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German troops heading to Turkey-Syria border

German troops heading to Turkey-Syria border | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it

German troops heading to Turkey-Syria border.

The German government said Thursday it had approved participation in a NATO mission to deploy Patriot missiles to help member state Turkey defend its border against Syria and will send up to 400 troops.

The foreign and defence ministries said in a joint statement that the mandate, which is expected to be presented to parliament early next week, would run to January 31, 2014.

NATO on Tuesday approved Turkey's request for Patriot missiles to defend its border against Syria following a series of blunt warnings to Damascus not to use chemical weapons.

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the troop deployment would help stabilize the region. "The deterrent serves to ensure that the [chemical] capability does not become an intention," he told reporters.

NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance's decision reflected a "steadfast commitment" to preserving the security of its 28 member states.

The alliance said that Germany along with the Netherlands and the United States have agreed to provide the Patriot missile batteries, which would come under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

"Turkey is currently the most-affected partner in the Syria conflict. It is exposed to a potential threat from Syria," the ministries said. "The deployment of Patriot air defence systems in close cooperation with the Netherlands and the US underlines Germany's reliability as an ally."

Turkey is a vocal opponent of the regime in Syria, where monitoring groups say over 41,000 people have been killed in almost 21 months of conflict.


http://www.thelocal.de/national/20121206-46609.html#.UMDoxKxhuSp

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17 US warships now off Syria

17 US warships now off Syria | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
The U.S. aircraft carrier "Dwight D Eisenhower" has arrived off the shores of Syria.


The U.S. aircraft carrier "Dwight D Eisenhower" has arrived off the shores of Syria.

The multipurpose nuclear attack carrier the U.S.S. Dwight D Eisenhower is leading the naval assault group which has arrived in the eastern Mediterranean.

It is in close proximity to the coast of Syria. On board the ship are 70 fighter-bombers and a total 8,000 US servicemen.

The Dwight D Eisenhower joined the amphibious assault helicopter carrier Iwo Jima, which has been in the area for almost two weeks.

In all there are now 17 Amercian warships off the Syrian coast.

Voice of Russia, TASS

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Washington making the case for war in Syria with nerve gas propaganda

Washington making the case for war in Syria with nerve gas propaganda | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.


The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.


The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said. 


As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the "precursor" chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.

Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 Kurds with a single sarin attack on Halabja in 1988.

U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn't been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn't issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, "there's little the outside world can do to stop it."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated U.S. warnings to Assad not to use chemical weapons, saying he would be crossing "a red line" if he did so.

Speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clinton said the Syrian government was on the brink of collapse, raising the prospect that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime" might turn to chemical weapons or that the banned weapons could fall into other hands.


"Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."

Aides told NBC News that Clinton was expected next week to officially recognize the main opposition movement, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, with which she is scheduled to meet in Morocco. Britain, France, Turkey and some key Arab leaders have already recognized the opposition.

Fighting intensified Wednesday in the 21-month civil war, which has left 40,000 people dead. The U.N. withdrew its personnel from Damascus, saying conditions were too dangerous.

The government said this week that it wouldn't use chemical weapons on its own people after President Barack Obama warned that doing so would be "totally unacceptable."


But U.S. officials said this week that the government had ordered its Chemical Weapons Corps to "be prepared," which Washington interpreted as a directive to begin bringing together the components needed to weaponize Syria's chemical stockpiles. 

That process would involve mixing "precursor" chemicals for the deadly nerve gas sarin, which could be used in artillery shells, U.S. officials told NBC News, stressing that there was no evidence that process had as yet begun.

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POLITICS - Turkey knows everything about Syrian's 700 missiles, foreign minister says

POLITICS - Turkey knows everything about Syrian's 700 missiles, foreign minister says | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claims that the Syrian regime has 700 missiles, adding that their location, storage method and holders are no secret to Ankara.

“A psychological edge has been exceeded in Syria. In the past, it was feared that “if the regime survives, it will take revenge.” But now everyone thinks of what to do next if the regime falls,” Davutoğlu said in a recent interview with Turkish daily Sabah, adding that Turkey’s demand for the Patriot missile system was for precautionary reasons against any threat from uncontrolled groups. “The protection from NATO will be three dimensional; one is the short-range Patriots, the second is the middle-range Terminal High Altitude Air Defense [THAD] system and the last is the AEGIS system, which counters missiles that can reach outside the atmosphere.” With this integrated system, Turkey will have maximum protection, he said.

Davutoğlu said Ankara wants “establishment of a transitional government without [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad,” while Russia wants “a transitional government with al-Assad continuing in its normal process.” Russia and Turkeyagree on the target but have differences over the means to reach it, according to Davutoğlu, who added that Russia’s efficient involvement in the process is more significant in comparison to Iran’s role in the issue.

December/05/2012

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Assad Suffering Reversals, in Fighting and Diplomacy

Assad Suffering Reversals, in Fighting and Diplomacy | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
A Turkish official said Russia had agreed to a new approach that would seek ways to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to give up power, as fighting raged around Damascus


BEIRUT, Lebanon — Fierce fighting on the battlefield and setbacks on the diplomatic front increased pressure on the embattled Syrian government as fresh signs emerged on Tuesday of a sustained battle for control of the capital, Damascus.


News reports quoted activists as saying that fighting was raging in the southern suburbs of Damascus and near the international airport for a fifth straight day as government forces sought to dislodge rebels and reverse their recent gains.

