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Syria Today – Belarus to Send Troops, Jordanian Airstrike on Southern Syria; Syrian Student Arrested in Ohio

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Belarus to Send Troops, Jordanian Airstrike on Southern Syria; Syrian Student Arrested in Ohio

AP reported that Belarus plans to deploy up to 200 troops to Syria to serve alongside Russian forces in the country, according to a Russian government document released Monday, a move strongly condemned by Belarus’ opposition leader.

A draft agreement between Russia and its ally Belarus endorsed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says that the Belarusian troops will work to provide “humanitarian assistance” to the population outside combat zones.

The document, which is yet to be signed by the countries’ foreign and defence ministries, states that Belarusian troops will act under the operational control of the Russian military in Syria when deployed to the country.

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since 2015, teaming up with Iran to help Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government reclaim control over most of the country after a devastating civil war.

The planned deployment of Belarusian troops’ to Syria reflects increasingly close defence ties between the two ex-Soviet neighbours and allies.

An airstrike on southern Syria hits an alleged drug factory, causing damage but no casualties

An airstrike early Thursday hit an alleged drug factory in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, causing damage but there was no word on casualties, Syrian opposition activists said. They said the attack was believed to have been carried out by Jordan’s air force.

Quoted by AP, Jordan’s state media reported over the past weeks that several drones carrying drugs were shot down after crossing from Syria.

The Captagon industry has been a huge concern for Jordan, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, as hundreds of millions of pills have been smuggled over the years, where the drug is used recreationally and by people with physically demanding jobs to keep them alert.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an opposition activist who covers developments in southern Syria said the target was also used as a narcotics warehouse where smugglers would prepare and package illegal drugs before smuggling them across the southern border into Jordan.

Jordan has never confirmed nor denied conducting May’s airstrike but has said on several occasions that it would use force in its ongoing efforts to combat smuggling across the border. Neither Jordanian officials nor Jordanian state media have yet commented on Thursday’s strike.

The strike also comes as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries continue to work to rekindle ties with Damascus, after relegating Syria to a pariah state because of President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011. The uprising later turned into an all-out war, now in its 13th year, that splintered the country and killed over 300,000 civilians in the first decade, according to the United Nations.

OSU arrest led to humiliating 12-hour nightmare. Oppression reminded me of Syria.

Sumaya Hamadmad, an Ohio State University research scientist, recounts a distressing experience that echoed the oppressive realities she fled in Syria 24 years ago. During a peaceful protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestine at OSU, she was confronted by police demanding she vacate the area without clear justification. Despite her compliance and attempts to clarify the situation, the encounter escalated rapidly, resulting in her arrest along with 17 officers present.

The subsequent 12-hour ordeal in jail was a harrowing echo of the authoritarian practices she once escaped. Stripped of her religious rights, she faced humiliating treatment including being strip-searched and denied religious accommodations like her hijab and an iftar meal while fasting. The absence of basic privacy and the denial of a phone call to inform her family of her situation compounded her nightmare.

Reflecting on her advocacy for American values of freedom and democracy, both in her professional life and through personal initiatives, Hamadmad’s experience highlights a stark discrepancy between these ideals and her recent encounter with law enforcement. This incident has not only re-traumatized her but also strengthened her resolve to fight against any drift towards authoritarianism in America, a country she still holds as her last hope against such governance.

Syria to develop renewable energy projects to resolve electricity shortage: minister

In an interview with Xinhua on Monday, al-Zamel said the electricity sector has been battered by the 13-year-long war and Western sanctions, with direct and indirect losses estimated at 120 billion U.S. dollars.

“The significant losses and destruction have led to almost a collapse of the power system. We are trying to rebuild what has been destroyed,” he said.

The minister pointed out that the U.S. sanctions have a particularly devastating impact on the sector, leading to a power outage lasting two to four hours per day.

The limited power supplies created a ripple effect on all relevant sectors, including industry, healthcare, education, water supplies, etc., posing a challenge to Syria’s recovery from years of crisis, the minister added.

In a bid to ensure the electricity supplies and drag the country out of the aftermath of the war, “we are trying as much as possible to shift towards renewable energy,” al-Zamel said, noting that the ministry is outlining a strategy to introduce up to 2,500 megawatts of solar energy and 1,500 megawatts of wind power by 2030.

The minister said his ministry is seeking to allocate lands in the desert and its vicinity to establish alternative power stations, noting that “currently, there are 100 megawatts of solar power connected to the grid.”

He further revealed that Syria is working with “friendly countries” to develop renewable energy, expressing hope that wind power stations with capacities of 200 megawatts in the central province of Homs and other areas with wind potential “will be initiated soon.”

“We have a decent amount of projects underway,” he said, expecting the expansion of the scale of renewable energy projects in the coming years.

‘Ghost Trail’ Review: Revenge Is Served Cold In Jonathan Millet’s Icily Intelligent Syrian Drama – Cannes Film Festival

At the Cannes Film Festival, Damon Wise introduces “Ghost Trail,” a film that marks Jonathan Millet’s debut into narrative cinema, transcending the typical war story to probe the profound psychological effects of conflict. Set against a backdrop of chilling intelligence, the film follows Hamid, a Syrian expatriate portrayed by Adam Bessa, whose journey of revenge is as cold as it is complex. Beginning in the desolate Syrian desert after Hamid’s release from the infamous Sednaya prison in 2014, the story propels forward to Strasbourg in 2016. 

Here, Hamid, haunted by memories and driven by a deep-seated need for closure, seeks out Harfaz, the elusive former prison guard who once orchestrated his torture. Incorporating elements of spy thrillers like secret rendezvous and cryptic communications, “Ghost Trail” pivots towards the internal conflicts faced by Hamid, culminating in a crucial encounter that challenges his very reasons for seeking revenge. 

Directed by Millet, the film intricately weaves the visible marks of warfare with the invisible wounds of its survivors, offering a powerful critique of traditional revenge narratives and highlighting the enduring psychological impacts of war.

In his review for Damon Wise at Cannes Film Festival, “Ghost Trail” is described as Jonathan Millet’s fiction debut, which moves beyond typical war narratives to explore the deep-seated impacts of conflict on the human psyche. The film, characterized by its intelligence and chilly demeanor, delves into the complexities of revenge through the eyes of Hamid, a Syrian expatriate played by Adam Bessa.

Set initially in the Syrian desert post-Hamid’s release from the notorious Sednaya prison in 2014, the narrative fast-forwards to Strasbourg two years later, where Hamid now resides. The plot thickens as Hamid embarks on a haunting quest to locate Harfaz, a former guard at Sednaya responsible for torturing inmates, including Hamid. This pursuit is fueled by Hamid’s vivid memories of Harfaz, despite never seeing his face.

The film cleverly utilizes elements typical of spy thrillers—secret meetings, coded messages—but focuses more on the psychological battle waged within Hamid. His encounters in Strasbourg, especially a significant confrontation with Harfaz who has assimilated into normal life and urges Hamid to move on, force Hamid to confront his motivations and the efficacy of his quest for vengeance.

Millet’s direction is praised for not only crafting a narrative about the physical traces of war but also the emotional and psychological scars that dictate the actions of those displaced by conflict. “Ghost Trail” challenges the conventional revenge drama by providing a profound commentary on the enduring impact of war and the complex nature of human grief and resilience.

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