- Majed al-Majed
Al-Qaida and the Saudi-American alliance
By Ghaleb Kandil
Al-Qaeda affiliated groups were officially consecrated as tools of the US-Saudi aggression against Syria, and the government of the two countries are scrupulously implementing the instructions of the head of the network, Ayman al- Zawahriri.
Recent developments in Syria deserve a reminder about the last statement of the leader of Al Qaeda, who ordered the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, better known under the name of Dae’ch) to withdraw from Syria and settle for the representation of the organization in Iraq. Al Zawahiri has officially dubbed Al-Nosra Front, to whom he attributed the title of representative of Al-Qaeda in Syria. Al- Nosra is now an ally of the Islamic Front, which count among its ranks qaïdistes brigades and armed branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamic Front led by Zahrane Allouche, the man of Saudi intelligence leader, Bandar bin Sultan, and publicly has the support of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, with the blessing of the United States.
Dismemberment of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) shows the true identity of the terrorist groups fighting the people and the army in Syria. The return of thousands of deserters to the ranks of the regular army, taking advantage of the presidential amnesty, is a natural manifestation of the emergence of Al- Qaeda and its Takfirists components, which are waging a bloody war for control resources.
Since the beginning of the events, it was clear that countries that started the war were using terrorists and remnants of Al-Qaeda groups in an attempt to destroy the Syrian state and its capabilities. The aim was to punish Syria for its role in the resistance movement against the Israeli and American hegemonic plans, for which three total wars were launched against Lebanon and Gaza. These attacks have failed, as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which has not achieved its goals.
Since the command of aggression against Syria was entrusted to Bandar bin Sultan, the role of Al- Qaeda has continued to grow and expand. Today, the branches of this organization are fighting each other for control of resources. This is particularly the case in Afghanistan, where terrorists fight among themselves to control the smuggling connection of opium.
Behind the bloody landscape in Syria appears a dangerous strategic reality, which should lead to a condemnation of the United States and the Saud dynasty, responsible with their Qatari and Turkish allies, of this plague. Al-Qaeda is not only responsible for crimes against humanity in Syria but also for terrorist acts in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Somalia. The organization is now at the gates of Europe.
As demanded by Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, priority must be given to the fight against terrorism. International policy must be put in place to make public the roles played by different countries in the support and development of Al-Qaeda in Syria and elsewhere.
Michel Sleiman, Lebanese President
«In the absence of an agreement on a union government within 10 days, there will be a new cabinet. Positive signals came from (the leader of the Future Movement) President Saad Hariri, in the context of negotiations revolving around the formula 3x8.»
Ali Hassan Khalil, Caretaker Health Minister (Amal Movement)
«The formation process is positively developing, discussion is open and contacts are still ongoing whether directly or indirectly. The atmosphere is positive to reach a lineup and we are open to any meeting to reach an all-embracing Cabinet that could prepare for the upcoming presidential election.»
Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader
«Saad Hariri has not taken a final decision yet, or convinced the Lebanese Forces to join the proposed cabinet, and debates on the formation of the cabinet are ongoing.»
Misbah Ahdab, Former MP of Tripoli (March-14)
«The March 14 coalition should look for compromises that would protect Lebanon instead of handing it over to the Syrian-Iranian authority once again in return for some ministerial portfolios that are non-conducive to effective decision-making to address people’s problems. How can you ask the supporters of the Cedar Revolution to follow in your footsteps once again while you make mistakes harming the Lebanese and their aspirations by agreeing to take part in a government imposed by Hezbollah? The supporters will surely reject your concessions once again.»
• Head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun left for Rome Sunday where he is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at The Vatican. The MP’s visit comes amid a flurry of political activities aimed at breaking the deadlock and forming a new government in preparation for the upcoming presidential election.
• Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad made a rare appearance on Sunday to attend prayers at a mosque in the capital Damascus, state television reported. Assad, who has only been seen in public a few times since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, was shown at the Al-Hamad mosque in the capital’s northwest for prayers marking the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. Among those alongside Assad were Syria’s top Sunni authority, Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassun, and Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi. Assad’s last public appearance was on October 15 for prayers at the time marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. His latest appearance came as Western powers stepped up pressure on Syria’s divided opposition to enter talks with Assad’s regime at the start of a new round of diplomatic efforts to end the country’s 34-month conflict.
