Russia Begins New Drone Operations in Syria

Russia has begun conducting drone surveillance flights over Syria. The unmanned sorties are “Moscow’s first military air operations there since staging a rapid buildup at a Syrian air base,” Reuters reports. Russia has also deployed 28 manned aircraft to the airbase near Latakia where it has been expanding its presence, including “a dozen Su-24 Fencer ...

GettyImages-486065012
GettyImages-486065012

Russia has begun conducting drone surveillance flights over Syria. The unmanned sorties are “Moscow's first military air operations there since staging a rapid buildup at a Syrian air base,” Reuters reports. Russia has also deployed 28 manned aircraft to the airbase near Latakia where it has been expanding its presence, including “a dozen Su-24 Fencer and a dozen Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes” and four Flanker fighter jets, according to the New York Times.

U.S. defense officials declined to comment on the new drone flights but told Reuters they are “keenly aware” of Russia’s activities in Syria. Last week, U.S. and Russian defense officials began preliminary discussions on the situation in Syria. On Monday, Israel announced it would coordinate military actions in Syria with the Russian government to prevent Russian and Israeli forces from coming into conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin “agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings.”

Syrian War Destruction Prompts Seed Withdrawal from “Doomsday” Vault

Russia has begun conducting drone surveillance flights over Syria. The unmanned sorties are “Moscow’s first military air operations there since staging a rapid buildup at a Syrian air base,” Reuters reports. Russia has also deployed 28 manned aircraft to the airbase near Latakia where it has been expanding its presence, including “a dozen Su-24 Fencer and a dozen Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes” and four Flanker fighter jets, according to the New York Times.

U.S. defense officials declined to comment on the new drone flights but told Reuters they are “keenly aware” of Russia’s activities in Syria. Last week, U.S. and Russian defense officials began preliminary discussions on the situation in Syria. On Monday, Israel announced it would coordinate military actions in Syria with the Russian government to prevent Russian and Israeli forces from coming into conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin “agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings.”

Syrian War Destruction Prompts Seed Withdrawal from “Doomsday” Vault

The destruction of drought-resistant wheat, barley and grass seeds in Syria’s civil war has prompted the first ever withdrawal of seeds from an arctic “doomsday” seed vault. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was established in the arctic in 2008 to protect biodiversity in the event of catastrophe and contains samples of more than 860,000 plants. The seeds have been requested by the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, which moved its headquarters from Aleppo to Beirut in 2012.

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Headlines

  • Saudi Arabia has ramped up security for this year’s hajj, deploying 100,000 security forces as well as a large network of security cameras to address counterterrorism concerns; 3 million people are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca this year.

 

  • New polling shows Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are almost evenly divided on the issue of a two-state solution, with 51 percent opposed and 48 percent in favor; the poll reflects heightened tensions between Israel and Palestinians.

 

  • Two Saudi soldiers have been detained by Houthi forces in Yemen and three others are missing after “they lost their way in Yemeni territory,” a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said.

 

  • An 18-year-old Palestinian woman was shot when she attempted to stab an Israeli soldier at a West Bank checkpoint.

 

  • In a preliminary step towards potential peace talks in Syria, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the heads of four working groups for negotiations.

Arguments and Analysis

‘Look for Another Homeland’: Forced Evictions in Egypt’s Rafah” (Human Rights Watch)

“Human Rights Watch found that the large-scale destruction of homes and other buildings in Rafah did not meet the requirement under the laws of war that Egypt’s army target only specific military objectives. The demolitions made no distinction between tunnels and civilian homes, and less-destructive methods could have effectively restricted, and in fact had reportedly restricted, tunnel smuggling. For example, in July 2013, when the military first began home demolitions on the Gaza border, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory estimated that existing Egyptian efforts to close the tunnels through demolition or flooding had been successful, eliminating perhaps all but 10.”

 

Breaking News and Inconsistent Media Standards in Egypt” (Basil El-Dabh, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy)

“The government’s handling of its domestic media has been more brutish and represents a microcosm of the general inconsistencies of the country’s implementation of rule of law.  Earlier this summer, the Committee to Protect Journalists said the imprisonment of journalists in Egypt is at an ‘all time high’ — and all of those detained are Egyptians. Despite claims from the foreign ministry that no one is in jail facing press-related charges, some, like photojournalist Esraa al-Taweel, are being tried for ‘spreading false news’ and belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Photojournalist Shawkan Zeid has been in detention for more than two years, and this week was formally charged with murder, attempted murder, assaulting security forces, and possession of a weapon.”

-J. Dana Stuster

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

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