Thursday, May 16, 2013

16-May-13: Syria may or may not have launched an attack on Israel this morning

The caption on this AFP press photo says it depicts
a poster in Naqura, Lebanon with Bashar Assad,
Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah  and Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. [Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP]
Several rounds of mortar fire have hit Israeli territory in the Golan Heights, close to the border with Syria, in recent weeks. The tone of the news reporting has been to convey that these were fired more or less by accident, part of the wild shooting-in-all-directions that is going on in the deadly Syrian bedlam, part of the ongoing bloodbath and murderous orgy.

This morning (Thursday), two mortar rounds were fired from Syria into the Golan region. Evidently directed at the Mt Hermon ski resort site, they exploded harmlessly. Fortunately, no one was injured and there are no reports of damage.

David Lev, writing on the Israel National News site today, says credit was claimed for today's firing by something called the “Shahid Brigades of the Abd al-Kajr al-Husseini Jihad Brigades”. Since adopting ferocious names actually costs nothing, it might be of no significance that this SBAKHJB entity claims to be part of something larger called “Free Palestine Movement”. But what does it all indicate? According to Lev:
The group [this SBAKHJB entity] apparently works in coordination with the Syrian government, which declared several weeks ago that it would encourage terror attacks against Israel, in the wake of the bombing of convoys that were transporting chemical weapons from Syria to Hizbullah terrorists. In a video message, the group said that it fired the rockets on the occasion of “Nakba Day,” the date Arabs have chosen to mourn their defeat when Israel was established in 1948. “We are taking revenge for the martyrs that have killed,” the message said. “We tell the Zionists that we are opening a campaign of revenge” [Israel National News]
If indeed the blood-soaked regime of the beleaguered Syrian despot [see "Arabs and Turkey see no role for al-Assad"] is behind this, then the timing might not have that much connection to those self-evidently-bogus claims of solidarity with Palestinian brothers etc etc.

More likely it's a Syrian riposte to a blunt well-publicized Israeli message to Damascus delivered yesterday:
Israel has warned Damascus that if President Assad chooses to hit back at Israel for any further Israeli military strikes, Israel will bring down his regime. An Israeli official confirmed Wednesday night that a dramatic and unprecedented message to this effect had been conveyed to Damascus, Channel 2 news reported... [Times of Israel]
They're quite a force to be reckoned with, these Al Assad forces. On the BBC World website, they reported a few hours ago that
The BBC has been shown evidence apparently corroborating reports of a chemical attack in Syria last month. A BBC correspondent who visited the northern town of Saraqeb was told by eyewitnesses that government helicopters had dropped at least two devices containing poisonous gas. The government has vehemently denied claims it has used chemical agents. The US has warned that such a development would be a "red line" for possible intervention... 
How credible are these latest reports?
Doctors at the local hospital told the BBC's Ian Pannell they had admitted eight people suffering from breathing problems. Some were vomiting and others had constricted pupils, they said. One woman, Maryam Khatib, later died. A number of videos passed to the BBC appear to support these claims, but it is impossible to independently verify them. Mrs Khatib's son Mohammed had rushed to the scene to help his mother and was also injured in the attack... "It was a horrible, suffocating smell. You couldn't breathe at all. You'd feel like you were dead. You couldn't even see. I couldn't see anything for three or four days" Mr Khatib told the BBC. A doctor who treated Mrs Khatib said her symptoms corresponded to organophosphate poisoning and that samples had been sent for testing... The BBC has been told that samples from the scene and from the alleged victims have been sent to Britain, France, Turkey and America for testing... Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer at the UK's Joint Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Regiment, said the testimony and evidence from Saraqeb was "strong, albeit incomplete"... Both the US and UK have spoken of growing evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.[BBC]
Respectable assessments say Syria has stocks of mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.
The CIA also believes that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic and more persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas. A report citing Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies put Syria's stockpile at approximately 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, stored in 50 towns and cities... [BBC
All things considered, the anxiety of Israeli defence forces arrayed across the Golan, as well as ordinary Israelis living in the north, is quite understandable.

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