Posts Tagged ‘ 2011 Protests in Syria ’

Syria’s Kurds see better lot if Assad goes-activists

Tue Sep 6, 2011

AMMAN, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Syria’s minority Kurds support the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad because it could usher in democracy but long-standing grievances have to be addressed in any post-Assad order, Kurdish activists said.

In a declaration issued on Monday at the conclusion of a conference in Stockholm to unify Kurdish efforts against Assad, the activists said they will strengthen backing for Kurdish protests against Assad, led by a younger generation of street leaders critical or elders in established Kurdish parties.

“The Kurdish people, as a part of Syria’s diverse mosaic, are a main component of the revolt against the regime and it is in their full interest for the regime to fall,” the statement said.

With Syria’s one million Kurds concentrated in the oil- producing northeast, the Kurdish issue would loom large if Assad, who is struggling to contain a five-month uprising against his rule, was removed, with regional implications for Turkey, which also has a large Kurdish minorities, and Iraq, where Kurds have a large degree of autonomy.

Syria’s overall population is around 20 million.

Pro-democracy protests have spread to Kurdish areas in Syria, but the authorities, mindful of a 2004 Kurdish uprising crushed by force, have not used the same level of deadly violence employed to crush protests elsewhere.

The two-day conference at the Swedish Parliament building, which drew 50 participants, was the first to bring a broad group of Kurdish activists since the uprising. Among the participants were Kurdish writer Massoud Akko, who fled Syria several years ago and now resides in Norway, and dissent Mohammad Sida, who lives in Sweden.

The statement said the removal of Assad and his ruling Baath Party could allow for a new political system that divulges power to the provinces and “free of racist and extremist ideology.. a nation where tolerance would prevail”.

“The Syrian revolution will not be complete without a just solution to the Kurdish cause,” the statement said, adding that any new constitution should recognize Kurdish as an official language and that Kurds have a right to seek compensation for “historic discrimination and persecution”.

A month into the uprising in April, Assad sought to placate Syria’s Kurds by issuing a decree to grant thousands of disenfranchised Kurds Syrian nationality and easing discrimination on the transfer of properties in Kurdish areas.

But activists and Kurdish politicians said little progress has been made on the ground, with only a fraction of the stateless Kurds becoming citizens and a multitude of other laws that still discriminate against Kurdish language and customs, as well as heavy secret police presence in Kurdish areas.

Source: Reuters.

Syrian forces raid cities, as ICRC granted access

Sep 5, 2011

Beirut – Syrian troops and security forces intensified Monday their assault on the central cities of Hama and Homs, while the government granted access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit a detention center.

Hisham Hassam, the ICRC Public Relations Officer in the Near and Middle East, confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa from Geneva that the ICRC were granted access to visit a jail in Syria.

ICRC’s president, Jakob Kellenberger, who concluded a two-day visit to Damascus on Monday, said ICRC delegates started visiting on September 4 the Damascus Central Prison, in the suburb of Adra.

‘The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time. Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees,’ said Kellenberger.

‘This is an important step forward for our humanitarian activities in Syria,’ he added.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi was also due to visit Damascus on Wednesday to discuss recent developments, at the request of Arab foreign ministers, the Al Arabiya Satellite channel reported.

Last month, the Arab League launched a peace initiative aimed at solving the crisis in Syria, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in anti-regime protests since March.

The developments came as security forces intensified their assaults against pro-democracy protesters in the central cities of Hama, Homs and in the province of Idlib, killing at least nine people and arresting dozens.

‘Dozens of troops backed by at least 30 military vehicles and security forces raided Hama,’ a spokesman of one of the Local Coordination Committees who identified himself as Omar Idlibi told dpa.

He added that security forces carried out a similar operation in Homs.

Idlibi said some 100 people were rounded up in the Khan al Sabul, in the province of Idlib.

‘Security forces were seen dragging men from their houses, blindfolding them and pushing them into buses,’ Idlibi said.

Earlier, activists in Lebanon told dpa that ‘at least nine people were killed in Homs by firing by the Syrian security forces.’

