Today’s Round-Up of Syria News
What seeming more and more like a normal day
• Two shells reportedly hit a municipality building and a school in Jaramana, a pro-Assad suburb of Damascus, killing 7 and wounding scores more. In Damascus, an electricity minister was killed by a car bomb.
• Syria, which has reportedly received a $1 billion credit line from Iran, is anticipating more money from Russia and Iran.
Speaking at the bank’s headquarters, hit by a car bomb on April 8, Adeeb Mayaleh said: “We are expecting much more support from friendly countries… Yes, financial support from Iran and Russia and it could also be from other friendly countries.
“Discussions are going on. We are in the process of putting the final touches on the subject of financial aid in a clear way,” he told Reuters in an interview, without specifying how much money Iran and Russia would provide.
• The ancient minaret of the Umayyad mosque–a 12th century mosque in Aleppo’s Old City and a UNESCO World Heritage Site–was brought down by shells fired by troops loyal to the Assad regime today. According to reports, Assad troops had been aiming shells at it throughout the week.
The destruction in Aleppo comes just over a week after the minaret of the historic Omari Mosque in the southern city of Daraa was destroyed. The Daraa mosque was built during the Islamic conquest of Syria in the days of Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab in the 7th century.
• The European Union’s anti-terrorism believes that there is a growing number of European combatants now fighting in Syria. Gilles de Kerchove estimates the number is about 500.
Intelligence agencies are concerned some could join groups linked to al-Qaeda and later return to Europe to launch terrorist attacks. The UK, Ireland and France are among the EU countries estimated to have the highest numbers of fighters in Syria.
• After Israel’s top intelligence analyst echoed concerns by the British and the French about Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons–citing pictures of victims who were foaming at the mouth as evidence–the White House was cautious about the need for definitive proof.
The Israeli allegations, which came during a week-long visit by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the Middle East, followed similar concerns of chemical weapons use voiced by Britain and France.
But so far, those assessments appear to lack the concrete proof Washington would need to accept the kind of deeper US involvement in Syria’s civil war that Obama has resisted. That, in turn, raises questions about just how well-defined the US president’s “red line” is.
Plus calls for greater involvement in Syria gather steam