Syrian crisis could set region ‘blaze’
BEIRUT / DAMASCUS
Lakdar Brahimi, EPA photoSyria’s 19-month conflict could set the entire region ablaze, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Lebanon yesterday as rebels downed a helicopter in fierce fighting with troops seeking to retake a key Syrian town.
“This crisis cannot remain confined within Syrian territory,” Brahimi said. “Either it is solved, or it gets worse ... and sets [the region] ablaze.” he said he would end his tour in Damascus, but did not say when.
Meanwhile, the battle for the Damascus-Aleppo highway raged around the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan. Rebels shot down a helicopter gunship in the northwest as the army fought to recapture the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Warplanes targeted a rebel blockade of a highway in Idlib province which has halted the regime’s efforts to reinforce Aleppo, a theater of intense fighting for three months. The early morning air raids targeted Maaret al-Numan and nearby villages.
The head of a U.N-appointed panel probing alleged war crimes in Syria warned that the presence of hundreds of radical Islamists threatens to radicalize the conflict which is already witnessing a dramatic rise in ethnic tensions.
Brazilian professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said at a conference on Oct. 16 that the panel is afraid these foreign militants and radical Jihadists are not fighting for democracy and freedom but have their own radical agendas.
“I think this is a presence that worries us very much,” he said. “Their presence can contribute to the radicalization in this conflict [and] is particularly dangerous in an already very volatile conflict.”
‘Israel weighs military action’
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would weigh military action if it suspects Syria’s chemical weapons might fall into the hands of terrorist organizations. “Israel will consider a military operation if it feels there is a fear that chemical weapons will leak to terrorist groups like Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said during his meeting with European Union diplomats in Israel.