• The late Abdullah Azzam Brigades chief Majid al-Majid was buried in Riyadh on Saturday evening after his corpse was repatriated to Saudi Arabia. Members of the Bin Laden family, who are related to the Majid family, were present at the funeral. Majid’s relatives have vowed revenge for his death because they believe that the Al-Qaeda-linked figure had been killed, and did not die of natural causes as the Lebanese judiciary announced. Majid, who claimed responsibility for the November 19 attack against the Iranian embassy in southern Beirut, passed away last week while in army custody in a hospital in Beirut. He had been arrested on December 26 by Lebanese army intelligence while he was receiving treatment for kidney failure.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Malak Akil (January 9, 2014)
Secret meetings are performed by the 14-Mars with its allies and official leaders in order to find a practical formula that can translate on the ground superfluous slogan brandished at the funeral of former minister Mohammad Chatah by the Chief of the Future Parliamentary bloc, Fouad Siniora. The latter forced his political camp, without prior consultation with its various components, to engage in a "peaceful and democratic civil resistance." For the Kataeb party, Siniora’s proposal for the launch of "civil disobedience" expresses only his position, since it is necessary to consider the consequences of such an action and its impact on constitutional deadlines including presidential, before its adoption.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily, close to March-14 Coalition)
Samir Tueni, Paris (January 10, 2014)
The French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, announced the gift promised by Saudi Arabia to the Lebanese Army during the visit of President François Hollande to the kingdom on 29-30 December. Diplomatic sources say the Saudi decision to grant a donation to arm the Lebanese Army was taken on the basis of a proposal put forward by France in Riyadh under the donors meeting devoted to army to be held on the 15th of this month and has been postponed until March.
According to the same sources, Saudi Arabia has approved the French proposal immediately and French authorities were surprised by the amount of the Saudi donation. Tripartite consultations involving the Lebanese side, led by President Michel Sleiman, the French President, Francois Hollande, and Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz, took place here and more than three months were needed to discuss the aid to be granted to the troops. The Lebanese President had a telephone conversation recently with his French counterpart on this issue during his visit to France for medical reasons, and with the Saudi monarch during his visit to Saudi Arabia. It seems that Riyadh and Paris have agreed that a French firm responsible for the management of arms deals between France and Saudi Arabia, to take over the management of this support program.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Marc Abizeid Rizk (January 11, 2014)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose legacy includes the killing of tens of thousands of Arabs over his six-decade military and political career, is dead. He took his final breath on Saturday afternoon at the age of 85 after lying comatose for eight years following a stroke on January 4, 2006.
His death marks the end of a bullish Israeli leader who commanded the respect of his subordinates, amassed loyal partisans, and struck fear in the hearts of his enemies.
Palestinian officials reacted to news of the Israeli leader’s death, calling him a war criminal who evaded justice in his lifetime.
"Sharon was a criminal, responsible for the assassination of (Palestinian president Yasser) Arafat, and we would have hoped to see him appear before the International Criminal Court as a war criminal," said Jibril Rajub, a senior official of the Fatah party.
Hamas, the Islamist party ruling the Gaza Strip, said Sharon’s death was a "historic moment," marking the "disappearance of a criminal whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood."
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, also regretted that Sharon never faced justice.
"His passing is another grim reminder that years of virtual impunity for rights abuses have done nothing to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace any closer. For the thousands of victims of abuses, Sharon’s passing without facing justice magnifies their tragedy," she said.
Social media users in the Middle East and across the world reacted to the news of the death of the once terrorizing and widely abhorred figure.
Sharon began his military training in 1942 at the age of 14 before joining the British Mandate’s Jewish police force in Palestine three years later.
Simultaneously he partook in covert operations with the Haganah – the British-allied Jewish militia behind killings, massacres, and acts of sabotage against Palestinian targets that eventually led to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the Nakba.
In 1953 Sharon was chosen to head a new Israeli military formation they called Unit 101. Under his command Israeli soldiers committed what would become known as the Qibya massacre with the killing of dozens of Palestinians, mostly women and children according to Israel’s own historians.
