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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Monday
Nov 18th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow US special forces launch rare attack inside Syria
US special forces launch rare attack inside Syria PDF Print E-mail
Written by CRNews, Agencies   
Sunday, 26 October 2008

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Exclusive Video of Attack - Eight die in US attack inside Syria: official media

US special forces launch rare attack inside Syria
By ALBERT AJI – 3 hours ago

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — U.S. military helicopters launched an extremely rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as "serious aggression."

A U.S. military official said the raid by special forces targeted the network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area because Syria was out of the military's reach.

"We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an "uncontrolled" gateway for fighters entering Iraq.

A Syrian government statement said the helicopters attacked the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown and fired on workers inside, the statement said.

The government said civilians were among the dead, including four children.

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh said some of the helicopters landed and troops exited the aircraft and fired on a building. He said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information,

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d'affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest against the strike.

"Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria," the government statement said.

The area targeted is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Iraqi travelers making their way home across the border reported hearing many explosions, said Farhan al-Mahalawi, mayor of Qaim.

On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq's western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a "different story."

"The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side," Kelly said. "We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement."

He added that the U.S. was helping construct a sand berm and ditches along the border.

"There hasn't been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years," Kelly said.

The foreign fighters network sends militants from North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al-Qaida and loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, the U.S. military official said.

He said that while American forces have had considerable success, with Iraqi help, in shutting down the "rat lines" in Iraq, and with foreign government help in North Africa, the Syrian node has been out of reach.

"The one piece of the puzzle we have not been showing success on is the nexus in Syria," the official said.

The White House in August approved similar special forces raids from Afghanistan across the border of Pakistan to target al-Qaida and Taliban operatives. At least one has been carried out.

The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has been cut to an estimated 20 a month, a senior U.S. military intelligence official told the Associated Press in July. That's a 50 percent decline from six months ago, and just a fifth of the estimated 100 foreign fighters who were infiltrating Iraq a year ago, according to the official.

Ninety percent of the foreign fighters enter through Syria, according to U.S. intelligence. Foreigners are some of the most deadly fighters in Iraq, trained in bomb-making and with small-arms expertise and more likely to be willing suicide bombers than Iraqis.

Foreign fighters toting cash have been al-Qaida in Iraq's chief source of income. They contributed more than 70 percent of operating budgets in one sector in Iraq, according to documents captured in September 2007 on the Syrian border. Most of the fighters were conveyed through professional smuggling networks, according to the report.

Iraqi insurgents seized Qaim in April 2005, forcing U.S. Marines to recapture the town the following month in heavy fighting. The area became secure only after Sunni tribes in Anbar turned against al-Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the Americans.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused the United States earlier this year of not giving his country the equipment needed to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. He said Washington feared Syria could use such equipment against Israel.

Though Syria has long been viewed by the U.S. as a destabilizing country in the Middle East, in recent months, Damascus has been trying to change its image and end years of global seclusion.

Its president, Bashar Assad, has pursued indirect peace talks with Israel, mediated by Turkey, and says he wants direct talks next year. Syria also has agreed to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon, a country it used to dominate both politically and militarily, and has worked harder at stemming the flow of militants into Iraq.

The U.S. military in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Sunday's raid.

Associated Press reporter Pamela Hess in Washington and Sam F. Ghattas in Beirut contributed to this report.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ianwYiLFrnJxFSAgjT1DqydYeinQD942FR780

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Exclusive: Syrian Video US Attacks on Syria

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Eight die in US attack inside Syria: official media
8 hours ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) — American helicopter-borne troops from Iraq launched an assault on Sunday on a building in a Syrian border village, killing eight civilians, official Syrian media reported.

The government has summoned the official US and Iraqi representatives in protest, state television and the official SANA news agency said.

In Washington the Pentagon said it had no comment.

"Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 16:45 local time (1345 GMT) on Sunday. They penetrated eight kilometres (five miles) into Syria," official Syrian media said.

