In association with Bro Don Pearce (Rugby UK) Keep up to date with Bro Don’s Snippets – Email Don at Snippets@MilestonesUK.org Just put in the subject line ‘Snippets Request’ state if you would prefer word doc or pdf format. ( If not stated, both will be sent as samples so you can decide) It’s that easy! Below is an extract from today’s 8th Jan which covers (1-4th Jan 2016)
The Australian 02-Jan-16
Syria’s civil war has intensified on Israel’s doorstep, injecting further risk and uncertainty into he conflict as forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad push towards a sensitive frontier with the Jewish state.
The offensive launched by the Syrian army and allied militia was the first in the country’s south since Russia joined the war three months ago and revives fighting in the Golan Heights, the fortified border Israel shares with Syria.
In the teeth of the onslaught, Syrian rebel groups claimed the attacks were supported by Russian warplanes, though there was no independent confirmation of this.
As an avowed ally of Assad, Russia has been accused of targeting Syrian opposition forces in addition to striking Islamic State, an enemy it shares with the US-led military coalition involving Australia as well as the embattled dictator’s regime.
Russian generals boasted this week that aerial bombing had destroyed more than 2000 road tankers smuggling black market oil into Turkey from Islamic State-held territory in Syria and northern Iraq, disrupting a key supply of hard currency to the jihadist group.
At the same time, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 2371 people had died in the Russian air bombardment of Syria to date, 792 of them civilians.
The number of opposition fighters killed — 924 — exceeded by half Islamic State’s casualties, the London-based monitor estimated.
Syrian government forces kicked off the ground attack on Thursday under the cover of fog and freezing rain, storming villages near the Israeli border in a bid to claw back territory lost to the rebel alliance during the past two years.
“You can hardly (see) someone only a few metres away from you,’’ said Abu Yahya, a spokesman for a rebel group quoted by Reuters.
Israel occupied its portion of the Golan Heights in 1967 and the volatility of the border with Syria’s Quneitra province has been underlined by the bloody civil war that has raged there since 2011.
The Israeli military has been accused of reaching an accommodation to keep the peace with Syrian rebel groups, including al-Qa’ida offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as al-Nusra Front, under which injured fighters have been transferred to Israeli hospitals, angering the largely pro-Assad Druze community that has a presence on both sides of the frontier. The Israel Defence Forces denies this.
But Israel’s professed neutrality was brought into open question this week when it was accused by Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shia militia backed by Iran, another Assad sponsor, of assassinating one of its commanders.
The man, Samir Kuntar, was found responsible for leading a notorious 1979 terrorist attack in Israel that killed a father, two children and a policeman.
Kuntar was released in 2008 from an Israeli jail as part of a swap by the Israelis with Hezbollah, which he represented in Syria in defence of Assad’s government.
Kuntar died on December 19 when his apartment building in Damascus was levelled by an explosion caused, according to Hezbollah, by an Israeli missile strike.
While an Israeli government minister welcomed his death as “happy” news, officials would not be drawn on whether the IDF was responsible, or claims that Syrian civilians had died along with other Hezbollah field commanders.
The organisation’s leader in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, publicly vowed revenge against Israel.
The Syrian government offensive in Quneitra, so close to Israeli military positions in the Golan, risks inflaming the tensions. The commander of one opposition group has accused the Russians of launching dozens of air raids in support of the attack.
Reeling, the rebels were reported last night to have been pushed out of the village of Samdaniya al Gharbiya near the Israeli border.
The hub of Hamdanieh in the Syrian Golan Heights was a scene of savage fighting, according to local reports. Syrian state media said Kuntar was involved in planning an unsuccessful push by government forces in the area last February.
Since then, Islamic State columns have encroached on the Golan, complicating the security outlook for the Israelis.
The country’s southern border with Egypt in the Sinai desert is also under pressure from insurgents affiliated with Islamic State, arguably the group’s most successful franchise.
However, the extremists are losing ground in their heartlands of south and central Syria and central and northern Iraq, reinforced by the recapture of the Iraqi city of Ramadi by Iraqi government forces this week.
The damage the Russians claim to have inflicted on Islamic State’s bootleg oil business will add to the squeeze, though the US disputes the toll Moscow has trumpeted. Islamic State is estimated to extract 44,000 barrels of oil a day in Syria and 4000 barrels days in Iraq, which is largely moved to market through Turkey, swelling its war chest.