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Thread: Syria News

  1. #61
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    New UN Report Highlights Israeli Connection To Syrian Death Squads

    Ever since the Western-backed attack on the secular government of Bashar al-Assad began in earnest in late 2010, Israel had been clearly implicated in providing assistance to the fundamentalist death squad organizations running rampant across Syria. This aid was provided despite an alleged mutual hatred between the Zionist settler state and Islamic fundamentalists.

    As the crisis continued to unfold, Israel’s connections to the terrorists (backed by NATO and the GCC) began to grow more and more apparent.

    Now, a recent series of reports (March 2013 – November 2014) released by the United Nations observers in the Golan Heights and submitted to the United Nations Security Council apparently corroborates those connections. Indeed, the reports claim that, at least for the past 18 months, the Israel Defense Forces have been in regular contact with “Syrian rebels,” including members of the Islamic State.

    According to Israeli news agency Haaretz, the UN reports detailed several instances where close ties between the Syrian death squads and the Israeli military have been demonstrated.

    As the International Business Times writes,

    According to the UN reports, a person wounded on 15 September "was taken by armed members of the opposition across the ceasefire line, where he was transferred to a civilian ambulance escorted by an IDF vehicle."

    Moreover, from 9-19 November, the "UNDOF observed at least 10 wounded persons being transferred by armed members of the opposition from the Bravo side across the ceasefire line to IDF."&

    As per the details released by the Israel's health ministry, so far some 1,000 Syrians have been treated in four Israeli hospitals. Besides the civilians, some are members of the secular Free Syrian Army rebel group.

    Although initially claiming that it only treated civilians, Israel was forced to walk back from those claims somewhat after the release of the UN report. When asked by i24news whether or not Israel had treated members of ISIS or al-Nusra, an Israeli spokesman stated “In the past two years the Israel Defence Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity."

    Of course, the assistance provided by Israel to the death squads was not isolated to mere medical treatment according to the report. As Haaretz reports,

    Observers remarked in the report distributed on June 10 that they identified IDF soldiers on the Israeli side handing over two boxes to armed Syrian opposition members on the Syrian side.

    The last report distributed to Security Council members, on December 1, described another meeting between IDF soldiers and Syrian opposition members that two UN representatives witnessed on October 27 some three kilometers east of Moshav Yonatan. The observers said they saw two IDF soldiers on the eastern side of the border fence opening the gate and letting two people enter Israel. The report, contrary to previous ones, did not note that the two exiting Syria were injured or why they entered Israel.

    This specific event is of particular interest in light of what happened on the Syrian side of the border in the exact same region. According to the report, UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel.

    Of course, it has been well known for quite some time that Israel has been providing wounded Syrian rebels with medical treatment inside Israel so that they can continue the Jihad against the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. According to Colum Lynch of The Cable (the news wing of the Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Policy),

    In the past three months [April-June 2014], battle-hardened Syrian rebels have transported scores of wounded Syrians across a cease-fire line that has separated Israel from Syria since 1974, according to a 15-page report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the work of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Once in Israel, they receive medical treatment in a field clinic before being sent back to Syria, where, presumably, some will return to carry on the fight.

    U.N. blue helmets responsible for monitoring the decades-old cease-fire report observing armed opposition groups "transferring 89 wounded persons" from Syrian territory into Israel, where they were received by members of the Israel Defense Forces, according to the report. The IDF returned 21 Syrians to armed opposition members back in Syria, including the bodies of two who died.

    Later in the article, the writer mentions the fact that Israel has provided such medical assistance to Syrian rebels since at least as far back as February 2014. Realistically, however, such assistance was being provided even further back. Lynch writes that Israel provided the medical treatment for at least a year even at the time of the writing of his article, i.e. as far back as at least June 2013.

    Even more telling is that, in February, 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually visited one of the medical facilities in which the Syrian rebels were being treated and even posed for a photo op shaking hands with a death squad fighter.

    While the connections between Israel and Islamic terrorism, particularly the terrorists wreaking havoc across Syria, is by no means a new revelation, it is becoming much harder for the settler state to hide its complicity as well as its direct involvement in the funding, directing, arming, training, and control of terrorism across the Middle East including such terrorism within its own borders.


  2. #62
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    Winter ordeal for Syrian refugees in makeshift camps

    8 January 2015

    A snow storm in the Middle East is adding to the misery of the three million refugees who have fled the conflict Syria. The BBC's Paul Wood visited one makeshift camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

    The snow was falling thick and fast. The mountains on the border with Syria were wreathed in freezing mist and barely visible.

    Refugees were desperately sweeping snow off their tent roofs to stop them from collapsing.

    "There is no wood, no bread: it's hopeless," said Omar al-Mohammed.

    He complained bitterly that the refugees had seen their food rations cut - but the UN is desperately overstretched.

    "The children are hungry," he added. "We call upon the outside world to help us."


    The camp's "main street" was a lake of slush and icy water. A little girl who looked about 10 years old was frantically trying to sweep the water away from the entrance to her tent.

    She had only open sandals on her bare feet. Other children ran around, more dressed for summer than winter.

    "Look at this water," said another refugee, Khodar al-Ezzo, as a small stream poured down through the leaking roof of his tent. "We need something to keep us warm. Our situation is disastrous. People are beside themselves."

    A roof had been caved in by snow. It was the school tent. The children were delighted, making a snowman.

    They jumped up and down with excitement as we filmed them.

    They forgot the cold for a few minutes before running off to warm their hands by a brazier burning scrap wood and plastic.

    Nearby, we found a tent with Mona al-Ali, who had given birth to twins Abbas and Bassima three days earlier. Their five older siblings huddled around a fire, which was not putting out enough heat to warm their tent.

    Mona, who is from Homs, told me she prayed to God for things to get better.

    "Our situation is very bad," she said. "There's no proper heating. I have to keep the kids locked up all day, buried in this tent. We can't afford many things we need, medicine for example. The children all have the flu."
    Frozen to death

    On the day we visited the camp in the Bekaa, there was news of a tragedy in southern Lebanon.

    A six-year-old Syrian boy died crossing the border. His father carried him through the blizzard.

    He was among a group walking over the mountains into Lebanon.

    Two men died as well. They got lost. They were eventually found just 200m (656ft) from a Lebanese Army checkpoint.

    They may have been smugglers, rather than refugees fleeing the conflict. The little boy was still a victim of the war and the weather.

    The refugees are now experiencing their fourth winter in Lebanon, but they are still living in makeshift camps, huddled together under plastic sheeting.

    The Lebanese government is fearful of the political consequences of allowing permanent refugee settlements.

    The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, has provided emergency winter aid of one kind or another to some 660,000 people in Lebanon.

    "Despite our best efforts, the situation in Lebanon remains precarious," said Resident Representative Ninette Kelley.

    No-one believes this will be the refugees' last winter under canvas.


    Video of what it's like in these camps


  3. #63
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    The CIA-MI6-Mossad aggression against Syria

    July 28, 2012

    Bane from the film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is the face of 21st century terror. The terrorists in Syria who have been brought together under the NATO-backed “Free Syrian Army” know Bane’s methods well. They are well versed in the tricks of the terrorist trade. Of course, having the masters of terrorism in the CIA-MI6-Mossad brotherhood as their mentors helps a lot.

    In ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ Bane takes the city of Gotham hostage and uses terrorism in the name of defending the people’s will. His army first drives the protectors of the public order into the underbelly of the city’s sewers and then he threatens to nuke the city. Likewise in Syria anti-Assad terrorists have targeted the military and police, massacred their political enemies, and taken the country hostage.

    Bane is the spiritual and ideological godfather of the terrorists in the NATO-armed Free Syrian Army. Like Bane, they are justifying their war crimes and campaign of terrorism by pretending to represent the abstract entity, “the Syrian people.” Many of these terrorists are not Syrians, but mercenaries from foreign lands like Libya and Iraq, where they served their American masters by carrying out terror attacks and spreading hatred among diverse religious communities.

    After destroying Libya with Washington’s guiding them all the way, the Al-Qaeda terrorists are now threatening the citizens of Syria with a full-blown invasion led by NATO if they do not acquiesce to their Washington-scripted political demands.

    According to geopolitical analyst Tony Cartalucci, the Libyan terrorists and Al-Qaeda fighters who are invading Syria under NATO’s direction are secretly planning to stage a false flag involving the use of chemical weapons. Their motive is to further discredit the current Syrian regime and give Washington a new excuse to take stronger action against Assad. Cartalucci wrote in his article on Friday, July 27, called, “Syrians: NATO-backed Militants Seen Donning Gas Masks”:

    Clearly those “Islamist militants” as well as “rebels active in north Africa” are now on the ground in Syria. These militants bringing pilfered chemical weapons with them is entirely plausible, as is the possibility that these weapons were purposefully placed into their hands by either NATO or Libya’s current ruling regime. This very scenario was warned against last month in an article published by Russia Today titled, “Syrian rebels aim to use chemical weapons, blame Damascus – report.”

    The use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians by the Free Syrian Army would be devastating for their already battered image. It will completely destroy the silly notion that they are a bunch of freedom fighters who are liberating Syria from tyranny. Also, the crooked governments of the United States, England, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey would come under greater international pressure for their active support for terrorism in Syria.

