France suggests arming Syrian rebels

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Updated 16 November 2012
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France suggests arming Syrian rebels

PARIS: France’s foreign minister raised the prospect Thursday of sending “defensive weapons” to Syrian rebels, saying his country will ask the European Union to consider lifting its arms embargo on the Middle East nation.
The civil war in Syria, which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, has killed more than 36,000 Syrians since March 2011, according to anti-Assad activists. The fighting and floods of refugees seeking safety have also spilled over into several of Syria’s neighbors, including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the EU’s arms embargo is preventing Syrian rebels from fully defending themselves.
“We must not militarize the conflict ... but it’s obviously unacceptable that there are liberated zones and they’re bombed” by Assad’s regime, Fabius said in an interview with RTL radio. “We have to find a good balance.”
“The question of defensive arms will be raised,” he said, without providing details about such arms. “This cannot be done without coordination between Europeans.”
The topic of Syria is sure to be on the agenda at the EU foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels.
Among Western nations, France has been at the forefront of the struggle, and on Tuesday quickly recognized a new opposition coalition formed Sunday as the Syrian people’s sole representative. It was the first Western nation to do so.
France has already been funneling aid, some through cloak and dagger means, to Syrian rebels, but expects to turn that over to the new coalition.
Russia, meanwhile, still opposes assistance to the Syrian opposition.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, speaking at a briefing Thursday, said foreign help to those fighting Assad’s government would represent a “gross violation” of basic principles of international law. He cited a 1970 UN document saying that no country should help or finance military action aimed at the violent overthrow of a foreign government.
The Russian comments came before those from Fabius, who did not mention that Russia has consistently vetoed Security Council resolutions trying to step up the pressure against the Assad regime.
In Turkey, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recognized the broad-based Syrian National Coalition on Thursday, according to the Anadolu news agency.
The president of the new opposition coalition, the 52-year-old preacher-turned activist Mouaz Al-Khatib, is to visit Paris and meet with President Francois Hollande on Saturday.
A French diplomatic official said Thursday that France sees quick recognition as a primary way to assure success for the opposition.
“There won’t be many other occasions like this,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and asked not to be named. “We have a collective responsibility, to the Syrians and ourselves, to make this live.”
President Barack Obama is holding back full recognition, saying Wednesday that the US isn’t considering sending weapons to the opposition because of concerns the arms might end up in the hands of extremists.
Israeli tanks struck a Syrian artillery launcher Monday after a stray mortar shell flew into Israel-held territory, the first direct clash between the neighbors since the Syrian uprising began. The confrontation fueled new fears that the Syrian civil war could drag Israel into the violence, with grave consequences for the region.


Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

Updated 20 June 2018
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Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israeli jets struck 25 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after militants launched rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory, the military said.
Two Hamas security men were lightly hurt in one air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, residents said. No casualties were reported in Israel after one of the most intense recent barrages of militant rocket launches and Israeli air strikes.
Air raid sirens and Israeli phone warning applications sounded throughout the pre-dawn hours.
The military counted 30 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli territory and said its Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted seven rockets.
Since its last war with Gaza’s dominant Hamas in 2014, Israel has stepped up efforts to prevent cross-border attacks, improving rocket interceptors and investing in technologies for detecting and destroying guerrilla tunnels.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage.
At least 127 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.
Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation.
Palestinians say the protests are an outpouring of rage by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from following the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.
Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.