Syrian Air Defenses Intercept 2 of 3 Israeli Surface-To-Surface Missiles Near Damascus

Syrian army intercepts Israeli missiles near Damascus: state media


The latest Israeli strikes come a day after Syrian government pulled out of UN-led talks in Geneva to end the civil war

An Israeli F-15 fighter jet takes off during an exercise dubbed ” Juniper Falcon”at Ovda Military Airbase in southern Israel on 16 May 2017 (Reuters)
MEE and agencies's picture

Syrian air defences intercepted at least two Israeli missiles which targeted government positions near Damascus early Saturday morning, state media reported.

“At half past midnight (2230 GMT Friday), the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles at a military position in Damascus province,” the state SANA news agency reported.

“The air defences of the Syrian army were able to deal with the attack … destroying two of the missiles,” it said, adding that the attack nonetheless caused “material damage”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Britain-based group that monitors the war through a network of contacts in Syria, said the missiles, presumably Israeli, targeted “positions of the Syrian regime and its allies” southwest of Damascus near the town of al-Kiswa.

“An arms depot was destroyed,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman, adding that it was not immediately clear whether the warehouse was operated by the Syrian army, or its allies Iran or Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment.

Hezbollah fighters put Lebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal, Syria-Lebanon border, July 25, 2017 (Reuters)

The Israeli air force has previously acknowledged carrying out repeated air and missile strikes within Syria since the outbreak of the bloody civil war to stop arms deliveries to Hezbollah, with which it fought a war in 2006.

The militia has played a key role in supporting the Syrian regime forces of President Bashar al-Assad in recapturing territory from Syrian rebels and Islamic State militants.

Israel has also grown deeply alarmed at the increasingly prominent role regional rival Iran has played in the neighbouring conflict. Iran has provided critical support to the Syrian military and Hezbollah.

On a visit to Damascus in October, Iran’s military chief warned Israel against breaching Syrian airspace or territory.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

The two countries remain technically at war.

Latest peace talks stall over Assad’s future role

The latest incident came after Syrian government representatives quit UN-led peace talks in Geneva to end the civil war on Friday, saying it would not return until the Syrian opposition withdraw a statement demanding that President Assad play no-role in an interim post-war government.

The civil war which begain in 2011 has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million from their homes.

So far all previous rounds of negotiations have failed to make progress, faltering over the future role of President Assad.

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations and head of the government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari (C) arrives prior to a round of negotiations during the UN-led Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva on November 30, 2017 (AFP)

After a morning of talks, Syria government chief negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari said: “For us [this] round is over, as a government delegation. He as mediator can announce his own opinion,” referring to UN mediator Staffan de Mistura.

“As long as the other side sticks to the language of Riyadh 2 … there will be no progress,” Ja‘afari said, referring to a position adopted in Riyadh last week in which the opposition stuck to a demand to exclude Assad from a transitional deal.

Riyadh 2 was a “mine” on the road to Geneva, he added and accused the opposition of imposing preconditions on the talks and purposefully undermining them.

The opposition spokesman Yahya al-Aridi rejected the claims saying his side sought a “political solution” to the war.

“We have come to this round with no preconditions,” he told reporters.

“Now, not coming back is a precondition in itself. It’s an expression or a reflection of a responsibility toward people who have been suffering for seven years now,” Aridi said.

Turkey issues arrest warrant for former CIA official Graham Fuller over coup attempt

Turkey issues arrest warrant for former CIA official Graham Fuller over coup attempt

Toygun Atilla – ISTANBUL

Graham Fuller and Fetullah Gülen

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Dec. 1 issued an arrest warrant for Graham Fuller, the former vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Council of the CIA, over his alleged involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt.

The arrest warrant alleges that Fuller was in Turkey during the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and left the country after the failure of the attempted military takeover.

The warrant accuses Fuller of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey and obstructing the duties of the Republic of Turkey,” ”obtaining state information that must be kept secret for political and military espionage purposes,” and “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”

It also states that Fuller was in contact with American academic Henri Barkey, who was also previously subject of an arrest warrant in Turkey, as well as other figures who played a role in the coup attempt.

Barkey is accused by prosecutors of organizing and coordinating the coup attempt in a meeting on Istanbul’s Büyükada island between July 15 and July 16, 2016.

