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Thread: Syria News

  1. #101
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    Lebanese Shia Caught Pretending to be Syrian Army

    Leaked video of Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah staging a video pretending to be Syrian Army (Assad's forces) on the fighting fronts.

    The presenter is frustrated as their Lebanese accents give themselves away.

    Assad's regime are now dominated by non-Syrian foreign militia, paid for by Iran, many of whom are fighting in #Syria.

  2. #102
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    The United States Used Depleted Uranium in Syria

    The airstrikes on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled areas employed the toxic material, which has been accused of causing cancer and birth defects.


    Officials have confirmed that the U.S. military, despite vowing not to use depleted uranium weapons on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, fired thousands of rounds of the munitions during two high-profile raids on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled Syria in late 2015. The air assaults mark the first confirmed use of this armament since the 2003 Iraq invasion, when it was used hundreds of thousands of times, setting off outrage among local communities, which alleged that its toxic material caused cancer and birth defects.

    U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques told Airwars and Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were shot from Air Force A-10 fixed-wing aircraft on Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, 2015, destroying about 350 vehicles* in the country’s eastern desert.
    Earlier in the campaign, both coalition and U.S. officials said the ammunition had not and would not be used in anti-Islamic State operations. In March 2015, coalition spokesman John Moore said, “U.S. and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.” Later that month, a Pentagon representative told War is Boring that A-10s deployed in the region would not have access to armor-piercing ammunition containing DU because the Islamic State didn’t possess the tanks it is designed to penetrate.

    It remains unclear if the November 2015 strikes occurred near populated areas. In 2003, hundreds of thousands of rounds were shot in densely settled areas during the American invasion, leading to deep resentment and fear among Iraqi civilians and anger at the highest levels of government in Baghdad. In 2014, in a U.N. report on DU, the Iraqi government expressed “its deep concern over the harmful effects” of the material. DU weapons, it said, “constitute a danger to human beings and the environment” and urged the United Nations to conduct in-depth studies on their effects. Such studies of DU have not yet been completed, and scientists and doctors say as a result there is still very limited credible “direct epidemiological evidence” connecting DU to negative health effects.

    The potential popular blowback from using DU, however, is very real. While the United States insists it has the right to use the weapon, experts call the decision to use the weapon in such quantities against targets it wasn’t designed for — such as tanks — peculiar at best.

    The U.S. raids were part of “Tidal Wave II” — an operation aimed at crippling infrastructure that the Islamic State relied on to sell millions of dollars’ worth of oil. The Pentagon said the Nov. 16 attacks happened in the early morning near Al-Bukamal, a city in the governorate of Deir Ezzor near the border with Iraq, and destroyed 116 tanker trucks. Though the coalition said that the strikes occurred entirely in Syrian territory, both sides of the frontier were completely under the control of the militant group at the time. Any firing of DU in Iraqi territory would have far greater political repercussions, given the anger over its previous use there. The Nov. 16 video below shows tankers hit first by larger ordnances, before others are engulfed in sparks and ripped apart by fire from 30 mm cannons.

    The use of DU in Syria was first reported by this author in IRIN News last October. CENTCOM and the U.S. Air Force at first denied it was fired, then offered differing accounts of what happened, including an admission in October that the weapon had been used. However, the dates confirmed by CENTCOM at that point were off by several days. It is now clear that the munitions were used in the most publicized of the Tidal Wave II attacks.

    Depleted uranium is left over from the enrichment of uranium 235. It is exceptionally hard, and has been employed by militaries both to penetrate armored targets and to reinforce their potential targets like tanks against enemy fire. Though less radioactive than the original uranium, DU is toxic and is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be a “radiation health hazard when inside the body.”

    The most likely way for such intake to occur is through the inhalation of small particles near where a weapon is used. But doctors and anti-nuclear activists alike say there hasn’t been enough research done to prove the precise health effects and exposure thresholds for humans. Most important, the lack of comprehensive research on illnesses and health outcomes in post-conflict areas where DU was used has led to a proliferation of assumptions and theories about DU’s potential to cause birth defects and cancer. Firing rounds near civilian populations has a powerful psychological effect, causing distress and severe anxiety, as the International Atomic Energy Agency noted in 2014

    Internationally, DU exists in a legal gray area. It is not explicitly banned by U.N. conventions like those that restrict land mines or chemical weapons. And although the United States applies restrictions on the weapon’s handling domestically, it does not regulate its use overseas in civilian areas with nearly the same caution.

    “I think this is an area of international humanitarian law that needs a lot more attention,” said Cymie Payne, a legal scholar and professor of ecology at Rutgers University who has researched DU. “As we’ve been focusing more in recent years on the post-conflict period and thinking about peace building …we need a clean environment so people can use the environment.”

