Assad warns of retaliation for US strike on Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad has warned there will be “repercussions” against any U. S. military strike launched in response to a chemical weapons attack in his country.

“You should expect everything,” Assad said in an interview with CBS taped in Damascus. “Not necessarily from the government. It’s not only the government … in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology.”

Asked if he was making a threat of a direct military response to any such attack, Assad was vague, saying at one point, “I am not fortune teller to tell you what’s going to happen.”

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Syria Hiding Weapons

(AP) BEIRUT –  As the Obama administration tries to prod Congress into backing armed action against Syria, the regime in Damascus is hiding military hardware and shifting troops out of bases into civilian areas.

Politically, President Bashar Assad has gone on the offensive, warning in a rare interview with Western media that any military action against Syria could spark a regional war.

If the U.S. opts for missile strikes, Assad’s reaction could have a major effect on the trajectory of Syria’s civil war. Neighboring countries could get dragged into a wider conflict, or it could be back to business as usual for a crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people over 2½ years.

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Fatwa for make-up: Islamists target women in rebel-controlled Syrian territories

AFP Photo / Karim Sahib

AFP Photo / Karim Sahib

SOURCE

Syrian rebels have issued a ban on women using make up or wearing “immodest dress” in a neighborhood in the city of Aleppo. Critics have blasted the move as another attempt by Islamists to impose Sharia in rebel-controlled territory.

The fatwa (an order based on Sharia law) was issued by the Islamic law council in Aleppo’s Fardous neighborhood.

Muslim women are banned from leaving the house in immodest dress, in tight clothing that shows off their bodies or wearing makeup on their face. It is incumbent on all our sisters to obey God and commit to Islamic etiquette,” the statement on the Fardous council’s Facebook page says as cited by Reuters, which reports that Aleppo residents have confirmed the news.  

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Syrian Civil War:Does Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dead or just rumor / Syria Conflict News

Bashar al-Assad
24 March, 2013 |

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed by his own bodyguard and Assad is dead anymore  this  rumor spread on the Internet.

SOURCE

A rumor about the killed  of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad was massively shared on social media websites on Sunday evening.

“News about  Bashar al-Assad being shot dead by his Iranian bodyguard have not been confirmed yet,” the magazine said, revealing that the opposition’s Free Syrian Army has denied such reports.

Noting that “tweets and Facebook comments helped in largely and rapidly disseminating the rumor”, French magazine Le Point remarked: “Social media websites were the primary source of this rumor.”

The reported news shared that Assad was shot on Saturday and was transferred to a Damascus hospital, as roads were blocked and buildings surrounding the location were firmly seized by the Syrian government  army.

Meanwhile, other websites said: “Israeli and Lebanese intteligent sources have confirmed the death of Syria’s president.”

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Israeli intelligence chief says Assad readying chemical weapons

JERUSALEM –  Israel’s military intelligence chief says Syria’s embattled president, Bashar Assad, is preparing to use chemical weapons.

Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi told a security conference in the coastal town of Herzliya that Assad is stepping up his offensive against rebels trying to oust him.

Kochavi claims Assad is making advanced preparations to use chemical weapons, but has not yet given the order to deploy them.

He did not disclose information about why he thinks Assad is preparing to use them.

Israel has long expressed concerns that Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons could end up in the hands of groups hostile to Israel like Hezbollah or al-Qaida inspired organizations.

Israel has kept out of Syria’s civil war, but it is concerned that violence could spill over the border into northern Israel.

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Dozens killed, including children, in Syrian missile strike

Published February 19, 2013

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Feb. 19, 2013: This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man carrying a child’s body in the aftermath of a strike by Syrian government, in the neighborhood of Jabal Bedro, in Aleppo, Syria. (AP/Aleppo Media Center AMC)

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This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows people searching through the debris of destroyed buildings in the aftermath of a strike by Syrian government forces, in the neighborhood of Jabal Bedro, Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a 131-page report Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, detailing deepening radicalization by both sides and says fighters on both sides in Syria’s civil war have committed atrocities and should be brought to justice. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC) (The Associated Press)

BEIRUT –  A Syrian missile strike leveled a block of buildings in an impoverished district of northern Syria Tuesday, killing at least 33 people, almost half of them children, and trapping many others under the rubble of destroyed houses and piles of concrete, anti-regime activists said.

