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Posts tagged ‘Damascus’

Islamist Fighters Move Nuns From Captured Christian Village in Syria.

Syrian nuns
Nuns attend a mass prayer at the Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, Dec. 10, 2012. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri )

Islamist fighters who captured a Christian village north of Damascus have moved some nuns to a nearby town but it was not clear if they had been kidnapped or evacuated for their safety, the Vatican’s ambassador to Syria said on Tuesday.

The militants took the ancient quarter of Maaloula on Monday after heavy fighting with President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces, activists said. Syrian state media said they were holding the nuns captive in the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Thecla.

Vatican envoy Mario Zenari said the 12 nuns had been taken from Maaloula to Yabroud, about 20 km (13 miles) to the north.

Zenari said the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate had told him armed men had entered the monastery on Monday afternoon.

“They forced the sisters to evacuate and to follow them towards Yabroud. At this moment we cannot say if this is a kidnapping or an evacuation,” he told Reuters by telephone from Damascus. “I heard now there is a very fierce conflict going on in Maaloula.”

The fighting, which pits al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front fighters and other rebels against Assad’s forces, is part of a wider struggle for control of the Damascus-Homs highway in central Syria.

An official at the Greek Patriarchate confirmed that he believed the nuns were taken to Yabroud, but gave no details.

Syrian state television said Christians had held a service in Damascus on Monday to protest against the capture of the nuns and the kidnapping of two bishops near Aleppo in April.

Pro-rebel activists said the nuns were safe and that the real threat to them came from what they described as random Syrian army bombardment of Maaloula.

The village was the scene of heavy fighting in September, when it changed hands four times in a series of attacks and counter-assaults by rebels and government forces.

Zenari said the nuns were among the last residents left in Maaloula after most fled south for relative safety in Damascus.

The army, backed by pro-Assad militias, has been trying to secure towns on the road from Damascus to the city of Homs and Assad’s Alawite heartland overlooking the Mediterranean.

Control of the road would help secure Assad’s grip over central Syria, and would also enable safe passage for hundreds of tonnes of chemical agents which are due to be shipped out of the country by the end of the year for destruction.

Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Alistair Lyon

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Nuns Trapped as Syria Rebels Linked to al-Qaida Seize Christian Town.

Six nuns were trapped in an ancient pro-government Christian village, the government said Monday, after al-Qaida linked rebels seized large swaths of the area.

Syrian army tanks were positioned around Maaloula as the fighting sent smoke wafting over the scenic village nestled in hills about 40 miles northeast of the capital, Damascus.

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are trying to keep rebels led by the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, from advancing. Opposition fighters have taken control of several parts of the village since blowing up a checkpoint at its entrance on Friday, according to reports by the state news agency and opposition activists.

The fighting is part of a wider battle over a string of towns and villages in the rugged Qalamoun border region in an effort to control a strategic highway and smuggling routes from neighboring Lebanon. The town had been firmly in the government’s grip but surrounded by rebel-held territory until Friday.

Five nuns and their Mother Superior, Pelagia Sayaf were trapped in the Mar Takla Convent, which sits above Maaloula, according to SANA.

Syria‘s Minister of Social Affairs, Kindah al-Shammat, demanded that countries supporting the rebels pressure them to release the nuns.

Many of the some 3,000 residents have already fled to Damascus, fearing rebels would punish them for supporting Assad and because they are Christians, one of the villagers said in a telephone interview. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety. Others have taken shelter in the convent.

While two bishops and a priest have been kidnapped by rebels, no nuns have been reported harmed in the three-year conflict, which began as a popular uprising against Assad but quickly morphed into a civil war.

Syria’s minorities, including Christians, have mostly sided with Assad’s rule or remained neutral, fearing for their fate if rebels, dominated by Islamic extremists, come to power.

In the past, rebels have seized parts of Maaloula only to be driven out within a few days by government forces.

Maaloula was a major tourist attraction before the conflict began in March 2011. Some of its residents still speak a version of Aramaic, a biblical language spoken by Jesus.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Syria conflict: Israel ‘carries out Latakia air strike’.


“There’s every likelihood that this was the squadron that carried out the attack”, reports Quentin Sommerville

Israeli aircraft have carried out a strike near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, a US official says.

The official said the strike targeted Russian-made missiles intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Latakia is a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, where his Alawite community is concentrated.