    Jacques, the CENTCOM spokesman, says the ammunition was fired that November because of a “higher probability of destruction for targets.” Shortly after both attacks, the U.S.-led coalition released the videos showing multiple vehicles lit up by bombs, missiles, and prolonged fire from the 30 mm cannons of Air Force A-10s — but did not specify that the flight crews had loaded those cannons with DU. Those videos — along with dozens of other strike recordings — have been removed from official coalition channels in recent months.

    When DU rounds are loaded in A-10s, they are combined with a lesser amount of non-DU high-explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds, amounting to a “combat mix.” In November 2015, a total of 6,320 rounds of the mix were used in Syria: According to CENTCOM, 1,790 30 mm rounds — including 1,490 with DU — were fired on Nov. 16; on Nov. 22, 4,530 rounds of combat mix were fired containing 3,775 DU armor-piercing munitions. Though DU rounds have been fired in other theaters — including the Balkans — much of the attention centers on Iraq, where an estimated 1 million rounds were shot during the first Gulf War and the 2003 invasion.

    A recent analysis of previously undisclosed firing data from the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq showed that most DU rounds were fired at so-called soft targets, such as vehicles or troop positions, instead of targeting the tanks and armored vehicles according to Pentagon guidelines that date back at least to a 1975 review by the U.S. Air Force. The Pentagon’s current Law of War Manual states, “Depleted uranium (DU) is used in some munitions because its density and physical properties create a particularly effective penetrating combination to defeat enemy armored vehicles, including tanks.”

    The oil trucks hit in November 2015 were also unarmored and would qualify as soft targets, the researchers who performed the analysis of the 2003 targeting cache contend. The trucks, in fact, were most likely manned by civilians rather than Islamic State members, according to U.S. officials. A Pentagon representative said the United States had dropped leaflets warning of an imminent attack before the Nov. 16 strike, in an effort to minimize casualties.

    “The use of DU ammunition against oil tankers seems difficult to justify militarily on the basis of the arguments used by the U.S. to support its use — that it is for destroying armored targets,” said Doug Weir, head of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. “Tankers are clearly not armored, and the alternative non-DU HEI [high-explosive incendiary] rounds would likely have been sufficient for the task.”

    The spent ammunition littering eastern Syria after the attack, along with the wreckage of the trucks, was almost surely not handled appropriately by the occupying authority — that is, the Islamic State. Even if civilians driving the trucks were not initially exposed to the toxic remnants of DU, scavengers and other local residents will likely be placed at risk for years to come.

    “What will happen with the destroyed vehicles? Usually they end up in scrapyards, are stripped of valuable parts and components, and dumped,” said Wim Zwijnenburg, senior researcher at the Dutch NGO Pax. “This puts scrap-metal workers, most likely local civilians, at risk of exposure.”

    If there are few ideas for what post-Islamic State governance will resemble in eastern Syria, there are none at all about how to safely handle the depleted uranium that the U.S.-led coalition has placed into the environment.

    This article was published in conjunction with Airwars.


  3. #103
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    Hungary to detain refugees in container camps on border

    Tough new measure adopted after prime minister said country needed to protect itself from 'terror' threat.


    Hungary's government plans to hold refugees and asylum seekers in border camps built with shipping containers, completely restricting their freedom of movement.

    The measure will also apply to people in already existing facilities, who will be moved to the camps
    and kept there until their asylum claims are processed.

    Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right wing government said it had taken the tough new measure to deal with the thousands of people who have fled to Europe in the last two years. Orban's chief of staff described it as a protective measure.

    "We need a legal system that protects us. This is a very serious change," Janos Lazar said, adding the measure would be enacted only when the government was in a state of emergency over migration. The government has declared the country to be in such a state since March of last year.

    "Containers suitable for accommodating 200-300 people will be erected. Migrants will have to wait there for a legally binding decision on their claims," Lazar said.

    Asylum seekers will be able to take part in court proceedings via telecommunications equipment that will be provided in the camps, he added.

    Lazar also said Hungary was ready to build a second, stronger fence on its southern border with Serbia and Croatia, and that the government was prepared to increase aid to charities working on the border.

    Hungary built a previous border fence in September 2015 and introduced legislation making it a crime to climb or damage it. According to police, more than 2,200 arrests were made on the border between March 1 and March 22 of last year.

    The border camp plan is part of a package of proposals to go before parliament, including one that would reintroduce automatic detention for asylum seekers, a measure suspended in 2013 after pressure from human rights groups.

    Familes and children detained

    Orban - who professes himself an admirer of US President Donald Trump - said last month that automatic detention was needed again in response to "terror" attacks in Europe, citing the November 2015 attacks in Paris.

    Hungary's immigration policies have been roundly condemned by rights groups and refugee advocates, who say large numbers of people were already being held in closed camps.

    "Automatic detention of all asylum seekers from the start until the end of the asylum procedure is a flagrant and clear breach of EU law and human rights standards,
    " the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a Budapest-based refugee rights group, told the AFP news agency, vowing to sue Hungary at the European Court of Justice in every case where refugees were illegally kept in custody.