"American soldiers" who had emerged from helicopters "attacked a civilian building under construction and fired at workmen inside, causing eight deaths," reports said.

SANA named the dead and said they were a father and his four children, a couple and another man.

"The helicopters then left Syrian territory towards Iraqi territory," it said.

The news agency said one person was also wounded in the attack on the village of Al-Sukkiraya, around 550 kilometres (340 miles) northeast of the capital in the Abu Kamal area.

Earlier, the private television channel al-Dunia said nine civilians had been killed in the attack.

The raid appears to have been the first of its type into Syrian territory.

Syria summoned the US and Iraqi envoys to Damascus to protest against what it called a US military attack and to demand that Iraq prevent US forces from "launching aggression against Syria" from its territory, official media said.

"Syria condemns and denounces this act of aggression and US forces will bear the responsibility for any consequences," SANA quoted an unidentified official as saying.

"Syria also demands that the Iraqi government accept its responsibilities and launches an immediate inquiry following this dangerous violation and forbids the use of Iraqi territory to launch attacks on Syria," it said.

"We are in the process of investigating this" reported attack, Sergeant Brooke Murphy, a US military spokeswoman, told AFP in Baghdad.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment. Commander Darryn James told AFP that there was "no response" from the US Department of Defence about the Syrian reports.

The Iraqi defence ministry also refused to comment, on the grounds the incident took place inside Syria.

US commanders say Syria is the main transit point for foreign jihadists crossing into Iraq. Washington has blamed Damascus for turning a blind eye to the problem.

On October 16 Iraqi forces arrested seven Syrian "terrorist" suspects at a checkpoint near the city of Baquba, a hub of Al-Qaeda fighters, the Baghdad defence ministry said.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told US President George W. Bush last month that Iran and Syria -- long targets of US blame over the deadly unrest in Iraq -- no longer pose a problem.

Iraqi officials have also said that Syria has been boosting border security.

Syria's first ambassador to Iraq in 26 years took up his post in Baghdad this month, marking the official end of more than two decades of icy relations.

On September 28 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed she had met her Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, to discuss Middle East peace efforts despite renewed criticism from Washington over Syrian policies.

Their talks came after Bush slammed Syria in his farewell address to the UN General Assembly. "A few nations -- regimes like Syria and Iran -- continue to sponsor terror," he charged.

Washington has also accused Damascus of failing to give adequate cooperation to the International Atomic Energy Agency in its investigation into a mystery facility bombed by Israel in September last year that US officials have charged was a nuclear plant.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5h9sFe5NugX1b83YZ0OXDobRzs-Qw

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MSNBC: UPDATE americans launch commando raid in Syria


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Syria: US choppers attack village near Iraq border
By ALBERT AJI – 7 hours ago

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's government says U.S. military helicopters have attacked an area along Syria's border with Iraq, killing eight people.

A government statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency said the attack was on the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction, firing on the workers inside, shortly before sundown, the statement said.

The U.S. military in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The area is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ianwYiLFrnJxFSAgjT1DqydYeinQD942CA9O1

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MSNBC: Nightly NEws: US Attacks Syria - Many Dead- Who's Next?

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US military official confirms helicopter raid on Syrian soil

Oct. 26, 2008
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST

US military helicopters bombed targets in a Syrian border town near Iraq on Sunday, killing at least eight people, after global jihad operatives allegedly crossed the border into Syria.

The attack, which was not confirmed by the US military, was the first-ever reported American strike on Syria, which called it a "serious aggression."

Israeli defense officials said the incident was not connected to Israel and that the American troops had been chasing global jihad suspects in Iraq.

The helicopters then crossed into Syria in pursuit of the terrorists.

A government statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency said the attack occurred at the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, eight kilometers inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction, firing on the workers inside shortly before sundown, the statement said.

A US official, in confirming the raid, said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the US was now "taking matters into our own hands."

