Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Tuesday that his country was at war and ordered his new government to spare no effort to achieve victory, as the worst fighting of the 16-month conflict reached the outskirts of the capital.Video published by activists recorded heavy gunfire and explosions in suburbs of Damascus. A trail of fresh blood on a sidewalk in the suburb of Qudsiya led into a building where one casualty was taken. A naked man writhed in pain, his body pierced by shrapnel.
Syria's state news agency SANA said "armed terrorist groups" had blocked the old road from Damascus to Beirut.The declaration that Syria is at war marks a change of rhetoric from Assad, who had long dismissed the uprising against him as the work of scattered militants funded from abroad.
"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told a cabinet he appointed on Tuesday in a speech broadcast on state television.
"When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
Unconfirmed first reports from British, French and Turkish sources say British special operations forces crossed from Turkey into northern Syria Tuesday, May 26, and advanced up to 10 kilometers inside the country. The same sources report heavy fighting around the Presidential Guards compound on the outskirts of Damascus.Later Tuesday, Gulf military sources confirmed the presence of British special forces in Syria.
Our military sources estimate that the British military drive into Syria, if confirmed, is designed to establish the first safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border, to be followed by more Western military incursions to establish additional zones of safe asylum in other parts of Syria.The reported British incursion, if confirmed, occurred at the tail end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 24-hour visit to Israel Tuesday morning and would have posed a direct challenge to his repeated warning that Moscow would not tolerate Western military intervention in Syria and actively prevent it.The two-pronged operation - the reported British incursion and major clash at the front door of Assad’s presidential palace - would appear to be designed to widen the cracks in his regime and speed its final breakup.
“The Turkish military mobilized large numbers of reinforcements from its eastern provinces to the Syrian border on Tuesday, amid rising tension with Damascus, after the downing by Syria of a Turkish Air Force jet on Friday,” . “Large numbers of Turkish troops — including at least 15 long-range artillery pieces and tanks – moved to the Syrian frontier from the eastern city of Diyarbakir. A video published by the Turkish Cihan News Agency showed Turkish tanks being transported by carrier trucks toward the frontier….’As awe-inspiring as Turkey’s friendship is, Turkey’s wrath is equally awe-inspiring,’ [Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip] Erdogan told the Turkish parliament on Tuesday. ‘The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed,” Erdogan said. “Any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria posing a security risk and danger will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target.’ Erdogan closed his remarks with an especially harsh condemnation of Syrian President Bashar Assad: ‘Turkey and the Turkish people will continue to provide all support until the people of Syria have been saved from this tyrannical, murderous, bloody dictator and his gang.’”
“The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed,” Erdogan said. “Any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria posing a security risk and danger will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target.”At an emergency meeting, requested by Turkey and chaired by NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the council clearly denounced Syria’s aggression “in the strongest terms,” calling the shooting down of a Turkish jet over the Mediterranean “unacceptable.”The downing of the jet has aggravated tense ties between the two neighbors. Turkey has repeatedly called on Assad to step down as 33,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey, fleeing a government crackdown on a popular uprising.
French, British and Turkish military sources have suggested that elite British soldiers have entered Northern Syria and are operating ten kilometers inside the country in what is thought to be the first offensive western intervention against the Assad regime.Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday morning that Western military intervention in Syria would not be tolerated by Moscow, and that Russia would act decisively to prevent it.Back in February reports emerged suggesting that British and Qatari troops were operating inside Syria, directing rebel ammunition deliveries and overseeing the battle for the strategic city of HomsEarlier this month more reports emerged indicating that Britain was planning to set up refugee camps inside Syria under a humanitarian pretext, when in reality the operation was a cover for assisting armed rebels fighting against the government.
If launched, US air strikes on Syria will be undertaken without Congressional approval, just as Obama green lighted the attack on Libya with a churlish disregard for the constitutional process. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has repeatedly stated that Congressional authorization for a military assault on Syria will not be sought by the Obama administration, which considers NATO and the UN to be the supreme authority.
Though they still retain safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan, jihadists are now heading to the Middle East to seek terrorist training as parts of the Arab world have "once more become a permissive environment for al Qaeda", British intelligence chief has warned.
Terming this a "new and worrying development" that "could get worse as events unfold," MI5's Director General Jonathan Evans said in a rare public speech here as his agency braces for an array of threats ahead of next month's summer Olympics.
Warning "the (Olympic) games present an attractive target for our enemies and they will be at the centre of the world's attention in a month or so," he said that efforts have been taken to ensure that the sports extravaganza did not become an easy target.The MI chief said Iran was another source of potential concern, as the west and Israel put pressure on Tehran to abandon any nuclear weapon ambitions it may secretly harbour, The Guardian reported.We've already seen AQ of the Arabian Penninsula branching out in Somalia and now Nigeria. Whether they are organized enough, and sophisticated enough to carry out a mass casualty attack at the Olympics isn't known, but they can certainly carry out individual attacks if authorities can't track them.Ironic that the Arab Spring has led to the re-emergence of an enemy of democracy.
EU officials have drawn up a far-reaching plan that would eventually turn the eurozone into an outright fiscal union, but acceptance by EU leaders - whose powers it reduces - will require a major leap of political faith.
The seven-page document suggest that ultimately the 17-nation single currency area will need a treasury office and a central budget.
Among the short-term changes required is the de facto handing over of budget power and economic policies to the EU level.A banking union "should evolve as soon as possible." Currently it is difficult to get a picture of the financial health of national banks, while taxpayers foot the bill when things go wrong.Supervision of all banks would be at the European level and the EU authority would have "pre-emptive intervention powers." The paper - drawn up by the presidents of the European Commission, European Council, Eurozone and European Central Bank - moots giving the European Central Bank the ultimate authority.Meanwhile, labour policies and tax polices - until now a no-go area for the European Commission - will no longer be exempt. An integrated economic eurozone will need "co-ordination and convergence in different domains of policy" says the paper explicitly mentioning "labour mobility" and "tax coordination.
“People are leaving Palestine [sic] in droves. Jenin, Aboud, Nablus -- these cities have lost much of their Christian population, some villages and towns have no more than two to three families,” said Peter, a 25-year-old resident of Bethlehem who agreed to be interviewed for this article on condition that his real name not be used.Statistics show that more than 60 percent of the Arab Christians born in Palestinian areas over the past several generations now live abroad. Totaling some half a million people worldwide, 360,000 of them currently reside in dispersed communities in Canada, Chile, the United States, Germany, Australia and other countries. 154,000 remain in Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories, with about 35,000 living in the West Bank and less than 3,000 in the Gaza Strip.The flight of Christian is a growing trend across the Middle East. In Iraq, for example, the ancient Assyrian Christian community dropped from 1.5 million people to just 250,000 since the Second Gulf War broke out in 2003.Christians are leaving Lebanon en mass, with 60 percent of their beleaguered community now living in foreign lands. The Coptic Church in Egypt has lost tens of thousands of parishioners following the dramatic events of the “Arab Spring.”According to Peter, the problems for West Bank Christians started in 1993, the year the area was handed over from Israel to the Palestinian Authority. With the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000, the situation deteriorated even further.