Israel Draws Red Lines after Attacking Anti-Aircraft Syrian Battery

Israel

Tel Aviv, Damascus, London — An Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman said that Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at the Israeli aircraft on a spy mission overflying Lebanon.

Other Israeli sources confirmed notifying the Russian army, a major backer supporting the Assad regime in Damascus, about the airstrike “in real-time mode”.

No Israeli planes were hit by the missile fired by the Syrians, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said. The counter-strike took place two hours later and “incapacitated” the anti-aircraft unit located 50 km east of Damascus, he said.

“We know according to our intelligence it was a battery controlled by the Syrian regime and we hold the Syrian regime responsible for the fire,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later issued a statement saying Israel would not hesitate to defend itself.
“Today there was an attempt to harm our aircraft — this is unacceptable to us.

The air force acted quickly and accurately to destroy what needed to be destroyed,” Reuters cited Netanyahu as saying.

“Our policy is clear. Whoever tries to harm us, we will strike at him. We will continue to act in the region as is required in order to defend Israel.”

But the Syrian army said it struck an Israeli warplane that had breached its air space at the Syria-Lebanon border.

“The Israeli enemy this morning violated our air space… Our air defense mediums confronted it, hit one of its planes directly and forced it to flee,” the Syrian military statement said.

According to military sources, the Syrian anti-aircraft missile was fired at the Israeli warplane at about 10:00 am on Monday.

Later on, Israeli officials reported that the Israeli aircraft responded with four air-to-surface missiles demolishing the Syrian missile battery.

Russian Defense Minister in Tel Aviv, Dodges Commenting on Israeli Airstrike in Syria

Shoigu

Moscow – Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday for talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman.

During the meeting, Shoigu was said to have overlooked commenting on the recent Israeli airstrike against missile defense bases east of Damascus, Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov did not elaborate on Moscow’s view on the attack.

Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli spy aircraft overflying Lebanon, the Israeli military said earlier on Monday.

Russia’s news agency TASS reported that the Israeli forces notified Russia “in real time” about a strike on a target near Damascus.

Russia has been backing the Damascus-centered regime led by Bashar al-Assad against Syrian rebels and other groups since 2015.

“I would like to talk about the things related to Syria. The operation there is close to the end. There are several problems which require urgent solution and the prospects of further development of the situation in Syria require discussion,” Shoigu said.

More so, he dodged questions concerning the airstrikes before the press and reporters, focusing instead on the war against terror.

Addressing Lieberman, he stressed the need to “mobilize all forces” against terrorism in the region.

In an official statement, Konashenkov said that Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on a two-day visit, during which he will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss issues of technical – military cooperation between the two sides.

Konashenkov added that regional security and issues related to the Syrian settlement will be discussed.

Government Blackout on Markets’ Fires in Damascus

Damascus- Once again, fires are swallowing up archaeological sites in Old Damascus amidst authorities’ discretion towards the real causes and with accusation against Iran of causing the fires to seize the region, with the complicity of the regime.

The last fire, believed not to be the least, flared up at the evening of October 1 in Al-Asrounieh Market, meters away from the Umayyad Mosque from the south-east, Al-Hamidiyah Souq from the north while the Citadel of Damascus lays at the south and Al-Manakhlia Market at the west.

As reported in a social network, the news was restricted to the following: Fire flares up in Al-Asrounieh Market in Old Damascus for an anonymous reason, and there are no casualties.

This market, which includes hundreds of stores and is considered a vital market in Damascus, is specialized in selling necessities of kitchens and women from perfumes, makeup, and kids’ toys. Its name attributes to the historian Ibn Abi Asroun while other historians say its name goes back to the fact that the market always becomes busy in the “afternoon” which is equivalent to the Arabic word “aser”.

Since the beginning of the war, towns and markets of Old Damascus have been witnessing a widespread of militias that are supported by Iran under the pretext of defending shrines.

Despite the reservation of the majority of stores’ owners towards the new fire out of security fears, someone stood out and revealed what he knows to Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is certain that the fire is intentional by pro-Iran individuals to lay their hands on the economic center of Damascus. How did this fire occur with all the widespread of Iranian militias and security members? Why don’t they interfere when there are fires?”

