Strikes on ISIS Continue As New Recruits Arrive, Democracy Protests in Hong Kong Take a Violent Turn and Police Mistrust Corroding America

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Through the weekend, U.S. and British airstrikes continues to bombard ISIS installations in Syria as new recruits arrived to fight with ISIS. On Saturday, Bassem Mroue reports, US-led planes strike fighters attacking Syria town, that for the first time U.S. led coalition warplanes struck the Islamic State fighters in Syria attacking a town near the Turkish border and in the country’s east, according to activists and a Kurdish official. The Islamic State’s attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani that caused 100,000 refugees to flee to Turkey in recent days has caused Kurdish fighters from Iraq and Turkey to join the fight to defend the town. Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said the strikes targeted Islamic State positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, destroying two tanks resulting in jihadi fighters later shelling the town and wounding a number of civilians. The united States was joined by five Arab allies to launch an aerial campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria early Tuesday to try and roll back the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border. During their campaigns for control the militants have massacred captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorized minorities in both countries and beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker. Syria’s Foreign Minister Waid al-Moallem told the Lebanon based Al-Mayadeen TV that the airstrikes alone “will not be able to wipe out” the Islamic State group and on Saturday said the U.S. should work with Damascus to win the war. HOwever, the U.S. has ruled out any coordination with President Bashar Assad’s government who is at war with the Islamic State group as well as Western-backed rebels. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the coalition’s strikes near Kobani came amid heavy fighting between the Islamic State group and members of the Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPK. The Observatory reported Friday that 13 civilians have been killed by the strikes since they began. The Observatory said other coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State compounds in the central province of Homs and the northern regions of Raqqa and Aleppo. The group said 31 explosions were heard in the city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, and its suburbs. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said the strikes in the east hit the province of Deir el-Zour as well as Raqqa. The LCC also said the coalition targeted grain silos west of Deir el-Zour city. Max Blumenfeld, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. airstrikes are aimed at specific Islamic State targets such as command and control centers, transportation and logistics, and oil refineries, “but not food that could have an impact upon the civilian population.” In recent days coalition warplanes had struck oil-producing facilities in eastern Syria aiming to cut off the group’s main revenue stream which generate $2 million a day in black market oil sales. The coalition striking Syria includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan, and the strikes are an extension of the U.S. campaign in neighboring Iraq launched in August. Meanwhile in Washington, a week after the U.S. led airstrikes in Syria began, in a televised interview Sunday, Obama echoed James Clapper’s (head of U.S. intelligence) sentiments regarding ISIS by saying the government “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria” during its civil war, allowing Syria to become “ground zero for jihadists around the world,” according to a CNN report, Obama admits ISIS threat was misjudged as U.S. splits emerge. Speaking to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Obama said, “Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos.” Additionally, Obama said the U.S. later overrated Iraq’s security forces, which were quickly overrun by ISIS when it took over the northern city of Mosul this summer. Obama told “60 minutes,” “This is America leading the international community to assist a country with whom we have a security partnership with, to make sure that they are able to take care of their business. If we do our job right and the Iraqis fight, then over time our role can slow down and taper off.” On Friday, Danica Kirka reported, Britain joins fight against Islamic State group, Britain, Belgium and Denmark joined the fight by committing warplanes to the struggle against the Islamic State group in Iraq. British Prime Minister David Cameron made a passionate plea for action in drastic terms: “This is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill us and we do have to realize that, whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us. There isn’t a `walk on by’ option. There isn’t an option of just hoping this will go away.” British lawmakers voted 524-43 for action after being urgently recalled from a recess. Belgian also overwhelmingly approved, voting 114-2 to take part, despite widespread concerns that more terrorism may follow in their homeland as a result. Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said her government would send four operational planes and three reserve jets along with 250 pilots and support staff for 12 months. Lawmakers in Denmark must also approve, but that is considered a formality. The British resolution does not include Syria, but lawmakers feel this is the next logical step. No European nation has yet agreed to join the U.S. and some Arab states in strikes in Syria. Unfortunately, 200 fighters have joined ISIS in Syria’s northern Aleppo province since U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States would strike the group in Syria, according to a monitoring group on Friday. At least 162 have joined the radical al-Qaida offshoot in northeast and eastern Aleppo in the week following Obama’s speech on Sept. 10, according to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human rights. Another 73 men have joined on Sept. 23 and 24 in the northeast Aleppo countryside since the strikes started, bringing the total to 235, the Observatory reports. Additionally, the new men come from al Qaida’s Syrian wing, the Nusra Front, were mostly Syrian and included 15 nationalities. On Monday, activists reported that U.S. led warplanes bombed Islamic State positions overnight across four provinces in northern and eastern Syria, hitting a gran silo and the country’s largest gas plant, the Associated Press reported,
US-led airstrikes hit 4 Syrian provinces.

