The Syrian army pounded the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday, killing at least 21 people on the third day of a campaign to regain control of outlying areas of the capital, opposition activists said.Opposition activists said the death toll in Daraya in the past 72 hours had reached at least 70, mostly civilians. A list of the names of the 21 killed on Friday included two children from the al-Khatib family.Assad's elite forces, made up mainly of members of his minority Alawite sect and increasingly used to keep control of Damascus, are based in hilltop compounds in the capital and surrounding areas.
Heavy fighting in and around Aleppo has sent tens of thousands of people scurrying north into nearby Turkey, and thousands of others have sought refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, as rebels and regime forces continue to battle for control of the country.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the United States was preparing for “threats” emerging from Iran and Syria’s turmoil as an aircraft carrier headed to the region ahead of schedule.The USS John Stennis and its strike group will set forth shortly for the Persian Gulf, a deployment ordered four months ahead of time to minimize the gap in which the United States has only one carrier in the region. The Stennis strike group, which was initially due to deploy at the end of the year to the Pacific, is relieving the USS Enterprise which is slated to be decommissioned.
France signaled Thursday that it was prepared to take part in enforcing a partial no-fly zone over Syria, piling pressure on President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime as it widens a major offensive against rebels in Damascus and surrounding areas.French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged the international community to consider backing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, but cautioned that closing the Arab nation’s entire air space would be tantamount to “going to war” and require a willing international coalition that does not yet exist.Senior diplomatic, military and intelligence officials from the US and Turkey met in Istanbul on Thursday to go over detailed operational plans for dealing with emergency scenarios that may arise in Syria, including the possible use of chemical weapons.
A reportedly large Hezbollah military drill held in southern Lebanon is part of an Iranian-orchestrated preparation for a confrontation with Israel, a senior Israeli security analyst said.
Over 10,000 Hezbollah fighters participated in the terror organization’s largest military exercise to date last week, which included defensive tactics and “preparations to conquer the Upper Galilee,” Lebanese newspaper Al-Joumhouria reported Thursday morning.“This is happening in full coordination with Iran,” said Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior research school at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism. “In his last two speeches, [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah indicated that he would join an Iranian counter-strike if Israel struck Iran’s nuclear program.Iran could also be preparing Hezbollah for the possibility of ordering it to launch a provocation against Israel to preempt an Israeli strike, Karmon said.
Iran has installed many more uranium enrichment machines in an underground bunker, diplomatic sources said on Thursday, potentially paving the way for a significant expansion of work the West fears is ultimately aimed at making nuclear bombs.
Several sources said Iran had put in place additional enrichment centrifuges in its Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to protect it against any enemy strikesIf confirmed in a report expected next week from the UN atomic watchdog, the development is likely to be seen as a sign of Iran’s continued defiance of international demands to curb its nuclear program
The United States is colluding with a top Israeli newspaper to stymie Israel's efforts to strike Iran's nuclear weapons program,a leading nationalist pundit.
Writing in Friday's edition of Makor Rishon, one of the Israel's veteran journalists, Amnon Lord, paints a picture of intense U.S. meddling in internal Israeli political and security-oriented processes in an effort to prevent a successful Israeli strike on the weapon program meant to make it extinct."From a technical military point of view, Israel does not require any kind of coordination with the Americans," writes Lord regarding the for a raid on Iran. "There is a concern that the Americans will learn of the date for an attack and try to prevent it in different ways. The Americans have not given the Israelis a feeling that they are true partners in the operative arena, in the past two years. On the contrary, the IDF has identified preventive American activity against an Iran operation.""This is particularly evident in the grave matter of the leaks regarding Azerbaijan in the past, about the Kurdish region, and recently in the publication of the flight paths to the target. All this is the product of our ally, with the cooperation of one of the largest media platforms in Israel, which serves and assists the Obama administration against the government of Israel. The Americans are the ones who are feeding some of the arch-pundits with damaging information."
As the debate continues over Iran’s nuclear program and a possible Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities, Strategic Affair Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday placed the responsibility on the United States if the Islamic Republic realizes its nuclear ambitions.
“History will judge whether the United States stood in the face of the Shiite threat and prevented the Iranian military nuclear capability in time,” Ya’alon said during a forum at the Gordonin Haifa. “A Middle East with a nuclear Iran is a Middle East with nuclear chaos.”He added, “A nuclear Iran is a threat to world stability, and anyone who is concerned for the stability of the world should oppose a nuclear Iran, The challenge of Iran is not just an Israeli one; the Iranian regime challenges the Western civilization and the current world order. This is not a conflict between Iran and Israel, but between Iran and America and Western culture. This issue cannot be taken off our agenda and be swept under the carpet.”