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Syria Today – Grant to State Employees; U.S. Bases Under Attack; House Hearing on Assad War Crimes

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Grant to State Employees; U.S. Bases Under Attack; House Hearing on Assad War Crimes

President Bashar al-Assad issued legislative decree no. /5/ for the year 2023, which stipulates disbursing a one-time financial grant with an amount of SYP 150,000 to all civilian and military state employees and pensioners.

The grant, according to SANA, will be exempted from income tax on wages and salaries and other deductions.

Assad used to order his government workers a grant on the occasion of the end of Ramadan Eid.

This year’s grant is equal to $20.00.

A Syria official told a local radio station that he does not believe there will be an immediate increase in salaries. However, he urges the government to explore alternative solutions, such as utilizing taxes, to benefit the state’s workers. Habza stresses that the government has been slow to address this issue.

“In recent times, we have witnessed an unjustifiable accumulation of wealth on the shoulders of both citizens and the country, due to rampant extortion and existing corruption. This has greatly worsened the situation, which we are striving to prevent,” the official told Melody FM

Mekdad meets with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Safety and Security Affairs

Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Dr. Faisal al-Mekdad, has met with the Assistant Secretary-General of UN for Safety and Security Affairs, Unaisi Lutu Vuniwaqa, SANA reported.

Mekdad underscored that the existing cooperation over the war years with the Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) and its representatives in Syria prevented UN crews from suffering from losses as a result of the criminal acts perpetrated by the terrorist groups.

Mikdad noted the importance of this visit in terms of conveying the developments in Syria, in particular news related to restoring stability and security in most regions, conveying the magnitude of the disaster caused by the earthquake, in addition to the importance of lifting the coercive embargo imposed by the US and the West.

Unaisi Vuniwaqa hailed the role played by the Syrian government in providing protection for the UN cadres operating in Syria, and to the UNDSS cadres in particular especially during the earthquake disaster which resulted in a better response, stressing their readiness to cooperate with the country in issues of mutual interest.

Damascus accuses the U.S. of “looting” new batch of Syrian oil

The U.S. forces have plundered new large quantities of Syrian oil from Syria al-Jazeera fields and transported them to their bases in Iraqi territory.

“A convoy belongs to U.S. occupation consisting of 77 vehicles, including 32 tanks filled with stolen oil from the Syrian fields, in addition to six military armoured vehicles headed through the illegitimate al-Walid crossing towards the US occupation bases in Iraqi territory.” local sources from al-Yarubiyah countryside told SANA reporter.

On March 25th, the U.S. occupation stole a convoy of 80 tanks loaded with Syrian oil from al-Jazeera fields and transported it to its bases in Iraq.

Turkish border guards arrest 16 Syrians crossing border

North Press reports that Turkish border guards arrested 16 Syrians, including women and children, while they were trying to cross to Turkey from Kherbet Eljoz west of Idleb, northwest Syria, as well as, two young men were wounded.

Local sources from the village of Kherbet Eljoz told North Press that the Turkish border guards are still arresting the civilians amid fear for their lives since three women, one of which is an elderly woman, and six children are among the arrested.

The sources added that the wounded young men were transferred to a hospital in Jisr al-Shughur.

They noted that the Turkish border guards “have increased their brutal practices” against residents who want to cross the border following the Feb. 6 earthquake. They also targeted farmers while working on their lands near the border.

Families of the arrested fear that the Turkish border guards harm them since Turkish human rights violations against Syrians have lately witnessed a surge, according to the sources.

Iranian militias attack U.S.-led coalition bases in eastern Syria

Two large military bases belonging to the U.S.-led global coalition in eastern Syria were targeted on Monday by Iranian militias, local sources have said.

Bases at the Conoco gas field and the Haql Al-Omar oil field in the Deir az-Zour countryside were hit by a missile launched on Monday evening by Iranian militias Ahd Salibi, a member of the Naher Media news group based in Deirezzor, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Salibi said that the Iranian militias were stationed in the desert town of Jadid Akidat but another media outlet reported that the missiles were likely launched from Hatla, a town closer to the base than Jadid Akidat.