While last week ISIS became a greater concern to country’s around the world, a long standing debate also took center stage as people marched and rallied for change in Hong Kong. Kevin Chan reports, Pro-Democracy protests expand in Hong Kong, pro-democracy protestors expanded their rally throughout Hong Kong Monday defying calls to disperse in a major push back against Beijing’s decision to limit democratic reforms in the Asian financial hub. Police officers tried to negotiate with protestors camped out on a busy highway near the Hong Kong government headquarters that was the scene of tear gas fueled clashes that erupted the previous night. An officer with a bullhorn tried to clear the way for commuters, but was met with a protestor who responded by saying that they want Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to demand a genuine choice for the territory’s voters. China has called the protest illegal and endorsed the Hong Kong’s government’s crackdown, while Beijing has taken a hard line against threat’s to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The mass protests are the strongest challenge yet to Beijing’s decision last month to reject open nominations for candidates under proposed guidelines for the first-ever elections for Hong Kong’s leader, promised for 2017. Instead, candidates must continue to be hand-picked by Beijing – a move that many residents viewed as reneging on promises to allow greater democracy in the semi-autonomous territory. Lueng said, “I hope the public will keep calm. Don’t be misled by the rumors. Police will strive to maintain social order, including ensuring smooth traffic and ensuring the public safety. When they carry out their duties, they will use their maximum discretion.” The protest has been spearheaded largely but student-age activists but has gathered momentum among a broad range of people from high school students to the elderly. Protestors are also occupying streets in other parts of Hong Kong Island such as the upscale shopping area of Causeway Bay and across the harbor in densely populated Mong Kok on the Kowloon peninsula. In addition, the city’s transport department said roads in the area are closed and more than 200 bus routes have been canceled or diverted int he city dependent on public transportation as well as Subway exits that have been closed or blocked near the protest area. Authorities said some schools in areas near the main protest site would be closed. To ward off tear gas, demonstrators improvised with homemade defenses such as plastic wrap, which they used to cover their face and arms, as well as umbrellas, goggles and surgical masks. The protests began with a class boycott last week by students urging Beijing to grant genuine democratic reforms to this former British colony. Beijing’s insistence on using a committee to screen candidates on the basis of their patriotism to China – similar to the one that currently hand-picks Hong Kong’s leaders – has stoked fears among pro-democracy groups that Hong Kong will never get genuine democracy. Students and activists had been camped out since late Friday on streets outside the government complex. Sunday’s clashes arose when police sought to block thousands of people from entering the protest zone. Protesters spilled onto a busy highway, bringing traffic to a standstill. Although students started the rally, leaders of the broader Occupy Central civil disobedience movement joined them early Sunday, saying they wanted to kick-start a long-threatened mass sit-in demanding Hong Kong’s top leader be elected without Beijing’s interference. Occupy Central issued a statement Monday calling on Leung to resign and saying his “non-response to the people’s demands has driven Hong Kong into a crisis of disorder.” The statement added that the protest was now “a spontaneous movement” of all Hong Kong people. Police said they had arrested 78 people. They also took away several pro-democracy legislators who were among the demonstrators, but later released them. According to the Hong Kong Information Services Department on Monday, at least 41 people have been injured or taken to the hospital along with six police officers. The Associate Press reports, Hong Kong leader says Beijing won’t back down, that a brief statement from the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement set a Wednesday deadline for a response from the government to meet their demands for reforms after spending another night blocking the streets of Hong Kong. The requirements for ending the protest is for the city’s unpopular chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, to meet their demands for genuine democracy and for him to step down as Hong Kong’s leader. Even larger crowds are expected to flood the streets Wednesday, China’s National Day holiday. The government said it was canceling a fireworks display to mark the day. By Tuesday morning, the crowd, mostly students, continued to occupy a six-lane highway next to the local government headquarters. The encampment was also edging closer to the heart of the city’s financial district. Police said they used 87 rounds of tear gas Sunday in what they called a necessary but restrained response to protesters pushing through cordons and barricades. Officials announced that schools in some districts of Hong Kong would remain closed Tuesday because of safety concerns. The protests have been dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” by some, because the crowds have used umbrellas to not only block the sun, but also to stop the police from hitting them with pepper spray. Political slogans calling for freedom have also been written on the umbrellas.