    "In addition, the indefinite detention of many vulnerable migrants, including families with small children, is cruel and inhuman."

    Hungary is also building four small military bases along the border to house some 3,000 soldiers who now patrol it alongside police. The barracks are also being built with shipping containers.

    Orban said he was aware his plans went against the policies of the European Union, of which Hungary is a member, putting the country in "open conflict" with the 28-nation bloc.

    In October last year, the majority of Hungarians voted against an EU referendum aimed at sharing 160,000 refugees around the 28-member bloc through mandatory quotas.

    Hungary has since not accepted any asylum seekers allocated under the scheme.

    In 2016, Hungary granted asylum, or some form of protection, to 425 people out of 29,432 applications.


    European Refugees Fleeing To Muslim Countries

    This is how Syrians helped the Europeans fleeing their own wars, yet now we can see how these same people are treating the people who saved their grandparents.

    video 1: https://safeshare.tv/x/xJR8_sHERa4

    video 2: https://safeshare.tv/x/CLpmozyuKBs

    pictures: http://share.pho.to/AbSNZ

  4. #104
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    Newly Declassified CIA Report Exposes Over 25 Years Of U.S. Plans To Destabilize Syria

    A CIA report, drafted in 1986, details the agency’s “purposely provocative” analysis of the regime’s vulnerabilities and the potential to destabilize and oust then-President Hafez al-Assad.

    SYRIA — While the nearly seven-year-long sectarian “civil war” in Syria is widely believed to have started in 2011, revelations in recent years have shown that the sectarian war that has sunk Syria into chaos actually precedes the “official” start of the conflict.

    In 2010, Wikileaks published hundreds of thousands of classified State Department cables, including a 2006 cable showing that destabilizing the Syrian government was a primary goal of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The ultimate intention was to topple Iran, one of Syria’s closest allies. The cable revealed that the U.S.’ goal at the time was to undermine the Syrian government by any means available.

    In addition, retired United States Army General Wesley Clark’s bombshell interview with Democracy Now exposed the existence of plans for regime change in Syria that date as far back as 2001. Now, a newly declassified document from the Central Intelligence Agency has shown that these regime change efforts date back even further to the late 1980s – and potentially even earlier.

    The declassified document was written in July, 1986 by the Foreign Subversion and Instability Center, a part of the CIA’s Mission Center for Global Issues, and is titled “Syria: Scenarios of Dramatic Political Change.” As the document itself states, its purpose is to analyze – in a “purposely provocative” manner – “a number of possible scenarios that could lead to the ouster of President Assad [Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez] or other dramatic change in Syria.”

    The report’s meager distribution list suggest it was considered by top officials in the Reagan administration, specifically because it was distributed to national security chiefs, not entire agencies. It was also distributed to a handful of key players in U.S.-Syria relations, such as former Ambassador to Syria William Eagleton.

    Though the document itself officially predates the current Syrian conflict by nearly 25 years, much of its analysis brings to mind recent events in Syria, particularly those that led to the outbreak of war in 2011. Chief among these is the rise of factionalism between Sunni Muslim elements against the ruling Alawi minority (a Shi’ite sect), as well as the potential to counter Russian influence in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. These similarities suggest that U.S. regime change efforts in Syria date back to well over 30 years ago – proof of the persistent imperialist elements that consistently guide U.S. foreign policy.

    The Rise of Factionalism and Sectarian Conflict in Syria

    Of all the named “individuals and groups that might impel or impede takeover attempts” that are recognized by the CIA, Syria’s Sunni population ranks highest among them. The CIA notes that “factionalism plagues the political and military elite” as the ruling Alawi minority “is deeply resented by the Sunni majority it dislodged from power two decades ago.” The document also states that “a renewal of communal violence between Alawis and Sunnis could inspire Sunnis in the military to turn against the regime.”

    At the time, the document continues, Sunnis “made up 60 percent of the Syrian officer corps but [were] concentrated in junior officer ranks,” with the majority of enlisted men being primarily Sunni conscripts. Furthermore, the document notes that if the Syrian government were to overreact to “minor outbreaks of Sunni dissidence,” large-scale unrest could be triggered – “setting the stage for civil war.”

    The CIA also makes its strong preference for a Sunni-led government in Syria quite clear, stating that “U.S. interests in Syria probably would be best served by a Sunni regime,” particularly one led by Sunni “business-moderates” who would “see a strong need for Western aid and investment.”

    This assessment, as the Libertarian Institute has pointed out, is “remarkably consistent” with more recent events, particularly those that have defined Syria’s current conflict, which is often misleadingly described by many media outlets as a “civil war.” For instance, opposition forces who have been fighting to overthrow the Assad regime for the better part of seven years are almost entirely composed of Sunnis.

    According to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, “the Syrian opposition, especially its armed current, is a Sunni enterprise.” Sunni factionalism, the CTC further notes, is “driving large segments of the opposition to the [Assad] regime.” In 2014, the Guardian noted that the opposition forces were “almost exclusively Sunni.”

