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Syria in February , 2024

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7-2-2024 

  1. Israeli Raids on Homs Result in Deaths and Escalating Tensions.
    Israeli airstrikes on Homs on Tuesday night resulted in one death and numerous injuries, including civilians. The strikes targeted residential buildings and military installations in northwestern Homs and its countryside. Despite the Syrian regime’s claim of intercepting some missiles, the attacks raised concerns about regional tension escalation. Reports suggest the raids targeted Iranian militia sites, highlighting heightened Israel-Iran tensions in Syria. The funeral of five civilians killed in the attack was held today, revealing dissatisfaction among residents with venues rented by individuals linked to Iran and Hezbollah. Hezbollah confirmed the death of three members, including leaders, during the raid, with one attending a meeting in a targeted building. Hezbollah militia announced the killing of three of its members. Among them are leaders The dead are Hussein Muhammad Shamas, nicknamed (Mahdi), who hails from the town of Labweh in the Bekaa Governorate in Lebanon, Muhammad Jaafar Isali, nicknamed (Walaa), from the town of Ansar in southern Lebanon, and Ahmed Samir Qanbar, a leader in Hezbollah.
  2. Confrontation Escalates as SDF Site Attacked by Suspected Iranian Militia Drone.
    A joint Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and American forces site in Syria was targeted by a drone attack suspected to be carried out by Iranian militias. The attack, originating from areas controlled by the Syrian regime, struck a training academy in the Al-Omar field east of Deir ez-Zor. Iranian-affiliated sites on the southern bank of the Euphrates River, extending over 400 kilometers, are believed to be involved. Confrontations between the SDF and Iranian factions risk escalating tensions in northern Syria, with Iranian factions aiming to weaken the SDF amid the Turkish offensive against them. Analysts warn of increased vulnerability for American forces to further attacks, given Russian silence and potential Turkish acceptance of new conflicts in the region.

8-2-2024

  1. Fatemiyoun Militia’s Propaganda Film Echoes ISIS Tactics.
    The Fatemiyoun militia, supported by Iran and active in Syria, released a propaganda film imitating the style and techniques of ISIS propaganda, depicting members of the militia in the historic theater of Palmyra chanting promises to reach Jerusalem. The video, circulated by accounts close to Iran, coincides with rising tensions following the killing of militia leader Ali Al-Husseini in recent US airstrikes targeting Iranian-affiliated militias in Syria and Iraq. Al-Husseini, a prominent figure close to the Quds Force and previously allied with Qassem Soleimani, was responsible for protecting ammunition depots in Deir ez-Zor. The Fatemiyoun militia, primarily composed of Afghan fighters based in Iran, has been accused of human rights violations and is part of Iran’s broader efforts to expand influence in the region, further complicating the complex dynamics of the Syrian conflict.
  2. Jordan Foils Drug Smuggling, Kills Smugglers on Syrian Border.
    The Jordanian army successfully intercepted a drug smuggling operation on the Syrian border, resulting in the deaths of three smugglers and injuries to others. The operation, conducted in coordination with military security services and the Anti-Narcotics Administration, seized large quantities of narcotics. Despite Jordan’s efforts to combat smuggling, tensions arose between the Jordanian Foreign Ministry and the Assad regime, with accusations exchanged over military operations targeting smugglers. Jordan provided intelligence to Syria on smuggling networks, but the regime’s response fell short of addressing the issue, leading to heightened concerns over the proliferation of drug smuggling activities.
  3. Turkish Bombings Plunge Al-Hasakah into Darkness: Urgent Humanitarian Crisis in Syria.
    Turkish bombings in Syria have plunged the city of Al-Hasakah into darkness for the sixth consecutive day, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. The bombings destroyed electricity facilities crucial for powering essential services like bakeries, water wells, and hospitals, leaving residents without access to basic necessities during the winter season. Testimonies from locals paint a grim picture of the hardships they face, with long queues for fuel and a scarcity of resources. The situation continues to deteriorate, with main electricity and fuel supplies dwindling. The Turkish attacks have ravaged infrastructure and civilian facilities, amplifying the suffering of the population and raising concerns of an impending humanitarian catastrophe. 

