Rebels unite as Syria tension hits borders
DOHA / BEIRUT
In this Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 photo, Syrians carry their rubbish to a mountain of garbage in a roundabout in Aleppo, Syria. Due the heavy fighting and shelling, the garbage collection system collapsed weeks ago. AP photoIsraeli troops fired warning shots into Syria yesterday, the army reported in statement, in what public radio said was the first Israeli fire directed at the military in the Golan Heights area since the 1973 war, highlighting international fears that Syria’s civil war could ignite wider regional conflict.
An Israeli security source said the military fired in the direction of a Syrian army mortar crew that had launched a shell which overshot the Golan disengagement fence yesterday, exploding near an Israeli settlement without causing casualties. In a statement, the Israeli military said soldiers had “fired warning shots towards Syrian areas.”
Military sources told Agence France-Presse that the army used a single Tamuz anti-tank missile, a weapon known for being highly accurate. “The Israel Defense Force has filed a complaint through the U.N. forces operating in the area, stating that fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity,” the statement said.
In an interview by Israel’s Army Radio early yesterday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was asked about public warnings he and another senior official issued to al-Assad last week to rein in Syrian sweeps against rebels near the Golan. “The message has certainly been relayed. To tell you confidently that no shell will fall? I cannot. If a shell falls, we will respond,” Barak said without elaborating.
‘Prepared for developments’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also speaking before the mortar strike on the Golan, told his Cabinet that Israel was “closely following what is happening on our border with Syria and [is] prepared for any development,” according to Reuters.
Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the strategic plateau in 1981. In all past peace talks with Israel, Syria has insisted on the Golan’s return. The two countries signed a disengagement agreement in 1974, a year after another Arab-Israeli conflict, and though they are still technically at war, the Golan had been mostly quiet since.
Another Syrian mortar bomb, one of a salvo, struck a Golan settlement on Nov. 8 but did not explode. Separately, Israel complained to the United Nations this month after three Syrian tanks entered the Golan demilitarized zone, and said one of its army jeeps had been hit by Syrian gunfire. Israel has tried to stay out of the insurgency next door, reluctant to be drawn into another war and unclear about whether a post-al-Assad Syria might prove more hostile.
Clashes near Turkish border
BEIRUT - Hürriyet Daily News
Syrian violence continues to strike border areas of Turkey and Iraq with firefights raging around army barracks in the northeastern town of Ras al-Ain, near Turkey’s Ceylanpınar province, and warplanes pounding an eastern town on the Iraqi border.
Fresh clashes ignited near Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border in Hasakeh province. A military source in the area said rebels had been closing in on the army barracks in the village of Asfar Nakjar, east of Ras al-Ain, for the past 48 hours. “We are well armed and the rebels haven’t been able to break through. Our reinforcements are on the way,” the source told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity. The town fell to the Free Syrian Army on Nov. 8. Activists confirmed that rebels had surrounded the large barracks, which the army was using to bombard Ras al-Ain.
In eastern Syria, activists said two civilians were killed in air raids on the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border while the city of Deir ez-Zor in the same province also came under tank fire.
Opposition agrees on unity deal
New SNC head Sabra (C) applauds the results of the executive committee election results in Doha. The Syrian opposition has struck a unity deal.
Syrian opposition groups meeting in Qatar have inked a hard-won unity deal and agreed to form a national coalition to fight against President Bashar al-Assad.
Participants in marathon talks in Qatar said discussions were continuing on details of a planned new government-in-waiting, but that the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) had now followed Arab and Western calls to join a new, wider coalition.
“We signed a 12-point agreement to establish a coalition,” said leading dissident Riad Seif, who drew up the U.S.-backed reform proposals on which yesterday’s agreement was based.
The deal came after the SNC, which had formerly been seen as the main representative of the opposition, heeded Arab and Western pressure to agree to a new structure embracing groups that had been unwilling to join its ranks. Details of the deal have yet to be released, but a prominent opposition figure, Haitham al-Maleh, said it was “no different” from the original proposals put forward by Seif, one of the leaders of the so-called Damascus Spring protest movement of a decade ago and now touted in Washington as a potential new opposition chief.
Seif’s proposals envisaged the formation of a transitional government, a military council to oversee rebel groups on the ground and a judiciary to operate in rebel-held areas. Another delegate to the protracted talks, Ziyad Abu Hamdan, said, “There is no longer any disagreement,” about the new opposition structure.
He said agreement had also been reached on unifying the multiple military councils in command of rebel fighters inside Syria and the talks were now focused on the details of the planned government in waiting. Former Prime Minister Riad Hijab hailed the agreement as “an advanced step towards toppling the regime.”
A day before the agreement, the newly elected leader of the SNC slammed the international community for what he called inaction, saying that fighters are in desperate need of weapons to break the stalemate with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
George Sabra, a Christian and veteran left-wing dissident who was elected by the SNC on Nov. 9, said the international community should support the opposition and send arms without conditions, rather than linking aid to an overhaul of the leadership. The Syrian opposition may have many foreign friends, he told the Associated Press in an interview, “but unfortunately we get nothing from them except some statements, some encouragement.” The regime “has few friends, but these friends give the regime everything,” he added, referring to Assad allies Russia, China and Iran.