Archive for the ‘Syria – human rights’ category

Russia vies with Israel over aid for Quneitra

July 19, 2017

Russia vies with Israel over aid for Quneitra, DEBKAfile, July 19, 2017

(Please see also, Operation Good Neighbor: Israel’s part in Syria.– DM)

On their arrival in Quneitra, the Russians found a population that was better fed and cared for than Syrian civilians on any other of the country’s warfronts. They are nonetheless challenging Israel for the locals’ hearts and minds.

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As Russian troops began moving into the Quneitra ceasefire sector opposite Israel’s Golan border on Wednesday, July 19, they found they were in hot competition with Israel over … humanitarian aid for the sector’s rebel-held villages.

Since Israel is adamantly opposed to the Russian presence in the Quneitra demilitarized zone – although it was endorsed by the Trump administration, as DEBKAfile reported exclusively on Tuesday, July 18 – Moscow decided to take it slowly and meanwhile try and win over the Syrian rebel groups whom Israel has succored for years. The Kremlin figured that if these anti-Assad groups could be weaned away from Israel, they might be persuaded to cooperate with the Russian troops in setting up the Quneitra ceasefire zone, and the Russians would not need Israel’s compliance.

On Tuesday, therefore, a Russian military convoy drove into Jabah, a village northeast of Qunetra town and 4km from Israel’s Golan border. Officers described as belonging to the “Russian Defense Ministry’s reconciliation center” alit from the trucks and began handing out food packages to the villagers.

The civilians received necessities and were treated by Russian doctors, a Syrian officer announced. Russian and Syrian officers promised that more humanitarian aid would be delivered to “settlements across the Quneitra province” and Russian doctors would visit all the villages in the ceasefire zone.

Israel, who has been sending aid across these Syrian villages which were cut off by the civil war from basic necessities, has mostly kept its humanitarian program under wraps, except when witnesses reported what they saw to the media. On Wednesday, the IDF officers running the program asked sardonically: “Where were the Russians all these years when Israel alone helped the beleaguered villages across its border?”

After watching the Russian troops hand out packages to the people of Quneitra, the Israeli government and military chiefs decided to challenge the Russian belated propaganda move.

Up until now, Israel has supplied regular humanitarian aid to some 200,000 Syrian villagers living in 80 non-ISIS rebel-controlled villages 15km deep inside the Syrian Golan. Last year alone, Israel sent over half a million liters of heavy fuel, 360 tonnes of foodstuffs, 77 tonnes of clothing and shoes, tens of generators and water system, as well as providing them with medical treatment, including hospital care for sick and injured Syrians and a field hospital on the border.

Wednesday, Israel formalized its assistance program under the title “The Good Neighbor” and disclosed it had been administered since 2016 by a special unit of the Bashan Division which is in charge of the Golan sector.

The IDF released footage of trucks ferrying across the border supplies of medical equipment, medicines, foodstuffs and fuel, as well as pictures documenting IDF medics lifting Injured Syrians off the battlefield for treatment in Israeli hospitals.

According to IDF statistics, at least 3,000 Syrians crossed the border in the past four years for medical treatment. And Israel sent over as needed incubators, respirators and ambulances. In the same period, the IDF conducted 150 assistance operations on Syrian soil.

On their arrival in Quneitra, the Russians found a population that was better fed and cared for than Syrian civilians on any other of the country’s warfronts. They are nonetheless challenging Israel for the locals’ hearts and minds.

House to Vote on New Sanctions Against the Syrian Regime

May 17, 2017

House to Vote on New Sanctions Against the Syrian Regime, Washington Free Beacon, May 17, 2017

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on October 6, 2016 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking during an interview with Denmark’s TV2 channel. / AFP / SANA / – (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

The House is expected to vote Wednesday evening on bipartisan legislation that would impose new sanctions on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for war crimes and human rights abuses against civilians, sources with the House Foreign Affairs Committee confirmed.

The 4 p.m. vote is set to arrive two days after the State Department accused the Syrian government of using a crematorium to dispose of human remains from mass executions at a military prison north of Damascus unofficially named the “slaughterhouse.

The legislation, introduced in March by Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and his Democratic committee counterpart Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), has more than 100 co-sponsors. More than half of the co-sponsors are Democrats.

The bill would impose sanctions on the Assad regime and its foreign backers by requiring the Trump administration to blacklist any company or person that does business with the Syrian government and its entities, including Assad-controlled industries such as energy and air travel. It also would provide U.S. assistance to groups pursuing investigations into Syrian war crimes in order to galvanize prosecutions.

The Obama administration prevented a similar measure from receiving a House vote in the fall despite broad bipartisan support.

Administration officials told Democratic lawmakers at the time the legislation would impact fragile ceasefire negotiations between then-Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the Washington Post reported in October.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement Monday the “legislation is needed now more than ever,” citing the Trump administration’s assertion that the Assad regime was systematically burning the bodies of executed inmates at the Saydnaya military prison to cover up the mass murders.

The accusations are based on newly declassified aerial photos of the Saydnaya prison complex that show the construction of the crematorium in 2013.

“We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Saydnaya prison complex, which could dispose of detainees’ remains with little evidence,” Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs, told reporters Monday. “At this point, we are talking about this evidence and bringing it forward to the international community, which we hope will put pressure on the regime to change its behavior.”

The United Nations kicked off its sixth round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva on Tuesday. The State Department’s accusations are expected to be discussed at the talks.

Amnesty International released a report in February offering evidence that the Assad regime executed up to 13,000 Syrians through mass hangings at the Saydnaya prison over a four-year span. Thousands more were killed through systematic torture that included severe beatings, rape, and starvation, according to the group.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Lavrov in a meeting at the White House last week to exert Moscow’s influence over Syria to pressure Assad into reining in his regime, according to a State Department spokeswoman.