Syria in March , 2024

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  1. ISIS Targets Truffle Collectors; Drone Hits Militia in Deir ez-Zor
    An ISIS attack targeting truffle collectors in Deir ez-Zor’s Kabajib desert resulted in 18 fatalities, including four National Defense members, 16 injuries, and over 50 missing. Violent clashes ensued, destroying 12 vehiclesOn the other side of Syria’s northeast, 3 members of the pro-Iranian militia, including 2 of non-Syrian nationality, were killed in the targeting of an unknown drone that targeted a militia military vehicle in the vicinity of the “Ain Ali” shrine in the Al-Mayadeen desert in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, within areas controlled by regime forces and Iranian militias.
  2. Asma ASSad Clashes with Businessman Over Royalties
    Tensions have escalated between Asma al-Assad, who oversees Syria’s secretive economic management office, and Hossam Katerji, a businessman and regime supporter, due to his resistance to paying imposed royalties. Demanding 40% of Katerji’s assets, the office froze his properties following his objection. This dispute led to the seizure of Katerji’s premises in Damascus and Aleppo
  3. Syrian Inmates in Lebanon Resort to Suicide Attempts Over Extradition Fears to Assad’s Regime
    If anything can portray the cruelty Bashar ASSad has administered against his own people, this story should draw a clear picture. For the last few days now, Syrian inmates in Lebanese prisons, specifically, Roumieh, have been threatening suicide by hanging as a protest against their potential extradition back to Syria after completing their sentences. On Saturday March 2, 2024 Syrian inmates actually attempted suicide using bed linens but were saved by fellow inmates, leaving three hospitalized in critical condition.  


  1. Swiss refer Syrian president’s uncle to trial for alleged war crimes over 4 decades ago.
    Swiss federal prosecutors have indicted Rifaat Assad, former Syrian Vice President and uncle of Syria’s current president, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He allegedly ordered murder and torture in February 1982 during an attack in Hama to suppress a Muslim Brotherhood uprising, resulting in thousands killed. Although unlikely to serve time in Switzerland, the 86-year-old’s case, brought by Trial International under “universal jurisdiction,” signifies that war crimes can be prosecuted regardless of when they occurred, as long as the accused is alive.
  2. Syrian Regime Disappointed by Reduction in Trade with Iran.
    Despite Iran’s military, political, and economic support to Syria, trade between the two countries has not shown any positive signs, facing a “deep crisis.” Despite numerous agreements, trade and economic relations remain low, with Iran exporting goods worth $244 million last year, decreasing to $120 million this year. Officials from both countries express disappointment over the low level of economic relations, despite their strategic military and political ties. Challenges include administrative issues, sanctions, logistical difficulties, and a unilateral trade approach by Iran, aiming to dominate the Syrian market without offering significant benefits to Syrian traders.


  1. Clashes Between Drug Traffickers in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor
    Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria witnessed severe clashes between two drug trafficking groups under the control of Syrian forces and Iranian militias, due to disputes over drug shipments, including Captagon. The clash between factions associated with the Iranian militias and former National Defense militia leaders underscores the region’s deep-seated issues with drug trafficking. Meanwhile, Iranian militias have distributed food baskets in an effort to recruit youth by exploiting economic hardships and offering incentives in a region suffering from neglect and lack of infrastructure in rural areas.
  2. Millions of Assad Regime Captagon Pills Seized in Benghazi Port
    Libyan customs at Benghazi’s seaport have intercepted millions of Captagon pills hidden in a shipment of apples from Syrian ports controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The operation uncovered 17,812,300 pills within three refrigerated containers, which were promptly destroyed. This incident aligns with broader patterns of drug trafficking attributed to Assad’s Syria and allied militias, including Hizballah. Similar smuggling attempts have been thwarted by Jordanian authorities, underscoring a systematic strategy by Assad and Iran to flood Arab nations with narcotics.


