Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution

Russian-brokered deals have paved the way for fighters and civilians to be evacuated from Eastern Ghouta in the past weeks. (Reuters)
Updated 03 April 2018

Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution

  • Syrian opposition to Assad's regime vowed to continue the revolution after loosing Ghouta
JEDDAH: The Syrian opposition on Monday pledged to continue the revolution against President Bashar Assad as pro-regime forces drew closer to taking full control of the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
“What’s happening in Syria isn’t a matter of geography,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
“The uprising in Syria is in the hearts and minds of people who reject the brutal dictatorship (of Assad). We’ll never stop.”
Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said in an editorial on Monday that it was a matter of hours until Douma, the last significant center of resistance in Eastern Ghouta, was declared a “town empty of terrorism.”
Backed by Russia, pro-regime forces have scored a series of victories over the opposition in recent years, often through sieges, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread international condemnation.
“These aren’t Assad victories. This is an occupation achieved with horrible military power against civilians,” said Al-Aridi. “This is the propaganda of the regime and Iran when they talk about victory. It’s immoral.”
His remarks came as the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey planned to meet on Wednesday in Ankara for their second three-way summit on Syria.
The meeting follows the first tripartite summit between the three presidents in Sochi last November.
Al-Aridi said: “It’s the start of the revolution all over again — reorganizing and learning from mistakes made… and organizing forces at the political and other levels. We’ll rebuild our efforts on different levels.”
He added: “Our uprising has been peaceful from the very beginning. We didn’t select to carry weapons. We just tried to defend ourselves.”
He said: “The regime created all sorts of pretexts, including terrorism, militias, Daesh and Al-Nusra Front. And it internationalized the Syrian case so it could sideline the people’s main request for freedom.”
US Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned President Donald Trump on Sunday against pulling American troops out of Syria, saying it would lead to a resurgence of Daesh and increased Iranian sway in the country.
Al-Aridi said: “The main beneficiary of Daesh is the Syrian regime and those who support it. Iran and Russia used Daesh as a pretext to rescue a falling regime.
He added: “The revival of Daesh, if there is one, will be used again to oppress and suppress and kill people. Daesh is a tool in the hands of dictators.”
He said: “There are different narratives of the deal struck between the people of Douma and Russia. The opposition says the wounded will be taken away for treatment but the people will remain there.
“Russia’s story is different. It wants everybody removed. No final deal has been achieved yet. This is the last thing we heard from our people.”
A Russian-brokered deal had been reported on Sunday for fighters with Jaish Al-Islam, the largest opposition group still in Eastern Ghouta, to leave Douma.
But the fighters have not yet confirmed the agreement, amid reports of divisions within the group as hard-liners refuse to abandon their posts.
In the past few weeks, such deals have seen more than 46,000 people — fighters and civilians — board buses with scant belongings to be driven to the northwest province of Idlib, which is largely outside regime control.
“It isn’t the Syrian regime that has occupied Eastern Ghouta or has full control over it. It’s an Iranian and Russian occupation,” said Al-Aridi.
He condemned “the Iranians with their militias on the ground and their vicious plan, and the Russians with their deadly jets bombing everything in a scorched-earth strategy like what they did in Grozny,” the capital of Chechnya.
“People from the very beginning didn’t select to carry weapons. They chanted for freedom, but the regime resisted with firepower and killed them.”

Israel says located second ‘Hezbollah’ tunnel from Lebanon

UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicles patrol along the border with Israel near the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila on Dec. 6. (AFP)
Updated 15 min 11 sec ago

Israel says located second ‘Hezbollah’ tunnel from Lebanon

  • The tunnel crosses into Israel, like the first tunnel it is not yet operational, said Israel

JERUSALEM: Israel’s army said on Saturday it had located another tunnel crossing into its territory from Lebanon, the second such find since launching an operation to expose and destroy alleged Hezbollah “attack tunnels.”

“The IDF has located an additional Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel,” spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said, refusing to give details on its precise location or dimensions.

“The tunnel crosses into Israel, like the first tunnel it is not yet operational and does not pose an imminent threat to Israeli communities,” he said in a briefing with journalists.

On Tuesday, the army launched an operation dubbed “Northern Shield” to destroy tunnels it said were dug under the border by the militant group Hezbollah, sharing images of one found near the Israeli town of Metula.

Conricus said on Saturday that the army had placed explosives in the newly exposed tunnel to prevent its use as a means to infiltrate Israel, but had not yet destroyed it. He said the Israeli military had issued warnings in Arabic to residents of southern Lebanon to stay away.

Following the army’s announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the operation to track the tunnels “is in its beginning.”

“We’ll continue to act till its completion,” he said in a statement.

Conricus said the military was aware of a third tunnel leading from south Lebanon into Israel.

Despite not having its exact location, he said Israel asked UNIFIL, the UN mission monitoring the border region, to “take action and block the tunnel on the Lebanese side.”

The announcement of the new find came after Israeli soldiers on Saturday opened fire at what they perceived to be three “Hezbollah activists” approaching the border near Yiftah, south of Metula, where the army was carrying out engineering work.

Conricus said the army believed the three individuals intended to take sensors the Israeli soldiers had placed in the ground as part of their efforts to uncover tunnels.

Lebanon’s official NNA news agency said Israeli forces fired shots in the air east of the village of Mays Al-Jabal after they had been surprised because of heavy fog by a routine Lebanese army patrol.

Also Saturday, the Kremlin said Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces are fighting on the same side as Hezbollah in Syria, to tell him about the tunnel operation.

Putin “stressed the need to ensure stability along the line separating Israel and Lebanon,” the Russian Embassy in Israel said.

Netanyahu’s office said he reiterated in the call “Israel’s policy to prevent the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to act against Iranian and Hezbollah aggression.” 

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hezbollah.

However, a friendly fire incident in Syria in September that led to the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli strike has complicated Israeli operations.

Iran-backed Hezbollah is the only group in Lebanon not to have disarmed after the country’s 1975-1990 civil war. Israel fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006 that was halted by a truce.