While the government has superior firepower and rebels are reporting heavy losses, loyalist forces have been carrying out a serious counteroffensive in the suburbs without being able to subdue the insurgents.

The latest reports followed developments on Monday when a senior Turkish official said that Russia had agreed to a new diplomatic approach to seek ways to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power, a possible weakening in Russia’s steadfast support for the Syrian government.

In Damascus, a prominent Foreign Ministry spokesman was said to have left the country amid reports of his defection, and President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued warnings that any use of chemical weapons by a desperate government would be met with a strong international response. The NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, echoed this warning on Tuesday.

“The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable to the whole international community,” Mr. Rasmussen said, according to Agence France-Presse.

A Western diplomat confirmed that there were grave concerns in United States intelligence circles that Syrian leaders could resort to the use of the weapons as their position deteriorates.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry, repeating earlier statements, told state television that the government “would not use chemical weapons, if it had them, against its own people under any circumstances.”

The United Nations said it was withdrawing nonessential international staff from Syria, and the European Union said it was reducing activities in Damascus “to a minimum,” as security forces pummeled the suburbs with artillery and airstrikes in a struggle to seal off the city from its restive outskirts and control the airport road. A senior Russian official spoke for the first time in detail about the possibility of evacuating Russian citizens.

The United Nations World Food Program reported on Tuesday that “the recent escalation of violence in Syria is making it more difficult to reach the country’s hardest-hit areas.”

“Food insecurity is on the rise due to bread shortages and higher food prices in many parts of the country. High prices are also affecting neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees,” the organization said in a statement.

“Road access to and from Damascus has become more dangerous, making it difficult to dispatch food from World Food Program warehouses to some parts of the country, the organization said, adding that there had been increasing indiscriminate attacks on its trucks in different parts of the country.

It also said it would relocate seven nonessential staff members to neighboring Jordan while about “20 international and 100 national W.F.P. staff remain in the country to carry out the emergency operation to feed 1.5 million vulnerable Syrians.” Mr. Assad has held on longer than many had predicted at the start of the 21-month uprising. He still has a strong military advantage and undiminished support from his closest ally, Iran. Military analysts doubt the rebels are capable of taking Damascus by force, and one fighter interviewed on Monday said the government counteroffensive was taking a heavy toll. There were still no firm indications from Russia that it was ready to join Turkey and Western nations in insisting on Mr. Assad’s immediate departure.

But the latest grim developments follow a week of events that suggested the Assad government was being forced to fight harder to keep its grip on power. Rebels threatened its vital control of the skies, using surface-to-air missiles to down a fighter plane and other aircraft. The opposition also gained control of strategic military bases and their arsenals, and forced the government to shut down the Damascus airport periodically. The Internet was off for two days.

A Russian political analyst with contacts at the Foreign Ministry said that “people sent by the Russian leadership” who had contact with Mr. Assad two weeks ago described a man who has lost all hope of victory or escape.

“His mood is that he will be killed anyway,” Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal and the head of an influential policy group, said in an interview in Moscow, adding that only an “extremely bold” diplomatic proposal could possibly convince Mr. Assad that he could leave power and survive.

“If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people,” Mr. Lukyanov said, speculating that security forces dominated by Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect would not let him depart and leave them to face revenge. “If he stays, he will be killed by his opponents. He is in a trap. It is not about Russia or anybody else. It is about his physical survival.”

Many observers — United Nations personnel in Syria, Arab diplomats and opposition activists — stress that it is difficult to reliably assess the state of the government. But taken together, the day’s events suggested that the government’s position was declining more sharply than it had in months and that an international scramble to find a solution to the crisis was intensifying.

Nabil al-Araby, the head of the Arab League, said on Monday that the government could fall at “any time,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The Arab League has long called for Mr. Assad to step down. But Russia, Mr. Assad’s most powerful ally, has held out the possibility of his staying in power during a transition, so the Russian government’s apparent shift of emphasis carried more weight.

Mikhail Bogdanov, a deputy foreign minister, told Itar-Tass that Russia was ready to provide assistance to any of its citizens wishing to leave Syria. Tens of thousands of Russians live there, mainly women married to Syrian men after years of cold-war cooperation between the countries. He said their route out would most likely be by plane.

After meeting in Istanbul on Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said they had agreed on a new approach to resolving the conflict.

“We are neither protecting the regime in Syria nor acting as their advocate, but remain worried about Syria’s future,” Mr. Putin said at a joint news conference with Mr. Erdogan.

Mr. Putin did not elaborate, though Mr. Bogdanov said Russia would meet intensively with Syrian opposition groups based inside the country in the coming month. A senior Turkish official, speaking anonymously in accordance with diplomatic protocol, said plans included looking for ways to get Mr. Assad to step down. Russia has previously said it is not wedded to Mr. Assad, but the official suggested it was now more motivated to find an alternative.

“There is definitely a softening of the Russian political tone,” the Turkish official said, adding that Mr. Putin had acknowledged that Mr. Assad seemed unwilling to depart.

Yet, doubts remain about whether Russia can engineer a breakthrough. The Kremlin has insisted the crisis would be resolved only through negotiations between Syria’s government and its opponents, and its top envoy to Syria has quietly continued to meet with defectors from Mr. Assad’s government and members of the opposition.