  1. Right Groups Says Iran Recruited Afghan Children for Combat in Syria
    Iran has been implicated in the recruitment of Afghan children to fight in Syria as part of the Iran-backed “Fatimiyoun Brigade,” according to a report by the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). This practice, which has been ongoing for years, coerces migrants, particularly Afghan children, into military service with promises of financial rewards and legal residency. The report highlights the systematic exploitation of vulnerable populations, particularly Afghan migrants and children, by Iranian military and paramilitary forces, leading to an alarming rise in casualties among these child soldiers.


  1. Israel Concerned by Russia’s Military Expansion in Southern Syria
    Israeli broadcaster Kan reports on Israel’s concern over Russia’s military build-up in southern Syria, near the Syrian-Israeli border. Russia has recently deployed military police patrols and established new positions in collaboration with Assad’s forces mere kilometers from the border. This move is part of a series of Russian military activities following the escalation in Gaza, including the establishment of a joint observation point near the Golan Heights and increased Russian air patrols in southern Syria. 
  2. Syrian Opposition Contemplates Appealing to UN Security Council to Break Constitutional Committee Stalemate
    The Syrian Negotiation Commission is considering a session with the UN Security Council to address the Syrian issue, should UN Envoy Pedersen fail to persuade the Assad regime to participate in the ninth round of the Constitutional Committee meetings set for April 22. The opposition, facing the regime’s continuous delays, insists on Geneva as the meeting venue after rejecting proposals to move the venue to Riyadh, Nairobi, or Cairo. Despite the deadlock, the opposition still aims for a political transition based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and based on UN-brokered talks in Geneva. The Assad regime, meanwhile, has proposed moving the talks to Baghdad, a proposal the opposition considers another tactic by Assad to avoid a political settlement of the war.


  1. IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi Visits Damascus for First Time Since 2011
    Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited Damascus on Tuesday, marking the first visit since 2011, to initiate high-level discussions on Syria’s use of nuclear energy. The visit seeks to rebuild confidence between the two sides after more than a decade of Syrian government stonewalling of IAEA inquiries into Syria’s suspected construction of a covert nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israel in 2007. 
  2. Russia Trains Syrian Regime Forces on Drones and Artillery
    Russian military personnel in Syria have been conducting extensive training sessions for Syrian regime forces, focusing on the utilization of small drones and artillery. Images and videos shared by accounts linked to Russian forces show artillery units undergoing joint training, which includes maneuvering under simulated enemy attacks and transitioning to unprepared firing positions. The training emphasized both collective and individual standards for engaging artillery in combat, with drones being used for target reconnaissance and fire adjustment. Additionally, there was training on countering enemy drones, highlighting the use of the Russian-made “Garbia” anti-drone rifle to disrupt drone controls and safely bring them down.
  3. Airstrike Kills Hizballah Commander in Eastern Syria
    An airstrike in Syria’s eastern city of Deir-ez-Zor on Tuesday resulted in the deaths of five commanders from Iranian-backed militias, including a Hezbollah commander, as reported by al-Hadath and corroborated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Previously, suspected Israeli strikes had targeted key figures within these groups, leading Iran’s IRGC to reduce its presence in Syria.


