Authorities detained nine Turkish citizens believed to have links to the Syrian intelligence agency in connection with two car bombs that left 46 people dead in a Turkish border town, officials said Sunday, as Syria rejected allegations the country was behind the attack.
The bombings marked the biggest incident of cross-border violence since the start of Syria’s bloody civil war and have raised fear of Turkey being pulled deeper into the conflict. Harsh accusations from both sides signaled a sharp escalation of already high tensions between the two former allies.
“This incident was carried out by an organization which is in close contact to pro-regime groups in Syria and I say this very clearly, with the Syrian mukhabarat,” said Interior Minister Muammer Guler.
Israel and Iran’s ally Hezbollah will soon miss the old days of fighting each other.
The reason: Fundamentalist al-Qaeda-affiliated movements who hate both Jews and Shiites with a passion are emerging in Syria. These include groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which has openly and publicly pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda commander Ayman Al Zawahri.
Such groups are growing in numbers. According to an article in the Small Wars Journal quoting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report for December 2012, “Newly formed opposition groups are more likely to affiliate and attach themselves to Islamist factions such as Jabhat al-Nusra than to the FSA [Free Syrian Army] or other less radical opposition groups.”
Hezbollah is already facing such groups in Syria, causing it to lose four to five fighters a day. Once Assad falls or even before, extremist al-Qaeda-affiliated groups are very likely to increase the ferociousness of their attacks against Shiites and Alawites living in Syria. Bosnia-style massacres or even larger ones can not be ruled out. Such groups could also start attacking Hezbollah-controlled points on Lebanon’s border with Syria. There is also a significant chance that they will try to permeate Lebanon in order to attack its Shiite citizens using suicide bombers — a well known method used by al-Qaeda against Shiites in Iraq for many years.
Meanwhile, we in Israel could expect hit-and-run machine-gun and mortar attacks and even Katyusha launches against Israeli border posts and cities by such groups. Efforts to penetrate Israel’s border could increase significantly.
A “fault in optical fibre cables” is to blame for Syria’s continued internet blackout, local state-run media said.
The Syrian Arab News Agency reported that the fault would be fixed “as soon as possible”.
However, one key expert told the BBC this explanation was “unlikely”.
Web monitoring firms said regular traffic on the internet plummeted to zero just before 19:00 GMT on Tuesday (22:00 local time).
“Our monitoring shows that Syria’s international internet connectivity is through at least four providers, and published submarine cable maps show connectivity through three active cables,” said Akamai’s David Belson.
“As such, the failure of a single optical cable is unlikely to cause a complete internet outage for the country.”
Syria last experienced a shutdown for three days last November - activists say the regime is attempting to “silence” rebel communications.
At around 18:45 UTC OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.
The graph below shows DNS traffic from and to Syria. Although Twitter remains relatively silent, the drop in both inbound and outbound traffic from Syria is clearly visible. The small amount of outbound traffic depicted by the chart indicates our DNS servers trying to reach DNS servers in Syria.
Currently both TLD servers for Syria, ns1.tld.sy and ns2.tld.sy are unreachable. The remaining two nameservers sy.cctld.authdns.ripe.net. and pch.anycast.tld.sy. are reachable since they are not within Syria.
The Umbrella Security Labs, the threat research division of OpenDNS, also reported on an Internet blackout in Syria November of 2012, where we shared details of the top 10 most failed domains during the outage.
Expect updates from our team shortly.
The Post reports: “Israeli forces have carried out an airstrike against a shipment of sophisticated missiles bound for the Lebanese political and military organization Hezbollah, officials in Washington, Lebanon and Israel told reporters Saturday…. Lebanese authorities and residents had already reported unusually intense Israeli overflights during the previous 48 hours, suggesting the warplanes may have struck their target from Lebanese airspace.” Israeli planes struck again on Sunday outside Damascus.
So much for the suggestion by critics of stronger U.S. action that Syria’s anti-aircraft system is formidable. It seems someone in the Israeli government took a not-too-subtle swipe at the Obama administration’s equivocating on Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons. “Israeli officials described the missiles targeted in the Friday strike as ‘game-changing’ weapons, according to the Associated Press. They said they were not chemical weapons, but advanced, long-range, ground-to-ground missiles.” Translation: When Israel draws a red line, it means it.
Not only does the Israeli action contrast with the U.S. government’s fecklessness, but it also raises the issue of whether the United States would prefer Israel police the Middle East. It is unbecoming for a superpower to let little Israel take on the Iranian surrogates. It will likely unnerve our allies elsewhere and embolden foes in other parts of the world.
