United States launches first airstrikes in Syria
The United States and Arab allies bombed Syria for the first time on Tuesday, killing dozens of ISIS fighters and members of a separate Al Qaeda-linked group, pursuing a campaign against militants into a war at the heart of West Asia.
“I can confirm that U.S. Military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against (ISIS) terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.
US Central Command said Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated in or supported the strikes against ISIS targets around the eastern cities of Raqqa, Deir al-Zor, Hasakah and Albu Kamal.
Targets included “fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance centre, supply trucks and armed vehicles,” it said.
Separately, US forces acting alone launched strikes in another area of Syria against an Al Qaeda-linked group, the Nusra Front, to “disrupt imminent attack” against US and Western interests by “seasoned Al Qaeda veterans”, CentCom said.
US-led strikes on extremist groups in Syria were “very successful,” according to initial assessments Tuesday by the Pentagon.
“Our initial indication is that these strikes were very successful,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters hours after US-led attacks on the forces of the ISIS jihadist group and other extremists.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said at least 20 ISIS fighters were killed in strikes that hit at least 50 targets in Raqqa and Deiral-Zor provinces in Syria’s east.
It said strikes targeting the Nusra Front in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib had killed at least 50 fighters and eight civilians. The Nusra Front is Al Qaeda’s official Syrian wing and ISIS’ rival. The Observatory said most of the fighters killed there were not Syrians.
The air attacks fulfil President Barack Obama’s pledge to strike in Syria against ISIS, a Sunni Muslim group that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq, imposing a mediaeval interpretation of Islam, slaughtering prisoners and ordering Shias and non-Muslims to convert or die. ISIS vowed revenge.
“These attacks will be answered,” an ISIS fighter told Reuters by Skype from Syria, blaming the “sons of Saloul” a derogatory term for Saudi Arabia’s ruling family for allowing the strikes to take place.
The Sunni fighters shook West Asia by sweeping through northern Iraq in June.
From Hamas royalty to Israel’s spy
WASHINGTON – The son of one of the founders of the biggest Palestinian militant group decides to work with Israel. He spends a decade working undercover with the Israeli security service, the Shin Bet, thwarting dozens of Palestinian attacks and contributing significantly to the arrest or elimination of dozens of leading Palestinian militants.
This sounds like the makings of a Hollywood big budget spy thriller. In fact, it is the plot of a documentary, The Green Prince, based on the autobiography of Mosab Hassan Yousef.
Yousef and his handler in the Shin Bet, Gonen Ben Yitzhak, narrate the film, which somewhat frenetically throws together surveillance footage and live interviews. Although the film tries to focus on the growing bond between Ben Yitzhak, “The Handler”, and Yousef, “The Asset,” there is an underlying tension in the filmthat is only partially due to the sense of overwhelming danger that Yousef faced on a daily basis.
The most obvious question that is raised by the film is “how does the son of Hassan Yousef, who helped found Hamas and is one of its most prominent leaders to this day, become a spy for Israel?”
The film itself offers only a very succinct answer to this question. As a youth, Mosab was arrested by Israel and was tortured in his interrogation, which was also when he was identified as a potential mole.
He was then sent to prison, where he witnessed far worse torture by Hamas activists, including murder, against fellow Palestinians they suspected might be Israeli agents. This, he said, convinced him to take up the Shin Bet’s offer to work for them.
Indeed, it seems that Mosab’s disillusionment with the Palestinian leadership runs much deeper than just antipathy toward Hamas. In the film, Hamas is the focus, but in the wake of Israel’s recent devastation of the Gaza Strip, the absence of the difficulties of occupation in the film is even more keenly felt. Yet Mosab very much holds to the Israeli view of recent events.
“Palestinians can continue to export their internal problems and blame Israel, but at the end of the day, they have bigger problems than occupation,” he told IPS. “There is corruption, greed, and mismanagement; those are actual enemies of Palestinian people.
“If they can come to a higher conscience where they can see violence is not the way, but negotiations and co-existence is the higher path to achieve their freedom, then the international community will trust them and build bridges. But as long as Hamas is digging tunnels and promoting extremism, I don’t see how anyone can co-exist with this type of danger.”
In fact, in the past few years, Mosab has become something of a minor celebrity on right-wing and fundamentalist Christian talk shows. His message varies, but his target is often Islam in general.
In 2010, on the Canadian news show, Power and Politics, Mosab told a shocked host that “The problem is much bigger than Hamas, the problem is in the God of Islam … he is a god of torture, he is the deceit god, this is what he talks (sic) about himself.”
More recently, on September 6, in the aftermath of the massive destruction by Israel in Gaza, Mosab told Fox News that “I recommend that we stop saying ISIS, this is the Islamic State, this is the Islamic dream, and this is the manifestation of the Koranic verses on the ground.”
This echoes the views he has espoused several times as a guest on the far-right wing Sean Hannity show.
When talking with Pat Robertson on his Christian Broadcasting Network in 2010, which caters to the most extreme of Christians in the United States, Mosab continually spoke of his love of Jesus and how Jesus was the only true path to peace.
This would displease many Jews who have come to adore him, not only for his story but for stances like the one the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported him telling an orthodox Jewish crowd in 2011.
“There is no room for another state in that small country [of Israel],” he said. “The Jewish nation has the historic right to that land [in] the West Bank …The Israeli historic right to this land is obvious and clear to any person who can read.”
All of this raises some real questions about Mosab’s motivations, and indeed how sincere the story we saw in the film was. The Green Prince shows a man who made a difficult choice but believed he was doing it to save lives. The film does note that Mosab converted to Christianity, but gives no hint of his deep antipathy toward Islam.
What we do see in the film, quite clearly, is the growing bond between Mosab and his Shin Bet handler, Gonen Ben-Yitzhak.
Ben-Yitzhak, now a lawyer in Israel after losing his job with the Shin Bet, echoes Yousef’s view that the Palestinians are to blame for the perpetuation of the conflict, although Ben-Yitzhak has a somewhat less idealized view of Israel.
“Look, I’m not pleased with all Israeli policies,” Ben-Yitzhak told IPS. “But now, Palestinians need to find a way to develop. But for many years, they are stuck with bombing and terrorism and violence. Many (people around the world) criticize Israel, but can you compare occupation to blowing up people on a bus? What is the comparison, what are the values that make him blow himself up?
“I’m sure he doesn’t share any values with you … My grandparents, although they suffered and left family in Europe, took responsibility to build a new future, rather than wait for an outside power, a miracle to change their lives. The biggest problem the Palestinians have is that they don’t take responsibility for their own lives, waiting [instead] for the outside world to do something.”
Clearly, Mosab and Gonen built a strong and devoted bond. They both believe that their friendship can be a model for co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I don’t see a big difference between Israelis and Palestinians,” Gonen told IPS. “When I worked with Shin Bet, I was working with people. I didn’t see a Palestinian as anything but a human being. If we all look at each other as human beings, not as Israelis, Palestinians, occupier and occupied, we can solve these problems.” Mosab put forth a similar sentiment.
Yet it seems that this coming together only happened because Mosab fully came over to the Israeli worldview, and a somewhat extreme one at that. This accounts for some of the discomfort in the film, where one has the feeling that there is a lot that is being omitted. Mosab’s and Gonen’s relationship seems more like a blueprint for surrender than for co-existence.
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