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The latest news on Syria from Business Insider

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    Russian military in Syria

    Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed two weeks ago that the US killed hundreds of Russians during a large firefight in Syria in early February. 

    "In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match," Pompeo said. "A couple hundred Russians were killed."

    The Russians were part of Wagner Group, or Vagner Group, a private mercenary company reportedly contracted by the Syrian government to capture and secure oil and gas fields from ISIS.

    The Wagner Group started getting attention in 2014 when its mercenaries fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, before moving to Syria.

    While little is still known about the shadowy mercenary group, they are believed to be operating in at least the following three countries:

    SEE ALSO: Russian journalist who covered Wagner Group mercenary deaths in Syria dies after falling from balcony

    1. Syria

    There are currently about 2,500 Wagner mercenaries in Syria, according to the BBC, but the figures have varied.

    In 2015-2016, Wagner mercenaries moved from Ukraine to Syria, Sergey Sukhankin, an associate expert at the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv, told Business Insider in an email.

    The mercenary group was contracted by Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp to capture and secure gas and oil fields by ISIS, reportedly being given 25% of the proceeds, according to the Associated Press.

    A Russian journalist who helped break the story about the mercenaries killed by the US military in February died earlier this month after mysteriously falling from a balcony



    2. Sudan

    Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan in early January, according to Stratfor. 

    The Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan "in a conflict against the South Sudan" to back up Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government "militarily and hammer out beneficial conditions for the Russian companies," Sukhankin said.

    The mercenaries are also protecting gold, uranium and diamond mines, Sukhankin said, adding that the latter is the "most essential commodity."

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has a cozy relationship with al-Bashir. The two leaders met in Moscow in late 2017, where al-Bashir asked Putin for protection from the US.

    The Hague has had an arrest warrant out for al-Bashir since 2009 for crimes against humanity.



    3. Central African Republic

    In early January, Stratfor reported that Wagner mercenaries might soon be sent to CAR, and Sukhankin said that there are now about 370 mercenaries in CAR and Sudan. 

    Sukhankin said that Wagner mercenaries have the same general mission in CAR — protecting lucrative mines and propping up the government regime. 

    In December 2017, the UN allowed Russia to begin selling weapons to the CAR, one of the many ways Moscow is trying to influence the continent. The CAR government is trying to combat violence being perpetrated by multiple armed groups along ethnic and religious lines. 

    "Russian instructors training our armed forces will greatly strengthen their effectiveness in combating plunderers,” President Faustin-Archange Touadera said in early April, according to RT, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

    "The Russian private sector is also seeking to invest in the country’s infrastructure and education," RT reported.

    "Moscow seems more interested in filling its coffers through the Wagner deals than in preparing for a massive investment drive [in Africa]," Stratfor reported.

     

     



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    hama syria iran israeli maybe strike

    • The Syrian army said on Sunday that rockets had struck several military bases in the Hama and Aleppo countryside in what it said was new "aggression" by its enemies.
    • Israel has previously hit Iranian-backed militia outposts in Syria, mainly targeting arms convoys of the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah.
    • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,said Sunday's attack had targeted a warehouse for rockets and killed 26 people, mostly Iranians and Iraqis.

    AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian army said on Sunday that rockets had struck several military bases in the Hama and Aleppo countryside in what it said was new "aggression" by its enemies, state television said.

    In a news flash, state television said the missile attacks took place at 10:30 p.m. (2030 GMT)

    "Syria is being exposed to a new aggression with some military bases in rural Hama and Aleppo hit with enemy rockets," an army source was quoted as saying without elaborating.

    Israel has previously hit Iranian-backed militia outposts in Syria, mainly targeting arms convoys of the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah. Israel regards the group, which is fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad, as the biggest threat on its borders.

    "We don't comment on foreign reports and we have no information at this time," Israel's military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

    A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Sunday's attack had targeted a warehouse for rockets and killed 26 people, mostly Iranians and Iraqis.

    An opposition source said one of the locations hit was an army base known as Brigade 47 near Hama city, widely known as a recruitment centre for Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias who fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

    An intelligence source who closely follows Syria said it appeared that multiple missile strikes hit several command centres for Iranian-backed militias and there were dozens of injuries and deaths.

    The strikes hit weapons warehouses, and further explosions were heard, the source who requested anonymity said.

    Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the allegations.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this month his country will continue "to move against Iran in Syria."

    Earlier this month, the New York Times, quoting an unnamed Israeli military source, reported that Israel struck a Syrian air base that Tehran used. Iran's Tansim news agency said seven Iranian personnel were killed in the attack.

    The strike on an air base brought warnings from Tehran it would retaliate.

    Israel has said Iran was expanding its influence in a belt of territory that stretches from the Iraqi border to the Lebanese border, where Israel says Iran supplies Hezbollah with arms.

    Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias have a large military presence in Syria and are well entrenched in central and eastern areas near the Iraqi border.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump tried to cut a secret deal with Planned Parenthood — here's what happened


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    hama syria iran israeli maybe strike

    • Airstrikes in northwest Syria are believed to have killed more than a dozen Iranian personnel.
    • The perpetrator of the strikes has not been confirmed, but they appear to have been carried out by Israel.
    • The death toll makes an Iranian response, and potential escalation, more likely, according to a former Israeli army intelligence chief.


    Strikes in northwest Syria on Sunday night could bring retaliation from Tehran if Iranian personnel were killed, former Israeli Defense Force intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said on Monday.

    Yadlin, a retired army general, said the intensity of the blasts at military bases near Hama and Aleppo — so big they caused what felt like a minor earthquake— indicated they were likely not carried out by Syrian rebels, who are under attack by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and its partner forces.

    "Either the United States augmented the attack it led about two weeks ago, and if it wasn't the United States, that leaves one possibility that I can't confirm," Yadlin told Israeli Army radio.

    The Syrian army confirmed the strikes, with a military source telling official news agency SANA that "some military sites in the countryside of Hama and Aleppo provinces were exposed at 10:30 pm to a new aggression with hostile rockets."

    syria air strikes damascus scientific research center omar sanadiki reuters RTX5P2FI

    Syrian media outlets said the strikes hit the Syrian army's 47th Brigade base in northwestern Hama and a facility north of the Aleppo international airport. An opposition source said the army base was a well-known recruitment center for the Iranian-backed Shiite militias that fight alongside Assad's forces.

    Reports of the number of casualties varied, but Yadlin said the nationality of those killed will shape what comes next.

    "If the casualties were Syrians, they would simply be another addition to the half-million people already killed in the civil war to this day," he said. "If they are Iranians, it will be added to the unfinished business they have with us, and then the month of May will be very volatile."

    Escalating a quiet conflict

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said the attack hit a warehouse for rockets and killed 26 people, most of whom were Iranians and Iraqis. Sky News Arabia, citing regime media, reported more than 18 killed and another 60 wounded.

    An official from the alliance that includes Iran, Syria, and Iranian-backed militia group Hezbollah said the strikes killed 16 people — including 11 Iranians — and destroyed 200 missiles. Media outlets affiliated with the Syrian opposition said 38 Syrian government soldiers were killed and 57 wounded in the strike in Hama.

