Lebanese MP: Sweida hostages were freed by Russia

The regime wanted to use what happened to blackmail Syrian Druze into returning to the military service, says the MP. (AFP/SANA)
Updated 12 November 2018
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Lebanese MP: Sweida hostages were freed by Russia

  • The Russians were responsible for the monitoring, reconnaissance, timing and execution of the operation
  • Daesh had kidnapped 36 women and children from the Syrian southern province of Sweida during an attack that killed more than 250 people

BEIRUT: Lebanese MP and member of the Democratic Gathering party Wael Abou Faour told Arab News that “the liberation of the women abducted by Daesh on Nov. 8 was accomplished by Russian special forces. They were responsible for the monitoring, reconnaissance, timing and execution of the operation. The Syrian army was not the one to do so as the regime had claimed. However, some Syrian elements that directly follow the Russian leadership took part in the operation.”

“What happened was a military liberation operation. No deal was made with the Syrian regime or the abductors,” he added.
Faour had accompanied the head of the Democratic Gathering party, Taymour Jumblatt, on a trip to Moscow where they met with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, in the presence of the official in charge of the issues of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine Andrei Banov. “The Russians informed us that the hostages will be released very soon at 10 a.m. Moscow time, while the Syrian announcement of their liberation came at 3 in the afternoon,” he noted.
Daesh had kidnapped 36 women and children from the Syrian southern province of Sweida during an attack that killed more than 250 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The Syrian regime was responsible for the kidnapping in the first place, so it is not normal for it to be behind the liberation. The regime wanted to use what happened to blackmail Syrian Druze into returning to the military service. There are hundred of thousands of Druze in Syria and 53,000 of them refused to join the military.”
“Since the beginning of the kidnapping crisis, the Russian leadership informed us that it is working directly on the ground and running the negotiations. Through announcing its responsibility for the liberation of the hostages, the Syrian regime is trying to look as if it is protecting the Druze and acquit itself from letting Daesh into the Druze areas,” Faour pointed out.
“The situation in Sweida is relatively acceptable. Some arrangements are being made under the direct guidance of the Russian leadership. Taymour Jumblatt is taking part in this matter in a way that preserves the security of Sweida residents and their relations with the rest of the Syrian people and prevents their usage in any future conspiracies carried out by the regime.
“These recent events showed that Taymour Jumblatt’s confidence in the Russians was in place especially after the liberation operation. Further discussions about future arrangements related to the Druze’s situation in Syria are under way. A suggestion proposed that the Druze wanted for military service would join the fifth legion led directly by Russia, which is receiving positive feedback among Druze,” he said.
“The relation between the Progressive Socialist Party led by Walid Jumblatt and the Russian Federation is historic. Russians preserve their relations with their historic allies and remember the great role of Kamal Jumblatt, who was awarded with the Order of Lenin among very few figures in the world. They also cherish the common friendship and struggle they share with Walid Jumblatt and want to consolidate the relation with his son Taymour.
“The relation with Russia does not lead to a relation with President Bashar Assad. That relation will only come back to life when there is a democratic regime in Syria,” Faour stressed.
“Russia is working on a gradual political solution in Syria. There is no turning away from the constitutional committee. There are discussions related to the representatives of the civil society that constitute a third of the committee, which balances it in some way.
“The meeting held with Russian officials also discussed Lebanese issues. Moscow showed a great interest in the internal situation and it fears that the current developments, international disputes in particular, may destabilize its stability.
“They are very concerned with the forming of the Lebanese government headed by Saad Hariri, and Bogdanov expressed Russia’s readiness to take any initiative to help Lebanon overcome the government crisis,” he added.


Israeli general denies role as US slaps sanctions for arms sale

Brigadier-General Yisrael Ziv reportedly planned to organize attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese. (Reuters)
Updated 4 min 34 sec ago
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Israeli general denies role as US slaps sanctions for arms sale

  • The US Treasury slapped sanctions on Israel Ziv and three firms he controls

JERUSALEM: A retired Israeli Army general hit by US sanctions for alleged involvement in the South Sudan conflict denied the charges on Sunday, saying they were based on false information and that he was available for investigation by the Trump administration.

The US Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on Israel Ziv and three firms he controls, accusing him of using an agricultural consultancy as cover for weapons sales worth $150 million to the Juba government while also arming the opposition.

“He (Ziv) has also reportedly planned to organize attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese oil fields and infrastructure, in an effort to create a problem that only his company and affiliates could solve,” a Treasury statement said.

Interviewed by Israel’s Army Radio, Ziv said he had never trafficked in weaponry and called the charges against him “ludicrous, baseless, completely divorced from reality.”

“We have an amazing agriculture project there ... that many communities depend on. Tens of thousands of people are employed through this project and it feeds the South Sudan market. So anyone who claims this project is a cover should come see it.”

The Trump administration has championed international arms embargoes against South Sudan to pressure President Salva Kiir into ending the country’s civil war and humanitarian crisis.

Two South Sudanese nationals, Obac William Olawo and Gregory Vasili, were named alongside Ziv in Friday’s US Treasury sanctions notice. Neither was immediately available for comment.

“This is not the first time the (US) administration has used sanctions to enforce its foreign policy,” Ziv said.

“I am approachable ... I want to believe in the decency of the administration. And they are welcome to come, to check, to investigate. We will open up everything for them.”

South Sudan erupted in conflict in 2013 after Kiir sacked Riek Machar as vice president. Ethnically charged fighting soon spread, shutting down oil fields and forcing millions to flee.

At least 383,000 South Sudanese have died as a result of the war, through combat, starvation, disease or other factors, according to a recent study by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers.

Under pressure from governments in East Africa and from UN and Western donors, Machar’s group, other rebel factions and the government in September signed the peace accord under which he will again become vice president.