This is believed to be sixth Israeli attack in Syria this year. Israel does not comment on specific operations.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said it would act if it felt Syrian weapons, conventional or chemical, were being transferred to militant groups in the region, especially Hezbollah.

Continue reading the main story


image of Kevin ConnollyKevin ConnollyBBC News, Jerusalem

Israeli air-raids on military targets inside Syria have become one of the strangest sub-plots of the civil war.

This is thought to be the fifth or sixth such attack this year but it is Israeli policy not to offer any public comment on specific operations.

Syria too – for all its decades of hostility towards Israel – hasn’t offered any military response and has tended to say little or nothing about the operations.

Israel has said publicly that it won’t allow the Assad regime in Damascus to transfer powerful rockets and missiles to its allied Shia militia Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, where they could threaten targets in Israel.

The Syrian government caught in a grinding civil war of attrition within its borders does not have the capacity for any kind of military confrontation with Israel – avoiding public comment may be a way of reducing pressure from its own people and from the wider Arab world for some form of retaliation.

Israel’s silence gives it some kind of deniability – even if no-one really doubts it is responsible.

The US, Israel’s closest ally, may be a little concerned. The consignment of expensive weapons destroyed is thought to have come from Russia, and Washington won’t want to see Russian displeasure provoked at a moment when its co-operation is needed to keep alive any hope of peace talks.

Reports of the strike came as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said all Syria’s declared equipment for making chemical weapons had been destroyed, one day before a deadline.

Action by the OPCW was agreed following allegations, denied by the Syrian government, that its forces had used chemical weapons in civilian areas – and after the US and France threatened military intervention.

Delicate moment

A US official said the Israeli strike took place overnight from Wednesday into Thursday.

Reports circulated on Thursday of explosions near Latakia, but the cause was not clear.

“Several explosions were heard in an air defence base in the Snubar Jableh area,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist network.

Neither Israel nor Syria have commented on the reports. Earlier this year, Mr Assad had promised to respond to any future strikes by Israel.

One unnamed US official told the Associated Press that the missiles targeted by Israel were Russian-made SA-125s.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says the reports come at a delicate moment, with the Russians – who apparently made the weapons that Israel is said to have targeted – working closely with the US to get a peace conference on Syria off the ground.

Russia has been a key backer of President Assad’s, continuing to supply his government with weapons during the conflict in Syria.

Lakhdar Brahimi: “We are making progress. Whether that progress will be enough… is not certain”

The UN Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has told the BBC he believes progress was “certainly being made” on preparations for an international peace conference in Switzerland – widely referred to as Geneva 2.

Continue reading the main story

Alleged Israeli strikes on Syria

  • July 2013: Reports citing US officials say the Israeli air force struck a missile warehouse in Latakia
  • 5 May 2013: Two Israeli air strikes reportedly hit a military complex around Jamraya, north-west of Damascus
  • 2 May 2013: Israeli planes launch a strike targeting shipment of ground-to-ground missiles at a warehouse at Damascus airport, according to US intelligence sources
  • January 2013: Syrian military says Israeli jets carried out an air strike on a military research centre north-west of Damascus

But he said it was not certain if it was enough for the conference to take place, as planned, on 23 November. He said he hoped to announce a date soon.

Speaking in Damascus, at the end of his first visit to the capital since December, he said “people are realising more and more there is no military solution and don’t see any way of getting out of this horrible situation except through Geneva”.

‘Constructive partner’

On Thursday, the OPCW said in a statementthat its teams had inspected 21 of the 23 chemical weapons sites in Syria.

It said two sites were too dangerous to visit, but equipment from those sites had already been moved to places where it could be inspected.

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the BBC that his government was co-operating, and was making a contribution to freeing the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction.

Lyse Doucet reports from Damascus

“I hope those who have always thought of us negatively will change their minds and understand that Syria was, is, and will be always a constructive partner,” Mr Mekdad said.

Syria’s next deadline is mid-November, by which time the OPCW and the Syrians must agree a detailed plan to destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.

Syria has until mid-2014 to destroy the chemical weapons themselves.

Syria’s arsenal is believed to include more than 1,000 tonnes of the nerve gas sarin, the blister agent sulphur mustard and other banned chemicals, stored at dozens of sites.

The uprising against Mr Assad began in 2011. More than 100,000 people have been killed and more than two million people have fled the country, according to the UN.

Long-Suffering Syrian Christians Fear Future.

Sami Amir is used to the deep, echoing rumble of the Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It’s the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.

