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US Special Operations Forces strike inside Syria

The attack carried out by helicopter-borne United States Special Operations Forces inside Syrian territory on October 26, 2008. The raid is the first known attack by U.S. forces inside Syrian territory. According to the U.S. military, the target was a network of foreign fighters who travel through Syria to join the Iraqi insurgency against the United States-led Coalition in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government.

The helicopter-borne troops carried out the raid inside eastern Syria near Abu Kamal, which is near the Iraqi border city of Al-Qa’im, regarded by the U.S. as the main crossing point into Iraq for fighters, money, and equipment in support of the Iraqi insurgency. Read More…

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On this day September 28, 1961

A military coup in Damascus effectively ends the United Arab Republic, the union between Egypt and Syria established on February 1, 1958, as a first step towards a pan-Arab state, the UAR was created when a group of political and military leaders in Syria proposed a merger of the two states to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Gamal Abdel Nasser

Gamal Abdel Nasser

Pan-Arab sentiment was very strong in Syria, and Nasser was a popular hero-figure throughout the Arab World following the Suez War of 1956. There was thus considerable popular support in Syria for union with Nasser’s Egypt.

The UAR collapsed after a coup d’état in Syria brought a secessionist group to power. The separation was deeply contested in Syria, and a bitter political struggle reflected in popular commotion and street confrontations ensued until the Ba’th Party, Nasserists and other pro-union elements took power in 1963.

The union, however, was not re-established. Egypt, now alone in the United Arab Republic, continued to use the name until 1971 after Nasser’s death.

Seventeen killed in Syrian car bombing

Seventeen people have been killed and a further fourteen injured today in a car bomb blast in the Syrian capital Damascus.

A Syrian television station said that the area has been cordoned off by the Damascus police force. The area where the bomb went off was Mahlak Street which is close to a security post on the road leading to the international airport and also close to a shrine which was popular with Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese pilgrims.

According to the television station that told the news, the car was packed with 200kg of plastic explosives. Car bomb attacks are rare in this area, the station claims.

This blast has been the first since the assassination of Imad Moughniyah, the military commander of the Hezbollah Islamist group in February this year. A senior security officer was also killed at a beach resort near the port of Tartous under mysterious circumstances. Several explosions blamed on Sunni Muslim militants opposed to Syria’s secular government have also taken place over the last few years.

Hizbullah and Syria gaining strength

On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told troops training in the Golan Heights that Hezbollah and Syria are strengthening and that the delicate balance that Israel has had with the Lebanese militant group since the end of the Second Lebanon War is threatened.

“The other side is getting stronger. It is not a coincidence that we are holding a large-scale intensive exercise here in the Golan,” said Barak. “We’re following closely the violations of the [regional] equilibrium by Hezbollah and Syria, and the strengthening beyond the fence.” Read More…

At least 25 killed in Syria jail riot

A riot in a prison located in the Syrian city of Damascus has resulted in 25 deaths, according to reports provided by human-rights groups. Military police fired into the rioters, who were protesting against alleged violence against prisoners.

Prisoners have claimed that they were routinely beaten by officers. One said that “they [the guards] shackled our hands behind us, confiscated our clothes and possessions, and beat us. And they insulted the Koran, they trod on the Koran.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights strongly criticized the Syrian government’s reaction to the incident. This was made clear in a statement released yesterday. “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights demands that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad intervenes immediately to stop this massacre,” it said.

Some of the prisoners have claimed that they have taken hundreds of hostages. They say that they did this to increase the pressure placed on the Syrian government.

Israel undergoes major emergency drill

Israel has tested its readiness for a state of war and emergency by testing its emergency services and shelters on a national scale. The drill is to be analyzed in order to determine the elements which need to be corrected and fixed, and Israel’s emergency readiness is to be assessed.

Israeli school children were told to hide under their school tables as part of the drill, which officials claimed to be the biggest drill ever in Israeli history. Syria has claimed, in return, that the drill is intended as a battle readiness exercise and claims that Israel is preparing for war.

Israeli air strike targeted Syrian nuclear reactor

Israel’s air strike on Syria last month was an attempt to knock out a partially constructed nuclear reactor, according to officials with access to American and Israeli intelligence reports, the The New York Times reported on Sunday. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad previously said that Israeli jets had dropped bombs on an unused military building.

Although Syria has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a legal right to build a nuclear reactor for the purposes of generating electricity, and it is not obligated to disclose work on such a reactor during the early stages of construction.

According to The New York Times sources, the Bush administration was divided at the time over whether to support the Israeli attack. The article quotes an American official as saying that “[t]here wasn’t a lot of debate about the evidence [of the reactor’s existence]”, but that “[t]here was a lot of debate about how to respond to it.”

The attack is reminiscent of a 1981 Israeli raid that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq shortly before it was scheduled to come online. Bush administration officials have stated that the 1981 attack set back Iraq’s nuclear program by many years. The New York Times article quotes an Israeli official as saying that the purpose of the strike was to “re-establish the credibility of our deterrent power.”