Meanwhile, in the United States, protests and rallies continue to surround Ferguson where a black unarmed teenager was shot by a white police officer, causing racial tensions to simmer and boil over repeatedly this past month. On Friday, the Department of Justice and officials said they personally observed Ferguson police officers not wearing name plates which is in direct conflict with Ferguson Police Department policy, but on duty officers in Ferguson were wearing wristband in support of the cop who shot and killed an unarmed teen last month, according to what the DOJ told police in St. Louis County and reported by AOL, DOJ Gets Ferguson, St. Louis County Cops To Ban ‘I Am Darren Wilson’ Wristbands. A photo posted on social media during demonstrations in Ferguson on Tuesday night appears to show an officer working crowd control wearing a wristband that reads “I am Darren Wilson.” The slogan and campaigns associated with it are in support of the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown and whom protestors want arrested. A grand jury currently is weighing the evidence against Wilson, and the FBI has launched a separate civil rights investigation into the case. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said the wristbands were “not a statement of law enforcement” and that he would have conversations with law enforcement agencies about officers wearing the wristbands. Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, sent a letter to Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson on Friday indicating that Jackson had agreed to prohibit Ferguson officers from wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets while in uniform and on duty. The letter said Jackson had said he would make sure the other municipal agencies working in Ferguson would prohibit their officers from wearing the bracelets as well. Lopez said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Missouri Highway Patrol Ron Replogle had indicated to Justice Department officials they also would ban the bracelets. According to letter Lopez wrote: “These bracelets reinforce the very ‘us versus them’ mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists.” In a separate letter that DOJ sent to Jackson this week that was released on Friday, Civil Rights Division officials asked him to make sure his officers were wearing name tags while on duty. The letter to Jackson states: “Officers wearing name plates while in uniform is a basic component of transparency and accountability. It is a near-universal requirement of sound policing practices and required under some state laws. Allowing officers to remain anonymous when they interact with the public contributes to mistrust and undermines accountability. The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity.” Protests have heated up in Ferguson this week, six weeks after Brown was killed after Wilson stopped him and a friend because they were walking in the middle of the street. Jackson apologized to the Brown family and protestors this week in a video released by a public relations firm working for the city. Another component of the Justice Department, the Community Relations Service, also held meetings with Ferguson residents this week in an attempt to sooth tensions in the area. The Associated Press reports, AP Interview: Browns unmoved by chief’s apology, the parents of Michael Brown want the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot their unarmed 18 year old son arrested and charged with murder and the police chief fired. In a wide-ranging interview, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden said yes when asked if Chief Tom Jackson should be fired, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., said he wanted the officer who shot his son to be in handcuffs for the Aug. 9 death. Brown said, “An apology would be when Darren Wilson has handcuffs, processed and charged with murder.” McSpadden added, “There’s going to continue to be unrest until they do what should be done.” Brown’s parents are in the nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers and lobby Congress to pass a law requiring police officers to wear cameras during their interactions with the public. They also called on the Justice Department to take over the investigation into whether there should be criminal charges against the officer. The parents were invited to the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where President Barack Obama spoke of the mistrust between local residents and law enforcement in many communities following these episodes like Brown’s death. He said, “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement – guilty of walking while black, driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.” The parents were also angry over Ferguson police wearing bracelets in support of Wilson. Obama at the Saturday dinner said: “It makes folks who are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them. And the worst part of it is it scars the hearts of our children. That is not the society we want. It’s not the society that our children deserve. Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement – guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness. Back in Ferguson, Jack Gillum reports, Ferguson demands high fees to turn over city files, Bureaucrats responding to requests under the state’s Sunshine Act to turn over government files about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, are charging nearly 10 times the cost of some of their own employees’ salaries before they will agree to release any records. The move discourages journalists and civil rights groups from investigating the shooting and its aftermath. While the city under Missouri law can give away copies of records for free if determined that the material was in the public’s interest to see, the city has decided to charge high fees with little explanation of the cost breakdown. Price-gouging for government files is one way that local, state and federal agencies have responded to requests for potentially embarrassing information they may not want released. Open records laws are designed to give the public access to government records at little or no cost, and have historically exposed waste, wrongdoing and corruption. According to Gillum, since the death and ensuing protest, news organizations, nonprofit groups and everyday citizens have submitted records requests to Ferguson officials, asking for police reports, records about Brown and the personnel files of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown Aug. 9.

