US warns Russia against more aid to Assad amid new violence

BEIRUT (AP) — Anti-government violence erupted Saturday in a southern Syrian province that had largely stayed on the sidelines of the country’s civil war. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports suggesting that Russia was planning to expand its military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad prompted a warning from the U.S. that such actions could lead to a confrontation with coalition forces.

The violence in Sweida province, a stronghold of the Druze minority sect, followed the killing of a prominent cleric in rare explosions Friday that claimed the lives of at least 25 others, activists and pro-government media said. Rioters holding the government responsible for the cleric’s death destroyed the statue of late Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad and besieged security offices, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activist groups said. Continue reading

US drone escapes attack over Hormuz. Syria threatens to bomb Lebanon. Russian marines dock in Beirut

This was not the first time a US drone was threatened by Iranian aircraft over the Persian Gulf, but in reporting the incident, the Pentagon revealed that the drones flying in the neighborhood of Iranian shores are now escorted by US jet fighters.

A couple of hours earlier that evening, DEBKAfile received an exclusive report from its military sources that the Syrian high command had just issued an ultimatum, on the orders of Bashar Assad, demanding that the Lebanese government put an immediate stop to the passage of armed Sunni fighters from Lebanon into Syria, else the Syrian Air Force would strike the Lebanese intruders’ convoys and also their home bases.  Damascus claimed they were coming to fight the government alongside the al Qaeda-linked Jabrat al-Nusra. Continue reading