    Pro Iran Syria

    While the perpetrator of Sunday's strikes is not confirmed, the attacks come a few weeks after what appears to have been an Israeli strike on the T4 military base that coordinates Iranian-backed militias in Syria. (That came after a gas attack allegedly carried out by the Assad regime but did not appear to be in response to that attack.)

    That strike reportedly killed seven Iranians, including an officer in the country's drone program. An Iranian drone entering Israeli airspace in February previously prompted an Israeli strike on the T4 base earlier this year, which led to Syrian air defenses shooting down an Israeli F-16.

    The high death toll in Sunday's strikes would mark a considerable escalation in a quiet conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria. Israeli officials worry that as Assad gains an advantage in Syria's civil war, Iran is shifting focus to enhancing its military capacities in the country. Israel has bombed targets it says are part of that effort several times.

    Israel is also concerned Iran is using the Syrian civil war to strengthen its partners in the region and has attacked what it believes are convoys of arms headed to Hezbollah.

    A friendly meeting with the new US secretary of state

    Sunday's strikes came a few hours after what appears to have been a friendly meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and newly installed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    Netanyahu called Pompeo "a true friend of Israel" and "a true friend of the Jewish people." Pompeo said Israel had a "special place in his heart."

    Mike Pompeo Benjamin Netanyahu Israel

    Pompeo also offered tough talk on Iran, saying President Donald Trump would withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal "if we can't fix it" and assuring Netanyahu that the US is "deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East."

    "The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel's sovereign right to defend itself," Pompeo added.

    Iran offered tough talk of its own. "The time of attacking us and fleeing has ended," Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reportedly said Sunday night. "Your strikes will be met with strikes."

    Iran also promised to respond to the previous strike on the T4 military base. "It's no secret that the Iranians have unfinished business with us," Yadlin told Army radio on Monday. "In their view, we are responsible for the previous attack, and now before they were even able to respond — there was another attack."

    Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency had originally said 18 of 40 people killed in Sunday's strikes were Iranians, but that report was taken down and Iranian officials denied any Iranian personnel were killed. Yadlin told reporters that denial may have been issued so Tehran would not be compelled to act.

    But, he added, he believes a response is coming, even if it is not clear when or where. "The Iranian retaliation is on its way," he said.

    SEE ALSO: US B-52s flew close to China in what may been a message to Beijing about Taiwan — but China says it will not work

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War


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    hama syria iran israeli maybe strike

    • Israel appears to be readying for a big war with Iran, US officials reportedly said.
    • Israel stands accused of a series of airstrikes against Iranian forces in Syria, and Iran is expected to strike back.
    • Israel hasn't gloated about the attacks, and reportedly hopes Iran will back down, but the conflict could erupt.
    • Israel has been pounding Iranian forces at will lately, but they're surrounded by Iranian and Iranian-aligned forces that could rain down tens of thousands of rockets on them. 


    After a rash of mysteriousairstrikes hit Syrian airfields that house Iranian forces over the early months of 2018, Israel now appears to be readying for a big fight against Tehran.

    "On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top of the list right now," a senior US official told NBC News.

    US officials also confirmed that Israel destroyed a munitions depot in Syria on Sunday, resulting in a massive explosion that registered as an earthquake as the bombs ignited the missiles stored in the building.

    Israel has admitted to striking targets in Syria more than 100 times since 2012, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that his country will continue to do so if it sees Iran moving people or military assets through Syria to reach its borders in Lebanon, but Israel is typically tight-lipped about the strikes.

    But the last strike, which officials told NBC killed dozens of Iranian troops, some of them high-ranking, escalates the tensions to new heights.

    Iran squared up, but Israel threw the first punch

    t4 air base homs

    "There has been a big change in the situation in the last few weeks in a sense that up to now the confrontation between Iran and Israel has been essentially conducted through proxies," Jonathan Eyal, the international director at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

    Iran funds, trains, and equips several Shi'ite militias that are active in Syria and across the region. The 100 or so Israeli strikes against targets in Syria had mainly hit these proxy forces, until very recently. 

    "The confrontation between Iran and Israel is at a much a higher level now because it’s direct," Eyal said. 

    Iran has reportedly increased troop and cargo movements into Syria while amassing 70,000 or so fighters in the country and potentially 150,000 rockets. The militias, once helping Syria's President Bashar Assad fight off rebels and sometimes clashing with ISIS forces, now appear to be digging in to establish a permanent presence in the country, according to Eyal.

    Meanwhile, Israel has been blamed for a series of hard hits on Iranian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria. In February, Israel downed an Iranian jet and claimed to knock out half of Syria's air defenses. In April, Israel is suspected of bombing an Iranian air base in Syria on two separate occasions.

    A permanent Iranian presence in Syria represents a "red line," according to Eyal, but war is not a foregone conclusion.

    Iran is angry, but Israel is keeping them off balance

    netanyahu nuclear iran

    "It's unlikely the Iranians will simply shrug in response," to repeated deadly strikes on its forces from its sworn enemy in Jerusalem, but "the Israelis are trying very hard to deescalate" the conflict by not gloating about the strikes, which could help Iran save face, according to Eyal.

    "That is why there has been almost no gloating by Israel for the attack the other day, despite indications that the attack has succeeded in one respect by hitting quite serious targets," Eyal said.

    Additionally, Israel unleashed a trove of documents it says its spy service stole from Iran and presented them to the world with a clear message: Iran lied about its nuclear program.

    "The Israeli government calculated that Iran would feel less confident in retaliating militarily, possibly setting off a full-fledged regional war, if it were on the defensive in the international arena," The New York Times quoted a senior Israeli military official as saying.

    Israel has been pounding Iran, but it's surrounded

    israel iran map

    While experts previously told Business Insider that Iran's forces are exposed in lawless Syria, where dozens of countries' militaries operate and fight on air and land, Israel faces a real danger in confronting Tehran.

    Iran has "the possibility of unleashing the Hezbollah from Lebanon and indeed from starting to fire missiles from Syria if they have them," Eyal said. Iran can also stir up trouble with Hamas, a Palestinian group active in parts of Israel's territory, and possibly call for another holy uprising.

    "The Iranian challenge is a serious challenge," Eyal said. "There are substantial military Iranian military assets in Syria."

    So while Israel sees Iranian forces as overextended and exposed in Syria, Iran sees Israel as surrounded on all sides.

    In the end, avoiding or causing war could come down to both sides maintaining a healthy fear of bloodshed, or a simple misjudgment.

    "This would not be the first war that’s started by people who misjudged their positions," Eyal said. 

    SEE ALSO: Israel is stomping on Iran for its alleged secret nuclear program — and it could bring one of the worst wars the Middle East has ever seen

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Russian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jets take off as part of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria at Hmeymim airbase, Syria, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Russian Ministry of Defence/Vadim Grishankin/Handout via Reuters

    On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.

    The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972.

    They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defence), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyse enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.

    Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (US Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.

    Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1:

    Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle.

    “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source from the US Rivet Joint community who wishes to remain anonymous.

    For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.

    SEE ALSO: A Russian fighter buzzed a US spy plane in a 'safe' but 'unprofessional' intercept over the Baltic Sea

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War


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    Russian SU-30 fighter jet

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian military said a Sukhoi-30 multi-role fighter jet had crashed in Syria on Thursday, killing both of its pilots, Russian news agencies reported.

