ISIL controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, including oil fields in both countries. Turkey has stepped up surveillance of its 900km-border with Syria. In some places there are small pipes buried between Turkey and Syria to pump oil. Turkish border control is spending a lot of time looking for those. On the river border with Syria, sometimes oil is put on little boats coming across that border - that's been cracked down on as well. Oil is also carried in jerry cans over the border through remote terrain.
It is difficult to completely stop, but the smuggling business is certainly facing a crackdown. In northern Iraq, ISIL has been able to sneak in its trucks among legitimate oil tankers, transporting oil to Kirkuk. Lieutenant-Colonel Bola Ahmed Majid, a security official in Daquq in Kirkuk governorate, said side roads have been cut off to stop the smuggling. "We cut all those roads off by digging a ditch around the whole area. ISIL is now forced to send their oil to Mosul," he said. The provincial government has also formed a committee to investigate how ISIL used mediators and businessmen in Iraq's Kurdish region to sell its oil internationally. "About a year ago, we learned that huge quantities of crude oil were being smuggled overseas from the ISIL-held areas through the province," Ali Hameh Saleh, a member of the Kurdish regional parliament, said. "The government formed an investigation committee and 15 people were arrested," he said. "Later we found out that influential figures were involved, but the investigation ended and the government didn't release the outcomes to the public."
Da’esh/United Nations – Finance ministers from the 15 nations on the UN Security Council met to adopt a resolution aimed at disrupting the outside revenue that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group gets from selling oil and antiquities it was reported on the 17 Dec 15. ISIL, which gets money from ransom payments and other criminal activities, is already subject to UN sanctions under resolutions dealing with al-Qaeda. The Security Council's meeting on the 17 Dec came after the United States, Turkey and Iraq announced they were actively targeting the armed group's revenue sources. The proposed resolution, sponsored by the US and Russia, elevates ISIL to the same level as al-Qaeda, reflecting the growing threat it poses especially in the Middle East and North Africa.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who will chaired the meeting, which was the first ever such UN Security Council gathering of finance ministers, said that cutting ISIL off from the international financial system is "critical to effectively combating this violent terrorist group". Speaking at Chatham House in London during the last reporting period senior US treasury official Adam Szubin said the US was already working with the Iraqi government to prevent ISIL from having access to its funds. "ISIL has made more than $500m from black market oil sales. It has looted between $500m and $1bn from bank vaults captured in Iraq and Syria," Szubin said. Turkish and Iraqi authorities have also announced that they are attempting to stop the flow of oil produced in areas controlled by ISIL.
Turkey had stepped up surveillance of its 900km border with Syria, while Iraqi Lieutenant Colonel Bola Ahmed Majid, a security official in Daquq in Iraq's Kirkuk governorate, said side roads had been cut off to stop oil smuggling. "We cut all those roads off by digging a ditch around the whole area. ISIL is now forced to send their oil to Mosul," he said. The draft Security Council resolution would rename the committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaeda as "the ISIL and al-Qaeda sanctions committee". It calls ISIL a splinter group of al-Qaeda and stresses that "any individual, group, undertaking, or entity supporting ISIL or al-Qaeda" is subject to UN sanctions, including an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. The draft encourages the 193 UN member states "to more actively submit" names for inclusion on the sanctions list and expresses "increasing concern" at the failure of countries to implement previous sanctions resolutions.
Da’esh – A report in a British newspaper on the 17 Dec 15 said that the jihadis are hoping to take down the Internet and cause a global meltdown of services after developing a sophisticated mobile phone application which allows any of their followers to launch devastating cyber attacks. A computer security expert, who invented the McAfee anti-virus software, claimed "fifteen to 25 percent" of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are extremists, meaning ISIS could have an army of 400 million fanatical followers ready to strike at any minute. Computer boffins at the terrorists' headquarters in Raqqa have developed a secret smartphone application designed to spread Islamist propaganda and help followers carry out terrorist attacks from the comfort of their own homes.