13-2-2024

  1. UN Rights Office Confirms Syrian Refugees’ Fears of Regime Returns.
    A United Nations Human Rights Office report exposes grave violations against Syrian refugees returning to their country, particularly targeting women with torture and sexual violence. The report documents abuses by government, de facto authorities, and armed groups, including arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, and enforced disappearance. It raises concerns about forced returns from countries like Turkey and Lebanon and emphasizes the need for voluntary, safe, and dignified returns amidst Syria’s ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis.
  2. US Congressman Joe Wilson Spearheads Anti-Normalization Law Against Assad Regime.
    US Congressman Joe Wilson has announced the imminent voting on his proposed legislation aimed at combating normalization with the Assad regime in Syria. The law, known as the Anti-normalization Law with the Assad Regime of 2024, is set to be binding on all current and future US administrations, effectively stifling any recognition or normalization attempts with the Assad government. Congressman Wilson’s bill prohibits the US from acknowledging any government led by Bashar al-Assad and opposes other countries’ recognition of his regime, imposing sanctions and reporting requirements on those engaged in such activities. The legislation further extends to punishing individuals or entities providing support to the Assad administration, including publishing lists of those involved in projects exceeding $50,000. This robust measure signifies a firm stance against the Assad regime’s actions and aims to prevent circumvention of sanctions by targeting key enablers, including family members and entities associated with the regime.

14-2-2024

  1. US Congress Passes Anti-Normalization Law Against Assad Regime.
    The US Congress, on February 14, overwhelmingly passed the “Anti-Normalization of the Assad Regime Law” with 389 votes in favor. Senator Joe Wilson hailed the legislation as a stride towards facilitating Syria’s democratic transition, explicitly attributing the plight of the Syrian people to the actions of Bashar al-Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran. Via a tweet, Wilson warned against any attempts to normalize relations with Assad, underscoring the House’s commitment to a liberated Syria. The law introduces measures for greater UN funding transparency and the safeguarding of humanitarian assistance, reinforcing the US stance against normalization with Assad’s government.
  2. SDF Repels Syrian Regime-Linked Infiltration in Deir ez-Zor.
    On Wednesday, the SDF media center reported the thwarting of the regime-supported mercenaries‘ move towards the towns of Dhiban, Al-Kashma, and Al-Shafah. The defensive action forced the assailants to retreat, resulting in numerous casualties within their ranks. While the SDF statement did not specify its own losses, social media sources claim the clash led to the death of seven government force members, highlighting the ongoing tensions and confrontations in the region.
  3. Coalition Retaliates Against Iranian Militias in Deir ez-Zor.
    In a responsive action to missile attacks on the American Al-Omar field base, the international coalition conducted airstrikes on Tuesday evening in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, targeting Iranian militia positions. The strikes resulted in the deaths of two militia members. Additional reports indicate that three members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, including a notable leader, were also killed in the coalition’s bombings within the Al-Mayadeen desert.
  4. Israeli Strike on Al-Nayrab Airport in Aleppo Injures Three.
    An Israeli air strike targeted Al-Nayrab Airport in Aleppo, confirmed by the Russian Reconciliation Center, injuring three airport employees. This statement contradicts earlier denials by the Syrian regime of the incident. Launched from Lebanese airspace, two Israeli F-16 fighters fired cruise missiles at the facility. This latest attack is part of a series of Israeli operations against Syrian regime forces and Iranian-backed militias, leading to both human and material losses across Syria.
  5. Ukraine Exposes Russian Recruitment of Syrian Fighters for War Efforts.
    Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has disclosed information revealing Russia’s enlistment of 141 Syrian individuals to partake in the conflict in Ukraine. According to details, the training for these recruits is being conducted at military installations near Aleppo and Kuweires Airport. The Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate further highlighted that Moscow is facilitating the naturalization of these conscripts by providing Russian passports, coupled with the lure of substantial salaries for security-related roles. An initial group of approximately 1,000 Syrian youths has been mobilized through Syrian travel agencies, with plans for their subsequent relocation to the Hmeimim Air Base, gearing up for their involvement in the ongoing war against Ukraine.
  6. Assad Regime’s Alleged Drug Bust Raises Doubts.
    The Assad regime’s customs officials claim a major drug seizure in Latakia, allegedly uncovering one million Captagon pills disguised as “tomato paste.” While over 120 kilograms of narcotics were reported seized, skepticism arises regarding the regime’s involvement in drug trafficking. Critics doubt the authenticity of the regime’s anti-narcotics efforts, citing allegations of its complicity in the drug trade within Syria and globally. Reports of drugs openly sold in regime-controlled areas, allegedly with intelligence services’ involvement, cast doubt on the regime’s sincerity in combating narcotics.