  1. Germany Denies Reports of Secret Communication Channels with Syrian Regime
    Germany’s envoy to Syria, Stefan Schneck, refuted claims that Berlin has been seeking covert communications with the Syrian regime, following a German NDR newspaper report on a Syrian woman, Amal Azou, reportedly attempting to establish formal contact between Berlin and Damascus. Azou, a former Ba’ath Party official and Assad regime associate, was mistakenly invited to a German government event, after which the German government clarified its ignorance of Azou’s background and emphasized its commitment to a political solution in Syria without seeking clandestine dealings with Assad’s regime.
  2. Iraq and Syrian Regime to Sign Agreement for Cooperation Against Terrorism and Drug Trafficking
    The Iraqi embassy in Damascus announced a forthcoming visit by the Syrian Interior Minister, Mohammed al-Rahmoun, to Baghdad to sign a 12-point security memorandum with Iraq focusing on counterterrorism and combating drug trafficking. This agreement aims to address the recurring interception of drug smuggling at the Iraqi-Syrian border, particularly through the Al-Qaim crossing, a notorious point controlled by Iranian-backed militias. The memorandum emphasizes collaboration in security information exchange, law enforcement training, and legal frameworks for citizen visits. The Assad regime itself is accused of being behind most of the narcotrafficking in question.
  3. Syrian Regime Will Merge Two Notorious Intelligence Agencies Under Military Command
    The Assad regime’s National Security Office, led by General Kifah Mohammed Melhem, announced the merger of two intelligence agencies into a new entity named “Military and Armed Forces Intelligence.” This reorganization, directed by Bashar al-Assad, combines the Military Intelligence Division and the Air Force Intelligence Administration. The move follows a series of structural changes suggested by Russian directives, aiming to consolidate the regime’s intelligence operations. Critics and defectors argue that these changes are superficial, designed to maintain the regime’s grip on power and deceive both domestic and international observers about the regime’s intent for reform.


  1. ISIS Attack Kills 11 Truffle Gatherers in Syria
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the death of 11 truffle gatherers in an ISIS-claimed attack in Raqqa’s desert, a former stronghold of the extremist group. The attack also led to the abduction of three individuals. Despite security warnings and the dangers of desert areas, the high value of truffles draws many Syrians to these regions. ISIS, defeated in March 2019, continues to execute deadly attacks through its desert-based cells, particularly during the truffle season from February to April.
  2. Security Chaos in Daraa—With Assad Regime Complicity
    Daraa, a southern Syrian province, is again in the spotlight due to escalating security chaos sanctioned by the Assad regime’s security forces. Clashes erupted between the Russian-affiliated “Eighth Brigade” and the Air Force Intelligence forces led by Muhammad Imad al-Kurdi in Mseifra, ending with al-Kurdi’s forces retreating to a neighboring town. Al-Kurdi is accused of conducting assassinations and kidnappings for the regime, especially for the Air Force Intelligence, which provides his group with weapons and security clearances. Despite agreements made under Russian pressure in 2018, the regime has used local armed groups to perpetuate violence and revenge against its opponents, turning Daraa into a hotspot for murders and settling scores. 
  3. Deadly Riot in an SDF-Managed Prison in Raqqa
    A riot erupted inside a security prison managed by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa, leading to the death of at least four individuals, including two internal security forces (Asayish) members and two prisoners. The unrest was reportedly fueled by inmates’ grievances over mistreatment and demands for better conditions. The prisoners managed to seize weapons from the guards, with casualty figures potentially reaching six dead and fifteen injured. The SDF responded by recapturing the escaping inmates, imposing a security cordon around the facility, which is not the Raqqa Central Prison but a newly established detention center by the militia in the city.
  4. Assad Regime Seeks Trade Expansion with Saudi Arabia for the First Time in 13 Years
    A delegation from the Syrian Regime’s Chamber of Commerce is planning a landmark visit to Saudi Arabia on April 24, marking the first of its kind in 13 years. This visit, part of the ongoing political normalization process between Riyadh and the Assad regime, aims to bolster trade relations. Mohammad Abu Al-Huda Al-Laham, head of the Chamber, highlighted the significance of this trip for enhancing bilateral trade. The initiative follows Saudi Arabia’s decision eight months ago to allow exports to Syria, signaling a warming of relations. This development coincides with increased diplomatic exchanges and mutual visits by officials from both countries.
  5. New Military Arrangements in Northern Syria under Turkish Supervision
    Syria’s Interim Government is accelerating efforts to unify opposition factions within the “Syrian National Army” under Turkish guidance, a move which could have a significant impact on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is undergoing an internal crisis, while the interim government is seeking to establish a unified military structure in opposition-held areas. The initiative seeks to improve the security situation in Northern Syria, with the Ministry of Defense urging all independent factions to join the “Syrian National Army” to promote institutional work and enhance regional security amidst internal divisions and public protests against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.


