T O P I C
THE JEWS OF S Y R I A
Syria boasts one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities and one of the world’s richest and most storied Jewish cultures. Its history dates back to Biblical times, and its Jews have survived the many empires that conquered it. Its once thriving community has been reduced to about 50 who face rampant civil war, repressive government measures, and limited economic opportunities.
The civil war that started in 2011 (now 2015) has seen much of the country in ruins, hundreds of thousands dead or wounded, millions leaving as refugees and a shattered economy. The hope is that when it stops and rebuilding starts that most refugees will return and the country will be rebuilt and be prosperous.
Syria used to be home to a vibrant Jewish community. The few that remain holed up in Damascus are wary bystanders to the country’s civil war, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The number of Jews in Syria peaked in the early 20th century. At the time, an estimated 25,000 Jews lived in the country, split roughly evenly between Damascus and Aleppo, according to Abraham Marcus, an expert on Middle Eastern history and the Jewish community of Syria at the University of Texas at Austin.
At first, Syrian Jews started leaving for economic reasons.
The Jewish exodus surged in the run-up to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. In 1947 and 1948, about 7,000 of the 12,000 remaining Jews left their homes and moved to the new Jewish state and to other countries, according to Mr. Marcus.
The Syrian government soon imposed a ban on Jewish emigration that lasted for 45 years, Mr. Marcus said. Many Jews defied the travel restrictions and managed to slip across the border into Turkey or Lebanon.
A secret campaign by a Jewish musicologist in Toronto named Judy Feld Carr helped more than 3,200 Jews leave Syria starting in 1977. Many emigrated to the U.S. and Israel.
In 1992, the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad opened the door for the remaining Jews in Syria to emigrate.
By 2008, when Mr. Marcus visited Syria to research a book on the Jewish community there, the number of Jews had shrunk to between 60 and 70 in Damascus. Another six Jews remained in Aleppo, he said.“You could say it was a community on the way to extinction,” he said. “The internal war in Syria has just expedited that process.”
Around 17 Jews remain in Damascus today, according to community leaders.
1000 BCE It is alleged, that King David’s general, Joab, occupied the site of Aram Zoba, or Aleppo.
64 BCE Syria is annexed by the Roman Empire and Jews in the region begin to suffer.
66-73 CE Syrian forces are directly engaged in the Great Jewish Revolt and were ordered to quell the uprisings in Judea.
614 Syria is conquered by the Persians, ending the oppression Jews experienced under the Roman and Byzantine Empire.
635 Damascus fell into the hands of the Umayyad Muslims during the Arab Conquest and life began to improve.
8th – 10th Century During the Abbasid Dynasty, the Central Synagogue of Aleppo is built and the city becomes a center of Jewish scholarship and spirituality.
1148 Damascus resists the Second Crusade and in the following years many Jewish refugees from Jerusalem find refuge in Damascus.
1375 A descendent of Maimonides brings the Aleppo Codex from Egypt to Aleppo, where it would remain protected for 600 years.
1492 Jewish refugees from Spain are welcomed by Syria’s indigenous, flourishing Jewish community.
1516 Damascus falls to the Turks, becoming part of the Ottoman Empire. Jews are considered dhimmis.
1840 Eight members of the Jewish community were falsely accused of ritual murder of a Christian monk during the Damascus Affair. The men were tortured, killed, and forced to convert to Islam. The Jewish synagogue of Jobar is destroyed.
1850 As blood libels against Jews increase and Aleppo begins to experience economic decline, Jewish waves of emigration to North American, North Africa, and Europe begin.
1947 After the Partition Plan rioters took to the streets of Aleppo leaving 75 dead and destroying Jewish community sites, Jewish homes and businesses, and sacred artifacts and manuscripts including the Aleppo Codex.
1948-1992 The 30,000 Jews left in Syria experience extreme economic strangulation, with Jewish bank accounts frozen and Jewish members of government discharged. Jews are subjected to severe restriction of freedom of movement and are not allowed to acquire a drivers license or leave the country freely. Jews were under constant surveillance by the secret police. Syrian Jews who want to leave are forced to escape and those who were caught faced execution or forced labor.
1949 The Menarsha synagogue in Damascus suffered a grenade attack, killing 12 people and injuring dozens.
1974 Four Jewish girls were raped, murdered, and mutilated after attempting to flee to Israel. Their bodies were discovered with the remains of two Jewish boys who had previously tried to escape.