16-2-2024

  1. Daraa Clashes: Locals Push Assad Regime to Withdraw.
    Last week in southern Syria, regime forces engaged in clashes with local groups in Mahaja, Daraa, under the guise of targeting “wanted individuals,” resulting in both military and civilian casualties. The confrontation, characterized by shelling and gunfire, ended with the regime’s withdrawal amidst losses, with Russian military involvement observed in the vicinity. Concurrently, in Deir ez-Zor, the killing of two truffle pickers by unidentified assailants led to a harvesting ban by the Fourth Division, suggesting economic motives. Additionally, an unidentified man’s body was found in the Euphrates River, indicating the ongoing turmoil and violence affecting various parts of the region.
  2. Combating Asma al-Assad’s Secret Economic Office: The Impact of the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act.
    sma al-Assad’s clandestine economic office, long a symbol of Syrian regime corruption, faces a formidable challenge with the passage of the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act. This covert operation, meticulously organized and directed from the Republican Palace, exploits Syrian merchants and industrialists through a varied scheme of financial surveillance and intimidation. Segmented into departments overseen by key figures like Colonel Ali Shalish and Major General Ahmed Deeb, the office targets individuals deemed capable of paying exorbitant fines under fabricated legal pretexts, ensuring compliance through coercive measures. The Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act of 2023, codified as S.2342, can disrupt this operation by outlining measures that oppose any acknowledgment or normalization of relations with Bashar al-Assad’s government, leading to a reduction in its international legitimacy and economic stability. Through strategies such as actively opposing international normalization, enforcing sanctions, and discouraging reconstruction efforts, the Act should lead to undermine the regime’s economic power and advance the Syrian people’s pursuit of justice. While direct intervention in the Secret Economic Office’s activities is not feasible, the Act can indirectly constrain its operational capabilities, thereby limiting its capacity to exploit Syria’s economic resources and strengthen the regime’s grip on power.

20-2-2024

  1. UAE Transfers Aircraft to the Assad Regime, Breaching Sanctions.
    Less than a week after the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Normalization Act, now awaiting Senate approval, the United Arab Emirates facilitated the transfer of a French-made Airbus A320 to the Syrian airline Cham Wings. This move, bypassing international sanctions through a complex scheme involving a phantom airline named “Queens Air,” highlights a significant violation of international norms. The aircraft, nearly 19 years old, was rerouted through Kyrgyzstan and Belarus before arriving in Damascus on February 7. Initially owned by various countries, its ownership was transferred to Sky One in Sharjah, then to the inactive Queens Air, and finally to Cham Wings on February 13. Despite facing new EU sanctions for supporting the Assad regime through the transport of mercenaries and drugs, Cham Wings managed to participate in the Fitor 2024 tourism exhibition in Spain, further defying international sanctions.