This fire is the third of its kind after the last one that took black back in December which burned 10 stores and two warehouses. Back then, stores’ owners affirmed that militants made up a fire on Thursday, followed by another one on Friday.

Regime forces claimed that the reason was a short circuit.

Suicide Attacks Hit Damascus Police Center

Three suicide bombers blew themselves up near the police headquarters in central Damascus on Wednesday, Syrian state media said, in the second such attack to hit the capital this month. Terror group ISIS later claimed that attack.

The blasts killed one person and injured six others, state television said, citing the interior ministry.
The suicide bombers tried to storm the police command center and clashed with guards before detonating explosive belts at the entrance, it said.

The police cornered the third attacker behind the building, where he blew himself up on the street, state media added.

Earlier this month, suicide bombers struck a police station in another part of the capital, with 17 people reported dead.

On that note, Syria’s Kurds were reportedly cited as ‘competitive’ against the pro-regime forces, seeking control over oil-producing areas, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Wednesday.

“They (the Kurds) know well that Syria will not allow its sovereignty to be violated under any conditions,” Moualem told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“They are now drunk on US assistance and support. But they need to understand that this assistance won’t last forever.”

At Least 16 Killed in Suicide Bombings in Central Damascus

Damascus

Damascus, London – At least 16 people were killed, including civilians and security forces, in twin suicide bombings that targeted on Monday the Midan police station in the Syrian capital Damascus.

This is the second such attack in the area in ten months and since 2011.

Damascus has been relatively kept away from the conflict raging in the country, but it constantly comes under rocket attacks fired by opposition fighters fortified on the outskirts of the city.

Bomb attacks have also been frequent.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll to at least 16 in Monday’s attack. At least eight of the victims were from the police force, four were civilians and four others have not been identified.

A large number of people have been wounded, some of them seriously.

The ISIS terrorist group announced on Tuesday its responsibility for the Midan attack, saying that it was carried out by three of its members.

State television broadcast video of destruction inside a room in the police station where the suicide bomber likely set off his explosives.

Interior Minister Mohammed Shaar said that terrorists targeted the guards at the Midan police station with grenades, killing several before one of them blew himself up.

A second attacker made it to the first floor of the building where he clashed with police before being killed. He managed to detonate his explosives before dying.

In December 2016, three police officers were wounded when a seven-year-old girl walked into the Midan neighborhood police station wearing an explosive belt that was remotely detonated.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: At Least Two Blasts Hit Damascus

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “at least two blasts” hit the Syria’s capital Damascus on Monday.

A bomb attack hit a southern district of Damascus, Syrian state media reported.

“Initial information of a terrorist explosion in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus,” state television reported in a breaking news alert, giving no further details.

It said the first was a car bomb attack near a police station and the second was caused by a suicide bomber.

The monitor said there were also reports that a second suicide bomber had detonated an explosive belt in the attack.

There was no official confirmation of those details, although the Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, also reported the attack was near a police station in Midan.

Damascus has been spared much of the violence that has devastated Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-regime protests.

But the capital has been rocked by sporadic bomb attacks.

In December 2016, three police officers were wounded when a seven-year-old girl walked into a police station in Midan wearing an explosive belt that was remotely detonated.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began.

Syrian-Jordanian Meetings to Reopen Nasib Border Crossing

Damaged vehicles near the Syrian-Jordanian border at the Nasib crossing in southern Syria.

Amman- Jordanian-Syrian meetings have been taking place over the last few days to discuss the subject of reopening the Nasib Border Crossing, said sources in Jordan.

Consultations are being held away from media spectacles– results and arrangements will be made clearer next October, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Nasib Border Crossing is an international border crossing between Syria and Jordan. It is one of the busiest border crossings in Syria and is situated on the Damascus-Amman international highway.

Sources pointed out that reopening the crossing is a move representing common interest for both Jordanian and Syrian parties and that its resumption is clearly linked to border security implications.

Despite Amman being put under undeniable pressure, sources said Jordan refused to open the Nasib crossing when it was under the control of unofficial authorities.

For its part, Russia’s Defense Ministry urged armed Syrian opposition factions to reopen the border crossing point between Syria and Jordan.