A team which may have included British hacker Junaid Hussain invented a feature which allows even the most computer illiterate of jihadis to launch sophisticated Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against websites. DDoS attacks work by flooding a site with fake traffic, causing it to grind to a halt, and have been successfully used against some of the world's biggest companies and government departments. Experts now believe that ISIS hackers carried out a major test of the app's capabilities last week by launching an audacious attempt to bring down the 13 root servers which keep the Internet running worldwide. Whilst the attack ultimately failed, it did temporarily slow down services across the globe and has been described as an unprecedented attempt to strike at the heart of modern Western society. ISIS is now emailing the application out to its followers worldwide and is encouraging them to use it to unleash technological carnage on the West.
Mr McAfee said that the jihadis are "far more clever" than most people realise and warned that the West and warned that they are planning to unleash "a cyber war far more devastating than any nuclear war". He said: "They are far more clever in cyber sciences than we ever gave them credit for. "There’s simply no way to take everybody’s smartphone away from them. Neither is there any way to know what everybody is doing on their smartphones, so the cyber war has moved from big servers that try to attack other servers, to software that ISIS has developed, that runs on everybody’s smartphone. The figure of 15-25 per cent of Muslims holding radical beliefs was originally aired earlier this year by Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the Act! for America campaign group, who said she was referencing "intelligence services around the world".
But some experts have openly questioned that claim with Angel Rabasa, a senior political scientist at the RAND corporation, saying that more like one per cent of the Muslim population in Europe - around 325,000 people - are "at risk of becoming radical". If extrapolated worldwide, his research would mean ISIS could fall back on an army of around 16 million fanatical extremists. In a wide-ranging interview computer expert Mr McAfee also revealed that the vigilante hacker group Anonymous are making some headway against ISIS, but will never be able to completely shut off their communications. He revealed how a version of the jihadi news app obtained by his cyber security team contained messages from the Islamists stating that Anonymous had taken down their main server.
His comments came after FBI director James Comey said ISIS presents a completely new form of terrorist threat and compared the group to the mythical monster Hydra, which grew two new heads for every one that was cut off. Mr Comey told police officers that the jihadis were perfecting the art of "crowdsourcing" terrorism, encouraging followers worldwide to carry out small but deadly attacks rather than plotting elaborate, centralised schemes. He told the NYPD Shield conference in New York on the 16 Dec 15 that ISIS were a different threat to al-Qaeda. Instead he said ISIS has "become the leader in global jihad by this crowd sourcing of terrorism” through social media platforms.
Da’esh and the Shrinking ‘Caliphate’ – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has lost about 14 percent of its territory in 2015, while Syria's Kurds have almost tripled theirs, think-tank IHS Jane's has said on the 22 Dec 15. The development will be seen as a blow to the group given its stated aim to capture and hold territory to expand its so-called "caliphate", where it imposes its version of Islamic law. The losses of ISIL include the strategically important town of Tal Abyad on Syria's border with Turkey, the Iraqi city of Tikrit, and Iraq's Baiji refinery. Other big losses for the group include a stretch of highway between its Syrian stronghold Raqqa and Mosul in northern Iraq, complicating supply lines. IHS Jane's said the group's territory had shrunk 12,800 square kilometres to 78,000 square kilometres between the start of the year and December 14. "We had already seen a negative financial impact on the Islamic State [ISIL] due to the loss of control of the Tal Abyad border crossing prior to the recent intensification of air strikes against the group's oil production capacity," said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst with the US think-tank.
However, ISIL has made some high-profile gains during the year, including the historic Syrian town of Palmyra and the city centre of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, Iraq's largest province. IHS Jane's said those victories came at the expense of the group's northern territories, which have been fiercely contested by Kurdish fighters. Land under Syrian Kurdish control jumped 186 percent over the year, the intelligence review said. "This indicates that the Islamic State [ISIL] was overstretched, and also that holding Kurdish territory is considered to be of lesser importance than expelling the Syrian and Iraqi governments from traditionally Sunni lands," Strack said. "The Kurds appear to be primarily an obstruction to the Islamic State, rather than an objective in themselves."
