DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 17, 2010, 10:27 AM (GMT+02:00)Tags: Bashar Assad Israeli drones for Turkey Syrian Kurds
Syrian troops and Kurdish tribesman are locked in fierce battle since the Syrian army blasted four northeastern Kurdish towns and neighborhoods at the end of June. Hundreds of Kurds are reported dead.
The Syrian campaign is backed by Heron (Eitan) spy drones Israel sold Turkey, made accessible on the personal say-so of Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan. Turkey therefore becomes the first NATO member to make advanced Western military technology available for the use of a strong ally of radical Iran and an active sponsor of terrorists. Following intense exchanges between Jerusalem and Washington, the NATO command was urged to put Ankara on the carpet - with no response as yet.
The drones are being used to track Kurds in flight across Syria's borders, mainly into Lebanon, where Hizballah is helping Syria hunt the refugees down. The accessibility to Damascus of the unmanned aerial vehicles is in direct breach of the Israel-Turkish sales contracts which barred their use - and the use of other Israeli high-tech items sold to Turkey during years of close military collaboration - in the service of hostile states or entities.
Extending their sphere to Syrian and Lebanese skies gives the Syrian army and Hizballah (Iran's external arm) a unique opportunity to study the Heron (Eitan)'s sophisticated attributes in real combat conditions at close hand and adjust their own tactics accordingly to outwit them.
debkafile's intelligence sources have no doubt that Iranian intelligence officers stationed in Damascus and Beirut jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the Israeli wonder-drones.
Regarding the crackdown on the Kurds, our military sources report that three large-scale Syrian military operations against the Kurdish people are in progress under the guidance of Turkish generals based at Syrian staff headquarters in Damascus:
1. Syrian elite forces are battling suspected Kurdish members of the Turkish PKK in at least four northeastern Syrian towns near the Syrian-Turkish-Iraqi border triangle: the big Kurdish town of Qamishli, the mixed Kurdish-Assyrian town of Al Asakah and two others, Qaratshuk and Diwar. All four and their outlying villages are under massive Syrian army siege after complete residential blocks were shelled and flattened - acting as the trigger for the current fighting.
Not all the victims are PKK fighters by any means. Most were civilians. Turkish intelligence sources tried to justify the Syrian massacre and their government's complicity by claiming that 2,000 of the 6,000 PKK fighters conducting terrorist attacks in Turkey from North Iraqi havens are Syrian Kurds or providers of alternative bases for their Turkish comrades to strike Turkish military positions from a second direction.
While until Saturday, July 17, Damascus was tight-lipped about its grim campaign against its Kurdish community, Turkish military sources were more vocal. They placed the number of Kurdish dead in battle at 185 and another 400 taken captive, many of whom will be turned over to Ankara. Our sources estimate the number of dead as much higher - more than 300, with at least 1,000 injured.
2. Large Syrian contingents are sealing the Iraqi border against the flight of Syrian Kurds - but also to block the entry of PKK reinforcements for aiding their beleaguered brethren.
3. The Syrian-Lebanese frontier is similarly sealed to keep Kurdish fighters from fleeing the country. debkafile's military sources report that on this border, Syrian and Hizballah units are working together, with the latter forcibly blocking the roads to Lebanese cities.
debkafile reports an all-night gunfight in the Al-Naba'a (Tel Azaatar) district of south Beirut which ended Wednesday morning, July 14 with an unknown number of Kurdish fighters dead.
One was identified by residents as Al Haj Reid, aged 37, a recent arrival from Syria.
When Turkish reporters finally tackled Syrian president Bashar Assad on his anti-Kurd campaign Saturday morning, July 17, their questions were smoothly turned aside. "I'm not following the details concerning this operation," said the Syrian ruler. "The issue is not about capturing 10 or 100 terrorists. What matters is the principle."
He added: "Our cooperation with Turkey in the security field is not new (!). We have coordinated for many years. Intervening when there are preparations for a terrorist attack or for infiltration is a dimension of this cooperation."
debkafile's military sources comment: Syrian military cooperation dates recently from the military pact they signed in October 2009.
As a big ceremony was staged Saturday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bashar Assad's ascent to power, the US-based Human Rights Watch group published a report called "A Wasted Decade" declaring there is "no freedom, no rights" in Syria. Instead of the transparency and democracy he promised, his regime suppresses criticism and its prisons soon filled with political prisoners, journalists, and human rights activists.
The Chinless Opthalmologist