported "42 killed, including six from Lebanon's Hezbollah group" and "36 soldiers," the highest Syrian army toll in Israeli strikes since the Israel-Hamas war began.

State news agency SANA, quoting a military source, reported that "at approximately 1:45 am, the Israeli enemy launched an air attack from the direction of Athriya, southeast of Aleppo," adding that "civilians and military personnel" were killed and wounded.

Contacted by AFP from Jerusalem, the Israeli military said it would "not comment on reports in the foreign media."

The Observatory also reported strikes targeting "defense factories" controlled by pro-Iran groups elsewhere in Aleppo province.

The attack came just hours after a reported Israeli strike in the Damascus countryside.

Syrian state media said "two civilians" were killed in an "Israeli air attack that targeted a residential building" on Thursday, also reporting material damage.

The Observatory said the Sayyida Zeinab area, a stronghold of pro-Iran armed groups including Hezbollah south of the capital, was targeted.

Israeli raids in Syria also seek to cut off Hezbollah supply routes to neighboring Lebanon.


Israel strikes car in Bazouriyeh as border skirmishes continue - Naharnet

An Israeli drone strike Friday on a car in the Tyre district town of Bazouriyeh killed a “prominent” Hezbollah military commander, Israeli media reports said.

Hezbollah meanwhile announced the death of three more of its fighters in the conflict, without mentioning where they were killed. It identified them as Ahmad Jawad Chehimi, 60, who hailed from the southern town of Markaba, Mustafa Ahmad Makki, 41, who hailed from the southern town of Tebnin, and Ibrahim Anis al-Zein, 42, who hailed from the southern town of Chhour.

Alert sirens later sounded in Israel’s Kiryat Shmona, with Israeli reports saying that a “suspicious object launched from Lebanon was intercepted.”

Hezbollah meanwhile announced two separate rocket attacks on the Zibdine barracks in the occupied Shebaa Farms.

Israel has exchanged near-daily cross-border fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon since the Gaza war began, sparking fears of a major regional conflagration.

In Lebanon, cross-border fire since October has killed at least 349 people, mostly Hezbollah fighters, but also including at least 68 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in southern Lebanon and in northern Israel, where the military says 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed.


Thursday, March 28, 2024

Israeli official says Israeli army to enter Lebanon after Rafah op - Naharnet

 The Israeli army will “enter into Lebanon” after finishing the Rafah operation, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation has quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying.

Gaza's far-southern Rafah city is crowded with displaced civilians and world leaders have warned against an offensive there, fearing it would worsen a catastrophic humanitarian situation for the Palestinian territory's 2.4 million residents, many of whom are sheltering in Rafah along the Egyptian border.

Hezbollah had activated Lebanon’s southern front with Israel on October 8 in solidarity with the Palestinians and the Hamas Movement following the latter’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel and the brutal war that ensued.

There have been near-daily clashes between Hezbollah and Israel ever since, resulting in the death of at least 346 people in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also over 60 civilians.

Tens of thousands of people have also been displaced by the violence in Lebanon's south and Israel's north and Israel has threatened to launch a military operation against Hezbollah to push it away from the border.


Israeli jamming tech jeopardizes Beirut Airport safety - The Cradle

Commercial airliners arriving at Lebanon’s Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut have recently been forced to use alternatives to GPS systems because of Israeli jamming technology. 

A Turkish Airlines flight faced several difficulties earlier this week as it descended towards the Lebanese airport, forcing it to move in circles for around 40 minutes before returning to Turkiye. 

“If they don't use the GPS signal, they will be using the ground-based equipment … which is not affected by any spoofing [or jamming technology],” a source told The National on 28 March. Lebanon’s Civil Aviation Agency has recently requested that civilian airliners suspend their use of GPS systems. 

As a result, Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry has vowed to file a complaint against Israel at the UN Security Council for jeopardizing flight safety in the airport’s airspace. 

“Lebanon plans to urgently present its complaint to the UN Security Council regarding Israel’s interference with navigation systems and civil aviation safety since the onset of the Gaza conflict,” the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement last week. 