Syrian Kurdish fighters dominate a group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters battling ISIL in north-eastern Syria, that has grown in prominence in recent months. ISIL has also been targeted by US-led coalition air strikes, Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels. Iraq's government managed to claw back some six percent of its territory from ISIL in the past year, IHS Jane's said, while Iraqi Kurds regained two percent of their lands. The biggest territorial loser among the main factions in the Syrian conflict was the Syrian government, which lost 16 percent and is now left with around 30,000 square kilometres, according to the think-tank, less than half the area controlled by ISIL and a fraction of Syria's total area of about 185,000 square kilometres.
361 COMMENT: With a shrinking caliphate what is likely to happen next? Move to Libya where there is already a presence? Australia believes that the IS plans to set up a distant caliphate in Indonesia, plausible. What about Afghanistan? But when an animal is forced into a corner it can be extremely dangerous. It is believed that there are numerous members who are already in Europe having entered as “migrants”. Could it be that they are in place to cause death and chaos in Europe in an attempt to stop the caliphate in Syria and Iraq being destroyed by attempting to apply pressure on governments to stop? Again, a plausible thought. If the so called Islamic caliphate shrinks by the percentage in 2016 as it has done in the latter part of 2015 then the possibility of 2016 being bloody in Europe is more than just a plausible idea. People in Europe will have to be rather more vigilant and aware than it already is but not become paranoid as that can have a similar effect. Already during this reporting period the Iraqi forces are attacking the centre of Ramadi in the Anbar Province which the IS has held for some time. The United Nations is already discussing members of the IS being arrested and tried for Genocide so the feeling in the west must be positive. But going back to the original point; if not careful then 2016 could be costly to Europeans from the Islamic State terrorists. COMMENT ENDS
Da’esh Radio Statement – The leader of the self-declared Islamic State issued a defiant message to the West, warning “crusaders” not to dare fight on his turf. In a rare public statement - his first in seven months - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said Western countries had "learned from" previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Crusaders and Jews don't dare to come on the ground because they were defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said in a 23-minute long audio message released through an ISIL-run internet account it was re[ported in a British newspaper on the 26 Dec 15. The message - dubbed an "alternative Christmas broadcast" on social media - appeared to be an effort to rally ISIL followers against the growing number of enemies arrayed against them. The leader, who has rarely been pictured and has not been heard from since he was believed to have been injured in an airstrike by Iraqi forces in October, Russian or US-led airstrikes had failed to weaken the group, which was only "expanding and getting stronger". "Be confident that God will grant victory to those who worship him, and hear the good news that our state is doing well.
The more intense the war against it, the purer it becomes and the tougher it gets," he said. He also called on Saudi citizens - the second biggest contributor to ISIL ranks - to "rise up" against their government as he dismissed the kingdoms newly formed Muslim coalition against the caliphate. He also said Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would soon be in Palestine to establish an Islamic state there. "Jews, soon you shall hear from us in Palestine which will become your grave," the voice, purporting to be Baghdadi, is heard saying. "The Jews thought we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it," he says in the recording. "Not at all, Jews. We did not forget Palestine for a moment. With the help of Allah, we will not forget it… The pioneers of the jihadist fighters will surround you on a day that you think is distant and we know is close. We are getting closer every day." Baghdadi had reportedly been seriously injured in a Iraqi airstrike in October.