But Russia has typically engaged mainly with Syria-based opposition groups, which the exile opposition and many in the uprising say are too close to the government

Lebanon’s Al-Manar television reported that a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, had been fired for making statements that did not reflect the government’s position. Activists said he had defected.

Mr. Makdissi, whose polished persona and fluent English had long made him one of the most cosmopolitan faces of the government, had not taken reporters’ phone calls or made public statements recently.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who uses a pseudonym for safety reasons and is the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said that Mr. Makdissi had met his family in Beirut, where they had been staying, and was believed to have boarded a flight for London. He said Mr. Makdissi had earlier angered some in the Syrian government with a statement saying Syria would use chemical weapons only against a foreign invasion — weapons the government prefers not to acknowledge it has.

Analysts say the rebels are forcing the government to devote forces to Damascus, and their offensive could hasten the loss of control in other parts of the country.

“We feel a change in the security situation,” said Muhannad Hadi, the Syria director of the World Food Program. “You hear sounds of explosions, you hear shelling, you don’t know where it’s taking off or where it’s landing,” Mr. Hadi said. “It’s becoming part of daily life.”


Anne Barnard reported from Beirut, Lebanon, and Ellen Barry from Moscow. Reporting was contributed by Alan Cowell in London, Sebnem Arsu in Istanbul, Peter Baker in Washington, Hwaida Saad, Neil MacFarquhar and Hania Mourtada in Beirut, and Christine Hauser in New York.

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Syria Live Blog - Al Jazeera Blogs

Syria Live Blog - Al Jazeera Blogs | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
Syria Live Blog

Violence in Syria has escalated into what the Red Cross calls a civil war. Activists say more than 37,000 people have died since the uprising began in March last year. The government of Bashar al-Assad, which is increasingly losing territory to rebel fighters, blames "terrorists" and "armed gangs" for the unrest, while the opposition and other nations have accused Assad's forces of crimes against humanity.


Syria 35 minutes ago

Lebanese troops fought with Syrian rebels on the border between the two countries on Sunday, in what a security source said was the first such clash between Lebanon's army and the rebels.

The clash occurred when a Lebanese border patrol spotted the rebel fighters along the border and the rebels opened fire to prevent the patrol from approaching, a Lebanese military source said. He said there were no casualties.


Syria about an hour ago

Syrian warplanes and artillery blasted parts of Damascus and the capital's rebellious suburbs, activists said, part of intense fighting as rebels try to push their way into capital.

Activists in the suburb of Douma sent us the following footage from there:


Syria Live Blog

Violence in Syria has escalated into what the Red Cross calls a civil war. Activists say more than 37,000 people have died since the uprising began in March last year. The government of Bashar al-Assad, which is increasingly losing territory to rebel fighters, blames "terrorists" and "armed gangs" for the unrest, while the opposition and other nations have accused Assad's forces of crimes against humanity.


Syria 35 minutes ago

Lebanese troops fought with Syrian rebels on the border between the two countries on Sunday, in what a security source said was the first such clash between Lebanon's army and the rebels.

The clash occurred when a Lebanese border patrol spotted the rebel fighters along the border and the rebels opened fire to prevent the patrol from approaching, a Lebanese military source said. He said there were no casualties.

Syria about an hour ago

Syrian warplanes and artillery blasted parts of Damascus and the capital's rebellious suburbs, activists said, part of intense fighting as rebels try to push their way into capital.

Activists in the suburb of Douma sent us the following footage from there:

Syriaabout 3 hours agoEgyptAir will resume flights to Damascus and Aleppo airports on Monday after a three-day halt due to a deterioration in the security situation, the head of EgyptAir said on Sunday."The decision comes after coordination with the Egyptian embassy in Damascus and the EgyptAir office in Syria and making sure the security conditions are stable at the moment in Syria, especially on the roads leading to Damascus and Aleppo airports," Roshdy Zakaria in a statement.EgyptAir was one of several foreign airlines to suspend flights on Friday, when Syrian airforce jets bombarded rebel targets close to Damascus airport.EgyptAir suspended the flights after receiving a note from its office in Damascus requesting their cancellation until conditions had improed on roads leading to the airport.
Syria Live Blog

Violence in Syria has escalated into what the Red Cross calls a civil war. Activists say more than 37,000 people have died since the uprising began in March last year. The government of Bashar al-Assad, which is increasingly losing territory to rebel fighters, blames "terrorists" and "armed gangs" for the unrest, while the opposition and other nations have accused Assad's forces of crimes against humanity.

Syria 36 minutes ago

Lebanese troops fought with Syrian rebels on the border between the two countries on Sunday, in what a security source said was the first such clash between Lebanon's army and the rebels.

The clash occurred when a Lebanese border patrol spotted the rebel fighters along the border and the rebels opened fire to prevent the patrol from approaching, a Lebanese military source said. He said there were no casualties.

Syria about an hour ago

Syrian warplanes and artillery blasted parts of Damascus and the capital's rebellious suburbs, activists said, part of intense fighting as rebels try to push their way into capital.

Activists in the suburb of Douma sent us the following footage from there:

Syria about 3 hours ago

EgyptAir will resume flights to Damascus and Aleppo airports on Monday after a three-day halt due to a deterioration in the security situation, the head of EgyptAir said on Sunday.

"The decision comes after coordination with the Egyptian embassy in Damascus and the EgyptAir office in Syria and making sure the security conditions are stable at the moment in Syria, especially on the roads leading to Damascus and Aleppo airports," Roshdy Zakaria in a statement.