    The agencies, citing a defense ministry statement, said the jet had crashed after taking off and was not shot down.

    The RIA news agency said the crash may have been caused by a bird strike.

    SEE ALSO: The US Navy has abandoned classic sailing skills — and it could lose its next war

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    Vladimir Putin Bashar al-Assad Syria Russia

    • Israel could kill Syrian President Bashar Assad if the creep of Iranian military forces and missiles through the Levant towards Israel's borders don't stop, a security cabinet minister said on Monday.
    • The statement follows reports that Iran is preparing a massive missile attack against Israel on Sunday.
    • Iran has an estimated 70,000 fighters in Syria and likely more than 100,000 missiles and rockets in the region, and the US says it's preparing to attack Israel at some point.
    • But Israel is allied with the US, and Syria is allied with Russia. If the two sides went to war, it could spiral into a massive conflict.

    Israel could kill Syrian President Bashar Assad if the creep of Iranian military forces and missiles through the Levant towards Israel's borders don't stop, a security cabinet minister said on Monday.

    "If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime," Yuval Steinitz told Israeli news site Ynetnews.

    The statement follows reports that Iran is preparing a massive missile attack against Israel on Sunday.

    Iran has an estimated 70,000 fighters in Syria and likely more than 100,000 missiles and rockets in the region. The US holds that Iran is preparing to attack the Jewish state and establish a land bridge from Tehran to Lebanon, where Hezbollah, an Israeli and US-designated terror organization, recently strengthened its position in parliament. 

    Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran's dominance to spread to its borders, and has carried out more than 100 airstrikes in Syria to halt its progress. Israel considers Hezbollah an extension of Iran, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state. 

    But most recently, the airstrikes threatened to escalate. After an armed Iranian drone reportedly flew into Israeli airspace, Israel shot down the drone and responded with a massive storm of strikes that it says took out half of Syria's air defenses.

    Later, a mysterious airstrike reportedly killed seven Iranian military servicemen at the base where the Iranian drone took off. Another strike appeared to take out a munitions depot in a massive explosion that registered as an earthquake. Israel is suspected to be behind both attacks. 

    "The month of May will be very volatile," former Israeli Defense Force intelligence chief Amos Yadlin previously told JPost, implying Iran would want revenge for the humiliating strikes. 

    Israel vs. Syria may turn into Russia vs. US

    israeli air force formation blue flag israel

    Iran has long supported Syria's Assad in his seven-year long civil war, but Assad has another, more powerful backer: Russia. 

    Russian air defenses protect Assad in Damascus, though they have never activated in response to Israeli airstrikes against targets in Syria, despite Syrian military assets sometimes being hit in the strikes

    But, if Israel directly tries to kill Syria's president, Russia, which has staked its credibility in the region on its ability to defend Assad, may have to respond. Israel has a very capable air force and stealth jets at its disposal, but Russia's air defenses in Syria are rumored to be among the best.

    Additionally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a recent trip to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the US was "deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East."

    "The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel's sovereign right to defend itself," Pompeo added.

    Syria has long been fraught geopolitically, and the US and Russia have frequently found themselves backing different sides in the fight. So far no serious conflict has taken place between the two Cold War foes that control most of the world's nuclear weapons.

    But while the US and Russia have proven cautious about engaging each other, Israel has shown itself very willing to bomb any target it considers a threat. 

    Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

    SEE ALSO: Israel has been punishing Iran in Syria and looks to be preparing for a massive war — but it's surrounded by rockets

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    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends his ruling AK Party's Istanbul congress, Turkey May 6, 2018.

    • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey will carry out new military operations against US-backed forces operating along its borders with Syria. 
    • The US on Friday announced details of a proposed bill that would temporarily halt weapons sales to Turkey, which is looking to purchase more than 100 F-35s.  
    • On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said "Turkey will absolutely retaliate" if the US halts the weapons sales.

    Turkey will carry out new military operations along its borders after its two previous offensives into Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, as he announced his manifesto for next month's snap elections.

    Turkey is now carrying out an offensive into northern Syria's Afrin region against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish militants waging an insurgency on Turkish soil.

    The Afrin campaign is Turkey's second cross-border operation into Syria during the seven-year-old civil war. The first, dubbed "Euphrates Shield", targeted Islamic State and Kurdish fighters further east than Afrin, and was completed in early 2017.

    Speaking to thousands of supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey's operations along its southern border would continue "until not a single terrorist is left."

    "We will not give up on constricting terrorist organizations. In the new period, Turkey will add new ones to the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in order to clear its borders," Erdogan said.

    "We shattered the terror corridor being formed on our southern border with these operations. Our soldiers, who lastly wrote an epic in Afrin, are ready for new missions," he said.

    Erdogan has previously threatened to push its Afrin offensive against the YPG further east to Manbij, where U.S. troops are stationed, risking confrontation between the NATO allies.

    turkish tanks

    Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and has been infuriated with U.S. support for the militia.

    On Friday, the US also announced details of a proposed $717 billion annual defense policy bill, which included measures to temporarily halt weapons sales to Turkey. 

    Ankara is looking to purchase more than 100 F-35, and possibly Patriot missile defense systems, but has also recently signed an agreement with Moscow to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems, which are incompatible with NATO systems. 

    On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said"Turkey will absolutely retaliate" if the US halts the weapons sales, adding that the US "needs to let go of this."

    But Cavusoglu also said on Sunday that Ankara and Washington have reached an understanding on a roadmap in Syria's Manbij in which the militants will leave the area, and that the details were being discussed with the new U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

    Erdogan has also said Turkey could carry out a joint offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq with Baghdad. Cavusoglu said the operation was still on the agenda.

    SEE ALSO: The top 10 countries that bought Russia's most powerful weapons in 2017

    SEE ALSO: 8 photos of the S-400 in Syria, Russia's most advanced missile defense system that the US could go up against

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Syria airstrike

    • Nine pro-Syrian fighters were reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital of Damascus on Tuesday.
    • Videos of the alleged strike were seen across social media.
    • The incident comes shortly after President Donald Trump announced that he would be withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and enact fresh sanctions against what he called "the leading state sponsor of terror."


    Nine pro-Syrian fighters were reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital of Damascus on Tuesday, shortly after Israeli forces determined"abnormal movements of Iranian forces" in Syria.

    On Tuesday night, state-owned media outlets in Syria reported that its air defenses intercepted two Israeli missiles; however, the Syrian media is believed to have inflated its defensive capabilities in the past.

    The reported strikes targeted an "arms depot belonging to Hezbollah and the Iranians," according Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human rights, according to the AFP.

    Videos of the alleged strike were seen across social media:

    Israel's military typically does not publicly discuss its airstrikes, but it recently took several steps indicating an escalating conflict with Iranian forces. On Tuesday, the Israeli army ordered the opening and preparation of missile shelters in the occupied Golan Heights, but stopped short of instructing residents to occupy the shelters.

    Military reservists were also activated and missile defense batteries in northern Israel were placed on high alert, according to The Times of Israel.

    "The IDF is ready and prepared for a variety of scenarios and warns that any action against Israel will be answered with a fierce retaliation," the Israeli army announced, according to The Times.