The leader is thought to constantly move between ISIL's strongholds of Raqqa, north-eastern Syria, and Mosul, in Iraq, in a bid to avoid airstrikes. In the statement titled "Wait for we as well are waiting with you", Bagdadi boasted that the group had fought off advances in both Syria and Iraq. The militant Sunni Islamist group controls swathes of Iraq and Syria but has come under intensifying military pressure in recent weeks. On the 26 Dec 15 ISIL suffered a major blow after a US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups, backed by coalition planes, captured a dam from its fighters, cutting a main supply route of the militants across the Euphrates. Colonel Talal Selo said the rapid advance overnight by thousands of troops from the Democratic Forces of Syria had brought the dam, 15 miles upstream from the militants' de facto capital Raqqa, under their control on Saturday afternoon. Since the US-backed alliance was formed last October, its fighters have opened several major offensives against Islamic State with the ultimate goal of capturing Raqqa.
361 COMMENT: With the decrease in size of the self proclaimed Caliphate the group and its leaders will have a number of concerns one of which will be their fighters deserting which will leave the group more vulnerable. Judging from what is being said here this could be a rallying call. After all when you look back through history other dictators have tried a similar tactic. Other problems that this may wish to put a stop to are their recruitment maybe falling as well as funding becoming a problem due to airstrikes targeting oil tankers carrying fuel to the Black Market. In reference to Israel this maybe a cry to attract those whose sole aim is to attack Israel in the hope of receiving volunteers. As the attacks intensify during 2016 and the size of the proclaimed area decreases there may well be more radio transmissions; not only for the recruitment side but also for those who are fighting to attempt to keep morale up. COMMENT ENDS
Da’esh – ISIS has set up departments to handle "war spoils," including slaves, and the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, creating the trappings of government that enable it to manage large swaths of Syria and Iraq and other areas it was reported on the 28 Dec 15. The hierarchical bureaucracy, including petty rivalries between officials, and legal codes in the form of religious fatwas are detailed in a cache of documents seized by U.S. Special Operations Forces in a May 15 raid in Syria that killed top ISIS financial official Abu Sayyaf. Reuters has reviewed some of the documents. U.S. officials say the documents have helped deepen their understanding of a militant group whose skill in controlling the territory it has seized has surprised many.
They provide insight into how a once small insurgent group has developed a complex bureaucracy to manage revenue streams - from pillaged oil to stolen antiquities - and oversee subjugated populations. "This really kind of brings it out. The level of bureaucratization, organization, the diwans, the committees," Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama's special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, told Reuters. For example, one diwan, roughly equivalent to a government ministry, handles natural resources, including the exploitation of antiquities from ancient empires. Another processes "war spoils," including slaves. "ISIS is invested in the statehood and Caliphate image more so than any other jihadist enterprise. So a formal organization, besides being practical when you control so much contiguous territory and major cities, also reinforces the statehood image," said Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum think tank and an expert on ISIS's structure. The documents also show how "meticulous and data-oriented" ISIS is in managing the oil and gas sector, although it is not a sophisticated operation, said Amos Hochstein, the State Department's top official for energy affairs. U.S. officials said the documents have helped the anti-ISIS coalition to pinpoint vulnerabilities.
The United States and its allies have been using air strikes to degrade the group's oil infrastructure and target key officials. The documents show the ISIS is not immune to the rivalries and personality clashes that typify bureaucracies everywhere. A 21 Nov 14 letter from the Diwan of Natural Resources emphasizes that Abu Sayyaf is in charge of handling antiquities. "The reason being is that he is very knowledgeable in this field and that Abu Jihad al-Tunisi is a simpleton who can't manage the division," it says. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the documents it obtained, which represent a fraction of the material seized in the Syria raid. U.S. forces captured a huge amount of data in the form of computer hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and papers. Many of the seized documents are fatwas, or religious rulings, covering issues from rape of female prisoners and the treatment of slaves with minor children to when it is permissible for a son to steal from his father to fund travel to fight jihad, or holy war. Reuters reported last week on a previously undisclosed ruling by the ISIS’s Research and Fatwa Committee that sanctions the harvesting of human organs.