    In addition, Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on protests in 2011, particularly initial protests in the city of Daara, are often credited with inspiring opposition supporters to take up arms to “oust loyalist [pro-government] forces from their areas.” According to the BBC, Assad’s crackdown on protests between March and May of 2011 left over 1,000 dead, though “unnamed human rights activists” were often the sources for such figures, suggesting that such statistics may be inaccurate.

    The document also notes that factionalism among the Alawis could also be a destabilizing force in the country. It says the Alawi-dominated Syrian military could play a role in Assad’s ouster, stating that the Syrian “military’s strong tradition of coup plotting – dormant since Assad took control in 1970 – could re-assert itself.” Military discontent, the CIA asserts, could arise if Assad were to suffer a major defeat at the hands of Israel, particularly if Assad attempted to reclaim the Syrian Golan Heights.

    Syria and Israel have been in a continuous state of conflict since 1967, when Israel first occupied the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War. In addition, the CIA notes the potential for in-fighting among the Alawi elite, particularly over Hafez al-Assad’s brother Rifaat – a controversial figure in Syrian politics.

    These conflicts within the Alawite ruling class were mentioned extensively in a 2006 State Department cable, where “some long-standing vulnerabilities and looming issues that may provide opportunities to up the pressure on Bashar and his inner circle” were discussed at length.

    Some intra-elite conflicts among the Alawis mentioned in the 1986 document are also explicitly mentioned in the 2006 cable, such as the numerous controversies surrounding Bashar al-Assad’s uncle, Rifaat al-Assad. However, despite likely attempts to exploit these vulnerabilities in the current conflict, the rise of Sunni opposition forces has kept the Alawi faction largely united out of necessity – particularly as the Alawis have been forced to face down an old foe, the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The Muslim Brotherhood and U.S.-Backed Regime Change

    While the document devotes significant space to discussing the potential for induced sectarian violence, the faction identified as most likely to successfully destabilize the Assad-led Alawi regime is the Muslim Brotherhood. First founded in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has spread throughout the Middle East, gaining influence in multiple countries.

    Several countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Syria, and the U.A.E., now classify the Brotherhood as a terrorist group. Despite its widespread recognition as such, the CIA’s relationship with the Brotherhood, which dates back to the 1950s, continues into the present.

    In the CIA’s 1986 report, the Muslim Brotherhood is explicitly identified as having the strongest capacity for leading any Sunni opposition against the Alawis and its associated Ba’ath political party. The report notes that “the Brotherhood’s role was to exploit and orchestrate opposition activity by other organized groups […] These groups still exist, and under proper leadership they could coalesce into a large movement.” Later on, it notes that “remnants of the Muslim Brotherhood – some returning from exile in Iraq – could provide a core of leadership” for a potential Sunni dissident movement.

    Also interesting is the fact that the 1986 document mentions the Brotherhood as being part of a long-term future scenario, as the crushing of a Brotherhood-led revolt in the early 1980s led most of its Syrian members to be exiled or forced underground. Nearly three decades later, it should come as no surprise that the Brotherhood has held a leading role in the creation and militarization of the Syrian opposition throughout the current conflict.

    When the Syrian opposition began to militarize in 2011 after receiving arms from the CIA and other NATO-allied intelligence agencies, the Syrian National Council emerged as the face of what was essentially Western-backed “rebel” forces working to overthrow Assad. The Carnegie Middle East Center, in its article on the Brotherhood, stated that it was “the most influential Islamist component within the council.” From 2011 to 2015, the CIA funneled over $1 billion per year training and arming opposition “rebels” in Syria. The program still continues, though it was reduced by 20% in 2015.

    In 2012, when the Supreme Military Command of the opposition was established in Syria, Reuters noted that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated its leadership: “The unified command includes many with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and to Salafists … it excludes the most senior officers who have defected from Assad’s military.” The decision to give the Brotherhood a major role in the command was realized at talks attended by security officials from the U.S., UK, France, the Gulf Monarchies and Jordan.

    Also in 2012, Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan called on “Arab, Islamic and international governments” to intervene in Syria “to bring down the [Assad] regime. “The Carnegie Middle East Center said “since the beginning of the revolution, the Brotherhood has maintained that foreign intervention is the only possible solution to the crisis in Syria,” suggesting that the Brotherhood is actively seeking foreign military intervention to oust Assad, a goal it shares in common with the CIA.

    Incidentally, 2012 also saw direct cooperation between the Brotherhood and the CIA. The New York Times reported:

    “CIA officers are operating secretly in Southern Turkey helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms…by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.”

    This, of course, allowed the Brotherhood to choose which of Syria’s many rebel groups to arm, likely favoring Islamist counterparts who were ideologically similar to the Brotherhood.

    But despite the fact that the Syrian opposition is chiefly composed of fundamentalist Sunnis and has elements of the Muslim Brotherhood in key leadership roles, the expected consequences of fomenting Sunni dissent against the Assads have not gone exactly as the 1986 report anticipated.

