Showing posts with label Yochanan Visser. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yochanan Visser. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2019

Field Report: Syrians are Cheering Israeli Airstrikes on Their Country Friday, May 31, 2019 | Yochanan Visser Israel Today

Field Report: Syrians are Cheering Israeli Airstrikes on Their Country

Friday, May 31, 2019 |  Yochanan Visser  Israel Today
Support for Israel Growing among Syrians and Druze on Golan Heights
Reporting about Syria is a difficult job since there are few foreign reporters in the country due to the dangers they encounter, and because of the amount of fake news about the Syrian war, which is mainly coming from Iranian media and Syria’s state-controlled media.
So when I got a report about Syrians celebrating Israeli airstrikes on their country I thought this was fake news, too.
The Syrian Observer, an independent online news service on Tuesday published a report which was written by an anonymous Syrian citizen reporter who operates under the name ‘Ana Insan’ ("I am a human" in Arabic) and edited by Malek Abu Khair. 
The report claimed that Syrians were posting joyful tweets and posts on social media “whenever there is news of Iranian, Hezbollah or Syrian regime positions being hit by Israeli warplanes.”
The author also reported that pro-Assad-regime supporters do the same whenever the Russian air force bombs civilian sites and villages in the Idlib Province in northwest Syria, where the Syrian army and the Russians are trying to take over the region by using ruthless force.
‘Ana Insan’ wrote that there is, however, a stark difference between the celebrations of pro-Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime.
The first group “celebrates the bombing of Iranian positions, chosen carefully without images showing the extent of the damage, being a purely military site, and which are kept silent about because they are military secrets,” according to the author of the report.
The second group is “celebrating Russian bombardments accompanied by regime barrel bombs of sites that are mostly houses and villages, along with dozens of bloody images of crimes against civilians, most of them buried under the rubble of their own homes,” Ana Insan wrote.
The citizen reporter was criticized by an Egyptian, who sent a message apparently from a Syrian asking "how Ana Insan and other Syrians could be celebrating an Israeli bombardment of their territory?"
Ana Insan then sent the Egyptian “17 bloody and terrifying images of the bombardment on Idlib’s villages” and wrote that one of those celebrating the Israeli aerial bombardments had lost a number of relatives as a result of these bombings.
To verify if there could be truth in the Syrian Observer report, I traveled to my Druze sources in the village of Majdal Shams at the foot of Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights.
During the now 8-year-old Syrian civil war and my four-year stint as Middle East reporter for the Arizona-based news site The Western Journal, these sources often proved to be of value when I wanted to find out what really was going on in Syria.
Hamad (not his real name, which I can’t publish to protect his family in the Syrian Druze village Khader opposite Majdal Shams), one of my sources and a Druze shopkeeper in Majdal Shams, confirmed the Ana Insan report and said that things are often much more different than the picture that is painted by the official media.
The Druze shopkeeper and my other Druze sources in Majdal Shams all have relatives in Syria, many of them living in Khader, but also in Suweida, which is a mainly Druze region in Syria also known by the name “Druze Mountain.”
They are in constant contact with these relatives and also follow Arabic-language reporting on Syria.
Hamad told me that people in territories that were re-conquered by the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian allies live in constant fear.
His uncle who used to live in Khader was executed for posting a critical message about Assad on Facebook last year. Others disappeared or went into hiding to escape arrest after the regime and its Shiite militia allies retook control of Kuneitra and Daraa Province, which is bordering both Israel and Jordan.
Hamad also reported that Druze in Majdal Shams have been staging pro-Assad demonstrations to protect their relatives on the Syrian side of the border. This is done to give Assad the impression that the Druze on the Golan Heights are still supporting the regime. The same goes for the Druze in Syria, according to the shopkeeper.
He said that many younger Druze on the Israeli Golan Heights are currently contemplating application for Israeli citizenship now that the US government has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the mountainous plateau.
The support Assad still enjoys among the Druze on the Israeli Golan Heights is rapidly shrinking, my source claimed, while emphasizing that only the elders in Majdal Shams are still dreaming of returning to Syria one day.
About 20,000 Druze live on the Israeli Golan Heights, while 110,000 more live in other parts of northern Israel. Druze in Lebanon, Syria and Israel mainly live in high places because of a long history of persecution at the hands of Muslims.
“The Jews and we have one thing in common,” Hamad said. “We know how to lay low and to protect our community,” he added, referring to the long history of persecution of Jews in Europe.
PHOTO: Flash90
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Monday, February 11, 2019

ANALYSIS: Iranian Missile Threat to Israel Increases - Yochanan Visser Israel Today