They added that Syrian security forces were conducting arrests in the Al-Khalediya neighborhood of Homs, ‘when the troops started shooting randomly at a group of people near a mosque in the area.’

Activists based in northern Lebanon told dpa that sounds of heavy shelling could be heard in the Wadi Khaled, an area facing Tal Kalakh.

They told dpa that one of their members was killed by the Syrian security forces as he was trying to escape from Syria into Turkey.

The dead man was identified as Adelsalam Hassoun, 24. He was killed by Syrian army snipers just after he had crossed into Turkey from the village of Ain al-Baida on the Syrian side.

Activists based in the Syrian capital said soldiers have defected from the Syrian army at Mezzeh airport in Damascus. They gave no further details.

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees said the defected Syrian soldiers had escaped to Turkey.

Meanwhile former Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam – who now lives in exile in Paris – demanded a military intervention in Syria, Al-Jazeera reported.

In his letter to ‘Syrian revolutionaries,’ Khaddam said the country needed an intervention like the one in Libya. ‘Military intervention is not the same as an occupation,’ he added.

In another development, the Syrian attorney general of the city of Hama – who announced his defection last week – arrived in Cyprus, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel reported, without providing further details.

Activists based in Lebanon confirmed to dpa that Bakhour was ‘safe and sound,’ but refused to say where he was.

Bakhour appeared in videos last week, saying he had resigned because of a massive government campaign of killing and torture in Hama. The government responded that Bakhour had been kidnapped and was forced to issue the statement.

On August 15, the 22 members of the Arab League called for an ‘end to the spilling of blood and (for Syria) to follow the way of reason before it is too late.’

Syria rejected the statement at the time, saying it amounted to ‘a clear violation … of the principles of the Arab League charter and of the foundations of joint Arab action.’

Source: Monsters and Critics.

السفير السوري لأردنيين : إذا سقطنا ستسقطون معنا


خبرني- كتب بسام بدارين في صحيفة القدس العربي اليوم الخميس :

هل يطور الأردن موقفا سياسيا جديدا في المسألة السورية؟.. هذا السؤال يبدو محوريا في عمان هذه الأيام في ظل اللغة الجديدة التي تستخدمها الحكومة الأردنية فيما يختص بمشهد سورية اليوم وهي لغة بقيت حذرة لكل الإحتمالات والسيناريوهات لكنها لم تعد متحفظة ومالت إلى النقد في الأسابيع القليلة الأخيرة.

ومن الواضح أن الإحتفاظ بمسافة آمنة وواحدة من طرفي معادلة الإشتباك في سورية تقرأه دمشق الرسمية بإعتباره خطوة معادية نحوها .. لذلك بدأت سلسلة من المضايقات السورية الحكومية على الحدود بالإتجاه المعاكس فعدد الأردنيين الذين يعبرون الحدود أقل من المعتاد وشاحنات الأردن البرية بدأت تتعطل لساعات على المركز الحدودي وعادت إلى الواجهة التحرشات البيروقراطية الحدودية المألوفة في لحظات التصعيد والتوتر من طراز تغيير تعليمات دخول الشاحنات فجأة او المطالبة بأوراق جديدة او حتى مخالفة بروتوكولات تسعير رسوم الترانزيت الموقعة سابقا بين البلدين.

إعلاميا تبدو المعركة أكثر حدة بين البلدين ففضائية دنيا التابعة لعائلة مخلوف السورية تخصص مساحات واسعة من شريطها الإخباري لرسائل تتهم الأردن بالعمالة لإسرائيل أو تحرض المواطنين الأردنيين على دولتهم والمحطة السورية الحكومية بدأت تعيد أجواء الحرب الإعلامية القديمة وهي تبث إعترافات مفترضة لأشخاص مجهولين يقولون أنهم أدخلوا السلاح للأراضي السورية عبر الحدود الأردنية.

