Israel and the Southern De-escalation Zone: A Closer Look at the Israeli-Syrian Border

In mid-June, Syrian and pro-regime forces began what they see as a decisive (and long overdue) campaign in southern Syria aimed at eliminating the rebel resistance within the southern “de-escalation” zone along the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The military campaign involved substantial Syria government forces advised and assisted by Russian military and air force personnel.

The regime and its allies have demonstrated superior military power, which has already “convinced” over 30 towns to return to regime control. Some rebel-controlled cities – Busra al-Sham, the surrounding villages to its south, and al-Jieza – agreed to comply with “reconciliation agreements,” requiring the surrender of arms and removal of key rebel leaders. In contrast to previous agreements, large scale evacuations of the area are to be avoided. However, rebels who contest the deal will be evacuated to the rebel stronghold around Idlib in northeastern Syria, which remains under Turkish supervision. Following the regime and its allies’ conquest of the majority of the northeastern part of the former “reconciliation zone” in Derʿa Province, talks will focus on the remaining rebel territory in Derʿa’s western countryside and the southern half of the city. In the meantime, according to UN estimates, the battles have pushed more than 320,000 people out of their homes, mainly towards the Israeli and Jordanian borders.[1] View full post…

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Syria’s Mind-Boggling Numbers

There are more than 150,000 ‘documented’ deaths in the civil war. The real number is likely much higher

Wall Street Journal

They arrive every day, the body counts from Syria, consistent and painful: 141, 201, 152, 81 (a lucky day, that last one). But somewhere along the way we stopped paying attention. Perhaps it’s because it’s no longer clear who’s pulling the trigger; who is killed and who remains at large, kidnapped by another pro-regime battalion or the latest murderous jihadi group.The world is getting tired of this war, and the Syrians appear to be tired from fighting. Last week was a relatively “quiet” week, by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’s count. Nineteen civilians, including 11 children and two women, were killed by aerial bombardment in Om al-Amad. A child was killed by sniper fire in the Jam’iah al-Zahraa area and a woman in al-Wafdin. Another child was killed by a mortar in the al-Neirab camp, and two children and a woman were killed by the regime’s bombardment of Soran. A dozen other tragedies of this sort add up to a weekly death rate in the low 30s—a decent “weather” report in Syria.April’s count, which marked the third year of the Syrian uprising, was much bloodier. Take the last week of April: A Syrian government missile slammed into the Ein Jalout elementary school in the eastern part of Aleppo, according to Al Jazeera, killing at least 19 people, including 10 children. This happened as teachers and students were preparing an exhibit of children’s drawings depicting Syria at war. A day earlier, al Nusra claimed responsibility for twin car-bombings that killed at least 79 civilians in Homs. Another 21 fighters from the government-funded, Alawite-manned National Defense Force were killed in other battles.In the previous week, Tarek Ghrair, aged 15, was killed when a mortar exploded near the Homs football stadium. Nine people in total were reportedly killed in the blast. Tarek was a promising young footballer and so the Syrian Football Association published its condolences. As for the others, it seems that no one found the time to mention their names. View full post…
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Choosing Not To Choose

Nir Boms and Asaf Hazani.Middle East Online

Israelis have used a variety of terms to describe the past few years’ events in the Arab world, reflecting how different actors have perceived the changes. What began as an “Arab spring” grew into a dangerous “radical Islamic winter”; and as Israel’s leaders remained unable to define the nature of the transformations, it became a “Middle East upheaval.” Gradually the tendency to swing between optimism and pessimism turned into profound puzzlement.

Impressed by the domino effect of the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia, Israelis initially saw the wave of protests as a fascinating sociological experiment taking place “over there,” far from its own borders. The country continued to think of itself as separate, a unique case in the Middle East or, as former Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak (2007-13) put it, “a villa in the jungle.” Even the “tent protests” that broke out in the summer of 2011 were seen as an expression of bourgeois discontent, a summer adventure related more to events in the United States and Europe (the Occupy movement, the Indignados) than to the regional turbulence.

Israel initially chose to remain aloof. And although the Arab Spring made Israeli headlines, major developments in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain went unremarked upon since they were not seen as directly affecting national security.

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Some Quiet Humanitarian Diplomacy on Syria

The Journal of International Security Affairs

JERUSALEM— In its meeting this past May, the World Health Organization adopted a resolution condemning the “deterioration of the health conditions of the Syrian population in the occupied Golan as a result of the suppressive practices of the Israeli occupation.” The resolution, a brainchild of the Syrian and Palestinian delegates, joined sundry other attempts to condemn Israel in the international and UN-related institutions. Interestingly enough, this condemnation came just as yet another group of wounded Syrians had crossed the Syrian-Israeli border to be treated in a military hospital that was set up for that precise purpose in the Golan. As of this writing, over 100 injured. View full post…

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