    For instance, key segments of Syria’s Sunni majority have remained supportive of Assad, particularly middle and upper-class Sunnis, as well as the Sunni business and merchant classes. In addition, many Sunnis – from the U.S. military’s perspective – likely feel more threatened by the armed opposition than the Assad regime, despite any misgivings they may have with the current ruling party. Sunnis have also been well-represented in pro-government militias, such as the National Defense Force.

    Countering Russia through Syria

    Though Syria is the focus of this newly declassified report, the role of the Soviet Union – i.e. Russia – figures prominently in its discussion of Syria’s political landscape and potential vulnerabilities. The report notes that “Syria is the centerpiece of Moscow’s influence in the Middle East.”

    The report also explicitly mentions several key points regarding Russia and Syria’s strategic relationship, saying the “continuation of Alawi dominance would be most beneficial to Soviet interests,” adding that “if the Sunnis gained power, Moscow’s position would be weaker.”

    Also mentioned was the fact that almost all of Syria’s arms come from Moscow and Eastern Europe and that “the Soviets deliver more weapons to Syria than to any third world client.” This “vested interest in major policy shifts or changes in Syrian leadership” would prompt Russia to intervene in Syria, the report added.

    Of course, Russia – once Assad’s regime was under threat from opposition forces – did intervene to protect its interests in Syria. Starting an aerial bombing campaign against “moderate” and terrorist-linked rebels in 2015, Russia soon became a central part of the conflict and Assad’s greatest ally in his fight to retain power. Incidentally, Russia’s role in Syria has become the launching pad for U.S. obsession with Russian “interference” and “aggression” in recent years, which has led the U.S. and Russia to have their worst diplomatic relations since the height of the Cold War.

    The CIA has been very eager to foment domestic anti-Russian hysteria. The mention of Moscow in the 1986 report on Syria suggests that the current U.S.-led effort to destabilize Bashar al-Assad’s regime is at least partially motivated by its long-standing goal of isolating Russia and mitigating its influence internationally.

    Looking Beyond Syria

    One of the most overlooked aspects of the report is its mention of nations other than Syria, particularly Russia. In addition, the document’s cover letter, penned by the Director of the Global Issues Mission Center, tells the individuals namedin its distribution list that they will “receive similar papers on other countries as they are completed.”

    The fact that the CIA has a center dedicated to “foreign subversion and instability” – as well as the CIA’s documented penchant for regime change – confirms that the decades-long effort to destabilize Syria parallels the agency’s efforts to destabilize other regimes throughout the world in order to replace them with governments they believe to be more sympathetic to U.S. interests.

    These destabilization efforts are often carried out with little, if any, regard to their impact on civilians who are often caught in the crossfire. As the 1986 report and the 2006 cable both note, the Assads brought periods of “unprecedented stability” to Syria.

    The CIA and U.S. government have nevertheless chosen to pursue an agenda of destabilization. Nearly seven years later, the death toll in the West’s efforts to oust Assad is set to top half a million and has helped to create the largest refugee crisis since World War II.


  5. #105
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    Pentagon Admits It Used Depleted Uranium Munitions in Syria


    The Pentagon has admitted that U.S. warplanes fired depleted uranium munitions during air raids in Syria, despite a vow not to use the toxic and radioactive weapons in the battlefield. Foreign Policy magazine reported this week that Air Force A-10 attack planes fired more than 5,000 rounds of 30mm depleted uranium rounds during a pair of assaults on convoys in an ISIS-controlled part of eastern Syria in November 2015. Depleted uranium is both toxic and highly radioactive, and many medical experts have linked its use to cancer and birth defects.


  6. #106
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    Syrian Government Blocks Lifesaving Aid For Hundreds Of Thousands Of People

    A new report lays out why many are still not getting crucial humanitarian assistance.

    As the war in Syria drags into its seventh year, civilians remain stuck in the crosshairs. President Bashar Assad harms his own people in ways that are sometimes overt and brutish, such as barrel-bombing entire neighborhoods in large cities like Aleppo. Other tactics are less violent, but they are just as destructive.

    A Physicians for Human Rights study, released on Tuesday, found that Syrian authorities arbitrarily restrict vital United Nations humanitarian access to suffering civilians.

    “Millions of Syrians are trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, often surrounded by landmines and snipers, with no access to food, medical supplies, or services ― the vast majority imprisoned by Syrian government forces,” said the report titled “Access Denied.”

    The government not only systematically blocks entrance to areas that it controls, but also arbitrarily places limits on the amount of aid that can be delivered, according to the study. As a result, people are dying from starvation and lack of medical care.

    Physicians for Human Rights combed through U.N. reports from 2016 to determine how many people actually received aid each month compared to how many people the various humanitarian agencies requested access to, researcher Elise Baker told The Huffington Post.