That bloodbath, which saw families shot dead on their doorsteps as they tried to flee the invading forces who besieged their small West Bank village, was internationally condemned, drawing rebukes from the United States and the UN Security Council.
But Sharon’s merciless behavior was rewarded by his Zionist chieftains. He quickly rose from the ranks, serving as a commander or regime official in nearly every Israeli war and act of aggression until the stroke that would eventually lead to his death.
He will forever be remembered in Lebanon as the “Butcher of Beirut” for his role as defense minister in the 1982 invasion which killed an estimated 20,000 people that year alone, the overwhelming majority of them civilians.
His most notorious crime during the 1982 siege of Beirut was the Sabra-Shatila massacre, which left about 2,000 civilians dead. Human rights activists and families of the victims have long called for Sharon to face war crimes charges.
The three-day massacre was carried out from September 16 to 18 by Phalangist militiamen who were ushered into the Palestinian refugee camps by Israeli forces shortly after the expulsion of Palestinian fighters from the Lebanese capital.
Al Akhbar (January 10, 2014)
Twitter user @wikibaghdadi is exposing what he calls "the secrets of Baghdadi’s state," revealing the hidden affairs of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s rule. The person behind the account shadows Baghdadi, the emir of ISIS, and recounts the story of al-Nusra Front’s emergence.
Since December 10, a new Twitter account has come to light, claiming to publish the "secrets of Baghdadi’s state," better known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The sequence of information on the page indicates that the leaks are coming from a former leader of ISIS, before he defected and joined al-Nusra Front. The account reveals momentous information on the formation of al-Nusra and the secrets behind the ongoing conflict with the ISIS.
The account exposes the State by posing several questions and replying to them. He provides answers about the identity of the ISIS “emir,” Baghdadi, and the names of members of his council, their plans, and funding sources. It recounts how Baghdadi rose to the top in ISIS, the reasons behind expanding their activities to Syria, and the policies adopted by the organization’s commanders.
It also speaks of the pivotal role of an Iraqi officer, who accompanies him all the time, and a Saudi officer called Bandar bin Shaalan, who plays a major role in supporting ISIS.
In brief, @wikibaghdadi provides a detailed account of names, pseudonyms, evidence, and facts about interrelated events. Whether true or not – and Al-Akhbar was not able to verify the accuracy – the information is fit for a documentary, exposing the secrets of clandestine jihadi groups and their modus operandi.
The leaks maintain that he is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Bou Badri bin Armoush, known as Abu Awwad or Abu Doaa. Abu Bakr is an alias.
According to the leaks, Baghdadi worked in Fallujah and served as an imam in a mosque in Diyala. Baghdadi is not from Baghdad, since he belongs to the Bou Badri clan, which is a part of the Bou Abbas clan from Samarra, which claims to be a descendant of Imam al-Hassan Bin Ali. This means Abu Bakr has roots in the Quraish tribe, which is a condition for becoming an emir in a jihadi group. However, the Alawi Heritage Validation Organization, which authenticates Hashemite heritage, published a statement in 2009 maintaining that the Bou Badri are neither descendants of Mohammed al-Jawad nor of Bin Idris, and thus do not belong to the Hassans as they claim.
The page indicates that the ISIS leadership council is 100 percent Iraqi, saying that Baghdadi would not accept any other nationality, since he does not trust anyone. The number of people in the council always changes, ranging between eight and 13 people. The leadership of the council is held by three former Iraqi army officers who served during the regime of Saddam Hussein.
They are commanded by a former Iraqi army colonel called Hajji Bakr, who joined ISIS when it was under the command of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (killed in 2010). Hajji Bakr was appointed as a consultant to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hafs al-Muhajir, after providing them with military information about combat plans and communication methods with former Baath commanders.
The leaks mention that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was not a member of the former leadership council of the Islamic State of Iraq, headed by Abu Omar, although he was part of the organization and lived in Fallujah. However, after the killing of Abu Omar and his deputy, Hajji Bakr surprised everyone in the military council by supporting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a new emir of the organization.
A new phase of the State began under two leaders, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in public and Hajji Bakr behind the scenes. The appearance of the colonel, "a beardless western imitator," next to Abu Bakr, irritated members, so he grew a beard and changed his appearance and mannerisms. However, the members are not allowed to inquire about the leadership, "since inquiring is doubting, and doubting is a break in ranks, which calls for blood."