    Cartalucci says that the Western media is not covering the story of the FSA’s possession of chemical weapons because exposing this piece of information conflicts with their narrative that Assad is the bad guy and the FSA is the champion of human rights and democracy. Here is another excerpt from Cartalucci’s article:

    That the media and governments of the West have not publicly looked into recent claims that the FSA is contemplating a false flag, weapons of mass destruction attack, makes them complicit should such an attack unfold. It will also make it all but impossible for the US to attempt to blame Libya and “Al Qaeda” alone if their dark deed is carried out, but subsequently exposed.

    French journalist Thierry Meyssan examines the depth of the Western media’s deceptions regarding the situation in Syria in a new piece called, “Who is fighting in Syria?” Meyssan says the Syrian army is supported by the Syrian people and its heroic reputation continues to grow as the violence intensifies across Syria. He writes:
    The unpopularity of the armed groups should be compared with the popularity of the regular army and self-defense militia. The Syrian National Army is a conscript army, so it’s a people’s army, and it is unthinkable that it can be used for political repression. Recently, the government authorized the creation of neighborhood militias. It distributed weapons to citizens who are committed to devote 2 hours of their time every day to defend their neighborhood, under military supervision.

    Contrast the integrity and sacred honour of the Syrian army with the cruelty of the foreign-armed barbarians, terrorists, and mercenaries in the FSA who are driven by hate, greed, power, religious extremism, and lust for violence.

    The Bane wannabes in the FSA want Washington and the Arab League to emerge out of the shadows and deal with matters more openly. The writer “b” of M of A says: “I am not yet sure that the U.S. and Turkey have really given up their intervention drive. This or that trick to justify more steps against Syria may still be in the offering.”

    If Bane succeeds in Syria, what country will he terrorize and take hostage next? Iran? Lebanon?

    And when will the Batman of the Middle East arrive to end Bane’s terror?


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    US Officials Blow the Whistle on Secret CIA, Mossad Operation in Syria


    Detonating a car bomb in a civilian-populated area and denying any involvement in the attack is called terrorism when our enemies do it.

    But what if the terror attack is backed by Israel and the United States?

    Speaking only under the condition of anonymity, 5 former U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that the Central Intelligence Agency tracked Imad Mughniyah for at least a year before killing him in a joint operation with the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service.

    By studying Mughniyah’s daily routine, a strategy for the attack was masterminded and carried out in secret by the ‘good guys’. A truth which remained untold until last week.
    According to their report, it was Israel who initially approached the CIA about the joint assassination, but former U.S. President George W. Bush is who authorized the operation after securing approval from the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Adviser, and the Justice Department.
    It’s also illegal.

    –EXECUTIVE ORDER 12333, signed into law by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on December 4th, 1981.
    No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in or conspire to engage in assassination.”

    12036, signed into law by U.S. President Jimmy Carter on January 24, 1978.
    No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

    11905, created and signed into law by U.S. President Gerald R. Ford on February 18, 1976.
    No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”

    After testing the bomb more than 25 times at the CIA’s Harvey Point base in North Carolina, the CIA provided the device to the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service to plant in a spare tire on Mughniyah’s car.

    The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” a former U.S. official said.

    Following the assassination, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema called the car bombing an act of terror. Hezbollah leader Nasrallah blamed the assassination on Israel. The investigation carried out by the Syrian government into the attack did not identify a culprit, but determined Mughniyah was killed by a car bomb that was detonated by remote.

    As it turns out, this is exactly what these five U.S. officials are now claiming had happened. The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service in communication with CIA operatives on the ground. Facial recognition technology was used to identify Mughniyah as he walked out of a restaurant minutes before the bomb was detonated.

    Following the attack, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied any Israeli involvement with the car bombing.

    Israel rejects the attempt by terror groups to attribute to it any involvement in this incident. We have nothing further to add,” said former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, following the attack.
    Meanwhile, Israeli officials celebrated the news of Mughniyah’s death.

    The acting U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, suggested the Syrian government, or perhaps internal Hezbollah factions, were responsible for the assassination. As it turns out, this narrative was nearly the opposite of reality.

    At the time, McConnell claimed U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating his ‘conspiracy theory’. Now many will now surely recognize it as ‘CIA propaganda’ designed to manipulate the narrative told by U.S. corporate media outlets in 2008 while covering the car bombing assassination of Mughniyah.

    There’s some evidence that it may have been internal Hezbollah. It may have been Syria. We don’t know yet, and we’re trying to sort that out.” – Mike McConnell

    For decades, U.S. officials accused Imad Mughniyah of masterminding several attacks, most notably the bombing of the 1983 U.S. Embassy in Beirut that killed several CIA agents, though no legitimate evidence of his role has been released.

    The extraordinarily close cooperation between the CIA and the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service suggests that secret assassination operations by these intelligence agencies, a tactic considered by many to be a ‘terrorist act’, are probably not uncommon.


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    Syrian government forces killing hundreds of civilians in air strikes as world watches Isis


    As the eyes of the world remain fixed on Isis, Bashar al-Assad’s forces have killed an estimated 330 civilians in Syria since the start of this year alone, observers claim.

    Bombings and chemical attacks like the ones that almost led Britain to war in 2013 have been carried out largely unnoticed as the so-called Islamic State continues its bloody campaign.

    Isis has provoked global horror with its filmed beheadings, amputations, crucifixions, massacres and murders, most recently with the burning to death of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

    The group’s horrific cruelty to civilians is well-documented, particularly the persecution of religious minorities and anyone who does not conform to their violent interpretation of Sharia law.

    But whereas Isis gleefully spreads its gory propaganda videos around the world, the regime’s atrocities including the use of banned barrel bombs and chemical weapons, goes undocumented and unnoticed.

    President Assad’s forces are fighting a civil war on several fronts – against Isis, other Islamist militias, secular rebel groups and to quash the anti-government sentiment that started in the 2011 Arab Spring.

    The London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights chronicled 127 air raids in just 24 hours earlier this week by regime helicopters and planes.

    A spokesperson said Britain, the US and other international leaders that “claim to defend human rights” must work harder to stop crimes against humanity being committed daily in Syria.

    “It is a shame on those who pretend to respect the Human Rights to just write and publish statements,” he added.

    The Observatory classified attacks in Khan Sheikhoun, Jasim and Doma as “massacres” and recorded deadly strikes in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Daraa, Rif Dimashq and Deir Ezzor.

    Among the 57 civilians killed in Monday’s raids were five children, the Observatory said, and more than 100 others were wounded.

    At least 100 fighters, the presumed target of the regime's attacks, were killed in the same strikes, including rebels, Islamists and foreign militants on both sides of the conflict.

    The Observatory counted more than 2,000 air strikes by regime forces across Syria in January, killing 271 civilians, including 50 children and dozens of women, and injuring at least 1,000.

    The cost of the damage to homes, businesses and the infrastructure could not be calculated and it is estimated that tens of thousands of people continue to be displaced.

    Many strikes used barrel bombs, the group claimed. The banned weapons, favoured because of the their cheapness and blast radius, are usually oil drums or gas cylinders packed with explosives and scrap metal that are dropped from helicopters or planes.

    A specialist UN Security Council resolution was passed last year to ban their use but monitors have collected evidence from multiple blast sites that they say proves barrel bombs are still raining on civilian areas.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is calling on the Security Council to issue another resolution condemning al-Assad’s regime for its “indiscriminate bombing” and to order all parties in Syria to stop using barrels bombs or heavy weapons in civilian areas.

    A spokesperson called for member countries to “work harder in order to stop the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed daily against the Syrian people, and to refer the file of these crimes to international Criminal Court”.

    If China and Russia continue to use their veto to prevent this, special courts should be established to deal with the Syrian regime, the Observatory recommended.

    Syria's civil war so far killed more than 203,000 people, including 65,000 civilians and 10,400 children in less than four years, according to the latest estimates.

    In its annual world report
    , Human Rights Watch accused President Assad’s forces and pro-government militias of intensifying attacks on civilian areas as well as illegally arresting, detaining, torturing and forcing the disappearance of opponents.

    The international condemnation of the chemical attack on Ghouta in 2013 had not been followed up with justice for victims, the organisation said, and although the subsequent Chemical Weapons Convention saw Syria agree to destroy all declared chemical arms, chlorine gas continues to be used.

    Human Rights Watch documented the use of other illegal weapons, including cluster bombs.

    “The extremist group Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, were responsible for systematic and widespread violations including targeting civilians, kidnappings, and executions,” the report noted.

    The US government is currently investigating allegations of its coalition's air strikes killing a number of civilians during attacks against Isis.


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    Despite Pentagon Claims, Syrian Locals Insist US Strike In Syria Killed Civilians

    Incidents of US warplanes in Syria and Iraq killing large numbers of civilians are not so unusual. On January 11, US planes destroyed a prison, killing 50 civilian prisoners. Then too, the Pentagon said the allegation was “not credible.”


    On December 28, US warplanes leveled the government center in the Syrian town of al-Bab, which is under ISIS control. Locals reported that a number of civilians were killed in the strike.

    The Pentagon, as usual, is issuing a blanket denial of responsibility, confirming that they did in fact blow up the building, but insisting “no civilians” were among the slain.

    Topping that off with the least plausible excuse imaginable, they went on to note that Syrian warplanes had bombed other stuff in the area a couple days prior, and said the locals might’ve confused the two attacks, even though they were in different, albeit nearby, localities.

    Incidents of US warplanes in Syria and Iraq killing large numbers of civilians are not so unusual. On January 11, US planes destroyed a prison, killing 50 civilian prisoners. Then too, the Pentagon said the allegation was “not credible.”