    “We wanted to add a narrative around the data the U.N. is already providing. It’s still so clear that this aid is not sufficient,” said Baker, the author of the report.

    Take the Ezzadine family from Madaya, Syria. Their 11-year-old son, Yaman, was dying from meningitis, a curable disease, because he had zero access to medical care in the city under siege by the Assad regime. Several other family members also contracted the illness. They survived only because they were finally evacuated to Damascus.

    The conditions in Madaya drew international outrage early last year after photos emerged of emaciated residents suffering from malnutrition and starvation.

    The Assad government finally agreed to a new two-step approval process for U.N. aid deliveries in April 2016, the report said. And that helped. Last year, 131 U.N. convoys provided aid to more than 1 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas across Syria, according to the report.

    But there are still major gaps in aid delivery, the study said. From May through December 2016, the Syrian government was refusing the U.N. access to one-third of the people in those areas on average.

    “That left, on average, nearly 340,000 people without any hope of humanitarian aid each month, many for months on end,” the report said.

    “You might have access approved but it’s not actually being completed,” Baker explained. “We really need to change the conversation and stop pretending like this new process is sufficient.”

    Yaman Ezzadine is but one example of how the Assad government’s actions are harming children. Last year was the deadliest year on record for Syrian children since the war began in 2011, according to a UNICEF report released Monday. Almost 6 million children now depend on humanitarian aid, a twelve-fold increase from 2012.


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    Syria war: 'Worst man-made disaster since World War II'

    On sixth war anniversary, Syria headed towards 'perverted version' of what has been happening in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Six years to the day since protesters poured into the streets of Daraa, Damascus and Aleppo in a "day of rage" against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, Syria's uprising turned global war is far from over.

    Six years of violence have killed close to half a million people, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, displaced half of the country's prewar population, allowed the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) to seize huge swaths of territory, and created the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.

    International diplomatic efforts have repeatedly failed to bring the protracted conflict closer to an end and the growing role of outside actors has changed the nature and trajectory of the war.

    The UN estimates the war has pushed close to five million people to flee the country, many of whom have risked their lives seeking sanctuary in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of others exist precariously in tents and tin shelters in Syria's neighbouring countries.

    An entire generation of Syrian children has either been pushed out of school or forced to cope with interrupted curriculums, makeshift classrooms, or unqualified teachers. According to UNICEF, 2016 was the worst year yet for Syrian children. Nearly three million children - the UN estimated amount of Syrians born since the crisis began - know nothing but war.

    The country's healthcare system, particularly in places like Aleppo, is decimated. More than four-fifths of the country live in poverty.

    Basic infrastructure, such as the electricity grid, water lines and roads, is in shambles. As of 2015, 83 percent of Syria's electric grid was out of service, according to a coalition of 130 non-governmental organisations.

    On Monday, in an address to the UN Human Rights Council, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described the war in Syria as "the worst man-made disaster since World War II".

    Zeid added that his office had been refused access to the country and that no international human rights observers had been admitted to places where "very probably tens of thousands of people are currently held. They are places of torture".

    "Indeed, the entire conflict, this immense tidal wave of bloodshed and atrocity, began with torture," he said, citing as an example the torture of a group of children by security officials over anti-government graffiti in the southern city of Daraa six years ago. "Today, in a sense, the entire country has become a torture chamber, a place of savage horror and absolute injustice," he said.

    UN investigators have accusedthe government of "extermination" in its jails and detention centres.

    Global watchdog Amnesty International said in a report last August that an estimated 17,700 people had died from torture or harsh conditions while in government custody since the beginning of the conflict. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) put the number at 60,000.

    Many others have been executed, and far more have simply disappeared. Thousands more have died in prisons run by rebel groups and hardliners like ISIL and groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.

    Intervention by regional and global players into what started as an uprising of the people against a repressive government has transformed the conflict into a proxy war as international efforts repeatedly stall.

    Russia's October 2015 military intervention helped prop-up a gutted Syrian army and, with the assistance of thousands of Iranian-backed fighters, has helped put Damascus firmly back in control on the battlefield.

    The Russian-backed push on the battlefield culminated in the government takeover of rebel-held east Aleppo late last year, dealing the opposition its biggest defeat of the conflict.

    As pro-government forces steadily captured rebel territory over the past year, a series of "local truces" in areas crippled by years of government siege saw the transfer of thousands of fighters and civilians to Idlib, the last opposition-held province in the north. The UN has said the deals amount to forced displacement and are thus war crimes.

    Earlier this week, increased bombing in the government-besieged district of al-Waer in Homs, the city's last rebel-held bastion, pushed rebels and their families to sign on to a similar evacuation deal.

    Recently renewed diplomatic efforts to bring an end to war have all but stalled, as a nationwide ceasefire agreed upon by Russia and Turkey at the end of last year falls apart.

    Since the start of the year, aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle for hundreds of thousands living under siege, according to a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights. Heavy fighting has increased in recent weeks in strategic areas near Damascus, as government forces push to slice off territories from the last rebel-held stronghold close to the capital.

