Thursday, February 11, 2016

Syria enters its darkest days yet

Syria is entering its darkest stage yet. Intense Russian bombardment and Iranian-backed militias have almost encircled rebel-held Aleppo. The city's last hospital has now been hit by a Russian airstrike.

In the liberated south, too - where provincial elections were recently held - the revolution is being driven back.

Hundreds of thousands of new refugees are fleeing, seeking shelter in caves or under trees. Several refugee camps have also been bombed, as Russia wins the country back for Assad, supposedly for the sake of domestic and international stability.

But the notion that the revolutionary areas of the Arab world can return to stability under the old security states is every bit as historically nostalgic and supernatural as the Islamist idea that the Muslims can return to peace and justice under a medieval-style caliphate.

The Arab revolutions erupted for a reason - because, over decades, the regimes had failed their people economically, politically, socially and culturally. The regimes inevitably collapsed - are still collapsing - under the weight of this historical failure.

Faced with a democratic uprising and incapable of genuine reform, Syria's Assad regime provoked a civil war.

Five years on, it has lost four-fifths of the country, a reality which massive imperialist intervention - the Iranian-organised trans-national Shia jihadists on the frontlines and the Russian bombers overhead - is only now changing.

Even within regime-held territory, the old "national" regime has already fallen, replaced by a consortium of foreign states and local warlords.

The army, bled by casualties, desertions and defections, is a shell of its former self.

But none of these facts hinder President Putin, nor the increasingly vocal Western "realist" argument that the regime - "the lesser evil" - must be collaborated with, even shored up, in order to contain jihadism.
In reality, Assad, who once warned of "tens of Afghanistans", is the first cause behind jihadism in Syria.

While assassinating peaceful protest leaders in 2011, he released jihadists from jail.

His regime perpetrated a series of sectarian massacres in 2012, deliberately provoking a backlash from the Sunni majority. 
Since then, its scorched earth policy - in fulfilment of the slogan "Either Assad or We'll Burn the Country" - has provided the chaos which jihadists best exploit.
Assad's Western appeasers ignore another key fact - that very many Syrians, however much they may hate the IS police state, will not prioritise an anti-IS struggle so long as Assad survives.

This is because they see Assad as the greater, not the lesser evil. And their perception is logical. Assad and his supporters are responsible for by far the largest proportion of civilian casualties and displacement.
Nevertheless, the "realist" - or, better put, "surrealist" - position prevails.

Russia has the initiative; the Obama administration falls into line. Assad will be supported against "terrorism"; once terrorism is defeated, perhaps Assad will go.

The problem is, making the jihadists the reason for Assad's survival gives Assad (and Putin) a good reason to keep them in business. That's why Russia's bombing patterns repeat those of the regime's air force.

More than 80 percent of Russian bombs have hit areas in opposition to both IS and Assad, communities which had in fact driven IS out.

As well as killing hundreds of civilians - another quarter of a million have been displaced around Aleppo since the intervention, and 150,000 more in the south - Russia has hit aid convoys, schools and court houses.

It has attacked a range of opposition militias, including Free Army groups tepidly and occasionally backed by the United States.

North of Aleppo, Russia bombs the rebels even while they are battling IS. Sometimes, that is, Russia bombs on behalf of IS. And Russia is helping Assad eliminate the opposition leaders who will be essential to any political solution, such as Jaysh al-Islam's Zahran Alloush.

From the Syrian ground, the West appears absolutely complicit. Current policies offer jihadists their ideal narrative opportunity.

It sounds like this: "Everything and everybody in Syria is being bombed by everyone. The only things which aren't being bombed are Assad's loyal communities and the air bases he uses to kill you.

"Russia's Orthodox Christians are bombing you alongside the Western Crusaders, and the Alawi regime is fighting you with the help of Iran's Shia militias.

"Some years ago you were stupid enough to revolt for words like 'freedom' and 'democracy', but now you see the truth. You were oppressed before, because you were Sunni Muslims, and you are slaughtered today because you are Sunnis. Only the Sunni Caliphate will save you."

While the realists are in denial, Putin knows his war will boost jihadists. And this because he isn’t aiming for a peace process but to destroy the opposition so entirely that only Assad and the jihadists are left standing. 
Then he assumes the world will have no choice but to back him in backing Assad.
In this light, the Obama administration's support for Putin’s Vienna - now Geneva - process looks more like appeasement than engagement.

The opposition negotiating team was badgered into attendance, hoping at least there might be some movement towards a prisoner release, a cessation of bombing, or a lifting of the starvation sieges.

They had hoped such basic measures, in line with UN resolutions, would be implemented before talks began - but they were wrong.

They were not so naive as to harbour any hopes for movement towards a settlement.

Russia, after all, invited its own "opposition" along too, and Iran insisted that discussion of its Shia foreign fighters was off the agenda.

The US accepted these terms, and now talks of a "national government" as an endgame, not a transition away from the dictatorship which has burnt the country.

Unsurprisingly, the talks faltered as soon as they started. The real progress is on the battlefield, to the cost of the Syrian people.