    The incident comes shortly after President Donald Trump announced that he would be withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and enact fresh sanctions against "the leading state sponsor of terror."

    "Over the years, Iran and its proxies have bombed American embassies and military installations, murdered hundreds of American servicemembers, and kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured American citizens," Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.

    "We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction," Trump continued. "Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States."

    This is a developing situation. Check back for updates.

    SEE ALSO: Even some of the Iran deal's most vocal critics aren't sure Trump made the right choice in withdrawing from it

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Hassan al Kontar guy stuck in malaysia airport

    • Hassan al-Kontar has been stranded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 since March 7.
    • Al-Kontar finds himself there after years of struggling to seek a better life abroad as a Syrian citizen.
    • The Syrian asylum seeker now documents his daily struggles on Twitter, and has learned to adapt to life stuck in transit.
    • Al-Kontar hopes his story will shed light on the modern-day plight of Syrian refugees around the world. 


    Hassan al-Kontar has been stranded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) since March 7.

    "When you are stuck in the airport you face two kinds of problems in my situation," al-Kontar told Business Insider. "One problem is creating a daily routine. But the main problem is how to get yourself out."

    Al-Kontar arrived at KLIA2 after years of struggling to find a better life abroad as a Syrian citizen.

    Al-Kontar told Business Insider that he left Syria in 2006 to avoid being drafted into the army and to secure a better future outside his home country's politically unstable borders.

    Things got complicated for the 36-year-old in 2016, after living in the United Arab Emirates for nearly 10 years.

    During his time in the UAE, he lived and worked comfortably in the country's insurance sector but then lost his work visa. He says the Syrian Embassy there refused to renew his passport.

    With few other options, Kontar worked illegally for without a valid passport or visa, before UAE authorities sent him to a holding center in Malaysia in January 2017. Malaysia is one of the few countries that offers visas on arrival to Syrian nationals.

    Al-Kontar tried to save money and leave Malaysia on two occasions in 2017 — once to Ecuador, another time to Cambodia — but he was rejected each time and sent back to a country he did not choose to live in. He is currently blacklisted by Malaysia for overstaying his visa and is confined to the transit zone of KLIA2.

    A life in limbo

    Al-Kontar documents his struggles on Twitter to cope with the loneliness of his predicament. He also posts videos of his daily life in hopes of getting the attention of someone who can offer a solution.

    He says he has no set schedule, but often begins his day by reaching out to government agencies, volunteers, NGOs and media to get help.

    He then sets out for the day, often wandering the terminal or tackling issues that he says he "never thought would ever become a problem but now have become major problems."

    Simple tasks, like figuring out how and when to shower, and how to clean his clothes, have become major obstacles.

    "Where will I dry my clothes when there is nowhere to hang them?" he asks. "If I do get a chance to wash my clothes, I wash them quickly and wear them while they are still wet."

    He says he showers quickly, usually after midnight in the accessible facilities to avoid raised eyebrows from travelers.

    For food, al-Kontar says he has arranged with generous airport staff to have three prepackaged airline meals a day. He has also become friendly with the cleaning staff, who sometimes buy al-Kontar specialty foods from airport restaurants or coffee shops at discount rates.

    Sleep does not come easy for al-Kontar, whose irregular circumstances have made it difficult to rest comfortably.

    "I don't have normal hours to sleep. If I get too tired I will sleep on the chairs in the hall and then wake up for a few hours and then sleep for four or five hours like that on repeat."

    He has created a makeshift bed on the floor underneath a stairwell, away from passengers and blocked off by several safety barriers.

    Al-Kontar told Business Insider that government bodies and NGOs have reached out offering temporary solutions, and Malaysia has even offered to vet him for a spot on its Syrian Refugee Program.

    While al-Kontar is grateful, he remains committed to finding a long-term solution

    Malaysia not a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee Agreement, which means, al-Kontar says, his refugee and work-rights in the country are not guaranteed.

    "They've just offered me the chance to stay as long as I need but I cannot work and I can't have refugee status with a refugee visa, residence visa, or permanent visa."

    Al-Kontar says his future plans include "finding a country that signed the 1951 UN agreement" so he can obtain refugee status and move forward with his life.

    "I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel yet but I am trying to. At this point I have accepted that I will be here for a while."

    Al-Kontar says he cannot return to Syria because of a warrant out for his arrest for dodging the army, nor would he want to, given the current state of affairs.

    Al-Kontar last visited his family in Syria in 2008, and still communicates with them on occasion, sparing them the details of his current situation. His father died in 2016, shortly before his transfer to Malaysia, and he was unable to return for the funeral, a move that he says still haunts him to this day.

    Fighting back tears, al-Kontar stressed that his story is not just about him, but also provides insight into the plight of millions of Syrians who have fled civil war and are seeking asylum around the world.

    "My family is worried about me, of course. But they have their own problems and their own tragedies to deal with in Syria. I feel that I've failed them, which is why I am standing up to try and win this fight," he said.

    "For me and for them."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Israel Israeli Air Force F 16s

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday an Israeli attack on Iranian military facilities south of Damascus had killed at least 15 people, including eight Iranians.

    The reports of an Israeli attack in the Kisweh area late on Tuesday followed U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he was pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal.

    "The number increased to at least 15, including at least eight Iranians, killed by the missile strikes," the British-based Observatory reported.

    On Tuesday, Syrian state media said that its air defences had brought down two Israeli missiles, while a commander in the regional alliance backing Damascus said Israel had hit a Syrian army base without causing casualties.

    Israel's military declined to comment on the reports, which came shortly after it said it had identified "irregular activity" by Iranian forces in Syria and went onto high alert.

    Iran is a major supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military and has deployed Revolutionary Guards forces, along with Shi'ite militia groups from the region, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, to help him in the war.

    Israel regards Iran as its arch enemy, and Hezbollah as the biggest threat on its borders. It has repeatedly struck Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, partly to stop any weapons transfers between them.

    Iran said an April 9 attack in Syria killed seven of its military personnel and it would retaliate.

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    JERUSALEM (AP) — Iranian forces based in Syria fired 20 rockets at Israeli front-line military positions in the Golan Heights early Thursday, the Israeli military said, triggering an Israeli reprisal and escalating already heightened tensions in what appeared to be the most serious violence in years.

    The Israeli military said its Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted some of the incoming projectiles, while others caused only minimal damage. There were no Israeli casualties.

    The Syrian capital of Damascus shook with sounds of explosions just before dawn, and firing by Syrian air defenses over the city was heard throughout the night. An Israeli official said Israel was targeting Iranian positions inside Syria. Syrian state TV quoted a Syrian military official as saying Israel was targeting air defense positions and trying to hit radar stations.

    Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said earlier that Iran's Al Quds force fired the rockets at several Israeli bases, though he would not say how Israel determined the Iranian involvement. The incoming attack set off air raid sirens in the Israeli-controlled Golan, which was captured from Syria in the 1967 war.

    Israel "views this Iranian attack very severely," Conricus told reporters. He said Israel had responded, but did not provide details.

    "This event is not over," he said.

    Syria's state media said Syrian air defenses had intercepted "hostile Israeli missiles" early Thursday that were fired over southwestern Damascus. Hours later, state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast a live feed of Syrian air defenses firing into the sky above the capital, and loud explosions and air defense firing were heard through the night.

