Syrian government troops backed by Hezbollah fighters on March 16 took the town of Yabroud near the Lebanese border, which was held by rebels inlcuding the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Hours later, in apparent retaliation, the Shi'ite town of Nabi Othman in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley was struck by a suicide bombing that left four dead. (LAT, Reuters, March 17) Meanwhile, in comments sure to warm the heart of Bashar Assad, opposition leader Kamal al-Labwani of the Syrian National Council told Iran's Arabic-language al Alam new service that the Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for Israeli military aid. "Why shouldn’t we be able to sell the Golan Heights because it is better than losing Syria and Golan at once," he said. (Haaretz, March 16)
The 20-year-old investigation into the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires took a new turn on Jan. 2 with the publication of a claim by former Israeli ambassador to Argentina Yitzhak Aviran (1993-2000) that his country had killed most of the perpetrators. "The vast majority of the guilty parties are in another world, and this is something we did," Aviran told the Spanish-language Jewish News Agency (AJN) in an interview about his experiences in Argentina. On Jan. 3 Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor dismissed the claim as "complete nonsense."
Lebanon's government has ordered the coastal city of Tripoli placed under army control amid growing sectarian clashes. The move was announced after a 15-year-old boy was among four killed Dec. 3. It marks the first time since the end of the country's civil war in 1990 that the military has been ordered to take full control of a city. The new violence broke out when Alawite residents of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood began flying Syrian flags to demonstrate their support for Bashar Assad, and Sunni residents of nearby Bab el-Tebbaneh raised the flag of Syria's rebel coalition. The four killed were Alawites, persumably slain by Sunni gunmen, and sparking Alawite protest marches. (Al Jazeera, Dec. 3; AFP, Dec. 1)
The Israel Air Force was responsible for an Oct. 30 attack on a military base in the Syrian city of Latakia, according to a Reuters report that cited an opposition source. The target was named as a strategic missile battery near Ain Shikak village—and particularly a new shipment of Russian SA-8 surface-to-air missiles destined for Hezbollah. The Saudi news outlet Al-Arabiya said Israeli planes also struck an unnamed target in Damascus. Israel warplanes were also reported to have raided a missile warehouse near Latakia in July, and a military site near Damascus in May. Israel has not confirmed or denied any of the air-strikes. (Haaretz, Maan News Agency, Nov. 1)
Argentina and Iran have agreed to proceed with a joint investigation into the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman said after a Sept. 28 meeting in New York with the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Argentina has formally charged several former members of the Iranian government with planning the attack, which left 85 dead and some 300 injured in the worst incident of anti-Semitic violence since World War 2; Argentine prosecutors say the Lebanese organization Hezbollah supplied the suicide bomber who carried out the attack.
New York area Syrians came out the afternoon of Sept. 7 for a Rally to Stop Assad's War on Syria at 40th Street and Seventh Ave., just south of Times Square. Some 100—including many women in hijabs, men beating on drums, and children with Syrian flags painted on their faces—marched in a circle behind police barricades, chanting with a level of passion rarely seen at political rallies: "ASSAD IS A TERRORIST; ASSAD IS A CRIMINAL; ASSAD OUT NOW; FREE, FREE SYRIA; END THE SYRIAN MASSACRE!" Placards read: "GLOBAL SILENCE IS THE CAUSE OF ATROCITIES IN SYRIA," "HANDS OFF SYRIANS: THE TERRORIST ASSAD IS KILLING US WITH CHEMICAL WEAPONS," and "INTERVENTION = CHEMICAL PROTECTION."
The Israeli air force struck the compound of a Palestinian militant group in Lebanon Aug. 23—hours after a different organization claimed responsibility for four rockets fired into northern Israel from Lebanese territory, causing some damage but no casualties. Israel's military said, "The pilots reported direct hits to the target." Lebanese media said the target was a position of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), whereas the rocket salvo was claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Islamist group that similarly claimed rocket fire on Israel in 2009 and 2011. Israeli army spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai actually said the rockets were "launched by the global jihad terror organization"—standard Israeli military lingo for the al-Qaeda network. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened retaliation after the rocket strikes: "Anyone who harms us, or tries to harm us, should know—we will strike them." Yet the retailiation didn't strike "them." (AFP, Lebanon Daily Star, Aug. 23)
At least 40 were killed in clashes that raged overnight after militants launched coordinated attacks on two Iraqi prisons July 22. The attacks on the prisons at Taji and Abu Ghraib, both outside Baghdad, included car bombs and mortar strikes on the front gates before gunmen assaulted the guards. At least 500 prisoners escaped. (AFP, July 22) A coordinated wave of seven car bombs tore through bustling streets July 20 in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, leaving some 45 dead. (AP, July 20) On July 19, a bomb blast at a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers in the town of Wajihiya, Diyala, killed 20 people. Violence has killed at least 200 in Iraq since the start of Ramadan. (Rudaw, July 22; RFE/RL, July 19)