ANALYSIS: Iranian Missile Threat to Israel Increases

Monday, February 11, 2019 |  Yochanan Visser  Israel Today
New reports about Iran’s presence in Syria indicate the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is currently looking for another location for its headquarters in the devastated country, another indication the Iranians have no intention to leave Syrian soil.
This happened after a series of Israeli airstrikes which repeatedly destroyed weapon storage facilities and the so-called Glass House, the headquarters of the Quds Force at Damascus International Airport.
The latest Israeli aerial attack on Iranian facilities near the airport in Damascus, which took place on Jan. 29 and followed a failed Iranian attempt to hit an IDF base at Mount Hermon with a missile, was apparently too much for the Quds Force and its commander Qassem Soleimani.
The missile strike by the Israeli air force (IAF) was conducted from Lebanese airspace and destroyed a weapon storage facility near the Glass House and the entrance to the passenger terminal at Damascus International Airport.
Soleimani has his own headquarters in a heavily guarded compound located along the Road of the People’s Palace in Mezzah, a neighborhood in western Damascus.
The same neighborhood also houses Shiite militias from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and the headquarters of Hezbollah in Syria and the Syrian Republican Guards.
Israeli military intelligence and the Israeli intelligence blog Intelli Times now report that the Quds Force is relocating part of its military infrastructure to the so-called T-4 air force base between Homs and Palmyra (biblical Tadmor).
The T-4 base, however, has been the target of IAF strikes as well and is considered still within reach of the Israeli air force despite the deployment of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile shield which was delivered to Assad’s army at the end of last year and has now become operable according to some observers.
Intelli Times reportedly discovered the Iranian move after it tracked a Syrian Ilyushin 76 cargo plane which was on its way from Tehran to Damascus but disappeared from the radar after which the editors of the Israeli blog determined the aircraft headed to T-4.
A couple of hours later the plane continued its usual flight route to Damascus International Airport.
The Iranians initially thought they could avoid IAF airstrikes on its base at the airport of Damascus by building military facilities close to buildings in use for civilian purposes but the continuing Israeli strikes on the buildings caused tensions with the Assad regime.
President Bashar al-Assad wants foreign airlines to return to Damascus and is feverishly working to restore ties with Middle Eastern and other governments after he won the 7 year-long civil war with Russian and Iranian assistance.
Assad’s brother Maher, who is considered close to Soleimani, is reportedly helping the Iranians and their Shiite proxies with the relocation of the Iranian bases and weapon storehouses and has allowed the construction of new Iranian missile facilities at Syrian army bases in the Damascus area.
One of these bases is home to the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian army which is commanded by Maher al-Assad.
The Iranians are working nonstop to expand their missile arsenal in Syria and are seeking to produce the Burkan-2H short-range ballistic missile and a new version of the Golan 1000 missile which has a payload of 450 kilograms. 
Local Syrian media on Sunday published new satellite images which delivered evidence of the construction of the new Iranian facilities at Syrian army bases and the reconstruction of missile facilities destroyed by Israel.
Aman, the Israeli military intelligence agency, last week reported Iran decided to relocate the underground missile facilities it was building in Lebanon until they were exposed by Israel and subsequently removed by Hezbollah.
The Organization of Technological Industries (OTI) in Syria helped Iran and Hezbollah circumventing US and European sanctions and is assisting Iran and Hezbollah with the development of precision-guided missiles in Syria.
At the same time, Iran continues to expand its arsenal of mid-range and long-distance (nuclear-capable) ballistic missiles.
The past few weeks Iran unveiled or tested two new guided missiles which could be used in a future war against Israel.
On Saturday, the IRGC unveiled the Dezful surface-to-surface missile which has a reach of 700 kilometers after successfully testing its new Hoveizeh cruise missile with a range of 1,330 kilometers.
IRGC commander Mohammed Ali Jafari unveiled the missile at a thus far secret underground ballistic missile facility dubbed “the underground city”  according to Fars News in Iran.
“Displaying this missile production facility deep underground is an answer to Westerners … who think they can stop us from reaching our goals through sanctions and threats,” Jafari reportedly said.
The IRGC commander attacked the European Union which on Monday last week finally uttered a condemnation of Iran’s ballistic missile program and said it was “gravely concerned” by Tehran’s recent activities.
Indicating Iran for the first time Iran could still be working on nukes the EU said the Iranian activities “deepen mistrust and contribute to regional instability.”
“Iran should refrain in particular from any work on missiles designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon,” according to the EU statement which stopped short of announcing European sanctions against Iran.
The Trump Administration, meanwhile, is upping up the pressure on other countries to follow its lead and to (re)impose “tougher international restrictions to deter Iran’s missile program.”
UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic in 2015 calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
PHOTO: Will Israelis again be rushing to gas mask distribution centers as Iran's missile arsenal in Syria grows? (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

