- Syria Special: Dissecting Hersh’s “Insurgents Did Chemical Weapons Attacks” — A Sequel
- Analysis: Non-Surprise of Day — Obama Administration Still Fighting Over Military Aid to Insurgents
Father Francis Van Der Lugt, prominent in besieged Homs for his defense of civilians and appeals for humanitarian action, was killed by a masked gunman on Monday.
The priest was shot inside a monastery in the insurgent-held Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood.
Father Francis came to international prominence in January during the international negotiations, linked to the Geneva talks between regime and opposition, for evacuations and assistance to the Old City of Homs. However, he had long spoken on behalf of those suffering from the conflict, cut off and under constant threat of death.
Father Francis had refused to leave Homs while there were still people in blockaded areas, saying in January:
I don’t see Muslims or Christians, I see, above all, human beings…(who) hunger to lead a normal life….
How can I leave?…This is impossible.
He wrote on January 25:
Hunger defeated us! We can see its signs drawn over the faces.
People are wandering the streets screaming; We are starving, we need food! They stop by the inhabited houses trying to find some food. Hunger breaks the rules and eliminates all moral principles.
We are living a scary reality. Human beings turn into wild animals living in the wild.
An interview in early February on the humanitarian situation:
A video appeal in January:
A younger Father Francis:
2 More Dissections of Hersh’s “Insurgents Carried Out Chemical Weapons Attacks”
Aaron Stein takes apart Hersh’s hypothesis of Turkish involvement in an insurgent attack with a thorough evaluation of the political situation in Ankara.
Seymour Hersh seems unencumbered by the fact that the Assad regime confessed to having a chemical weapons research, development, and production program. Which is the more likely scenario? The Turkish-produced Sarin tale, which relies on a very dubious “inside source” in Washington and no accompanying physical evidence? Or the idea that the Assad regime, using a chemical warfare agent made according to a formula they confessed to, used rockets in their own inventory to attack from their own positions against rebel-held territory? History will tell us, eventually. But one of these tales is sounding more probable than the other.
Lebanon’s Interior Ministry: About 7,000 Hezbollah Fighters in Syria
Lebanon’s Interior Minister has said that the Lebanese organization Hezbollah has put about 7,000 fighters into Syria.
Last week Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said he ordered fighters into the Syrian conflict because Sunni factions challenging the Assad regime would “eliminate everyone in Lebanon” if they won.
Another Dissection of Hersh’s “Insurgents Carried Out Chemical Weapons Attacks” Theory
Writing for Just Security, Ryan Goodman complements our dissection of journalist Seymour Hersh’s latest conspiracy theory on insurgents and chemical weapons.
Goodman expands our question about the reliability of Hersh’s source of “Russian intelligence” for the claimed possession of sarin by insurgents, and he challenges Hersh’s declaration of no evidence that the Syrian military may be responsible:
A United Nations report published in March 2014…concludes that the sarin gas came from the government’s stockpile. The UN report states: “The evidence available concerning the nature, quality and quantity of the agents used on 21 August indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military.”
Insurgents Capture Tel al-Ahmar in Quneitra
Insurgents have taken Tel al-Ahmar in Quneitra in southwest Syria, seizing what appear to be RPG-29s:
Sources say that capture of nearby hills could be a significant breakthrough on the Quneitra front, near the demilitarized zone with Israel.
Information Minister: UN Envoy Brahimi “Has Not Been an Honest Broker”
Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi has declared that United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi “has not been an honest broker”.
Speaking on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, Al-Zoubi took offense at Brahimi’s remark that the regime’s Presidential election in the spring lacked legitimacy without a political settlement:
The aggressor states on Syria were working on undermining the Syrian state in the beginning, while now they are working on depleting it…but the Syrian state, army and people will continue to counter terrorism and carry out all the constitutional entitlements including the presidential elections, which will be held on time and with better conditions.
Brahimi presided over two rounds of still-born talks between President Assad’s officials and an opposition delegation in Geneva in January and February. He has now admitted that a third round of discussions cannot be envisaged in the near-future.
The regime delegation refused to discuss a transitional governing authority, a condition set out in a Geneva Communiqué in June 2012, saying that the priority must be the combat of “terrorism”.
Al-Zoubi said that Brahimi’s statements confirmed “his adoption of the U.S.-Turkish-Qatari viewpoint that aims at undermining the Syrian state”.
Syrian Military Claims Killing of 20 Insurgents Near Adra
The Syrian military claims that it killed 20 insurgents in an ambush near Adra, 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Damascus, in an ambush on Monday.
Opposition fighters took the town in December.
Video of the ambush and its aftermath (Warning — Graphic Images):