Authorities have also said Lebanon’s lack of cybersecurity expertise has made matters worse. 

Following a cyberattack in early January, departure and arrival screens at Beirut airport began displaying anti-Hezbollah messages. 

The concerns come after the discovery of an extensive Israeli spy network in the Lebanese capital in late December, which involved the use of highly advanced imaging and radio and frequency equipment that is unavailable to the general public.

It was also reported late last year that since the start of the war, several foreign military cargo planes landed at Beirut airport and the Hamat airbase in the north of the country.

At the time, the mysterious flights were said to have been potentially carrying jamming, monitoring, and tracking devices, according to Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar. 


Hezbollah targets 'Goren', 'Shlomi' settlements, 'Liman' battalion - AL-Mayadeen

 The Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, Hezbollah, engaged the "Goren" and "Shlomi" Israeli settlements using missiles and artillery in response to the Al-Naqoura massacre and the aggression against Tayr Harfa and medical crews.

Hezbollah also fired on the headquarters of the newly-created "Liman" battalion with artillery shells. 

According to Israeli media, around 20 missiles were launched from Lebanon toward the west of occupied Al-Jalil, triggering sirens. 


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

253,000 Israelis evacuated so far; largest in 'Israel' since 1948 - Al-Mayadeen

 Approximately 253,000 Israelis have been evacuated from settlements in northern and southern occupied Palestine since November 1, according to figures released by the "National Emergency Management Agency" in "Israel" (NEMA), as reported by the Knesset Information and Research Center.

Among these, about 94,000 were evacuated or voluntarily relocated to other settlements, while around 88,000 others were transferred to hotels. Additionally, approximately 70,000 settlers decided to evacuate of their own accord. 

According to the "Israeli Institute for National Security Studies," this is the largest evacuation of settlers in "Israel" since 1948, which poses an economic and societal burden on Israeli society.


Hezbollah responds to Hebbariyeh attack, hits 'Kiryat Shmona' command - Al-Mayadeen

 The Islamic Resistance in Lebanon responds to the massacre committed by the Israeli occupation against paramedics in the town of Hebbariyeh in southern Lebanon, with an attack on the "Kiryat Shmona" settlement.

The Islamic Resistance in Lebanon - Hezbollah, announced, on Wednesday, morning its targeting of the occupied settlement of "Kiryat Shmona" and the Israeli Occupation Forces' command in the settlement, known as Brigade 769, located in northern occupied Palestine.

The Resistance emphasized that this operation, carried out using dozens of rockets, came in response to the massacre committed by the Israeli occupation in Hebbariyeh, southern Lebanon, and in support for the resilient Palestinian people in Gaza and their Resistance.


Monday, March 25, 2024

Third Time in a Week: Israel Bombs Military Sites in Damascus Countryside - The Syrian Observer

At midnight on Sunday, Israeli warplanes launched airstrikes targeting an air defence system belonging to the Syrian regime’s army in the countryside of Damascus.

The correspondent of Sowt al-Asima confirmed the attack on the air defence battalion situated near the town of Jdeidet al-Wadi in the Wadi Barada area of Damascus countryside, noting that fires erupted at the targeted site.

Simultaneously, Israeli airstrikes were reported near the Lebanese city of Baalbek, targeting positions belonging to the Hezbollah militia, resulting in injuries as reported by Lebanese media.

Confidential sources informed Sowt al-Asima that the Israeli airstrikes in both Damascus and Baalbek were likely in retaliation for rocket launches from Syrian territory and southern Lebanon towards the Golan Heights.

These sources highlighted that Lebanese Hezbollah militia and Iran-backed militias had fired over 60 rockets at separate sites in the Golan Heights just half an hour before the Israeli airstrikes.

Earlier, on March 19th, Israeli military sites near the city of Yabroud were targeted in airstrikes. Israeli sources indicated that these strikes aimed at the infrastructure of Hezbollah militia in Syria, particularly focusing on its fortified positions along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Similarly, on March 17th, Israeli warplanes struck the Danha military depots in the Qalamoun region, utilized by Hezbollah militia for military manufacturing and as storage facilities for Iranian weaponry destined for southern Lebanon.


