EVP News Letter - 31 August 2013
Shabbat is over and it's time to get back to the real world.
We had a nice Shabbat, hot but not to humid. We went for a walk through the avocado plantation to visit the Iron Dome unit that's been sitting in a field for the past few weeks (the one that shot down on of the rockets from Lebanon last week). We took the soldiers on duty some home baked bread and some cake and spent a nice half hour just chatting. Young kids, all about 19 years old except for their CO who is ancient - 22. All proud of their job, proud of their country and truly an inspiration.
As you have most probably already heard, President Obama has decided to ask the Senate to approve a surgical strike against the Syrian regime. This is expected to take at least 9 days to implement during which tensions will rise and the Syrians will have time to regroup and relocate.
US Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham on Saturday said they could not support isolated military strikes on Syria that are not part of a bigger strategy.
"We cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the president's stated goal of (Syrian President Bashar) Assad's removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict, which is a growing threat to our national security interests," they said in a statement.
Here in Israel, life goes on. On my own kibbutz in the North (just 7 miles from the Lebanese border) we have begun to check the bomb shelters to be sure that everyting is ready for their possible use and are placing supplies of non-perishable food stuffs and bottled water sufficient for three days in each of the 21 shelters and are considering purchasing 20 foam mattresses for each shelter (believe me sleeping on a cold concrete floor isn't my idea of fun -I've tried it and...)
We will continue to keep you updated on development here in Israel and the region.
Have a good week and, as the Jewish New Year (Rosh HaShana) starts this coming Wednesday evening, I just want to wish everybody "Shana Tova" and may we all know only peace and prosperity over the coming year.
- UN chemical weapons inspectors left their Damascus hotel early on Saturday, a witness said, and appeared to be leaving the country. The witness saw the team's convoy of vehicles head onto a highway that leads to neighboring Lebanon. This has yet to be confirmed by the UN.
- A sixth US warship is now operating in the eastern Mediterranean, near five US destroyers armed with cruise missiles that could soon be directed against Syria as part of a "limited, precise" strike, defense officials said late on Friday. They stressed that the USS San Antonio, an amphibious ship with several hundred US Marines on board, was in the region for a different reason and there were no plans to put Marines on the ground as part of any military action against Syria.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the five permanent Security Council members that it may be two weeks before for final results are ready of an analysis of samples experts collected at the site of a chemical weapons attack last week in Syria are ready, diplomats said on Friday.
- US President Barack Obama said on Friday the chemical weapons attack in Syria threatened US allies Israel and Jordan and said his preference would have been for the international community to move forward on a response.
- Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech on Friday about the Syrian situation in which he urged the world not stand idly by whilst terrible crimes against humanity are being committed by Assad's forces against their own civilians. The full text of the speech can be seen here
- Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan will convene the ministerial committee dealing with home front preparedness todayin Jerusalem, with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The ministers will be required to present the various actions that have been made since the beginning of tensions towards a possible US attack in Syria. In addition, the gaps in the authorities' preparedness that were brought up in recent days will be presented.
- Jerusalem District Police, together with the Shin Bet and a special Jerusalem Border Guard unit, arrested in recent weeks two men who are suspected of planning to plant explosives in Jerusalem's Malha Mall. The two, aged 22 and 25 from Shuafat and Ras al-Amud in east Jerusalem, worked at the mall as cleaning staff and were allegedly recruited by a Hamas-affiliated Palestinian from Ramallah. The two confessed to the acts and will be indicted Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court.
- French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Sunday that France would not act alone in Syria but would await a decision by the US Congress on whether to launch an attack against the government of President Bashar Assad. "France can not go it alone," Valls told Europe 1 radio. "We need a coalition."
France's prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, is scheduled to meet with the heads of the two houses of parliament and the opposition on Monday to discuss the Syrian situation ahead of a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.
Arab media push for US intervention in Syria
Gulf backed pan-Arab media leads media blitz; articles focus on shaming Obama into action using moral arguments.
Arab media calls from the Sunni world for US intervention in Syria are at a fever pitch since pictures circulated last week of victims of an alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack. The Gulf backed pan-Arab media lead the media blitz. To read the full article click here
When I read this article I was, as we used to say in the UK - flabbergasted! Don't get me wrong, I think something has to be done to show the Syrian regime that they can't get away with using weapons of mass destruction. But for the Arab media to demand that the US intervene?
- First off, If they are so concerned about the situation in Syria why aren't they demanding that their governments intervene? What about the Arab league (strangely silent don't you think?).
- Last I heard the Gulf States had some pretty formidable military equipment (most from the US by the way) and troops trained to use it - so why should the US do what they are fully capable of doing?
- The Arab nations have been, for decades, blasting us with rhetoric about the "Arab nation" and yet, whenever there see's to be internal trouble, they either keep strangely (Egypt for example) silent or call on the West (the US) to do something in the name of humanity (Libya, Afghanistan, Kuwait).
Here's the scenario as I see it happening. The US will make a surgical strike at Syrian military resources. Some of the world will applaud them. Others will condemn. Others will sit on the fence waiting to see how things turn out. Then, at some stage in the game, that same Arab press that is now ranting and raging at the US for not stepping in to save their "brethren" will suddenly turn around and start attacking the US for daring to interfere in Arab affairs - just as they have always done in the past.
The end result, the US saves their bacon, their own governments come out clean, "it wasn't us it was THEM!), and the US, once again is the big bad bully blamed for everything from the price of gas to global warming.
One last thing. The world seems to be hanging back. Countries like the UK (I'm ashamed to be British) all of a sudden are saying that they don't want to get involved. Governments are pointing to the UN saying that it should be doing something - please don't make me laugh!