The mortars have repeatedly struck his mainly Christian district of Damascus, al-Qassaa, reportedly killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens of others in the past two weeks.

“You don’t know when and you don’t know where they hit,” says Amir, 55, a Christian merchant. “Life here is often too difficult.”

Rebel shelling into the capital has increasingly hit several majority-Christian districts, particularly al-Qassaa, with its wide avenues, middle-class apartment blocks, leafy parks, popular restaurants, and shopping streets busy with pedestrians.

The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad‘s rule.

Christians think they are being targeted — in part because of the anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and in part as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad.

Though some Christians oppose Assad’s brutal crackdown on the opposition, the rebellion’s increasingly outspoken Islamist rhetoric and the prominent role of Islamic extremist fighters have pushed them toward support of the government. Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria’s 23 million people.

“When you bring a Christian and make him choose between Assad and the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant, the answer is clear,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science  professor at the American University of Beirut, referring to the al-Qaeda branch fighting alongside the rebels. “It doesn’t need much thinking.”

The rebels have targeted other Syrian minorities, particularly Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs and which is his main support base. All together, ethnic and religious minorities — also including Kurds and Druze — make up a quarter of Syria’s population. The majority, and most rebels, are Sunni Muslim.

But Christian areas have recently been the focus of fighting.

A week ago, rebels from the al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra attacked the Christian town of Sadad, north of Damascus, seizing control until they were driven out Monday after fierce fighting with government forces. The rebels appear to have targeted the town because of its strategic location near the main highway north of Damascus, rather than because it is Christian.

Still, SANA reported Monday that the rebels in Sadad had vandalized the town’s St. Theodore Church, along with much of Sadad’s infrastructure.

Similarly, thousands fled the ancient Christian-majority town of Maaloula when rebels took control of it last month, holding it for several days until government forces retook it. With rebels in the hills around the town, those who fled are still too afraid to return.

Two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas in April, and an Italian Jesuit priest, the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing in July after traveling to meet al-Qaeda militants in the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa. None has been heard from since.

In August, rebel gunmen killed 11 people in a drive-by shooting in central Syria as Christians celebrated a feast day. Activists said at the time that many of those killed were pro-government militiamen manning checkpoints.

Al-Qaeda-linked fighters have damaged and desecrated churches in areas they have seized.

In Raqqa, militants set fires in two churches and knocked the crosses off them, replacing them with the group’s black Islamic banner.

Jihadis also torched an Armenian church in the northern town of Tel Abyad on Sunday, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad group that tracks the war through a network of activists on the ground.

The apparently deliberate campaign against Christians and other minorities has stoked worries in Washington and many European capitals over providing advanced weaponry to the mainstream opposition Free Syria Army, amid fears the arms will end up in the hands of extremists.

Christians in Damascus are convinced that extremists are deliberately targeting their neighborhoods as rebels battle government forces trying to uproot them from the towns they control outside the capital. Al-Qassaa is close to besieged rebel-held suburbs where Muslim residents have pleaded for international help to save them from starvation and constant government bombardment.

“Recently I noticed that every Sunday, they launch more than 15 mortars a day,” Amir said. “They are targeting specifically Christian areas.”

The most recent shells in al-Qassaa hit Thursday on the doorstep of a fashion clothing shop and next to a wall of a local hospital, killing three young men and damaging a church and several cars, which were left riddled by shrapnel.

Hundreds of Christians have fled al-Qassaa to other areas of the capital or into neighboring Lebanon. Nationwide, about 450,000 Christians have fled their homes, part of an exodus of about 7 million during the 2 1/2-year civil war, church officials say.

Almost all the 50,000 Christians in the mixed city of Homs have fled, and another 200,000 have fled the northern city of Aleppo, both battleground cities. When insurgents occupied the strategic central town of Qusair in 2012, about 7,000 Catholics were forced out and their homes were looted.

Thousands who fled Maaloula have found refuge in the al-Qassaa and other Christian districts of Damascus. Maaloula was a major tourist attraction before the civil war, home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. Some of the residents still speak a version of Aramaic, the language of biblical times, thought to have been used by Jesus.

Youssef Naame and his wife, Norma, an elderly Christian couple from Maaloula, described how bearded extremist Islamists stormed the northeastern village early last month chanting, “God is Great!”

“The jihadis shouted: Convert to Islam, or you will be crucified like Jesus,” Youssef said with a shaky voice in his daughter’s al-Qassaa apartment.