Sunday, March 24, 2024

Hezbollah attacks missile, artillery base in 'Yoav', 'Keila'' barracks - Al-Mayadeen

 The Islamic Resistance in Lebanon - Hezbollah announced that its fighters targeted the missile and artillery base in "Yoav" and "Keila'" barracks (headquarters of the anti-Air and Missile Command) early Sunday.

In a statement, Hezbollah indicated that the attack comes in support of the steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and their brave and honorable Resistance and in response to the Israeli attack on the city of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon.

It highlighted that the attack on the "Keila'" barracks, with more than 60 Katyusha rockets, coincided with exercises by a force from the Golani Brigade that had returned from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli media reported that around 50 rockets were launched from Lebanon toward the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, pointing out that only four of them were intercepted.

Al Mayadeen's correspondent previously reported that an Israeli airstrike targeted a house in the al-Aasira neighborhood, east of the city of Baalbek.

On Saturday evening, Hezbollah announced that it had engaged the Israeli military site in al-Malikiyah, one of the seven occupied Lebanese villages, with artillery shells, confirming that it had been hit directly.


Lebanon's highest Sunni authority says Palestine concerns all Arabs and Muslims - L'Orient Today

 Lebanon's highest Sunni authority Grand Mufti Abdel Latif Derian said on Saturday that Palestine concerns all the Arabs and Muslims amid an ongoing war in Gaza, which has resulted in more than 32,000 deaths and many more injured, according to the Gaza's health ministry.

"Palestine concerns all Arabs and Muslims. It is our cause and will stay so no matter what the Zionist enemy overshadowed," Derian said during a Ramadan iftar hosted in his honor.

"Gaza and its people are experiencing a genocide. We have to ask the UN and humanitarian organizations what they did to prevent the Zionist aggression and ask them to stop this genocide against people who want to live freely on their land and have a free and sovereign state," the Grand Mufti added.

Lebanon has been experiencing ongoing attacks between Hezbollah and Israel on the Lebanese-Israeli borders following Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks which occasionally spread to other areas. Today, a drone attack struck the Bekaa following an overnight drone attack on Baalbeck.

Presidential elections

Derian also called for electing a new president to get the trust of Arab nations and the international community amid its economic crisis and its part in the regional conflict.

"We still hope for the best regarding the efforts to elect a president ... It is not acceptable that our country stays without a president. Lebanon cannot get the trust of brotherly Arab countries and fellow countries in the world if the state does not re-think its institutions. The delay in electing a president is a suicide project ... It is rejected religiously, politically and legally and in all the standards of patriotism. Let those who are not doing their national duties and are lazy about doing their work, or obstructing other people's solutions to get out of this long tunnel, assume their responsibilities," Derian added.

Lebanon has been without a president since Michel Aoun left office in October 2022. 


Friday, March 22, 2024

Arrest warrants issued for 2 Lebanese in connection with targeted Arouri killing - Naharnet

 Judicial officials in Lebanon said an investigative judge has issued arrest warrants for two people on suspicion of giving information to Israel including the digital mapping of a Beirut southern suburb street where a top official with the Palestinian Hamas group was killed in January.

The officials said Thursday that Fadi Sawwan, the investigative judge at the military tribunal, issued the arrest warrants earlier this week for the two Lebanese citizens weeks after they were detained while using sophisticated digital mapping equipment.

The Israeli military did not immediately return requests for comment.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the two men had earlier mapped streets in different parts of Lebanon including Beirut’s southern suburbs that are home to the leadership of the militant Hezbollah group. They said the men said they thought they were sending the information to a U.S.-based company that does virtual tourism business.

The two officials said among the streets that they mapped was the one where the deputy leader of Hamas, Saleh Arouri, was killed along with six other militants in a January strike that hit an apartment. They said the street was mapped nearly two weeks before Arouri was killed.

The officials said the two are in custody and were charged with spying for a foreign country and obtaining information that should remain secret because of national security. The officials said the two could get a sentence of up to life in prison.


Hezbollah targets Metula with suicide drone - Naharnet

 The Israeli army and Hezbollah exchanged fire Friday, as tensions seemed to de-escalate along the Lebanon-Israel border.