  2. Persistent Strikes on U.S. Bases in Syria by Iranian-Backed Militias. Iranian-backed militias continue their strikes on U.S. bases in Syria. Loud explosions were heard on Monday evening in the Conico Gas field where U.S. forces are stationed. Local sources say the site was struck with four missiles without any information about possible casualties. Iraqi and Iranian sources told Reuters in recent days that IRGC Quds Force commander Ismail Qani visited Baghdad in late January and told Iraqi militia commanders to halt attacks against American forces, after which most, but not all, IRGC proxy militants supposedly halted their attacks. According to these sources, the militia attacks that have taken place after Qani’s visit have been carried out by Harakat Nujaba, an Iraqi militia that supposedly did not agree to Qani’s directive to stop attacks.This report has gone viral in the regional media, but has also been met with skepticism among some experts who assess it as potential propaganda serving both Iran and the Biden administration. For example, in one Syria TV report evaluating the claim regarding the cessation of Iranian strikes on U.S. bases in Syria, expert analyst Diyaa Qadour questioned the portrayal of Qani and the IRGC seeking to halt attacks but not having complete control of Iraqi militia actions. Qadour noted that the notion that any Iran-supported faction or militia in the region could diverge significantly from Tehran’s directives is highly unlikely. Facts on the ground, meanwhile, show that Tehran’s strategic confrontational stance has not changed, even after the American retaliatory strikes on February 4th targeted 28 militia sites along a 130-kilometer corridor stretching from Deir ez-Zor to the Iraqi border. After this heavy U.S. retaliation, the IRGC-backed militia groups have persisted in their attacks and maneuvers against American bases. Less than 24 hours after the American strikes, Iranian militias  continued to move their military vehicles from Ayyash warehouses to a Syrian Vanguard camp in Deir ez-Zor unhindered, after publicly clearing rubble from the buildings targeted to demonstrate they were not killed. The Iranian militias did, however, move some of their commanders to alternate bases in Albu Kamal and Palmyra. They also moved their activities at Naser base from an industrial area to the residential Port Said Street in Deir ez-Zor, prompting residents to fear the militias planned to use local civilians as human shields.By February 8, Iranian-backed militia operations against American targets were back in full swing. On that day, a drone attack by Iranian-backed groups targeted the vicinity of the Al-Omar oil field, where American forces are stationed, killing five SDF commandos. Additional attacks on the Al-Omar base followed within hours, and a subsequent drone strike hit the Green Village, the largest U.S. base in Syria, leading to explosions and damage to American soldiers’ living quarters.On February 9, Iranian-backed groups conducted two successive attacks on the American base at the Conoco Gas Plant in eastern Syria, initially with a drone and then with a missile salvo.The heightened confrontation continued on February 10 when U.S. bases in Syria intercepted 4-6 armed drones, followed by multiple attacks on the Al-Omar field base with drones and as many as 20 missiles. On February 12, six busloads of Iranian fighters entered Syria from Iraq, heading towards Al-Bukamal, located 90 km south of the Omar field. Rathern than target this convoy of Iranian forces near Al-Bukamal, American drones struck an empty farm warehouse in Mayadeen belonging to a minor Iranian-affiliated group called the Imam Al-Sadiq located 40 km east of their al-Omar base.  On February 13, Iranian-backed militias targeted the Al Omar base with yet another salvo of missiles, some of which landed in the Green Village where most U.S. soldiers in the area are housed. U.S. forces reportedly responded with a strike on the Ain Ali Shrine in an evacuated village 36 kilometers southeast of the Omar base.  Undeterred by the strikes against empty facilities, Iranian militias were spotted smuggling four military convoys from Iraq to Der Ezzour and heading toward Homs on February 16. On February 18, Several explosions were heard after midnight on Saturday-Sunday, resulting from military training with weapons and live ammunition conducted by militias near Al-Hamdan Airport in the southern desert of Al Bukamal.

