The shocking impact of the twin explosions which killed 55 people and injured almost 400 in Damascus Thursday, May 10, galvanized Bashar Assad’s allies, starting with Iran, into frenetic activity. Within hours, Tehran had ordered its Lebanese proxy Hizballah to open up its arms stores and run quantities of weapons and military equipment across the border to the Syrian army – a striking reversal of the routine direction of arms supplies. Thursday night, Washington quietly asked Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to put a stop to the traffic.DEBKAfile’s sources in Moscow say the event has consequently cast a dark shadow over relations between the Obama administration and Vladimir Putin at the outset of his third term as Russian president.The Russian president has three large bones to pick with Washington: a) He suspects American hands of stirring up opposition demonstrations against him during his election campaign; b) He is flat against the US missile shield going up in Europe and the Middle East to intercept Iran’s ballistic missiles; and c) He is solidly behind the Assad regime which he accuses the US of seeking to overthrow.This week, Putin pointedly declined to attend the G-8 summit of world leaders meeting next week at the US presidential retreat of Camp David. He decided to send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over in his place.In its message to Beirut, the US reminded the Lebanese president that the transfer of war materials by Hizballah to Syria was a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended the 206 Lebanon war between the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group and Israel. Arms transfers between Syria and Lebanon were banned in both directions. But his prohibition was never upheld. Regular arms consignments have been crossing into Lebanon for Hizballah from and via Syria for the past six years without any interference by the United Nations force UNIFIL stationed in South Lebanon.
Another step Tehran took straight after the Damascus bombings to firm up the Assad regime was to start organizing a network of closed circuit security cameras to be installed in all parts of Damascus and its exits and entries for three functions:
1. Opponents of the regime will have less freedom of movement in the capital;
2. The army and security forces can economize on manpower for securing the city. Patrols will fan out after cameras register hostile or suspicion movements.
3. Syrian and allied intelligence services can keep track of UN monitors’ movements. The UN mission is regarded by Syria, Iran and Russia as “the eyes and ears of the West.”
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Friday his terrorist group was capable of striking any target in neighboring Israel, claiming "the days when we fled and they did not are over"."Today we are not only able to hit Tel Aviv as a city but, God willing, we are able to hit specific targets in Tel Aviv and anywhere in occupied Palestine," Nasrallah said in a televised address."For every building destroyed in Dahiya, a building will be destroyed in Tel Aviv," he said, referring to Hezbollah's stronghold in a suburb of southern Beirut.
Nasrallah's comments were some of his harshest words against Israel in several months, and came amid rising tensions between Israel and Hezbollah's main backer, Iran.Hezbollah has long been seen as a proxy for Iran and Syria and many analysts believe that in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran, Hezbollah could return fire."The days when we were afraid and they were not are over," he said. "And we say to them: The time has come when we will remain and you will be the ones who disappear."
A Richter scale 5.5 magnitude earthquake shook the eastern Mediterranean on Friday night, with locals in countries throughout the Levant reporting the quake.The United States Geological Survey's web site said the quake at a depth of 19.8 kilometres occurred in the sea between Cyprus and Lebanon at 9:48 p.m. local time.
Residents in Israel reported feeling the tremors, as thousands of citizens picked up the phone and called police to announce the event. No damages or injuries were reported.Residents in Lebanon also reported the earthquake, with Lebanese media saying tremors were felt in Beirut, Sidon, Tyre and the coastal city of Tripoli.In addition, residents of Tel Aviv, Carmiel and Jerusalem also reported feeling the earth tremble.
"The whole bed was shaking for a pretty long time," one Jerusalem resident told The Jerusalem Post. "I'm used to earthquakes in California, and this one was strong."
A newly discovered Air Force intelligence brief states that should fleets of unmanned drones accidentally capture surveillance footage of Americans, the data can be stored and analyzed by the Pentagon for up to 90 days.“Collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent,” the instruction states.Should the drones capture data on Americans, the Air Force says that it should determine whether they are, among other things, “persons or organizations reasonably believed to be engaged or about to engage, in international terrorist or international narcotics activities.”
As we reported in February, Over 30 prominent watchdog groups have banded together to petition the FAA on the proposed increase in the use of drones in US airspace.
The groups, including The American Civil Liberties Union, The Electronic Privacy Information Center and The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, are demanding that the FAA hold a rulemaking session to consider the privacy and safety threats.
Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.
The ACLU noted that the FAA’s legislation “would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.”
In addition to privacy concerns, the groups warned that the ability to link facial recognition technology to surveillance drones and patch the information through to active government databases would “increase the First Amendment risks for would be political dissidents.”