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Syria Today – Droughts Sweeps Syria; Northwest Rallies in Support of Gaza Despite Assad’s Bombs

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

In response to the ongoing war, civilians in northwest Syria have swiftly mobilized, setting aside their own hardships and harsh circumstances to gather donations for Gaza. At the same time, a report indicated the escalating water shortage crisis in Syria, fueled by a significant decrease in water levels, the drying up of major water sources, and the destruction of water infrastructure due to ongoing conflict.

Syrian war crime survivors outraged at Assad’s welcome to Cop28: ‘Like inviting Nazis’

Survivors of chemical weapons attacks and relatives of those who disappeared by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime have shared their outrage that the red carpet is being rolled out for him at Cop28 in Dubai, The Independent reported.

Assad, who has visited the United Arab Emirates twice in the past year, has presided over a brutal and ongoing civil war leading to countless war crimes against his own people over the past 12 years.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and 14 million people displaced, half of Syria’s population, causing the world’s largest refugee crisis.

Assad has been sanctioned by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union. Earlier this month, France issued an arrest warrant for him over the alleged use of banned chemical weapons against civilians in Syria.

The further normalizing of Assad’s presence in the international climate has disgusted Syrians who have suffered devastating losses and harm.

Nevin Al-Mousa, whose brother Hamza Al-Mousa has not been seen since he was detained by Syrian authorities in 2014, said that inviting Assad to Cop28 is an “insult” to victims and survivors of Assad’s war crimes.

Inviting him is “like our lives don’t matter,” she told The Independent.

“Assad’s very presence at a summit on the future of our earth is absurd. It is an insult to the thousands who have lost their loved ones, and the millions who have fled their homeland,” she said.

“Assad has no place deciding the future of our planet when he has committed countless war crimes with impunity and continues to attack the Syrian people.”

Ms Mousa, an English teacher, was forced to flee her home in Hama City in 2013 with her mother after being accused of writing critically of Assad online.

“We had been threatened by the Syrian forces, my father was wanted and my brothers as well. Then they arrested one of my brothers who lived in Aleppo,” she said. Ms Mousa has been living in exile for the past decade.

Khaloud, a former journalist who declined to use her full name due to safety concerns, said her city was “fully besieged” by tanks in 2011 when she was forced to flee the country.

“I was part of planning and organizing the peaceful demonstrations,” she said.

Khaloud’s 21-year-old brother, who she did not wish to name, was arrested by Syrian government forces in 2012.

“The regime forces broke into my home and they forcefully detained my brother. They threatened my mom that they would chop him into pieces when they took him downstairs,” she recalled.

To this day, his family does not know if he is alive.

The wound is one: Northwest Syria rallies to aid Gaza despite Assad’s bombs

It has been nearly two months since Israel launched its war on Gaza, and there is no end in sight. Less than 48 hours after they had launched the most ferocious onslaught ever on the trapped Gazan population, the Israeli army had also banned the entry of fuel, food and water into the besieged enclave, The New Arab reported.

In response, civilians in northwest Syria have swiftly mobilized, setting aside their own hardships and harsh circumstances to gather donations for Gaza.

“No one can understand what they are going through, the terror of the bombing, better than us”

Rich and poor of all ages have responded to the call for donations, many of which have been issued through local mosques and have raised thousands of dollars.

This is despite a savage bombing campaign which has been carried out on Idleb since October and is ongoing – waged by the Syrian regime and Russia – which has left dozens dead and wounded and caused 200,000 to flee their homes for safety.

‘Our hearts are with Gaza’

“Our prayers and our hearts are with the people of Gaza. No one can understand what they are going through, the terror of the bombing, better than us – who suffered and are still suffering from the bombing of Assad’s regime and his allies,” says 41-year-old Bakr al-Murshid, an IDP (internally displaced person) who lives in the Kah Camp in northern Idleb.

He adds that his home in Hass village was bombed by Assad’s warplanes — one of his sons was killed before the family fled to the camps in the north almost five years ago.

“The enemy is one and the wound is one. Assad’s gangs and those of the Israeli occupier are on one side. They are killers and criminals who don’t differentiate when killing innocents — between man, woman, child or elderly,” Bakr added. 

Despite his poverty, lack of work, and the daily struggles he and his family face in the camp, Bakr donated some of the food they receive monthly from aid organizations in northern Syria — consisting of a few kilos of rice, bulgar wheat, macaroni and various tinned foods — to the camp mosque for the Gazan people.

“Syrians in camps across the region — women, children, men and elderly — flooded to the mosques to offer donations”

And Bakr isn’t the only one. Syrians in camps across the region — women, children, men and elderly — flooded to the mosques to offer donations. This was after a call was issued by the Palestine Relief and Development Agency, a voluntary organization operating in Syria that aims to serve the Palestinian community in Syria by increasing its resources and developing its capacity.

Eight-year-old Maha al-Bakour is rushing to get to the mosque in Murak camp in Deir Hassan village, Idlib province. She says she wants to donate her weekly allowance, five Turkish lira, to Gaza, because of the tragedies she is seeing children suffering on social media.