Hezbollah fired artillery shells at Israeli troops near the Zar'it barracks and targeted with a suicide drone a tank in the Metula post. The group had carried out Thursday nine attacks on northern Israel.

Israeli warplanes meanwhile struck the southern border town of Aita al-Shaab while Israeli tanks and artillery shelled a house in al-Khiam, the Hamames hill and the outskirts of al-Odaisseh and Kfarkela.

Tensions had relatively de-escalated in the past few days during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan as international mediators pushed for a truce in Gaza.

At least 322 people have been killed in Lebanon, mainly Hezbollah fighters but also 56 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

In Israel, at least 10 soldiers and seven civilians have been killed in the cross-border exchanges, the military says.


Will the Protest Movement Exclude the Baath Party From Suweida - The Syrian Observer

The Suweida mouvement progresses towards curbing the longstanding presence of the party institution in the province, Enab Baladi writes.

Since August 2023, the governorate of Suweida has witnessed a revolt, marked by demands for the overthrow of the Syrian regime and the implementation of UN Resolution 2254, which advocates for a peaceful transfer of power in Syria to end the longstanding conflict.

The peaceful uprising, which has persisted on the streets of the province for over six months, has targeted the branches of the Baath party. Some of these branches have been repurposed into headquarters for charitable endeavors, while others have been closed altogether. Demonstrators have scattered security reports found within the party headquarters onto the streets.

Periodically, protesters in the province occupy the party branches, signaling a trend towards the disestablishment of the party’s presence in the region. Previously, the spiritual leader of the Druze Almohad sect, Sheikh Hikmat al-Hijri, had identified the party institution, alongside the security establishment, as one of the two entities causing suffering to the Syrian people.


Does Suweida exclude the party establishment? 

In the initial month of protests in Suweida, demonstrators shuttered Baath Party centers across villages and towns in the governorate following an incident where protesters came under fire from a security group stationed in the party building in the heart of Suweida city. Fortunately, there were no injuries or damages reported.

During this period, local news outlets specializing in coverage of the province circulated photos and videos depicting the closure of partisan offices across the region.

One such outlet, al-Rased, shared footage showcasing the closure of the party’s headquarters in al-Ghariya village, located southwest of the governorate. Similarly, in Rima Hazem village, protesters repurposed the Baath Party headquarters into a charitable association’s headquarters.

Furthermore, protesters closed two Baath Party offices in the towns of Mazraa and Ghariya following the aforementioned shooting incident. It was reported that the demonstrators aimed to transform the Ghariya Division building into a kindergarten named Freedom.

Jamal al-Shoufi, a political affairs researcher residing in Suweida, informed Enab Baladi that the rejection of Baath Party branches in Suweida by its inhabitants is not an organized movement but rather a collective sentiment against the negative impact of this party institution on Syrian society, including Suweida.

Shoufi stated that the anti-party movements in the province stem from the Baath Party’s failure to heed the demands of the demonstrators to cease operations in the area, leading to the eventual closure of these party establishments by protesters.

However, Shoufi expressed skepticism regarding the demise of the party establishment in Suweida, as it remains tethered to the ruling authority in Damascus—a characteristic applicable to all Syrian provinces, not just Suweida. Thus, the party’s dissolution can only occur with the downfall of the ruling authority.

The researcher posited that the demand for political change under UN Resolution 2254, as advocated by the people of Suweida, symbolizes the end of the regime’s political hegemony and the dismantling of Baath Party control over Syria.

Are movements reflected on the street? 

The party apparatus of the Syrian regime, under its control for many years, has been a focal point for security operations targeting regime opponents, often resulting in their arrest, as evidenced by security reports discarded onto the streets of Suweida by protesters.

As the movement in Suweida progresses towards curbing the longstanding presence of the party institution in the province, it prompts consideration of the potential implications of its demise.

Researcher Shoufi suggests that while the overarching trend is towards demanding political change at the national level in Syria, there are also perspectives advocating for halting the Baath Party’s activities in Suweida as a precursor to broader cessation across Syria post-political transformation. While plausible, this outcome remains uncertain.