    But once again, the not credible thing is the Pentagon’s denial. Blowing up a government center in the middle of a populated town then denying all civilian deaths is not credible, and leveling an occupied prison and denying any prisoners were killed is even less so.

    The Pentagon seems willing to just shrug off the huge death toll it is racking up, even as intelligence officials concede they have very little intelligence on what they’re even hitting in Syria. It will continue to work only to the extent that no one examines their claims too closely.


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    Images of Syrian torture on display at UN: 'It is imperative we do not look away'

    Graphic exhibition of photographs showing the victims of atrocities carried out by Assad regime goes on display at UN headquarters


    Images of tortured, bloodied and bruised bodies go on display in the glittering halls of the UN in New York for the next 10 days, to remind staff “not to look away” from the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

    The graphic exhibition of 30 photographs has been sponsored by 15 UN member states. Caesar Photos: Inside Syrian Authorities’ Prisons, which depicts torture and atrocities committed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad during the civil war, will be displayed in a busy corner of the UN building in New York..

    Though some details are blurred, the photographs show death in stark reality: women and children – though mostly men – tortured, starved, dead.

    Though warning signs are posted next to the photographs, the shock registered by some passers-by would perhaps lead to suggestions that they were too graphic for the august UN setting. However, the setting was precisely what several of the sponsors were hoping for.

    “We know that it is far easier to walk rapidly down this corridor, far easier to look away,” Michele J Sison, the US deputy representative to the UN, told the gathered crowd of diplomats and journalists. “These images are the graphic depiction of how the Assad regime treats its citizens. It is imperative that we at the United Nations not look away.”

    he photographs were part of a cache of 55,000 smuggled out of Syria on flash drives last year by “Caesar”, the code name given to a former Syrian military photographer who defected. Caesar had been tasked with taking pictures of the corpses of those who died inside facilities run by the Assad regime. The thousands of images were taken between 2011 and 2013, and according to forensic analysis depict 11,000 deaths. Caesar and his team recently began posting photos from the cache of victims’ faces on Facebook, to help families and prosecutors identify their missing relatives.

    The photographs were brought by Caesar to the US last July with the help of the Coalition for a Democratic Syria, an NGO who helped organise his escape. Caesar first brought the images to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington (where 10 images were recently exhibited in the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Center), seeking to learn how best to preserve and archive the images and preserve them for future prosecution.

    Later that month, Caesar testified before the US Congress. The photographs were given to the FBI and the office of the American ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, Stephen J Rapp.

    “There is no doubt of the authenticity of these photographs,” Rapp told the Guardian. “The FBI has found no trace of forgery.”

    The pictures show 27 men (some elderly), two children and one woman in various positions, almost all displaying signs of prolonged starvation. Some had their eyes gouged out, others had flayed or badly bleeding skin. One body was entirely charred. But all of the photographs had identifiers embedded within them and the numbers of regime facilities where the people had been killed.

    As a result, Rapp, who will be stepping down from his post in the next few months, said his office and the international community was gathering evidence far stronger than for almost any previous tribunal, including those of Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milošević.

    “The [Assad] regime is a particularly rich trove,” Rapp told the Guardian. “What other government do you know of who would torture its citizens to death and put identifying information of where the person was tortured … They’ve provided this fantastic evidence.”

    “The fact that the Syrian authorities ordered the pictures to be taken in order to verify that the services had actually killed the person they reported as dead is an indication of the regime’s intentional, systematic and repeated crimes against its own population,” the Belgian representative, Pascal Buffin, said.

    The displaying of Caesar’s photos comes as the world’s attention has moved from Assad to the threat of extremist groups such as Islamic State (Isis), said Najib Ghadbian, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces’ representative to the UN.

    But Ghadbian reminded the crowd that in the past year the Assad regime has killed 32,507 people – 75% of whom were civilians. In contrast, Isis has killed 3,657 – 85% of whom were military targets.

    “People have heard of Caesar,” Ghadbian told the Guardian, “but the detainees as a component of the Syrian conflict have not been highlighted as a serious issue.”

    A conservative estimate would place the number of Syrians being held in Syria’s prisons at 150,000, Ghadbian added, but this number could be as high as 230,000. In 2014, the regime arrested about 7,000 people – including children – with a further 9,000 missing, Ghadbian said.

    “They all might be facing a similar fate to the pictures we see.”

    Despite the arresting nature of the photographs, their presence in the UN is symbolic, and one that those present would like to see directed towards a political and juridical solution. A proposed security council resolution to refer Syria to the international criminal court was struck down by two votes last May. However, in a radical change in strategy, UN war crimes investigators will next week publish the names of suspects involved in perpetrating the atrocities committed throughout the Syrian war.

    “In the case of Assad, our enemy’s enemy is a greater enemy,” Rapp said. “He’s been responsible for the kind of things that have led to the rise of the extremists … Forgetting that responsibility is something we can’t do – but getting to accountability is not easy.”

    “It’s hard for Syrians to still have faith in this organisation,” Ghadbian told the Guardian. “But for us, for many of us, knowing that this is going on means we have to continue.”


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    UN plan to relocate Syrian refugees in northern Europe

    UNHCR proposes one-year pilot programme for ‘orderly relocation’ from overstretched southern countries


    The UN has drawn up radical plans for an “orderly relocation” of thousands of Syrian refugees from southern Europe to richer countries in the north, and is pressing the EU to agree to a year-long pilot programme.

    On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict, and with ever greater numbers of refugees arriving in southern European countries, the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, has approached senior EU figures to get backing for its pilot programme.

    The proposal, outlined in a letter to the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the commissioner for home affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, is a radical departure from current EU policy, which forces asylum seekers to apply for asylum in their first country of entry, under legislation known as the Dublin law.

    The director of the UNHCR’s Europe bureau, Vincent Cochetel, told the Guardian that new approaches, which could be achieved within the existing Dublin framework, were urgently needed: “We are concerned that when the boat arrivals resume on a large scale in April, not all the lessons learned from last year have been drawn by EU member states,” Cochetel said.

    “More than two-thirds of those disembarked in Italy moved on without fingerprinting or proper identification,” he added. “At a time of increased security concerns over movements from Libya, this situation is abnormal. Not all those saying that they are Syrians or Palestinians are Syrians or Palestinians. And not all of them are refugees.”
    The Syrian conflict has exacerbated a refugee crisis in north Africa and the Middle East. More than 3 million people are estimated to have fled the country in the past four years, and although the vast majority have remained in neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan – thousands have tried to make the perilous journey to Europe.

    Most of those who survive the Mediterranean crossing – and more than 3,000 died last year – end up in Italy and Greece. More than 42,000 Syrians ended up in Italy in 2014 alone. EU rules mean migrants should apply for asylum in their country of arrival. But only a tiny minority do. In practice, many migrants simply slip through the net and move, vulnerably, around Europe.

    Cochetel said the huge numbers of Syrians who chose to move irregularly across Europe could be reduced if people were allowed to legally travel onwards to join family or move to countries where they have language skills or work opportunities.

    “We need to convince them that it is better to go legally, that there is an alternative to months of suffering,” he said. “When I see a Syrian arrive in Italy who has relatives in the Netherlands who are not close enough to be eligible for reunion under the family directive, for example an 18-year-old with a brother in the Netherlands, the choice for policymakers is that he either moves illegally or legally. The person is going to move.”

    The proposed relocation, which would start as a one-year pilot programme, would focus only on Syrians who have been recognised as refugees in Italy and Greece and would depend on an initial voluntary commitment from member states. But previous attempts to reform the Dublin law have been met with fierce resistance during internal EU discussions.

    The UK and other northern European countries have fought in both domestic and European courts to defend the right to return asylum seekers to their first country of entry, despite lawyers and human rights groups arguing that protection and accommodation conditions in Italy and Greece are inadequate.
    Asked whether there is internal support for the proposal, Natasha Bertaud, European commission spokeswoman for migration, home affairs and citizenship stressed the importance of states upholding the Dublin regulations.

    “Regarding Syrian migrants, they should be invited to lodge requests for international protection in whichever member state they arrive. The member state concerned is obliged to comply fully with its legal obligations in accordance with the provisions of the [appropriate EU law, including the Dublin Regulation].”

    Bertaud said the EU would continue to focus on tackling the refugee crisis through direct resettlement of vulnerable refugees from camps, not through any change in policy on arrivals at EU borders.
    “EU member states have offered over 36,300 resettlement places so far, with Germany offering the majority, at over 30,000 places.

    “Right now, the commission is discussing with the member states on how to ensure a more balanced distribution of resettled refugees among all member states. We will soon elaborate on the proposal for a pilot project on resettlement in which all member states and associated states could take part.”

    Cochetel acknowledged that only a significant interest in building a new system would create a change in behaviour among desperate migrants, but pointed out that pressure outside Europe’s borders made it an urgent task.

    “Last month Turkey become the largest country of asylum in the world – very few people take notice of this. [The pilot project] will need to be large enough to constitute a credible alternative to what we have experienced so far: massive irregular secondary movements feeding trafficking, leading to human suffering and exploitation.”


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    Jan 2007


    A long way from home: Syrians find unlikely refuge in Brazil

    Since 2013 Brazil has resettled more Syrian refugees than any other country in the region, but Latin America can come as a culture shock after life in a war zone


    Brazil did not loom large in the life of Humam Debas before the war in Syria. As a business manager from the city of Hama with a comfortable income, he had thought about taking his wife to Rio de Janeiro for a holiday. But all he really knew about the distant country was that it had beautiful beaches and a great football team. He assumed everyone there spoke English because it was close to the US.