ولا تخلو التعبيرات الإعلامية السورية الرسمية هذه الأيام من تلميحات تتهم السلطات الأردنية بالدعم الخفي للإرهاب المفترض داخل سورية خصوصا بعد معطيات معلوماتية تحدثت عن دخول العشرات من أنصار التيار السلفي المتشددين إلى الأراضي السورية فيما تقول شخصيات مقربة من الحكومة الأردنية بأن هؤلاء يمثلون ‘بضاعة سورية التي ردت إليها’ فقد إتهمت سورية رسميا عدة مرات بتمويل وتوجيه خلايا تخطط لأعمال عسكرية في الأرض الأردنية.

وهي خلايا لمتطرفين أصوليين ومن أشهرها مجموعة عزمي الجيوسي التي إتهمت بالتخطيط لتفجير مقر المخابرات الأردنية قبل ثلاثة أعوام.

بالمقابل يلاحظ الإعلام السوري بأن السلطات الأردنية تسكت بوضوح عن التجمعات اليومية التي تنظمها الجالية السورية مقابل سفارة سورية للإحتجاج والهتاف ضد بشار الأسد في ضاحية عبدون الراقية وهي إحتجاجات أصبحت في الواقع معلما يوميا من معالم العاصمة الأردنية.

ومؤخرا تطور الأمر فأكبر حشد جماهيري خرج في شوارع عمان منذ إنطلق الربيع العربي كان ذلك الذي نظمه السوريون مع النسخة الأردنية من الأخوان المسلمين في ليلة القدر التي سميت بليلة الإستبشار بسقوط بشار.. هنا تحديدا إمتنعت الحكومة الأردنية عن تنفيذ البروتوكول المعتمد عند الرغبة في قمع تجمع شعبي او منع الناس من الوصول إلى ساحته فعاشت عمان ليلة كاملة على صخب آلاف الحناجر وهي تدعو لسقوط بشار الأسد.

بالمقابل تقول عمان بان السماح للسوريين المعارضين بالتعبير أمام سفارتهم ينسجم مع معاييرها فقد سمحت للمصريين والليبيين بذلك ويقابله السماح بنشاطات للجنة حزبية تشكلت دفاعا عن النظام السوري.

لكن حتى من ثنايا بعض المناسبات يمكن تلمس التغيرات في ‘اللهجة المتبادلة’ ففي حفل الإفطار السنوي للسفارة السعودية في العاصمة الأردنية دعي سفير سورية وجلس بالصدفة لإنه حضر متأخرا إلى طاولة مليئة بنخبة من السياسيين الأردنيين المخضرمين.. عندها إعتمد الرجل في كل حديثه تقريبا على الصيغة التالية حسب شهود عيان: إذا سقطنا ستسقطون معنا.

طبعا لا يمكن تمرير هذه الصياغة بدون رد فتصدى رئيس الوزراء الأردني الأسبق عبد الرؤوف الروابدة الجالس على نفس الطاولة معلقا بفكرة بسيطة قوامها: .. سعادة السفير أعتقد انكم ستسقطون وحدكم إذا لم تتداركوا الموقف أما نحن فجالسون. المقصود هنا واضح وهو تلميح السفير السوري لإن النظام الأردني سيتهاوى إذا سقط السوري وإشارة الروابدة للرد على الموقف واضحة و مسنودة بمداخلة لعضو البرلمان الأردني المخضرم المتواجد على نفس الطاولة وفي نفس المناسبة أيضا خليل عطية الذي رفض المقاربات والمقارنات والمقايسات وتحدث عن إصلاحات بلاده وعن عدم وجود غربه بين الناس والنظام في الأردن.

ويمكن القول الآن ان هذه المماحكات السياسية تعكس المزاج المتوتر قليلا في هذه المرحلة بين البلدين الجارين وسط قناعة جميع الأردنيين بان ما يجري وسيجري في سورية يؤثر بكل تأكيد على الأردن كما يوضح السياسي الأردني المعروف ممدوح العبادي.

المصدر: خبرني.

Syria force surrounds town after defections: residents

George Haddad
Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Global Arab Network – An armored Syrian force surrounded a town near the city of Homs and fired heavy machineguns after the defection of tens of soldiers in the area, activists and residents said.