The fatwa raises concerns that the violent extremist group may be trafficking in body parts. A booklet entitled "From Creator’s Rulings on Capturing Prisoners and Enslavement," lays out rules on enslaving women seized from vanquished "infidels." The October 2014 document attempts to ground the rules in Islamic law. Enslaved women should not be separated from their children, it says, but elsewhere the rules allow ISIS fighters to have sex with female slaves. Middle East Forum's Tamimi said the fatwas are intended to bolster ISIS's claim that it is a legitimate state. The rules not only apply to captured territory in Iraq and Syria but also its self-declared provinces in Africa, the Sinai and South Asia. They cover even mundane issues. In the documents, there is a ruling on proper procedure for filling out the personal details of prospective fighters: name, gender, and communications method - telephone, telegram, Skype or the mobile messaging service WhatsApp.
Da’esh/France/Syria – An ISIL leader with "direct" links to the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was among ten senior jihadists killed by US-led bombing raids in Iraq and Syria this month, the Pentagon said on the 29 Dec 15. Washington says the strikes are weakening the extremist group, which captured swathes of Iraq and Syria last year but has suffered a string of setbacks in recent weeks.
Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the coalition bombing ISIL in Syria and Iraq, named the man as Charaffe al-Mouadan. He said the French national had been plotting additional acts of terror from Syria when he was hit by a US-led airstrike, but did not name the area in which he was killed. "They want to strike in Europe. They want to strike in our very own homeland. And it is important that people understand that as long as those external attack planners are operating, the United States military will hunt them and we will kill them,” Col. Warren told reporters via Skype.
Mouadan, 26, was described as having a “direct link” with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian jihadist thought to have masterminded attacks across in Paris on the 13 Nov 15. The son of Moroccan parents, Mouadan grew up in the suburbs of Paris and was arrested in October 2012 while getting ready to leave with two neighbourhood friends for either Yemen or Afghanistan. It was not immediately clear when he travelled to Syria, where he was known as Abu Souleymane, or what form his links to Abaaoud took. Abaaoud served as an “emir of war” in the east Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, according to local activists and news reports, an unusually high rank for a fighter who hailed from Europe. David Thomson, a leading expert on French jihadists, questioned whether Mouadan was as senior within ISIL as the US claimed. But he confirmed that the jihadi was indeed thought to have links with members of the Paris attacks cell.
Col. Warren said US-led air strikes had killed nine other wanted ISIL figures during the past month, including “several external attack planners, some of whom are linked to the Paris attacks”. One, named as Abdul Qader Hakim, was said to have facilitated ISIL’s external operations and also have had links to the Paris attack network. He was killed in Mosul on the 26 Dec 15 Col. Warren said. Although the eighteen-month bombing campaign has sometimes struggled to dent ISIL’s operations, it has notched up a string of successes in recent weeks. Iraqi security forces said on the 28 Dec 15 that they had liberated the city of Ramadi from ISIL with the help of US-led airstrikes. Aerial attacks also helped Kurdish and Western-backed forced sever a crucial ISIL supply line connecting their Syrian strongholds of Manbij and Raqqa. ISIL’s multi-million pound oil revenues have been squeezed as the coalition has stepped up air strikes on the group’s energy infrastructure.