The State Department recently listed "bringing peace, security to Syria" as one of 2015's achievements. Given the size of Syria's challenge, given the war's continuing escalation and its increasingly visible ramifications on international security, such myopia is plainly disastrous.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Report on Syria conflict finds 11.5% of population killed or injured


Syria’s national wealth, infrastructure and institutions have been “almost obliterated” by the “catastrophic impact” of nearly five years of conflict, a new report has found. Fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) – a far higher total than the figure of 250,000 used by the United Nations until it stopped collecting statistics 18 months ago.
In all, 11.5% of the country’s population have been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011, the report estimates. The number of wounded is put at 1.9 million. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015. Overall economic losses are estimated at $255bn (£175bn).
The stark account of the war’s toll came as warnings multiplied about Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which is in danger of being cut off by a government advance aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian militiamen. The Syrian opposition is demanding urgent action to relieve the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians
The International Red Cross said on Wednesday that 50,000 people had fled the upsurge in fighting in the north, requiring urgent deliveries of food and water.
Talks in Munich on Thursday between the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, will be closely watched for any sign of an end to the deadly impasse. UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva are scheduled to resume in two weeks but are unlikely to do so without a significant shift of policy.
Speaking in London on Wednesday, an opposition spokesman, Salim al-Muslet, said President Barack Obama could stop the Russian attacks. “If he is willing to save our children it is really the time now to say ‘no’ to these strikes in Syria,” he said. The Washington Post reported that Moscow had sent a letter to Washington proposing to stop bombing on 1 March.
Of the 470,000 war dead counted by the SCPR, about 400,000 were directly due to violence, while the remaining 70,000 fell victim to lack of adequate health services, medicine, especially for chronic diseases, lack of food, clean water, sanitation and proper housing, especially for those displaced within conflict zones.
“We use very rigorous research methods and we are sure of this figure,” Rabie Nasser, the report’s author, told the Guardian. “Indirect deaths will be greater in the future, though most NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and the UN ignore them.
“We think that the UN documentation and informal estimation underestimated the casualties due to lack of access to information during the crisis,” he said.
In statistical terms, Syria’s mortality rate increase from 4.4 per thousand in 2010 to 10.9 per thousand in 2015.
The UN high commissioner for human rights – which manages conflict death tolls – stopped counting Syria’s dead in mid-2014, citing lack of access and diminishing confidence in data sources.
The SCPR was based until recently in Damascus and research for this and previous reports was carried out on the ground across Syria. It is careful not to criticise the Syrian government or its allies – Iran, Hezbollah, Russia. And with the exception of Islamic State, it refers only to “armed groups” seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. But despite the neutral tone the findings are shocking.
In an atmosphere of “coercion, fear and fanaticism”, blackmail, theft and smuggling have supported the continuation of armed conflict so that the Syrian economy has become “a black hole” absorbing “domestic and external resources”.Oil production continues to be an “important financial resource” for Isis and other armed groups, it says.
Consumer prices rose 53% last year. But suffering is unevenly spread. “Prices in conflict zones and besieged areas are much higher than elsewhere in the country and this boosts profit margins for war traders who monopolise the markets of these regions,” it says. Employment conditions and pay have deteriorated and women work less because of security concerns. About 13.8 million Syrians have lost their source of livelihood.
“The common characteristics across all regions are lack of security, the allocation of all resources to the fighting, the creation of violence-related job opportunities and imposition of authority by force.”
The shrinking of the population by 21% helps explain the waves of refugees reaching Turkey and Europe. In all, 45% of the population have been displaced, 6.36 million internally and more than 4 million abroad. Health, education and income standards have all deteriorated sharply. Poverty increased by 85% in 2015 alone.
The report notes that the rest of the world has been slow to wake up to the dimensions of the crisis. “Despite the fact that Syrians have been suffering for … five years, global attention to human rights and dignity for them only intensified when the crisis had a direct impact on the societies of developed countries.”
The conflict “continues to destroy the social and economic fabric of the country with the intensification of international interventions that deepen polarisation among Syrians. Human development, rights and dignity have been comprehensively ruined.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

DNA- اعترافات نعيم عباس - 09/02/2016

التحرير بالتدمير.. الرمادي "نموذجاً" في الحرب على داعش

التحرير بالتدمير.. الرمادي "نموذجاً"  في الحرب على داعش


المركز العربي للأبحاث ودراسة السياسات
المركز العربي للأبحاث ودراسة السياسات
بعد مرور نحو شهرين على إطلاق المعركة لاستعادتها، لم تتمكن القوات العراقية المسنودة بغطاء جوي أميركي كثيف، حتى الآن، من بسط كامل سيطرتها على مدينة الرمادي؛ إذ لا تزال بضعةُ أحياء منها تحت سيطرة تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية (داعش)، وتشهد أجزاء أخرى من المدينة معاركَ كَرٍّ وفرٍّ بين الطرفين. مع ذلك، بدأت الولاياتُ المتحدة التي تقود التحالف الدولي لمواجهة داعش تتحدث عن بدء الاستعدادات لمعركة تحرير الموصل، على الرغم من الإقرار بأنّها معركة ستكون معقدة وصعبة، وتحتاج إلى وقت طويل للتهيئة لها. 