EgyptAir was one of several foreign airlines to suspend flights on Friday, when Syrian airforce jets bombarded rebel targets close to Damascus airport.

EgyptAir suspended the flights after receiving a note from its office in Damascus requesting their cancellation until conditions had improved on roads leading to the airport.

[Reuters]

Syria about 5 hours ago

Children have been injured in the deadly blast that hit the centre of Homs city.

Syria about 6 hours ago

Two car bomb explosions in the central city of Homs have left at least seven people killed and scores of others injured, state TV and medics reported.

Sunday's blasts occured at al-Malaab neighbourhood, an upscale government controlled-area in the centre of Homs.

Security forces surrounded the area and state-sponsored television arrived to film at the scene.

Al-Malaab neighbourhood, which contains many cafes and restaurents, has seen frequent anti-government protests and ensuing crackdown by security forces. It was also hit by deadly stray mortar rounds on several occasions since the uprising in the country began. 

It currently houses hundreds of displaced people who fled their homes in the violence-hit areas of the city.

The below footage shows the aftermath of the latest explosions:

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Syria rebels bombed as opposition open to peacekeepers

Syria rebels bombed as opposition open to peacekeepers | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
(Reuters) - Syrian jets bombed rebel-held areas of Damascus on Saturday, residents said, as the opposition indicated it could accept an international peacekeeping force if President Bashar al-Assad is forced from power.


Warplanes attacked the Damascus suburbs of Kafar Souseh and Darraya, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked group. The air strikes follow intensified rebel activity in the capital, Assad's seat of power, as well as successful stormings of government military bases in recent weeks.

"Syrian regular forces are trying to control the areas surrounding the capital," the Observatory said. Bombings targeted a continuous arc of rebel presence in the capital's outer districts from the northeast to the southwest.

Activists reported clashes and air strikes in the provinces of Homs, Deir al-Zor, Idlib and in Aleppo, where they said 14 rebel fighters were killed during an assault on an army base in the town of Khanasser early on Saturday.

It is difficult to verify such reports due to government restrictions on media access to Syria.

Syria's Internet connections began working again on Saturday after a two-day blackout, the worst communications outage in the 20-month-old uprising against Assad in which 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee the country.

Opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Coalition might allow an international peacekeeping force into Syria if Assad and his allies leave power, coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni said on Saturday.

Some opposition members have argued against international troops, saying their arrival could serve as a rallying call for Assad loyalists in an area near the Mediterranean where many of his minority Alawite sect live.

Assad, whose family has ruled autocratically for four decades, draws much of his support from the sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Most of the rebels are Sunni Muslims.

Bunni said the coalition was open to any proposal if Assad and his allies, including top officers in the military and security apparatus, were removed.

"If this is the first condition then we can start discussing everything. There will be no political process until the ruling family and all those who underpin the regime leave," he added.

Bunni, a physician who spent most of the period after Assad inherited power from his father in 2000 in jail as a political prisoner, was speaking at a news conference marking the conclusion of the first full meeting of the 60-member opposition coalition in Cairo.

"IRON AND BLOOD"

Britain, France and Gulf countries have recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

Most foreign powers have condemned Assad, who has relied on his allies to stay afloat, especially regional powerhouse Iran. Russia, Syria's main arms supplier, and China have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Assad and reject the idea of sanctioning his government.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western states on Saturday of trying to advance democracy abroad through "iron and blood."

"Advancing democracy through iron and blood just does not work, and this has been made clear in recent months - the past year-and-a-half," Lavrov said, according to state-run news agency Itar-Tass.

Russia repeated its opposition on Friday to NATO's potential deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey, which wants them because of fears of a spillover from the war in Syria.

Syrian state television quoted a ministry of information statement saying Damascus international airport was open on Saturday and that the road leading to it was safe.

Since Thursday, clashes have been reported near the Aqraba and Babilla districts on the southeastern outskirts of Damascus which lead to the airport, effectively closing the road and leading EgyptAir and Emirates to suspend flights.

U.S. web tracking firm Renesys said in a blog post that it could confirm "a largely complete restoration of the Syrian Internet."

Rights groups said the communications drop off was a precursor to a wider offensive by government forces in the capital. Syrian security sources and diplomats say the government intends to seal off central Damascus from the restive suburbs.

Authorities had attributed the Internet outage to a "terrorist" attack or a technical fault. On Saturday, state news agency SANA gave a third reason for the outage, which is said was now restored: "maintenance work."

Residents contacted by Reuters in the capital, the central city of Homs, and northern Aleppo said they had connectivity.

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دمشق - جوبر:1-12-2012 هام لحظة سقوط قذيفة على منزل الآمنين

@NMSyria

Video captures the exact moment when an artillery shell hit homes in Jobar, #Damascus tonight. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T8wUIJbLVY&feature=youtu.be  #Syria

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HORROR: Video Reportedly Shows Syrian Rebel Executing Prisoners (GRAPHIC)

HORROR: Video Reportedly Shows Syrian Rebel Executing Prisoners (GRAPHIC) | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
BEIRUT, Nov 30 (Reuters) - New footage posted on the Internet appears to have been filmed by a Syrian rebel who points the camera along the barrel of his gun as he shoots 10 unarmed prisoners.
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Syria Has Disappeared From the Internet !!!