He asserts that power in Syria will persist unless political change, whether in security apparatuses or partisan structures, is realized—a change that could extend to Suweida.

Regarding the impact of totalitarian ideologies, such as that espoused by the Baath Party, al-Shoufi notes that their demise hasn’t yielded unequivocally positive results since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011. He warns of potential adverse effects on Syria and the wider region if demands to overthrow the regime are met, citing Iraq’s struggles post-Baath Party removal, marked by sectarianism, religious divisions, and political factionalism.

Given Syria’s aspiration for a state not monopolized by a single ideology, al-Shoufi emphasizes that the aim isn’t to sever Syria’s ties with the Arab world entirely but rather to dismantle the pervasive dominance of a singular ideology, allowing for diverse political engagement.

Drawing lessons from past experiences, al-Shoufi highlights Iraq’s challenges following the Baath Party’s removal, suggesting that a binary approach—total retention or total demise—is insufficient. Instead, he advocates for a continual push towards establishing a national state that fosters political freedoms.


Thursday, March 21, 2024

Christian forces to meet in Bkirki today - Naharnet

 A Christian political meeting will be held at 4pm Thursday in Bkirki to discuss and approve a political document prepared by the Maronite patriarchate.

According to MTV, the various Christian parliamentary blocs and parties will take part in the meeting except for the Marada Movement.

“The Bkirki document warns of the decline of Christian presence in the public sector and the threats of the Lebanese and non-Lebanese illegitimate weapons, Syrian displacement and the (possible) naturalization of the Palestinians,” MTV reported.

The document also “tackles Lebanon’s historic and free role, which is gradually turning into a theological, totalitarian and ideological state,” MTV added.

The Nidaa al-Watan newspaper meanwhile said that the meeting is aimed at discussing the remarks of the Christian political parties over Bkirki’s paper.

“Should there be an agreement on all points, (Maronite Patriarch Beshara) al-Rahi will move to the second phase,” it said.

Bkirki sources meanwhile told the daily that “the Christian forces do not have a lot of remarks” and that the paper “focuses on key points related to the presidency, national partnership, the Christian role and the war and peace decisions.”

The sources, however, expected the meeting to be “like the previous meetings, due to the Free Patriotic Movement’s refusal to take a stance on Hezbollah and its arms.”


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Syria Today – Israel Strikes Hezbollah in Damascus, Assad’s Security Reform- The Syrian Observer

According to Syria’s defense ministry, Israel launched missiles at multiple military targets outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday. Regional intelligence and Syrian sources indicate that these strikes targeted fortified positions belonging to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and were intensified. Concurrently, a report detailing recent changes within Syria’s security apparatus suggests a notable advancement in President Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing efforts to emerge from the immense shadow left by his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Israeli strikes target Hezbollah inside Syria, sources say

Israel launched missiles at several military targets outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, Syria’s defence ministry said, in what regional intelligence and Syrian sources said were stepped-up strikes on fortifications of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Reuters reported.

Syrian air defences intercepted Israeli “missiles and shot down some of them”, the ministry said in a statement, adding they caused only material damage.

Two Syrian military sources familiar with the strikes said Israel targeted a Hezbollah ammunitions depot near the city of Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains, northeast of the Syrian capital.

It was the second strike within 48 hours on the same mountain range that spills over into Lebanon where the heavily armed Hezbollah has several major supply routes into Syria.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Israeli military have been trading fire since the Palestinian group Hamas stormed southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, in a steadily intensifying conflict that has fuelled concern of wider escalation.

Another strike hit a nearby location near Qutayfah, almost 40 km (25 miles) east of Damascus, within the same stretch of territory where Hezbollah forces are well entrenched, according to a Western intelligence source.

“These latest raids are clearly targeting Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Syria, especially its elaborate fortifications along the Lebanese-Syrian border,” the source who requested anonymity told Reuters. He referred also to a recent strike on the city of Qusayr along the border where Hezbollah maintains security control with checkpoints.

An Israeli military spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Israeli army forms new ‘mountain’ brigade on border with Syria and Lebanon

The Israeli media reported that the army announced the formation of a new regional brigade on Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon.