الاستعداد لماذا؟
في الآونة الأخيرة، تكثّفت التصريحات الأميركية، وخصوصا الصادرة عن وزارة الدفاع "البنتاغون"، بشأن توسيع الاستعدادات العسكرية في إطار الحرب على داعش، إذ أعلنت الوزارة أنّها ستبدأ في نشر الفرقة 101 المحمولة جواً، أواخر فبراير/شباط الجاري (علمًا أنّ مصادرَ عسكرية عراقية أعلنت أنّ نشر 1800 عنصر من هذه الفرقة بدأ بالفعل، في قاعدتَي عين الأسد والحبانية في محافظة الأنبار). ومع أنّ وزارة الدفاع الأميركية أعلنت أنّ نشر هذه الفرقة لا يمثّل زيادة في عديد القوات الأميركية في العراق، وأنّها ستستبدل بقوات أخرى موجودة في العراق، وأنّ مهمات هذه الفرقة ستبقى محصورة في إطار التدريب والاستشارة، يجري تأويل نشر هذه الفرقة، بوصفه دليلاً على توسيع الجهد العسكري الأميركي، في إطار محاربة تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية "داعش"؛ فهذه الفرقة هي من قوات النخبة في الجيش الأميركي، وقد شاركت في حروب عدة، منها الغزو الأميركي للعراق سنة 2003، وهي، في العادة، تنفّذ مهمات إسناد ومهمات هجومية، مدعومة بطائرات الهليكوبتر المقاتلة. 

فضلاً عن ذلك، يتحدث التحالف الدولي عن تدريب نحو عشرين ألف مقاتل من أبناء ما درج الاحتلال الأميركي على دعوتها "العشائر السنية"، ليكونوا جزءًا من القوة المقاتلة لتنظيم "الدولة الإسلامية". ومع أنّ مشاركة وحداتٍ من هذه القوة في "تحرير" الرمادي غير واضحة، فالأكيد أنّ معركة الرمادي اعتمدت على عنصرين أساسيَين: القوات العراقية، والمقاتلون المحليون. ولذلك، كانت البلاغاتُ الرسمية العسكرية العراقية عن معركة الرمادي تستعمل تعبير "القوات المشتركة"، في الإشارة إلى التركيبة المؤلفة من هذين العنصرين.
من جهة أخرى، ما زالت ماهية هذه القوات المحلية التي يجري تشكيلها وتأهيلها غير معروفة؛ فهل هي بقايا تنظيمات الصحوة السابقة التي أنشأها الأميركيون عام 2007، في إطار ما عُرف بـ "خطة بترايوس"؟ أم هي ممّن يُعرف بـ "الصحوة الجديدة"، وهي التنظيمات التي أعاد رئيس الوزراء السابق، نوري المالكي، إحياءَها، بعد اندلاع حركة الاحتجاج في الأنبار والمحافظات السنّية، مطلع 2013، وسيطرة داعش على مساحات واسعة من محافظة الأنبار؟ أم هي مجموعة مختارة من عشائر الأنبار المختلفة؟ أم عناصر اختيرت بعملية تطوّع مفتوح؟
ويبدو أنّ الأميركيين كانوا يعملون بهدوء، وبصورةٍ غير معلنة، في بناء هذه القوة، حتى لا يخضع بناؤها للسجال السياسي بين الأطراف العراقية؛ ذلك أنّ التصور الأميركي للحرب على داعش يفترض أنّ هذه الحرب يجب أن تستند، أساساً، إلى قواتٍ ومقاتلين من داخل المجتمع المحلي السنّي. وقد تبلورت هذه الفكرة في ما عُرف بـ "الحرس الوطني". وهي منظومةٌ قتالية، نصّ عليها البرنامج الذي تشكّلت، بموجبه، حكومةُ حيدر العبادي، في سبتمبر/أيلول 2014، وكان ينبغي إعلانها بعد ثلاثة أشهر من منح البرلمان الحكومةَ الثقة، لتكون مؤسسة أمنية رسمية ثالثة، إلى جانب الجيش والشرطة. ولكن، أُجهضت هذه الفكرة، ولم يرَ الحرس الوطني النور، بسبب الخلاف الذي ثار على طبيعته، وتركيبته، ومهماته وحدودها، والجهة التي ستشرف عليه، وعلاقته بوزارة الدفاع والمؤسسات المركزية في بغداد من جهة، وبالحكومات المحلية من جهة أخرى. والواقع أنّ السبب الرئيس وراء إجهاض الفكرة هو خوف القوى الشيعية السياسية الحاكمة من إمكانية تحوّل الحرس الوطني إلى "ميليشيا"، أو قوة عسكرية، تمثّل أداة إسناد لمطالب سياسية "سنية"، أو تهدّد الحكم المركزي في بغداد، أو توظّفها قوى إقليمية. إنّه خوف قوى طائفية سياسية مسلحة في إطار الدولة من تبلور طائفيةٍ سياسيةٍ مقابلةٍ مسلحة في إطار الدولة أيضًا.
ولذلك، وبسبب ممانعة حكومة العبادي في تشكيل الحرس الوطني، بل ممانعتها في تسليح مقاتلي العشائر، لجأت الولايات المتحدة إلى بناء هذه القوات، بصورةٍ غير معلنة، لتضم، على الأرجح، خليطاً من عناصر "الصحوة الجديدة"، ومقاتلين عشائريين، ومتطوعين.