ANALYSIS: How Israel is Working to Defeat the Iranian Axis - Yochanan Visser ISRAEL TODAY

ANALYSIS: How Israel is Working to Defeat the Iranian Axis

Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  Yochanan Visser  ISRAEL TODAY
On Tuesday, during the appointment ceremony of incoming IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu told Iran to get out of Syria fast.
 "I'm telling you, get out of there fast. We won’t stop attacking," Netanyahu told participants in the ceremony.
His comments followed an official statement at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday in which Netanyahu confirmed the latest Israeli action against Iran in Syria.
“Just in the last 36 hours the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised,” Netanyahu told his cabinet.
The Israeli leader claimed the IDF and IAF had “worked with impressive success to block Iran's military entrenchment in Syria” and had struck “Iranian and Hezbollah targets hundreds of times.”
In interviews with Israeli broadcasters and The New York Times (NYT) the outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot revealed more about how the Israeli military had succeeded to trim the Iranian military build-up in Syria and Lebanon.
Eisenkot said that the Israeli military had carried out “thousands of strikes” against the Iranian axis in Syria and in 2018 alone had used more than 2,000 missiles and bombs to stop Iran from building up its forces in the war-torn country.
The outgoing IDF commander also confirmed Israel could try to assassinate Qassem Soleimani the shrewd commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Soleimani is the driving force behind the attempt to encircle Israel and has established umbrella organizations of Shiite militias in both Syria and Iraq which are functioning as Iran’s proxy army in the region.
Eisenkot claimed the Israeli military had effectively stopped the Iranian military build-up in Syria and confirmed Iran is now increasing its entrenchment in Iraq where the IRGC-founded Hashd Al-Shaabi organization of predominantly Shiite militias is controlling the northern part of the country after the defeat of ISIS’ Caliphate.
The turning point in the covert war between Israel and Iran came when Soleimani ordered the launch of 30 missiles at northern Israel in the night of May 10, 2018.
None of these missiles reached their target but it gave the IAF the opportunity to deliver a devastating blow to the Iranian axis in Syria.
A fleet of 28 F-15 and F-16 warplanes launched missiles and dropped bombs at “80 separate Iranian military and Assad regime targets in Syria,” according to Eisenkot.
The former Chief of Staff claimed that as a result of the carefully prepared operation, which was dubbed ‘Operation Chess” by the IDF, Soleimani decided to withdraw his forces from the Golan Heights and to shift his focus from Syria to Lebanon and Gaza.
The destruction of Hezbollah’s attack tunnel project (Operation Northern Shield) and the revelation that Iran was actively helping Hezbollah with the conversion of crude rockets into GPS-guided missiles dealt another devastating blow to Soleimani’s Israel project, however.
The exposure of the underground missile facilities Hezbollah built with Iranian help in the Beirut area forced the Iranians and Hezbollah into dismantling the project, according to the Israeli government.
Operation Northern Shield has so far resulted in the destruction of six attack tunnels which were already crossing the Israeli border. The operation not only deprived Hezbollah from an important weapon but also delivered a mortal blow to the Iranian plan to surprise Israel in a future multiple-front-war.
The IDF operation also restored Israel’s deterrence vis a vis Hezbollah as it bore all the hallmarks of psychological warfare. 
It was no coincidence Eisenkot waited for four years before ordering the destruction of the tunnels at the moment Hezbollah neared their completion.
The video of a scared Hezbollah operative who came to inspect an IDF robot which was equipped with a small explosive device and a camera was another example of the psychological warfare the IDF uses against the Iranian axis.
The images of the Hezbollah men fleeing after the device exploded in his face were very humiliating for the Iranian proxy. 
Then there is Gaza where the Iranians acted via its IRGC branch Islamic Jihad and its newfound ally Hamas in the beginning of November 2018.
Soleimani reportedly ordered the escalation on November 9 and 10 and asked the Palestinian terror organizations to open up a new front in southern Israel.
Eisenkot now revealed why he opposed a new ground operation in Gaza.
The former IDF chief told NYT that he thought Israel should focus its attention on winning the war against Iran and called Hamas “a weak enemy”.
“When you fight for many years against a weak enemy, it also weakens you,” Eisenkot claimed while adding the IDF is making “continuous and kinetic efforts” to degrade the military capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
His successor  Maj-Gen Aviv Kochavi is expected to continue Eisenkot’s sophisticated and intelligent warfare.
“The IDF is getting an excellent Chief of Staff,” President Reuven Rivlin said during the appointment ceremony of Kochavi while PM Netanyahu praised the incoming IDF chief of staff for his out-of-the-box thinking.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

