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06/05/2013 | Syria and Israel - Cutting loose

The Economist Staff

THE civil war in Syria has gone on for so long that it has lost some of its power to shock. A mass grave here, long lines for bread there, a hospital without medicine somewhere else. The past few days have been different.

 

Two separate events, pointing in the same direction, have the feel of a key moment in the conflict. First came news of two massacres in the country’s north-west. Then Israeli jets bombed a centre for developing weapons outside Damascus, setting off an explosion that looked like a volcano erupting against the night sky.

Begin with the massacres, which may prove more significant than Israel’s intervention in the long run. The north-west of Syria is the ancestral home of the small Alawite sect, to which the Assads belong. The death toll remains unclear, but on May 2nd at least 60 people were slaughtered in the Sunni village of Bayda, near the port city of Banias, by paramilitaries from nearby Alawite areas. Photographs show bloody bodies strewn across the ground. At least that number again was killed in the Ras Nabaa neighbourhood of Banias the following day. Shortly afterwards hundreds of Sunnis were reported to be fleeing as Syrian state television announced the army had fought back against “terrorist groups” in the area. All this increases the chances of revenge attacks on Alawites in the future.

In recent days Mr Assad’s forces have been making progress. Opposition members from the coastal area say that the regime is carrying out ethnic cleansing there. Some believe Mr Assad has plans to set up an Alawite mini-state in the event that his regime has to flee Damascus, but the killing may also be an attempt to secure the area and protect those—including members of his own family—already living there, or just a product of local tensions. Though the rugged hills around the coast are predominantly Alawite, the four large coastal cities of Banias, Jableh, Latakia, and Tartous are mixed. Russia, one of Mr Assad’s staunchest allies, has a naval base in Tartous.

For outside powers pondering what, if anything, they might do, the killings add to the argument for more active intervention. The American government may have decided that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its own civilians is a red line, but it makes little difference to the relatives of those corpses lying in fresh ditches that their killers used more conventional arms.

If these killings seem more likely to shorten than to prolong rule by the Assads, Israel’s bombing raid suggests that in some ways the government has already ceased to be. Alarmed by the prospect of more sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of rebels, eager to slow down the flow of arms from Syria to Hizbullah—and not overly worried that the Syrian government might respond in kind—Israeli planes bombed what reports suggest was a cache of weapons on May 2nd and then carried out a much bigger raid on Jamraya, a military research site between the Lebanese border and Damascus, the Syrian capital. Damascenes also reported explosions at other bases on the city’s heavily militarised Mount Qassioun.

This is not the first time since the start of this conflict that Israel has bombed targets in Syria. But these raids were bigger and more prolonged than the one in January. The Assad regime has tried to use them for propaganda, claiming that they were a double-act performed by Israel and traitorous domestic terrorist-rebels. While nothing unites neighbouring countries quite like condemnation of Israel— Egypt's presidential office, while outlining its opposition to the Syrian army killing Syrians, says the strikes "violated international law and principles and will complicate the situation", while the Arab League called on the UN to stop the Israeli aggression—nobody believes that Israel is rooting for the rebels.

Instead, Israel’s actions describe what has become of Syria more precisely than any talk of red lines can. The Syrian government has ceased to be the government of Syria. Nothing has yet taken its place. Within this vacuum, things that were once unthinkable now seem permissable. There will be more killing before it is filled.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


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16/09/2009|
08/09/2009|
07/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
26/08/2009|
21/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
19/07/2009|
19/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House