نموذج عامّ لمحاربة داعش؟
على الرغم من أنّ معركة تحرير الرمادي لم تُستكمل بعد مرور نحو شهرين على انطلاقتها، يتّجه "البنتاغون" إلى جعل معركة تحرير الرمادي نموذجا(model) للحرب على داعش. ولذلك، كان الإسهام الأميركي في هذه المعركة كبيراً: نحو 700 ضربة جوية، فضلًا عن التدريب والتسليح والتخطيط.
من هنا، يصحّ القول إنّ معركة الرمادي معركة أميركية، بهذا المعنى، وهي، بهذا المعنى أيضاً، تطبيق للإستراتيجية التي أعلن عنها الرئيس الأميركي، باراك أوباما، والتي تقوم على ثلاثة أركان رئيسة: الغارات الجوية الكثيفة، والاعتماد على قوات خاصة محدودة (مع إمكانية تنفيذ مهمات نوعية خاصة ومحددة)، ودعم قوات محلية وتأهيلها لخوض المعارك البرية والسيطرة على الأرض التي يخليها الخصم..
تحاول الإدارة الأميركية تقديم هذا النموذج بوصفه نموذجاً عاماً لقتال داعش، في أيّ مكان. ولذلك، حين تصاعد النقاش، في الأيام الأخيرة، عن إمكانية تدخّل عسكري غربي في ليبيا لمواجهة داعش، طرحت الولايات المتحدة الرؤية نفسها.. 
إقليمياً، يحاول النموذج الأميركي أن يثبت جدارته في سياق تنافس قوى مختلفة ومتناقضة في هذه الحرب، ولا سيما النموذج الروسي الذي، وإنْ كان لم يثبت نجاحاً بعد، ولم يستهدف داعش أصلاً حتى الآن بصورة أساسية، فإنّه يعتمد على غاراتٍ جويةٍ مكثفة، وميليشيات أجنبية، للسيطرة على الأرض. وعراقياً، هناك نموذج استخدام الميليشيات الشيعية التي أسهم الإيرانيون في بنائها، وتَمثّل في معركة "تحرير" تكريت ومحافظة صلاح الدين. يستند هذا النموذج إلى ميليشيا الحشد الشعبي، ولم يكن فيه للجيش النظامي ولا للمقاتلين المحليين، دورٌ أساسي. ومع ذلك، لم ينجح في دحر داعش من تكريت، في إبريل/نيسان 2015، من دون الدعم الجوي الأميركي المكثف. وقد أعقبت هذه العملية حملة انتقام من السكان واسعة، قامت بها الميليشيات.
أمّا النموذج الأميركي فيستند إلى قوات مختلطة (مزيج) من مقاتلين محليين والجيش النظامي، في حين يجري استبعاد مقاتلي الحشد الشعبي الذين قد تثير مشاركتهم حساسياتٍ طائفية، على نحو ما حدث في معركة تكريت، وما شهده الجدال المتصاعد عن إمكانية مشاركتهم في معركة تحرير الأنبار.
ومن جهة أخرى، ينبني التصور الإستراتيجي الأميركي لمواجهة داعش (وجزء كبير منه مستمد من تجربة قتال تنظيم "القاعدة" في العراق ما بعد 2003) على أنّ العنصر الأهمّ في هذه المواجهة هو تفكيك الحاضنة الاجتماعية لداعش، وأنّ المجتمع المحلي هو الوحيد القادر على هزيمة هذا التنظيم، بحسب ما أثبتت التجربة مع "القاعدة"، وذلك عبر إيجاد مصالح متعارضة بين داعش والمجتمع المحلي.
وبالقدر نفسه، تمثّل معركة الرمادي، في المنظور الأميركي، نموذجاً سياسياً، إلى جانب كونها نموذجاً عسكريًا؛ فالاعتماد على الجيش النظامي، بوصفه طرفاً رئيساً في المعركة، سيحمي المعركة من الحساسيات الطائفية المتوقَّعة. وأكثر من ذلك، سيكون دحر داعش من الرمادي دعماً لموقف رئيس الوزراء، حيدر العبادي، والتيار الشيعي "المعتدل" الذي لا يزال ضعيفاً في مواجهة التيار الشيعي السياسي القريب من إيران، والذي يتمثّل بالحشد الشعبي، والتنظيمات السياسية القريبة منه، ولا سيما تيار المالكي الذي استطاع تعبئة جزء كبير من الشارع الشيعي في العراق، بعد تصدّره الحرب على داعش، وتقديمه لها بوصفها صراع وجود. 

وهكذا، يمثّل "النصر" في الرمادي، من دون مشاركة الحشد الشعبي، دعماً لسياسات العبادي. ويعني هذا في المنظور الأميركي، أيضاً، ضرورة دعم حكومة مركزية قوية، يقودها طرف شيعي "معتدل"، قادرٌ على بناء توافقات مع الأفرقاء العراقيين. علمًا أنّ العبادي مازال يفتقر إلى إنجازاتٍ تُذكر على هذا الصعيد، بعد انقضاء نحو سنة ونصف على تشكيل حكومته، وستة أشهر على إطلاق مبادرته الإصلاحية؛ إذ لم يتحقق من البرنامج الحكومي أيٌّ من الفقرات الكفيلة بتفعيل المشاركة السنية في مؤسسة السلطة. ويبدو أنّ القاعدة التي دعمت العبادي، من جمهورٍ وتنظيمات ومؤسسة دينية، بدأت تتآكل، نتيجة عدم قدرته على تحقيق تقدّمٍ لجهة تنفيذ إصلاحاته الموعودة.

