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Syria in December , 2023

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December 1, 2023

  1. Ongoing Protests in Syria’s Sweida Demand Political Change. Thousands gather in Sweida’s central square for the 100th consecutive week, demanding political change in Syria. Despite media focus on other events, protesters stand firm, raising banners and emphasizing adherence to UN resolutions. The movement remains resilient, symbolized by the persistent presence at “Al-Karama Square.”
  2. Iran Recovers Bodies of Militants Killed in Aleppo’s Khan Tuman. Iran retrieves the remains of 8 militia members identified as defenders of holy shrines, killed in Khan Tuman, Aleppo. The bodies, transported to Mashhad, will undergo rituals before burial. The development follows Iran’s earlier discovery of 5 militants’ remains in the same region.
  3. Global Chemical Weapons Body Votes to Restrict Syria’s Access to Raw Materials. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) approves a resolution limiting chemical exports to Syria, citing Damascus’s alleged violations of the chemical weapons treaty. The move follows Syria’s suspension from OPCW voting in 2021 over accusations of toxic gas attacks on civilians.
  4. Suspected U.S. Drone Targets Iran-Backed Militias in Eastern Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports a suspected U.S. drone strike targeting Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria. The strike occurred in Al-Bukamal, causing a powerful explosion at an Iranian militia facility. No human casualties have been reported. This marks the ninth U.S. drone strike on Iranian militia sites in Deir ez-Zor, resulting in 17 military deaths and 10 injuries since the Gaza-Israel conflict.

December 6, 2023

  1. Explosion Targets US-Aligned Leaders in Syria, Escalating Tensions. An explosion targeting a convoy near the Omar oil field resulted in the deaths of three US-aligned leaders. The incident occurred as the convoy was leaving a US Army base. Among the deceased are Roni Polat, a high-ranking official of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and two other unidentified leaders. The explosion, which also injured several militants, was part of a series of tense developments in the region, including increased US military alertness and drone activity. This attack underscores the volatile situation in Syria, where multiple factions and international interests are clashing, further complicating the already complex regional dynamics.

December 7, 2023

  1. IRGC Commander Visits Bashar al-ASSad in Damascus. Iran’s Quds Force Commander, Ismail Qaani, made three visits to Syria since the Jerusalem Operation in October. The unannounced trips involved meetings with Syrian officials, including Bashar al-Assad, and leaders of pro-Iranian militias. Qaani utilized both Damascus and Beirut airports for his visits, addressing security and military matters in preparation for a report to Ayatollah Khamenei.
  2. Syrian Embassy in Riyadh Resumes Operations After Years. The Syrian embassy in Riyadh announces the resumption of its activities after years of suspension, following the recent normalization of relations and the appointment of a new ambassador. Services and consular activities will resume starting December 17th.

December 8, 2023

  1. More Former Syrian Officials Arrested for Crimes Against Humanity in Europe. A 55-year-old Syrian, previously the head of the interrogation department of the National Defence Force (NDF) in Salamiyah, has been arrested in the Netherlands for his alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence against civilians. His actions, carried out during 2013 and 2014, are indicative of the widespread and systematic attack against civilians, qualifying as crimes against humanity. This case underscores the ongoing brutal suppression of civilian protests by the Assad regime, supported by paramilitary groups like the NDF. The suspect’s arrest, following his asylum in the Netherlands, serves as a stark reminder of the continuing human rights abuses in Syria, suggesting that such atrocities may still be occurring under the current regime. The UK expands sanctions, including asset freezes for Syrian politicians, Peter Al-Halqi and Mohsen Abdul Karim Ali, in an extended list targeting Belarus, Syria, and Iran.
  2. Israel Targets Sites in Damascus and Quneitra in Response to Golan Shelling. Israel launched eight missiles at locations in southwestern Rural Damascus and a military site in Quneitra, responding to Syrian Golan Heights shelling. No human casualties were reported. The strikes followed explosions in the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan Heights caused by three rockets launched from Assad territories. The incidents escalated tensions, prompting an alert in Assad regime and militia positions near the Golan. Israel has targeted Assad territory 27 times since the Gaza war, resulting in 28 military and 2 civilian casualties. 
  3. Deadly Escalations in Deir ez-Zor Begin to Spin out of Control. In a span of two days, Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria, witnessed significant armed attacks. Initially, an explosion at the entrance of the US Army base in the Al-Omar oil field resulted in the death of three SDF leaders. The blast targeted an armored car of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as it was leaving the base. Today December 8, unidentified gunmen killed five members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, including a leader, and wounded three others. The attack targeted a military vehicle near the Imam Ali base in Albu Kamal. 
  4. Assad Regime and Hizballah Suffer Major Losses in Aleppo. Recent clashes in western Aleppo and other regions in Syria have resulted in significant casualties among Assad regime forces and Hizballah militants, including high-ranking officers. Notably, Lieutenant Colonel Bassam Omran of the Assad militia and several other officers were killed in the western Aleppo countryside. Additionally, three soldiers from the Lebanese Iran Party militia were reported dead, though the location of their deaths remains unclear. The Assad regime’s forces also suffered losses in four separate explosions targeting their vehicles in Daraa, Homs, Raqqa, and the Syrian desert, leading to numerous deaths and injuries. These incidents, largely unaddressed officially, indicate a pattern of sustained losses for the regime’s militias across various Syrian fronts.
  5. Syrian-Saudi Diplomatic Thaw: Appointment of Ambassador Signals Progress. Damascus appoints Dr. Ayman Sussan as its ambassador to Riyadh, marking a significant step in the Syrian-Saudi normalization process. This move follows recent diplomatic efforts to mend Arab relations and ease tensions, including the reactivation of embassies.