Gaza Strip – In the last six months, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), identified with the Salafi-jihadi stream in the Gaza Strip, has been conducting an online campaign called "Jahezona" ("Equip Us") to raise funds for the Salafi jihad organizations in Gaza. The campaign, whose motto is "The money will come from you and the blood will come from us," calls upon Muslims to donate funds for the Gazan mujahedeen, and also to assist by spreading the word about the campaign. It stresses that the mujahedeen are in dire need of such aid and that "waging jihad by means of money" (i.e., financially assisting the jihad fighters and their families) is an important religious duty incumbent upon each and every Muslim. The campaign also emphasizes that one who donates money for jihad is like one who fights with his own hands, and that the religious texts and scholars "even put this duty before" the duty of waging jihad on the battlefield. The campaign appeals to the Muslims' sentiments, calling upon them not to leave the Gazan mujahedeen alone in the struggle against "the enemies of the faith and those who violate our honour and our women's honour, [namely] the Jews" and harshly rebukes Muslims who fail to perform this duty. It reinforces its message by quoting leaders of global jihad who underscored the importance of donating money for the mujahedeen, especially those in Palestine. (Reported on the 16 Dec 15)
Iraq – The Iraqi interior ministry revealed the names of the ISIS members killed in two airstrikes carried out on the 28 Dec 15 in Anbar, pointing out that the militants killed included three Russians, one of whom was an expert in making missiles. The ministry's statement reported that among those killed is Abu Ahmad al-Alwani, an ISIS military council official who used to work in Iraq's Saddam-era former Republican Guard. According to the statement, Alwani, who hails from Ramadi and who was previously detained in U.S. army-run detention centre Camp Bucca, was close to ISIS's self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Among those killed is Abdulrahman al-Yemeni, aka Abu Maysara, who at the age of 23 began to work with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late al-Qaeda leader, and then left to Syria and returned to Yemen later with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Abu Maysara later travelled to Syria in 2013 where he was assigned in Aleppo.
He then went back to Iraq with Abu Ali al-Anbari - a former member of Saddam's Baath Party and now top ISIS official - to help the militants bolster their leadership in Ramadi. "Among those killed is also Abu Saad al-Anbari, a top ranked commander in the so-called Islamic police in the Euphrates province. He's a resident of al-Qa'im district and was previously sentenced to death. He was previously detained by U.S. troops, and he's also a fugitive who escaped the Badush prison," the statement said. The airstrikes also killed Omar Abu al-Atheer al-Shami, a Syrian national who was supervising the media in the Syrian governorate of Deir az-Zour. Shami was detained by the regime in Syria but was released in 2013 following a presidential pardon. "Abu Anas al-Samarrai, governor of the Euphrates province and who supervised targeting the American consulate in Istanbul, was injured in the attacks and was transferred to Syrian territories for treatment," the statement added.
The ministry said that the air strikes carried out in Akashat killed Abu Arkan al-Aameri, who was handling the security and intelligence issues in the Syrian governorate of Deir az-Zour. Aameri is an Iraqi national, and he was detained by the coalition forces during the invasion of Iraq. He was transferred to Ramadi to empower ISIS in Ramadi following Baghdadi's orders. The strikes in Akashat also killed Abu Mansour al-Shami, an Iraqi national, and Abu Omar, a Russian national who was an expert in making missiles. Abu Khaled al-Shami, a resident of Syria's Homs and who was in charge of a factory that produces missiles, was also killed in addition to two other Russian militants.
Israel – The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, announced that it broke up a large Hamas terror cell that operated an explosives laboratory and planned to carry out suicide bombings, The Times of Israel reported on the 23 Dec 15. The majority of the cell’s members were students at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, and two of them were Israeli citizens. Their makeshift laboratory, also in Abu Dis, contained stores of chemicals necessary for making explosives, including the kind most often used in suicide vests.
According to the Shin Bet, the cell was controlled by Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip. “This case reveals and highlights again the involvement of the military arm of Hamas from the Gaza Strip, which operates continuously with the intent of carrying out mass-casualty attacks within Israel and the West Bank,” the agency said. The leader of the cell was Ahmad Jamal Mousa Azzam, who was recruited by Hamas and trained by the Iran-backed terror organization to assemble explosive belts, vests, and devices. Azzam, a student at Al-Quds University, enlisted some of his peers to assist the operation. One, Jerusalem resident Hazem Ziad Amran Sandouqa, helped purchase chemicals to create the explosives and provided intelligence on possible targets. The other, Fahdi Daoud Muhammad Abu Qaian, a Bedouin from the Negev, confessed that he had agreed to carry out a suicide attack.
