Experts Doubt Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims

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Washington’s Blog
August 24, 2013

CBS News reports that the U.S. is finalizing plans for war against Syria – and positioning ships to launchcruise missiles against the Syrian government – based on the claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people.

The last time the U.S. blamed the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack, that claim was was debunked.

But is the claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people true this time?

It’s not surprising that Syria’s close ally – Russia – is expressing doubt.  Agence France-Presse (AFP)notes:

Russia, which has previously said it has proof of chemical weapons use by the rebels, expressed deep scepticism about the opposition’s claims.

The foreign ministry said the timing of the allegations as UN inspectors began their work “makes us think that we are once again dealing with a premeditated provocation.”

But Russia isn’t the only doubter.

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Israel threatened to attack Syrian tanks at border

When Assad moved armor into the Golan on Thursday, Israel warned it would ‘take action,’ UN document reveals

Smoke rises from a fire as a result of fighting in the Syrian village of Quneitra near the border with Israel, as seen from an observatory near the Quneitra crossing, Thursday, June 6 (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Smoke rises from a fire as a result of fighting in the Syrian village of Quneitra near the border with Israel, as seen from an observatory near the Quneitra crossing, Thursday, June 6 (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

SOURCE

A fierce battle last week between the Syrian army and rebels over the city of Quneitra, near the Israeli border on the Syrian Golan Heights, nearly brought Israel and Syria into open confrontation, according to a UN document leaked on Saturday by US-based blogger Nabil Abi Saab.

During the battle over Quneitra on Thursday, June 6, the Syrian army moved five tanks and five armored personnel carriers into the demilitarized zone separating Syria and Israel, in an effort to remove rebel forces that had taken over the Syrian-Israel border crossing, according to the document, dated the same day and presented to the UN Security Council by Herve Ladsous, UN under secretary general for peacekeeping operations.

Israel hits Syrian outpost in response to cross-border fire

Army post at Tel Hazeka targeted by IDF tanks after patrol comes under attack by light arms and mortar lands in Golan; no injuries or damage on Israeli side

An IDF tank in a firing position on the Golan Heights last year (AP/Ariel Schalit)

An IDF tank in a firing position on the Golan Heights last year (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Israeli troops fired tank shells at a Syrian army post Tuesday night after Syrian fighting spilled over into Israel in two separate incidents.

The response came a few hours after an IDF patrol on the border came under light fire from across the border and a Syrian mortar landed in the southern Golan Heights. There were no reports of injuries or damage in either incident.

The attacks came shortly after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, during a tour of the border area, vowed to continue responding to cross-border Syrian fire.

The Israeli tanks hit an outpost at Tel Hazeka, close to where the patrol came under fire. It is not known if there were casualties on the Syrian side. The IDF said it “accurately targeted the source,” of the fire.

In the late afternoon, a shell fired from Syria slammed into Israel near Tel Fares.

Israel has come under spillover fire from Syria’s civil war from time to time, responding on occasions by shooting missiles back into the Syrian Golan Heights, where anti-Bashar Assad rebels are waging a bloody battle for control of the country.

IDF officials estimate that the cross-border fire is likely accidental, but fears of spillover violence have shaken nearly four decades of calm along Israel’s armistice line with Syria, with the UN peacekeepers in place since 1974 scaling back activities.

Earlier in the day, Ya’alon said that Jerusalem would continue to respond to fire from Syria, which he said may or may not be intentional.

“I visited the Northern Command to closely monitor the developments. Across the border there’s been a bloody civil war going on for two years, but we do not interfere as long as it does no damage to our interests,” Ya’alon said. ”When it does, by sporadic shooting that may or may not be deliberate, we respond by paralyzing the sources of fire, as has been the case already.”

Defense Minister Ya'alon during visit to the IDF Northern Command, Tuesday (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defence/Flash90)

Late last month, IDF soldiers fired a Tammuz missile at a Syrian army position in Tel Fares, from which shots were fired both that day and the previous day across the border into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. The missile destroyed the Syrian post and reportedly wounded two gunmen there.

A military spokesman said the soldiers responded with “accurate fire toward the Syrian post from which they were fired upon.” He could not say whether it was regular Syrian forces or rebels who fired. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Speaking Tuesday, Ya’alon, on his first visit to the IDF Northern Command since taking office, reiterated that Israel would act to keep Syria’s vast cache of chemical weapons from falling into the hands of jihadi fighters among the rebels or the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is allied with the regime.

“We have acted to stymie this in the past and will continue to do so,” Ya’alon claimed, possibly alluding to a reported Israeli strike on what Syria called a research facility late last year. Media reports have surmised that a weapons convoy to Hezbollah was actually targeted.

However, added Ya’alon, “All in all, the Golan Heights is quiet.”

Syrian opposition forces on Monday night reportedly captured the northern city of Al-Safira, which is close to many ammunition factories and what is believed to be the regime’s largest cache of chemical weapons.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Report: Syrian Rebels Down Iranian Weapons Plane

A report in Arab media Thursday morning said that Syrian rebels had shot down a plane over Damascus Airport

Destruction in Syria

Destruction in Syria
AFP photo

SOURCE

By David Lev

First Publish: 3/28/2013

A report in Arab media Thursday morning said that Syrian rebels had shot down a plane over Damascus Airport, causing the plane to crash and start a large fire. The plane, according to the report, was en route from Iran and was loaded with weapons for the Syrian Army.

According to the report on Al-Arabiya television, the Syrian Free Army rebels used anti-aircraft missiles to shoot the plane down. The plane managed to land, but burst into flames upon landing. Large parts of the airport were said to be on fire, including the main arrivals hall. Sources in the Syrian government quoted in the report confirmed that there had been a fire in the arrivals hall, but that it had been caused by an electrical short.

Iran has not commented on the report.

Along with the downing of the plane, Al Arabiya reported on fierce battles between rebels and Syrian Army troops in Damascus. At least 118 people were killed Wednesday in fighting. Al Arabiya showed numerous videos of the rebels fighting off attacks by Syrian soldiers. In recent days, the rebels have redoubled their appeals to Western countries for weapons and financial assistance.

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