According to reports on Wednesday, more than a thousand Iranian fighters have poured into Syria, in preparation for a ground offensive in Aleppo province aimed at strengthening Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s position in Syria. The Syrian army and its allies, Hezbollah and Iran, will be supported by Russian airstrikes against rebel forces, which they will use as cover for their push into Aleppo. The new offensive expands upon attacks against anti-Assad rebels in Hama which began last week and allowed Assad to retake lost territory. Iranian members of parliament also arrived in Damascus on Wednesday. Additionally, three Brigadier Generals in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were killed in the past few days in Syria. Philip Smyth, an expert on Shiite militants, explained that the senior military officials’ presence was to “to show its [Iran’s] Russian allies it can act on the ground.”
The planned Iranian- and Russian-backed offensive comes amidst Russia’s escalating intervention in Syria and Moscow’s increasing coordination with Tehran. Russia has engaged in a military build-up in Syria, which intensified last month when it sent military equipment as well as troops into the country. Russia began airstrikes against Syrian opposition groups, some of which are backed by the US, two weeks ago. While Russia claims its efforts are designed to combat the Islamic State, the spokesman for the US Department of State has asserted, “Greater than 90 percent of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against ISIL or al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Syria are therefore perceived as an attempt to increase Russia’s regional influence and bolster the struggling Assad regime. Russia expanded its support for the Assad regime following high-level talks with Iran as well as Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani's visit to Moscow in July, during which Russia’s intervention was planned. Soleimani’s visit violated a UN travel ban that has been imposed on him. According to Reuters, “Tehran and Moscow had been discussing ways to prop up Assad by force even as Western officials were describing what they believed was new flexibility in Moscow's stance on his future.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of "executing" a teenage Palestinian terrorist who attacked two people on Monday and is currently convalescing in a Jerusalem hospital, The Times of Israel reported. Ahmed Mansara is recovering from injuries he received from being hit by a car as he attempted to flee from authorities. From the Times of Israel:
The PA president made the accusation during a speech broadcast live on Palestinian television, his first major address since the start of a wave of terror attacks against Israelis and spiraling violence between the sides.
Referring to an attack two days ago, in which Hassan Manasra, 15, and his cousin Ahmed Manasra, 13, stabbed a 13-year-old boy and 25-year-old man in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, seriously wounding both, Abbas said Israel killed the two attackers in “cold blood.” ...
Following the speech, in which Abbas also accused Israel of “attacking holy places,” the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused him of spreading “lies and incitement.”
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Abbas' charge. "The boy he is referring to is alive and hospitalized in Hadassah after stabbing an Israeli child who was riding his bicycle," a statement read. "As Israel maintains the status quo at the Temple Mount, Abbas in his words of incitement is making cynical use of religion and thus bringing about more acts of terror.” Israeli police released video footage showing the two teens chasing after a man while holding knives, before the older cousin was shot after charging at police.
At a press conference last week, Netanyahu blamed the rise in violence on the “wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority." United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon asked Abbas last month to stop using "inflammatory rhetoric." (via TheTower.org)