The Islamic State of Iraq began working on two tracks. The first guaranteed the cohesion of the group and its safeguarding from inside, by creating security detachments to eliminate any internal faction which posed a danger. In parallel, Baghdadi and Hajji Bakr agreed that the former would stop meeting with secondary officers in the organizations and start giving his orders through a shura council established by the colonel. The second track focused on building a security apparatus to conduct assassinations and secret killings. It began with 20 members and reached a hundred in a matter of months, under the command of a former officer, Abu Safwan al-Rifai, and directly under the leadership of the organization. The role of this apparatus was limited to assassinating dissenters and defectors from the main figures of the group, in addition to local leaders and Sharia scholars.
In terms of financial sources, they continued the work of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, confiscating the belongings of Shia, Christians, other non-Muslims, and regime collaborators, even if they were Sunni. In addition, they took over oil sources, energy and fuel plants, government factories, and any other financial source owned by the Iraqi state. That which they were not able to completely confiscate, they would threaten to kill their owners or blow up the company, unless they paid monthly protection money under the moniker of taxation. Installing checkpoints on the long highways, they also collected money from commercial trucks.
The financial returns of the group started rising, allowing it to pay enticing salaries and reward military operations. This led to an increased interest in joining the organization. During that time, Colonel Bakr appointed a shura council with all Iraqi members. This continued until the events of Syria, which began in 2011.
How did ISIS start and whose idea was it? Why did Baghdadi send Abu Mohammed al-Golani to Syria, and why was he quick to announce the disbanding of al-Nusra Front and its merger with ISIS? What is the threat he sent to Golani, prior to the announcement of the State? The unknown source answered these questions in hundreds of tweets, as follows.
When the Syrian revolution began, members of the Islamic State of Iraq began looking to Syria. Colonel Bakr feared that they would start going to Syria to fight, leading to the collapse of the group and opening the door, through Syria, for officers in the organization who were thinking of defecting. Thus, Baghdadi forbade going to Syria and considered all those who disobeyed his order to be defectors. He justified this by saying that the situation was still not clear and patience was required.
At the same time, Bakr proposed the idea of forming a non-Iraqi battalion to go to Syria under the command of a Syrian. Thus, no Iraqi officer would be able to join the Syrian front without prior consent and this would guarantee that Iraqis would not defect from the group. The new leadership in Syria could attract non-Iraqi fighters from abroad.
This was the beginning of al-Nusra Front, under Golani. The Front soon became famous worldwide, attracting "jihadists" from the Gulf, North Africa, Yemen, and even Europe. Hajji Bakr and Baghdadi feared this quick rise, since the new recruits to al-Nusra Front owed their allegiance to the "State of Iraq," or Baghdadi.
Hajji Bakr proposed to Baghdadi to order Golani to announce in a voice recording that al-Nusra is officially under the "State of Iraq" and Baghdadi’s leadership. Golani promised to think about it, but many days passed without any announcement, so Baghdadi sent him a warning. Golani reiterated his promise to think about it and consult the mujahideen and scholars around him, before sending Baghdadi a letter saying that this would not be in the interest of the revolution, based on the opinion of the Front’s shura council.
Baghdadi and Bakr were furious, especially after the United States decided to include al-Nusra Front on its terrorist list, making Golani the most wanted person in Syria. This raised the anxiety of Baghdadi and the colonel, who believed the Front would become a direct competitor to the State.
Politically, Golani was being pragmatic, but the fears of the colonel and Baghdadi were bigger than his assurances, which led Bakr to consider taking advanced steps to incorporate al-Nusra Front into the State. At a meeting in Turkey, Baghdadi asked Golani to conduct a military operation against the leadership of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), under the pretext of "targeting the future councils of US agents before they become big in Syria."
Al-Nusra Front’s shura council held a meeting and unanimously rejected the orders. Baghdadi and the colonel considered this a clear act of disobedience. Baghdadi sent a strongly worded letter to Golani giving him two options: obey the orders or al-Nusra will be disbanded and a new entity created. They waited for Golani’s reply, which never arrived, so Baghdadi sent an envoy to Golani, who refused to meet him.
