LATEST: Turkey PM: Shoot-Down of Syrian Helicopter Done Under Rules of Engagement
*Syrian PM: Iran Supplying Food, Medicine To Assad Regime
Russian FM: Chapter 7 Of Framework Agreement Regarding Use of Force “Won’t Be Accepted”
*Photo/ Video: Explosions Kill Several At Bab Alhawa Border Crossing In Idlib Province
*Insurgents Fire RPG At “Shabiha” Militias In Qaboun, Damascus
*Regime Airstrikes On Barzeh, Damascus
*More on Turkey’s Downing of Syrian Helicopter and Cross-Border Support to Insurgents
Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom
Turkey PM: Shoot-Down of Syrian Helicopter Done Under Rules of Engagement
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has defended Monday’s downing of a Syrian helicopter by Ankara’s jets, saying it was carried out under rules of engagement after a border violation.
“We have given our Armed Forces authority in certain areas. With respect to the Syrian issue, we have carried out a delegation of authority in terms of the rules of engagement,” Erdoğan said.
“We had stated before that the rules of engagement would be implemented. There was a border violation of up to two kilometers,” the Prime Minister continued, emphasizing that the Syrian pilots had not changed the helicopter’s course despite repeated warnings.
Ahrar Ash-Sham Say They Caught “Pro-Assad Gang” Planning To Detonate Car Bombs
UPDATE: Ahrar Ash Sham have also posted a note about the arrests on their website.
Following the car bomb attack on an FSA-manned checkpoint on the Syrian-Turkish border earlier on Tuesday, Islamist faction Harakat Ahrar Ash Sham have tweeted that they have apprehended a “gang belonging to the Assad regime” who were planning to detonate more car bombs in opposition-controlled areas.
— حركة أحرار الشام (@Ahraralsham) September 17, 2013
We are still following this story, which we are treating as developing, as it is still not clear who was responsible for the car bomb on the border crossing. According to a trusted EA source, the checkpoint is manned by a small number of fighters from the FSA’s Farouq brigade but mostly by Ahrar Ash Sham and Suqoor Ash Sham. Although the Farouq brigade suggested earlier on Tuesday that the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash Sham may have been responsible, Ahrar Ash Sham — who have a larger presence at the checkpoint — are indicating that a pro-Assad group or group linked to the regime carried out the attack.
FSA Brigade Backs Accusation That ISIS Responsible For Blast At Border Crossing
Activists report that Free Syrian Army’s moderate Farouq Brigade are backing accusations that the Islamist faction the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash- Sham are responsible for Tuesday’s car bomb attack at the FSA-manned Sarmada Square checkpoint at the Bab Al Hawa border crossing in Idlib.
The checkpoint was manned by the Farouq Brigade and Ahrar Ash Sham.
ISIS had previously accused the Farouq Brigade of being “infidels”, according to this purported rebuttal by Farouq, which says that they and ISIS — and other Islamic factions — are brothers in religion and love.
Deputy Russian FM To Meet Syrian FM In Damascus Tuesday Night
The Russian Foreign Ministry has told Interfax that Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Russia Sergei Ryabkov is set to meet Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Damascus later on Tuesday.
Videos: Airstrikes On Tafas, Dar’aa Province
Photo, Videos: More Footage From Site Of Car Bomb Attack On Syria-Turkey Border
More footage and images have emerged of Tuesday’s car bombing on the Syria-Turkey border in Idlib Province.
Journalist Jenan Moussa tweeted this photograph she obtained of the site of the car bomb attack.
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) September 17, 2013
Dramatic footage of the site of the incident. (WARNING – SOME IMAGES MAY BE SHOCKING)
This playlist contains six more videos of the aftermath of the incident:
Reporter Harold Doornbos tweets from the Turkish side of the border crossing:
Acc to ppl here on Turkish side Bab alHawa, turkish army vehicles moved closer to border after blast. Also turkish ambulances tried to help.
— Harald Doornbos (@HaraldDoornbos) September 17, 2013
Doornbos adds, “Unclear how many people injured or dead in Bab al hawa blast. People here speak of “between two and 20 dead”. Too early for final figures”.
Russian FM: Provision In Framework Agreement Regarding Use of Force “Won’t Be Accepted”
Russian State media reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Chapter 7 of the Framework Agreement over Syrian chemical weapons, which permits the use of force, will not be accepted and needs to be discussed further.
“The resolution, which will be approved by the Governing Board of the OPCW, the UN Security Council resolution, won’t include Chapter 7 (of the charter). We have discussed this clearly in Geneva and the document which we agreed does not contain this wording,” Lavrov said.
The Russian FM dismissed as “abstract” that the possibility of considering the resolution regarding Syria’s chemical weapons with respect to chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows for a military solution.
“This is abstract, because we need to not about some resolutions on the sixth, seventh, or any chapter, we have to talk about the challenge facing the international community right now,” he added.
Photo/ Video: Explosions Injure Several At Bab Alhawa Border Crossing In Idlib
Syrian activists on the Syrian border with Turkey in Idlib Province have reported large explosions at the Bab Alhawa border crossing on Tuesday morning (click for a satellite image/ map of the area).
An EA correspondent with excellent contacts inside Syria says that many people have been injured, and some may also have been killed, in the blasts.
Video footage indicates that the blasts were caused by a car bomb:
It was initially not known whether the blasts were car bombs or airstrikes, whether the incident involved the targeting of weapons smugglers across the Turkish border or whether a weapons smuggler’s car exploded for unknown reasons.
Some casualties have been transferred to Turkey, and eyewitnesses are saying that those wounded suffered burns, not shrapnel injuries.