December 12, 2023

  1. French Hill Urges World to Reject Assad Normalization and Support Political Settlement in Syria. Senator French Hill, head of the U.S. congressional group on Syria, advocates for global rejection of normalization with the Syrian regime, emphasizing the need for a political solution and halting drug production in Syria. Hill warns against Assad’s return to international diplomacy and calls for an international plan to achieve political stability, security, and an end to cross-border drug manufacturing in Syria.
  2. ISIS Claims Responsibility for Targeting SDF Vehicle in Deir ez-Zor Countryside. ISIS claimed responsibility for targeting a military vehicle of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in western Deir ez-Zor countryside. The attack involved gunfire, resulting in at least one casualty. Earlier on the same day, an explosive device targeted an SDF military vehicle in the eastern Deir ez-Zor countryside, causing no injuries.
  3. Jordanian Soldier Killed in Armed Clash with Smugglers at Syria Border. The Jordanian army announced the death of one of its members and the injury of another in an armed clash with dozens of smugglers on the northern border with Syria. The engagement occurred during low visibility conditions, with smugglers attempting to transport large quantities of drugs.
  4. Former US Ambassador Reveals Biden Administration’s Commitment to PKK/YPG. Ex-Syrian Ambassador Robert Ford affirms Biden’s administration’s continued support for the PKK/YPG, despite concerns, emphasizing their role as a local partner. Ford also discusses the ongoing challenges in Syria and the shifting focus of the Biden administration.

December 13, 2023

  1. Islamic Resistance Strikes U.S. Base in Syrian Oil Field. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq announced a missile strike on a U.S. base in Syria’s Koniko oil field in response to perceived crimes against Gaza. This marks continued resistance actions, with 83 drone and missile strikes targeting U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza in October.
  2. SDF Discovers Artillery Platforms Targeting International Coalition Bases in Hassakeh Countryside. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) uncovered artillery launchers in Hassakeh’s countryside, utilized for shelling the area around their joint base with the international coalition. The operation followed mortar attacks on the base, revealing the platforms near Adla village. Reports suggest the recent strike on the U.S. base in Shaddadi originated from SDF-controlled areas, highlighting tensions in the region.
  3. Israeli Warning Leaflets Follow Missile Exchanges in Southern Syria. Israeli reconnaissance aircraft circulate over Daraa and Quneitra in southern Syria after missiles, reportedly launched by unidentified groups, targeted the Golan Heights. Israeli forces responded with artillery fire, and warning leaflets were dropped, cautioning local residents about the consequences of missile launches, blaming the Syrian regime for abandonment.
  4. Israeli Military Strikes Targets in Syrian and Lebanese Territories. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli aircraft and tanks targeted military infrastructure and a Syrian army site in Syrian territories. Additionally, an Israeli Air Force fighter jet struck Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, while Israeli forces attacked a launching site in Lebanese territories. The Israeli military also reported intercepting anti-tank missiles and mortar shells launched towards the “Bar’am” region. Artillery fire from Israel targeted sources of fire in Lebanon, and several launch operations towards Israeli military sites were identified along the northern border.