One woman, 45 year-old Amal Qoraman, was killed and five other people were injured, they said, adding that tens of people were arrested in house to house raids in the town of 40,0000.

Since the demise of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, activists and residents have reported increasing defections among Syrian troops, as well as more intense street protests in a five-month-old uprising against President Bashar al Assad.

Syrian authorities have repeatedly denied army defections have been taking place. They have expelled independent media since the uprising began in March.

Activists say there have been desertions in eastern Deir al-Zor province, northwestern Idlib province, the Homs countryside and the outskirts of Damascus, where security forces fought gunbattles with defectors Sunday.

At least 40 light tanks and armored vehicles, and 20 buses of troops and military intelligence members deployed at dawn at the entrance of Rastan, 20 km (12 miles) north of Homs and began firing heavy machineguns at the town, two residents said.

“The tanks deployed at both banks of the highway, which remained open, and fired long bursts from their machineguns at Rastan,” one of the residents, who gave his name as Raed, told Reuters by phone.

He said defections began in the town when it was stormed by tanks three months ago to crush large street protests against Assad in an assault that killed dozens of civilians.

Security forces killed Monday a former officer who had played a key role in coordinating army defections, activists said.

Mostapha Selim Hezbollah, a former air force officer in his 40s’, was shot dead when his car was ambushed near the town of Kfar Nubul in Idlib province, which borders Turkey, they said.

“It was a targeted assassination. A companion who was with him in the car was badly wounded but we managed to get him to a hospital. The attack happened just before ‘iftar’ (breaking of fast). We don’t know yet if it was security police or troops who fired at them,” one of the activists told Reuters by phone.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain, said five other people were killed earlier in military assaults on several towns in Idlib.

Source: Global Arab Network.

Syrian activists warn against taking up arms

August 29, 2011 — BEIRUT (AP) — Syrians should not take up arms in their uprising against President Bashar Assad or invite foreign military action like the intervention that helped topple the government of Libya, a prominent activist group warned Monday.

There have been scattered reports of some Syrians using automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised weapons to repel government troops, but there appears to have been no organized armed resistance to Assad during the five-month uprising.

Calls to launch such a resistance have been rare, but they were more widely reported than usual by witnesses at protests in Syria on Friday, at the end of a week that saw Tripoli fall to rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi with the help of NATO.

“While we understand the motivation to take up arms or call for military intervention, we specifically reject this position,” said a statement emailed by the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group with a wide network of sources on the ground across Syria. “Militarization would … erode the moral superiority that has characterized the revolution since its beginning.”

The prime minister of Turkey, a former close ally, warned Assad that his regime could face a demise like those in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya if the violent suppression of protests does not stop. The comments were some of the bluntest warnings yet and were particularly biting because they came from a leader whose government had extensive diplomatic ties with Syria.

“The only way out is to immediately silence arms and to listen to the people’s demands,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in his monthly address aired on Turkish TV late Sunday. “We have been watching the fate of those who did not chose this path in the past few months in Tunisia, in Egypt — and now in Libya — as a warning and with sadness.”

Human rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising in March. Witnesses and activists said the crackdown continued Monday as Syrian security forces pursuing anti-government protesters stormed several towns and villages, killing at least six people — including a child — and wounding many others during raids and house-to-house searches.

The largest operation appeared to be in Sarameen in the northern Idlib province, where the London-based Observatory for Human Rights said five people were killed and more than 60 wounded. One person also died during raids in Qara, a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

Similar raids were reported in the village of Heet near the border with Lebanon, along with a military buildup just outside the central town of Rastan, which has become a hotbed of dissent against Assad.

The Syrian government has placed severe restrictions on the media and expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify witness accounts. Syria’s opposition has no clear leadership or platform beyond the demands for more freedom and for Assad to step down, and several attempts to form a national council have failed because of disagreements between opposition figures, and in particular, divisions between the opposition inside and outside Syria.

In a sign of just how fragmented the opposition is, a relatively unknown dissident Monday announced the formation of a 94-member national council. The announcement, made in Ankara, Turkey, was greeted with excitement on social networking sites — but the celebrations were premature. Several opposition figures whose names appeared on the list told The Associated Press they had not been consulted.

