Regime only wants to make Syria safe for Assad: Opposition

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd-R), his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad (2nd-L), Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R), and Syrian Armed Forces' chief of staff Ali Abdullah Ayyoub. (AFP)
Updated 14 December 2017
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Regime only wants to make Syria safe for Assad: Opposition

JEDDAH: The goal of the Syrian regime’s delegation is to make Syria safe for Bashar Assad, while the opposition’s goal is to make the country safe for “our people to come home,” Yahya Al-Aridi, opposition spokesman at the Geneva peace talks, told Arab News on Wednesday.
It followed reports that the regime delegation in Geneva is refusing to negotiate with the opposition directly and insisting on only discussing terrorism.
The opposition has been calling for the “indirect” peace talks — with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura’s team shuttling between the delegations — to become direct.
Asked why the regime is avoiding direct talks, Al-Aridi said: “The regime delegation is afraid to negotiate transition because it knows that leads to freedom.”
Another opposition official in Geneva, Ahmad Ramadan, told The Associated Press that the regime delegation has also refused to discuss three of the four main topics proposed by de Mistura — a new constitution, governance, elections and combating terrorism.
He said the regime is insisting only on discussing terrorism.
Al-Aridi said the regime uses terrorism as an excuse for delay. “It claims to be fighting terrorism while bombing civilians. The way to rid our country of terrorism is to make Syria stable, with a constitution that sets the people free.”
On the regime’s insistence that the opposition drop its demand for transition without Assad, Al-Aridi said: “The point of any negotiation is that different sides have different goals, not preconditions.”
Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “Many twists and turns are likely as the negotiations intensify, but we should remain optimistic about the prospect of a democratic transition for Syria.
“After years of suffering, we live in hope that breakthroughs will come and ordinary Syrian people will be set free from the regime that they have been rejecting for years,” she said.
Al-Mardini added: “For this to happen, it will require support from the international community to pressure the regime to engage seriously in the political process, so that we can end this war and begin building a new Syria where human rights and democracy are respected.”
 


Israel threatens to get tougher on Gaza after warplanes hit Hamas

The strikes targeting Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, were more intense than in previous sorties. AFP
Updated 4 min 41 sec ago
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Israel threatens to get tougher on Gaza after warplanes hit Hamas

  • Israeli planes initially targeted three Hamas military positions overnight in Gaza in response to kites and balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices launched into Israel
  • The military wings of Hamas and allied militant group Islamic Jihad said they had “targeted seven Israeli military positions near Gaza

GAZA CITY: Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday in a new flare-up of hostilities that saw dozens of rockets and mortar shells fired from the Palestinian enclave, the army said.
The strikes targeting Hamas’ military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, were more intense than in previous sorties to convey the message “we will not allow this situation to continue,” Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters.
The latest spike in tensions follows weeks of deadly protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border as well as the worst military escalation last month since a 2014 war.
It comes as US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt and adviser Jared Kushner visit the region to discuss issues including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Israeli planes initially targeted three Hamas military positions overnight in Gaza in response to kites and balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices launched into Israel from the Palestinian territory, the army said.
“They may look like toys but I can assure they are not toys, they are weapons intended to kill and to inflict damage,” Conricus said.
He said that so far Israel had sought to warn off those launching the airborne devices but that could change.
“Hamas and other militants, but mainly Hamas” hit back after the first air raids with more than 45 rockets and mortar rounds fired from Gaza toward Israel, seven of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, he added.
Three more landed inside the Jewish state, he said, but did not account for the remainder.
In response, Israeli planes carried out more raids against 25 “terror objectives” including an underground training compound, according to the army.
Gaza medical sources said that five people were lightly injured in the strikes.
In a joint statement, the military wings of Hamas and allied militant group Islamic Jihad said they had “targeted seven Israeli military positions near Gaza... in response to continued Israeli aggression against resistance sites in Gaza.”
Conricus said that most of the 200,000 Israeli civilians who live within range of the short-range rockets fired from Gaza “spent the night in bomb shelters.”