    Today, however, he is taking his first Portuguese class in São Paulo, where he and his family are trying to make a new start as refugees after being wrenched out of their homes by conflict and forced across the world by the reluctance of closer nations to take them in.

    The move from a suburban neighbourhood of fellow Muslims to a teeming Latin American megalopolis in the world’s biggest Catholic nation has inevitably been traumatic, but Debas is grateful to be taken in by anyone.

    “No other country would give Syrians a visa,” he recalls over a cup of Syrian coffee in the one-room apartment he shares with wife, two-year-old son and brother-in-law, in the Cambuci district of the city. “We could have tried to get to Europe illegally by boat, but that was too dangerous for my family. So Brazil was the only safe choice.”

    Since 2013 when Brazil opened its doors, 1,740 Syrian refugees have been registered in the country - far more than in the US.

    Most are clustered around São Paulo’s main mosques in the Brás and Cambuci districts. Debas (whose name has been changed because he is concerned about family members still in Syria) has been in the latter for four months.

    “Oh my God, it was a shock when we arrived,” he says, speaking almost flawless English. Language and money have been the biggest difficulties.

    He and his wife, Lara – graduates of prestigious universities in Damascus – came with about $4,500 (£3,000), most of which was eaten up by hotel bills in the first couple of months. Although the municipal government offered free shelters, Debas did not want his wife and child to share accommodation with street dwellers and crack addicts. Finding their own place was difficult because most landlords in Brazil require a guarantor with property.

    Brazil is home to 15 million people of Arabic descent, including 3 million of Syrian heritage, but Debas found few people willing to provide support to this latest wave of arrivals. “There are Lebanese who have been here for generations, but unfortunately most of them don’t offer help. There must be good people here, but we haven’t met them yet.”

    Debas makes a little money from teaching English for seven hours a week, but it is not enough to pay the R$750 (£160) rent, so they are desperate to find a more stable income. They are thinking of starting an import business or a restaurant, though the obvious source of start-up capital or loan collateral is gone: “We can’t sell our home in Syria because it has been bombed,” he says.

    Their lives were shattered on 1 August 2012 when their home in Hama was caught in crossfire between rebels and government troops. “The first attack started without warning at 2am. The windows were smashed and bullets came through the walls,” recalls Lara. “We tried to shelter by lying on the floor of the corridor. I was pregnant. It was the worst day of my life.”

    Many friends and neighbours were killed in the attack. The following afternoon, soldiers ordered everyone to evacuate. In the months and years that followed, they tried living elsewhere in Syria, but it was too dangerous, then moved to Jordan, which was unwelcoming, so last September, they decided to move to Brazil.

    “At first, we thought we could go back to our home, that our refugee situation was temporary. ‘Just a couple of months,’ we said. But then it was four months, then a year. Now it looks impossible to go back to Syria. I’ve lost hope of that. The war will continue,” says Lara.

    “We are planning to make a new life here in Brazil,” her husband says. “I recommend it to my family and friends in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Brazil is better than other countries. It is safe and you can build a new life here, even though it is expensive … No other country wants us, not even Jordan, where we used to go for day-trip picnics. War destroys everything. It destroys culture, buildings and people. If you haven’t experienced it, you cannot imagine.”

    Other refugees – almost all of whom are highly educated and skilled – tell of similar tough decisions. Until 2013, Hassan Salman, a 36-year-old computer programmer, had lived all his life in Yarmouk, the Palestinian district of Damascus. “It was wonderful,” he says, “until the Mig fighters attacked.” The government was punishing the community for offering refuge to rebels. Rockets destroyed a mosque and a school.

    “I was a kilometre away. The explosions made a terrible noise and killed many people, including children and old people,” says Salman. “Then the police came into Yarmouk and grabbed people off the streets. They killed many of my friends for helping the refugees. I had also helped them. That was enough for me to be killed. So I fled.”

    He took his family to Lebanon. They had to use a taxi because his car had been destroyed in a rocket attack. For more than a year, they lived in Baddawi refugee camp in Tripoli, but life was difficult. There was little work and when their visas expired they feared they would be sent back to Syria, so they started to look at other possible refuges. It was an soul-crushing and expensive experience.

    “I tried the German and French embassies. They took my money – $200 each for me, my wife, two sons and mother – and I had to pay $500 to get my documents translated, but they refused to take us. Lebanese agents promised they could get us into Europe. I paid them $3,000 but they just stole the money,” he recalls.

    Then Brazil announced it was opening its doors. Salman was hesitant at first. It was far away and he knew almost nothing about the country. But having already overstayed his visa by six months, it was the only way to avoid repatriation.

    “There was nothing else I could do. It was my last chance,” he recalls. “So I went to the Brazilian consulate. They were very kind. It was very different from the other embassies.”

    Leaving his family behind until he was settled, he arrived in São Paulo on 5 October 2014. “I thanked God I had left Lebanon,” he recalls. “But it felt very strange. I spent my first night sleeping on a mattress on a factory floor and asked myself ‘Why am I here?’”

    Consulate officials had explained that Brazil offered residency and travel documents, but no government support to find a home or work. Mosques and Caritas (a Catholic NGO) provide help with language lessons and documentation, but refugees are largely on their own. His funds are already running low.

    Although he can still do some work online, he also needs to sell clothes on the street to cover the $600 monthly rent that he and three friends share for a two-room apartment in Brás, an area with a high crime rate. Three friends were robbed after visiting him recently.

    For this reason, Salman is hoping he can move on to Germany, Sweden or another country. “Brazil is a wonderful country if you have a job. People treat us as Brazilians. Nobody asks about religion. But the problem is money. Life here is expensive,” he says. “Europe would be better.”

    Brazil has won kudos for assisting in the world’s worst refugee disaster. It has accepted far more Syrian refugees than any other country in Latin America, according to the UN high commissioner for refugees, and 6,300 more have been granted visas. But Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, says this humanitarian support needs to be put in context. In total, Brazil still has only about 8,000 refugees, compared with half a million in Germany and 200,000 in the US.

    “Despite its size, Brazil takes very few refugees,” he said. “This is not a country that receives many foreigners, mainly because the bureaucracy makes things difficult. Only 0.3% of the population were not born in Brazil and that proportion is declining. Compare that to Germany, England and France, where one in 10 people were born overseas.”

    Culturally open, but bureaucratically closed and very expensive, Brazil is not an easy county to assimilate into. One of those who appears to have managed is Dana al-Balkhi, who was among the first Syrian refugees to reach Brazil.

    Three years before she arrived in December 2013 the young English literature graduate had been looking forward to a bright career, but her home in Deraa –where many of the initial protests took place – quickly became a battleground. For two years, she heard rockets flying over the roof of the house. When family members started disappearing, her father sent Balkhi and her sister away for safety. They went to Lebanon, then Turkey and tried to go to Europe, but their efforts were futile.

    “I went to all the embassies, but no one would open the door for Syrians,” she recalls. While other refugees paid agents to smuggle them across the borders illegally, Balkhi knew enough about human trafficking to know the risks. “I wanted to go legally. For two girls on their own, it would not have been safe to go illegally.”

    That left Brazil as the only option, but it divided the siblings.

    “My sister thought it was too far away, so she went back to Syria. I thought it was an opportunity so I decided to come,” says Balkhi. “I was alone. I knew nobody in Brazil.”

    She researched the country online and made contacts through the Sunni mosque of Pari, who helped with accommodation and language lessons. Within a month, she had found a job at a clothes shop despite speaking no Portuguese. Today, she is fluent and works as an administrative assistant.

    Sipping on a cola at a restaurant on São Paulo’s swanky Avenida Paulista, Balkhi appears to have made a rapid and successful adjustment. In this extremely cosmopolitan city, nobody pays attention to her hijab, her religion or her refugee status.
    “I like the people here,” she says. “They are really nice, really welcoming. They love strangers.”

    But there are still difficulties posed by cultural differences, particularly the openness of Brazilians and their tendency to hug everyone. “They don’t know much about Islam. They just think it’s strange. They see I have a scarf so most people don’t try to hug me, but sometimes I have to explain why I don’t shake hands or people might be upset.”

    Today, her greatest lament is loneliness, but compared with what she and other have endured it is manageable.

    “War degraded our dreams. Before it, my hope was for a bright career. Then I wanted peace. Then just fewer problems. Now, just to survive.”


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    Jan 2007


    How Yarmouk refugee camp became the worst place in Syria

    Yarmouk, near the centre of Damascus, prospered as a safe haven for Palestinians. Under siege, it is now a prison for its remaining residents, who survive on little food and water, with no hope of escape

    Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk, Damascus, queueing for food

    On 18 January 2014, barely five miles from the centre of Damascus – with President Bashar al‑Assad’s office complex visible in the distance – a small crowd of desperate people emerged from a seemingly uninhabited wasteland of bomb-shattered buildings. News had spread throughout Yarmouk, a district of the capital that is home to Syria’s largest community of Palestinians, that the government and rebel groups had agreed to allow a delivery of food, briefly opening a crack in a year-long siege that had starved the area’s civilians and caused dozens of deaths.

    Families had sent their strongest members to collect the newly arrived supplies, and the hungry throng filled the entire width of a street, throwing up dust in the morning light. The relief workers making the delivery recalled one woman, gaunt with malnutrition, who fell down and was too weak to rise. She died on the spot. The scenes were such that some of these experienced aid workers needed trauma counselling when they returned to headquarters in Damascus.