Meanwhile, in New York, Security Council ambassadors met behind closed doors Monday to discuss rival U.N. resolutions on Syria. Russia introduced a resolution Friday that called for Assad’s government to halt its violence against protesters and expedite reforms, but it made no mention of the sanctions sought by the U.S. and European nations in draft resolution circulated earlier this month.

Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private, said afterwards that it was a useful and constructive session and all 15 council members agreed on the necessity of adopting a resolution. Council members will continue discussing what should be included in the resolution, the diplomats said.

After months of deadlock, the Security Council finally responded to the escalating violence in Syria on Aug. 3, condemning Assad’s forces for attacking civilians and committing human rights violations in a weaker presidential statement. It called on Syrian authorities to immediately end all violence and launch an inclusive political process.

Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Turkey grows frustrated with Syria

ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Ankara won’t talk with Damascus until the Syrian president carries out promised reforms in the country, a Turkish source said.

Ersat Hurmuzlu, an adviser to Turkish President Abdullah Gul, told London’s pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that Ankara doesn’t have a hidden agenda in Syria, noting the fate of the country in the hands of the people.

His comments echo those from Western officials who’ve issued sweeping condemnations of the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters while keeping a non-interventionist stance.

An official in the Turkish Foreign Ministry told the newspaper on condition of anonymity that Ankara was “very concerned” by what’s happening in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has issued a series of statements addressing reforms ranging from the right to form political parties to voting measures. Despite pledges of reform, however, the United Nations estimates that at least 2,000 people were killed at the hands of Syrian security forces, including hundreds during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“There will be no dialogue with the Syrian authorities unless they carry out their promises within an acceptable and reasonable period,” the Turkish source said.

More gunfire was reported Monday in Syria near the border with Lebanon.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Jordanians pay price as Syria roils


Border town residents cheer on the Syrian protesters, but feel the sting of trade restrictions placed by Assad’s regime.

RAMTHA, Jordan – A melting pot for refugees from around the world, Jordan has recently welcomed the latest batch of asylum seekers from neighboring Syria, but officials in Amman fear this bite is more than they can chew.

Ever since the popular uprising against the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad took a violent turn five months ago, Jordan’s northernmost towns over the border with Syria have been welcoming dozens of Syrians families and soldiers fleeing crackdown on protesters.

When revolts first broke out across the Arab World at the start of the year, Jordanians here in the city of Ramtha and its neighboring villages were excited at the prospect of despots being brought down. When the unrest spread to Syria, which started in the country’s south not far from Jordan, they welcomed the first wave of Syrian asylum seekers with open arms.

But as the protests wore on and the government of Assad counterattacked with a violent crackdown, the mood shifted. For many residents, cross-border trade is what puts bread on the table, but the crackdown virtually shut the border with Jordan. Syrian authorities refused to allow Jordanian merchants into its territory to buy food and other essentials that supply Ramtha’s stores and markets.

“The siege on this small town sent a message to Jordanian officials that Damascus was ready to cut Jordan from a vital food source in case it supported the revolt,” says Abdullah Zubi, an activist from Ramtha, whose population numbers 100,000 people, making it the biggest town near the border.

The Arab Spring has dealt roughly with Jordan, an American ally, and there is little sign that the regional unrest in abating. At home, King Abdullah has faced protests calling for deep political reforms while chaos in the Sinai Peninsula has cut off the country’s supply of Egyptian natural gas. The economy has had to contend with higher prices for oil and food.

Assad has killed more than 2,000 people in his bid to quell protests against his rule. On Saturday, Syrian forces attacked demonstrators in suburbs of the capital, Damascus, as well in the cities of Deir Al-Zour, Homs and Nawa, human rights activists said. The foreign minister of Iran, Syria’s most important ally, on Saturday called on Assad to “pay heed to the legitimate demands of his people” and warned that a potential power vacuum in Damascus “would bring about unpredictable consequences” for the region.