Obama Defends Syria Strikes as the Stock Market Drops, While Turkey and France Defend Their Roles in the Fight Against ISIS

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On Tuesday, President Bashar Assad of Syria said he supports any international effort against terrorism as he tries to position his government on the side of the U.S. led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, Albert Aji and Ryan Lucas report, U.S.-Led Airstrikes Kill At Least 10 Civilians In Syria: Activists. One Syrian activist group reports dozens of Islamic state fighter were killed in the pre-dawn strikes, while several activist also reported at least 10 civilians killed. Some rebels fighting against Assad welcomed the American led airstrikes, but many expressed frustration that the coalition is only targeting the Islamic State group and not the Syrian government. In a statement posted to Twitter, Harakat Hazm, a rebel faction who has received U.S. made advanced weapons, said, “The only party benefiting from the foreign intervention in Syria is the Assad regime, especially in the absence of a real strategy to bring it down.” The air campaign also hit al-Qaida’s branch in Syrian, the Nusra Front, which has fought against the Islamic State group. Washington considers it a terrorist group threatening the U.S., although Western-backed Syrian rebel groups frequently cooperate with Nusra Front fighters on the battlefield. State news agency SANA reports, In an meeting Tuesday with an Iraqi envoy, Assad voiced his support and Syria is “”decisively continuing in the war it has waged for years against extremist terrorism in all its forms.” He also stressed that all nations must commit to stop support for terrorism — an apparent reference to countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are strong backers of Syrian rebels, whom the Syrian government calls terrorists. Though Damascus required permission before an international strike on Syrian soil could occur in recent weeks, the United States has ruled out any coordination with Assad’s government. Damascus said Syria “stands with any international effort to fight terrorism, no matter what a group is called — whether Daesh or Nusra Front or something else.” In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States informed Syria through the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. of its intent to take action, but did not request the Assad government’s permission or coordinate with Damascus. The Lebanese Shiite militant Hezbollah group, which has dispatched fighters to Syria to bolster Assad’s forces, condemned the strikes along with Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia. In a televised speech, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said, “We are against an international coalition, whether it is against the regime … or whether it is against Daesh. This is an opportunity, pretext, for America to dominate the region again.” According to the report: “The strikes, conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, hit Islamic State training compounds and command centers, storage facilities and vehicles in the group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, in northeastern Syria, and the surrounding province, U.S. officials said. They also struck territory controlled by the group in eastern Syria leading to the Iraqi border. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 70 Islamic State group fighters were killed and more than 300 wounded. Rami Abdurrahman, the Observatory head, said about 22 airstrikes hit Raqqa province in addition to 30 in Deir el-Zour province. Farther west, the strikes hit the village of Kfar Derian, a stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.”

