maandag 6 mei 2013

Update Israelische aanvallen in Syrië


Afgelopen vrijdag en zondag viel Israel doelen in Syrië aan, waaronder raketten die bedoeld waren voor Hezbollah. Er zouden echter meer doelen zijn bestookt, en volgens sommige berichten zouden tientallen Syrische elite troepen zijn gedood.  





Syria attack update  


It looks like the attack had many targets:


A rebel spokesman, who spoke from a “liberated area” held by the opposition in Damascus, told NBC News there were huge explosions just before 2 a.m. Sunday local time (7 p.m. Saturday ET) in the Qaysoun mountains on the edge of Damascus. 

“Around 10 locations were hit," the spokesman said. "It was difficult to tell what was hit in the raid and what exploded afterwards. Some of the targets were weapons and weapons depots.

"Secondary explosions continued for about four hours. They shook all of Damascus. There was still smoke in the air as the sun came up.”
From its Damascus media office, the Free Syrian Army listed nine apparent targets, including the Syrian Revolutionary Guard, the 104th brigade headquarters, a weapons depot in Qasyoun and a military research center at Jamraya.


The NYT notes that there were reported casualties (reported by YNet):


The attack struck several critical military facilities in some of Syria's most tightly secured and strategic areas, killing dozens of elite troops stationed near the presidential palace, a high-ranking Syrian military official told the newspaper.

Rebels, opposition activists and residents said the strikes hit bases of the elite Republican Guard and storehouses of long-range missiles, in addition to a military research center that American officials have called the country’s main chemical weapons facility, the report said.

A doctor at the military’s Tishreen Hospital said Monday that there were at least 100 dead soldiers and many dozens more wounded, according to the New York Times.

It is still unclear if this was an air-raid - or if it was a series of missiles shot from Syrian airspace. JE Dyer notes:


A Russia Today news item stated that the IAF launched 12 missiles into Syria from Lebanese air space; if valid, that report indicates the IAF used Israeli Popeye air-to-surface missiles to conduct the attack. The Popeye has a range of about 50 statute miles (78km), allowing standoff attacks. An ordnance package of this size, and a pattern of multiple, sequential strikes, fit the profile of an attack intended to badly cripple one or more facilities of industrial character, including weapons storage sites.

The explosive weight capacity of the Popeye is also consistent with the character of the explosions seen in the videos. I do note that the explosions in the videos appear to indicate strikes on above-ground, non-hardened targets. These are only a few of the explosions; there were presumably more.


One paragraph in this NYT analysis shows a bit of unintended bias on the part of "experts" quoted:


The increased frequency and intensity of the attacks also demonstrates Israel’s desire to take advantage of the chaotic situation, security experts say, as well as its calculation that Syria, Hezbollah and Iran are too preoccupied and weakened by the raging conflict in Syria to retaliate strongly against even a brazen escalation.

But several warned there was a risk of Israeli overreach, particularly given the fiery rhetoric with which Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah responded, a stark contrast to the silence that greeted some earlier attacks.


Isn't it possible that Hezbollah and Iran, fearful of Syria's fall which would destroy Hezbollah's main artery for weapons supplies, are using the civil war in Syria as a smokescreen to accelerate arms transfers - and Israel is ensuring that its long-held "red lines" are not being compromised?

Here is Al Arabiya's coverage: 


Finally, Zvi has a roundup of reactions to the raids:


