Syria

The US is considering officially recognising the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel.
Trump says the U.S. should recognize Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights | CBC News
U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that it's time for the United States to recognize Israel's control over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister's planned visit next week to the White House.
The US foreign ministry has already changed the language they use to describe the Golan Heights from "Israeli-occupied" to "Israeli-controlled" in what appears to be positioning the US in preparation for this.
The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase "Israeli-occupied" from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it "Israeli-controlled."
Israel is in the midst of an election campaign, and Netanyahu has already thanked the US for their support on this issue.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces an election on April 9 and has been pressing for the United States to recognize Israel's claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Trump remains popular in Israel, and his advisers have been developing a Middle East peace proposal for release sometime after the Israeli elections. Netanyahu tweeted his gratitude.
This recognition of annexation will be contrary to the relevant UN resolutions on the Golan Heights.
Richard Haass, a former senior State Department official who is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet he strongly disagreed with Trump's Golan decision.
He said the move violates UN Security Council resolution 242, "which rules out acquiring territory by war and serves Israel as it says all states have right 2 live in peace."
A Golan Heights force was set up after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war to monitor the ceasefire. Much of the world, including Canada, recognizes the Golan Heights as occupied territory.
There are several consequences to this that I can imagine. One is that it is conceivable that the US may attempt to withhold recognition of any post-Assad Syrian government who do not agree to the annexation, and to use unilateral US sanctions against any country trading with or providing aid to Syria, much like they have done with their (apparently successful) attempts to torpedo Europe's attempt to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran. This could undermine attempts to come to any sort of long term political settlement in Syria, as any Syrian government who agreed to it would be viewed as a traitor and face continuing turmoil and possible coup if they even considered it.

It may also set the stage for Turkey to conduct their own annexations of Syrian territory on the north. This in turn may also lead to wider conflict where other states in the region pursue border wars in an attempt to settle through annexation what they see as unjust borders imposed by the former colonial powers.

It may also act to legitimise Russia's annexation of Crimea and encourage them to slice off even more bits of territory from adjacent states while pointing to the US action as legal precedent.

Overall, the consequences of this act could extend well beyond the immediate area and signal the start of a new era of wars of conquest.
 
The EU have rejected the US statement regarding recognising Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights. EU, Syria reject Trump's statement on Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights | CBC News
The EU reiterated on Friday its position "has not changed" despite Trump's overture.
"The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including the Golan Heights and does not consider them to be part of Israel's territory," an EU spokesperson told Reuters.
A number of other countries have issued similar statements, including Canada, Egypt, France, Turkey, the Arab League, Russia, and Iran.
 
The US has officially declared IS to be 100% eliminated in terms of holding territory, although sporadic fighting continues with IS members who have not surrendered.
Islamic State territory in Syria 100% eliminated, White House says | CBC News
All Islamic State-held territory in Syria has been "100 per cent" eliminated, the White House announced Friday, though officials said sporadic fighting continues on the ground between coalition forces and the group's holdouts.
 
Islamic State defeated, 'caliphate' eliminated says U.S. ally in Syria | Reuters
SDF now say the self proclaimed Caliphate has been defeated, albeit reporters say sounds of shooting and mortar fire continue:
“Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished,” Mustafa Bali, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman, wrote on Twitter, declaring the “total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate”.

However, a Reuters journalist at Baghouz said there were still some sounds of shooting and mortar fire.
 
?

I thought hajj was the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Would appreciate clarification.

TIA
Sorry for the late reply. Yes, Hajj in this context means pilgrimage to Mecca.

The last few days there has been footage on social media of beburkhaed figures participating in fighting in Baghuz.
 