The apparent ground-to-ground missile attack on a quiet area that has been held by anti-regime fighters for many months underlines the brutality and unpredictability of the Syrian conflict and the helplessness of rebels in protecting areas under their control in light of the regime’s far superior firepower and air supremacy.

In the capital Damascus, state-run news agency SANA said two mortars exploded near one of Assad’s palaces, dealing a symbolic blow to the embattled leader who has tried to maintain an image as the head of a functioning state, despite rebels edging closer to the heart of his seat of power.

The attack was the first confirmed strike close to a presidential palace and another sign that the civil war is seeping into areas of the capital once considered safe.

“This is a clear message to the regime that nowhere is safe from now on,” said Khaled al-Shami, an activist in Damascus reached via Skype. “The fact that they had to announce it means they can no longer hide what is happening in Damascus.”

The news service, SANA, said “terrorists” fired the rounds that struck near the southern wall of the Tishreen palace in the capital’s northwestern Muhajireen district. The government rebels to anti-government fighters as “terrorists.”

No casualties were reported and it was unclear whether Assad was in the palace. He has two others in the city. Assad often uses the Tishrin palace to receive dignitaries and as a guest house for foreign officials during their visits to Syria.

The Syrian capital has largely been spared the violence that has left other Syrian cities in ruins. For weeks, however, rebels who have established footholds in the suburbs have been pushing closer to the heart of the city from the eastern and southern outskirts, clashing with government forces.

Rebels have claimed to fire rockets at the presidential palaces before, but Tuesday’s strike was the first confirmed by the government.

In the northern city of Aleppo, anti-regime activists said a missile strike flattened a stretch of buildings and killed at least 33 people. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said they included 14 children and five women.

Amateur videos posted online showed scores of men combing through the rubble of destroyed buildings in the poor Jabal Badro neighborhood to find those trapped beneath it. “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great, they shout as a body a group of men lift up a body wrapped in a pink blanket.

One man swung a sledgehammer to break through concrete while a bulldozer hauled off rubble. In another video, a man covered in grey dust struggled under pile of concrete.

The videos appeared authentic and corresponded with other Associated Press reporting.

The strike was the latest salvo in a fierce and bloody 7-month battle for Syria’s largest city and economic center, a key prize in the civil war.

Rebels have slowly expanded their control over parts of Aleppo since first storming it last summer. The city is now divided between rebel- and regime-controlled zones.

Rebel forces have been trying for weeks to capture the city’s international airport and two military airbases nearby, while the government is bringing in reinforcements from areas it still controls further south and regularly bombing rebel areas from the air.

The activist Aleppo Media Center said more than 40 were killed and published the names of 21 off them on its Facebook page. There was no way to reconcile the differing tolls.

Both the Observatory and AMC groups said the strike appeared to be from a ground-to-ground missile. The Syrian government did not comment.

Activist Mohammed al-Khatib of the AMC said via Skype that the death toll could rise further as residents search the site for more bodies.

“There are still lots of people missing from the area,” he said.

He said the strike appeared to be from a large ground-to-ground missile because of the scale of the destruction and because residents did not report hearing a fighter jet, as they usually do during airstrikes.

Although President Bashar Assad’s forces regularly shell and launch airstrikes on areas held by anti-government rebels, their use of large missiles has been limited. The Jabal Badro district has been under rebel control since months and has been largely quiet until Tuesday’s attack.

In December, U.S. and NATO officials confirmed rebel reports that Syrian forces had fired Scud missiles at rebel areas in northern Syria. That was the last confirmed use of such weapons.

Also Wednesday, rebels clashed with government forces near Aleppo’s international airport and the Kweiras military airport nearby, the Observatory said. Clashes have halted air traffic to the two airports for weeks, since rebels launched their offensive to try to capture them.

The Observatory also reported government shelling and airstrikes and clashes between government forces and rebels east and south of the capital, Damascus. Seven people were killed in rocket strikes on the eastern suburb of Kafar Batna and five died in a car bombing in Jdeidat al-Fadel, southwest off the capital, it said.

Syria refers to rebels seeking to topple Assad as “terrorists” and blames the conflict on an international conspiracy to weaken the country.