* The Turkish regime is saying little about any of this. Most attention is on the terrorist massacres of hundreds of Sunnis in Bayda and Banias, about which Erdogan said today:
"Hear me, Bashar al-Assad. You will give an account for this. You will pay a very, very heavy price for [only] showing the courage you cannot show others to the babies in the cradle with soothers in their mouths. God willing, the lamentations of these children will fall upon you as blessed revenge,” he said during a gathering of his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) consultation gathering in Kızılcahamam, near Ankara. "Erdoğan’s harsh words came a day after a new massacre was reported by activists in a Sunni town near Banias in Syria’s western Alawite enclave.
While the reference to "others" is no doubt a veiled reference to Israel, priorities are clearly priorities.
* Turkish Today's Zaman: Israel apparently strikes near Damascus
* Turkey's armed forces began a 10-day miniature "mobilization exercise" in Adana province today.
* (Mavi M talks are underway in Tel Aviv)
Saudi Arabia
* Asharq alawsat (former editor):
This air raid serves as a message to Hezbollah that Israel is not bothered by Hassan Nasrallah’s threats... Of course, this further complicates the crisis in Syria, but who said that it was not complicated in the first place?... This second message is for the international community. Even if Israeli aircraft were outside of Syrian airspace when they delivered their payloads, as was announced, this means that the US and the international community have the ability to constrain Assad within hours. This is the opposite of what is currently being said about Assad’s defense systems.
Misc. Media
Headlines and first paragraphs largely seem to explain what happened.
* WaPo, headline: "Israel enforces "red line" with Syria airstrike on weapons bound for Hezbollah"
* USA's NPR, first sentence: "Israel has conducted an airstrike against a target in Syria, in an apparent attempt to keep a shipment of missiles from reaching Hezbollah"
* AP, first sentence: "Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be on their way to Lebanon's Hezbollah group, officials and activists said."
* Aljazeera ran the AP piece.
* Reuters, first sentence: "Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah."
* Reuters (Jeffrey Heller), first sentences: Iran was squarely in Israel's sights when it sent its planes to hit targets in Syria, waging a war-within-a-war that showed a readiness to strike out alone if its red lines were crossed. Allegations of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons have grabbed headlines and driven new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene in Syria's civil war. But when it took military action over the weekend while Washington stayed on the sidelines, Israel was homing in on targets with strategic significance for its own possible war with Iran rather than for Syria's internal fighting.
* Fox, headline: "Israel launches airstrike on Syria targeting weapons, official says"
* Guardian, subtitle: "Unnamed western intelligence sources reportedly claim attack was attempt to stop missiles reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon"
* LATimes, first sentence: "Huge explosions were reported in Damascus early Sunday, just two days after a reported Israeli airstrike in Syria targeting surface-to-air missiles possibly destined for neighboring Lebanon and the militant group Hezbollah."
* Politico, first sentences: "The Syrian state news agency SANA, citing initial reports, said early Sunday that Israeli missiles struck a military research center near the capital Damascus." After calling this a "sharp escalation", the piece explains about the targeting of weapons bound for Hezbollah.
* Financial Times waits until paragraph 4 to explain that "In both attacks, Israel hit Fateh-110 long-range missiles that were in transit from Iran through Syria to Islamic militants Hizbollah , in Lebanon."
* Guardian (UK) headline: "Syria regime accuses Israel of declaring war", subtitle: "Isreal's night raid on 'missiles destined for Hezbollah' deepens fears of conflict spreading beyond Syria"
* CNN web site: The 2nd worst piece that I saw. You have to read for more than 20 paragraphs before there is any mention of weapons bound for Hezbollah.
* Telegraph (UK), headline: "Syria accuses Israel of supporting 'terrorists' in the wake of air strikes". First sentences: "Syria accused Israel of supporting "terrorists" including al-Qaeda, threatening retaliation for Israeli air strikes on military bases that have drawn the Jewish state deep into the civil war raging across the border. The strikes north of Damascus, in the early hours of Sunday morning, lit up the night sky and felt "like an earthquake", according to residents. Continuing explosions suggested weapons and ammunition facilities were hit, in line with Israel's policy of preventing heavy arms transfers to Hizbollah, Syria's ally in neighbouring Lebanon."
* Guardian (UK), first sentences: Syria's crisis always attracts intense international attention when outsiders get involved – especially Israel. Damascus called the latest raid "a declaration of war" but it was probably intended as something more limited – to maintain Israel's own security "red lines", irrespective of the wider picture. Pre-emptive attacks are an Israeli speciality – from the 1967 assault on Egypt and Syria through the 1981 bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor to last year's strike on an Iranian-built factory in Sudan supplying weapons to Gaza. By all accounts, the raids near Damascus at the weekend were intended to stop advanced missiles being delivered to the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is allied to Syria and backed by Iran. It was only last week that its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, pledged publicly to stand by Bashar al-Assad, along with the president's other "real friends" in Tehran and Moscow.
* WSJ, first sentence: "Israeli warplanes bombed a target in Syria in an overnight strike Thursday, U.S. officials said, the second such attack this year in a sign of growing Israeli concern that advanced Syrian weapons could fall into terrorists' hands."
* Aftenposten (Norway), the most distorted reporting of all: "United States was not informed in advance about the Israeli air attacks on targets in Syria, according to a U.S. intelligence source." The 4-paragraph story never mentions Hezbollah, saying only that Israel "bombed an arms cargo in Syria." The judgment of the Aftenposten editors is extremely suspect.
* BBC (UK), summary: "Israel's air strikes on military targets in Syria show co-ordination between Israel and "terrorist groups", the Syrian foreign ministry says." showing the spin that the BBC wants to put on this event, because using the Syrian statement to characterize the event shows an absolute lack of interest in the truth. The report itself hammers out the Assad regime's propaganda points, mixes in the daily dose of hypocritical condemnations from Arab officials who are secretly pleased or could not care less, and throws in terms like "significant escalation". The sidebar analysis by Jerusalem-based Yolanda Knell is less twisted, and references to "our correspondent" (Knell) suggest that the piece was authored not by Knell herself but by the BBC's middle east desk, which has persistently displayed some of the most extreme anti-Israel biases among global news organizations.


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