The SDF in Syria are asking for an international tribunal to prosecute foreigners captured in the part of Syria which they control.
U.S.-backed SDF calls for international tribunal to deal with captured ISIS fighters | CBC News
The U.S-backed Syrian fighters who drove the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from its last strongholds called Monday for an international tribunal to prosecute hundreds of foreigners rounded up in the nearly five-year campaign against the extremist group.
They have captured more than 1,000 foreign fighters. Included in those are many from Western countries.
The SDF has captured more than 1,000 foreign fighters, including many from Western countries.
Western countries have been refusing to take their citizens back. They believe that it would not be possible to convict them in court, but they don't want to simply turn them loose either due to security concerns.
Western countries have largely refused to take back their detained citizens, fearing they would not be able to convict them in civilian courts and that they could pose a security risk.
As a result of this, the SDF are suggesting that an international tribunal be set up to try them in Syria.
Umer said foreign fighters should be tried where their crimes occurred and where they were detained. "The international community has evaded its responsibility, so we ask that they help us set up the court here," he said.
The suggestion is not being well received abroad.
Germany's Foreign Ministry said in an email that it only knew of the proposal from media reports, but that setting up such a tribunal would "raise many political and legal issues, which would require careful evaluation by the international community."
There is also the problem that setting up a tribunal on the territory of a sovereign country without that country's approval would be rather questionable.
Nadim Houry, the director of the counterterrorism program at Human Rights Watch, said "it is hard to imagine" setting up an international tribunal on sovereign territory without that country's approval.
There was nothing in the news story which suggested how these prisoners would be dealt with after being tried by the proposed tribunal. If the plan is to try them in a tribunal and then ship them back home, that idea may not go over well with many countries either. Any conviction by a tribunal which had questionable authority would be subject to challenge in the "home" country, raising the problem again of these people simply being turned loose and becoming a permanent security threat.
 
Speaking of prisoners.
 
Here's the CBC story on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. www.cbc.ca/news/world/islamic-state-leader-video-appearance-1.5115641?cmp=rss

In the video he makes numerous references to current events, so it is a recent video. He acknowledges that there have been defeats and setbacks, but vows to fight on. He praised the recent attacks in Sri Lanka, and called on his followers to intensify attacks in France.

He claimed IS have conducted 92 attacks in 8 countries to avenge their recent defeats, including in Sri Lanka, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.


 
In Russia the government have been displaying war trophies from Syria, using a train to carry them about the country. These are equipment formerly belonging to IS and various other rebel groups.
www.cbc.ca/news/world/as-public-support-for-syrian-war-wanes-russia-hopes-trophy-train-inspires-patriotism-1.5125769?cmp=rss
The Syria Breakthrough Train, a travelling exhibit of captured equipment and other war souvenirs from Russia's five-year involvement in the Middle Eastern country, has just wrapped up an epic 20,000-kilometre, 61-city journey through Russia, from the Baltic to the Pacific.

The train, made up of 20 cars carrying captured tanks, rocket launchers, improvised explosive devices and other military hardware, has returned to Moscow just in time for Thursday's celebrations.
The story as a whole is not that directly relevant to this thread, but it does contain some photos which might be of interest which I will show here.

Here's a US made Humvee which changed hands several times, going from an unnamed rebel group to IS and then captured by the Syrian army.


Here's an RG-31 Nyala. It had been used by UN forces in the Golan Heights, was abandoned by them when UN forces pulled out, and then taken by unnamed rebels.


Here is equipment that was supposedly part of a rebel chemical weapons lab in Douma, a place in Syria that was the location of a disputed chemical weapons incident. The CBC were a bit sceptical of that claim.

I should point out by the way that there may possibly have been no direct claims in the display itself that it was equipment used by the rebels to make chemical weapons. Rather it may indeed be equipment which had been found in Douma, it may have been displayed in conjunction with claims that the rebels were making chemical weapons, and the audience could have been left to make the assumption that the two were connected. If that sounds like hair-splitting, narratives surrounding events such as this often involve a lot of hair splitting. The CBC story doesn't go into subtleties such as that.
 
The HMMWV would've originally been donated (sold) by the US to the Iraqi army at the end of the US operations (occupation) in Iraq, before being captured by IS and taken to Syria.

The MRAP was amongst a few captured by JaN years ago. One of them was used in an SVBIED attack by JaN around Dera'a years ago.
 