1989 The Syrian government agreed to facilitate the emigration of 500 single Jewish women.
1991 Following heavy lobbying from Jewish Syrian Americans, during the Madrid Peace Conference, the USA pressured Syria to ease restriction on its Jewish population.
1992 4,000 Jews in Damascus, Aleppo, and Qamishli were granted exit permits. Some 300, mostly elderly Jews remained after the rest fled.
2012 Only twenty elderly Jews remain in Syria.
Syrian Jews (Hebrew: יהודי סוריה Yehudei Suriya, Arabic: اليهود السوريون Al-Yehud al-Suriyyun, colloquially called SYs /ˈɛswaɪz/ in the United States) are Jews who lived in the region of the modern state of Syria, and their descendants born outside Syria. Syrian Jews derive their origin from two groups: from the Jews who inhabited the region of today's Syria from ancient times (known as Musta'arabi Jews, and sometimes classified as Mizrahi Jews, a generic term for the Jews with an extended history in the Middle East or North Africa); and from the Sephardi Jews (referring to Jews with an extended history in the Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Spain and Portugal) who fled to Syria after the Alhambra Decree forced the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 CE.
There were large communities in Aleppo (the Halabi Jews, Aleppo is Halab in Arabic) and Damascus (the Shami Jews) for centuries, and a smaller community in Qamishli on the Turkish border near Nusaybin. In the first half of the 20th century a large percentage of Syrian Jews immigrated to the U.S., Latin America and Israel. Most of the remaining Jews left in the 28 years following 1973, due in part to the efforts of Judy Feld Carr, who claims to have helped some 3,228 Jews emigrate; emigration was officially allowed in 1992.The largest Syrian Jewish community is located in Brooklyn, New York and is estimated at 75,000 strong. There are smaller communities elsewhere in the United States and in Latin America.
In 2011 there were about 50 Jews still living within Syria, mostly in Damascus.
As of May 2012, only 22 Jews were left in Syria. This number was reported to be down to 18 in November 2015.
Syria boasts one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities and one of the world’s richest and most storied Jewish cultures. Syria has a history that dates back to Biblical times, and its Jews have survived the countless empires that have conquered it. That once thriving community has been reduced to some 50 members that face rampant civil war, repressive government measures, and limited economic opportunities.
A Millennia-Old Past
Syrian Jewry’s illustrious past began thousands of years ago during the time of Ezra the Scribe, who was tasked with appointing judges in Syria by the Persian king Xerxes. Jews gained significant privileges under the Greeks and Romans, and sent lavish offerings to the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish sages held Syria and its Jewish population in such high regard that they applied the same land laws to Syria as to Israel: as it says in the Mishnah, “He who buys land in Syria is as one who buys in the outskirts of Jerusalem” (Hallah, 4:11).
The main center in ancient Jewish Syria was Damascus, now the capital of the Syrian Arab Republic and quite possibly the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Damascus is referenced in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the Talmud and Dead Sea Scrolls, as Dammesek. King David campaigned against the Arameans there, and the city was later conquered by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. As in the rest of Syria, Jews fared particularly well. Damascus became a major economic hub in the Levant. According to the sage Resh Lakish, the city could be one of the “gateways of the Garden of Eden” (Er. 19a).
As the Roman Empire transformed into the Christian Byzantine Empire, it found itself constantly at war with the Persians over the possession of Syria. Eventually, Persia conquered Syria and Israel with the help of Jewish supporters who had resented the exorbitant privileges Christians enjoyed under Byzantine rule.
In 635, Syria fell under the control of the Arabs, who had recently united under the banner of Islam. The Muslim Umayyad empire chose Damascus as its capital and the city prospered once again. Many Jews held high positions during the early years of the Muslim empire including Manasseh ibn Ibrahim al-Qazzāz who was in charge of finances during the Shi’ite Fatimid era of the late 10th century C.E. Damascus became a center of Talmudic study, establishing an academy that had close ties with its counterparts in the land of Israel.
Israel–Syria relations refers to diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and Syria. The two countries have since the establishment of the State of Israel been in a state of war. The countries have fought three major wars, which are the 1948 Arab Israeli War in 1948, the Six-Day War in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, later also being involved in the Lebanese Civil War and the 1982 Lebanon War. At other times armistice arrangements have been in place. Efforts have been made from time to time to achieve peace between the neighbouring states, without success.
