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Israel Fires Warning Shots at Syria

After a stray mortar shell from Syria landed in the Golan Heights, Israeli troops fired into Syria in what they said was a warning. Israel Radio said it was Israel’s first direct engagement of the Syrian army on the Golan since the 1973 war. An Israeli military official said the Syrian shell overshot the disengagement fence on the Golan and landed close to an Israeli outpost. “The IDF (Israel Defense Force) has filed a complaint through the United Nations forces operating in the area, stating that fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity,” the statement said. The violence in Syria has already spilled over into Turkey, where more than 110,000 Syrian refugees are being housed, Jordan and Lebanon. Although Israel made it clear that it was only issuing a warning and has no wish to engage Syrian forces in a broader conflict, there is concern in Israel that the 20-month-old conflict in Syria could spill over into Israel as well. Israelis are especially concerned over Syria’s stock of chemical weapons, and worries that Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon could take control of these weapons.

Syrian Opposition Factions Unite

Syrian opposition factions signed a tentative agreement in Doha, Qatar to create a unified umbrella organization. The move could lead to more international recognition of the Syrian rebel movements, who have been fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for 20 months. More than 32,000 Syrians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting and hundreds of thousands have fled. About 60 negotiators from various opposition groups reached the deal to unite after three days of debate in Qatar. They elected Sheikh Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the imam of the Omayid mosque in Damascus as their first president. “Today in Doha is the first time the different factions of the Syrian opposition are united in one body,” said Riyad Farid Hijab, a former Syrian Prime Minister who defected. “So we ask the international community to recognize the Syrian opposition as the representative of the Syrians.”

Iran Launches Air Drills

Iranian media reported that Iran launched large-scale air defense drills in the country’s eastern half. Called “Velayat-4” the maneuvers span a huge area of more than 600,000 square miles, and will include about 8000 troops. “Various kinds of fixed, mobile and tactical long-range radars and fixed, tactical and airborne electronic surveillance systems will participate in this exercise,” said Farzad Esmaili, of Iran’s air defense headquarters, as quoted by the state news agency IRNA. The drills come amid tension between Iran and the US over Iran’s nuclear program. The US Pentagon says Iranian warplanes opened fire on an unarmed US drone over international waters earlier this month. Iran said the drone had violated its airspace.


Cross-border Gaza Violence Continues

Palestinian gunmen in Gaza fired at least three rockets toward southern Israel despite Egyptian efforts to mediate a cease-fire. One of the rockets hit the yard of a house in the Israeli town of Netivot, while two were intercepted by the Iran Dome missile defense system. Three houses in Netivot were damaged by shrapnel. Israeli analysts said that neither Israel nor Hamas want an escalation of violence that could lead to an Israeli ground operation into Gaza. More than 100 rockets have hit Israel since violence flared on the border on Saturday. It began when an anti-tank missile from Gaza struck an Israeli jeep, wounding four soldiers, continued with both Israeli airstrikes that killed at least five Palestinians and the barrage of rockets on southern Israel.                                            

Arab News Bites

The Media Line presents Arab News Bites:

A daily summary of articles appearing throughout the Middle East

Compiled by Amir Khalil, The Media Line

Three Killed in Clash Between Salafi and Hezbollah Supporters in Lebanon

Al Wattan daily, Kuwait, Nov 12 2012

Three people were killed and seven wounded in an exchange of fire between supporters of a Sunni Salafi sheikh and Shi’ite Hezbollah supporters in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, after the anti-Hezbollah Sheikh Ahmed Al-Assir called for the removal of all Hezbollah banners in the city. As the Lebanese army watched on, Hezbollah supporters hung posters in the city on Sunday in preparations for a commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet. The gunfire battle reportedly broke out after Sunni supporters tore a banner featuring Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. On Sunday, the Lebanese army deployed its armored vehicles in the city as Al-Assir supporters blocked the main road to Beirut. They also attacked members of a Sunni faction allied with Hezbollah. The sheikh supports protests against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and says that Hezbollah and its allies favor an Iranian-Syrian program in the region.         

Abbas Seeks Russian Experts in Probe into Arafatís Death

Al Quds Al Arabi daily, London, Nov 12 2012

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Russian government will be involved in a Swiss-French probe investigating his predecessor Yasser Arafat’s mysterious death in November 2004. In a ceremony on Sunday commemorating the eight anniversary of the late leader’s death, Abbas said an exhumation will take place in the hope of revealing new evidence on the cause of Arafat’s death. An autopsy was planned later this month but Palestinian sources excluded its possibility due to familial disputes. Arafat’s nephew, Nasir Al-Qidweh, announced he opposes digging up the grave, deeming the process useless and offensive. Arafat died while he was receiving treatment in a French hospital that could not prove the existence of any known poison in his body. A Swiss laboratory found high levels of the radioactive element polonium in personal belongings to Arafat.

Syrian Opposition Agrees On Forming Coalition

Al Hayat daily, London, Nov 12 2012

In a move that could grant the Syrian opposition international recognition, opposition factions have reached an agreement to form the “National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition” that aims to oust President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Following extensive talks in Doha, the coalition elected Ahmad Moaz Khatib, a moderate cleric, on Sunday night to head the new group. From this coalition, an executive committee and a temporary government will be formed, and the various military commands are to be united under the coalition. Some opposition members criticized the coalition, saying they were under pressure to sign the agreement, proposed by the U.S.-backed prominent dissident Riad Seif. George Sabra, the new head of Syria’s main opposition group the National Syrian Council, praised the agreement, saying he hopes it will help relieve Syrian citizens living in the war zone. The Doha agreements come as thousands are still fleeing from the suburbs of Homs because of Syrian army shelling.


Israel Attacks Syrian Positions for First Time Since 1973

 Al Youm Al Sabi daily, Cairo, Nov 12 2012

The Israeli army attacked Syrian positions for the first time since the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. The Israeli Maariv newspaper said that the Israeli reaction comes in response to missiles fired into Israel from Syrian territory. An Israeli army spokesman said that Israel will react to incoming fire, adding that Israel had already informed the UN forces of this decision. Maariv reported a change in the Israeli policy in the Golan Heights as the fight between Syrian army forces and rebels intensifies amid fears of a regional war. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel told the Syrian president a few days ago to limit attacking rebels near the Syria-Israel border. A missile hit the Golan Heights area in Israel on Thursday but did not explode, and a Syrian stray bullet hit an army vehicle last week.


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