December 14, 2023

  1. U.S. Response to Iranian Aggression in Syria Questioned. Today, Iranian factions escalated their interconnected aggression in Syria by launching missiles from western Euphrates-controlled areas, targeting a coalition base in Deir ez-Zor. The International Coalition’s air defense system successfully thwarted this attack, intercepting a drone and multiple missiles, thus safeguarding the Koniko oil field from harm. While around five missiles landed near the Koniko field, there were no reported damages. In response, international coalition forces patrolled the Euphrates River, underscoring the persistent Iranian threat in the region. Simultaneously, Arab tribal fighters in Deir ez-Zor intensified their attacks on SDF checkpoints and military positions, reflecting a broader Iranian initiative to confront the United States in Syria using both their own militias and Arab Sunni militias. 
  2. Resumption of Algerian Flights Sparks Illegal Immigration Concerns to Europe. The Algerian Ministry of Transport’s decision to resume flights to Syria and Lebanon may herald the resurgence of illegal immigration to Europe. After years of severed air connections, this development could pave the way for individuals in Syria and Lebanon seeking alternative routes to Europe, potentially reviving the flow of undocumented migrants. As flights gradually increase, the implications for Europe’s immigration landscape may become increasingly pronounced, necessitating vigilance and preparedness in addressing potential challenges associated with irregular migration.
  3. Jordan’s Diplomatic Strategy: Tackling Syrian Drug Threats with Iran. Jordan’s diplomatic efforts, led by Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi in his meeting with Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian, reflects a direct response to the complex drug and weapon smuggling from Syria. This meeting signifies Jordan’s awareness and proactive approach to counter Iran’s expanding control in the Levant region. Iran’s strategy of indirect warfare, leveraging tactics like drug and weapon trafficking, poses a multifaceted threat to regional stability. Jordan’s engagement with Iran is a critical step in confronting these covert forms of aggression and asserting control over the security dynamics within its borders and the broader Middle Eastern landscape. 
  4. Syria’s Shadow War: A Resurgence of Assassinations or a Regime’s Self-Purge? The mysterious deaths of high-ranking officers in Assad’s regime, including Brigadier General Munther Samaha, suggest a potential resurgence of targeted assassinations or, alternatively, a deliberate purge by the regime itself. The increasing incidents of killings, bombings, and attacks, shrouded in secrecy and lacking official acknowledgment, raise questions about the regime’s motives. Is this a tactic to eliminate witnesses to crimes committed since 2011, or a reflection of escalating internal conflicts? The pattern of fatalities among Assad’s militias, especially in strategic regions, hints at a complex, covert operation possibly rooted in the regime’s efforts to control the narrative and consequences of its long-standing actions against the Syrian people.
  5. Celebrating Christmas in Hassakeh: Amid Challenges, Syrians Find Joy. Despite 12 years of military conflicts and enduring challenges, Syrians in Hassakeh cherish rare moments of joy during festive seasons like Christmas. The province reflects cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence, with residents striving to reclaim moments of happiness amid the political and economic crisis in Syria.

December 15, 2023

  1. Why Cut Syria’s Defense Budget Despite Rising Attacks on U.S. Forces? In a decision that warrants scrutiny, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a notable reduction in Syria’s defense funding. This $9 million cut, part of the $886 billion defense budget for fiscal year 2024, comes at a time of escalating attacks on U.S. forces by Iranian militias and ISIS militants. The reduction, which affects the Syrian Democratic Forces, raises questions about its timing and implications, especially considering the intensified militant activities in the region. This includes drone attacks by the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” on the U.S. Al-Shaddadi base and ISIS’s assaults in Deir ez-Zor, which have heightened tensions and resulted in numerous casualties. The decision to decrease funding amidst these developments presents a significant point of discussion regarding U.S. strategic priorities in the region.
  2. U.S. Defense Budget Cuts in Syria Coincide with Russia’s Strengthened Military Presence. Russian President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed Russia’s ongoing military presence in Syria, a strategic move to protect vital interests and reject any withdrawal plans. This commitment is marked by the adaptability of Russian forces, operating as flexible “points” rather than permanent bases, while maintaining adherence to international obligations. Concurrently, the Syrian regime has expanded its diplomatic reach by opening an honorary consulate in Bratislava, Slovakia. This development is notable as it occurs despite Slovakia’s membership in the EU and NATO, and in the context of the EU’s stance against normalizing relations with the Syrian regime. The EU continues to advocate for a political transition in Syria, aligning with the principles of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