    There was only enough food for a few hundred families. Thousands of disappointed people staggered home empty-handed. But officials from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), established to aid Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East, hoped that the delivery had set a precedent. They had not publicised it in advance – there was concern that excessive attention would anger the Syrian government – and were reluctant to invite journalists to observe a mission that might have been aborted for security reasons. Four days earlier, an attempted delivery had been abandoned after a mortar exploded very close to the convoy.
    After the successful delivery on 18 January, UNRWA officials decided discretion was no longer the best policy. On 31 January, a convoy delivering food to Yarmouk was accompanied by a local photographer, who took a picture of the vast crowd surging through a street lined with the ruins of destroyed buildings. This image quickly became an emblem of the Syrian conflict. To draw attention to the plight of the besieged civilians UNRWA launched a social media campaign (#LetUsThrough) in which millions clicked on a petition to put the image on two of the world’s highest-profile billboards. In Times Square, New York and the Shibuya district of Tokyo people stood in front of giant screens taking selfies, which were then beamed back to Yarmouk as a show of solidarity.

    This was how Yarmouk entered the world’s consciousness: a refugee camp designed as a safe haven for the Palestinian diaspora that had become the worst place on earth. No electricity for months. No piped water. No access for food. Worse still, no chance for people to leave or return, except for a handful of emergency medical cases or the few who had the means to pay people-smugglers to get them through the multiple checkpoints. Some called it Syria’s Gaza, but its plight was even worse, because the siege was more comprehensive; Yarmouk was a prison from which there was no escape.

    But notoriety can be short-lived. When Gaza came under Israeli bombardment in July 2014 and the world’s media rushed to report the carnage, Yarmouk slipped back into obscurity. The opening in the siege that UNRWA had negotiated in January 2014 applied only fitfully throughout the year: food deliveries were only possible on 131 days, and often less than half the amount required got through. Since 6 December, the siege has once again become impassable. UNRWA reports that it has not been able to deliver any food at all for the past 12 weeks. “We are getting new reports of people dying of malnutrition and of women dying in childbirth, but nothing can be confirmed,” said Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s spokesperson. Unlike in Gaza, where UNRWA has several offices, the organisation cannot enter Yarmouk at all.

    As Syria’s civil war enters its fourth year, other towns and villages are suffering long sieges, usually by Assad’s forces but sometimes, as in the case of Nubul and Zahra, two Shia villages north-west of Aleppo, by anti-Assad rebels. Still, Yarmouk stands out, partly because of the large number of trapped civilians – estimated to be around 18,000 – but also because of its political significance. Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for three decades before power passed to his son on his death in 2000, cast his country as the cornerstone of the Arab “axis of resistance” against Israel. This required that he be seen as the supreme defender of Palestinian rights; a leader who would ensure that Palestinian refugees in Syria lived better than those anywhere else in the Middle East. For Yarmouk to come under the control of anti-Assad rebels, and then be bombarded by government forces – to become a spectacle of suffering far worse than Gaza – marked an indelible stain on the mantle that Bashar al-Assad inherited from his father.


    Before the Syrian civil war began, Yarmouk was home to 150,000 Palestinians. Though people still refer to it as a “camp”, tents were replaced with solid housing soon after its founding in 1957. In time it became just another district of Damascus. As well as being home to Syria’s largest community of Palestinian refugees, it also housed some 650,000 Syrians.

    Nidal Bitari, a co-founder of the Palestinian Association for Human Rights in Syria, fled the country at the end of 2011 after being tipped off that he was wanted by the Assad regime’s security services. But, like most of the Palestinians in Yarmouk, he wanted to stay neutral when the uprising began. As Bitari wrote in a detailed account of Yarmouk’s recent political history published in 2013, Palestinians in Syria lived under better conditions than in any other Arab state: “By law they enjoy almost all the rights and benefits of Syrian nationals except citizenship and the right to vote. They have full access to Syrian schools and universities on the same basis as citizens … And because their numbers are tiny compared to the general Syrian population (less than 2%), the refugees were never perceived as a threat, and the degree of integration between Palestinians and Syrians – through work, education, and intermarriage – has no parallel in the Arab world.”

    For Yarmouk to become a spectacle of suffering far worse than Gaza marked an indelible stain on Bashar al-Assad
    When I first visited Yarmouk in March 2003, it was a hotbed of anger towards the American invasion of Iraq, which had just began. While other Arab countries muted criticism of US policy or quietly supported George W Bush and Tony Blair, the Syrian state media was full of denunciations. Scores of young Palestinian men from the camp had crossed into Iraq to fight the Americans, often disappearing without telling their own families.

    I came across a wake in one narrow back street. It was the third day of mourning for a young man named Issam. He had telephoned home for the first time as he was about to cross into Iraq. In a bus from Damascus with other volunteers from half a dozen Arab countries, the young Palestinian told his father that he and two cousins were going off to war. Six days of silence followed, as his family watched TV footage from Iraq even more intently than before. Then one of the cousins phoned: Issam had never even reached Baghdad. Less than five hours after calling his parents,he died in a hail of fire from a US helicopter. Thirteen other unarmed men in the three buses were killed. The cousin escaped with minor wounds.

    When Syrians began to rise up in protest against the government of Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, the situation threatened to unsettle the relatively stable position of Palestinians within the country. Palestinian groups were closely monitored by the Syrian security services and they were expected to remain uninvolved in the nation’s politics. According to Bitari, the trigger for Yarmouk’s entrapment in the intensifying conflict came from the Syrian government rather than the opposition. In May 2011, during the preparations for Nakba Day, which commemorates the expulsion of Palestinian refugees during the creation of Israel in 1948, representatives of the Assad regime began to promote the idea of a demonstration at the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.

    Bitari and his friends were wary, suspecting that the regime wanted to divert attention from the internal uprising. He described their decision to form a “youth coalition of Palestinians” in Yarmouk to coordinate decisions pertaining to the camp, which included representatives from each of the Palestinian political factions inside. The group’s first meeting concerned the Nakba Day protests, and a majority opposed any participation. But on the morning of Nakba Day the government supplied buses, which hundreds of people got on. At the border, the Syrian army let the buses through the demarcation lines and several protesters climbed the fence that blocks access to Israeli-controlled territory. Israeli troops used tear gas and live rounds. Three people died.

    A month later, on Naksa Day – the anniversary of the defeat of Arab armies by Israel in the 1967 six-day war – minivans sent by Syrian security took about 50 Yarmouk residents to the border, where they were joined by several hundred other young people. Syrian state TV cameras were on hand to film what happened. Again people tried to scale the fence, and this time 23 were shot dead by Israeli forces – 12 of them from Yarmouk, according to Bitari.

    Though the Israelis fired the bullets, “the rage was almost as great against the factions for not doing anything to stop the bloodshed”, as Bitari said. The next day the funeral of the victims was attended by 30,000 people.

    Angry mourners surrounded the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). A small faction led by Ahmed Jibril, which rejected the Oslo accords, the PFLP-GC was a firm supporter of the Syrian government and was seen by many residents as the regime’s enforcer in the camp. When a PFLP-GC security guard shot and killed a 14-year-old boy, the crowd stormed the building and set it on fire. Jibril had to be rescued by the Syrian army.

    This event embarrassed Bashar al-Assad and encouraged Syrian opposition groups to see Yarmouk as a potential support base for the uprising against him. Yarmouk’s geographical position, wedge-shaped with its apex pointing at the heart of Damascus, gave it strategic value. The district was bordered by two poorer Syrian suburbs, al Hajjar al Aswad and Tadamon, which were already being infiltrated by opposition fighters. To the south was open countryside, which was easy for them to move through.

    Bitari and his friends still hoped to keep Yarmouk neutral. They were alarmed when the Syrian government, shaken by the anti-PFLP-GC protest and the threat of rebel advances, gave Jibril’s men the right to parade with weapons. This escalation encouraged the Free Syrian Army – at that time the main opposition group, backed by western governments – to plan to move into the camp and seize it from Syrian government control. The Palestinian youth coalition’s efforts had failed. The group disbanded in despair. Civilians who wanted to avoid their district being militarised and dragged into conflict found themselves isolated. The same dynamic was affecting most of the rest of the country.


    For the Free Syrian Army, Yarmouk was a particularly valued prize after Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas in exile who had lived in Damascus for more than a decade, moved to Qatar in February 2012. Meshaal felt unable to accede to the Syrian government’s pleas that he condemn the anti-regime uprising. Instead, he accepted an invitation from Qatar, one of the armed opposition’s main financial backers. It was a severe blow to Assad’s credentials as leader of the axis of resistance.

    In December 2012 the FSA and the al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra were ready for a concerted attack to capture Damascus and topple Assad. Yarmouk was the gateway to the capital, closer to the centre than any of the other suburbs where the regime was losing control. The crisis came to a head on 16 December, when a Syrian air force plane bombed Yarmouk in what the government later claimed was a mistake. Dozens of civilians were killed. Brigades from the FSA and Jabhat al Nusra seized the opportunity to enter the camp – and in response, the government launched a hail of artillery shells, turning most buildings on the edge of the district to rubble.

    Within a few days most of the PFLP-GC, the main Palestinian faction supporting the Assad regime, had fled Yarmouk; some defected to the rebels who went on to gain full control. Hundreds of thousands of civilians left. The Syrians of Yarmouk mainly went to relatives and friends in central Damascus or other cities, or moved to Lebanon and Jordan. Palestinians fled to what they hoped would be safer areas inside Syria. Although rebel efforts to capture the rest of Damascus failed, Yarmouk remains in rebel hands today. Some 18,000 civilians still live there, including anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 Syrians. Still, it is clear that Yarmouk has reverted to being a largely Palestinian enclave.