Syria has never recognised the State of Israel and does not accept Israeli passports for entry into Syria. Israel also regarded Syria as an enemy state and generally prohibits its citizens from going there. There have not been diplomatic relations between the two countries since the creation of both countries in the mid-20th century.
There has been virtually no economic or cultural ties between the two countries, and a limited movement of people across the border. Syria continues to be an active participant in the Arab boycott of Israel. Both countries do allow a limited trade of apples for the Golan Druze villages, located on both sides of the ceasefire line. The state of peace at the ceasefire line has been strained during the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011 and is ongoing, but Israel has been able not to get drawn into that conflict.
As a political unit the boundaries differ; Israel is the suzerain of almost all of the Golan except for a narrow strip in the east that follows the Israeli-Syrian armistice line of June 10, 1967, which was later modified by the separation of forces agreement of May 31, 1974. The Golan extends about 44 miles (71 km) from north to south and about 27 miles (43 km) from east to west at its widest point. It is roughly boat-shaped and has an area of 444 square miles (1,150 square km). The better agricultural land lies in its southern portion; the stony foothills of Mount Hermon in the north, with patches of woodland and scrub, are a stock-raising area. The Israeli portion of the Golan rises to 7,297 feet (2,224 metres) at its extreme northeast point on the Mount Hermon slopes.
In 1894 the French-Jewish banker Baron Edmond de Rothschild bought a large tract of land for Jewish settlement in the Golan; he was followed by other groups in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Jewish colonization was attempted but was frustrated by the hostility of the Arab population and by the Ottoman land laws, which virtually forbade settlement by non-natives. After World War I the Golan became part of the French mandate of Syria and in 1941 passed to independent Syria. After the Arab-Israeli War of 1948–49, Syria fortified the western crest of the Golan Heights, which commands the Hula Valley, the Sea of Galilee, and the upper Jordan River valley, all in Israel. In these sections many Israeli civilians were killed by Syrian artillery and sniper fire; agriculture and fishing were rendered difficult, and at times impossible.
On the last two days (June 9–10, 1967) of the Six-Day War, the Israeli armed forces, after defeating Egypt and Jordan, turned their attention to Syria. Under cover of the Israel Air Force, engineer troops built access roads up the steep Golan Heights, which were then frontally assaulted by armoured vehicles and infantry. The Syrian defenders and most of the Arab inhabitants fled, and Syria asked for an armistice; fighting ceased on June 10. The heights were placed under Israeli military administration, and Golan was integrated into the communications and financial framework of Israel. By the late 1970s nearly 30 Jewish settlements had been established on the heights, and in 1981 Israel unilaterally annexed the area.
A disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria, signed following the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, established a United Nations buffer zone in the Golan Heights, monitored by a UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The UNDOF mandate was renewed every six months thereafter. Negotiations between Syria and Israel, initiated during bilateral talks held in Madrid in 1991, continued intermittently until they broke down in 2000 over the future status of the heights.
SYRIAN CIVIL WAR
From BBC, 15 March 2016
What began as a peaceful uprising against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad five years ago became a full-scale civil war that has left more than 250,000 people dead, devastated the country and drawn in global powers.
(This is of critical importance to Israel as it was unable to sign a peace agreement with Syria when it was founded, has had to fight Syria in a series of wars and has a common border. The hope is that the end end of a civil war will see a peace agreement between them).
WHY IS THERE A WAR IN SYRIA?
Long before the conflict began, many Syrians complained about high unemployment, widespread corruption, a lack of political freedom, and a state repression under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father, Hafez, in 2000.
Protests in the southern city of Deraa in March 2011 were suppressed by security forces
In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring erupted in the southern city of Deraa. The government's use of deadly force to crush the dissent soon triggered nationwide protests demanding the president's resignation.
As the unrest spread, the crackdown intensified. Opposition supporters began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas. Mr Assad vowed to crush "foreign-backed terrorism" and restore state control.
The city of Homs, dubbed "the capital of the revolution" suffered widespread destruction
The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war as hundreds of rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for control of the country.
WHY HAS THE WAR LASTED SO LONG?
Government forces have lost control of large swathes of the country to various armed groups
In essence, it has become more than just a battle between those for or against Mr Assad.
A key factor has been the intervention of regional and world powers, including Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Their military, financial and political support for the government and opposition has contributed directly to the intensification and continuation of the fighting, and turned Syria into a proxy battleground.