Syria Has Disappeared From the Internet !!! | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
Not a good sign....

A few hours ago, Syria, the Middle Eastern country in the middle of an especially bloody civil war, disappeared from the Internet.

The research firm Renesys, which keeps track of the status and health of the technical underpinnings of the Internet around the world, just reported that at 10:26 UTC this morning — which, by my watch, would have been 5:26 am ET — effectively all of Syria’s international Internet connectivity shut down.

More technically, what happened was that within the global routing table, all 84 blocks of IP addresses assigned to Syria have gone unreachable. That means that Internet traffic destined for that country is going undelivered, and also that traffic coming from within it cannot get out to the world.


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Chemical scare is a cloak for intervention, says Syria

Chemical scare is a cloak for intervention, says Syria | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it

(Reuters) - Western powers are whipping up fear of chemical weapons as a pretext to intervene in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad's government said on Thursday, after several Western countries said they feared Assad might use poison gas.

"Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Maqdad told Lebanon's Al Manar television, the voice of the pro-Assad Hezbollah movement.

"We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria."

As darkness fell in the embattled capital, the highway to Damascus international airport was closed by fighting, witnesses said. Rebels said they would not storm the airport but would encircle it to stop flights supplying the army.

Fighting in Syria's 20-month civil war has intensified around the capital in the past week, prompting Western commentators to speak of an "end-game" that could soon see Assad toppled soon.

Several Western countries have issued coordinated warnings this week to Assad's government not to use chemical weapons, many citing secret intelligence that U.S. officials said showed the Assad government might be preparing to use poison gas.

Syria has not signed the international chemical weapons treaty that bans the use and storage of poison gas, but has repeatedly said it would never use such arms on its own people.

NATO also decided this week to send U.S., German and Dutch batteries of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles to Turkey's border with Syria, meaning hundreds of American and European troops deploying to the frontier for the first time.

Western countries have so far resisted conducting the sort of intervention in Syria's civil war that saw NATO air strikes help topple Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Germany approved the Patriot missile mission on Thursday. NATO says it is a defensive step to prevent cross border missile strikes on alliance member Turkey, but Syria fears it could be a prelude to imposing a no-fly zone over its territory.

With conditions worsening on the ground, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi were in Dublin on Thursday to try to put get a U.N. peace process on track.

Russia, backed by China, has so far blocked U.N. resolutions against Assad in a war that has killed more than 40,000 people. But there are signs that Moscow's patience with its ally may be wearing thing.

A Russian lawmaker and ally of President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said "time has shown" that Syria's government has lost the strength to function as it should.

AIRPORT BLOCKADE

Rebel spokesman Abu Nidal said the army was pinned down along the airport highway by nightfall on Thursday by rebel fighters maneuvering to mount a blockade. The airport is not closed but commercial traffic has almost ceased.

"We know that arms have been going to the regime through the civilian airport," he said. A blockade would be "a good tool to put more pressure on the regime, which is part of strategy of trying to drain their strength".

Western powers have shown no enthusiasm for armed intervention in Syria, preferring economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure and limited aid to rebel forces, who get most of their guns and ammunition paid for by sympathetic Arab powers.

Britain said on Thursday it will increase practical support for the rebels to include training and equipment such as body armor and night-vision goggles. But they will not get the anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles they are crying out for.

Exactly what Syria's army has done with suspected chemical weapons to prompt a surge of Western warnings over the past two days is not clear. Reports citing Western intelligence and defense sources are vague and inconsistent.

Clinton said on Wednesday Washington was concerned both about the possible use of chemical arms by "an increasingly desperate" Assad, and about the government losing control of such weapons to extremist armed groups.

While Western countries support the rebel aim of toppling Assad, they are also uncomfortable with some rebel groups, which espouse radical Sunni Islamist views. The prospect of some rebels obtaining chemical weapons could be more frightening to Western policymakers than Assad.

U.S. officials said the Obama administration was considering blacklisting Jabhat al-Nusra, an influential rebel group accused by other rebels of indiscriminate tactics that has advocated an Islamic state in Syria and is suspected of ties to al Qaeda.

An explosion at the Damascus headquarters of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent killed at least one person on Thursday, Syrian state television said. It blamed "terrorists from al Qaeda" - a term the government often employs to refer to rebel forces.

Opposition activists said army artillery pummeled several eastern suburbs of Damascus, where the rebels are dominant. Suburbs have been cut off for weeks from water and electricity, rebels say, accusing the government of collective punishment.

Residents of the cosmopolitan capital - until now largely spared the ravages of a war concentrated in the provinces and other cities - speak of a city under siege.

"I wanted to run a simple errand, to pay my cell phone. It should have taken 7 minutes but it took 25 because they've blocked the main road and the detour road," said one woman. "So we took a route all the way round the city that was very crowded with the traffic of everyone trying to get home. People are very resentful - and the VIPs must be very scared."

Rebels say they have also surrounded an air base 4 km (2-1/2 miles) from the centre of Damascus, a fresh sign the battle is closing in on the Syrian capital.

Maqdad denied that. "What is sad is that foreign countries believe these repeated rumors," he said.

Rebel and state claims about the military situation cannot be verified independently. But residents in the capital say the sound of shelling on the outskirts has become a constant backdrop and many fear the fight will soon come to Damascus.

