Israel ‘has hit nearly 100 convoys carrying arms to Hezbolllah’

Fighters of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah hold a position during a rally to mark the 11th anniversary of the end of the 2006 war with Israel, in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon, in this August 13, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Israel ‘has hit nearly 100 convoys carrying arms to Hezbolllah’

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military army has carried out nearly 100 strikes in the past five years on convoys carrying weapons to Hezbollah and other militant groups in Syria and elsewhere, a general said Thursday.
Former air force commander Amir Eshel told Haaretz newspaper that “since 2012, I’m talking about many dozens of strikes ... the number is close to being three digits.”
“An action could be an isolated thing, small and pinpointed, or it could be an intense week involving a great many elements,” he said of the strikes.
Since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011, Israel has maintained a policy of attacking arms convoys intended for its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah, which is a key supporter of the Syrian regime and fought a devastating war against the Jewish state in 2006.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last year that Israel had “taken military action” against Iranian convoys leading weapons to Hezbollah “dozens and dozens of times.”
Israel also carries out strikes in retaliation for spillover in fighting on the Golan Heights facing Syria when rockets or other projectiles have landed over the demarcation line.
According to Eshel, who was commander of the air force for five years, the strikes had been precise enough to avoid escalation, but at the same time they had served as a deterrent to war with Israel.
“I think that in the view of our enemies, as I understand things, this language is clear here and also understood beyond the Middle East,” Eshel told Haaretz.
He did not specify the location of the strikes, but Haaretz said they were carried out on a number of different fronts.
Israel seized 1,200 square km of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
Around 510 square km remain under Syrian control.

Palestinian’s home razed
Israel’s military said forces have demolished the home of a Palestinian involved in attacks that killed a young female police officer in Jerusalem.
It said troops early Thursday destroyed the West Bank residence of one of the attackers.
Palestinians armed with an automatic weapon and knives assaulted officers on duty near Jerusalem’s Old City in June. Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, was rushing to respond to the initial attack when a Palestinian assaulted her with a knife.
Israel says the demolitions are an effective deterrent. Critics say it amounts to collective punishment.
Since 2015, Israeli forces have killed over 255 Palestinians, most said by Israel to be attackers.


Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

A Syrian family rides with belongings on a tractor-drawn trailer as they flee from fighting in the southern Syrian province of Daraa on June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

  • Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week
  • Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally

MOSCOW, BEIRUT: Thousands of people have fled opposition-held areas of southwestern Syria being targeted by regime bombardment, a war monitor said on Thursday, as Damascus steps up attacks on an area near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 12,500 people had fled opposition-held areas of northeastern Daraa province in the past 48 hours.
The war has pivoted toward the southwest since the Syrian regime and its allies crushed the last remaining pockets of opposition-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.
Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally.
A major Syrian regime offensive in the area would risk an escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria.
Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
Assad said earlier this month the regime, at Russia’s suggestion, was seeking to strike a deal in the southwest similar to agreements that have restored its control of other areas through withdrawals of opposition forces.
But he also said there had been no results yet and blamed “Israeli and American interference.” He said the territory would be recovered by force if necessary. Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week.

Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN report
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. The report published on Wednesday said forces loyal to the Syrian regime had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When
questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the
report.

He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.