Jordan imports most of its foodstuffs from Syria or through Syrian territories. So far, the trade line has not been disrupted, but concern is growing that retaliation could lead Syria to seal its borders with Jordan, a blow that the kingdom would find difficult to handle, considering its limited resources and options in the region, say analysts.

But the distress involved more than trade. Several influential businessmen and lawmakers with close links to Syria, hired thugs to stop local residents from taking to the streets in support of the uprising against Assad’s Baath regime, Zubi said. Meanwhile, with protests spreading in Syria and the death toll rising, the exodus intensified from Houran district, the southern tip of Syria and cradle of anti-Assad protests.

Dissidents who arrive in Jordan talk of random killings and arrests as well as looting and sabotage by the Syrian army and civilian groups believed to be close to the under fire regime.

Abdul Rahman, a former Syrian soldier, says he crossed the border on foot from Deraa two months ago, after he refused to shoot at civilians.

“We were given orders to shoot protesters, destroy houses and arrest anyone believed to be a threat,” says Abdul Rahman after performing taraweeh prayer among several Syrian asylum seekers.

The 34-year-old former soldier is seeking asylum with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“I can’t return to Syria as long as the Assad regime is ruling. They arrested my brother and destroyed my house after I escaped to Jordan,” says Abdul Rahman, who often takes part in anti-Assad protests in several cities across Jordan.

In the border town of Mafraq, a tribal stronghold loyal to Jordan’s King Abdullah, several Syrian soldiers cross the landmine infested region in search for safety. Residents say refugees have been welcomed by local families, but there is little public discussion about it for fear of retaliation from the Syrians.

Abu Samara, a tribal leader from Khalidya, is one of the few who are willing to talk about what is happening. He says the livelihood of many Jordanians depends on cross border trade with Syria, including transport of cattle, food items and other merchandise. Scores of residents in Mafraq also work in the smuggling business. Some bring in cigarettes, electric appliances, food items and often drugs.

But more than trade, tribes and families straddle both sides of the border, creating a network of loyalty and mutual support that transcend political and national divisions.

“Jordan and Syria are one country, the people are the same. These borders came into existence only a few years ago, but we still have relatives on the other side of the border and our duty is to help them,” he told The Media Line in a telephone interview.

At Abu Samara’s house lives a Syrian family of six people from Deraa in southern Syria, who arrived nearly two months ago when the Syrian army pushed into the city to silence anti-Assad demonstrators. The parents arrived along with their three daughters and one son.

Political ties between Jordan and Syria, particularly between the fathers of the current two leaders, the late King Hussein and Hafez Assad, have been marred by periodic episodes of tension. While Syria has grown into an ally of Iran and Lebanon’s Shi’ite militant movement Hezbollah, Jordan’s royal family is a traditional ally of the West. In the late 1970s, Syria and Jordan came close to a military confrontation over how to deal with their common neighbor, Israel. In more recent years, relations improved, but they are still fragile as Syria remains in the grip of the Hafez Assad-era old guard.

As the smaller of the two countries and facing its own domestic tensions, Jordan has been sensitive to Syrian concerns. When Syrian dissidents, including renegade soldiers, activists and ordinary citizens, began coming across the border, Amman imposed a media gag on refugees. By comparison, the approximately 7,000 Syrian refugees who have cross into Turkey, on Syria’s north, have been interviewed by the media while dissident leaders routinely meet in Istanbul, the Turkish capital.

Jordanian Ministry of Interior officials insist that the number of Syrians who have fled to Jordan as refugees is limited, pointing out that many Syrians would visit the kingdom in summer for vacation. An official source, who requested anonymity, will admit to only several refugees being welcomed in. Sources at UNHCR said the agency has recently approved requests for asylum from a number of Syrians.

Nevertheless, Jordan has recently accused Syria of siphoning off its underground water and placing the kingdom under strain as it struggles with chronic water shortage and rising population. On August 14, Jordan’s prime minister, for the first time, scolded the Syrian government for resorting to violence to crush protesters and urged an end to violence.

Such remarks could have a profound impact on the already fragile ties between the two sides, say observers.

Source: The Jerusalem Post.