Israel – Israel security officials worry about the possibility that Shuhada al-Yarmuc, a small, ISIS-affiliated Jihadi organization operating in the southern area of the Syrian Golan Heights, would, in line with the emerging ISIS strategy of staging spectacular attacks in Western countries, try something similar in Israel. Shuhada al-Yarmuc, a small , ISIS-affiliated Jihadi organization operating in the southern area of the Syrian Golan Heights, has been devoting its resources to fighting against anti-regime rebels and also against al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra – but Israeli military sources say they are worried about the organization turning its attention to Israel. Haaretz reports that what worries Israel security officials is the possibility that the organization, in line with the emerging ISIS strategy of staging spectacular attacks in Western countries, would try something similar in Israel. One such scenario would involve driving an explosive-filled truck to a border crossing facility such as the one in Quneitra, and exploding it there. A more ambitious attack would also involve sending some of the organization’s fighters into Israel, accompanied by the firing of anti-tank rockets, the explosion of pre-positioned IEDs, and the launching of short-range rockets and missiles from inside Syria into Israel. (Source: http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20151231-israel-concerned-about-isisaffiliated-groups-in-syria-attacking-israel)
Lebanon/Syria/Hezbollah – Key Lebanese militant Samir Qantar has been killed in a rocket strike near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Hezbollah has said on the 20 Dec 15. The Lebanese Shia militant group blamed Israel for the air strike. Qantar was jailed in Israel in 1979 for a notorious deadly attack, and freed as part of a controversial prisoner swap with Hezbollah in 2008. An Israeli minister welcomed his death but did not confirm that Israel was responsible. When asked about Israeli involvement, Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Gallant told Israel Radio: "I am not confirming or denying anything to do with this matter."
But he added: "It is good that people like Samir Qantar will not be part of our world." Qantar was known as the "dean of Lebanese prisoners" for the time he spent imprisoned in Israel. He was convicted of murder over an attack on a civilian apartment block in Nahariya in 1979, carried out when he was 16. Two policemen, a man and his four-year-old daughter were killed. A baby girl was accidentally smothered by her mother as she hid in a cupboard. He was accused of killing the four-year-old girl with a rifle butt, which he denied. His release in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006 was highly controversial. Qantar is believed to have become a key figure in Hezbollah since his release.
Hezbollah has sent hundreds of fighters to fight alongside troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's conflict. In Sep 15 the US state department designated him a terrorist saying he had become one of Hezbollah's "most visible and popular spokesmen". "Since Qantar's return, he has also played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hezbollah's terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights," it said. The rockets hit a residential building in Jaramana near Damascus on the night of the 19 Dec 15. The area is a stronghold of government supporters. The Assad loyalist group, the National Defence Forces in Jaramana, said: "Two Israeli warplanes carried out the raid which targeted the building in Jaramana and struck the designated place with four long-range missiles."
Saudi Arabia/Yemen – A missile fired from war-torn Yemen has struck a Saudi border city, killing three civilians, the kingdom said, in yet another violation of a ceasefire aimed at helping peace talks it was reported on the 20 Dec 15. Saturday's (19 Dec 15) attack on Najran left one Saudi citizen and two Indian workers dead, according to a civil defence spokesman quoted by the official SPA news agency. India's consul general in Jeddah, B.S. Mubarak, confirmed that two Indians from the southern state of Tamil Nadu were killed in the attack near a museum on the edge of Najran. Another Indian was killed in shelling in the border region about six months ago, he said.
The latest incident comes after the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen announced that two ballistic missiles were fired on the 18 Dec 15 at the kingdom from its neighbour. One of the missiles was intercepted by Saudi air defences, while the other struck a desert area east of Najran, the coalition said without reporting any casualties in that incident. The attack had prompted Saudi Arabia's border guard to repeat a warning that residents should stay away from the frontier. On the 17 Dec 15 the civil defence agency said a civilian had been wounded in the Jazan border region by shelling from Yemen. The ceasefire has been repeatedly breached since it came into force as UN-sponsored talks opened the 15 Dec 15 in Switzerland.