Map showing territorial control in the Syrian conflict (March 2017)
External powers have also been accused of fostering sectarianism in what was a broadly secular state, pitching the country's Sunni majority against the president's Shia Alawite sect. Such divisions have encouraged both sides to commit atrocities that have not only caused loss of life but also torn apart communities, hardened positions and dimmed hopes for a political settlement.
The northern Syrian city of Raqqa is the headquarters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS)
Jihadist groups have also seized on the divisions, and their rise has added a further dimension to the war. So-called Islamic State (IS), which controls large parts of northern and eastern Syria, is battling government forces, rebel brigades and Kurdish groups on the ground, as well as facing air strikes by Russia and a US-led multinational coalition.
Russia's air campaign aimed to "stabilise" the government of President Bashar al-Assad
Russia, for whom President Assad's survival is critical to maintaining its interests in Syria, launched an air campaign in September 2015 with the aim of "stabilising" the government after a series of defeats. Moscow stressed that it would target only "terrorists", but activists said its strikes mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups.
Six months later, having turned the tide of the war in his ally's favour, President Vladimir Putin ordered the "main part" of Russia's forces to withdraw, saying their mission had "on the whole" been accomplished.
Rebels have received only limited military assistance from Western powers opposed to Mr Assad
Shia power Iran is believed to be spending billions of dollars a year to bolster the Alawite-dominated government, providing military advisers and subsidised weapons, as well as lines of credit and oil transfers. It is also widely reported to have deployed hundreds of combat troops in Syria.
Mr Assad is Iran's closest Arab ally and Syria is the main transit point for Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support government forces.
The US, which says President Assad is responsible for widespread atrocities and must step down, has provided only limited military assistance to "moderate" rebels, fearful that advanced weapons might end up in the hands of jihadists. Since September 2014, the US has conducted air strikes on IS in Syria, but it has avoided attacking government forces.
US-led coalition air strike on the northern Syrian town of Kobane (18 October 2014)Image copyrightReuters
Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to counter the influence of its rival Iran, has been a major provider of military and financial assistance to the rebels, including those with Islamist ideologies.
Turkey, another staunch supporter of the rebels, has meanwhile sought to limit US support for Kurdish forces battling IS militants in northern Syria, accusing them of being affiliated to the banned Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
There are no reliably accurate statistics on the number of people killed or wounded in the fighting
The UN says 250,000 people have been killed in the past five years. However, the organisation stopped updating its figures in August 2015. One monitoring group puts the death toll at 270,000, while a think-tank recently estimated that the conflict had caused 470,000 deaths, either directly or indirectly.
More than 4.8 million people have fled Syria, most of them women and children. Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.
About 10% of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe, sowing political divisions as countries argue over sharing the burden. A further 6.5 million people are internally displaced inside Syria.
Almost half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced by the war
The UN says it will need $3.2bn to help the 13.5 million people, including six million children, who will require some form of humanitarian assistance inside Syria in 2016. About 70% of the population is without access to adequate drinking water, one-in-three people are unable to meet their basic food needs, more than two million children are out of school, and four out of five people live in poverty.
The warring parties have compounded the problems by refusing humanitarian agencies access to many of those in need. Some 4.6 million people live in hard-to-reach areas, including almost 500,000 people in besieged locations.
Previous attempts by the UN to broker a political settlement have failed
With neither side able to inflict a decisive defeat on the other, the international community long ago concluded that only a political solution could end the conflict. The UN Security Council has called for the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique, which envisages a transitional governing body with full executive powers "formed on the basis of mutual consent".
Peace talks in early 2014, known as Geneva II, broke down after only two rounds, with the UN blaming the Syrian government's refusal to discuss opposition demands.
A year later, the conflict with IS lent fresh impetus to the search for a political solution in Syria. The US and Russia persuaded representatives of the warring parties to attend "proximity talks" in Geneva in January 2016 to discuss a Security Council-endorsed road map for peace, including a ceasefire and a transitional period ending with elections.
Syrian army soldiers look on as buses carrying rebel fighters leave the al-Wair district of Homs as part of a local truce agreement (9 December 2015)Image copyrightReuters
The first round broke down while still in the "preparatory" phase, as government forces launched a major offensive to around the northern city of Aleppo. But the talks resumed in March 2016, two weeks after after the US and Russia brokered a nationwide, but partial, "cessation of hostilities" that Washington said saw the level of violence fall by up to 90%.