December 19, 2023

  1. Hezbollah Unit 313 Reinforces Military Presence in Al-Bukamal. The “Euphrates Eye” captured images of Hezbollah’s Unit 313 sending heavy military reinforcements, including tanks and artillery, from Deir al-Zor to Al-Bukamal in eastern Syria. The unit plans to deploy tanks and armored vehicles for desert reconnaissance and position 57mm field artillery along the Euphrates River, enhancing its influence in areas controlled by the Syrian regime and Iranian militias in Deir al-Zor.
  2. Unidentified Drone Targets Iranian Revolutionary Guard Militia Convoy in Al-Bukamal. An unidentified drone attacked a military convoy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard militia in the outskirts of Al-Bukamal, Deir al-Zor province. Reports indicate the incident resulted in the death of three Syrian nationals working with the militia. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded explosions in Al-Bukamal amid drone activity, continuing a trend of recent drone strikes in areas under the influence of Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias.
  3. Jordan Clashes with Iranian Drug Smugglers Inside Syrian Grounds.
    Jordanian forces engaged in a significant conflict with drug smugglers, allegedly backed by Iran, inside Syrian territory. This escalation, primarily in the Suwayda and Daraa governorates, involved air strikes and armed confrontations. The Jordanian military’s actions were in response to increased drug trafficking activities from Syria to Jordan, a situation that has threatened Jordan’s national security. The involvement of Iranian-supported elements in these smuggling operations has further complicated the situation, adding a layer of geopolitical tension to the already volatile border region. This clash reflects the broader regional challenges posed by the Syrian crisis, particularly the implications of external influences like Iran in the conflict dynamics.
  4. Israeli Strikes Target Syrian Regime Site in Golan Heights. The Israeli military announced it targeted a Syrian regime military site in response to rocket attacks from Syrian territory towards the occupied Golan Heights. Israeli artillery and tanks retaliated against the sources of fire in Syria. This incident follows repeated Israeli strikes on Syrian regime and Iranian militia positions, causing disruptions to Damascus and Aleppo international airports.
  5. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Announce Arrest of Drug Dealer in Raqqa. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the arrest of a drug dealer and the seizure of approximately 120 kilograms of hashish in Raqqa, northern Syria. The military discipline unit conducted a raid on the dealer’s residence, who was involved in drug trafficking, and apprehended the individual, describing the operation as part of combating a form of warfare targeting both military forces and society.
  6. Russian Airstrikes Target Idlib Outskirts Amid UN Delegation Presence. Russian warplanes resumed airstrikes on several areas in Idlib countryside on Tuesday, coinciding with the presence of a United Nations delegation in the city center. The airstrikes targeted the western outskirts of Idlib, where civilians, including displaced persons near a refugee camp, were affected. The attacks continue amid escalating violence in northwestern Syria, resulting in civilian casualties and displacement, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. The UN warns of the largest humanitarian crisis since 2019, with thousands displaced, casualties, and damaged infrastructure.

December 20, 2023

  1. Military Mobilization in Deir ez-Zor Following Assassination Attempt on Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander. The town of Al-Asharah in eastern rural Deir ez-Zor, northern Syria, witnesses military mobilization after an assassination attempt on a local leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hussein Kurdoush. Unknown assailants on a motorcycle targeted Kurdoush, resulting in the death of his Iraqi companion. The military has heightened security measures to apprehend the unidentified attackers.
  2. Jordanian Forces Foil Simultaneous Drug Smuggling Operations on Syrian Border. Jordanian sources revealed that Jordanian authorities had advance knowledge of coordinated drug smuggling operations by militias affiliated with Iranian factions, Hezbollah, and Syrian-backed groups. Despite attempts to distract border forces, the military successfully countered the terrorist plot, resulting in the arrest of smugglers and the confiscation of drugs and weapons. The security situation strained Jordan-Syria relations, prompting Jordan to express concern over Syria’s failure to fulfill its military and security commitments on the border.

December 21, 2023

  1. Israel Targets Syrian Army Sites in Quneitra Countryside. Israel launched missile strikes on Syrian army positions near the villages of Arnah and Hadar in the Quneitra countryside in southwestern Syria. In response, Syria reportedly fired four missiles towards the occupied Golan Heights.
  2. Russian-Syrian Joint Military Exercises at Aleppo’s Kuweires Airport. Russian and Syrian Pro-Iran forces are preparing for joint military exercises at Kuweires Airport in northeastern Aleppo. Recent activity at the airport involved the transportation of military equipment and ammunition. These exercises aim to enhance the capabilities of participating units in utilizing advanced weaponry.
  3. Assad Approves Law Regulating the Entry of Raw Gold into Syria. Bashar al-Assad has approved Law No. 34 for the year 2023, which regulates the entry of raw gold into government-controlled areas. The law allows both Syrian and foreign residents and non-residents to import raw gold under specific conditions. It also imposes fines on those who delay processing raw gold into finished products.

 

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