Coalition aircraft conducted military manoeuvres after the strike as well as several air raids on Iranian militia sites, Ahd Salibi told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

The Haql Al-Omar field is the largest of its kind and has a significant presence of US military personnel supporting Kurdish-led forces, who previously played a key role in the battle to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria.

The U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the attack caused no injuries or damage to the base or coalition property.

Civilians killed in Syria regime’s shelling of Idleb

The Syrian Civil Defence also known as White Helmets said a number of civilians, mainly children, were killed as a result of the Syrian regime and Russian shelling of residential neighbourhoods in the city of Sarmin, in Idleb’s eastern countryside.

The rescue group indicated a child was killed and four others, including an infant, were wounded, as a result of the regime and Russia targeting with four artillery shells, residential neighbourhoods in the city of Sarmin.

“One person was killed and four civilians, including two women, were wounded, on Thursday, March 23rd, the first day of the blessed month of Ramadan, as a result of artillery shelling by the regime forces and Russia, which targeted residential neighbourhoods and popular markets in the city of Atarib and the villages of Al-Abzimo and Al-Jina in Aleppo western countryside,” it added.

The group confirmed that, from the beginning of this year to April 8th, it had responded to about 110 attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia in northwestern Syria. The attacks killed four people, including a woman, and wounded 28 others, including ten children and six women.

Arab Countries Invited To Discuss Syria As Friction Eases

Nine Arab countries have been invited to discuss relations with Syria in Saudi Arabia this week, the Qatari foreign ministry said Tuesday, as efforts mount to reduce Damascus’s long isolationو Agence France-Presse reported.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — and ministers from Egypt, Iraq and Jordan are due to meet in Jeddah on Friday, foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said.

“The main objective is to discuss the situation in Syria,” he told a briefing.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, diplomatically isolated since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, has visited the UAE and Oman over the past two months.

Saudi Arabia announced last month that it has started talks with Damascus about resuming consular services.

Syria was expelled from the Arab League over the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests that unleashed the war.

An Arab League summit is expected to be held in Riyadh in May.

Kuwaiti Al-Jarida also mentioned that Kuwait supports the return of the Syrian regime to its seat in the Arab League, indicating that an Arab meeting will be held to discuss this issue.

Diplomatic sources told the newspaper that Kuwait will support the decision taken by the Arab League regarding the regime’s return to its seat in the League.

House panel to explore Assad regime war crimes in hearing next week

A House subcommittee announced a hearing next week to explore alleged war crimes in Syria.

The hearing, which will be held on April 18, is set to evaluate United States policy toward Syria and comes as Syrian President Bashar Assad has made overtures to his disgruntled neighbours in an attempt to reassert his footing on the world stage.

“The Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia will convene a hearing entitled, ’12 Years of Terror: Assad’s War Crimes and U.S. Policy for Seeking Accountability in Syria,'” the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced.

Witnesses for the hearing include a former Syrian official known as “the Grave Digger,” Joel Rayburn, former special envoy to Syria, and Jonathan Lord, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

Op-ed: the Syrian opposition has vanished

Omar Qadour, a Syrian activist and writer, has discussed in the Lebanese newspaper al-Modon the recent normalization efforts towards Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two countries that had previously sponsored the opposition. According to the author, these efforts could benefit Assad by devaluing the opposition and weakening their negotiating position. The article also criticizes the Syrian opposition for its lack of effectiveness and argues that the opposition’s failure to engage in politics has contributed to its marginalization. Qadour suggests that the opposition needs to provide a viable alternative to Assad and engage in organized political activity to prevent him from gaining further power.

Qadour concludes that Assad will gain more power sooner or later in the complete absence of the opposition and without a viable alternative. He acknowledges that the question about the alternative has often been used maliciously but asserts that it is the opposition’s responsibility to provide a deeper understanding. The alternative, according to Qadour, is an organized experience of “or more” that first enjoys a minimum level of respect among Syrians and proves that it is not chaos or nothingness. The alternative is not meant to be a substitute for Syrians choosing their representatives in democratic conditions in the future. Instead, it is meant to support the democratic choice whenever it becomes possible and to send a message to the international community about the eligibility of Syrians, which hinders decision-making on their behalf and in their absence. Qadour acknowledges that this is a challenging task but emphasizes that doing nothing is always the easier option.

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