Prosecutors claim that Fuller also participated in this meeting.

The arrest warrant comes after notorious Russian strategist Alexander Dugin had claimed during a recent TV broadcast in Turkey that both Barkey and Fuller attended the meeting on Büyükada. Dugin also stated that Russian intelligence agencies had “concrete evidence that CIA agents commanded the failed coup attempt.”

In 2006 Fuller wrote a letter supporting the U.S. green card application of Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey considers the coup’s mastermind.

Pakistan OKs Former Gen. Sharif Command of Saudi “Anti-Terrorist” (Anti-Shia) Forces

Iran fumes as Pakistan embraces KSA 

“It is a grouping to safeguard Saudi interests. People in Yemen are being massacred by Saudi Arabia itself.”

Iran fumes as Pakistan embraces KSA 

ISLAMABAD –  Pakistan’s closeness to Saudi Arabia and former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s formal appointment as the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition commander has left Iran fuming as Tehran asked Islamabad not to support a “sectarian” alliance, The Nation has learnt.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry said Iran had contacted Pakistan to reconsider its decision of spearheading the Saudi-led military alliance.

“They insist it is a Sunni alliance against the Shias. We are struggling to convince them [Iran] that this is an anti-terrorism alliance. They [Iran] are drifting away as we get closer to Saudi Arabia,” one official told The Nation.

He said the diplomatic contacts between Pakistan and Iran were ongoing on the issue and Pakistan hoped to placate Iran in the coming days. “We have assured them that we will quit the alliance if it proves to be sectarian. So far we are planning to eliminate terrorism not any Muslim sect,” the official added.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa were in Saudi Arabia this week for talks with the top Saudi leaders on expanding the bilateral relationship.

General Bajwa had earlier visited Iran and held talks with President Hassan Rouhani. The meeting was termed “positive” by the officials on both sides.

Pakistan had allowed Raheel Sharif to command the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance of several Muslim states after a request from Riyadh. The alliance was formed by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 with its headquarters in Riyadh.

Iran had objected to the formation of the alliance fearing it was a Sunni-alliance rather than a Muslim alliance.

Pakistan had also delayed approval-to Raheel Sharif – considering Iran ‘s objections – for several months before finally giving a nod to the former army chief.

This month, Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost had said the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance did not have the necessary ingredients of an alliance.

“From the very beginning of its inception there have been a number of ambiguities about they have persisted so far. Saudi authorities have announced that objective of that alliance been fight against terrorism. While Iran , Iraq and Syria the main victims of terrorism are not part of that alliance,” he had told The Nation.

Honardoost said Iran on the basis of non-inference in the internal affairs of other countries, considered presence or non-presence of Pakistan in this alliance as the discretion of Pakistan .

“Joining or quitting the Saudi[-led] alliance depends on Pakistan . But the alliance is contrary to its motto of fighting terrorism,” he maintained.

Another official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan had defended the Saudi-alliance in talks with Iran .

“There are misunderstandings but we believe Iran will understand that this alliance is not against them. We have assurances from Saudi Arabia in this regard,” he said.  Press attaché at the Iranian Embassy, Abbas Badrifar, said the alliance included only the Sunni-majority states, which damaged its image.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and can join or quit any alliance but we feel the Saudi coalition is only designed against Shias. It is not an alliance but a Sunni grouping,” he told The Nation.

Badrifar said the victims of terrorism were not members of the coalition and had not even been invited to join the alliance.

“It is a grouping to safeguard Saudi interests. People in Yemen are being massacred by Saudi Arabia itself,” he added.

Defence analyst and former major general Farooq Malik said Pakistan could not support any anti-Iran block as it had friendly relations with the Muslim-majority country.

“Pakistan allowed Raheel Sharif’s services to Saudi Arabia for the anti-terrorism alliance. This is not against Iran ,” he said.

Dr Shaheen Akhtar from the National Defence University said Iran was as important to Pakistan as Saudi Arabia so Islamabad should not lose Tehran at any cost.

“Iran does have reservations against the alliance but Pakistan should try to placate them and improve ties with the important neighbour. We cannot have ties with one ally and annoy another friend,” she said.