Baghdadi began feeling the threat, since Golani was getting out of control. He then sent Iraqi commanders from the State to meet the leaders of the Front, to entice them with the dream of an Islamic state from Iraq to Syria, under a unified leadership. Some of them were supportive, but most were muhajireen, or foreigners. However, al-Nusra Front soon threw some of them in jail, accusing them of spreading takfir.
Baghdadi was determined to announce the merger. The leadership council of the State agreed he should go to Syria to give greater impetus to the announcement. The Iraqi emir met with influential leaders in the Front, claiming that the reason behind the announcement was to unify the ranks of jihadis, and summoned Golani to a meeting.
Golani apologized for security reasons, so Baghdadi asked him to publish a statement in his name, to safeguard unity, announcing the disbanding of al-Nusra Front and its merger into a new entity under the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Golani replied saying this would be a grave mistake, which would tear apart the popularity he built among Syrians.
Here, Bakr suggested that Baghdadi issue a statement in his name announcing the dissolution of al-Nusra, but without isolating Golani, hoping he would return to his senses. They communicated the date of announcement with leaders from al-Nusra, to prepare them to announce their allegiance to Baghdadi in his presence, since he would be in Syria. Baghdadi exploited the fact that Golani was hidden from the main leaders and sheikhs in the Front.
Al-Nusra Front was split into three groups. The first joined Baghdadi, the second chose Golani, and the third remained neutral. This was the beginning of the war of mutual accusations of breaking the ranks of Muslim jihadis. This was the time when a Saudi officer, called Bandar al-Shaalan, appeared. He became the link between Baghdadi and al-Nusra officers who later joined him.
At the same time, Bakr and Baghdadi found out that Golani would not submit to the orders to disband al-Nusra and was preparing a press statement to announce his rejection. The colonel suggested that Baghdadi form a security detail with two tasks. First, they would take over all the arms depots controlled by the Front and eliminate all those who refused to hand them on the spot. This would deny al-Nusra ammunition and arms, leading their people to reject them and join Baghdadi’s state.
The second mission was to eliminate Golani and his close associates through explosives under their cars. Thus, the main leaders of al-Nusra were targeted. This led Golani to seek the head al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to solve the dispute and save al-Qaeda from embarrassment. Zawahiri called on jihadi figures from Yemen and Saudi to mediate between the two sides, but Baghdadi avoided meeting them. This made the situation worse, in light of the constant threats against Golani, so he issued a statement refusing to disband al-Nusra Front, putting the issue in the hands of Zawahiri. The rest of the story became well known in the media.
Al Akhbar (January 12, 2014)
The events in the Iraqi province of Anbar serve Iran’s interests, and its role there seems larger than originally thought. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s role remains controversial, as some sources confirm the kingdom’s support for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Many questions were raised in the last few days about the correlation of the military operation in Anbar with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s recent visit to Iran, as well as whether the Saudi cover for the US decision to wipe out ISIS in Syria also extends to Iraq.
The first question is reasonably justified, mainly because the military escalation started days after Maliki returned from Tehran, where he met Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Back then, Khamenei expressed in a written statement: “What you [Maliki] are doing for your country is a step that deserves evaluation, but Iraq needs much more.” This message was seen as Khamenei expressing his dissatisfaction with the performance of Maliki, who is seeking a third term as prime minister.
Leaks regarding the meeting suggest that Khamenei, with his refined diplomatic language, expressed to Maliki his astonishment about the violence in Iraq, all while the prime minister seeks a new term in office. He advised him to deploy all efforts to put an end to the violence.
Khamenei offered Iran’s assistance in providing intelligence regarding takfiri groups and their leaders in Iraq, leaving Maliki to deal with the Americans. He also advised the prime minister to take tangible steps in the interest of his people in order to gain their support to remain in office.
Certainly, such a large military operation couldn’t have taken place without full cover from the United States. Some Iraqi sources even revealed that the United States made a direct request in this regard, and offered a wide range of assistance.
Many also attribute the operation to improved relations between Baghdad and Ankara. Leaders in western Iraq are close to Turkey, and any Turkish opposition would have hindered the operation.