    Rebels boycotted a third round of Russian-led talks in Kazakh capital of Astana, ostensibly aimed at consolidating the shaky truce, over continued violence. And although Astana talks succeeded in paving the way for a fifth round of UN-led intra-Syrian talks late last year, little was agreed upon other than a basic format for future negotiations.

    The internationalisation of the war in Syria has left it beholden to outside interests, according to associate professor of international studies at Arcadia University Samer Abboud. "Any form of solution is basically out of the hands of Syrians," he told Al Jazeera.

    "Ultimately, what's on offer is some kind of containment of the violence, but no effort to really eliminate it," he said. "But talk about a revolution or a political transition … it’s beyond that now."

    Key rebel backers like Turkey and the United States have narrowed their agendas in Syria over the past year, as government gains on the battlefield erase the prospect of regime change and domestic priorities take precedent.

    Ankara, whose troops now occupy a large section of territory in Syria's northeast, has given up on removing Assad in favour of preventing an armed Kurdish autonomous region on its border

    The US, who ,along with Turkey and the Gulf states, was central to facilitating the armament of what started as a peaceful uprising, has remained a political voyeur since Donald Trump's administration came to power.

    Instead, it has remained hyper-focused on making shortsighted, tactical gains against ISIL.

    Just last week, the Pentagon deployed another 500 marines to Syria and spoke of the possibility of a long-term US presence in the country.

    Infighting and a lack of international support have left rebel forces increasingly dependent on groups with hardline religious agendas. And as the government, Turkey and the US, along with their respective allied forces, race to push ISIL out of its self-declared capital in Raqqa, the international agenda in Syria is shifting the narrative of the conflict.

    "Syria is headed towards some sort of perverted version of what has been happening in Iraq or Afghanistan… where reconstruction efforts will be forced to exist alongside low levels of violence," said Abboud.

    "The war economy is entrenched … and outside players are reserving their right to do exactly what they want in Syria under the appearance of international consensus."


    Almost half-a-million killed in six years of Syria fighting, reveals rights group

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that more than 465,000 people have been killed or forcibly disappeared during the six years of fighting in the Syrian civil war. The group said that it has documented the deaths of more than 321,000 people, including 96,000 civilians, since the start of the war, and the disappearance of 145,000 others.

    According to the UK-based organisation, government forces and their allies have killed more than 83,500 civilians, with more than 27,500 killed in air raids and 14,600 killed during torture in the regime’s prisons. Shelling by armed opposition groups has killed 7,000 civilians. Daesh is known to have killed over 3,700 civilians while air strikes launched by the US-led coalition have killed 920 civilians. Turkey, which supports the armed opposition groups in northern Syria, has apparently killed more than 500 civilians.

    The Syrian government and its Russian ally deny targeting civilians and the use torture and extrajudicial killings. Most of the armed opposition groups and Turkey also deny targeting civilians. The coalition led by the US insists that it tries to avoid civilian casualties and always investigates reports of their occurrence.

    The observatory said that half-a-million people have been arrested and held in regime prisons since the start of the conflict in 2011. Thousands of others have been killed during the same period in prisons operated by armed opposition groups or Daesh.


  8. #108
    islamirama.wordpress.com Array
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    Jan 2007


    Assad's torturers raping and torturting females

    The prison guard stood in front of Maryam Khleif. She was shaking with fear.

    "I swear to god, I will hang you by your fingernails," he said.

    "I haven't done anything," Maryam pleaded. "What have I done?"

    The officer held up photos of men from Maryam's neighbourhood. She recalled providing first aid to some of them after they were injured in a demonstration against Bashar al-Assad.

    "You treated these terrorists," he said, throwing the photos on the floor.

    "If you saw a wounded bird, what would you do?" Maryam asked him.

    "I'd step on it," the officer sneered.

    "Well, I would treat it," Maryam said. "What if you saw a man bleeding? What if it was your brother? What would you do then?"

    The officer reached out and slapped her across the face.

    "If my brother was against Assad, I would crush him under my boot," the officer said, before stepping away from her and moving to the next prisoner.
    Maryam Khleif is a 30-year-old mother of four now living in Reyhanli, Turkey. She is one of tens of thousands since 2011 to have been incarcerated in one of the Assad regime's prisons. While The New Arab cannot verify details of her testimony, the abuses she describes are very much in line with accounts of former prisoners that have been published in UN and Amnesty International reports.

    At the start of Syria's revolution, Maryam was a young mother working at a government agricultural office in Hama. Her husband was a veterinarian. Maryam was happy with her life:

    "I was a rich girl. I was living in luxury. But I was not happy with the abuses of Bashar al-Assad. When the demonstrations started, I had to do something."

    Maryam volunteered at makeshift field hospitals in Hama, helping treat injured protesters.

    "At first, I couldn't do much, so I helped the doctors, handing them gauze and needles."