This footage is the first to be uploaded of the incident:
Video: Insurgents Fire RPG At “Shabiha” Militias In Qaboun, Damascus
As clashes between regime forces and insurgents continue in Qaboun, Damascus, this footage from Tuesday shows insurgents firing an RPG at what is identified as “shabiha” — pro-Assad militia — located in an apartment block across from the insurgent position.
Video: Regime Airstrikes On Barzeh, Damascus
The Assad regime on Tuesday continued its offensive in the Damascus suburbs, including with air raids. This footage from Tuesday shows the moment an airstrike hits Barzeh:
Iran Supplying Food, Medicine To Assad Regime
Iran is supplying food and medicine to the Assad regime, Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said Tuesday.
Discussing Syria’s situation regarding essentials, Halqi said Damascus has a “3-million ton stockpile of wheat that the government works steadily to augment through making contacts to import wheat from friendly countries, especially Iran.”
Halqi also hinted that Iran could take over the running of mills, saying that the regime is working to address a flour shortage, and has made “emergency contacts with friendly countries for a permanent maintenance of mills and operating them at full capacity.”
Regarding medicine, Halqi said the situation was “stable” and that “all types of medicine are available except for some few” that are imported from “Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan, BRICS countries and Cuba”.
More on Turkey’s Downing of Syrian Helicopter and Cross-Border Support to Insurgents
Turkey’s downing of a Syrian helicopter on the Turkish-Syrian border and graphic video of the incident has prompted much chatter and speculation on the Internet.
One of the theories is that Ankara’s authorities are lying when they say the helicopter was challenged and attacked a kilometer inside Turkish airspace, given that the helicopter’s wreckage was found in Syria’s Latakia Province, three kilometers inside the border.
Why would Ankara lie? Because, the theory maintains, Turkey “may be” establishing a no-fly zone just inside Syria.
In fact, Syria’s General Command implicitly says that its helicopter was confronted as it “was leaving” Turkey. It is highly plausible that the helicopter was hit just inside Turkish territory or on the border, in which case it would be expected that it continued on its trajectory toward Syria for some distance before it crashed.
It would be difficult, to say the least, for Turkey to establish a no-fly zone within Syrian territory, especially without that fact becoming known, since Syrian aircraft regularly patrol along the Syrian side of the border. If there is a no-fly zone, why have we not seen Syrian State media reports complaining about one? Why are there no more incidents like the helicopter downing?
More interesting than questions of a cover-up, however, is the question of the helicopter’s mission. The Syrian military said it was maintain surveillance of “terrorists” without giving details.
A likely scenario is that the helicopter was being used to monitor gun-running across the border to insurgents, who started an offensive in northern Lattakia Province in August.
Earlier this month, several men died in a mysterious explosion on the border, which was likely linked to the smuggling of munitions.
Syrian Army Confirms Turkey Shot Down Helicopter
Syria’s military has issued a statement confirming that Turkey shot down a regime helicopter near the Turkish-Syrian border on Monday.
The Syrian General Command said the helicopter was carrying out reconnaissance for “infiltration of terrorists” across the border into Lattakia Province.
Ankara said the helicopter had crossed into Turkey airspace above Hatay Province. The Syrian military admitted the helicopter had “mistakenly” entered but was leaving when it was shot down, crashing inside Syria.
The General Command denounced the “hasty reaction of the Turkish side”, saying it was “evidence of the real intentions” of Ankara for “escalation at the borders of the two countries”.
The Local Coordination Committees claim 89 people were killed on Monday, including 21 in Damascus and its suburbs, 16 in Aleppo Province, 14 in Hama Province, and 12 in Homs Province.
The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 73,237 since the conflict began in March 2011, an increase of 43 from Monday. Of the dead, 55,010 are civilians, a rise of 31 from yesterday.
SUMMARY: On Monday, the United Nations released a report by inspectors confirming that large amounts of sarin were used in attacks near Damascus on August 21.
In what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon described as a “war crime”, the inspectors cited 36 medical cases — backed up by interviews with 16 doctors and nurses — and presence of sarin on at least one rocket.
At least 1,360 people in 12 villages and towns in the areas of East Ghouta and West Ghouta died in the attacks.
While the report was not mandated to say who carried out the assault, the inspectors and Ban implied that only the Assad regime could have done so, given the likely location from where rockets were fired and the scale of the attacks.
None of this is surprising. Within 48 hours of the attacks, we surmised from videos and from testimony from victims, activists, and doctors in field hospitals that chemical agents — likely to be sarin — had been used and that only the Syrian military had the capability to hit a dozen locations within minutes.
The subsequent offensive on August 21, with bombardment of the Damascus suburbs hit by the chemicals, and the Assad regime’s initial stalling and subsequent intimidation that limited the inspections reinforced the suspicion.
Monday’s report added detail that filled in some secondary but important gaps. For example, it indicated that one of the rockets was likely to be Russian in origin, a finding which could explain Moscow’s defensiveness and concern soon after August 21 — and up to the point where the Russians turned the political tide with their framework agreement with the US, putting away any prospect of punishment of Damascus for the attacks.
Now what? While confirming the use of chemical weapons, the self-imposed restriction on identifying the culprit further supports the decision against any action over August 21. Instead, Ban’s statement pointed to a new “red line”, warning Damascus against any obstruction of the effort to inspect and take over Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.
The scope of that effort is now the central issue. Media reports on Monday wrongly said that Moscow had rejected any enforcement if the Assad regime did not comply. However, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did say that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — which President Assad said Syria will now join — should set the final terms for the removal and destruction of the chemical weapons, with a UN Security Council resolution supporting the initiative.