The US military official said the special forces raid targeted elements of a network that sends fighters from North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al-Qaida and other fighters. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d'affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest the strike.

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories.

On September 6, 2007, the IAF destroyed a purported nuclear reactor Syria was building in its northeast, along the Euphrates River.

The area bombed Sunday is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for gunmen, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Iraqi insurgents seized Qaim in April 2005, forcing US Marines to recapture the town the following month in heavy fighting. The area became secure only after Sunni tribes in Anbar province turned against al-Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the Americans.

AP contributed to this report.

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CBS Nightly News: Syria Claims Attack By U.S.

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A warning Syria's President Assad must heedJames Hider: Analysis

The US airborne raid into Syrian territory marks the culmination of years of frustration with Damascus’s reluctance to police its own border with Iraq, the main point of entry for foreign jihadists.

Since the 2003 invasion, Syria, fearing that it could be the next target for regime change, has allowed Islamic militants to cross its desert borders freely. Significantly, the village of al-Sukkari farm, which US forces raided, is just over the border from the Iraqi city of al-Qaim, which, since 2003, has been a key funnelling point for jihadists entering Iraq on the so-called rat run to the Sunni cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and, finally, Baghdad.

But a raid into sovereign territory would have needed high-level US clearance and may have been intended as a warning to Syria at a time when America and Israel are trying to turn the regime of President Assad away from Iran and into peace talks.

Syria is a linchpin in the region, providing a link between Tehran and the Lebanese militia organisation Hezbollah. While it is a secular regime, Syria has allowed extreme Islamist groups to operate from its territory, using them both as an internal political pressure valve and to tie down US forces inside Iraq.

It has also sought maximum strategic return for its allegiances, keeping its close economic ties with Iran while simultaneously conducting indirect negotiations with Israel, through Turkish mediators.

Besides economic and diplomatic incentives to return to the international mainstream, military pressure has also been used against the Syrian regime. In September last year, Israeli war planes carried out a daring raid deep into Syrian territory to destroy what some Western officials suspect may have been a fledgeling nuclear or chemical weapons facility.

Despite making threats, Syria did not retaliate against Israel. Instead it continued to negotiate in secret on a possible peace deal that would lead to the return of the Golan Heights.

The repressive but normally stable Syrian regime has also been rocked in recent months by a series of high-level assassinations and bombings, some blamed on Israel, others on the jihadists.

While US commanders may have calculated that a cross-border raid was tactically necessary to tackle Islamist extremists using Syrian territory, the attack also sent a tough strategic message to Syria that it is not inviolate and must choose carefully whom it supports.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5019845.ece

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Road to Damascus
Britain has a chance today to bring Syria in from the cold

The US helicopter attack yesterday on a village several kilometres inside the Syrian border with Iraq gives greater urgency to the talks that begin today in London between David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and Walid al-Muallem, the Syrian Foreign Minister. What had been seen as a chance for both countries to make a fresh beginning in their rocky relationship now becomes a salvage operation to persuade Syria to continue its search for better relations with the West. And as governments in both Europe and the Middle East prepare for the change of administration in Washington, Mr Miliband will try to persuade Syria that only by helping peace in Iraq and in the wider Middle East will it be able to play the central role in future peace talks that it has long demanded.

For both Britain and Syria, the talks represent an about-face. This is the first high-level contact since a visit by Tony Blair to Damascus in 2001 ended with an embarrassing lecture from President Assad on Palestinian “freedom fighters” and the evils of allied bombing in Afghanistan. The diplomatic pique was sharpened by Syrian opposition to the Iraq war and the well-founded suspicion that Syria was aiding the flow of arms and terrorist recruits across its border with Iraq. Relations hit bottom with the murder in 2005 of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, which the West suspected involved the Syrians.