From BBC, Mark Lobel, Middle East Business Correspondent, 23 June 2015
(This is the summary of Syria’s Economy, Picking up the Pieces, David Butter, Chatham House, Middle East and North Africa Programme | June 2015)
Syria's economic output has shrunk by as much as 60% since the conflict began in 2011, according to estimates in a new report released by British think-tank Chatham House. Syria's mining and construction workers have been hit hardest - with exports dropping from $12bn to around $2bn. The Syrian pound has also lost 80% of value since the conflict began.
But economist and report author David Butter warned that with few reliable statistics, data remained foggy. He said the greatest cost of four years of deadly conflict was the quarter of a million people who have lost their lives. There has been an estimated 23% population decrease, with four million registered refugees in neighbouring countries.
Mr Butter told the BBC that President Assad's team used data to "maintain the fiction" they are governing all of Syria, even though there have been opposition gains in half of the country.
Despite that, he painted a fascinating, if limited, picture of a part state-run economy and part "war" economy in breakaway parts of the country reliant on international funding. He used data where possible from the Syrian Central Bank, remaining corporate financial institutions and the UN in his report, "Syria's Economy: Picking Up The Pieces". Of those people that remain in the country, at least 6.5 million people are estimated to be displaced within Syria's borders. Measuring overall economic output is difficult in a war damaged country, but Mr Butter said studies showed a drop of between 50% to 65%, which he said was "a reasonable assumption".
SYRIA'S OIL PRODUCTION HAS BEEN HIT HARD BY AN EU EXPORT BAN
Residents have suffered greatly. The average price of goods and services in the country increased by 51% between January 2012 and March 2015, according to the government.
The report concurs with the widely held view that government oil production has been decimated by an EU export ban, sanctions and oil fields lost to opposition groups. Official figures show a drop in the state's oil output from around 387,000 barrels a day in 2011 to just 10,000 barrels a day in 2014.
As a result, the government said it is currently spending around 20% more of national earnings than it receives in income, plugging the gap by borrowing from central and state-owned banks. To address the shortfall, it has cut fuel and food subsidies. Surprisingly, the banking sector itself is still functioning. Recently, all private banks were told that three-quarters of all board meetings must be held within the country. One Syrian businessman, who asked not to be named, said "the government wants to give a sense there is nothing wrong in Syria".
However, he said that 60% of bank loans end up as non-performing loans. He said that warlords have now swapped financial positions with industrialists, traders and merchants as the highest-earning members of society. He described this as "dangerous for the economy as a warlord will never look at capitalising on investments". The businessman, who sources machinery for multinational companies, said demand for his work stands at a tenth of what it once was. He said power cuts now last much longer than the three-hour blackouts experienced before the conflict began. Syria, he said, had been producing 10,000 megawatts of electricity, but now it was closer to 3,000 megawatts.
The Syrian pound has lost 80% of its value since the start of the conflict
Mr Butter's report also recorded that Syria's natural gas-fuelled power sector had been badly hit. Despite new projects activated just before the conflict, the report said there has been a 70% drop in capacity since 2011. Production, it said, was down by at least a third.
The report warned that "ISIS gains on the ground threaten to exacerbate the situation," especially if they take a key production area to the west of the recently-captured city of Palmyra. At present, Mr Butter said the Syrian government only physically controls around half of the country. But he added that it still had "a wider presence, across most of the country" as the Syrian pound remained widely used and most government services operate on a national basis.
Mr Butter said he hoped his research would trigger a dialogue to find out what could be salvaged from Syria's economy, were the political situation to eventually change and international institutions called in to rebuild a post-conflict state. Right now, he said the "institutional integrity" of much of the government is in question and, at the very least, it is "frayed at the edges". It is, perhaps, no surprise it is frayed.
Aside from Iranian support for the government, there is the presence of the Islamic State in Raqqa, the Kurds to the North and North-East and an alliance of Islamist forces and the Free Syrian Army in parts of the North and South. Businessmen report back that it feels like chaos throughout Syria, with so much illegal activity. Yet at the same time, to their astonishment electricity and water companies function and government employees receive salaries, even in heavily-contested parts of the country.
SYRIA CONFLICT: ALEPPO IN 'CATASTROPHIC' STATE SAYS UN
BBC News , 28 April 2016
The UN says the situation in Syria's city of Aleppo is catastrophic, after dozens of people were killed in attacks on targets including a hospital. Air strikes on and around the Medecins Sans Frontieres-backed al-Quds hospital killed at least 27 people, while more than 30 died in other attacks.