  1. Air Strikes in Eastern Syria Kill 9, Including an Iranian Commander
    Air strikes targeted pro-Iranian militia locations in Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria, killing at least 9 fighters, among them an Iranian commander. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the strikes followed the arrival of an Iranian military aircraft, suggesting a potential increase in casualties due to over 20 injuries. These events mark a continuation of Israeli strikes on Syrian territories housing Hezbollah and Iran-backed militias, intensifying after the outbreak of the Gaza conflict on October 7. The strikes aim to diminish Iran’s influence, with Tehran reducing the deployment of senior officers in Syria and relying more on allied factions.
  2. Detention Camp in Northeast Syria is a “Time Bomb” Potentially Reviving ISIS
    Despite ISIS’s defeat in 2019, a “time bomb” in Al-Hol camp, housing 44,000 individuals including ISIS fighters and families, raises fears of the group’s resurgence, according to The Wall Street Journal. Recent security operations in the camp uncovered a significant cache of weapons and several ISIS fighters. With over half the camp’s population under 12 years old, the challenge of reintegrating these individuals and fighters into their home countries looms large. The situation creates concerns that any reduction in support for the Kurdish-led SDF or US troop withdrawals could destabilize the region and revive ISIS.


  1. Iran Mourns Revolutionary Guard Leader Killed in Deir ez-Zor Strike
    Revolutionary Guard commander Behrouz Wahidi was honored in a funeral at the Sayyida Zainab shrine in Damascus, following his death in an airstrike in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. Mourners chanted anti-American slogans, blaming the U.S. for the attack, though the Pentagon denied any involvement in airstrikes in Syria that night. 
  2. Airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor Result in 49 Casualties
    Airstrikes targeting areas in Deir ez-Zor and al-Bukamal under Syrian government control have resulted in 18 deaths, including a Syrian engineer working for the World Health Organization, and an Iranian Revolutionary Guard member. Iran’s embassy in Damascus and the IRNA news agency attributed the attack to Israel. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified the deceased Iranian as a colonel and communications center advisor. Additionally, 31 individuals were injured, comprising 21 affiliated with Iranian groups and 10 civilians.
  3. Renewed Attacks in Syrian Desert Raise Death Toll Among Truffle Gatherers
    Over 110 truffle gatherers have been killed in Syria’s desert regions since the season began. Syrian state media and local sources report these incidents, highlighting the dangers in areas still littered with mines and targeted by militants, including presumed Iranian militias. Despite the Assad regime’s warnings against venturing into unsafe desert areas, the lucrative truffle season, with prices reaching up to 400,000 Syrian pounds per kilo, attracts many. However, land mines and militant attacks pose a significant threat.
  4. Iranian-Syrian Economic Exchange Hits a Low Point
    Despite expectations of a booming economic partnership, trade between Iran and Syria has significantly declined, with Iran expressing dissatisfaction over unmet trade expectations. A total trade value of $250 million out of Syria’s $5 billion imports falls short of Iran’s aspirations and reflects unfulfilled agreements and logistical issues. This downturn in economic relations contrasts starkly with the strong political and military alliance between the two countries.
  5. Bahrain Invites Assad to Arab Summit in Manama
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has received an official invitation from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to attend the 33rd session of the Arab League Summit in Manama, Bahrain, on May 16. This marks Assad’s second Arab League summit participation since 2010, signaling a thawing of relations with some Arab states. Following a period of diplomatic isolation due to Syria’s internal conflict, Bahrain and other Arab countries are gradually resuming ties with Damascus.


  1. 8 Killed in Israeli Airstrikes in Southern Lebanon; Hizballah Fires Dozen of Rockets on Israel An Israeli airstrike in the border town of Naqoura, southern Lebanon, killed three, while another attack in Tayr Harfa claimed five lives. In response, Hezbollah launched a barrage of rockets at Kiryat Shmona, killing a 25-year-old worker in Kiryat Shmona’s industrial area. The Israeli emergency service confirmed the death following the attack, which involved over 30 rockets.

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