    Assad’s government responded to its defeat in Yarmouk by putting the area under siege. For a few months food could still be brought in from the rural areas to the south, though profiteering was intense. In July 2013 the government tightened its grip and the siege became almost total. Inside Yarmouk fighting erupted between the FSA and Jabhat al Nusra, the latter of which had set up sharia courts. Spasmodic attempts were made to relieve the suffering of Yarmouk’s civilians. In the spring of 2013 Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, even proposed that all of Yarmouk’s 150,000 Palestinian residents move to the West Bank or Gaza. In November 2013, Abbas sent a team to Damascus to discuss humanitarian relief and a ceasefire between the rebels and the government. The idea was to open a safe corridor for the movement of supplies and displaced civilians, but no deal was ever reached.

    In September 2014, I met Abu Akram, a member of the PFPL-GC leadership, in a flat on the edge of Yarmouk. A tall older man with one arm in a brace, who moved to Yarmouk from Lebanon in 1994, he had taken part in the abortive ceasefire negotiations with the Syrian opposition, whose breakdown he blamed on the Islamists. A tough, battle-hardened figure firmly allied to the Assad regime, he showed no embarrassment in defending the siege. It was a legitimate tactic, he claimed, in part because the food from UNRWA that was allowed into Yarmouk ended up in the hands of the rebel fighters, for their own use or for sale on the black market.

    “We saw that the armed groups were taking food from civilians,” he said, then claimed that boxes of aid meant for Yarmouk could be seen for sale in a nearby district. He even criticised the decision to relax the pressure in early 2014. “It was a mistake to break the siege,” he said. “If we had continued by another week, hunger would have forced them to give up.”

    The barbaric nature of sieges has remained unchanged for thousands of years. The aim is to starve the trapped civilians into submission, in the hope they will turn against whatever armed faction controls the territory and persuade them to surrender. The armed faction, in turn, wants to keep the civilians inside so as to make it less likely the besieging army will bring destruction upon the captives. Now, in the 21st century, the very same tactics are being deployed not only in Yarmouk but in several other parts of Syria.


    Sieges fuel a war economy in which those who man the checkpoints can run a lucrative business selling permission to leave or return. They encourage smuggling of people and food, and keep prices in the camp’s few markets artificially high. When I visited Yarmouk’s northern entrance in September 2014, I found nothing but bleakness. Syrian government soldiers stood guard near a crossroads known as Batikha – “watermelon” – Square, so named for a green monument of a globe that stands amid a clump of palm trees in the middle of the street. The only route into the camp required a walk through a narrow alley between two five-storey buildings that had most of their windows blown out. The neighbouring alley was shielded by huge white padded sheets strung from the upper floors of buildings on either side – makeshift screens intended to stop rebel snipers from targeting anyone walking in the square.

    A young woman in hijab was standing near the entrance, weeping as she and a male companion talked with the officer in charge of the checkpoint. After a few minutes of conversation that ended on what looked to be a frustrating note, the woman and her friend pulled back, then wandered up and down the street, apparently debating whether to try another tack to convince the officer or just give up and leave.

    “I am trapped,” the woman, named Reem Buqaee, told me. She had been given permission to leave Yarmouk three months earlier with her three teenage daughters. The oldest one was pregnant. Owing to malnutrition, she was suffering from anaemia so severe that she was at risk of losing her baby. The other two girls also had medical problems. But leaving the camp had meant splitting the family. The husband of the pregnant woman could not leave the camp, nor could Reem’s husband, or her 16-year-old son. Rebel groups were eager to keep people in the camp, she said, particularly men and boys. Their departure was seen as defection from the opposition cause as well as potentially making it easier for government troops to enter the camp by force and regain control.

    Buqaee’s daughter had safely given birth and the other girls had regained their strength, so she wanted to take them back into Yarmouk. “I had to choose between living in a prison under siege but alongside my husband and son, or stay outside Yarmouk separated but free,” she said. On this particular day, she had come to the camp entrance to see whether her request to return had been granted, but the officer told her he had not received orders to let her and her daughters and baby grand-daughter inside. “Our house is only 100 metres from here, just inside the camp. It’s so near but very far,” she said.

    The next day, I visited Buqaee at an overcrowded flat in the Dummar suburb of Damascus, where a distant relative had given her and her daughters temporary shelter. A thick atmosphere of fear surrounds any discussion of Yarmouk. This affects everyone from UNRWA officials to Yarmouk residents. People worry that their families will suffer if they publicly attribute blame to the regime or the rebels for the siege, the collapse of ceasefire talks, and the impossibility of escaping. UNRWA officials are concerned about losing the minimal access they have to Yarmouk if they say anything that might be misinterpreted by one side or the other. When I spoke to residents who had left the camp for other parts of Damascus, but who talk regularly with siblings and parents still inside, they refused to be quoted, explaining that people are scared of reprisals from both the regime and the anti-Assad forces inside the camp.

    Buqaee, however, described the horrors of the siege without hesitation: women dying in childbirth, infants killed by malnutrition. There was no anger or hysteria in her voice, just a calm recollection of facts. “You couldn’t buy bread. At the worst point a kilo of rice cost 12,000 Syrian pounds (£41), now it is 800 pounds (£2.75) compared to 100 Syrian pounds (34p) in central Damascus. It was 900 pounds (£3.10) for a kilo of tomatoes, compared to 100 here,” Reem recalled. “We had some stocks but when they gave out we used to eat wild plants. We picked and cooked them. In every family there was hepatitis because of a lack of sugar. The water was dirty. People had fevers. Your joints and bones felt stiff. My middle daughter had brucellosis and there was no medication,” she said. In October 2013, in a sign of how bad things had become, the imam of Yarmouk’s largest mosque issued a fatwa that permitted people to eat cats, dogs and donkeys.

    The relaxation of the siege in January last year was limited and insecure, she said. UNRWA’s food deliveries were regularly cut short by mortar explosions and sniper fire. No one was sure who began firing or why. She remembered one incident vividly: “It was March 23. I had gone to collect a food parcel and was on the way back when a mortar went off. Twenty-nine people were killed. My daughter’s husband had come to help carry the boxes. He was hit by shrapnel and cannot walk now. It’ll take him another three or four months to get better.”

    For most of 2014, both sides were willing to allow some humanitarian supplies to enter the camp on an ad hoc basis, UN officials told me, even if the amount was far below what was needed. Every day, UNRWA would check whether there had been exchanges of fire in Yarmouk. Sometimes the agency’s minivans never left the warehouse in central Damascus, on other occasions, delivery convoys were turned back. “We never say we’ve had access. All we say is that they’ve given us some opportunities to provide aid,” one UN official said.

    UNRWA has not yet been able to enter the camp to conduct a needs assessment. Since the graphic scenes of starving masses early last year, the agency developed a more orderly process, with lists of people who are allowed to cross the no man’s land at the edge of the camp once each month to collect food parcels. Each parcel contains five kilograms of rice, five kilograms of sugar, five kilograms of lentils, five litres of oil, five kilograms of powdered milk, one kilogram of halva, one and a half kilograms of pasta and five 200g tins of luncheon meat. This is designed to feed a family of eight people for 10 days. In other parts of Syria where displaced Palestinians are living, UNRWA provides cash so that people can buy food for the rest of the month, but in Yarmouk that has not been not possible.

    Providing medical supplies is sensitive, since the Syrian government fears they will go to wounded fighters. Initially it only gave permission for rehydration salts and basic painkillers. UNRWA eventually managed to operate a mobile health clinic at the food distribution point, which provided basic treatments for communicable diseases and other infections, as well as conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Tests conducted in 2014 on a random sample of patients found that 40% had typhoid.

    Education has been dramatically affected by the siege. According to residents inside the camp, all of Yarmouk’s 28 schools have been closed, and volunteer teachers hold informal classes in 10 “safe spaces”, including the basements of mosques. The lack of electricity means children have to do their homework by generators if their parents can afford the fuel for them, or by candlelight. The spotlight that the UNRWA has tried to keep on Yarmouk may have acted as some restraint on government forces – the area has not been bombed as heavily as other rebel-held districts of Damascus. But this is only a crumb of comfort. “Conditions are far worse than Gaza,” said one UN official. “Palestinians always had dignity, hope, resilience. Now after four years of war I see people giving up. They find it hard to accept there are no options”.


    The latest attempt to reach a ceasefire and end the siege of Yarmouk was last June, when the armed groups inside the camp and some civilian representatives signed a pact with 13 representatives of the Assad government, which would have seen gunmen leave Yarmouk after the creation of a new security force to defend the camp. The deal was never implemented.

    Nidal Bitari now lives in the United States, where he remains in daily contact with friends in Yarmouk by phone and Skype. He lobbied at UN headquarters in New York for western governments to support the June ceasefire agreement, and blames them, along with supporters of Jabhat al Nusra, for letting the deal collapse. “I suppose this initiative went against the wishes of France, UK and USA,” he said, “as their policy is based on supporting the interim government in exile, and they believe such truces give legitimacy to the regime.” Talal Alyan, a Palestinian-American writer and researcher who lives in the US, recently wrote that Jabhat al Nusra controls 60% of the camp, and suggested the group had attempted to ban singing and force women to wear the veil.