“We ask the leaders of the armed opposition, the American and Jordanian sides and the head of the United Nations offices in the cities of Damascus and Amman to assist the Syrian government in resolving the issue of reopening the crossing of the customs share and part of the road,” said the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The opening of the crossing will allow for increased trade between Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, especially between the governorates of Daraa, Sweida and Damascus.

Russia’s call came after a new meeting convened in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which included representatives from Syrian opposition factions, the local council in Daraa, and Jordanian officials.

The meeting was arranged in order to reach an agreement on Nasib’s reopening, but it failed in light of the conditions put forward by opposition factions and the Syrian regime.

Opposition factions demanded that all measures at the crossing be placed under its control (the southern front factions of the Free Syrian Army are active in the area) and that the Syrian regime establishes a second crossing point near the Nasib crossing, where the opposition does not intervene.

As for Damascus, it demanded the presence of its staff to conduct all the crossing operations as was the case before the Syrian revolution broke out.

Syria: Russian Missiles against Nusra Front in Idlib, Israeli Raids near Damascus

Syria

Moscow and Beirut – A submarine from the Russian Black Sea fleet launched Kalibr cruise missiles against al-Nusra Front positions in Idlib, Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Friday.

The ministry said that the attack against terrorist targets came in wake of an al-Nusra Front attack on a Russian military police unit in northern Hama on September 20.

“The missile strike destroyed important command centers, training bases and armored vehicles of the terrorists, who tried to capture 29 Russian military policemen in the north of the Hama Province,” the ministry’s statement said.

Meanwhile, US Department of State accused Russian and Syrian forces of hitting civilian targets in the cities of Idlib and Hama earlier this week.

“The United States is concerned by reports of airstrikes in Idlib province and northern Hama province on September 19 and 20 that killed at least three medical personnel and damaged a number of medical facilities, emergency equipment and civil defense centers,” Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

According to the US Department of State, these attacks fit a familiar pattern in which medical facilities and personnel and the civilians they serve are victims of strikes by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies.

In related news, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that recent developments in Syria call for “cautious optimism”.

Addressing the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Lavrov said that even though ISIS is pulling back in Syria and Iraq, considerable additional effort is required to stabilize the region.

“It should be recalled that it is necessary to fight not only ISIS, but also al-Nusra, the latter being tolerated for whatever reason by the US coalition members,” he added.

On chemical attacks in Syria, the Russian minister stated that the alleged use of chemical weapons is a separate issue, stressing that all such cases “must be investigated honestly and professionally, without attempts to manipulate the activities of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN/OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism.

At an EU-organized conference held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said aid was being used as a political tool to build pressure on Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

“The politicization of issues related to aid and the statements on the need to wait for the end of the political process are unacceptable,” he added.

He stressed that aid was needed now “to rebuild schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Israeli jets have reportedly bombed an area near Damascus International Airport, targeting Lebanon’s “Hezbollah”.

According to social media reports, Israeli planes fired at least two missiles from outside Syrian airspace, hitting either a weapons depot or a convoy.

Opposition activists said on Friday that the overnight attacks caused destruction and damage and “the explosion shook the Damascus International Airport.”

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the shelling was heard in Damascus and its suburbs, saying that it targeted “Hezbollah” weapons caches near the international airport.

Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen also reported the attack as well as the Facebook page of the National Guard for the Defense of the Homeland.

National Guard stated that “an area near the Damascus International Airport was attacked by a hostile missile”, while images showed a fire burning in the early hours of Friday.

Turkish-Iranian Deal under Russian Auspices: Idlib in Exchange for South Damascus

London- There are signs of a new deal between Ankara and Tehran under the auspices of Moscow.

The deal includes Turkish military presence in Idlib in exchange for Iranian control over the south of Damascus and the expansion of Sayyeda Zainab area, which means providing a mass of permanent influence on the political decision in Damascus.

If the parties succeed in reaching an agreement in the coming Astana meeting on Thursday and Friday as planned, it will be a new step in Russia’s distribution for areas of influence on regional and major countries in Syria.

It will also be an additional reference to Moscow’s intentions to put pressure on Damascus to accept the Turkish military presence in northern Syria in a deeper way than the role of the Turkish army in the “Euphrates Shield” operation northern Aleppo.