    Syrian activists reported Israeli airstrikes hitting targets near Damascus. One video posted online showed a large explosion and shrapnel flying in the air. Residents reported loud sounds that rocked their buildings. It was not immediately clear what was hit.

    An Israeli army spokesman, Avichay Adraee, said on Twitter that Israel was "acting against Iranian targets inside Syria," a rare admission by an Israeli official.

    Al-Ikhbariya TV said Israel also targeted military posts in southern Suweida province, including an air base. The report quoted a Syrian official as saying those attacks were foiled.

    Syrian media earlier said the hostilities began with Israeli fire at Syrian positions in southern Syria from across the border. Pro-Syrian media said Syrian missiles then fired at Israeli forces. One TV station, Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen, said at least 50 missiles were fired from Syria at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. Al-Ikhbariya TV said missiles targeted 10 Israeli positions.

    Syrian media said it was the first time in years that Syrians had fired at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.

    Israel has been on heightened alert in recent days, anticipating an Iranian attack following Iranian vows to retaliate to what it says are recent Israeli strikes in Syria targeting Iranian outposts.

    Late Tuesday, Syrian state media said Israel struck a military outpost near the capital of Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted depots and rocket launchers that likely belonged to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, killing at least 15 people, eight of them Iranians.

    Last month, an attack on Syria's T4 air base in Homs province killed seven Iranian military personnel. On April 30, Israel was said to have struck government outposts in northern Syria, killing more than a dozen pro-government fighters, many of them Iranians.

    Israel has neither confirmed nor denied most of the airstrikes. But for months, it has repeatedly said it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria.

    In February, Israel shot down what it said was an armed Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace. Israel responded by attacking anti-aircraft positions in Syria, but an Israeli warplane was shot down during the battle.

    Iranian forces moved into Syria after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011 to back the forces of President Bashar Assad. As that war winds down, and Assad appears to be headed toward victory, Israel fears that Iran, along with tens of thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen, will carry out attacks against Israel. President Donald Trump's announcement Tuesday that the U.S. was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran has triggered uncertainty and threatened to spark more unrest in the Middle East.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and discuss military coordination in Syria.

    Russia has also sent forces to Syria to back Assad. But Israel and Russia have maintained close communications to prevent their air forces from coming into conflict.

    Together with Putin, Netanyahu toured a parade celebrating the anniversary of the World War II victory over the Nazis and then met the Russian president at the Kremlin for consultations.

    After 10 hours together, Netanyahu said he conveyed Israel's obligation to defend itself against Iranian aggression.

    "I think that matters were presented in a direct and forthright manner, and this is important. These matters are very important to Israel's security at all times and especially at this time," he said.

    Israel views Iran as its archenemy, citing Iran's calls for Israel's destruction, support for militant groups across the region and growing military activity in neighboring Syria. Israel has warned that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

    Israel's military went on high alert Tuesday and bomb shelters were ordered open in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights following reports of "irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria." After an uneventful night, the military on Wednesday called on residents to return to "full civilian routine," meaning studies and excursions would continue as usual, although the shelters would remain open.

    Amos Gilead, a retired senior Israeli defense official, told a security conference in the coastal town of Herzliya that Iran's intentions in Syria meant a wider conflagration may only be a matter of time.

    "They want to build a second Hezbollah-stan," he said, referring to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group that last fought a war with Israel in 2006. "They are determined to do it and we are determined to prevent it. It means we are on a collision course."

     

    SEE ALSO: An Israeli airstrike in Syria killed 15, including Iranians, according to war monitor

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    Israeli strike thumb

    • Israel launched dozens of strikes on Syria in a massive retaliation on Iran.
    • The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said fighter jets took down "dozens" of Iranian military targets.
    • IDF claimed its airstrikes hit Iranian intelligence facilities, logistic headquarters, observation posts, weapon storage facilities, and a vehicle used to launch rockets into Israeli territory.
    • The strikes represent a massive step up in the fighting between Iran and Israel.


    Israel's military launched a barrage of missile strikes on Iranian targets based in Syria early Thursday morning, a massive retaliation in an ongoing conflict between the two bitter enemies.

    The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed fighter jets took down "dozens" of Iranian military targets in Syria overnight Thursday. The IDF spokeman's unit told Israel's Channel 10 News more than 50 targets were hit.

    In a series of tweets, the army said the strikes were in response to Iranian rockets launched at IDF positions in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights earlier that night.

    israel fighter jets army

    The IDF included an animated video of how the military act unfolded, featuring footage reportedly from the strike.

    "This Iranian aggression is another proof of the intentions behind the establishment of the Iranian regime in Syria and the threat it poses to Israel and regional stability," it said.

    The IDF said it would "not allow the Iranian threat to establish itself in Syria" and that it would hold the Assad regime accountable for the escalation of violence within its borders.

    The official IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, told Channel 10 that Israeli airstrikes had hit Iranian intelligence facilities, logistic headquarters, observation posts, weapon-storage facilities, and a vehicle used to launch rockets into Israeli territory.

    Manelis said the strike was the largest attack carried out by Israel in Syria since the two signed an agreement following the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

    It is also the first time Israel directly pointed blame at Iran for firing into Israeli territory.

    Israel claimed that the Iranian strikes on its territory caused no injuries or damage. It said four missiles had been intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket-defense system while others fell into Syrian territory.

    Manelis told Haaretz,"We were prepared and we sum up this night as a success despite the fact that it is still not over."

    He said Israel was not seeking escalation but that its forces were "prepared for any scenario." He added that Israel "hit hard at Iranian infrastructure" that it claims Iran has been building up for over a year.

    Manelis posted a photo on his personal Facebook account, illustrating Israel's airstrikes at several locations in Syria, including several near Syria's capital of Damascus.

    Syrian state news agency SANA reported, "The Syrian air defenses are confronting a new wave of Israeli aggression rockets and downing them one after the other."

    SANA also posted video of what it reported to be Syrian air defenses shooting down Israeli missiles.

    SEE ALSO: Violence erupts as Israel accuses Iranian forces of launching rocket attack in Golan Heights

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    israel iran missile battle syria

    The Russian military says Israel fired more than 70 missiles at Iranian facilities in Syria and that Syrian air defenses shot down more than half of them.

    Israel says it struck dozens of Iranian targets overnight in response to a rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights. It was the biggest Israeli strike in Syria since the 1973 war.

    The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that 28 Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter jets launched about 60 air-to-surface missiles during the two-hour raid early Thursday. It says Israel also fired over 10 tactical surface-to-surface missiles.

    Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has been waging its own air campaign on his behalf since 2015.

    SEE ALSO: Putin may have given Israeli PM Netanyahu the green light to wipe out Iran in Syria in a massive air war

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    israel iran missile battle syria

    • Iran launched a missile strike on northern Israel late Wednesday night, with 20 Grad and Fajr rockets taking off from Syria in what was widely seen as retaliation after months of Israeli airstrikes punishing their forces.
    • Israel's response reportedly crushed Iranian forces in Syria.
    • After the attack, not even Iran's allies came to its defense, with even Bahraincondemning Iran's attack, though Iran was badly punished for it.
    • Now, Iran's only recourse may be to silently take the beating or unleash Hezbollah for all-out war on Israel.