    Since our conversation, Reem Buqaee has managed to go home to Yarmouk, even though it meant returning to siege conditions. When no response came from the Palestinian authorities who shared control of the camp’s northern entrance with regime forces, she decided to use an unofficial channel. A friend in the air force, one of the pillars of Assad’s regime, persuaded his commander to contact officers at government checkpoints in Beit Sahem, a village to the south of Yarmouk, to let them cross the frontline. Inside the camp, the water supply has still not returned, six months after pipes were damaged by fighting in September 2014. This has forced the residents to rely on untreated groundwater and a single well.

    To add to the horror of the siege, the shadow of Isis has fallen across Yarmouk. When the group announced the establishment of a caliphate last year, Bitari said, some Jabhat al Nusra fighters in Yarmouk switched their allegiance and threatened to kill anyone who supported the ceasefire agreement. Isis is not yet in Yarmouk in full force, according to Bitari, but it was in nearby suburbs and had threatened to enter the camp at any time.

    Nidal Bitari is gloomy in exile. When it became clear the US was about to strike targets in Syria in September, he coordinated an appeal from activists back home. They feared Obama would attack Isis positions in Yarmouk. “Here in Washington I’m surrounded by people from the Syrian National Coalition [the western-supported opposition] who tell me they want Obama to bomb Damascus. It would be a political more than a military action, aimed at warning Assad that the opposition has powerful friends. I told them it would cause a high number of casualties and there’s no way for Palestinians in Yarmouk to flee,” he said.

    The appeal condemned the Syrian government for mounting a brutal siege but said any coalition air strike on Damascus would create an even greater humanitarian disaster. In his view the reimposition of a total siege since early December was a tactic by the Assad regime to drive Yarmouk’s people to despair and have them press the armed groups to accept a truce under the regime’s conditions. It would amount to a surrender like those the government achieved in the city of Homs and the Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya last year. The armed groups would have to give up their weapons and submit to interrogation, with the risk of torture or execution.

    In spite of the siege, Bitari feels that in one way Syria’s Palestinians who have escaped abroad may be worse off than those left behind. “We heard much about the Nakba from our parents and grandparents, about their suffering when forced to leave their country, at having lost everything,” he wrote. “They worked hard to build their lives in Syria, and what they built is destroyed. And now we, the third generation, are experiencing this also, of starting from zero in other countries.”

    This article was amended on 11 March 2015. It mistakenly described Talal Alyan as a former Yarmouk resident. He is a Palestinian-American writer and researcher who lives in the US. This has been corrected.


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    Genocide in Syria

    Chemical weapons and tnt bombs used on civilians
    470,000 Dead 1,500,000 Injured 11,000,000 Displaced
    over 500,000 starving under siege this is Syria 2016

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    Syrian refugee hands in 150,000 euros to police - after finding the cash in a wardrobe that had been donated to him by a charity in Germany

    • 'Muhannad M' had only recently moved into new flat in Minden, Germany
    • He was assembling furniture donated to him when he discovered money
    • Found 50,000 euros in cash and savings books containing 100,000 euros



    During WWII, European refugees fled to Syria. Here's what the camps were like.

    efugees crossed these same passageways 70 years ago. But they were not Syrians and they traveled in the opposite direction. At the height of World War II, the Middle East Relief and Refugee Administration (MERRA) operated camps in Syria, Egypt and Palestine where tens of thousands of people from across Europe sought refuge.

    MERRA was part of a growing network of refugee camps around the world that were operated in a collaborative effort by national governments, military officials and domestic and international aid organizations. Social welfare groups including the International Migration Service, the Red Cross, the Near East Foundation and the Save the Children Fund all pitched in to help MERRA and, later, the United Nations to run the camps.

    Nuseirat, Palestine, 1945

    Amman, Jordan, 2015

    Rows of tents in a World War II refugee camp in Nuseirat, Palestine are strikingly similar to a modern-day refugee camp east of Amman, Jordan, built for Syrian refugees in 2014.


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    Abuse of Refugee Syrian Children in France

    Disgusting behaviour from England fans in France today mocking Syrian refugee children by throwing coins at them. Despicable.

    Video: https://www.facebook.com/DAILYSABAH/...8008792689550/


    This was a tweet posted by a journalist named Michael Stothard from the Financial Times a few hours ago. First we have seen videos of English fans throwing coins at Syrian refugee children whilst mockingly laughing at them, and now they are committing child abuse against vulnerable children, simply because they are refugees. English fans have been a disgrace at Euro 2016 and numerous media outlets around the world are calling them some of the most racist people in Europe. On this showing, how can you argue with them?

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    Syria: Reports of civilian deaths in US-led strikes

    Coalition raids kill civilians, as US greets with suspicion Russian plan for "safe corridors" for Aleppo civilians.

    At least 28 civilians have reportedly been killed and several wounded in US-led air strikes on the suburbs of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, according to a monitoring group.

    The reports on Friday come a day after the US-led coalition announced it had enough evidence of civilian casualties from its attacks on the same area last week to launch a formal investigation.

    Thursday night's air strikes targeted the town of al-Ghandour, controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which documents daily human rights abuses in Syria.

    The SOHR said the civilian death toll included seven children. Thirteen more people died in the same attack, but their identity remained unclear, the group added.
    Ghandour lies 23km northwest of Manbij in the Aleppo governorate, a strategic waypoint between Turkey and the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital for ISIL, also known as ISIS.

    US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, said late on Thursday it had "initiated an assessment following internal operational reporting that a strike today near Manbij, Syria may have resulted in civilian casualties," confirming that there had been coalition air strikes there in the past 24 hours.

    Last week, a separate coalition attack targeting the Tokhar area of Manbij killed at least 56 Syrian civilians, according to SOHR and local activists, in one of the highest death tolls from coalition air strikes yet.

    After examining "internal and external information" following the strikes, the coalition determined that there was sufficient credible evidence of civilian deaths to open a formal inquiry, spokesman Colonel Chris Garver said on Wednesday.

    "The US coalition knows that it is very important for it to be seen as trying to respond to these allegations," Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, DC, said.

    "This is the third such investigation in the past 11 days."



    US air strike in Syria kills nearly 60 civilians 'mistaken for Isil fighters'

    US air strike killed nearly 60 civilians, including children
    , in Syria on Tuesday after the coalition mistook them for Islamic State (Isil) fighters. Some eight families were hit as they tried to flee fighting in their area, in one of the single deadliest strikes on civilians by the alliance since the start of its operations in the war-torn country.

    Pictures of the aftermath of the dawn strikes on the Isil-controlled village of Tokhar near Manbij in northern Syria showed the bodies of children as young as three under piles of rubble.

    The coalition has carried out more than 450 air strikes around the city since the operation to take the town began in May. The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, is trying to seize the last territory held by Isil on the frontier with Turkey.
    Very clear footage (rare) of a CJTF airstrike north of #Manbij on July 5, 2016. Geolocation: https://t.co/w70f6hO506 pic.twitter.com/JFlAKDj2yh
    — Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) July 18, 2016

    On Tuesday the forces retook one the terror group’s headquarters, which was located in a hospital, being used as a command centre and logistics hub.

    But progress into Manbij city has been slow, with landmines littering the roads in and snipers attacking advancing troops.

    Many Isil fighters are still holed up in the city, and are preventing thousands of civilians from leaving, effectively using them as human shields.

    It had served as a base for Western fighters, who for years travelled into to Syria from Europe through the porous northern border.

    In a separate incident on Sunday, the Observatory reported that coalition airstrikes killed six civilians in Manbij, “including a woman with four of her children and an old man”.

    Rebels and many residents say Russia's bombing campaign has been even more indiscriminate and accuse the Russians of deliberately hitting hospitals, schools and infrastructure in opposition-held areas, something Moscow denies.


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    ‘Bloody massacres’: Syria appeals to UN after French & US airstrikes ‘kill over 140 civilians’

    Syria is demanding the UN take action after it says French war planes killed more than 120 civilians during airstrikes on Tuesday near the Turkish-Syrian border. The deaths came just a day after US air assaults killed a further 20 people in Manbij.

    The Syrian Foreign Ministry sent letters to the UN secretary general and to the president of the UN Security Council, which at present is Japan.

    Damascus wants the organization to look into atrocities committed by France, which is a member of the US-led international coalition, after it targeted the village of Toukhan Al-Kubra, located near the Turkish-Syrian border and the city of Manbij.

    “The French unjust aggression claimed the lives of more than 120 civilians, most of them are children, women and elderly, in addition to tens of wounded citizens, the majority of them are also children and women as reports say that the fate of scores of other civilians who still under debris are unknown too,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry wrote, as cited by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

    The mass death toll in Toukhan Al-Kubra came just a day after US war planes killed around 20 people, mainly women and children, while many more were injured in and around the city of Manbij, the Foreign Ministry states.

    “The government of the Syrian Arab Republic condemns, with the strongest terms, the two bloody massacres perpetrated by the French and US warplanes and those affiliated to the so-called international coalition which send their missiles and bombs to the civilians instead of directing them to the terrorist gangs… Syria also affirms that those who want to combat terrorism seriously should coordinate with the Syrian government and army,” the ministry added.