ANALYSIS: Russia Makes Israeli Airstrikes in Syria Virtually Impossible - Yochanan Visser israel today

ANALYSIS: Russia Makes Israeli Airstrikes in Syria Virtually Impossible

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 |  Yochanan Visser  israel today
Things heated up on the Israel Lebanon border on Tuesday when soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) prevented IDF soldiers from erecting a barbed wire fence on the Israeli side of the so-called Blue Line, the UN recognized international border between Israel and Lebanon.
It took an intervention of a UNIFIL unit to prevent things from spinning out of control.
The LAF falsely claimed that IDF soldiers had entered Lebanese territory on four places and said the Israeli action constituted a “violation of Lebanese sovereignty” while it warned Lebanese civilians to get out of the area.
The Lebanese military later announced it was ready for “all possibilities”.
UNIFIL, meanwhile, confirmed at least two of the four discovered attack tunnels which Hezbollah dug in the years after the Second Lebanon War crossed into Israel and that this constituted a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
Israel Today asked local IDF commanders for entrance to the sites where the Israeli army is conducting drilling for the destruction of the Hezbollah tunnels but the request was denied. Only CNN was permitted to enter one of the sites and to make video images of one of the tunnels.
Israel is currently trying to convince the US Administration of President Donald Trump to withhold financial aid to Lebanon as long as the Lebanese government doesn’t start with discovering and destroying the entrances of the tunnels on Lebanese soil.
UNIFIL reportedly refuses to get involved with the closure of the attack tunnels fearing reprisals by Hezbollah and tensions with the local Arab population, according to the Lebanese paper al-Akhbar which is affiliated with Hezbollah.
Israel is also using ‘Operation Northern Shield’ to launch a public relations campaign which aims to generate international pressure on the Lebanese government which Jerusalem expects to act against the Iranian attempt to provide Hezbollah with more guided missiles.
Iran and Hezbollah have built underground facilities in Lebanon to produce these missiles or to convert crude rockets into GPS guided projectiles, according to the Israeli government.
Israeli experts have warned that the Iranian attempt to provide Hezbollah with guided missiles will eventually lead to war if the international community doesn’t take action.
The UN Security Council will discuss the tunnel issue on Wednesday and Israel - which is not a member of the Council - is pushing the United States to put the Iranian missile facilities in Lebanon on the agenda as well.
On Tuesday the IDF released new video footage of a recently discovered tunnel which revealed that Hezbollah is trying to seal off the tunnels since the IDF discovered them.
The Israeli military is now filling the discovered tunnels with explosives in preparation of their destruction.
“From the moment the terrorist tunnels are exposed, IDF soldiers are working on learning about them through various means, including photography and research capabilities,” the IDF’s spokesmen unit said in a statement.
The IDF is expecting to expose dozens of additional terror tunnels and thinks Operation Northern Shield will continue for weeks if not months.
The Israeli air force (IAF), meanwhile, continues to conduct reconnaissance flights in southern Lebanon according to Lebanese media.
An IAF jet was spotted in the skies above the south Lebanese city of Sidon on Tuesday while breaking through the sound barrier.
This reporter also witnessed how the IDF is moving artillery from the Syrian border to the front with Lebanon.
This was another indication that Israel now considers the Lebanese front more hostile than the one with Syria and could act against the Iranian military build-up in Lebanon when the international community fails to contain the threat Iran and Hezbollah pose to the country.
The IAF has significantly reduced its activities against Iran in Syria since a crisis with Russia erupted over the downing of a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane in September.
Since the Russians delivered the S-300 anti-aircraft missile shield to the Syrian army the Israeli military has refrained from carrying out airstrikes against Iran-related targets in Syria and instead used missiles to destroy weapon convoys bound for Hezbollah and targets related to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The sharp reduction in Israeli military activity in Syria is also related to a change in the rules of engagement by both Russia and the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition.
Damascus has warned Israel that any attack in Syria will now be answered by an attack on a target in Israel while the Russians have warned the Israeli government that it has stationed Russian military personnel on bases and facilities belonging to the Quds Force of the IRGC.
Veteran war correspondent Elijah J. Magnier reported this week that “Russia has informed Israel that there are Russian officers present at every Syrian or Iranian military base and that any strike against Syrian or Iranian objectives would hit Russian forces as well. Putin will not allow his soldiers and officers to be struck down by Israel’s direct or indirect bombing”.
His report was later followed by an article by the Russian outlet Kommersant which said that Moscow is allowing Hezbollah units and Shiite militias in Syria to use Russian flags as protection against Israeli air strikes.
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