‘The biggest threat is Iran’: Israel aware of possible Syrian spillover, but doesn’t see it as largest danger


Originally posted on National Post | News:

SATURDAY INTERVIEW

To hear Miriam Ziv tell it, Israelis are not complacent about the prospect of war spilling over their northern border from Syria. Batteries of the Iron Dome air defence system have been moved north to intercept missiles and citizens have been lining up for new or refreshed gas masks in Tel Aviv

“They are like part of our furniture,” said Ms. Ziv, a diminutive bundle of energy who leaves her post as Israel’s ambassador to Canada on Sunday, after five years in Ottawa. “Life goes on in Israel. There is no panic. We have had wars and been attacked before.”

In an exit interview about the Canada-Israel relationship in her Ottawa office, the news, as always in the Middle East, gets in the way. But she said the big concern for most Israelis is not what is happening in Syria.

Rather, she said, more sleep is lost over…

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The immoral, silent killer: Why chemical warfare instills in people a fear that conventional attacks do not


Originally posted on National Post | News:

Warning: Disturbing Images

In little more than two years, the Syrian civil war has distinguished itself as a particularly vicious conflict.

The United Nations estimates conservatively that more than 100,000 people have died, including thousands of women and children, with civilians often directly targeted or killed in indiscriminate assaults.

The Assad regime has deployed an array of nasty weapons, from cluster bombs to napalm-like incendiary devices and thermobaric explosives, whose blast of pressure and heat incinerates anyone at the impact site — and vacuums the air out of the lungs of people nearby.

AP Photo/SANA

AP Photo/SANA

Yet it was a singular event just last week that rallied the West into its most concerted response yet to the hostilities. Only after the Aug. 21 attack with suspected nerve gas, killing an estimated 350 to 1,400 men, women and children, did the U.S. and others talk seriously — for better or worse —…

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Action in Syria will be ‘limited and narrow,’ Obama says as U.S. edges closer to strike


Originally posted on National Post | News:

WASHINGTON — Edging toward a retaliatory strike, President Barack Obama said Friday he is weighing “limited and narrow” action against Syria as the administration bluntly accused Bashar Assad’s government of launching a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 1,429 people — far more than previous estimates — including more than 400 children.

No “boots on the ground,” Obama said, seeking to reassure a public weary after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With France as his only major public ally, Obama told reporters he has a strong preference for multilateral action. He added, “frankly part of the challenge we end up with here is a lot of people think something should be done but nobody wants to do it.”

U.S. State Department

U.S. State Department

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Halfway around the world, U.S. warships were in place in the Mediterranean Sea armed with cruise missiles, long a first-line weapon of choice…

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Israel braces for worst with Syria as army calls up reserves, nervous citizens line up to receive free gas masks


Originally posted on National Post | News:

Israel ordered a special call-up of reserve troops Wednesday as nervous citizens lined up at gas-mask distribution centres, preparing for possible hostilities with Syria.

With the U.S. threatening to attack Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, Israel fears that Syria may respond by attacking Israel, a close American ally. While Israeli officials believe the chances of a Syrian strike remain slim, people were clearly preparing for the possibility.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent the day huddled with his top security advisers discussing the situation. Afterwards, he sent a mixed message, urging people to remain calm while also approving special precautionary measures.

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

“There is no reason to change daily routines,” he said. “At the same time we are prepared for any scenario.” He said the Israeli military “is ready to defend against any threat and to respond strongly against any attempt to harm Israeli citizens.”

An…

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Israel keeps close watch on rising sectarian tensions as Syria’s escalating civil war spills over into Lebanon


Originally posted on National Post | News:

As the international community focuses its attention on Syria and how to respond to the growing likelihood that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has used chemical weapons on a civilian population, Israel’s attention is focused as much on Lebanon as on Syria.

Lebanese security forces arrested a suspect over the weekend in a double bombing in the predominantly Sunni city of Tripoli on Friday that killed at least 47 people, and wounded some 500, including dozens who were said to be in critical condition. The Lebanese National News Agency said the suspect, Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghareeb, has ties to a Sunni organization that has close ties with Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbullah group.

The attacks raised sectarian tensions in Lebanon, which had already been tense. Hundreds of well-trained Hezbullah troops have been fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad, supporting his Alawite regime. The Alawites are an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

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Secretary of State cites citizen media reports from Syria in criticism of attack


Originally posted on Gigaom:

A large number of videos, photos and graphic descriptions of chemical-weapon attacks on civilians have been coming out of Syria over the past day, and it is clear they have made an impact not just on those observing the violence from afar but also on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who cited them in a statement about the attack on Monday. Said Kerry:

Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos — the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the the human suffering that they lay out before us.

As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while…

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U.K. prepping warships as West eyes strike on Syria in wake of suspected chemical attack


Originally posted on National Post | News:

Britain is planning to join forces with America and launch military action against Syria within days in response to the gas attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against his own people.

British Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalize a list of potential targets.

Government sources said talks between Prime Minister David Cameron and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird joined other western leaders in applying more pressure on Syria on Sunday, with a call for Syrian authorities to allow the United Nations immediate and unfettered access to the site of last week’s alleged chemical attack.

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Officials in Baird’s office said he…

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