Russia’s Syria trophy exhibition: mistakes and manipulation – Conflict Intelligence Team
There's a linked article in the quoted post above disproving the Russian assertions about the kit and where it came from. Whatever your views on where the kit came from, there's some interesting items in the display

One example are American HMMWV (Humvee) armored cars, repurposed as suicide vehicle-based improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs). You can see that in these vehicles the driver’s field of view is sacrificed for armor — the suicide bomber does not need a wide field of view to complete his mission.


From a different vehicle:
The door of the vehicle still bears an inscription “ICTS IRAQ” — this is an elite Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service, a special forces service trained and equipped by the USA. The photo below shows a similar ICTS Humvee in Mosul, which in 2017 was the site of heavy fighting between “Islamic State” and Iraqi forces supported by the US-led international coalition.




This information is absent from the information stand next to this HMMWV: it only features a general description of the American armored car. With few exceptions, that also concerns almost all information stands presented at the exhibition.
A YPG 'Eagle Head'. According to the Russian notice, it was assembled in Turkey:


The text at the information stand states that the armored vehicle was assembled in Turkey. This, to put it mildly, is hard to believe: Turkey deems the YPG a terrorist organization and probably wouldn’t allow assembling and shipping vehicles for them from its territory.


As for the “Eagle Head” itself, the last known photos of the vehicle in Syria are from 2016, when the APC was still in the hands of the Kurds. Apparently it was later lost in the fighting with ISIS and later was captured by Assad forces during successful offensives against the “caliphate”.

Same on a ACV 15 captured during Euphrates Shield:
Researcher Hugo Kaaman found out that the vehicle was captured from ISIS by Assad forces near Maskanah in eastern Aleppo governorate. He suggested that the ACV-15 was part of the “Euphrates Shield” operation by the Turkish army and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups against IS militants and Kurdish militias in north Aleppo, where the vehicle was captured by “Islamic State”.




'Hell Cannon:
Another example of improvised weapons displayed is a so-called “Hell cannon”. Improvised mortars like this one were made and used by rebels due to lack of artillery, with manuals on making them posted on YouTube. “Hell cannons” often used cooking gas cylinders stuffed with explosives as shells.


OT64 APC. SAA reportedly had/have them, but the provenance is disputed:
Even though in the 20th century the Syrian army did have OT-64 APCs in its inventory, these vehicles are quite a rare sight in the civil war, so this one was quite easy to trace. A video from a pro-Kremlin news outlet “ANNA NEWS” shows the APC among other trophies at Khalkhala airbase in south Syria in July 2018. Judging by the fresh paint job and the vehicle’s late arrival to the rebels, it was not captured in a Syrian army warehouse but shipped from Jordan.
No mention of the D30 next to it:


T55AMV:
Some items displayed at the exhibition are examples of disinformation and propaganda. For example, various media cited the exhibition guides claiming that a T-55 tank presented there was allegedly shipped to Syria from Georgia.

However, in fact Georgia employed T-55M tanks (since 1992) and T-55AM2 tanks (since 1998 ), while this tank is a T-55AMV with explosive reactive armor. This tank was definitely captured from the Syrian army, which got 200 tanks of this modification in Ukraine in late 90s after they were modernized there.

Interestingly, part of the reactive armor blocks were dismantled from the tank hull’s front armor and installed on improvised anti-HEAT screens on the sides and behind the turret. It’s unlikely that such a contraption would survive the activation of one of the reactive armor blocks.

The South Front rebels (mentioned above) had many (possibly dozens) T-55AMV tanks (those modernized tanks most likely ended up in the south due to proximity to Israel). Photos and videos of trophies captured by pro-Assad forces show improvised anti-HEAT screens on the turrets of some tanks. However, we were unable to find this particular tank — most likely because too many vehicles were captured to film every tank, while the rebels did not publish many photos or videos of the vehicles in combat before they were captured (for whatever reason).


Worth reading the report just for some perspective imo. If nothing else, it's a bit of 'a spotters paradise'.
 
Syria up to it's old tricks of barrel bombing again

Does UN Resolution 2139 still stand?