Since Russia, Turkey and Iran have reached an agreement in May 2016 during Astana talks to form de-escalation zones in four Syrian areas (Idlib, Eastern Ghouta, Homs and Syria’s southwest areas) following a ceasefire agreement at the end of last year, Turkey proposed a military presence in the four areas and then reduced its request to Idlib.

The Iranian response back then was by submitting similar proposal while Russia’s response was to send military observers, who were later agreed on to be Sunnis from Chechnya.

Moscow prevented the forces of the regime, its allies and Hezbollah from breaking into Idlib after Aleppo, stopped the US air raids on leaders of Nusra Front in Idlib early this year.

Moscow also froze this complicated file amid the gathering of elements of Nusra Front, their families and opponents in Idlib to include two million people.

It focused, instead, on the three other de-escalation zones, and concluded a deal with the United States and Jordan to implement the “southern truce” and with Cairo to implement the ceasefire in Ghouta and Homs before the extension of the truce to the eastern Qalamoun.

“By observing Iran’s priorities it is clear that it wants to provide a population on the outskirts of Damascus and between Damascus and the Lebanese borders that will be pro-Tehran so that the political decision in the capital could be influenced regardless of the ruler,” a Western official said Monday.

The implementation of the “Zabadani-Fuah Agreement” was also resumed Monday by delivering humanitarian aid.

This coincided with Tehran’s approval on Ankara’s proposal to play a direct military role in Idlib; the interests of the two countries met with Russia’s interest.

The Russian army has deployed in Afrin, north of Aleppo, and set up a de-escalation zone between the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish “People Protection Units,” Turkey’s rivals.

Damascus’ Diplomats Meet to Outline Future Foreign Policy

Damascus- Syria’s diplomatic cable held a meeting to outline the regime’s foreign policy for the upcoming period, said informed sources.

Sources told the German news agency, DPA, that the meeting coincided as regime troops pushed for control over swathes of Syrian heartland. On Friday, it was announced that some 9,000 kilometers have been brought in regime control . The area is said to connect Raqqa, Homs and Hama.

In the processes, a siege cut off ISIS-controlled towns in Hama’s northeastern rural areas, such as Uqayribat.

The sources linked the meeting to the qualitative changes in the course of the political solution to the seven-year-old Syrian conflict.

On the other hand, Russian forces based in Lattakia announced reaching an agreement to manage de-escalation zones through joint committees between the opposition and the regime forces in concerned areas.

However, Al-Rahman Legion media director Mowafaq Abu Ghassan told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper said that regime forces gassed rebel areas.

The group’s medical center documented four severe cases of asphyxiation.

Syrian jets and artillery struck rebel-held eastern Damascus suburbs on Saturday a day after a Russian sponsored ceasefire with a rebel group agreed a halt of fighting in the last opposition enclave in the capital, rebels and witnesses said.

The Russian defense ministry said on Friday it had reached a ceasefire that took effect at 21.00 hrs Moscow time (1800 GMT) with Failaq al Rahman, the main Free Syrian Army (FSA) group fending off a two-month widescale Syrian army offensive in Jobar district and nearby town of Ain Tarma.

A spokesman for Failaq al Rahman said both Jobar, which lies some 2 km east of the Old City wall, and nearby Ain Tarma on the edge of Eastern Ghouta witnessed army strikes and shelling soon after the ceasefire went into effect.

“After the first few hours … there were many violations…at midnight they dropped barrel bombs and from the morning there have been strikes across the Ghouta,” Wael Alwan, another spokesman for the group, said.

At least five civilians were killed in the towns of Hamouriya and Zalamka and fighters said there were several case of suffocation from rockets filled with chlorine that were fired at the front lines of Jobar and Ain Terma, he added.

The Syrian army elite 4th Division has been trying unsuccessfully to storm Jobar and residents say the army has retaliated for its heavy losses by shelling residential areas, leaving scores killed and wounded since the campaign was launched.

Failaq al Rahman said the Syrian army bombardment appeared to be an attempt to wreck a ceasefire deal whose main points included deploying Russian military police along the frontline, the release of detainees and allowing humanitarian goods into the besieged Eastern Ghouta.