Turkey shells targets in Syria despite new diplomatic push

BEIRUT — While the Turkish military fired on targets in Syria on Friday, the governments of Turkey and Germany threw their weight behind calls for a Syrian ceasefire during a Muslim holiday next week, and the international envoy for the conflict arrived in Damascus to push for the plan. Continue reading

Russia told Assad to shoot down Turkish plane, murder captured pilots, ‘leaked Syrian documents’ show

Devastating intelligence papers purport to prove jet was downed on Moscow’s orders, pilots captured alive by intelligence unit and then killed; Damascus had claimed June incident was an accident

A file “sent from [President Bashar] Assad’s palace,” said the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya, conveys and thus apparently approves a Russian suggestion to “eliminate” the pilots in the “natural way.”

Syria had claimed that the plane was downed by accident, and at one point asserted that it had believed the plane was Israeli — hence the need to down it.

The Russians, the leaks indicate, suggested that the Syrian government quickly issue a formal apology to its counterpart in Ankara for shooting down the plane — a recommendation the Assad regime followed.

In July, the Sunday Times of London claimed that Russian technicians had played a key part in shooting down the plane, citing sources who said the Russians and Syrians believed the plane was on a NATO mission to test Syria’s airspace and was shot down, in a split-second decision, to send a message to the organization.

Full article: Russia told Assad to shoot down Turkish plane, murder captured pilots, ‘leaked Syrian documents’ show (Times of Israel)

Report: Syrian forces massing along Turkey border

NICOSIA — Syria is said to have amassed its military along the border with Turkey.

Syrian opposition sources said the military of President Bashar Assad was deploying a large force of main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers along the Turkish border.

The sources identified the base of the operation as the northern city of Aleppo, deemed the business capital of Syria.

“They are preparing to move to the Syrian border,” Mustafa Sheik, the military chairman of the Free Syrian Army, said.

Sheik, a Syrian general defector, said the MBT force was no more than 30 kilometers from the Turkish border. He said the armored force would either confront the Turkish military deployment near the Syrian border or attack rebel-held areas in the Idlib province.

Full article: Report: Syrian forces massing along Turkey border (World Tribune)

Syria’s Assad holding most of his military assets in reserve

The regime of President Bashar Assad, despite nearly a year
of fighting, has been using only a fraction of its military might against
the Sunni rebel movement.

Regime sources said Assad, despite the massive assault on Homs, has
reserved most of his military assets. They said the president did not want a
bloodbath while Army commanders feared the breakup of their units.

“The assessment is that Assad and his advisers have prepared for a long
haul, and they would rather tire out the rebels than risk a rupture in the
military through massive assaults,” the regime source said.

Full article: Syria’s Assad holding most of his military assets in reserve (World Tribune)

Syria on the brink? Russia upgrades major port at Tartous to accommodate aircraft carriers

MOSCOW — Russia, defying a revolt against the regime of President
Bashar Assad, plans to modernize a major naval facility in Syria.

Officials said the Russian Navy has deployed hundreds of personnel to
upgrade the Syrian port of Tartous. They said the project was meant to
ensure that Tartous could accommodate all Russian Navy vessels, including
aircraft carriers.

Continue reading article: Syria on the brink? Russia upgrades major port at Tartous to accommodate aircraft carriers (World Tribune)

Iran intervenes in Syria: Hizbullah launches first combat rocket salvo

LONDON — The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah has begun its first combat operations in Syria, the opposition said.

Opposition sources said Hizbullah fighters launched Russian-origin BM-21 Grad rockets toward civilian protesters on Jan. 16. The sources said the Hizbullah rocket attack took place near Damascus amid Iranian threats to increase intervention in Syria.

“The attack was coordinated with the forces of President Bashar Assad,” the Syrian Revolutionary Coordination Union said.

Other opposition sources also reported Hizbullah rocket fire. No injuries, however, were reported, and later other sources said mortars, rather than rockets, were launched during a military operation.

Continue reading article: Iran intervenes in Syria: Hizbullah launches first combat rocket salvo (World Tribune)