He said they were trapped with other Christians for three days in a small house next to the town church, without food or electricity.

“There were snipers shooting everywhere, we were not able to move,” he recalled. “We were so scared. I lost my speech.”

Syrian church leaders fear that Assad’s fall would lead to an Islamist state that would spell the end of the centuries-old existence of Christians on Syrian soil.

“We are not taking any sides in the conflict,” Bishop Luka, deputy leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church, said at his headquarters in the historic Damascus Old Town.

“We are standing alongside the country, because this country is ours,” he said. “If the country is gone, we have nothing left. Nothing will remain of us.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Islamist Rebels Fight Army for Christian Town in Syria.

BEIRUTIslamist rebels battled Syrian government forces on Tuesday to retain control of a historic Christian town which the insurgents has stormed a day earlier, residents said.

“There is a huge on-off battle here now, the army even used fighter jets,” said one female resident of Sadad, a town that was mentioned in the Bible.

The town is located amid several villages that support the uprising against President Bashar Assad.

It also lies next to several arms depots and opposition activists said the raid by the al-Qaida-linked-rebels was for military reasons, not religiously motivated.

The clashes could nevertheless raise anxieties among the Christian minority, who have generally tried to stay on the sidelines of sectarian conflict pitting majority Sunni Muslims against the Alawite minority and which has overshadowed the revolt against four decades of Assad family rule of Syria.

“After rebels stormed the town yesterday, they entered the main square and spoke to us on loudspeakers, telling us to stay inside. They killed anyone found in the streets,” said a resident named Elias, speaking by phone. “They didn’t come inside people’s homes though.”

Residents estimated that nine people were killed then.

They also said no government soldiers or paramilitary forces other than police had been in Sadad. Opposition activists said the town was used to launch rockets into nearby rebel-held areas.

Sources on both sides said another aim of the rebel assault was to break into Sadad’s hospital to seize medical supplies.

One resident said that by Tuesday morning the rebels seemed to have disappeared.

“We assumed it was because the army was on its way. It turned out they were in hiding in the orchards and the fields and they ambushed the army when it came,” one woman said, declining to give her name.

Sadad is strategically located between the central city of Homs, 60 kilometers (37 miles) away, and the capital Damascus, 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.

Reuters cannot always confirm reports inside Syria due to government and security restrictions.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Syria Imbroglio: Applicability Of International Law Rules And Practice By Dr. Theophilus Olusegun Obayemi, I.

I.    Introduction

We re-examine the United States-led intervention in Syria. First, our thesis is that within the context of the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”)’s decision in Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), Jurisdiction and Admissibility, 1984 ICJ REP. 392 June 27, 1986.—there has actually been “interventions” by the United States and its allies inside the Syrian borders.

Second, we argue that the United Nations General Assembly (“UNGA”) ought to have requested the ICJ to issue an Advisory Opinion on the legality and/or lawfulness of the United States and French-led intervention in Syria.

Third, humanitarian intervention towards preventing genocide and serious violations of humanitarian rights is now a jus cogens, which does not need a United Nations Security Council’s Resolution.

In a nutshell, the UNGA should have taken over the jurisdiction of the Syrian case over and above the need for a Chapter VII Security Council Resolution.

In September 2013, many international law observers had expected a full-blown attack by the United States armed forces against the Assad Syrian government. In an attempt to avoid being dragged into an unpopular military action as occurred in Vietnam and Iraq, President Barrack Obama sought ratification and support from the Congress. In the midst, Vladmir Putin, Russian Head of State offered to negotiate the peaceful surrender of chemical weapons by Assad. Salutory as the efforts to avert military confrontation may seem, international law practitioners are concerned that the rules of international law were not followed and were neither referenced in solving the impasse.

II.    Origin of the Syrian Revolution

The Arab Spring consumed the entire Arab world in 2011. A wave of civil wars, revolutionary demonstrations, protests and riots dubbed the “Arab Spring” started in December 2010 and spread across North Africa and into the Middle East in 2011. As of October 2013, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt (twice), Libya, and Yemen. In addition, civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria. Further, major protests broke out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan. We also witnessed minor protests in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and the Palestinian Authority.