Downing Street has nonetheless observed the old adage that no peace is possible in the Middle East without Syria. Mr Blair sent his foreign affairs adviser to Damascus several times to persuade President Assad to drop his support for Hamas and Hezbollah and to stop attempts to destabilise Lebanon. He was met with stony silence.

Things have changed for Syria. Among its Sunni Arab neighbours it has felt increasingly isolated, partly because of the Lebanon imbroglio but also because of its unpopular support for Iran. The UN inquiry into the Hariri murder has continued relentlessly. Damascus also tried vainly to ward off US pressure with promises to halt terrorist infiltration into Iraq - though as yesterday's raid made clear, it has not done enough.

Friendless in the region and chafing at his dependence on Iran, President Assad tried to break out of his isolation with a visit to Paris in the summer. The aim was not only to win over a strong critic of Syrian meddling in Lebanon but to rekindle relations with Europe, in the hope of a better trading relationship with the EU and of splitting the West's anti-Syrian front. And with an eye specifically on Washington, Damascus also began indirect talks with Israel in Turkey.

Britain has seen a chance to re-engage Syria. The combined US-Iraqi attack and the strong Syrian diplomatic reaction now make this urgent. With any substantial role for the Bush Administration in the region now slipping away, Britain must urge Damascus to change its course if it does not want to be left in in the cold by the next administration. That means making a commitment to go beyond propaganda in restarting talks with Israel; giving more support for the Iraqi Government; stopping the attempts to destabilise Lebanon; and ending support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

For Syria, the price of a new relationship with Europe will be, above all, to distance itself from Iran. Mr Miliband's job is to persuade his counterpart that it is worth paying.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article5019650.ece

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What could lie behind Syria raid? 

By Jonathan Marcus
Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News
 


Syria has said American troops carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people - if the claims are true then this will be the first military incursion by the US into Syrian territory from Iraq. 

But its timing is curious, coming right at the end of the Bush administration's period of office and at a moment when many of America's European allies - like Britain and France - are trying to broaden their ties with Damascus.

Whatever the local military factors involved in this US operation, it would be unthinkable to imagine that an incursion into Syria would not require a policy decision at a high-level.

The movement of insurgents and foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq has long been a bone of contention between Damascus and Washington.

The US argument has always been that the Syrians are not doing enough to control the border. The Syrians have always countered that they are unfairly being blamed for turmoil inside Iraq that is not of their making.

Quite apart from their differences over Iraq, Washington sees Syria as unhelpful in Lebanon and as far too friendly with Iran.

While there have been relatively high-level contacts between the two governments - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meeting the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly just a few weeks ago - they have hardly generated any warmth.

Washington has even been lukewarm to Turkey's efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and Syria. 

All of this is in marked contrast to European efforts to engage the Syrians.

With French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the lead, a number of European countries have sought to bring Syria in from the cold.

But despite glimmerings of dissent from the State Department, the Bush administration has held firm to its policy of no substantive talks with Syria unless - as the Americans put it - Damascus decides to take a more "positive role" in the region.

With the Bush administration on the way out, this US military incursion may represent something of a parting shot against the Syrians.

It's clear that if Senator Barrack Obama were to win the White House, his key advisers are among the strongest advocates of engaging with Damascus across a broad spectrum of issues.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7692263.stm

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ANALYSIS / U.S. takes page from Israel's book in Syria strike 
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
 
 

Those who anticipated an American bombing of Iran on the eve of the presidential elections or immediately after must for the moment be satisfied with a somewhat lesser replacement: the helicopter attack Sunday night in north-eastern Syria.

The central target of the attack, according to initial reports overnight, was a senior operative in the "global jihad" - the web of organizations connected to al-Qaida.

The context, from an American perspective, is mainly Iraqi. This was a strike on those who have been causing them problems in their backyard and an attempt to gain stability in Iraq.
 
But there are also consequences for Israel.

The readiness of Bashar Assad to renew diplomatic negotiations with Israel a year ago with the help of Turkish mediators can be explained to a large extent by the hope in Damascus that it would enable them to become closer to Washington.