The “HeHarim,” or Mountains, Brigade, will be tasked with the Mount Hermon and Mount Dov regions, under the 210th “Bashan” Division, replacing the existing 810th “Hermon” Regional Brigade.

The army says the new brigade is formed “as part of the operational response to the situation on the northern border and in accordance with the situational assessment.”

“The brigade will specialize in combat in difficult terrain and warfare in mountainous areas,” the IDF says.

It says that the Mountains Regional Brigade will begin its activity in the coming weeks and that Col. Liron Appleman will be appointed its first commander.

UK Statement for Commission of Inquiry on Syria

During an interactive dialogue with the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Simon Manley, the UK Permanent Representative to the WTO and UN, delivered a powerful statement on behalf of the UK, addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.

In his address, Manley echoed the Commission’s grave concerns about the intensifying conflict in Syria, which has seen a significant escalation in hostilities, including indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians and vital infrastructure. He highlighted the dire humanitarian situation, noting that the needs of the Syrian people are now at their most critical point since the conflict’s onset thirteen years ago, following the suppression of peaceful protests.

The UK representative did not shy away from addressing the harrowing issues of sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture documented in the Commission’s report. These atrocities, he stated, have a devastating impact on the Syrian population, leaving families in anguish as they wait for news of their loved ones. Manley unequivocally placed the primary responsibility for these violations on the Assad regime and its allies, calling for accountability.

Manley’s statement was a call to action for members of the Council, urging them not to divert their attention from the Syrian crisis. He pressed for concerted efforts to ensure accountability for the serious violations occurring in Syria and posed critical questions to the Commissioners. He sought their recommendations for ensuring that humanitarian access is granted and aid is effectively delivered to all Syrians in need, across all areas of the country. Additionally, Manley inquired about ways in which the international community could support concrete actions to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

The UK’s firm stance at the UN dialogue underscores its commitment to addressing the Syrian crisis and advocating for the Syrian people’s rights and needs at the international level.

Bashar Al-Assad’s Security Shake-Up Is A Slap In The Face To His Late Father

Worldcrunch.com published a report on recent adjustments within Syria’s security framework which signal a significant stride in President Bashar al-Assad’s long-standing endeavour to step out from the colossal shadow cast by his father, Hafez al-Assad, who led the country prior to him. This development involves key personnel changes within the regime’s security apparatus, most notably the replacement of Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk with Kifah Melhem as the head of the National Security Bureau.

The motives behind these shifts, according to the report,  have spurred a range of speculations. Some analysts perceive them as Assad’s response to the competing influences of Russia and Iran over Syria, while others consider it a routine reshuffle, particularly in light of Mamlouk’s health concerns. A faction believes these changes align with Assad’s previously announced reforms following Syria’s re-engagement with Arab nations.

However, a deeper narrative suggests that these reforms are part of Bashar al-Assad’s broader effort to forge his own path, distinct from that of his father, Hafez al-Assad, over two decades since his death. This attempt to delineate his leadership is seen as both a symbolic and practical departure from the elder Assad’s era, which was marked by a tight security grip managed by figures like Mamlouk, renowned for his secretive handling of Syria’s chemical program.

The report added that Bashar al-Assad’s strategy involves distancing his regime from the legacy of his father’s appointments, leaning instead towards a “new generation” of leadership that navigated the country through years of conflict. This departure is symbolized by actions such as issuing new currency notes that feature Bashar prominently, unlike previous versions that honored Hafez al-Assad.

Public perception and Assad’s own statements reflect this shift. Initially, Bashar al-Assad regarded his father as a guiding force beyond the grave. Yet, as he cemented his position following what he perceives as a victory in the civil war, Assad has increasingly sought to define his tenure independently of his father’s influence, despite the overarching control exerted by allies Russia and Iran.

This transition, the report concludes, is evident not only in administrative changes but also in the symbolic landscape of Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s image now dominates public spaces once shared with his father. Assad’s recent public denials of being predestined for presidency by his father, along with the erection of monuments celebrating his leadership, underscore a deliberate effort to reshape his legacy, distinct from that of Hafez al-Assad’s.