    In the letter, the Syrian Foreign Ministry added that it condemns the continued support by the US, France, Saudi Arabia, the UK and Qatar to terrorist organizations such as Al-Nusra Front and Jaish Al-Islam, despite these groups having clear links to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda.
    MANBIJ: 20 JUL 2016. 0130 UTC. Heavy airstrikes continue. Nat'l Hospital taken. Fighting in W urban areas. #Manbij pic.twitter.com/gtHkaVLTj5
    — Chuck Pfarrer (@ChuckPfarrer) July 20, 2016

    The human rights watchdog Amnesty International also hit out at the US-led coalition, saying that it needs to do more to prevent the deaths of civilians.

    “Anyone responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice and victims and their families should receive full reparation,” Amnesty’s interim Middle East director Magdalena Mughrabi said, as cited by Reuters.

    A spokesman for the US Department of Defense says that it is aware of the loss of civilian life in Syria.

    “We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties near Manbij, Syria, recently. As with any allegation we receive, we will review any information we have about the incident,” Matthew Allen said in a statement.

    “We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict,” he added.

    Footage from earlier this month US bombing #Manbij #Syria. Yesterday bombs like this killed 100+ civilians Manbij…https://t.co/7AaVNSljiT
    — DOAM (@doammuslims) July 20, 2016

    The US-led coalition has been providing air support to the rebel group the Syrian Arab Coalition, which is involved in heavy fighting around the city of Manbij, currently under the control of Islamic State.

    The terrorist group has been in control of the city since it seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in the summer of 2014.
    In an interview with NBC News last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the US is not interested in defeating terrorists in Syria as it really wants “to control and use them.”

    Western leaders support terror groups in Syria, get extremism at home – Assadhttps://t.co/3rla6XuLxb pic.twitter.com/INykh9Iy7k
    — RT (@RT_com) July 11, 2016

    “The reality is telling that, since the beginning of the American airstrikes, terrorism has been expanding and prevailing,”
    he told the channel, specifying that “during the American and alliance airstrikes, ISIS was expanding and taking over new areas in Syria.”

    “It’s about being serious, having the will. The United States doesn’t have the will to defeat the terrorists. It had the will to control them and to use them as a card, like they did in Afghanistan. That will reflect on the military aspect of the issue,”Assad said.


    comments: All these ISIS excuses to bomb and kill innocent Muslims and plus have their terror group ISIS kill Muslims, it's all planned out.

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    Assad Supports Damascus night life despite violence in Syria

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    Hillary Approved Sarin Gas to Rebels to Frame Assad

    In April of 2013, Britain and France informed the United Nations that there was credible evidence that Syria used chemical weapons against rebel forces. Only two months later, in June of 2013, the United States concluded that the Syrian government did, in fact, use chemical weapons in its fight against opposition forces. President Obama immediately used this chemical attack as a pretext for invasion and authorized direct U.S. military support to the rebels, according to the White House.Since the US has been funding these ‘moderate rebels’ more than 250,000 people have been killed, over 7,600,000 have been internally displaced, and 4,000,000 other human beings have been forced from the country entirely.

    All of this death and destruction carried out by a sadistic army of rebels who’ve been funded and armed by the United States government, based on, what we are now told, was a complete fabrication.

    World renowned journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, in a series of interviews and books, that the Obama Administration falsely blamed the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for the sarin gas attack that Obama was trying to use as an excuse to invade Syria.

    As Eric Zuesse explained in Strategic Culture, Hersh pointed to a report from British intelligence saying that the sarin that was used didn’t come from Assad’s stockpiles. Hersh also said that a secret agreement in 2012 was reached between the Obama Administration and the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, to set up a sarin gas attack and blame it on Assad so that the US could invade and overthrow Assad.

    “By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.”

    Hersh didn’t say whether these ‘arms’ included the precursor chemicals for making sarin which were stockpiled in Libya, explains Zuesse in his report. But there have been multiple independent reports that Libya’s Gaddafi possessed such stockpiles, and also that the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya was operating a “rat line” for Gaddafi’s captured weapons into Syria through Turkey.

    While Hersh didn’t specifically say ‘Clinton transported the gas,’ he implicated her directly in this ‘rat line’ of arms which the sarin gas was part of.

    Of Hillary Clinton’s involvement, Hersh told AlterNet that Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who died in the storming of the Benghazi embassy,

    “The only thing we know is that she was very close to Petraeus who was the CIA director at the time … she’s not out of the loop, she knows when there’s covert ops. That ambassador who was killed, he was known as a guy, from what I understand, as somebody, who would not get in the way of the CIA. As I wrote, on the day of the mission he was meeting with the CIA base chief and the shipping company. He was certainly involved, aware and witting of everything that was going on. And there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel.”

    Backing up Hersh in his claims is investigative journalist Christof Lehmann, who after the attacks discovered an evidence trail leading back to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, CIA Director John Brennan, Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar, and Saudi Arabia´s Interior Ministry.

    As Lehmann explained, Russian and other experts have repeatedly stated that the chemical weapon could not have been a standard issue Syrian chemical weapon and that allavailable evidence — including the fact that those who offered first aid to the victims were not harmed — indicates the use of liquid, home made sarin. This information is corroborated by the seizure of such chemicals in Syria and in Turkey.

    While this is certainly no silver bullet, this implication should not be glossed over. As the Free Thought Project has reported extensively in the past, the presidential candidate has ties to international criminal cartels who’ve been funding her and her husband for decades.

    When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, the William J. Clinton Foundation agreed to disclose its donors at the request of the White House. According to a memorandum of understanding, revealed by Politifact, the foundation could continue to collect donations from countries with which it had existing relationships or running grant programs.

    The records would show that of the 25 donors who have contributed more than $5 million to the Clinton Foundation throughout the years, six are foreign governments, with the largest contributor being Saudi Arabia.

    The importance of Saudi Arabia’s role in funding Clinton is tremendous, as the Syria/Saudi relationship over the last half century is what this civil war is all about.

    As Zuesse points out in his article on Strategic Culture,

    When the interviewer asked Hersh why Obama is so obsessed with replacing Assad in Syria, since “The power vacuum that would ensue would open Syria up to all kinds of jihadi groups”; and Hersh replied that not only he, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “nobody could figure out why.” He said, “Our policy has always been against him [Assad]. Period.”

    This has actually been the case not only since the Party that Assad leads, the Ba’ath Party, was the subject of a shelved CIA coup-plot in 1957 to overthrow and replace it; but, actually, the CIA’s first coup had been not just planned but was carried out in 1949 in Syria, overthrowing a democratically elected leader, in order to enable a pipeline for the Sauds’ oil to become built through Syria into the largest oil market, Europe; and, construction of the pipeline started the following year.

    But, there were then a succession of Syrian coups (domestic instead of by foreign powers – 1954, 1963, 1966, and, finally, in 1970), concluding in the accession to power of Hafez al-Assad during the 1970 coup. And, the Sauds’ long-planned Trans-Arabia Pipeline has still not been built. The Saudi royal family, who own the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, don’t want to wait any longer. Obama is the first US President to have seriously tried to carry out their long-desired “regime change” in Syria, so as to enable not only the Sauds’ Trans-Arabian Pipeline to be built, but also to build through Syria the Qatar-Turkey Gas Pipeline that the Thani royal family (friends of the Sauds) who own Qatar want also to be built there. The US is allied with the Saud family (and with their friends, the royal families of Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and Oman). Russia is allied with the leaders of Syria – as Russia had earlier been allied with Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, Hussein in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya, and Yanukovych in Ukraine (all of whom except Syria’s Ba’ath Party, the US has successfully overthrown).

    Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world.


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    Syria: Assad regime kills so many detainees it amounts to 'extermination' of civilian population, UN says

    UN investigators called the deaths of those detained by the regime a crime against humanity


    The Assad regime is killing so many detainees in Syria that it now amounts to the crime against humanity of "extermination", a UN report has found.

    In a document published by the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, investigators found the Syrian government responsible for "massive and systematised violence".
    The crimes against humanity committed by the Assad regime, according to the UN, far outnumber those of Isis militants and other jihadist groups.

    The UN commission of inquiry called on the Security Council to imporse "targeted sanctions" against Syrian officials. Its report was based on interviews with 621 survivors and witnesses and covers the period March 2011 to November 2015.

    "The situation of detainees in Syria is critical, and represents an urgent and largescale crisis of human rights protection," the Commission of Inquiry in Syria report said.
    "With thousands of persons still in custody, urgent steps need to be taken by the Syrian Government, armed groups, the external backers of various belligerents, and the wider international community to prevent further deaths."

    It said that in the interviews it conducted, almost every one of over 500 survivors of government detention centres said they were victims of "torture and inhuman and degrading treatment".

    Some witnessed others being beaten to death during interrogations or in their cells, while others died "as a consequence of inhuman living conditions inflicted on the prison population".

    According to the UN, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has committed "the crimes against humanity of extermination; murder; rape or other forms of sexual violence; torture; imprisonment; enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts". It said war crimes were also committed "based on the same conduct".

    By comparison, jihadist groups such as Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra were accused of the crimes against humanity of murder and torture, as well as war crimes.

    "Accountability for these and other crimes must form part of any political solution," the report said.

    The commission of inquiry found there are "reasonable grounds to believe that high ranking officers... knew of the vast number of deaths occurring in detention facilities under their control".

    It said such people, in the heighest ranks of the Syrian regime, were "individually criminally liable" - but did not go so far as to name names.

    Among its recommendations, the commission suggested the UN Security Council demand all sides end custodial deaths and torture and answer to the International Criminal Court.

    And it called on the Security Council to "adopt targeted sacntions against persons, agencies and groups credibly suspected of being responsible for or complicit in conduct leading to custodial deaths, torture and enforced disappearances".



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