The Turkish position was reflected by Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said on Jan. 9 that his country “naturally doesn’t want groups affiliated with al-Qaeda to be active in Iraq or Syria,” and “supports the efforts deployed by Iraq’s government forces and Sunni tribes to fight these groups at this stage, mainly in Anbar.” He also stressed on “not alienating Sunnis from the political process and adopting a transparent policy as soon as possible and before April 30 elections.”
The Saudi position should also be taken into consideration when observing events in the region. Security and military forces in Iraq stress that “Saudi is the root of all evil.” They base their conclusions on intelligence and prisoners’ confessions. This stance was reflected by Maliki who accused an “Arab state” of standing behind the events in Anbar.
Iraqi political circles have a similar position, but adopt a somewhat different approach. For them, there are no obvious differences between ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other takfiri groups in Anbar as in Syria. Sources said, “These groups came to light in the middle of the last decade to keep Shia from ruling after they failed to keep them from reaching power.” Following the Syrian crisis, the mission of these groups expanded in order to provide logistic support and supplies for fighters in the neighboring country.
The sources explained that the main artery of the Saudi supply line totakfiris in Syria goes through the Anbar desert, passing from the Saudi borders to Houran and Wadi al-Abyad. In the caves of these lawless valleys, fighters keep their armories and establish training camps for foreigners joining the battle in Syria.
According to sources, “If Saudi Arabia is in fact supporting the eradication of ISIS in Anbar, it would actually be shooting itself in the foot as it would be offering Iraq to Shia on a silver platter, and blocking its main supply line for armed groups in Syria.”
Interestingly, Iraqi authorities started leaking information about the Saudi involvement with ISIS yesterday. A high-level security source mentioned the confessions of an ISIS leader arrested in Anbar who revealed that his group received $150 million before the government crackdown on protesters.
The source said, “An ISIS leader confessed to receiving $150 million one day before removing the protesters’ tents in addition to 60 four-wheelers with the slogan ‘made especially for Saudi Arabia’ written on them.”
He added, “The ISIS leader also mentioned a meeting between the official spokesman of a political bloc with a Saudi intelligence officer and criminal Shaker Wahib [leader of Anbar Lions] 20 days before the latter’s death.” He said the meeting took place in a field in Rawa district in western Iraq where they discussed the actions to be taken after the government removes protesters’ tents.
Al Raï (Kuwaiti daily, January 8, 2014)
A source close to Hezbollah military command ensures that the fighters deployed by the party in Syria do not exceed 5% of its force and a small part of its military capabilities. The source adds that the most elite troops remain in Lebanon to deal with different challenges, including those from Israel, which multiplies the threats and covert operations, which Hezbollah will retaliate with even more powerful shots .
The mentioned source said that the party continues to observe without pay interest the media storm unleashed by Israel on the qualitative arms that would be in his possession. "Hezbollah woulf not enter controversy in the media that could benefit Israel, says the source. Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had openly stated that the party has sufficient military capabilities to impose a balance of terror. Hezbollah has everything he needs in defensive and offensive weapons to cause the greatest losses to the enemy if he dared to attack Lebanon."
AFP (France-Press Agency, January 12, 2014)
Syrian troops seized a rebel-held town north of Aleppo Saturday and pushed toward part of Aleppo city, taking advantage of fighting between rebels and jihadists elsewhere, activists said.
"Regime forces have taken over the area of Naqarin and are advancing towards the industrial area of Aleppo city," said the Aleppo Media Center, a network of activists on the ground.
"This advance is clearly a result of the rebels being busy fighting Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham," activist Nazeer al-Khatib told AFP in a Skype call.
The army’s moves come eight days after Islamist and moderate rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a major offensive against ISIS.
On Saturday, ISIS militants fought pitched battles with other rebels in the northwestern town of Saraqeb and seized the frontier town of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey after Islamist rebels pulled out, a monitoring group said.
ISIS militants also battled rebels in the northern city of Raqqa, where they captured a train station and a checkpoint run by other rebels, said the Observatory.
The corpses of dozens of ISIS fighters were found in a Raqqa hospital, the monitoring group said.
Meanwhile, muezzins in Jazra, a town west of Raqqa, urged residents to identify the bodies of dozens of Islamist fighters who had been abandoned on the battlefield, added the Observatory.
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