The one with this clause:
3. Demands that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs, and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, and recalls in this regard the obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances, and further recalls, in particular, the obligation to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants, and the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks, and attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such
 
UK, France and Germany say gravely concerned at escalation in Syrian fighting - Reuters
France, UK and Germany have made a joint statement about the latest fighting around Idlib. Assad's forces want to fully control the MSR between Aleppo and Damascus.:
“This military escalation must stop,” the joint statement from the three countries, issued by Britain’s Foreign Office, said.

“Airstrikes on population centers, indiscriminate bombardment and use of barrel bombs as well as the targeting of civilian and humanitarian infrastructures, notably schools and health facilities, are blatant violations of International Humanitarian Law.”
 
Syrian news media are reporting that Syrian air defences shot down several "objects" coming from Israeli occupied Golan Heights.
www.cbc.ca/news/world/syria-explosions-damascus-israel-state-media-1.5141000?cmp=rss
Several explosions were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus on Friday night as the country's air defences opened fire on "objects" coming from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, state media reported.

State news agency SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying that Syrian air defences discovered "hostile targets" coming from the direction of the Quenitra region on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The news agency said Syrian air defences shot down several "objects."
As usual, Syrian reports of the effectiveness of their air defence systems should be taken with a grain of salt.

SOHR report that several explosions were heard southwest of Damascus. They claim that the targets were Iranian and Hezbollah positions near Damascus.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported three explosions southwest of Damascus. It added that it was not immediately clear if the explosions were caused by Israeli airstrikes or surface-to-surface missiles.

The Observatory's chief, Rami Abdurrahman, told The Associated Press that the strikes targeted the area of Kiswa, which is home to positions and storage sites for Iranian and Lebanon's Hezbollah forces allied with Syria's government.
SOHR reports should in my opinion be taken with a grain of salt and in this instance it is not clear how they knew what the targets were when they themselves admit they don't know if anything was actually hit.

Israel has refused to comment on this incident, but they do have recent history of launching attacks on targets in Syria.
Israeli military officials declined to comment on the report Friday, but Israel recently acknowledged striking Iranian targets in Syria.
 
Interesting to have seen, in recent days, the government lose the town of Kafr Nabudah, Hama. This happened on 22 May in an attack involving several MBT, AFV, and approx 700 Jihadists. There was no word on govt losses but losses there were - one Jihadist video showed sharp, close, fighting for a government outpost.
After the town fell, the RuAF and SyAAF bombd the crap out of it until, it seems, HTS decided it could not be held. The town is back in government hands this evening which, for the SAA, is remarkable. Previous setbacks like this have taken weeks to reverse. Some film here of the Jihadist attack and RuAF response.
Note by the way the Jihadist AFV. Turkey doing more than just monitoring the situation?


Anna news video about SAA advances in Hama (prior to HTS attack), here:

 
The Israelis fire some unspecified thing (missile, artillery, bomb, etc.) into Syria in response to Syrians anti-aircraft fire against an Israeli plane, the plane supposedly being in Israeli airspace at the time. The Syrians said that a military post was hit, with one soldier killed and one injured.
www.cbc.ca/news/world/israel-syria-antiaircraft-shooting-1.5151736?cmp=rss
Syria said an Israeli attack against a military post in the country's south on Monday killed a soldier and injured another. And Israel, in a rare statement acknowledging it fired into Syria, said it was responding to an anti-aircraft fire from Syria against one of its combat planes.

The back-to-back statements come amid heightened regional tension over Iran's role in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. They also follow a number of reported Israeli strikes on Syria in the past ten days, according to state run media.
It sounds routine.
 
The Israelis fire some unspecified thing (missile, artillery, bomb, etc.) into Syria in response to Syrians anti-aircraft fire against an Israeli plane, the plane supposedly being in Israeli airspace at the time. The Syrians said that a military post was hit, with one soldier killed and one injured.
www.cbc.ca/news/world/israel-syria-antiaircraft-shooting-1.5151736?cmp=rss
It sounds routine.
SAA aiming fire at an Israeli aircraft not over Syrian territory doesn't answer the description of "routine" - hence the sharp reaction.

IAF destroys Syrian missile launcher after missile fired at Israeli plane
 
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