تغليب المقاربة الأمنية
على الرغم من انعكاسات هذه الإستراتيجية سياسيًا على المشهد العراقي، عبر تقوية موقف تيار "الاعتدال" الشيعي، وإشراك "السنّة"، وتمكينهم من إدارة مجتمعاتهم المحلية، تشير المعطياتُ إلى أنّ الولايات المتحدة بدأت تغلّب المقاربةَ العسكرية لمواجهة داعش، على حساب المقاربة السياسية/ المدنية - العسكرية التي شكّلت أساس رؤيتها. يحدث هذا حتى داخل إدارة الرئيس باراك أوباما الذي يبدو، إلى الآن، زاهدًا في رفع مستوى تدخّله العسكري في المنطقة. ولعلّ اتجاه وزارة الدفاع الأميركية إلى بناء قوات محلية، خارج إطار فكرة "الحرس الوطني"، هو جزء من تغليب هذه المقاربة الأمنية.
ومع تراجع واشنطن عن فلسفتها الأولى لمواجهة "داعش"، بوصف ظهوره يمثّل تعبيراً عن أزمة نظام سياسي، ومن ثم، ينبغي معالجة الجذور السياسية للأزمة، إذا كان من سبيلٍ للقضاء على داعش، ومع تراجع الحديث عن إصلاحٍ سياسي في العراق، يتعامل مع مشكلة المشاركة السنّية في مؤسسة السلطة، بوصفها مفتاح الاستقرار في العراق، تكون المقاربةُ العسكرية لمواجهة داعش حلاً مؤقتًا، قد يحقق مكاسب آنية، وانتصارات عسكرية، لكنّه بالتأكيد لن يستطيع بناء السلام، فيبقى البابُ مفتوحاً لعودة داعش، بوجوهٍ أخرى وأسماء أخرى، كما حصل مع القاعدة سابقاً.
وحتى استمرار المكسب العسكري نفسه لا يبدو مقنعاً؛ ذلك أنّ صورة الرمادي بعد التحرير كشفت عن تدمير 80% من مباني المدينة ومنشآتها وبنيتها التحتية، وهو ما بات يسمّى "نموذج كوباني في التحرير"؛ أي تحرير مدينةٍ بتسليمها مدمّرة بالكامل. ويرى طيفٌ واسع من المجتمع السنّي في العراق أنّه لا يوجد فرق كبير بين انتقاماتٍ تمارَس ضده عقب تحرير مدنه من داعش، وتدمير مدنه بالكامل في أثناء تحريرها.
لكن، حتى لو تجاوزنا مركزية المسار السياسي لمواجهة داعش، فإنّ السؤال المهمّ هنا هو: هل يمكن إقناع أبناء الموصل بجدوى المقاربة العسكرية لتحرير مدينتهم، إذا كان مصيرها سيكون كمصير كوباني والرمادي؛ محرّرة. ولكن، بخرابٍ كامل، وهي خلافاً للرمادي وكوباني، واحدة من أعرق الحواضر الإسلامية؟ 

Yemen: Huthi forces block vital hospital supplies fuelling humanitarian crisis in Ta’iz