UN envoy Jan Egeland said the next days would be vital for the humanitarian aid lifeline for much of Syria. The violence has left a partial truce hanging by a thread. UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned the cessation of hostilities agreed between non-jihadist rebels and government forces on 27 February was now "barely alive".
Separately, the Syrian government reported that 150 US troops had arrived in the town of Rmeilan in Syria's predominantly northern Kurdish province of Hassakeh, denouncing it as an "illegitimate intervention". US President Barack Obama said last week he was deploying 250 troops to Syria to help certain rebel groups fight so-called Islamic State (IS).
'Millions in Danger'
Mr Egeland, the head of the UN humanitarian assistance to Syria, said he had been briefed on "the catastrophic deterioration in Aleppo over the last 24-48 hours... No-one doubts the severity of the situation." He warned that the humanitarian lifeline for much of the country was at risk." I could not in any way express how high the stakes are for the next hours and days. "So many humanitarian health workers and relief workers are being bombed, killed, maimed at the moment that the whole lifeline to millions of people is now also at stake."
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said at least 14 patients and three doctors had been killed in the air strike on al-Quds hospital. Among those killed was Mohammed Wasim Moaz, one of the city's last paediatricians, MSF said. An MSF representative, Aitor Zabalgogeazkoa, told the BBC Dr Moaz had worked at the hospital since 2013. Mr Zabalgogeazkoa said: "He kept it going, was always there and always worried about the needs of the people. He was honest and very committed. He worked in conditions you cannot even begin to imagine."
Local sources blamed war planes from the Syrian military or from Russia, which is supporting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, for the attack. The Syrian military denied targeting the hospital. A military source was quoted on state TV as saying: "Such news is merely an attempt to cover up terrorist crimes which target peaceful citizens in Aleppo."
An activist at the scene, named Zuhair, told the BBC: "It was an air strike by two rockets, heavy rockets from [a] Russian air strike. "Near the hospital, one building on five floors just crumbled and just crashed down and we don't know how many dead will be under these ruins."
However, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying it had carried out no air strikes in Aleppo in the past few days.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "outraged" by the hospital attack, adding: "It appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime's appalling record of striking such facilities."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on both the US and Russia to exert pressure to stop the violence, and demanded a credible investigation into the hospital attack.
Monitoring groups said at least 20 people were killed in other attacks on rebel-held areas in Aleppo on Thursday, while at least 14 died in rocket strikes on government-controlled neighbourhoods. The upsurge in violence comes amid reports that the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, is gearing up for a major offensive in Aleppo.
Analysis by Jim Muir, BBC News, Beirut
One of the reasons why the "cessation of hostilities" is now at death's door was reflected in the fact that from the outset it was not called a ceasefire or even a truce, because several factions were excluded, including not just the Islamic State militants but also the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Nusra fighters are present in almost all combat zones, and are mixed up with other groups such as Ahrar al-Sham that Russia is now pressing to have added to the international terror list. That has meant that hostilities have continued and intensified in many areas, with the government able to claim its attacks are legitimate.
Now state forces are reported to be building up in Aleppo as violence escalates there, raising fears that a long and costly all-out battle for the contested city may be looming. That would put paid both to the lull and to the Geneva peace talks, prompting Mr de Mistura to urge the US, Russians and others to press their clients on the ground to ease off, so that stalled negotiations have a chance of resuming. Attacks elsewhere in Aleppo on Thursday left more than 30 people dead
History of the Jews in Syria - Wikipedia
Syrian Jews Wikipedia
Jews of Syria Jewish Virtual Library
Last Jewish family in Aleppo flee for Israel Telegraph, By Lauren Williams, Gaziantep 23 Nov 2015
Golan Heights, also called Golan Plateau, Arabic Al-Jawlān, Hebrew Ramat Ha-Golan or Ha-Golan,
Golan Heights is a hilly area overlooking the upper Jordan River valley on the west. The area was part of extreme southwestern Syria until 1967, when it came under Israeli military occupation. In December 1981 Israel unilaterally annexed the part of the Golan it held. The area’s name is from the biblical city of refuge Golan in Bashan (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8).
Geographically, it is bounded by the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee on the west, Mount Hermon (Arabic: Jabal Al-Shaykh; Hebrew: Har Hermon) on the north, the seasonal Wadi Al-Ruqqād (a north-south branch of the Yarmūk River) on the east, and the Yarmūk River on the south.
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