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Syria Today – Conflict in Lebanon Displaces Syrians; U.S. Base Under Attack

Your daily-brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Conflict in Lebanon Displaces Syrians; U.S. Base Under Attack

The simmering conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has upended life in much of southern Lebanon, including for Syrian refugees who lived and worked near the border but are now displaced with few resources and few people willing to take them in, The Washington Post reported.

For months, the Israeli military and Hezbollah fighters have traded strikes, killing civilians and combatants in both Israel and Lebanon, as tensions have flared over the Gaza war. In northern Israel, more than 60,000 people have been displaced, according to the prime minister’s office, many of them living in hotels or rentals across Israel. In southern Lebanon, the fighting has displaced more than 95,000 people, according to the International Organization for Migration, and damaged homes and the farmland where many Syrians worked as day laborers.

The plight of Syrian refugees was already dire in Lebanon. The country has grappled for years with an economic crisis, which has hardened resentment toward the more than 1.5 million Syrians who took refuge in Lebanon after the start of the 2011 Syrian civil war. Now conditions are worsening, as fear of a potential war with Israel looms.

Politicians and media outlets have called for mass deportations of Syrians and tighter rules around the ability of refugees to move within the country, even as they flee dangerous conditions in the south. Vigilantes have attacked Syrians in the streets of Beirut and other cities, and local authorities have imposed rental restrictions, curfews and other strict legal requirements on Syrians residing in their jurisdictions, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

US Base in Syria Comes Under Attack After Months of Relative Calm

A drone aiming for a US military base in Syria’s Al-Tanf was intercepted and destroyed on Saturday, months after Iran-backed militants suspended such attacks following the deaths of three US troopers in an attack on a nearby base, Iran International reported.

The Al-Tanf base, located within a 55-kilometer exclusion zone at the convergence of the Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi borders, engaged its air defenses after the drone ventured in from the east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday.

The incident occurred less than 24 hours after airstrikes that hit an Iranian-backed militia in the Al Bukamal area near the Syrian-Iraqi border, reportedly killing one and injuring two militants.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the drone attack on the US base, such assaults are typically claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Tehran-backed militants.

The ongoing strikes underscore the escalating tension between US forces and Iranian-supported groups in the region.

The groups have been criticized for their recklessness, which led to a regional flare-up in January when a drone strike by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq killed three US troops in a US base in Jordan, close to the one in Al-Tanf.

The breach of several regional and US red lines prompted a response involving a series of US airstrikes across Iraq and Syria.

The risk of escalation became so serious that the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force made a trip to Baghdad to instruct the factions to reduce their attacks, according to Iranian and Iraqi sources who spoke to Reuters.

Following the intervention, there was a temporary cessation of attacks on US forces. However, after a brief period of calm, the focus of the attacks shifted towards Israel.

Thousands of Iran-backed fighters offer to join Hezbollah in its fight against Israel

AP reports that thousands of fighters from Iran-backed groups in the Middle East are ready to come to Lebanon to join the militant Hezbollah group in its battle with Israel if the simmering conflict escalates into a full-blown war, officials with Iran-backed factions and analysts say.

Almost daily exchanges of fire have occurred along Lebanon’s frontier with northern Israel since fighters from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip staged a bloody assault on southern Israel in early October that set off a war in Gaza.

The situation to the north worsened this month after an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Hezbollah military commander in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah retaliated by firing hundreds of rockets and explosive drones into northern Israel.

Israeli officials have threatened a military offensive in Lebanon if there is no negotiated end to push Hezbollah away from the border.

Over the past decade, Iran-backed fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan fought together in Syria’s 13-year conflict, helping tip the balance in favour of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Officials from Iran-backed groups say they could also join together again against Israel.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech Wednesday that militant leaders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries have previously offered to send tens of thousands of fighters to help Hezbollah, but he said the group already has more than 100,000 fighters.

“We told them, thank you, but we are overwhelmed by the numbers we have,” Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah said the battle in its current form is using only a portion of Hezbollah’s manpower, an apparent reference to the specialized fighters who fire missiles and drones.

After ISIS bombs, an urgent call to preserve an ancient Syrian temple

The Temple of Bel stands in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, adjoining a desert oasis with palm trees and bountiful water. Constructed in the first two centuries of the Common Era, the temple served for nearly two thousand years as a sanctuary for locals and as a site of significant archaeological interest. In 2015, the temple was destroyed by ISIS explosives.

In “The Future of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra after its Destruction,” a new paper from the Bulletin of the American Society of Overseas Research, authors Maamoun Abdulkarim and Jacques Seigne argue for the urgent need to intervene in the restoration of the temple and to facilitate the return of the Palmyrene population, in order to ensure this World Heritage site’s enduring existence.

The Temple of Bel was built on an ancient tell and consecrated to a Mesopotamian god. The central cella structure stands in a courtyard, surrounded by Corinthian columns. During the temple’s long history, the building was variously used as a church, and then a mosque, before being converted into a residential shelter, which was its function through the early 20th century.

Director Waad Al-Kateab’s ‘Death Without Mercy’ Recounts Horror Of 2023 Turkey-Syria Earthquake 

Deadline published a report on Waad Al-Kateab’s new documentary.

“Death Without Mercy,” directed by Waad Al-Kateab, recounts the devastating impact of the February 2023 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which killed over 55,000 people and caused massive destruction. The film, produced by MTV Documentary Films and premiered at Sheffield DocFest, captures the immediate and long-term aftermath of the quake, highlighting poor construction practices and inadequate rescue efforts that exacerbated the tragedy.

Al-Kateab, who has lived in London since fleeing Syria, was inspired to document the disaster after witnessing its impact on the region where millions of Syrians had sought refuge. The film includes footage from survivors, CCTV, and drones, showing the scale of destruction and the human suffering that followed. Al-Kateab criticizes the inadequate response from the UN and the Turkish government, as well as the systemic corruption and negligence in building regulations that led to many buildings collapsing.

The documentary also explores the emotional and psychological toll on the survivors, questioning whether true accountability or justice can ever be achieved. Al-Kateab stresses the importance of remembering the disaster and addressing the ongoing risks of future earthquakes, urging viewers to take action to prevent similar tragedies. “Death Without Mercy” aims to bring global awareness to the earthquake’s impact and the need for systemic changes to ensure safer living conditions.

Moscow’s Syria ?

Diane Francis, in her article “Moscow’s Syria,” published in Kyiv Post, highlights the implications of Russia’s involvement in Syria, describing it as a cautionary tale with far-reaching consequences for the Mediterranean and Europe. 

Russian forces have maintained a presence in Syria for years, supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and transforming the country into a failed state and a staging ground for Moscow’s military and geopolitical strategies. The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, resulted in over 600,000 deaths and the largest refugee crisis in the world, with millions of Syrians displaced.

Russian military bases in Syria have been used to train and recruit terrorists and soldiers, affecting regional stability. Ukrainian forces, with Syrian rebels, recently targeted Russian mercenaries in the Golan Heights to disrupt these activities. This covert operation underscores the ongoing collaboration between Ukrainians and the Syrian opposition against a common adversary.

The article details how Syria has become a hub for Russian weapons testing and a source of trained militants for various conflicts, including the Ukraine war. Additionally, Syria’s government has turned into a major drug producer, with the stimulant Captagon financing terrorism and regional violence.

Francis warns that Moscow’s unchecked actions in Syria could destabilize the Mediterranean and Europe, suggesting that the West needs to remain vigilant and address the broader implications of Russia’s military strategies and their global impact.

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