Fighting was reported on Thursday in the rural outskirts of Damascus and in many parts of the country. A crucial supply line for the army, the Damascus-Aleppo road, was hit by clashes.

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Thousands of US troops arrive near Syrian shore on USS Eisenhower — RT

Thousands of US troops arrive near Syrian shore on USS Eisenhower — RT | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it

The USS Eisenhower, an American aircraft carrier that holds eight fighter bomber squadrons and 8,000 men, arrived at the Syrian coast yesterday in the midst of a heavy storm, indicating US preparation for a potential ground intervention,


he USS Eisenhower, an American aircraft carrier that holds eight fighter bomber squadrons and 8,000 men, arrived at the Syrian coast yesterday in the midst of a heavy storm, indicating US preparation for a potential ground intervention.

While the Obama administration has not announced any sort of American-led military intervention in the war-torn country, the US is now ready to launch such action “within days” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decides to use chemical weapons against the opposition, the Times reports.

Some have suggested that the Assad regime may use chemical weapons against the opposition fighters in the coming days or weeks.

The arrival of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of the 11 US Navy aircraft carriers that has the capacity to hold thousands of men, is now stationed at the coast of Syria, DEBKAfile reports. The aircraft carrier joined the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, which holds about 2,500 Marines.

“We have (US) special operations forces at the right posture, they don’t have to be sent,” an unnamed US official told The Australian, which suggested that US military troops are already near Syria and ready to intervene in the conflict, if necessary.

If the US decides to intervene militarily in Syria, it now has at its disposal 10,000 fighting men, 17 warships, 70 fighter-bombers, 10 destroyers and frigates and a guided military cruises. Some of the vessels are also equipped with Aegis missile interceptors to shoot down any missiles Syria might have at hand, according to DEBKAfile.

“The muscle is already there to be flexed,” a US official told the London Times about the US military’s presence outside of Syria. “It’s premature to say what could happen if a decision is made to intervene. That hasn’t taken shape, we’ve not reached that kind of decision. There are a lot of options, but it [military action] could be launched rapidly, within days.”

The move comes after NATO made a significant strategic decision Tuesday to deploy Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems in Turkey on the border of Syria where opposition groups have the stronghold. The defense would be able to protect Turkey from potential Syrian missiles that could contain chemical weapons, as well as intimidate Syrian Air Force pilots from bombing the northern Syria border towns, which the armed rebels control. Syria is thought to have about 700 missiles.

“The protection from NATO will be three dimensional; one is the short-range Patriots, the second is the middle-range Terminal High Altitude Air Defense [THAD] system and the last is the AEGIS system, which counters missiles that can reach outside the atmosphere,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

DEBKAfile’s anonymous military sources claim the THAD and Aegis arrived at the Syrian coast aboard the USS Eisenhower.

“The United States now stands ready for direct military intervention in the Syrian conflict when the weather permits,” the news source wrote.

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This Day in WikiLeaks: 5 December 2012

This Day in WikiLeaks: 5 December 2012 | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
WikiLeaks has been financially blockaded without process for 734 days.
Julian Assange has been detained without charge for 731 days. 
 - 169 days at the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Bradley Manning has been in jail without trial for 926 days.  
Jeremy Hammond has been in prison without trial for 277 days. 
A secret Grand Jury on WikiLeaks has been active for 812 days.

WikiLeaks News:
  • Today Julian Assange gave a presentation to the European Parliament S&D party seminar regarding corruption revealed through WikiLeaks cables. A recorded livestream of the event, which included members from WikiLeaks media partner Bivol,.bg, is available.
  • According to journalist Andrew Fowler, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was tipped-off about the contents of Cablegate in advance, prompting her to make the false claim that WikiLeaks acted "illegally".
  • WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson was interviewed by Voice of Russia about the mixed signals from the European Union regarding the banking blockade against WikiLeaks. He also discussed Julian Assange's asylum and Jeremy Hammond's case.

Julian Assange News:
  • The Huffington Post wrote an article about how the ebook version of Julian Assange's "Cypherpunks" is not being sold through Amazon, but through an alternative site reKiosk.
  • FAIR published an analysis of CNN's Erin Bunett's interview of Julian Assange and the battle over press freedom.

Bradley Manning News:
  • The New York Times is under fire for its failure to attend Bradley Manning's pretrial hearings. NYTeXaminer wrote a two-part series on its lack of coverage, and NYT's own public editor wrote an piece saying they should have a reporter at the hearings. Back in September 2011, Julian Assange also spoke of NYT's poor treatment of its sources or alleged sources, including PFC Manning.
  • Bradley Manning's pretrial hearings continued today. Here are some developments, via Kevin Gosztola's live-blog at Firedoglake.
    • CWO5 Abel Galaviz testified that there might have been "unnecessary command influence" in the reviews of PFC Manning's custody status.
    • MSGT Papakie testified about detainees who had been downgraded from MAX and POI status, unlike PFC Manning.
    • Judge Lind noted that video footage from January 18, 2011 vindicated PFC Manning's claim that he expressed desire to come off of POI status.
  • During a hearing of the Sunlight Foundation's Advisory Committee on Transparency, John Gerstein of Politico spoke about the immense secrecy surrounding Bradley Manning's legal proceedings.
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Senate votes to require report on possible US military activities in Syria - The Hill's Floor Action

Senate votes to require report on possible US military activities in Syria - The Hill's Floor Action | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
The Senate voted to pass an amendment to the defense bill that would require a report on military activities that could be used in Syria. The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, S.