This didn't really happen (although Assad did derive an immediate dividend with his improved image in the Arabic world and a warming of relations with Europe.)

Although President Bush did not veto the Israel-Syria discussions, his administration remained very skeptical of the Syrian regime and continued to see Damascus as a part of the axis of evil.

The U.S. also refused to implement practical actions that would encourage the Syrians to make progress in negotiations.

Now it has become clear that the U.S. will not hesitate to attack terrorist targets within Syrian territory.

In this regard the Americans are not alone. Israel preceded them with the attack on the Dir a-Zour nuclear facility in September last year, not to mention a succession of mysterious incidents on Syrian soil, from the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh last February to the assassination of Brigadier General Mohammad Suleiman around two months ago.

The common denominator to all these operations is that nobody takes the Syrians seriously anymore, given the repeated violations of their sovereignty. It is doubtful the domestic security situation there has ever been this unstable.

The lack of stability in Syria adds to the already-tense situation between Israel and Lebanon. Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said Sunday that weapons-smuggling from Syria to Hezbollah is continuing across the country.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that Israel is prepared to attack weapons convoys, on a background of Hezbollah efforts to equip itself with anti-aircraft missiles.

Before the attack the U.S. issued a warning. At a press conference last week a senior American commander in western Iraq warned that the situation is worsening on the Syrian border, while at the same time Saudi Arabia and Jordan did as the Americans asked and closed their borders with Iraq. This modus operandi is reminiscent of Israeli "targeted killings": an effective combination of intelligence and operation, with the use of aerial strikes accompanied by a commando force to confirm the operation's success.

However, it appears that the success of Sunday's operation will not cancel out the continued frustration of the U.S. in its struggle with al-Qaida and its allies. It's not just that the Taliban and its partners are retaking control in Afghanistan, but that the pursuit of Osama bin Laden remains crowned by failure, more than seven years after 9/11.

It is a sore point for the Bush administration. In the opening sketch of "Saturday Night Live" last week, George W. Bush (portrayed by comedian Will Ferrell) proudly exclaimed: "George Bush always gets his man", before adding, "save for one huge exception."
 
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1031581.html

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Below 3 releases from official Syrian Government Controlled News www.sana.sy
SANA - Syrian Arab News Agency

Foreign Ministry Summons US Charge d' Affairs in Damascus

Sunday, October 26, 2008 - 11:10 PM

DAMASCUS, (SANA)-An official Source on Sunday announced that four US helicopters coming from Iraq violated the Syrian airspaces in al-Boukamal region ( al-Sukariah Farm) targeting a civilian building and leading to the killing of 8 citizens.

The martyred citizens were identified as Daoud Mohammad al-Abdullah and his 4 sons, Ahmad Khalefa, Ali Abbas and his wife in addition to wounding another citizen. Later, the US helicopters left for Iraq.

Syria, who condemns this aggressive act, holds the US forces responsible for this aggression and its repercussions, and calls the Iraqi government to assume its responsibilities and make an immediate investigation into this dangerous violation and prevent using the Iraqi lands from launching aggression on Syria.

Deputy Foreign Minister summoned the Charge d 'Affairs of the US Embassy in Damascus, informing him Syria's condemnation and complaint of this dangerous aggression, holding the US administration full responsibility for it. The Iraq Charge d, affairs has been also summoned for the same purpose.

Mazen    


http://www.sana.sy/eng/21/2008/10/26/198620.htm

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A number of US military helicopters launch aggression on a border region in al-Bukamal

Sunday, October 26, 2008 - 09:10 PM

Bukamal, Dir Ezzor, (SANA)-A number of US military helicopters launch aggression on a border region in al-Bukamal in Dir Ezzor, causing a number of victims.