The U.N. says some 70,000 have been killed since Syria’s uprising against Assad’s rule began in March 2011. Moreover, some 870,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries since the beginning of the conflict, with the majority seeking refuge in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

The violence has spread humanitarian suffering across much of Syria.

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has quadrupled since June last year.

“Just in the last two months, over 250,000 people have fled into neighboring countries. These numbers, they are not sustainable,” she said at a press conference in Geneva.

The United States announced Tuesday it was providing an addition $19 million in humanitarian assistance in response to urgent needs in Syria. The announcement made in Geneva by Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, brings the United States’ total contribution of humanitarian support in response to this crisis to nearly $385 million.

International diplomacy has failed to stop the violence. The U.S. and other Arab and European countries have called on Assad to stand down, while Russia, China and Iran continue to back him. Russia, Syria’s largest arms supplies for decades, has said it will continue to fulfill its arms contracts with Assad’s regime.

Russia on Tuesday said it had sent two jets carrying humanitarian aid to Syria and are inviting Russians who want to leave the country to take the flights back.

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Iran ‘trying to build militias inside Syria’

Iran and its Lebanese-based ally, Hizbollah, are reportedly trying to build a network of militias inside Syria to protect their interests there in case President Bashar al-Assad falls.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad  Photo: AP
 

Citing unnamed US and Middle Eastern officials, the Washington Postsaid Iran’s goal appears to be to have reliable operatives in Syria in case the country fractures into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

Iran claims to be backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. Efforts to find a political solution to the nearly two-year-long conflict, which has killed more than 60,000 people, appear to be deadlocked.

“It’s a big operation,” the paper quotes a senior US administration official as saying. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it’s important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on.”

The Post quotes a senior Arab official as saying that Iran’s strategy in Syria has two tracks. “One is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses,” that official said.

Tehran’s allies in Syria include Shiite and Alawite communities concentrated in provinces near Syria’s border with Lebanon and in the key port city of Latakia, the paper said.

This enclave will be heavily dependent on the Iranians for survival and help them retain a link to Hizbollah, the paper said.

Source: AFP

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Assad warns forces ready to confront any ‘aggression’

Israel suggests responsibility for airstrike on Syria, as Assad warns forces ready to confront any ‘aggression’

www.foxnews.com  –  Associated Press

MUNICH –  Israel’s defense minister indicated Sunday that his country was behind the airstrike on Syria last week, in the first public comments from his government on the attack that U.S. officials said targeted a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for the militant group Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak brought the issue up at a gathering of the world’s top diplomats and defense officials in Germany, initially saying: “I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago.”

But, addressing the audience in English, he then added: “I keep telling frankly that we said — and that’s proof when we said something we mean it– we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”

In Syria, President Bashar Assad said his military was capable of confronting any “aggression” targeting the country, his first comments since the airstrike.

Syrian state television said Assad spoke during a meeting with visiting top Iranian official, Saeed Jalili.

Assad said Syria is capable of facing current challenges and can “confront any aggression” that would target the Syrian people.

Israel had not previously commented on the strike, but in the days ahead of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials repeatedly warned of the dangers of Syrian weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah and other hostile elements in the region.

The Syrian military, meanwhile, said the target of Israeli jets was a scientific research center. The facility is in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus.

Purported images of the targeted site, aired by Syrian state television on Saturday, show destroyed cars, trucks and military vehicles. A building has broken widows and damaged interiors, but no major structural damage.

Following the attack, Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, said Damascus “has the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation,” but that it was up to the relevant authorities to choose the time and place.

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leaders and rebels on Friday slammed Assad for not responding to the airstrike, calling it proof of his weakness and acquiescence to the Jewish State.

The chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said in remarks Sunday that Tehran also hopes Syria will retaliate against Israel for a recent airstrike on its territory.

The report by the official IRNA news agency quotes Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying, “We are hopeful that Syria gives an appropriate response to the strike in the proper time.”

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Israeli leaders have repeatedly expressed fears that if Syria were to disintegrate, President Bashar Assad could lose control of his chemical weapons and other arms.

On Saturday night, Netanyahu, who is in the process of forming a new ruling coalition, said his new government would have to deal with weapons “being stockpiled near us and threatening our cities and civilians” — an apparent reference to the deteriorating situation in Syria.