    In the spring of 2012, a neighbour informed State Security about Maryam. With the regime searching for her, she went into hiding. She found a safe haven at Dar al-Shifa Hospital in Hama, where a pro-revolution doctor agreed to train and employ her as a surgical nurse. To avoid detection, she moved to a new hospital every few weeks.

    But Maryam missed her children, and her longing for her family overcame her. She visited her parents' home in Hama to see them. At 6:00am on the morning of September 27, 2012, Maryam stepped into her parents' home, and was greeted by her children and her mother's cooking.

    The joyous reunion ended less than two hours later, when plain-clothes officers broke down the front door.

    Regime officers tore her parents' house apart, looking for evidence that could tie Maryam to anti-government activity. Officers beat her 17-year-old brother and began to interrogate her four-year-old son, Mouaz.

    "The boy has stuttered since that day," Maryam told The New Arab. Finally, they led Maryam off to a waiting vehicle where several women sat, blindfolded, and drove them to a prison 15 minutes away.

    "I will never forget arriving at that prison. When we got out of the car, the officers were yelling 'the terrorists are here! The terrorists are here!' I looked around, and just saw other women from my neighbourhood. And we had done nothing wrong."

    Soon after arriving at the prison, Maryam and the other female prisoners were brought in front of a lieutenant. "He was eating pistachios, and as we stood before him, he threw the shells at us while calling us whores and sluts."

    Maryam and the other prisoners were assigned numbers. Prison officers then tried to take Maryam's photo, and she resisted.

    "A guard yelled, 'take her', and they took me to a room where I spent the next three days suspended by my hands. There were three men suspended in the room, as well. The guards beat all of us. The men begged the guards to hit them more instead of me, but they didn't listen.

    "They beat me mercilessly. They broke most of my teeth and kept kicking me in one of my kidneys. I later learned I'd lost 90 percent of function in that kidney."

    After three days, they moved Maryam to a tiny cell with six other women. There was one small vent allowing air to enter from the outside, but the cell itself was nearly pitch dark.

    "There was no toilet," she said. "They would take us to the toilet once per day."

    The women would also be fed just once a day; usually a boiled potato and a piece of bread. Almost every day at mealtime, guards would torture men near the women's cell.

    "I can't have boiled potatoes in my house to this day. It makes me remember their screams."

    Maryam says the women were routinely brought up to the lieutenant's office to be interrogated and beaten.

    It was here that she met her fingernail-threatening torturer. As he moved on to the next woman, she shouted.

    "Against Assad?" Maryam called out. "It's not like we are going against the word of Allah. We just want justice." The officer returned and beat her some more.

    After the interrogations, the women would be returned to their cell. Some beatings were so intense the women would be covered in blood. But as bad as the beatings became, there was something the women came to fear even more.

    "The lieutenant had an office with a bed and a small table for alcohol. He would bring us up there while he drank. Then he would invite officers from outside into his office and tell them to choose a woman. And that's when we would get raped.

    "To the girls who screamed and begged in the name of Allah and the Prophet, he would say 'Allah is on vacation'. If the girl resisted too much, he forced her to drink arak until she was too drunk to fight.

    "I watched them take the virginity of one of my friends… she was a fourth-year medical student who had done nothing wrong. One of my other friends bled severely every time she was raped. A man called Ahmad from Aleppo would come to our cell and bring her injections to stop the bleeding. He would sneak them in, and pretend he was yelling at us in our cell. He has since defected from the regime."

    Maryam recounts countless more horrors. She remembered a young male prisoner who'd been starved for weeks and then forced to eat from a toilet. One of the women in her cell was tortured with electric wires and suffered lasting nerve damage as a result. A male prisoner was forced to walk around the torture and interrogation rooms with a bucket. "He swore that he would pick up ears, hands, and feet," Maryam said.

    Eventually, Maryam was released in a prisoner exchange deal.

    "I thought the world would embrace me, but that wasn't the case."

    Her husband divorced her immediately. Her parents disowned her and her four children.

    Maryam took her children and fled to Jabal Zawiya, near Idlib, where opposition fighters helped to house and feed them. Eventually, she met and married an officer in the opposition. They had a child, a boy.

    "I thought my suffering had ended," she said. "But then my husband was captured [by the regime]… and now, if he is alive, he is facing the same treatment I did as a prisoner."

    When her husband was captured, Maryam took her children to Turkey, expecting an easier time. "It is so hard here. So many times my children and I have gone to sleep hungry."

    Maryam's children, traumatised by her ordeal and years in war-torn Syria, are receiving psychological treatment in Turkey. Despite everything, Maryam is hopeful.

    "I looked around, and I had nothing in the world but my children. I will raise them and educate them, and pray that they become doctors or engineers. I want to show Bashar, and my parents, and the whole world, that these are the children of the prisoner.

    "And I don't want my children to be embarrassed. I want them to be proud that their mother sacrificed, and left an impact as a political prisoner."



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