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Israeli Air Strikes, Chinese Pushback, Chemical Weapons: Stakes Rise In Syria



DAMASCUS - The situation in Syria has gotten both more dangerous and more complicated over the past 72 hours.

On Monday, Chinese officials indirectly criticized Israel’s weekend strikes in Syria, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a five-day visit to China. During a morning press conference, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China urges restraint, without naming any particular country.

"We oppose the use of military force and believe any country's sovereignty should be respected," spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted as saying by Israeli daily Haaretz. "China also calls on all relevant parties to begin from the basis of protecting regional peace and stability, maintain restraint and avoid taking any actions that would escalate tensions and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability."

This statement comes in the wake of two Israeli airstrikes on war-torn Syria, both confirmed by anonymous officials, as well as troubling new signs of the use of chemical gas in the conflict. Here’s a round-up of the latest events around Syria:

Air Raids

Israel launched an air strike Sunday morning that devastated Syrian targets that sources declared were Iranian missiles headed for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, reports Reuters. Typically Israel does not confirm such missions explicitly, but anonymous officials confirmed the strikes to multiple sources.

This strike, near Damascus, followed confirmations by anonymous Israeli officials on Saturday morning that the Israel Air Force (IAF) had carried out another strike on Friday on missiles bound for Hezbollah, making it the second in two days and the third this year, reports the New York Times.

Syrian state television said the bombing of the military research facility at Jamraya and two other sites caused "many civilian casualties and widespread damage," but it gave no specific details, writes Haaretz. A Syrian doctor from the military hospital told the New York Times that more than 100 soldiers had died in the blasts.

According to Reuters, Hezbollah is yet to comment on the strikes.

Chemical Warfare

A leading UN investigator gave testimony on Sunday, saying there were “ strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that the Syrian rebels had used the nerve agent sarin.

According to the BBC, Carla del Ponte gave Swiss TV no exact details of when and where the volatile gas had been used, however, she said her panel had not yet seen evidence of Assad’s government forces using chemical weapons.

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Carla del Ponte. Photo by Rama

March saw two alleged chemical attacks take place in Aleppo and Damascus, reports RT, while in December 2012 there was one in Homs as well, with accusations being traded back and forth between the government and the anti-Assad opposition.

Three weeks ago, an Israeli military expert declared that it was Assad’s government that had used the poisonous chemical gas. Gen. Brig Itai Baron told a conference in Tel Aviv that Assad has access to a huge arsenal of chemical weapons and was putting them to use, writes the Jerusalem Post.

U.S. Support Or Step Back?

In the face of Chinese opposition, U.S. lawmakers called Sunday on President Barack Obama to provide intelligence and training to Syrian rebels through Arab states, writes the AFP, to speed up the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

A proposed co-ordination among the neighboring countries and the Arab League should aim to leave a stabilizing force in place for the country that has been in civil war for more than two years now.

Obama, who weeks ago declared that chemical warfare would be a “game changer”, has pressed for further evidence before taking any action, as has the UK, writes the BBC.

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Obama with Netanyahu in March. Photo by Pete Souza

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The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*


BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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