Barak said “Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left.”

He said in his view Assad’s fall “is coming imminently” and when it happens, “this will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah.”

“I think that they will pay the price,” he said.

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Iran stepping up support for Syria, Hillary Clinton warns

Iran is stepping up its support for Bashar al-Assad, Hillary Clinton has warned, amid threats from Syria that they will retaliate over what it says was an Israeli air raid.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Photo: AFP

Israel maintained a stony silence over Syria’s claims, as well as over separate reports that its jets had hit a weapons convoy near the Lebanon border.

Syria’s foreign ministry said Israel “and the states that protect it” are responsible for the air strike, and “affirms Syria’s right to defend itself and its territory and sovereignty,” state news agency SANA reported.

It called on “all the competent UN bodies to take the necessary steps given this grave Israeli violation, and to guarantee that it will not happen again.”

Mrs Clinton warned that Iran was stepping up its support for the Syrian president.

“The Iranians have made it clear for some time that keeping Assad in power was one of their highest priorities. We believe they have acted on that by sending in more personnel, not only to help Assad, but to support and advise military security forces,” Mrs Clinton said in Washington.

In her last media interview as secretary of state, Mrs Clinton said “the Iranians have been actively involved from the very beginning. It appears that they may be increasing that involvement and that is a matter of concern to us.”

Mrs Clinton also noted that despite US efforts to bring Moscow on board to work for an international solution to the 22-month war in Syria that has claimed some 60,000 lives, Russia was continuing to prop up the regime.

“We have reason to believe that the Russians continue to supply financial and military assistance in the form of equipment to Assad,” she said

The top US diplomat gave a grim assessment of the progression of the war, warning of “the dangers of an increasing civil war and a potential proxy war.”

“The worst kind of predictions of what could happen, both internally and spilling over the borders of Syria are certainly within the realm of the possible now,” she said.

Damascus’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, stressed Syria’s right to respond to “the Zionist aggression.”

“The Israelis, and the United States behind them, along with their Arab and regional accomplices, realise that Syria, which defends its sovereignty and territory, may decide to respond by surprise to this aggression.”

“It is up to the competent powers to choose the appropriate answer, and to determine the means and the place,” Ali added in remarks to Lebanese website Al-Ahad, which is close to the powerful Shiite group Hizbollah.

Reaction from close Damascus ally Iran was strident.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned, without elaborating, that the “Zionist regime’s attack on the outskirts of Damascus will have grave consequences for Tel Aviv,” the ISNA news agency reported.

In the past, Tehran has said any Israeli attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” but was still trying to verify Syria’s allegations.

Late on Wednesday, Syria accused Israel of launching a dawn strike on a military research centre in Jamraya, near Damascus.

“Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace … and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defence,” the army general command said, saying two workers were killed.

The army denied separate reports citing security sources that an Israeli strike had targeted a weapons convoy from Syria near the border with Lebanon.

Source: AFP

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Yaalon: Syrian Weapons Falling into Opposition Hands

Strategic Affairs Minister says “it is clear that Assad is losing control from day to day.”

Moshe Yaalon (file)

Moshe Yaalon    (file)Flash 90

http://www.israelnationalnews.com  –  By Gil Ronen

The Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs, Moshe Yaalon, said Monday that the government devoted much of its weekly session Sunday to the danger that Syrian chemical weapons would fall into the hands of terror groups, as President Bashar al-Assad loses ground in the civil war there.

“I do not know where it is going, but it is clear that Assad is losing control from day to day, and that installations and weapons stockpiles are falling into the hands of the opposition,” Yaalon said.

“Israel is not intervening in the Syrian civil war,” he explained, “but we are following the developments so that the barrels of the guns are not turned in our direction. That is what we did in the Golan, which remained quiet. We examine things systematically and continually, along with Turkey, Jordan, the United States, France and Britain.”

The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system has been installed in northern Israel, according to the IDF, due to the escalating civil war in Syria. The move comes in response to increasing concerns that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may lose control over the chemical weapons arsenal in the country.

Should that occur, the lethal arsenal held by Israel’s northern neighbor could be handed over, or become vulnerable to theft by a number of Islamic terrorist organizations, among them Hizbullah or Al Qaeda.

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