Meanwhile, after a second day of U.S. strikes in Syria, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. President Barack Obama called for united action to confront violent extremist Wednesday, according to CNN, More airstrikes against ISIS as Obama urges action at U.N. against extremism. Airstrikes were carried out overnight Tuesday into Wednesday against five more targets: four in Iraq and one in Syria, the U.S. Central Command said. Speaking in New York, Obama said, “It is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion. This is not simply a matter of words. Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment.” According to Obama, the world must focus on four areas to defeat ISIS: First, ISIS must be degraded and ultimately destroyed; Second, it is time for the world to explicitly reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIS; Third, the world must address the cycle of conflict, including sectarian conflict, that creates the conditions that terrorists thrive on; And fourth, Arab and Muslim countries must focus on the potential of their people, especially youths. Obama warned, “Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort. Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can. Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone. For we will not succumb to threats; and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy.” Obama’s call for action comes as he faces questions about his decision to bomb terror groups in Syria without approval from the U.N. Security Council or U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s lawmakers will soon debate whether their country will join the U.S. and France in conducting airstrikes in Iraq. British Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled Parliament early to discuss the possibility. Parliament will meet Friday to “debate the UK’s response to the request from the Iraqi government for airstrikes to support operations against (ISIS) in Iraq,” a Downing Street representative said Wednesday. A U.S. law enforcement official with knowledge of the warning told CNN that concerns over possible backlash from terror groups over the U.S. strikes has prompted Homeland Security to warn law enforcement agencies of lone wolf terror attacks on American soil. On Wednesday, CNN reports, U.N. Security Council passes anti-terror resolution, U.N. Security Council members unanimously passed a draft anti-terror resolution to address the growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters. U.S. President Barack Obama said the resolution requires nations to “suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting, equipping” and financing of “foreign terrorist fighters.” Regarding Syria specifically, Obama said, “The only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war is political: an inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity or creed. Cynics may argue that such an outcome can never come to pass. But there is no other way for this madness to end, whether one year from now or 10. I can promise you America will remain engaged in the region, and we are prepared to engage in that effort. I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done…We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come.”

President Barack Obama took his call for world cooperation against terror, climate change, Ebola and a host of other issues to the United Nations Wednesday, saying the world stands at a crossroads “between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.” Besides the growing threat of ISIS, Obama also addressed a variety of other international crises currently facing the global community. Obama said regarding Ukraine that the country represents “a vision of the world in which might makes right — a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed (referring to Malaysia airline Flight 17 shot down in Ukraine).” Obama stated that if Russia rolls back its involvement, then the U.S. “will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges.” In the fight against Ebola, while the U.S. has promised to send medical workers and the military to build treatment centers in Africa, the President called for a “broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders.” As far as the Iranian nuclear program, Obama addressed it by saying, “We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.” Regarding global poverty, Obama said, “We will do our part — to help people feed themselves; power their economies; and care for their sick,” he said. “If the world acts together, we can make sure that all of our children can enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity.” As far as climate change, Obama said the United States will work on the isue within its own borders, but “we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every major power. That’s how we can protect this planet for our children and grandchildren.”

While France has definitively joined the fight against the extremist group, Turkey is still mulling over the idea as it considers its options. According to Aomar Quali and Paul Schemm, France Won’t Stop Fight Against Islamic State Militants Despite Kidnapping, IN a video posted Monday, the group calling itself the Jund al-Khilafah said it would kill Frenchman Herve Gourdel in 24 hours unless France ended its participation in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. Speaking to reporters at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, French President Francois Hollande said he had “plenty of confidence” in Algerian security forces that “everything will be done so that we can recover our compatriot.” He added, “As grave as the situation is, we will give in to no blackmail, no pressure, no ultimatum. No terrorist group can in any way influence France’s position, will, and freedom. I repeat it here … we will continue to provide our support to the Iraqi authorities.” That would include weapons deliveries to those fighting the Islamic State group and continued air support for Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga forces. French forces on Friday joined the U.S. in carrying out airstrikes against extremists who have overrun large areas of Syria and Iraq. Herve Gourdel, a mountaineering guide from Nice, was taken Sunday night while driving through the Djura Djura mountains in Algeria’s rugged Kabylie region, which remains one of the last active areas of operation for al-Qaida in Algeria. He was taken with four Algerian companions who were later released. The U.S. embassy in Algiers renewed its travel warning for Algeria Tuesday, urging Americans traveling there to “exercise vigilance” in their movements. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports, Turkey Mulls Military Role Against ISIS, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish reports in New York he is considering expanding support for Western and Arab operations against the Islamic State group to include military involvement following only hours after the U.S. and Arab allies launched airstrikes against the Islamic State targets in Syria. Erdogan spoke as a sideline to the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected Turkey to play a bigger role in the fight against ISIS after Ankara secured the release of 49 Turkish hostages being held by the group. Turkey is a main backer of Syrian rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has allowed thousands of foreign fighters cross into Syria along their common border.