The Senate voted to pass an amendment to the defense bill that would require a report on military activities that could be used in Syria.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3254, which funds the U.S. military and its operations, passed on a 92-6 vote.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced Amendment 3262, which would require the Department of Defense to submit to the congressional Defense committees a report identifying the limited military activities that could deny or degrade the ability of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use air power against civilians and opposition groups in Syria.


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he opposed the amendment because it would encourage U.S. involvement in another war in the Middle East.

“The amendment before us requires that the president submit a plan for a no-fly zone over Syria,” Paul said before the vote Tuesday. “There are many unknowns that we need to be asking ourselves before we involve ourselves in a Civil War.

“Our nation and our soldiers are weary of war. ... I hope my colleagues will not encourage a rush to war.”

But Sen. Chris Coon’s (D-Del.) a co-sponsor of the amendment said the measure would not authorize any acts of war or use of force.

“It is explicit that nothing in this section shall be considered a declaration of war or authorization of use of force,” Coons said.

McCain added that the report delivered to Congress would be classified and that Congress should know what level of involvement is possible.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Paul, Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) voted against the amendment.

Final passage of the bill is expected later Tuesday evening and an amendment from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) passed by unanimous consent after the McCain-amendment vote.

Kyl introduced Amendment 3123, which would require the Department of Defense to brief relevant congressional committees on military and strategic proposals, by either the Russian Federation or the United States, to limit or control nuclear arms, missile defense systems or long-range conventional strike systems.

Kyl said his amendment was necessary because U.S. treaties have to be approved by the Senate, and the administration sometimes doesn’t brief lawmakers before negotiating agreements, which then have to be approved by the Senate. This amendment would allow lawmakers to voice concerns before proposals by the United States are presented to Russia on arms reductions.

Amendments 2927, 3019, 3062, 3113, 3175, 3241, 3242, 3277, 3285, 3226 and 3117 we passed in a managers' package Tuesday afternoon.

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Official Syrian Web Sites Hosted in U.S.

Official Syrian Web Sites Hosted in U.S. | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
Official Syrian Web Sites Hosted in U.S.

The handful of Internet service providers that offered services to the government of President Bashar al-Assad violated United States sanctions.


Even as Syrians lost access to the Internet on Thursday, people outside the country could still browse the Syrian government’s many Web sites for much of the day because they are hosted in foreign countries, including the United States.


By nightfall, after being contacted by The New York Times, several host companies said they were taking down those sites. They and similar companies had been identified in reports published by Citizen Lab, a research laboratory that monitors North American Web service providers that host Syrian Web sites.

For example, the Web site of SANA, the Syrian state news agency, is hosted by a Dallas company, SoftLayer Technologies. It is one of a handful of Internet providers based in the United States that sell their services, often unknowingly, to Web sites operated by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

HostDime.com in Orlando, Fla., hosts the Web site of Syria’s Ministry of Religious Affairs. Jumpline.com hosts the site of the country’s General Authority for Development. The government of Hama, a city that has seen heavy clashes between rebels and government troops, operated its Web site through WeHostWebSites.com in Denver.

An executive order by President Obama prohibits American companies from providing Web hosting and other services to Syria without obtaining a license from the Treasury Department.

On Thursday, State Department officials confirmed that providing the services was a violation of the United States sanctions. “Our policies are designed to assist ordinary citizens who are exercising their fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association,” a spokesman, Mark C. Toner, said.

A SoftLayer spokesman, Andre Fuochi, would not comment about the SANA Web site, but in a statement he said the company “rigorously” enforces “prevailing laws and regulations and acts swiftly and vigorously if we find our users to be in violation.”

Dennis Henry, the vice president of operations at HostDime.com, said he had been unaware of the Syrian government Web site, but that it was hosted by a customer’s server housed in HostDime.com’s data center.

“We have contacted our direct client whose server is housing the Web site to express our concerns,” Mr. Henry said. On Friday, Mr. Henry said the company had removed the Web site.

Mike Griffin, an owner of Handy Networks, a wholesale Web service and the owner of WeHostWebSites.com, said he too had been unaware of the Syrian government Web site but had asked that it be removed.

“We comply with all U.S. sanctions, including those prohibiting the exportation of Web hosting services to Syria,” he said.

Upon being told of the Syrian Web site, Jumpline’s chief operating officer, Andy Mentges, said in an e-mail that it would be “shut down within the hour.”

The Internet shutdown across Syria on Thursday underscored how the 20-month conflict, which has left more than 40,000 people dead, has increasingly moved to the Web. Both sides use cyberattacks to advance their causes.

The hosting of government Web sites overseas represents a growing technological sophistication by the Assad government. “Look what they did with chemical weapons. They can do the same with communications,” said Robert B. Baer, a former C.I.A. operative based in the Middle East. “When the Syrians want to do something, they can do it.”

It is also likely that Syrian rebel and jihadi groups host Web sites inside the United States. The Syrian government appears to be aware that its Web sites are safer and easier to control when operated on servers inside the country.

In July, the Assad government ordered that all official Web sites be hosted inside Syria. But in case of an emergency or an Internet shutdown like the one on Thursday, the government also maintains Web sites based in the United States, Canada and Britain, said Helmi Noman, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab.

“This most recent Internet disruption in Syria highlights the issue of Web hosting and how the regime is able to make use of servers outside Syria to promote its message while locally hosted sites are down,” Mr. Noman said.