    Iran launched a missile strike on northern Israel late Wednesday night, with 20 Grad and Fajr rockets taking off from Syria in what was widely seen as retaliation after months of Israeli airstrikes punishing their forces — but it looks like it got crushed.

    Not only does Israel say it intercepted a number of the Iranian missiles, it says the other missiles failed to reach their target and sputtered out while still in Syria.

    The response from Israel included many more missiles, and, according to Israel, did serious damage that will take a long time to rebuild.

    How we got here

    F 16 Israel Crash

    For years, Iran's clerical regime has chanted "Death to Israel" and supported Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas on Israel's borders in Gaza and the West Bank, which the US designates as terror organizations.

    Since Iran became involved in Syria's civil war, Israel assesses it has attempted to move in forces and military assets to the Jewish state's borders in an attempt to arm its allies and attack Israel within its borders. Israel rarely admits to specific strikes, but owns that it has struck Iranians in Syria more than 100 times since 2012.

    In February, Israel reported that an armed Iranian drone flew into its airspace, which it shot down. Israel then launched massive air raids on Iranian-linked targets in Syria, and claimed to have wiped out half of Syria's air defenses in the process.

    Scattered strikes in April escalated tensions by targeting not just Iranian proxies but actual uniformed Iranian soldiers, and some high-up ones at that. Israel started warning of prospective Iranian retaliation around this point.

    The strike

    israel strike syria missile daraa

    Israel released maps and even a simulated video of the strikes it carried out on Iranian targets in Syria. Russia claimed Syrian defenses downed more than half of the Israeli missiles, but they have consistently made dubious, unverified claims about Syrian missile defenses in the past.

    Here are the Israeli media posts:

    Israeli strike thumb

    The aftermath

    israel lebanon missile

    Iran's long-awaited retaliation finally came. Former Israeli deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh told Business Insider that Israel targeted "the intelligence and the infrastructure" of Iran's forces in Syria, doing "heavy damage" which "will take time to repair." Israel's current defense minister said it took out most of Iran's infrastructure in Syria.

    In the end, the US, UK, and France all condemned Iran for its missile attack on Israel without mentioning Israeli incursions into Syria to strike Iranians. France went as far as saying that Iran's actions toward Israel merit revisiting and expanding the Iran nuclear deal to rein in Tehran's regional activity.

    Bahrain, a Gulf Arab country that rarely speaks to Israel, even condemned Iran's attack and asserted Israel's right to defend itself. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Business Insider that while they might not say it, other Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, probably support Israel pushing back Iran's influence.

    Russia urged mutual calm after the massive air war in which its ally, Iran, suffered badly.

    What was missing was a total lack of international outrage. Israel carried out the strike with impunity after entering Syrian airspace uninvited. It lost no soldiers or civilians. Iran has been badly beaten by its great enemy and condemned on the world stage days after the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

    Now, Iran's only recourse may be to silently take the beating or unleash Hezbollah for all-out war on Israel.

    But Israel may be ready for that as well, as Israeli reporter Barak Ravid quoted Israel's defense minister as saying, "If it rains in Israel, it will pour in Iran."

    SEE ALSO: Putin may have given Israeli PM Netanyahu the green light to wipe out Iran in Syria in a massive air war

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    misile pantair military s1

    • Israel just released video of a Delilah cruise missile taking out a Pantsir-S1 self-propelled combined gun/missile system during its strike on Iranian Quds targets on Wednesday in Syria.
    • Israel says the strike was in response to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Syria shooting 20 rockets towards IDF posts in the Golan Heights on the same day.
    • The Delilah is a cruise missile developed in Israel by Israel Military Industries (IMI), built to target moving and re-locatable targets with a CEP of 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) at a maximum range of 250 km.


    On May 9, 2018, the Quds force, a special force wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, stationed in Syria, shot 20 rockets towards IDF posts in the Golan Heights. The IDF intercepted four of the rockets, preventing casualties and damage. This is the first time that Iranian forces have directly fired at Israeli troops.

    In response, in the night on May 10, IDF fighter jets (mainly F-16I Sufa aircraft according to most sources even though the official IAF website’s release on the attack shows also a file photo of an F-15I) struck several military targets in Syria that belonged to Iran’s Quds force. “The IDF’s wide-scale attack included Iranian intelligence sites, the Quds force logistics headquarters, an Iranian military compound in Syria, observation and military posts, et cetera. In spite of a warning from Israel, Syrian aerial defense forces fired towards the IAF aircraft as they conducted the strikes. In response, the IAF targeted several aerial interception systems (SA5, SA2, SA22, SA17) which belong to the Syrian Armed Forces. All of the IDF’s fighter jets returned to their bases safely.”

    idf strikes iranian targets in syria3

    Among the targets hit by the Israeli combat planes there is also a Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 according to the NATO designation) as shown in the following footage.

    The Pantsir-S1 is a Russian-built advanced, self-propelled combined gun/missile system that is made mobile on 8×8 trucks. The transportable gun/SAM system includes up to 12 surface-to-air missiles arranged into two 6-tube groups on the turret, and a pair of 30mm cannon.

    The SA-22 was destroyed from what, based on the type of aircraft reportedly involved in the air strikes, the range of the missile and similar footage available online, seems to be a Delilah missile (actually, there is someone that suggested the missile might have been a Spike NLOS, but the use of a standoff missile seems much more likely).

    The Delilah is a cruise missile developed in Israel by Israel Military Industries (IMI), built to target moving and re-locatable targets with a CEP of 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) at a maximum range of 250 km.

    Delilah missile

    The best description of the cruise missile comes from the IAF website:

    In terms of its structure, the Delilah is almost identical to a typical air-to-ground missile. The front section includes the homing parts, which in the first models were televisional. Thus, the head of the missile includes an antenna for general guidance towards its target. The next section holds the various electronic parts including guidance systems and flight control. The part behind this holds the warhead and fuel supply. The final section is made up of a jet engine capable of producing 165 pounds of thrust and the control surfaces that turn the missile towards its target.

    Examining the technical data alone raises the question of why the Delilah is considered such an important missile. After all, there are missiles capable of flying further and faster and carrying warheads many times larger which are available on the global weapons market. The answer lies in the fact that the Delilah is seen more as a “loitering missile” than a cruise missile.

    In general typical air-to-ground missiles are launched in the general direction of their target. A navigational system (such as GPS) takes them to the spot where intelligence indicates that the target lies. If the missile is autonomous (“fire and forget”) then the plane that launched it can simply leave. The missile flies towards the target. When it identifies it, it strikes it with the help of its final guidance system. When the target is not where it is expected to be, the missile is simply written off. An example of this sort of weapon is the US Tomahawk missile, at least in its early models.

    When a missile is fitted with an electro-optic guidance system, it broadcasts an image of what is in front of it, back to the aircraft that launched it.  The image from the homing device is shown on a special screen in the cockpit, usually facing the navigator’s chair in a two-seater aircraft. The navigator can send the missile instructions, and make small changes in its flight path. However, these changes can only take pace during a relatively short period of time, and are comparatively minor. From the moment that the missile begins its final approach, no changes can be made. The result is that although he has some control, the navigator is actually very limited. If a missile approaches a target, which at the last minute turns out to be moving, or the wrong target altogether, then the missile misses. Thus, there have been many events like the one in Yugoslavia in 1999 when an electro-optic bomb launched from a US combat airplane was launched at a bridge. Seconds before impact, a passenger train reached the bridge and all the navigator could do was watch in horror, knowing that many civilians would be killed. It is here that the Delilah’s unique ability enters the picture.

