Get your militia out of southern Syria, Russia’s Lavrov tells Iran

A tank with the Hezbollah banner operating in Syria (AFP)
Updated 29 May 2018

Get your militia out of southern Syria, Russia’s Lavrov tells Iran

  • Israel and Jordan have repeatedly insisted that the Shiite militias that backed President Bashar Assad in the war, should not be allowed near their borders. 
  • The US has voiced concern about reports of an impending Syrian offensive in the south, warning Damascus it would respond to breaches.

LONDON: Iran came under pressure from both alies and enemies on Tuesday as Russia, Israel and Jordan all insisted there was no place for Tehran-funded militias on Syria’s southern border.

Israel and Jordan have repeatedly insisted that the Shiite militias that backed President Bashar Assad in the war, should not be allowed near their borders. 

A cease-fire brokered last year by the US, Russia and Jordan, reduced fighting in south-west Syria, where rebel fighters still control territory.

With Assad’s forces now in their strongest military position since the war began seven years ago, there are fears he may launch a fresh offensive to seize the area. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said on Monday only Syrian army troops should be on the country’s southern border.

“Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis. This should be a two-way street,” Lavrov said.

“The result of this work, which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel.”

Russia has also backed Assad in the conflict, with its air power regarded as one of the key turning points in the regime’s favor. 

But Moscow was also instrumental in the de-escalation deals that reduced fighting in certain parts of the country last year. 

The US has voiced concern about reports of an impending Syrian offensive in the south, warning Damascus it would respond to breaches.

Jordan said on Monday it was discussing south Syria with Washington and Moscow, and all three agreed on the need to preserve the cease-fire there.

“The de-escalation zone has produced the cease-fire that has held best in all of Syria. The parties to the agreement are all committed to preserving it,” a Jordanian official told Reuters.

Both Israel and Jordan have been seeking understandings with Moscow to push the  Shiite militias away from the area.

Israel has stepped up its military strikes on suspected Iranian targets across Syria in recent weeks.

Israel called for Tehran to be denied any military presence in Syria.

“We believe that there is no place for any Iranian military presence, anywhere in Syria.” 


Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

Updated 18 August 2019

Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

  • Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel

RAMALLAH: Relatives of a US congresswoman say they support her decision to decline Israel’s offer allowing her to visit them in the West Bank because the “right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions.”

Rashida Tlaib said she would not see her family, even after Israel lifted a ban on her entry, because the government had imposed restrictions on her trip.

“We totally understand her position and support her in her efforts. The right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions,” her uncle Bassam Tlaib told Arab News.

He was speaking from the family home in Beit Ur Al-Fuka, which is 3 km from the West Bank city of Ramallah, and was flanked by his elderly mother.

He said his niece had visited them many times in the past, but there had never been any conditions attached to her travel.

“She said we will meet when she can come without conditions,” Tlaib said. “One idea has been floated of flying the grandmother to the US or finding a way to have the two meetings in a third country. You know my mother is nearing 90 and it is not easy for her to travel but we are checking out all options.”

Tlaib, a Democrat, has criticized Israel’s policy toward Palestinians and had planned to make an official visit to the country.

Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel, local media reported.

But the congresswoman, who is Palestinian-American, lashed out on social media.

“I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies,” she tweeted, using the word sity to refer to her grandmother. “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”

The NGO hosting and organizing the trip, Miftah, has been criticized by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Hanan Ashrawi, the NGO’s founder, said her staff had organized other congressional trips. “This was the third trip we have organized, and we try to do our work professionally and seriously,” Ashrawi told Arab News. “Our very mission is to promote global dialogue and democracy.”

Ashrawi said the attacks on Miftah were unwarranted.  “Miftah has been targeted with the expressed goal of trying to discredit us even though our record is clear. We believe that they are trying to keep organizing congressional delegations within the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) monopoly, while we are trying to provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about Palestinian life under occupation and to understand the Palestinian narrative by providing opportunities for delegations to see and engage with Palestinians of all walks of life.” 

Ashrawi said Miftah had been “vetted” by the US Congress’ ethics committee. “We might not be able to bring hundreds of congress people like AIPAC, but we can bring a few and have them see, hear and interact with Palestinians.”

US President Donald Trump had called on Israel not to allow Tlaib and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar into Israel as admitting the two “would show great weakness.”

He tweeted that the pair “hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace.”