Of particular importance is that in March 2011, Pro-democracy protests in Syria started in earnest when a group of 200 mostly young protesters gathered in the Syrian capital Damascus to demand reforms and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a ‘Day of Rage.’ A Facebook group called “The Syrian Revolution 2011 Syrian revolt against Bashar al-Assad” garnered more than 41,000 fans, while Syrian Twitter users tweeted for the world to pay attention. Video footage emerged showing the protests. Between March 2011 and September the Assad government battled rebels who gained significant inroads into the political control of the Syrian landmass. Then came the use of chemical weapons.

Syria has always had a “long-standing chemical warfare program”, which was first developed in the 1970s. A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service said Syria probably began stockpiling chemical weapons in 1972 or 1973, when it was given a small number of chemicals and delivery systems by Egypt before the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Further, Damascus started acquiring the materials and knowledge necessary to produce chemical weapons in the 1980s, with the help of the Soviet Union. Equipment and chemicals were also procured from European companies. While the exact size of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is not known, in June 2012, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Deputy Chief of Staff Maj Gen Yair Nave described it as “the largest in the world”. In addition, according to a French intelligence assessment published in September 2013, Damascus has more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and precursor chemicals, including:

Several hundreds of tonnes of sulphur mustard
Several hundreds of tonnes of sarin
Several tens of tonnes of VX

According to a report by UN chemical weapons inspectors, there is “clear and convincing evidence” that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were fired at suburbs to the east and west of Damascus in an attack on 21 August that killed hundreds of people. Further, according to US, British, French and Israeli officials, there is also evidence that Syrian government forces used sarin against rebels and civilians on several previous occasions. Finally, French intelligence said analysis of samples taken from the northern town of Saraqeb and the Damascus suburb of Jobar in April showed that munitions containing sarin had been deployed.

III.    What is “Intervention” Under International Law

To a layman, intervention would be equated to Operation Desert Storm under general Arnold Schwarznopf in 1991 or the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ICJ’s decision in Nicaragua v. United States of America shows that intervention could be direct and/or indirect. Therein, the financing of rebels, aids given to insurgents, military assistance, logistics and instructors. Just as in Nicaragua in 1984, United States aided the Syrian Freedom Fighters, in recruiting, training, arming, equipping, financing, supplying and otherwise encouraging, supporting, aiding, and directing military and paramilitary actions in and against Assad.

Thus, the actual threatened direct full-scale attack against Syria was actually not the initial intervention by the United States.

IV.    Right of Humanitarian Intervention

Under contemporary rules of international law, the three paradigmatic cases justifying humanitarian intervention are genocide, slavery and widespread torture.  Thus, the notion of jus cogens in international law encompasses the notion of peremptory norms in international law. In this regard, a view has been formed that certain overriding principles of international law exist which form “a body of jus cogens.” These principles are those from which it is accepted that no State may derogate by way of treaty. As a result they are generally interpreted as restricting the freedom of States to contract while ‘voiding’ treaties whose object conflicts with norms which have been identified as peremptory.

Assuming arguendo that the Assad government used chemical weapons against its citizens, then the United States and the allieds are justified in carrying out both direct and indirect attacks against Assad’s regime.

Before the customary international right of humanitarian intervention can be exercised, there are “safeguard factors” to be observed:

• The violation of humanitarian rights is severe
• A large number of people are involved
• More than one state is involved in the use of force
• There is no gain or material self-interest on the part of the intervening states

V.    The United Nations Security Council

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The only problem with the UNSC is the veto right by the permanent members. Under Article 27 of the UN Charter, Security Council decisions on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members. A negative vote, or veto, also known as the rule of “great power unanimity”, by a permanent member prevents adoption of a proposal, even if it has received the required number of affirmative votes (9). Abstention is not regarded as a veto despite the wording of the Charter. Since the Security Council’s inception, China (ROC/PRC) has used its veto 6 times; France 18 times; Russia/USSR 123 times; the United Kingdom 32 times; and the United States 89 times. The majority of Russian/Soviet vetoes were in the first ten years of the Council’s existence. Since 1984, China and France have vetoed three resolutions each; Russia/USSR four; the United Kingdom ten; and the United States 43.

During the Syrian crisis, Russia consistently showed that it would not support armed attack against Syria.

VI.    ICJ’s Advisory Opinions

Advisory Opinions were intended as a means by which UN agencies could seek the ICJ’s help in deciding complex legal issues that might fall under their respective mandates. Advisory Opinions were intended as a means by which UN agencies could seek the ICJ’s help in deciding complex legal issues that might fall under their respective mandates.

