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Syria Today – Gallant Threatens Syria; Protests Continue in Suweida Despite Violence; Cotton Crop in Danger

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Gallant Threatens Syria; Protests Continue in Suweida Despite Violence; Cotton Crop in Danger

On Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant made an apparent reference to alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria that took place on Wednesday. He remarked, “Last night, we received further confirmation that in the State of Israel, the roar of our planes is louder than any other background noise.” Simultaneously, Syrian regime forces used force against protesters in Suweida on Wednesday, injuring at least three individuals. This marks the first instance of the regime resorting to violence in the region since protests began in the southern province in early August. Nevertheless, the protests continue unabated. Additionally, the country is facing a threat to its precious cotton crop due to the spread of the Spodoptera littoralis moth.

Gallant after Syria strikes: ‘Proof thunder of Israel’s jets is loudest’

At least two Syrian soldiers were killed in suspected Israeli airstrikes that hit military positions on Syria’s coast, Al-Monitor and local media reported. 

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, cited a military source saying that Israel had fired a series of rockets from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday afternoon, targeting a number of air defense sites in the Tartus countryside.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors events in Syria through a wide network of sources in the country, said the attack targeted two weapons depots belonging to the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia. It confirmed the death of the two soldiers and added that an unidentified allied fighter had also been killed. Eight were injured.

According to SOHR sources, the strikes came one day after a Hezbollah convoy carrying weapons entered Syria from Lebanon via unofficial crossings and stored the weapons at the targeted warehouses in Tartus.

Later on Wednesday, SANA reported another round of Israeli missiles fired from Lebanese airspace that hit military sites in the Hama countryside, causing only material damage. The SOHR said the scientific research center in Taqsis village was targeted.

Meanwhile, opposition-affiliated media said the evening strikes had hit the Shuairat military airport, southeast of central Homs province, a claim government media have denied.

Israel has carried out hundreds of precision strikes against suspected Iran-linked  targets in Syria throughout the conflict there, but rarely admits doing so. The SOHR has documented 27 attacks by Israeli forces in Syria so far this year.

Last month, Israeli strikes hit the Aleppo International Airport, briefly forcing its closure. Israel has repeatedly targeted airports and seaports in regime-controlled areas of Syria in an effort to halt the movement of Iranian-supplied weapons to the Islamic Republic’s proxies in the region, including Hezbollah. 


Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant appeared on Thursday to reference alleged Israeli airstrikes which targeted sites in Syria on Wednesday, stating “last night we received another proof, that in the State of Israel the thunder of the planes is louder than all the other background noises.”

“In the end what matters is the performance, not the talk,” said Gallant at a pre-Rosh Hashanah toast with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the General Staff Forum.

The targeted project, known as Project 99, is located at a branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) near Tal Qartal, south of Hama, according to Alma. 

Syrian reports indicated that the Shayrat Airbase in the Homs region was also targeted during the strikes near Hama, with the Syrian Sawt al-Asima news site reporting that the airbase was partially evacuated and a state of alert was activated. The Shayrat airbase is frequently used by Russian forces stationed in the country.

According to the Capital Voice, the strikes targeted military sites where Iranian weapons and military equipment that had recently arrived in Syria were being stored. According to the report, Syrian air defenses did not respond to the strike.

The strikes near Hama came just hours after an alleged Israeli airstrike targeted Syrian air defense bases near Tartous in a rare daytime strike.

Protests continue in Suweida despite Syrian regime forces firing for the first time

Syrian regime forces shot and injured at least three protesters in Suweida on Wednesday, 14 September, marking the first time the regime has employed violence against the area since protests started in the southern province in early August, New Arab reported.

Demonstrators have occupied the main square of Suweida city, al-Karama Square, for over four weeks, calling for the downfall of the Syrian regime and an improvement in economic conditions.

The Syrian regime has generally ignored the protests in the Druze-majority province while violently suppressing them in other areas, such as the neighbouring province of Daraa.

On Wednesday, protesters headed towards the ruling Baath party headquarters in Suweida when armed men stationed on the roof began to shoot at them, resulting in light injuries.

Videos posted by local outlet Suweida 24 showed men, one in military fatigues, on the roof of the building pointing rifles at demonstrators.

“[After the shooting] there was anger in the street, but we tried to calm it. Protesters gathered and agreed to continue their protests in a peaceful manner,” Ma’an al-Khadaj, an activist in Suweida, told The New Arab.

Khadaj further explained that the shooting represented an attempt by the regime escalate what have so far been peaceful protests to justify the further use of violence.

But the street understands its games and will adhere to peacefulness until the end,” Lana Aswad, a human rights activist in Suweida, told TNA.

Aswad said the use of violence would not deter her or other protesters from continuing their demonstrations.

“Since we came out and demanded the overthrow of the regime, we have forgotten fear and put it behind us. We will never back down,” Aswad said.

What happens next?

Demonstrators in Suweida say their goal is to help spread protests across regime-held Syria to spur a political change in the country’s leadership.

However, as of yet, sustained protests have not taken root, besides sporadic demonstrations in Daraa.

Activism in other regime-held areas have mainly manifested in the distribution of political leaflets and anonymous dissent online.

Security forces have fired on protesters in Daraa and arrested activists for Facebook posts in areas typically thought of as friendly to the regime, such as the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous.

Inside Suweida itself, protests continue to intensify and deepen, prompting worry among some activists that the regime will increasingly resort to violence.