As for the Middle East, when a U.S. president is this passive and unwilling to act in accord with its words, the West and the Sunni states can take comfort in knowing that Israel is there to rein in the mullahs and their surrogates.
Two other events are significant. Both emphasize the degree to which American reticence is tipping the balance of power in the region toward Iran.
A number of U.S. politicians and news media, to include the New York Times, have called for the removal of Iraq’s PM Nuri Kamal Al Maliki.
The New York Times printed a story by Nussaibah Younis ” Why Maliki Must Go”: “Nobody wants another civil war in Iraq, yet events are propelling it in that direction. War can be averted only by a new political understanding among three main groups, Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds but Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has become too divisive to deliver it.”
But who will take his place?
Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, remains in exile, having fled the bogus charges on terrorism and then been given a death sentence in absentia. Similar moves to charge Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi, a moderate Sunni, led to the protests and riots that have now engulfed Iraq’s Sunni heartland and alienated other communities. An army response to a protest encampment caused more violence.
While Iraq is now governed by Shiite Muslims in line with the Iranian Shiite regime, Maliki has allowed Iranian aircraft to fly over Iraq to provide arms and other support to the Bashar al-Assad Shiite forces.
After the Airstrikes: Scenes of Devastation Left by Israeli Rockets as Syria Pledges Retaliation for the ‘Declaration of War’
Pictures emerge showing destruction caused to buildings by airstrikes
Syria pledges to retaliate against Israel ‘in its own time and way’
Threats follow two raids by Israel on Syria in the past three days
Video footage showed dramatic explosions over Damascus skyline
Israel says it was targeting Iranian-made missiles on the way to Hezbollah
Syrian deputy FM says alleged Israeli strikes on targets on outskirts of Damascus a “declaration of war”; Syrian information minister says strikes “open the door to all possibilities” after emergency cabinet meeting.
Syria has stationed missile batteries aimed at Israel in the aftermath of alleged Israeli air strikes in the country, the website of Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV, considered close to the regime of President Bashar Assad, quoted a top Syrian official as saying on Sunday.
The report came as Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said on Sunday that alleged Israeli air strikes against three targets on the outskirts of Damascus “open the door to all possibilities.”
The minister’s comments at a press conference came after an emergency cabinet meeting organized to respond to what a Western source said was a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Although Zoabi did not hint at a concrete course of action, he said it was Damascus’s duty to protect the state from any “domestic or foreign attack through all available means.”
In the shadow of two purported Israeli attacks in Damascus, it is clear that the Syrian Army has not been seriously preparing for war against Israel for quite a while.
For nearly four decades, generations of IDF fighters have been training in the Golan Heights to push back a Syrian attack. For 39 years, since the end of the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli-Syrian front has remained calm. Now, in the space of four months, three air-strikes around Damascus have been ascribed to Israel, and the Syrian cannons which supposedly target Israeli bases and villages in the Golan are silent.
Where are the masses of artillery, the ballistic missiles, armored divisions and commando battalions? Every foot-soldier in the Golani Brigade learns to recite the details of the Syrian order-of-forces in enemy-recognition lessons and reservists acquaint themselves with their positions for the day it comes.
Of course, the last two years of civil war has significantly degraded the Syrian Army - but to the extent that it has lost any capability of responding, even symbolically, to the Zionist enemy’s bombardment of their capital city?
So far there has been no response to the two strikes that occurred over the weekend, just as there was no response to the bombing in January. While as a precaution, an Iron Dome battery has been deployed to the north, it seems that Israel is not expecting retaliation. How else could one explain Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sticking to his plan of spending five days this week on a working visit to China?
The question of why the Syrians have not responded joins another query that has been being asked for many months now, actually for nearly two years: How come, despite tens of thousands of desertions and armed uprisings throughout the country, reinforced by thousands of Jihadist fighters from around the world, entire units of the Syrian Army are still intact and fighting to keep Assad’s regime in place? Israeli intelligence officers who confidently announced in 2011 that Assad had only a few weeks left have, long ago, given up predicting his downfall.
Israel’s airstrikes into Syria come as Washington considers how to respond to indications that the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons in its civil war.
Syria has condemned the Israeli airstrikes against targets around Damascus, saying the attacks aim “to give direct military support to terrorist groups” fighting the government.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry also said Sunday in a letter sent to the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council that the “Israeli aggression” killed and wounded several people and “caused widespread destruction.”
Syria’s government refers to rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime as “terrorists.”
Earlier Sunday, Israel’s military moved two Iron Dome batteries as part of “ongoing situational assessments.”
The move came hours after Israel carried out what an intelligence official said was an airstrike in Damascus that attacked a shipment of Iranian-made missiles bound for Hezbollah.
The attack, the second in three days, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near Damascus and caused casualties.