21-2-2024

  1. Unidentified Strikes On Iranian Targets in Deir ez-Zor.
    Hours after Iranian-backed militias attacked the Conico field housing U.S. forces, a series of unidentified airstrikes targeted an Iranian security compound and militia positions in Deir ez-Zor. The strikes, hitting at least three pro-Iranian militia locations in the city’s southern desert, coincided with sightings of unidentified warplanes, indicating a possible retaliatory action.
  2. Iranian Militias Strike ISIS Prison in Bid to Free ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’.
    Iranian-backed militias targeted with a missile the outer wall of Ghweran prison in Al-Hasakah, northeastern Syria, which houses leaders and members of ISIS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights indicated that the missile was launched from an area outside Hasakah, possibly coming from militias affiliated with Iran, near an American military base. In light of the threats, American forces lowered their flag from the targeted base, and American forces withdrew from the village of Himo to the Tal Baidar base. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported that the missile attack on Al-Sinaa Prison resulted in minor injuries among some prisoners and thwarted the escape attempt of dozens of them. The strike specifically targeted the hangar that houses the “Cubs of the Caliphate.” 

22-2-2024

  1. Iranian Militia Fighters Across Syria, Explained.
    “Jusoor Center” and “Informagin” Data Analysis Institution, produced a deep dive study showing the diverse composition of over 65,000 fighters from various nationalities. These militias are strategically positioned in government-controlled areas, with notable concentrations in Deir ez-Zor, Al-Bukamal, the Homs countryside, along the Lebanese-Syrian border under Hezbollah’s supervision, in rural southern and southwestern Damascus near the Golan Heights, and parts of Aleppo.  Iranian militias in Syria include the 3,000-strong Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade in Sayyida Zeinab, 1,000 Pakistani Zainebiyoun Brigade fighters in Damascus, the fluidly operating Hezbollah, the fluctuating Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade of Iraqis, 7,000 Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades since 2013, Harakat al-Nujaba active in Aleppo and Damascus, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq with bases in rural Damascus and Al-Bukamal, 2,000-strong Liwa al-Waad al-Sadiq between Iraq and Syria, 5,000 Saraya al-Khorasani fighters, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr Forces in Syrian police uniform, Liwa Imam Hussein led by Amjad al-Bahadli in Damascus and Aleppo, Liwa Zulfiqar fighting in rural Damascus, 750 Yemeni Liwa Saqqa fighters returning from Damascus countryside to Yemen, and 2,500 to 3,000 Palestinian Liwa al-Quds fighters in Aleppo, Damascus, Deir ez-Zor, and Daraa.
  2. Assad Regime Upgrades Ministerial Fleet.
    Sources close to the Assad regime disclosed the replacement of ministerial vehicles with newer models, following an official decree to increase spending on government car repairs. This move has sparked outrage among regime loyalists on social media, who criticize the decision as extravagant amidst ongoing cuts to public allocations and price hikes. They also highlighted the inconsistency of sanctions, noting they apparently do not extend to the procurement of luxury government vehicles.
  3. Turkiye Detains Syrians for Alleged French Espionage.
    Turkey’s intelligence service arrested three Syrians, including activist Ahmed Qate’, in Bursa, accusing them of spying for France. The operation targeted a network allegedly disseminating false information internationally about Turkey’s treatment of refugees. The detainees, also identified as Hossam Al-Nahar and Ibrahim Shweish, were apprehended with evidence of coordination with French intelligence.

28-2-2024

  1. Suwayda Uprising: First Protester Killed by Syrian Forces
    The Suwayda uprising, which has been a peaceful movement for several months, marks its first fatality today as Syrian regime forces fatally shot Jawad Al-Barouki, 54, during a February 28, 2024 protest. Demonstrators, attempting to storm the Security Settlements Center in the April 7 Hall, faced regime gunfire, escalating the conflict. This action resulted in Al-Barouki’s death from a ricocheting bullet and injured Walid Al-Jawhari. The incident has prompted widespread tension and calls for restraint within the Druze community. Sheikh Hikmat Al-Hijri, a Druze leader, urged protestors to maintain their peaceful stance. Al-Barouki’s killing emphasizes the growing rift between the regime and demonstrators against settlement policies, and the challenges of keeping protests non-violent.
  2. Iran Vows to Stay in Assad Areas, Rejects Withdrawal Claims
    Iran’s envoy to Assad, Hussein Akbari, confirmed Iran’s continuous presence in territories controlled by Assad, dismissing any rumors of withdrawal. He emphasized that the relationship between Iran and Assad is principled, underlining Iran’s unwavering support. Akbari also verified that Iran’s actions in Syria are in full coordination with Assad’s government, following Assad’s policies. Furthermore, Ezatollah Akbari Talarbashti, leader of Iran’s Parliament for Industries, highlighted that despite considerable sacrifices in Syria, Iran controls merely 3-4% of the Syrian market, in stark contrast to Turkey’s 75% share. Meanwhile, Assad was busy with prompting that Russia’s military involvement in Syria was to safeguard Moscow against terrorism, comparing the challenges faced by Syria and Ukraine and stressing a collective stand against shared foes.
  3. Crisis and Controversy Surround HTS Leadership
    Protests against HTS and its leader, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, in Idlib signal a crisis, echoing past challenges in 2017. Dissenters demand al-Julani’s removal over mismanagement and wrongful detentions, leading him to release and compensate detainees. Al-Julani’s efforts to quell dissent through releasing and compensating previously detained rivals inadvertently intensified internal divisions, weakening his leadership further. This unrest is exacerbated by a notable public resignation, underscoring the division within HTS leadership itself. Critics within HTS demand significant reforms, including al-Julani’s resignation, the unconditional release of political prisoners, and the establishment of a genuine Shura Council. Despite considering a strategy of appointing a nominal leader while retaining control, al-Julani faces widespread skepticism, with observers questioning the approach’s effectiveness in resolving the organization’s internal discord and preventing further conflict.
  4. Iran and Turkiye Strike Syria’s Northeast
    In a series of violent escalations in Syria’s northeast, American bases in Deir ez-Zor were attacked with missiles and a drone by the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” group, prompting US retaliation against Iranian-backed factions. Concurrently, Turkish forces conducted air strikes on the Hasakah countryside, resulting in 11 casualties, including six civilians, but lost a Turkish reconnaissance drone in Aleppo’s northern countryside, with no party claiming responsibility. The attacks underscore the volatile dynamics involving multiple international and local forces in the region. Additionally, violent clashes erupted between Arab tribal forces and SDF militias in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, further intensifying the region’s instability.

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