Syrian opposition fighters launch offensive on Damascus gateway, retake ground

Opposition fighters in Jobar. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2017

Syrian opposition fighters launch offensive on Damascus gateway, retake ground

AMMAN: Syrian opposition fighters stormed a major road junction leading into the heart of Damascus on Tuesday as they launched an offensive to regain ground lost to the army over the weekend, opposition and state media said.
State media said opposition fighters had re-entered parts of the city’s northeastern Jobar district and the army was bombing their positions.
“At 5.00 a.m. (0300 GMT) we launched the new offensive and we restored all the points we withdrew from on Monday. We have fire control over the Abassiyin garages and began storming it,” Wael Alwan, the spokesman of the main opposition group that launched the attack, Failaq al Rahman, told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian army, which said on Monday it had recaptured all the areas in northeastern Damascus lost after a surprise opposition assault on Sunday in the strategic entrance to the heart of the capital.
The intensity of the Syrian army’s counterattack on Monday forced the opposition to retreat from most of the areas they captured that day in an industrial area that separated Qaboun from Jobar.
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his army, along with allied Russian, Iranian and Shiite militia forces, have put opposition fighters on the back foot with a steady succession of military victories over the past 18 months, including around Damascus.
For opposition fighters, however, their first such large scale foray in over four years inside the capital signaled they were still able to wage offensive actions despite their string of defeats.


Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

Israeli border policemen take up position during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators at a protest against Trump's decision on Jerusalem, near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank March 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 January 2020

Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

  • The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property

JERUSALEM: Israeli police launched a manhunt on Friday after an apparent arson attack, accompanied by Hebrew-language graffiti, at a mosque in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
“Police were summoned to a mosque in Beit Safafa, in Jerusalem, following a report of arson in one of the building’s rooms and spraying of graffiti on a nearby wall outside the building,” a police statement said.
“A wide-scale search is taking place in Jerusalem,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. “We believe that the incident took place overnight. We are searching for suspects.”
The spokesman would not say if police viewed it as a hate crime. The graffiti, on a wall in the mosque compound and viewed by an AFP journalist, contained the name Kumi Ori, a small settlement outpost in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Times of Israel newspaper said on Friday that the wildcat outpost “is home to seven families along with roughly a dozen extremist Israeli teens.”
“Earlier this month security forces razed a pair of illegally built settler homes in the outpost,” it reported.
All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.
The paper said: “A number of young settlers living there were involved in a string of violent attacks on Palestinians and (Israeli) security forces.”
Police said that nobody was injured in the mosque incident.
The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property in revenge for nationalistic attacks against Israelis or Israeli government moves against unauthorized outposts like Kumi Ori.
“This is price tag,” Israeli Arab lawmaker Osama Saadi told AFP at the scene.
“The settlers didn’t only write words, they also burned the place and they burnt a Qur’an,” said Saadi, who lives in the area.
Ismail Awwad, the local mayor, said he called the police after he found apparent evidence of arson, pointing to an empty can he said had contained petrol or some other accelerant and scorch marks in the burned room.
“The fire in the mosque burned in many straight lines which is a sign that somebody poured inflammable material,” he said.
There was damage to an interior prayer room but the building’s structure was unharmed.
In December, more than 160 cars were vandalized in the Shuafaat neighborhood of east Jerusalem with anti-Arab slogans scrawled nearby.
The slogans read “Arabs=enemies,” “There is no room in the country for enemies” and “When Jews are stabbed we aren’t silent.”
The attackers were described by a local resident as “masked settlers.”