Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Israel Fires on Militants on Syrian Border


The Israeli military said its forces shot two militants as they were attempting to plant a bomb near the fence between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syrian territory on Wednesday. According to an army spokeswoman, Israeli intelligence had identified the men as members of Hezbollah. Lebanese military sources said the suspected Hezbollah fighters were wounded, and that they believe there could be clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in the coming days. Last week, Hezbollah accused Israel of carrying out an air strike hitting one of its bases along the Syrian-Lebanese border, and threatened to retaliate. Israel, however, did not confirm the attack. Meanwhile, Israeli naval forces said they intercepted a ship carrying Iranian arms manufactured in Syria. According to the army, the ship was sailing to Sudan, and the weapons were to be moved overland through Egypt to Gaza. The vessel was reportedly carrying dozens of M-302 rockets, which have a range of up to 100 miles.


Syrian government helicopters reportedly launched three air raids on Lebanese territory close to the border town of Arsal. According to Lebanon's National News Agency, the strikes hit Khirbet Yunin and Wadi Ajram, however it was unclear if there were any casualties. Meanwhile, U.N. human rights investigators released a report Wednesday saying that all parties in Syria's war are using shelling and siege tactics to punish civilians, and that world powers are responsible for failing to prevent war crimes. Additionally, investigators confirmed that sarin gas was used in three chemical weapons attacks in March, April, and August 2013 and that the agents likely came from the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military.  


  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain have pulled their ambassadors from Qatar accusing the country of failing to comply with a 2013 security agreement following a GCC meeting.
  • The trial of 20 journalists, including Al Jazeera staff, has resumed in Egypt a day after the trade and investment minister, Mounir Fakhyr Abdel Nour, said their detainment was a mistake.
  • Western countries are pushing Iran to clear up suspicions it had worked on designing an atomic bomb with the United States saying this "will be critical" to ensure sanctions relief.
  • Nine bombings targeting mainly Shiite areas of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killed at least 12 people Wednesday.

Arguments and Analysis

'Gulf trio pull Qatar ambassadors -- why now?' (Theodore Karasik,  Al Arabiya)

"The real question is what comes next. As of today, all the movement to create a GCC Union and to rally the monarchies around each other in defense and preservation of the old order of the Gulf region seems to be crumbling. What we could see next is a return to the days of the early 1990s when the Saudi-Qatari border was the site of occasional shoot-outs and road blockages in order let imported food rot by the side of the road. Qatar may also choose to use tribal disputes across the Gulf region, particularly the al-Murrah who have been pawns before between Riyadh and Doha.

We may see Qatar pull its Ambassadors from the GCC states which will further isolate Qatar, forcing Doha to move closer to Iran and Turkey. On the commercial front, there may be a closure of air space which would have a tremendous impact on Qatar Airlines plus the shutting down of trade of goods to Doha by both land and sea as noted above. Finally, we may also witness the restriction of gas flow via the Dolphin Project. In other words, all types of unofficial sanctions are plausible if Qatar does not make real, immediate, meaningful changes."

'The Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union' (Aron Lund, Carnegie Syria in Crisis)

"But the rise of such hardline, Gulf-funded Salafism within the Damascus insurgency is not the whole story. Other brands of Islamic thought have also thrived among the rebels, and more moderate religious movements indigenous to the Damascus area have in fact contributed greatly to the rebellion there. In addition, Alloush's dominance in Douma didn't sit well with some other local groups, and his announcement of the Islam Army in September 2013 was immediately followed by intrigues and protests among the rebels in Douma.

In early November 2013, a large number of Islamist rebel groups in the wider Damascus region announced a new collaborative structure called the "Greater Damascus Operations Room." This structure excluded the most radical jihadis, such as al-Qaeda's Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- but it also excluded the Islam Army."

--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr


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