    […]

    The Delilah’s operation is similar to what is described above; it, too, possesses a “Man in the Loop” mechanism, where the navigator controls the final direction of the missile. However, in the case of the Delilah there’s a key difference: as the missile makes the final approach, if the target has moved or if there’s a need to cancel the attack (for example, if civilians are spotted near the target), all the navigator needs to do is press a button in the cockpit which instructs the missile to abort its approach and return to linger. Thus, situations in which a missile is wasted on a target that has disappeared, or in which civilians are accidentally killed can be prevented. In the same way the use of a missile on a target that has already been destroyed can be prevented, saving valuable ammunition.

    This is not the only value in the Delilah missile’s ability to linger. One can imagine a situation in which the target’s precise location is not known with any certainty, for example if it is a portable anti-aircraft launcher or land-land missile launcher. In this case the Delilah can be launched in the general direction of the target, based on intelligence reports. The missile would fly in the direction of the target, all the while surveying the territory with its homing equipment. The image appears in the cockpit, the Delilah serving effectively as a homing UAV. The Delilah patrols above the territory searching for its target.  The missile’s long range can be exchanged for a prolonged stay in the air above the target. When the navigator identifies the target, or what is thought to be the target, he instructs the missile to fly towards it. If he has identified it correctly then the missile is directed to attack it. If he has not found the target then the missile is instructed to abort its approach and return to searching.

    The Delilah missile’s ability to both loiter and carry out repeated passes makes it the ideal weapon for attacking mobile sites like rocket launches. Everyone recalls the difficulty the US Air Force faced during the 1992 Gulf War when it attempted to locate and destroy the Iraqi “Al-Hussein” rocket launcher that was used to fire at Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Americans knew roughly where the rockets were being launched from but had difficulty locating the launchers themselves. As a result fighter planes were sent for long patrols over western Iraq every night. On many occasions the Americans identified the point where the missile was launched from, but by the time a counter-strike had been arranged the missile launcher had left the scene. It’s in these sorts of operational profile that the Delilah performs best, perhaps better than any other weapons system. In these cases the Delilah can be launched towards the area intelligence expects the missiles to be launched from. The Delilah will fly above the area and search for missile launchers. When a launcher is identified, it will be immediately struck by the missile. If it’s discovered that the target has not been identified correctly, for example if it’s a dummy launcher or another vehicle that looks like a launcher (such as a petrol tanker), the missile receives the instructions to end its approach and continue to search for the real target.

    “The Delilah is a system that can strike very precisely at critical, sensitive points from a great distance”, explains Brigadier General (reserve) Arieh Mizrachi, who was once CEO of IMI.”If we want to attack a command bunker, for example, and we know where it is situated and exactly which window we need to hit then we can do it. We can always make another approach and place the missile exactly where we want it. The extreme precision of the missile makes it possible for us to paralyze the enemy by striking their critical point. For example, if we send the missile through a window of a division’s control center, then no one will be left to give orders, and we’ll have silenced the whole division. It’s important to understand that the target does not need to be a large command center. The ‘Delilah’ lets us strike at the brain of the enemy, even if it’s a small mobile target like a command armored personnel carrier. Similarly, we can strike at a ship’s command center without needing to sink the whole ship. This holds true for many other kinds of target like airports, logistics centers and so on. The moment we identify the critical point, the Delilah lets us hit it”.

    […]

    “The training needed to operate the Delilah lasts a few months, and because of its complex capabilities, not everyone successfully completes it”, explains First Lieutenant A., an F-16D navigator in the “Scorpion” Squadron who is trained on the Delilah. “The training process is long, complex and challenging. You start with simple scenarios, hitting a large target in open space, and advance to small targets that are located in densely populated areas”.

    “Despite the intense cooperation between the pilot and the navigator, the fact remains that the missile is operated from the navigator’s cockpit. In the first stage you launch the missile and it flies towards the target you’ve given it. Later in the flight, you take control of the missile and direct it wherever you want. If you need to, you can press a button and the missile will loiter. The role of the pilot is to tell me when I’ve reach the point where I need to tell the missile to fly, and I can no longer tell it to continue to loiter”.

    “Even though you are not physically in the same place as the missile, and in fact are far away, the whole time you feel that you are part of it. The fact that you can fly the missile wherever you want, whilst you yourself fly to an area that is not under threat, gives you safety”.

    Anyway, here’s the footage:

    As said, the Delilah is a standoff weapon: it means the aircraft can use it while remaining at safe distance.

    As a side note, according to our sources, a KC-707 tanker that supported the F-16I. Yesterday, more or less when the jets were attacking the targets in Syria, a KC-707 was operating in the southern part of Israel.

    We can’t be sure the tanker was supporting the raid (the fact an Israeli aircraft could be tracked online during a combat mission is somehow surprising), still worth a mention.

    SEE ALSO: Jump inside the XB-70 Valkyrie, the largest and fastest bomber that the US ever built

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    • Russia is not in talks with the Syrian government about supplying advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles and does not think they are needed, reportedly.
    • The news follows a visit to Moscow by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, who has been lobbying Putin hard not to transfer the missiles.
    • Israel has made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell the S-300s to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capabilities against arms shipments to Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is not in talks with the Syrian government about supplying advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles and does not think they are needed, the Izvestia daily cited a top Kremlin aide as saying on Friday, in an apparent U-turn by Moscow.

    The comments, by Vladimir Kozhin, an aide to President Vladimir Putin who oversees Russian military assistance to other countries, follow a visit to Moscow by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, who has been lobbying Putin hard not to transfer the missiles.

    Russia last month hinted it would supply the weapons to Assad, over Israeli objections, after Western military strikes on Syria. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the strikes had removed any moral obligation Russia had to withhold the missiles and Russia's Kommersant daily cited unnamed military sources as saying deliveries might begin imminently.

    But Kozhin's comments, made so soon after Netanyahu's Moscow talks with Putin, suggest the Israeli leader's lobbying efforts have, for the time being, paid off.

    "For now, we're not talking about any deliveries of new modern (air defense) systems," Izvestia cited Kozhin as saying when asked about the possibility of supplying Syria with S-300s.

    The Syrian military already had "everything it needed," Kozhin added.

    Israel has made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell the S-300s to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capabilities against arms shipments to Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. Israel has carried out scores of air strikes against suspected shipments.

    On Thursday, Israel said it had attacked nearly all of Iran's military infrastructure in Syria after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory. S-300s could have significantly complicated the Israeli strikes.

    The missile system, originally developed by the Soviet military, but since modernized and available in several versions with significantly different capabilities, fires missiles from trucks and is designed to shoot down military aircraft and short and medium-range ballistic missiles.

    Though since been superseded by the more modern S-400 system, the S-300s are still regarded as highly potent and outstrip anything that the Syrian government currently has.

    Syria currently relies on a mixture of less advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft systems to defend its air space.