The Huthi armed group and forces allied to it are endangering the lives of thousands of civilians in the southern city of Ta’iz by blocking the entry of crucial medical supplies and food over the past three months, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law, said Amnesty International.
Testimony gathered by the organization from 22 residents and medical staff living in Yemen’s third largest city paints an alarming picture of civilian suffering and hardship. Most of the city’s hospitals have shut down and the few that remain open are on the verge of collapse due to a lack of supplies. One resident’s new-born baby died hours after he was born because of severe oxygen shortages at the city’s hospitals.
“The Huthi forces appear to be deliberately barring the entry of civilian goods, including vital medical supplies and food, fuelling a humanitarian crisis with devastating consequences for residents of Ta’iz,” said James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“Blocking humanitarian aid is a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Residents are effectively trapped within an enclave of Ta’iz and depriving them of basic necessities amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population.”
Blocking humanitarian aid is a serious violation of international humanitarian law
James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International
All routes into and out of Ta’iz are controlled by the Huthi armed group and its allies. Restrictions on entering and leaving the city have tightened significantly since the conflict began. Only al-Duhi crossing to the west of the city has remained open on an intermittent basis, leaving residents largely trapped inside.
Residents told Amnesty International that members of the Huthi armed group and its allies have stopped civilians crossing checkpoints from bringing in fruit, vegetables, meat, clothes as well as gas cylinders for cooking and oxygen cylinders destined for hospitals, in some cases confiscating the goods. International humanitarian law absolutely prohibits the blocking of medical supplies.
All parties to the conflict must allow unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief for civilians.
Amnesty International spoke to five doctors in Ta’iz who said they are desperately in need of more anaesthetics, oxygen and surgical instruments to treat patients injured during ongoing fighting between Huthi and anti-Huthi armed groups inside the city.
Only four local hospitals within the enclave remain functional. Even these open and close sporadically depending on whether they manage to get hold of medical supplies, which in most cases have been smuggled in via a smuggling route over a mountain south of the city around 3,000m high.
My son was 14 hours old when he died... We took him to every hospital we possibly could
Mohammad Shihabi whose new-born baby died due to shortages of oxygen
took his new-born baby son to five different hospitals in December in a frantic search for oxygen but was unable to get the supplies needed to save his son’s life.
“My son was 14 hours old when he died… When he was born the doctors told us he needed intensive care and oxygen because he didn’t have enough fluids. We took him to every hospital we possibly could before he finally died. I wanted to take him outside the city but there was no way out,” he said.
Doctors told Amnesty International that at least 18 people, including five children, have died as a result of lack of oxygen in recent months.
The director of al-Rawdha hospital said they desperately needed oxygen cylinders for intensive care units and prenatal incubators.
He said Rawdha hospital was no longer able to take in patients requiring intensive care or surgery due to a lack of oxygen.
“We receive 15 to 20 such cases every day. Today we received five, three of them died. They were all civilians seriously injured during indiscriminate shelling,” he told Amnesty International in December.
He warned that another local hospital, al-Thawra was also running out of oxygen supplies.
According to the Ta’iz Medical Committee, a local group set up to help address the medical situation and reallocate supplies, before the conflict began the city’s hospitals required around 200 – 250 cylinders of oxygen per day. Today the four remaining operational hospitals have to share 20-30 cylinders between them, which are smuggled in across the mountains carried by donkeys. Average prices of smuggled oxygen cylinders have shot up from $20 to around $70.
Map of smuggling route into Ta'iz © DigitalGlobe; CNES/Astrium; Google Earth. MAP produced by Amnesty International.
“All parties to the conflict must ensure the delivery of medical aid to civilians in the city of Ta’iz. Deliberately obstructing such deliveries has had heart-breaking consequences for civilians requiring urgent medical care,” said James Lynch.
Samar Ameen, an activist from Khadeer, in the west of Ta’iz city, described to Amnesty International how members of the Huthi armed group confiscated a delivery of 34 oxygen cylinders destined for al-Thawra hospital in January.
“They held the driver for three days. He told me that they humiliated him and pressured him to confess he planned to deliver the oxygen to opposition groups,” she said.
Despite Samar Ameen’s repeated attempts to retrieve the oxygen cylinders by presenting evidence to prove the oxygen supplies were intended for al-Thawra hospital, the Huthi armed group refused to return them.
Around 80% of shops in the city are closed and the prices of smuggled goods have soared, with basic supplies now costing around four or five times the usual local rate. Many residents are struggling to afford food to feed themselves and their families.
Even bread has doubled in price. Abdullah Ali, a father to six young children and a resident of the poor al-Sameel neighbourhood, told Amnesty International: “I am unemployed and there are no work opportunities so every meal is a struggle…We need at least one bag of roti [bread] to feed the household for one meal”.
By blocking aid the Huthi armed group are deeply aggravating a cycle of civilian suffering in Ta’iz and flagrantly flouting international law
James Lynch
In late January the World Food Programme, Médecins Sans Frontières and Saudi Arabia-led coalition were allowed to make small aid deliveries into the enclave of Ta’iz but local residents told Amnesty International the supplies were woefully insufficient.
“All parties to the conflict have an obligation to ensure the civilian population in areas under their control has access to humanitarian aid. By blocking aid the Huthi armed group are deeply aggravating a cycle of civilian suffering in Ta’iz and flagrantly flouting international law,” said James Lynch. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

المقابلة الكاملة لأسرى حزب الله في ريف حلب الجنوبي - كارول معلوف

ملك البحرين يشيد بدور روسيا لاعادة الاستقرار إلى سوريا



موسكو ـ د ب أ ـ قال وزير الخارجية البحريني للصحفيين ان العاهل البحريني حمد بن عيسى آل خليفة أشاد خلال لقاء الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين اليوم الاثنين بما تقوم به روسيا نحو إعادة الاستقرار إلى سورية .
ونقلت وكالة الانباء الروسية “تاس″ عن السفير خالد بن أحمد آل خليفة قوله عقب اجتماع الزعيمين في مدينة سوتشي الواقعة جنوب روسيا “نعتقد ان على كل الدول الكبرى والمؤثرة التعاون مع روسيا من أجل اعادة السلام والاستقرار إلى سورية”.
يذكر أن روسيا بدأت في أيلول/سبتمبر الماضي حملة قصف في سورية ضد المتمردين لدعم الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد.
يذكر ان وزير الطاقة البحريني عبدالحسين بن علي ميرزا قد صرح امس الأحد إنه تم الاتفاق على استيراد الغاز الطبيعي المسال من روسيا.
وتابع: “عرضنا على موسكو استخدام المركز لتوزيع الغاز الروسي في منطقة الخليج”.

DNA- نصرالله يعطل انتخاب الرئيس- 08/02/2016



Moshe Dayan once said something like this:

"The Arabs Don't Read......

And When They Read They Don't Think......

And When They Think They Don't Act!"