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Syrian shells hit Turkish border town - Telegraph

Syrian shells hit Turkish border town  - Telegraph | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
Shells fired from Syria hit a Turkish border town over the weekend, in the first cross-border shelling incident since Ankara requested that Nato deploy Patriot air defence missiles on its frontier.


Artillery hit the Turkish border town of Reyhanli on Saturday evening amid clashes between President Bashar al-Assad's troops and rebels around the nearby Bab al-Hawa border post, Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to signal support for Turkey by giving the go-ahead to deploy the missiles, diplomatic sources in Brussels said.

Turkish officials and senior Syrian military defectors have repeatedly alleged in interviews that Mr Assad may resort to using the country's large chemical weapons arsenal if he felt he was losing his grip on power.

Syria is believed to have large stocks of Mustard and Sarin nerve gas that could be deployed against opposition areas with devastating effect. With the fighting now so close to the Turkish borders there are fears that they might spill across. The Patriot missiles would detect any missiles crossing the frontier.

The New York Times reported that western intelligence officials had spotted new signs of activity around Syrian military sites where chemical weapons are stored.

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Damascus Is Tense Before Strongest Push Yet by Rebels

Damascus Is Tense Before Strongest Push Yet by Rebels | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
Clashes in the suburbs of Syria’s capital were accompanied by reports that President Bashar al-Assad was readying loyal divisions to defend the heart of his power.


BEIRUT, Lebanon — As Syrian rebels and government forces clashed on the outskirts of Damascus, explosions rumbled in the distance and warplanes screeched overhead, the rebels appeared to be making their strongest push toward the city since the government repelled an offensive there in July.


A tense calm prevailed downtown, but security checkpoints were proliferating and there were reports that President Bashar al-Assad was readying loyal divisions to defend the city, the capital and heart of his power.

Military analysts warned that it was impossible to know whether a decisive battle for Damascus was beginning, especially as Syrians lost access to the Internet for 53 hours, limiting the flow of information, before it was restored Saturday. But they said that a government fight to defend its core could be the fiercest and most destructive phase yet of the 20-month conflict.

“We’re waiting for the big battle to begin,” said Emile Hokayem, an analyst based in Bahrain for the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

For decades, the Assad family has settled loyal military families, many from its minority Alawite sect, in the western outskirts of Damascus, where the presidential palace sits on a plateau overlooking the city. The current fighting suggested that the government was trying to insulate those areas, along with the city center and airport, from the semicircle of urban sprawl curving from northeast to southwest, where rebels have strengthened their position in recent days.

Analysts say that Mr. Assad, knowing that losing Damascus could be a decisive blow, has been conserving his best and most loyal troops and much of his artillery for a battle there.

“We’re not yet at a point where the regime is in total panic mode and can no longer make rational — however nasty — decisions about military strategy,” Mr. Hokayem said. “He has to decide which cities around Damascus to destroy and which cities to keep in hand.”

When Damascus was threatened in July, the government pulled forces from parts of northern and southern Syria — allowing rebels to consolidate gains in the north — and there were reports that something similar was happening now. An activist in Damascus said Saturday that elements of the army’s feared Fourth Division, led by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother, were at the Aqraba military airport near the Damascus airport. There were unconfirmed reports that other top divisions and special forces were headed for the city, said Joseph Holliday, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, in Washington.

“When the rebels score victories in Damascus, it forces the regime to contract more quickly” in the areas that it contests elsewhere, he said.

To some extent that has already happened, one diplomat said. “There are large areas of Syria that are beyond the control of the regime now,” the foreign minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh, said Saturday in Washington. “The opposition and the rebel forces are making serious advances. Things are moving in a different direction compared to what they were a few weeks ago.”

Analysts said rebels were unlikely to quickly overrun the government’s positions in the capital. The government has defended chosen strong points, including its most important helicopter base, in the northern province of Idlib, and a base on the road between Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo. Rebels have besieged both for months without taking them.

But the encroachment on Damascus has a profound psychological effect that could hasten the crumbling of Mr. Assad’s support — or deepen it among those who fear their fates are tied to his. In July, when rebels briefly held the southern neighborhood of Midan and bombed a military headquarters downtown, killing four top officials, some government supporters fled to Lebanon and coastal Alawite strongholds, analysts said.

Last month, rebel bombings in Mezze 86, a neighborhood of Alawite military families near the palace, unsettled government supporters amid suspicions of an inside job. In recent weeks, officials have expressed fear of commuting home to the suburbs, worrying that Sunni Muslim conscript soldiers at checkpoints will turn on them, shifting allegiance to the mostly Sunni uprising, analysts and activists said.

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Twitter / CovertPolitics_: Tareeq Halab y'day: Regime ...

Regime forces attacked demo, yet the people still showed up that evening to protest. #Hama

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Syria's internet cutoff easy to spot.

Syria's internet cutoff easy to spot. | Revolution News Syria | Scoop.it
Arbor Networks and Renesys pinpoint the moment when the Syrian government cut its internet connection to the outside world that rebels were using to tell their story.


Arbor Networks has been able to pinpoint - rather easily - the point at which Syria's government cut off its internet connection with the outside world.

The graphic shows how at the amount of traffic flowing through its connections dropped from around 3 gigabits per second at 11.40 EST to 1Gbps, and then to zero within the hour.

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