Turkey’s attacks threaten Christians in Syria – Syriac AANES official

North Press quoted a Syriac official in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) as saying that the ongoing Turkish escalation poses a threat to the existence of Christians in Syria,

Nazira Gawriya, co-chair of the Syriac Union Party, made the remarks during a dialogue session organized by the German Orient Institute on Northeast Syria. The session was attended by the co-chair of the Foreign Relations Department of the AANES, Badran Chia Kurd, and the institute’s director Andreas Reinicke.

The Syriac Union Party is a political party and founding member and participant in the AANES. All the Syrian communities including the Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Assyrians, and Turkmen take part and play a role in the institutions of the AANES.  

Gawriya stressed that the Syriac people face the danger of ISIS’ return, which is possible at any time if Turkey continues to attack our areas while the international community remains hesitant to provide the necessary support for the AANES.

She added that ISIS’ threat increases the displacement of the original people, especially Christians, and this is unacceptable. She further explained that they want the Syriac people to remain in their land rather than be forced to immigrate because the international community is not serious about deterring global terrorist organizations.

Many States Worldwide Must Bring Cases Against the Syrian Regime Before the ICC Over the Regime’s Repeated Violations of the CWC

The report issued by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) titled “29 Morally Bankrupt Governments, Headed by Russia, Voted Against the OPCW’s Resolutions,” focuses on the international response to the Syrian regime’s repeated violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Key points from this report include:

The Syrian regime is reported to have carried out 184 chemical attacks since it ratified the CWC in September 2013. These violations are acknowledged by various domestic, international, and UN bodies.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has adopted 10 decisions aimed at eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons program and holding those responsible accountable. The report outlines these decisions and notes that 29 governments, led by Russia, voted against one or more of these resolutions. This opposition is seen as a form of support for the Syrian regime’s continued use of chemical weapons.

The report describes the states that voted against the OPCW’s resolutions as having common traits such as dictatorial governance, opposition to fundamental human rights, and in some cases, strong allegiance to Russia and Iran, the main allies of the Syrian regime.

The SNHR report emphasizes the need for stronger action by the international community, including the UN General Assembly, to address the issue. It suggests that democratic and liberal states should form an alliance to uphold international law if the UN General Assembly fails to act effectively.

The report underscores the importance of the OPCW’s work in Syria, considering it as one of the most significant tasks since the organization’s establishment. It suggests modifications to the OPCW’s voting mechanism to include civil society organizations, particularly those focusing on chemical weapons.

The report advocates for action against the Syrian regime at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its violations of the CWC. It also mentions the precedent of Canada and The Netherlands bringing a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over violations of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Overall, the report by the SNHR highlights the ongoing challenge of addressing the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the need for concerted international efforts to hold those responsible accountable and to prevent further such atrocities.

Drought sweeps Syria: Water war is coming

Syrian Enab Baladi published a long report on the drought in Syria. The report dated 28 November 2023, provides an in-depth analysis of the escalating water shortage crisis in Syria. The crisis is characterized by a significant decrease in water levels, the drying up of major water sources, and the destruction of water infrastructure due to ongoing conflict. The situation is exacerbated by the political and military use of water as a tool by various parties in the conflict, which has been ongoing since the Syrian revolution in 2011.

The Global Conflict Risk Index (GCRI) for 2022 identifies Syria as highly vulnerable to drought in the Mediterranean region. The United Nations warns of increasing drought severity and length, making access to safe drinking water a challenge for millions in Syria. The country, already under high water stress, uses over 80% of its renewable water supply, leaving it susceptible to short-term droughts.

The report details the effects of the crisis across various Syrian regions, emphasizing the impact on both the civilian population and the environment. In regime-controlled areas, corruption, sabotage, and fuel shortages have led to the drying up of key water sources, such as Lake Muzayrib and Lake Zayzoun. The situation is dire in Damascus and its suburbs, with residents heavily reliant on tanker water amidst rising prices and concerns about water quality.

The article further highlights the plight in other regions, including Idleb, Aleppo, and the Jazeera region. Critical water sources like the Euphrates River and Lake Assad have seen drastic reductions in water levels, affecting agriculture, livestock, and daily life. In northeastern Syria, the drying up of rivers like the Khabur and the pollution of others like the Afrin River have created severe water scarcity and health hazards.

The report underscores the use of water as a strategic weapon in the conflict. For instance, the Syrian regime has been accused of manipulating water flow for political and military gains, causing flooding and water scarcity in opposition-controlled areas. Similarly, Turkey faces accusations of reducing water flow from the Euphrates, affecting millions dependent on it.

The crisis has significant implications for the agricultural sector, with a decrease in irrigated land and a threat to agricultural productivity. The situation is further complicated by factors like soil salinity and mismanagement of water resources.

The article concludes with a warning that the water crisis in Syria could lead to further conflict and displacement if not addressed urgently. It suggests the need for a strategic approach to water resource management, involving local and international efforts to assess the situation, develop solutions, and secure necessary support and funding.

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