A few years ago when there was genocide campaign in Rwanda, the West stood by and did nothing. During World War Two, the Allies could have bombed the rail tracks leading to Auschwitz and saved millions - but they didn't.
I'll end with a quote taken from Secretary Of State John Kerry's speech about the Syrian situation yesterday:
"History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference and especially against silence when it mattered most," Kerry said. "Our choices then had great consequence, and our choices today have great consequences."
Report: Assad bombs school with napalm
Incendiary bomb kills 10, wounds dozens near Aleppo, BBC reports. Wounded suffer severe burns. Meanwhile, US survey shows Americans think Obama needs Congress' green-light to go to Syria
Citizens from the area of the city of Aleppo in northern Syria, suffering from burns most likely caused by a incendiary bomb similar to napalm, were shown on Friday on a BBC network broadcast.
According to the report, 10 were killed and many more injured in a bombing on a school.
The broadcast shows a man, identified as a teacher in the bombed school, suffering from burns in most of his body.
"The plane bombed a residential area in Orum a-Kubra," he said. "We tried to evacuate quickly, but it appears that fate had the upper hand today."
"The students gathered in one place, and then the plane got us," he added.
In another video, taken after the attack, a doctor who treated the wounded said that 10 students were killed and about 50 injured, most of them suffering from severe burns caused by napalm.
The BBC report described the scene and said the wounded looked like "walking dead."
A BBC reporter at the scene estimated the bomb contained either a napalm type explosive or thermite.
A British medic, Dr Rola, who was in Syria with the charity Hand In Hand, treated the victims at the hospital.
She said: "It is just absolute chaos and carnage here. We have had a massive influx of what looks like serious burns, seems like it must be some sort of, not really sure, maybe napalm, something similar to that.
"But obviously within the chaos of the situation it is very difficult to know exactly what is going on"
She said later: "We feel like some sort of, not even a second class citizen, like we just don't matter. Like all of these children, and all of these people who are being killed and massacred, we don't matter.
"The whole world has failed our nation and it is innocent civilians who are paying the price."
Report: Assad moving inmates to military targets
Buses filled with prisoners moved to military targets to be used as human shields against Western airstrikes, British paper reports
Thousands of Syrian prisoners have been moved to military targets to be used as human shields against Western air strikes, Britain's Daily Mirror reported Friday.
According to the report, Damascus residents said they saw buses filled with inmates being taken from their cells to sites the regime believes could be targets.
Click here for the full story
Al-Qaida-linked terror group ready to wage holy war against Jews
Declaration comes from group which claimed responsibility for last week's rocket attacks on the north that originated in Lebanon.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to al-Qaida and claimed responsibility for the rocket fire at Israel last Thursday, has released a statement saying that the attacks were part of the jihad against the Jews.
Sheikh Sirajuddin Zureiqat, a member of the group, tweeted a link to the statement on Tuesday. The statement was dated from the day the rockets were fired.
Zureiqat also tweeted two pictures of what the group said were some of the rockets it had fired at Nahariya and Acre.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Ziad al-Jarah Brigades wrote the statement, which again claimed credit for the rocket fire and said the attacks had been aimed against the Jews, who it said were benefiting from the Syrian revolution.
The statement added that recent developments had led to a change and that the group would suspend its activities because of the blatant interference of the Iranianbacked Hezbollah in Syria.
It claimed that Hezbollah, Iran and Israel had a "strategic alliance in the region and common interests" and were striving to thwart the Syrian revolution. The Jews, it said, were fully complicit with Western countries in trying to give Syrian president Bashar Assad cover to fight the rebels.
According to the statement, Israel and the West were giving Hezbollah a green light to fight in Syria so as to protect Israel's security by keeping the border quiet. But this will not bring security, the statement declared, saying it would instead bring them closer to the fire of the mujahideen.
The US government considers the Abdullah Azzam Brigades a terrorist organization.
According to the US State Department website, the organization was created in 2009 and is based both in Lebanon and in the Arabian Peninsula.
The group, led by Saleh al-Qarawi, is responsible for numerous rocket attacks against Israel.
Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan to domestic agencies: Be ready for all scenarios
Home Front Command extends opening hours of gas mask distribution centers as Home Front tells citizens to be prepared.
At a meeting with representatives from government ministries and emergency services, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan instructed attendees to increase their readiness and widen communications with local authorities. He also asked local government representatives to examine the readiness of public bomb shelters.
Turning to delegates from the Environmental Protection Ministry, Erdan urged them to exercise their authority and decrease the quantity of hazardous substances near population centers.
"Although the security evaluation is that the chances of Israel being attacked are low, the security forces and home front protection organizations are prepared for all scenarios," he said at the end of the meeting, which concluded on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, the Home Front Command extended the opening hours for gas mask distribution centers, to cope with the massive demand of recent days.
Anxious Israelis have flooded the centers, anticipating an attack on Israel in response to any strike by the US and its allies on Syria over the regime's probable use of chemical weapons.
The centers, based in Israel Postal Service offices, will now be open each day from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., but the number of centers will not increase.
Gaby Ofir, the former director-general of the Homeland Security Ministry, said that "the number of gas masks in Israel today is not sufficient." Nonetheless, he added, "the kits are just a small link in the chain of preparedness of the State of Israel." Currently, there are enough masks for just 60 percent of the population.
|More than 110,000 people have died in Syria's 2 1/2-year-old conflict, and more than half of those killed were civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.
The Observatory, a British-based rights group which opposes Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule, said at least 5,833 children were among the dead.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby believes there is no support among Arab countries for an American strike in Syria.
His spokesperson stated that "the Arab League will not green light the attack, but discusses matters within the boundaries of international law."
According to him, the Arab League will turn to the UN Security Council because it bears the basic responsibility to make deterring decisions in regards to the Syrian crisis, which he dubbed "a great tragedy".