    Russian media on Friday were actively circulating a video released by the Israeli military which showed an Israeli missile destroying one such system -- a Russian-made Pantsir S-1 air defense battery -- on Thursday in Syria.

    SEE ALSO: The US slams fresh sanctions on Iranians accused of funneling money to elite armed forces

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    misile pantsir s1 syria israel

    • Moscow has offered two explanations for why the Russian-made Pantsir-S1 missile defense system took a direct hit during an Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.
    • "One is that it had already used up its ammunition reserve," Aytech Bizhev, a former deputy commander-in-chief of Russia's air force, told the Russian state-run news agency RT. "The other is that it was simply turned off; it wasn't battle ready."
    • Whatever the reason, the incident wasn't good advertising for the Russian system. 

    Moscow has offered two explanations for why the Russian-made Pantsir-S1 missile defense system took a direct hit during an Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.

    "One is that it had already used up its ammunition reserve," Aytech Bizhev, a former deputy commander-in-chief of Russia's air force, told the Russian state-run news agency RT. "The other is that it was simply turned off; it wasn't battle ready."

    Israeli fighter jets struck dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria on Thursday, killing at least 23 people, including at least five Syrian soldiers, according to the Syria Observatory for Human Rights.

    Israel, which released footage of the Pantsir-S1 system being hit, said it launched the attack after Iranian forces fired 20 rockets toward the Golan Heights on Wednesday, some of which were shot down.

    But the day before that attack, Israel was said to have carried out strikes near the Syrian capital of Damascus, shortly after determining "abnormal movements of Iranian forces" in Syria and after President Donald Trump announced the US would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

    Pantsir and S 400 in Syria

    As for the destruction of the Pantsir-S1, there "can be no third option, as it wouldn't have let itself to be destroyed," Bizhev told RT, adding: "When it's battle ready, it performs constant surveillance of enemy aircraft and has a very fast reaction time. It would've brought down those cruise missiles with either its cannons or own missiles."

    Mikhail Khodorenok, a retired Russian colonel, also told RT that the Pantsir-S1 wasn't camouflaged, meaning it "wasn't ready for engagement." He added that the incident didn't "question the high combat capabilities" of the system.

    There are other possible reasons the Pantsir-S1 took a direct hit.

    It could be that its radar was turned off to avoid anti-radiation missiles — it was most likely hit by a Delilah anti-radar cruise missile— or that the Syrian operators simply bungled the incident.

    Bizhev said the Israeli jets had a geographic advantage in that they fired their missiles "without entering the [Syrian] air defense area." He told RT that "they approached at low altitudes, then bounced from behind the Golan Heights, carried out the attack, and left."

    The Pantsir-S1 "requires between three to five minutes to go operational," Bizhev said, adding that it's exhausting for the crew to keep the system on at all times.

    Pantsir S1 SA-22 Greyhound missile defense system Russia

    But questions remain — for example, why the system would have been turned off and not strategically placed or camouflaged, given the back-and-forth strikes in the previous two days.

    Also, did the Pantsir-S1 run out of ammunition before the strike or during it? The latter doesn't seem to jibe with what Russia has said. The former also appears strange, considering the operators would want a loaded system, as Israeli and Iranian forces had been trading strikes.

    Whatever the reason the Pantsir-S1 took a direct hit, it wasn't good advertising for the Russian system, as Moscow heavily depends on foreign military sales to boost its flagging economy.

    SEE ALSO: Israel just released footage of one of its missiles hitting an air-defense system in Syria

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    Syria SANA Damascus military government Syrian State Islamic State

    • The Syrian government reports it took over remaining neighborhoods in Damascus from the Islamic State, giving the country full control of its capital for the first time since 2011.
    • Syria's military has recently regained the most territory since civil war began, securing roads between the country's three main cities which were previously in rebel hands or in line of fire. 
    • Iran has aided Syrian militias, and Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi pledges to, "continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants."

    The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

    The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21 came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.

    The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.

    State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.

    The gains by President Bashar al-Assad's forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.

    The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hizballah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country's northern and central areas.

    Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi last week that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.

    Putin's envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21 with the "strongest sanctions in history" if Tehran doesn't change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.

    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran's presence "in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants."

    SEE ALSO: After Israeli PM Netanyahu met Putin, Russia says it won't sell advanced missile defenses to Syria

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    trump and putin

    • President Donald Trump may have a chance to pull the US out of Syria now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on Iran to move out its forces as well.
    • Trump has long wanted to pull the US out of Syria, but likely couldn't because he'd be forfeiting the country to the same Iranian influence he hopes to counter.
    • Putin looks to have turned his back on Iran, and has asked them to leave Syria.

    President Donald Trump's administration has been puzzling for some time over a vital question — how to pull the US out of Syria without ceding the region to Iran.

    But now it looks like an unlikely figure, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has presented a solution.

    After withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal, a move that largely isolated the US's Iran policy from the policies of other US allies, Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, laid out a unilateral list of demands for Tehran.

    Among the demands, which critics mocked as a pipe dream, was for Iran to pull its militias out of Syria.

    Iran has about 70,000 official uniformed and unofficially aligned militia fighters in Syria and a massive reported arsenal of over 100,000 missiles there. Iran's forces hope to reach Lebanon to support Hezbollah, an anti-Israel Shia Muslim militia that holds power there.

    Even before Pompeo's speech, the Trump administration had announced its intentions to shut out Iran in Syria

    Israel, predictably, refuses to let Iran creep through the fog of the Syrian war to its borders, and has hammered Iran's forces there with a continuous barrage of airstrikes. Israel has appeared to strike Iranian targets at will in Syria and has suffered minimal loses and blowback as a result. 

    In doing so, Israel has destroyed several Russian-made air defense systems and trampled over Syria's airspace. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with Putin before major battles over Syria, and has seemingly gained his blessing in striking Iran.

    But on Saturday, Putin gave more than a quiet blessing, and outright called for Iranian and all foreign militias to leave Syria.

    Since Russia entered the Syrian conflict in late 2015, Syrian President Bashar Assad has beaten back the rebel and Islamist forces that threatened his grip on power. In the last few months, the remaining bits of opposition have largely collapsed.

    Now, Putin says its time for US, Turkish, and even Iranian forces to go as Syria seeks a political settlement. 

    Bring home the troops

    US Marine artillery syria

    While Putin calling on US forces to leave the Middle East isn't new, it's novel that he would tell Iran, his ally, to abandon its foreign policy goal of establishing influence from Tehran to Beirut. 

    Iran responded angrily, with its foreign ministry spokesperson saying "no one can force Iran to do anything,"the Times of Israel noted

    But Iran is getting consistently rocked by Israeli airstrikes in Syria. Russia has refused to provide advanced missile defenses to Syria to protect Iran, and short of unleashing Hezbollah for full-on war, it has few options.

    If Iran does eventually cede to Putin and Trump's demands and back out of Syria, it will provide the US a strong inflection point on which it can leave the country, having handily defeated ISIS there. 

    So the Trump policy that seemed like a pipe dream to some might just come true after strong Israeli opposition and Putin turning his back on Iran. 

    SEE ALSO: Israel's F-35s reportedly saw combat in a raging Syrian air war that smashed Russian defenses

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