“It appears as if the regime is exhausted, it doesn’t have any other option besides violence. In the end, the Syrian regime is known for violence … the regime will not have any real hesitation to kill people,” Rayan Maarouf, the editor of Suweida 24, told TNA.

Russia disrupts Wagner in Syria as Moscow tries to subsume group’s operation

Russia’s ministry of defense reportedly disrupted a Wagner Group forces rotation’s plane from landing in Syria, amid reports of the ministry trying to subsume the mercenary group’s operations in Syria, Al-Arabiya reported.

The Russian ministry of defense blocked Wagner forces from rotating personnel from Africa through the Hmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia, according to the Telegram channel affiliated with Wagner Grey Zone.

“Wagner, after being banned from flying through Hmeimim and the cancellation of permits from the Russian Foreign Ministry, agreed with the Syrian Ministry of Defense and arranged flights for rotation to Africa, through the Syrian Tiyas military airbase,” Grey Zone reported on Telegram.

It added: “As the plane took off, Russian helicopters were raised into the air, and fire trucks were driven onto the runway to prevent it from landing.” This prompted Wagner forces to negotiate with the Syrian ministry of defense to rotate through the Tiyas airbase in Homs instead. But “the Syrians were told that if this plane lands, fire will be opened on it.”

Additionally, a Kremlin-affiliated military blogger said the Russian ministry of defense used vehicles on the runway to prevent a Wagner plane from landing at the Tiyas airbase on September 12, and then deployed helicopters threatening to shoot down the Wagner plane.

Grey Zone said: “At Wagner’s HQ, they said that if this plane was shot down, then Wagner in Libya would strike the ministry of defense’s base in response. But at the last moment, the leadership of Wagner in Syria got through to [Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Yunus-Bek] Yevkurov and the order was canceled, and the plane landed.”

According to Grey Zone, the plane was carrying 170 Syrians on board and Wagner contractors who were flying home after a contract in Libya.

Cotton crop in Northeast Syria to fade

Hussein Muhammad Kheleif, 50, inspected his cotton crop, especially after the spread of the Spodoptera littoralis which has caused significant damage this year, North Press reports.

Kheleif, a farmer in the countryside of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, expresses his frustration because of the low production and poor quality due to the impact of Spodoptera littoralis.

Although he sprays insecticides to eliminate the worm every 10 to 15 days, all of that has been of no use in combating it.

The farmer faces a set of challenges in cotton farming including securing diesel fuel to operate the generator and irrigate the crop, which requires a lot of effort and time to obtain.

The farmer considers harvesting the remaining crop 20 days before the scheduled harvest date to avoid further losses. “If we manage to get benefit from half of the crop this year, it will be a blessing by God”, he told North Press.

Cotton is one of the most important crops in Syria, with a significant focus on its cultivation in northeastern Syria, especially in the Euphrates Valley, where it has the largest acreage.

According to farmers, the cotton planting period usually begins in early April and continues until late November, when it is harvested and packed in nylon bags.

“Cotton production this year is very low compared to previous years, especially since the prices of all agricultural inputs have multiplied”, Ahmad Mousa, a farmer from the village of Nasran in the countryside of Qamishli, told North Press.

“We buy everything in USD, including diesel fuel, fertilizers, and agricultural medicine. All their prices depend on the exchange rate of the USD, which has witnessed a significant increase, and this affects us”, he said.

Back from the dead: Desperately searching for Syria’s missing prisoners 

Veteran journalist Lina Sinjab published a long report on BBC, “Back from the dead: Desperately searching for Syria’s missing prisoners,” in which she highlights the harrowing and tragic situation faced by the families of individuals who have disappeared in Syria’s prison system during more than a decade of civil conflict. Here’s an analysis of the key points:

Disappearance of Thousands: The article discusses how thousands of people have disappeared within Syria’s prison system, leaving their families in anguish. These individuals were often arrested arbitrarily or for political reasons during the Syrian civil war.

Desperate Search: Families of the missing individuals are left in a desperate situation, resorting to paying large sums of money to middlemen, government officials, and security forces for any information about their loved ones. This search for information becomes an emotional and financial burden on these families.

Middlemen and Deception: Many of the payments made by these families are to middlemen who claim to have connections with or work for the Syrian authorities. The article exposes the prevalence of deception in this process, with families paying substantial amounts for information that often turns out to be false.

Release Through Payments: The article presents the story of individuals who were detained for years and only released after their families paid significant sums of money. In some cases, this money is used to secure the release of loved ones from prison, highlighting the corruption within the Syrian prison system.

Advocacy and Assistance: The UN General Assembly recently adopted a resolution to establish an independent institution to find information about missing persons in Syria. Additionally, organizations like the Association of Detainees and Missing in Seydnaya Prison (ADMSP) have emerged to assist families in their search efforts.

Financial Toll: The financial toll on these families is immense. The article reports that between 2011 and 2020, families paid an estimated $900 million in their quest to find information about their missing relatives. Some families even had to sell their homes to make these payments.

Corruption and Bribery: The article suggests that corruption and bribery are deeply embedded in the Syrian regime, with various individuals, including security forces and government officials, benefiting from the payments made by desperate families.

Emotional Impact: The article also highlights the emotional impact on the families, who continue to hold on to hope despite facing immense challenges. They often keep photographs and memories of their missing loved ones as a form of solace.

In summary, this article sheds light on the heartbreaking and complex situation faced by families searching for missing loved ones in Syria. It highlights the exploitation, deception, and corruption that often accompany such searches, as well as the financial and emotional toll it takes on those left behind.

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