Based on the Syrian impasse, this author’s view is that the only alternative is the use of the United Nations General Assembly requesting the ICJ to issue an Advisory Opinion on the legality and/or lawfulness of the United States and French-led intervention in Syria. It has been argued that even though the Security Council is probably seized of the Syrian matter, that doesn’t prevent the General Assembly from asking the ICJ for an opinion on whether there is a general right to humanitarian intervention, or whether member states can use force in the absence of a Chapter VII Security Council Resolution.

Generally, the United nations General Assembly requests an advisory opinion. On receiving a request, the ICJ decides which States and organizations might provide useful information and gives them an opportunity to present written or oral statements. While, in principle, the ICJ’s advisory opinions are only consultative in character, they are influential and widely respected. The legal reasoning embodied in them reflects the ICJ ‘s authoritative views on important issues of international law and, in arriving at them, the ICJ follows essentially the same rules and procedures that govern its binding judgments delivered in contentious cases submitted to it by sovereign states.

VII.    Conclusion

It is clear that Assad regime will not hand over the chemical weapons in its possession. With compelling evidence of violations of anti-genocide and anti-torture laws, the United States and Syria submit the matter to the ICJ as to whether the current levels of intervention should be elevated to “direct armed strike” by US armed forces against the Syrian territory. The advantage is that an advisory opinion will produce a reasoned judgment as to the current state of the laws towards balancing demands of non-interference and prevention of humanitarian violations.

The United Nations Charter of 1945 certainly could not have envisaged the capability of nuclear and chemical attacks of 2013.

Dr. Theophilus Olusegun Obayemi, II is the author of Legal Standards Governing Pre-Emptive Strikes and Forcible Measures of Anticipatory Self-Defense under the U.N. Charter and General International Law, 12 ANNUAL SURVEY OF INTERNATIONAL & COMPARATIVE LAW, 19 (SPRING 2006)


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Muslim Man Wakes From Coma, Converts to Christianity.


Karim Shamsi-Basha shares the story of his conversion from Islam to Christianity in his book, 'Paul and Me.'
Karim Shamsi-Basha shares the story of his conversion from Islam to Christianity in his book, ‘Paul and Me.’ (Facebook)

Growing up as a Muslim in Syria, Karim Shamsi-Basha longed for a God of which he didn’t have to be afraid. In the Islamic world, such an ideal was simply difficult to come by.

After moving to the United States and experiencing a miracle and God’s infinite mercy, the concept became more of a reality to him.

In 1992, Shamsi-Basha suffered a sudden brain aneurysm that left him in a coma for a month. Doctors told his wife that he had less than a 10 percent chance of surviving past the first night.

When he came out of it, he began a journey—one that would take 20 years and see him endure incredible hardship—toward the full acceptance of Jesus as his savior.

His life experiences led him to write a book titled, “Paul and Me,” including chapters about the Apostle Paul, whose conversion to Christianity took place on the road to Damascus, Syria.

Shamsi-Basha told the Huffington Post UK that he practiced Islam “very seriously in his teenage years.” He prayed five times a day, walking to his mosque every day before sunrise.

“Throughout my growing up as a Muslim, I searched for a God I can love more than I can fear,” Shamsi-Basha told the Huff Post UK. “That was not available to me. Love is available in Islam, but it is not the main offering. In Christianity, it is THE total offering. What I would like to say is this: Instead of turning my back on Islam, I opened my heart to the love of God, in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Shamsi-Basha told the UK Daily Mail that his neurosurgeon, following the brain aneurysm, told him he had seen very few people go on to make a full recover and suggested that he find out why he survived. That led him on his long journey toward Christianity.

Along the way, Shamsi-Basha endured a divorce, the failure of another relationship, the death of a parent and a period of homelessness.

Meanwhile, following his father’s death, he told his family about his change in theology, and surprisingly, they were fine with it. Shamsi-Basha’s two sisters, one of who now lives in New York City, continue to practice Islam including wearing a hajib, a scarf that covers a woman’s hair.

Carpe Diem—latin for “seize the day”—has become Shamsi-Basha’s daily motto, and believes everyone should adopt it.

“If I have any ulterior motives with this book, it is to get you to seize your day,” he said.

Although his novel doesn’t say anything negative about Islam, Shamsi-Basha has a message for those practicing the religion.

“I would like to address any Muslim who might not agree with me,” Shamsi-Basha told the Huff Post UK. “Love is mentioned in the Bible more than 500 times. A generous look at the Quran, and find out it is mentioned less than 30 times. I think it is worth investigating.”


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