How true! I really believe that. How else do you explain that the Arabs seem incapable of learning from the liberation struggles of others, and keep repeating the same disasters, over and over again? One Nakba after another!

The Palestinians used to be besieged and starved in their camps, until they surrendered and were defeated. Now the Syrians are doing the same thing!

Why not learn from the Vietnamese? Or from the Taliban, for God's sake?

Russia/Syria: Daily Cluster Munition Attacks

Increased Use of Widely Banned Weapon


(Beirut) – The Syrian-Russian joint military operation in Syria has included the use of internationally banned cluster munitions in at least 14 attacks across five governorates since January 26, 2016. The attacks killed at least 37 civilians, including six women and nine children, and wounded dozens.
The International Syria Support Group, a group of 17 countries and three organizations that is scheduled to meet on February 11 should make protecting civilians and ending indiscriminate attacks, including with cluster munitions, a key priority, Human Rights Watch said.
© 2016 Ahmad al-Farouq
Unexploded O-10 submunitions from a 3-O-8 cluster munition mortar projectile found in Douma, Damascus, after a cluster muntion attack on January 27, 2016. © 2016 Ahmad al-Farouq
“Any solution of the Syrian crisis needs to address ongoing indiscriminate attacks,” saidNadim Houry, deputy Middle East director. “A good place to start would be a commitment by Russia and Syria to stop using cluster munitions.”
The surge in cluster munition use has taken place in the context of intensified Russian and Syrian military action to establish control over key strategic territory in the governorates of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Homs, and Hama. The recent offensive around Aleppo has caused at least 20,000 people to flee towards the Turkish border. At least seven attacks also took place as government and anti-government forces met for peace talks in Geneva, which were suspended on February 3.
Any solution of the Syrian crisis needs to address ongoing indiscriminate attacks. A good place to start would be a commitment by Russia and Syria to stop using cluster munitions. 

Nadim Houry,

deputy Middle East director.
In the 14 documented cases, Human Rights Watch both interviewed at least one local source who was a witness to the attack or its immediate aftermath, and identified the type of cluster munition used by reviewing photographs or videos. Casualty numbers are based on name lists provided by medical personnel, local responders, and journalists.
The real number of cluster munition attacks is most likely higher, Human Rights Watch said. Local activists have reported at least eight additional attacks since January 26, including providing photographs and videos of remnants, but Human Rights Watch was not able to reach witnesses to those attacks.
© 2016 Firas Abdallah
Fragment pattern typical of the detonation of a submunition seen in the asphalt in Douma, Damascus, after a cluster munition attack on February 3, 2016. © 2016 Firas Abdallah
Some of the cluster munition attacks in recent weeks occurred in the northern governorate of Aleppo, near Nubbul and Zahraa, where government and pro-government forces attempted to break the siege imposed by armed opposition groups, including the Nusra front, on the two majority-Shiite towns.
In Anadan, seven kilometers from Zahraa, cluster munitions and other weapons were used in an air attack that also struck a field hospital on January 27, killing a nurse; two first responders and a local media activist said. A local television report shows fragmentation damage and flat tires on an ambulance and minivan--indicating cluster munition use--as well as the clearance of AO-2.5 RT/RTM submunitions.
Other cluster munition attacks have been recorded in pockets of opposition-controlled territory in government-controlled areas. For example, three witnesses told Human Rights Watch that on January 27, an aircraft dropped cluster munitions on Kafr Laha, a town in opposition-controlled territory near the city of Homs that is surrounded by Syrian government forces.
© 2016 Syria Civil Defense
Remnants of ShOAB-0.5 submuntions collected in Kafr Laha, Homs, after a cluster munition attack on January 27, 2016 © 2016 Syria Civil Defense
“I saw people who had their legs cut off,” a journalist with an opposition-affiliated media center who rushed to the area immediately after the attack told Human Rights Watch. “One person lost his eye. There were several people who were hanging between life and death. The injured were mostly women and children. All of them were injured from fragments from the submunitions, in the eyes, in the head, in the back. It was very hard to see.”
The journalist sent Human Rights Watch a list with the names of casualties. The list includes the names of 6 people, including a woman and 2 children, who were killed in the attack, and 59 people, including 13 women and 27 children, who were wounded.
Other witnesses, including a first responder, confirmed that six or seven people had been killed. All three witnesses said that those killed and injured were civilians. Graphic video that the Homs Media Center posted on YouTube shows injured people, including several women and children, being brought to a makeshift hospital for treatment.
Human Rights Watch received photographs taken by local people showing the remnants of an RBK-500 series bomb and its payload of ShOAB-0.5 submunitions. Three witnesses said there were no fighters or military targets near the impacted area. 
Cluster munitions are delivered from the ground by artillery and rockets, or dropped from aircraft and contain multiple smaller submunitions. A total of 118 countries have banned cluster munitions due to the harm caused at the time of attack and because their submunitions often fail to explode and threaten civilians and military alike, until cleared and destroyed. Syria and Russia should join the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Human Rights Watch said.
 © 2016 Syria Civil Defense
The remnants of the casing of an RBK-500 cluster bomb carrying ShOAB-0.5M submunitions found after a cluster munition attack on Kafr Laha, Homs, on January 27, 2016. © 2016 Syria Civil Defense