Mazen

http://www.sana.sy/eng/21/2008/10/26/198613.htm

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Aggression by US helicopters against civilian building in Boukamal leads to the martyrdom of 8 citizens

Sunday, October 26, 2008 - 09:45 PM

DAMASCUS, (SANA)-An official media source on Sunday announced that four US military helicopters at 4.45 p.m. violated the Syrian airspaces in al-Boukamal, with 8 KM depth at al-Sukariah Farm.

"The four helicopters launched aggression on a civilian building under construction and fired against the workers inside the building, among them the wife of the building guard, leading to the martyrdom of 8 citizens and wounding another… the aggressive helicopters later left for the Iraqi lands," the Source added.

Mazen    

http://www.sana.sy/eng/21/2008/10/26/198617.htm

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US official confirms Syria raid called by Damascus “serious aggression”
DEBKAfile Special Report
October 27, 2008, 5:12 AM (GMT+02:00)

An American military official said the cross-border raid by helicopter-borne special forces at al Sukkariya near Abu Kemal in N. Syria Sunday, Oct. 26 targeted “the foreign fighter network” that travels through Syria into Iraq. In the first US comment on the incident, the anonymous spokesman hinted at more cross-border action when he said: “We are taking matters in our own hands.” He spoke shortly after Damascus summoned the US and Iraqi envoys to protest the “serious aggression” in which 8 “civilians, including children” were killed and 14 wounded.

Three days earlier, US commander in western Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Kelly, called the Syrian border “an uncontrolled gateway” for fighters entering Iraq. He described the borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan as “fairly tight” and referred to US forces’ success in shutting down the “rat lines” in Iraq with help from governments in North Africa. “The one piece of the puzzle where we have not shown success on is the nexus in Syria,” Gen. Kelly said.

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report he was referring to help from the Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian governments, as well as Western Europe countries hosting large North African migrants, in drying up the stream of al Qaeda’s recruits for Iraq. However, Syrian president Bashar Assad has frustrated years of US effort to shut down the network operating out of his territory.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report: This was not the first US military incursion of Syria. Previous US strikes on Syrian soil in 2004 and 2005 targeted al Qaeda exit points to Iraq and involved bombardments and clashes with Syrian border units.

These US attacks were discontinued for three years. Sunday’s operation was an extension of the US-Iraqi offensive to purge the northern Iraqi town of Mosul and northern Syria of al Qaeda elements, the jihadists’ last two strong bastions in the region.

According to eye witnesses, 8 US troops dropped by at least 2 helicopters stormed a farm house in Sukkariya and killed 8 people before flying back to Iraq. Damascus announced it held US forces responsible for “this aggression and all its repercussions.” It called on the Iraqi government to launch an immediate investigation into “this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria."

Al Qaeda fighters recently captured by the US military in and around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul revealed the unabated flow of arms, fighters, cash and explosives from Syria to Iraq. The discovery belied Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem’s assurance to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice when they met in New York in September that Damascus had halted this traffic.

Abu Kemal is located opposite the al Qaim region of Iraqi Anbar. For most of the five-year Iraq war, it was al Qaeda’s main logistics base for the jihadists fighting in Anbar. Recently this province, finally cleared of terrorists, was handed over to Iraqi forces. Washington is determined not to allow the Syria rat line to destroy one of the great US achievements of the war.

Asked if the incident was compatible with Israel’s talks with Syria, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni commented: Damascus must stop aiding al Qaeda as well two other terrorist groups, Hizballah and Hamas. DEBKAfile’s political sources note that the northern Syrian operation bears strongly on the US presidential campaign 10 days before voting. Both candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, will no doubt comment and if the attacks continue and meet with Syrian reprisal, they could become a focal campaign theme.

US cross-border incursions from Afghanistan firing missiles from drones at Taliban and al Qaeda havens in Pakistan are ongoing. The latest attack took place Sunday night killing up to 20 insurgents.

http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=5676



Last Updated ( Monday, 27 October 2008 )
 
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