Human Rights Watch previously documentedat least 20 cluster munition attacks by the Russian-Syrian joint operation between September 30, 2015, when Russian aircraft began its military operations in Syria, and December 14.
Two types of the cluster munitions used in recent attacks were air-dropped and another two were ground-launched. Human Rights Watch was not able to determine whether the air-dropped cluster munitions were dropped by Russian or Syrian aircraft, or both.
At a news conference in Moscow on December 23, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian military, denied allegations that the air force has stockpiled cluster munitions in Syria,stating that “Russian aviation does not use them” and “there are no such weapons at the Russian air base in Syria.” However, the Conflict Intelligence Team open-source research organization has identified cluster munitions in photographs and video taken at Russia’s Hmeymim airbase in Syria by Russian media and the Russian Defense Ministry since the beginning of Russia’s air campaign. Based on an analysis of the distinctive physical characteristics of the weapons, Human Rights Watch has confirmed the identification of RBK series cluster bombs being loaded onto aircraft taking off from the base. On November 14, 2015, the Russian Ministry of Defense published a photo from its Syria operation that shows an Su-25 in flight with its munition visible. A Human Rights Watch weapons expert identified the munition as an RBK-500 ShOAB-0.5 cluster bomb.
Minutes after the January 27 cluster munition attack in Kafr Laha using RBK-500 series bomb and ShOAB-0.5 submunitions, a witness on the ground photographed a military aircraft that he said was flying near the attack site. He shared the photograph with Human Rights Watch which identified it as an Su-25. The photographer said that this was the only aircraft he saw in the air at the time of the attack. According to publicly available information, the Su-25 is not in service with Syrian forces. Russian forces have deployed at least 12 Su-25 to their airbase in Syria.
© 2016 Syria Civil Defense
An Su-25, an aircraft in service with Russian, but not Syrian, forces, photographed near Kafr Laha shortly after the town was attacked with cluster munitions. © 2016 Syria Civil Defense
Human Rights Watch is a co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition and serves as its chair. On October 1, the global campaign warned Russia against using any cluster munitions in Syria due to the “foreseeable and preventable” danger posed to civilians.
“Whether or not Russia dropped these cluster munitions, it is operating jointly with the Syrian government and as such has a responsibility to ensure that Russian-Syrian operations are not using indiscriminate weapons,” Houry said. “Russia should immediately ensure that cluster munitions are never again used in Syria, whether by its own or Syria’s forces.”
© 2016 Syria Civil Defense
Remnants of AO-2.5RT/RTM submuntions collected in Kafr Zita, Hama, after a cluster munition attack on January 30, 2016 © 2016 Syria Civil Defense
Human Rights Watch has documented the use of four types of cluster munition since January 26, which are listed in the table below.
DateLocationCivilian casualtiesTypeVisual confirmation
February 5, around 1 a.m.Talbiseh, Homs4 killed (1 child), 20 woundedRBK-500 series bomb with ShOAB-0.5 submunitions
Photos on file with Human Rights Watch
February 4, around 12 p.m.Douma, Damascus2 killed (1 child)3-O-8 cluster munition mortar projectile with O-10 submunitionsVideo: attack
February 3, around 11 a.m.Douma, Damascus1 killed, 10 wounded3-O-8 cluster munition mortar projectile with O-10 submunitionsPhotos on file
January 31, around 3-4 a.m.Hayyan, Aleppo2 killed (1 child; father and son), 5 woundedRBK-500 series bomb with AO-2.5RT/RTM submunitionsVideo: removal of submunition remnants
January 30, around 11 p.m.Hayyan, Aleppo2 children woundedRBK-500 bomb with AO-2.5RT/RTM submunitionsSame as above.
January 30, 1:30 p.m.Karam Howmad, Aleppo city1 woundedRBK-500 series bomb with AO-2.5RTM submunitions
Photos on file
January 30, around 1:30 a.m.Kafr Zita, HamaNoneRBK-500 series bomb with AO-2.5RT/RTM submunitionsVideo: submunition remnants
January 29, around 6:45 p.m.Azaz, Aleppo1 killed, 4 wounded9M79-series Tochka ballistic missile with 9N24 submunitions
Photos on file
January 29, around 3:30 p.m.Marea, Aleppo5 killed (1 child; all from same family), 15 woundedRBK-500 series bomb with AO-2.5RT/RTM submunitionsVideo: submunition remnants
January 27, around 3:30 p.m.Anadan, Aleppo1 killedRBK-500 series bomb with AO-2.5RT/RTM submunitionsPhoto: submunition remnants
January 27, around 2 p.m.Kafr Laha, Homs6 killed, 45 woundedRBK-500 series bomb with ShOAB-0.5 submunitionsPhotos on file
January 27, 10-11 a.m.Douma, Damascus1 killed (child)3-O-8 cluster munition mortar projectile with O-10 submunitions
January 26, around 10 p.m.Salqin, Idlib10 killed, 15 wounded9M79-series Tochka ballistic missile with 9N24 submunitionsVideo: missile remnant and impact craters
January 26, around 10 a.m.Douma, Damascus4 killed3-O-8 cluster munition mortar projectile with O-10 submunitionsVideo: projectile remnant