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Syria Today – HTS Continues Internal Purge; 13 Opposition Fighters Killed in Attack

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – HTS Continues Internal Purge; 13 Opposition Fighters Killed in Attack

On Sunday, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as al-Nusra, apprehended three of its members, including an Afghan leader, in the city of Idleb in northwestern Syria. These individuals face charges of espionage on behalf of foreign entities. Meanwhile, in northern Syria on Monday, a Kurdish-led group launched an assault on opposition fighters supported by Turkey, resulting in the reported deaths of at least 13 militants, according to activists.

Iran proposes action plan for Turkish troops’ withdrawal from Syria

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said yesterday that Tehran had proposed an action plan regarding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria, the Middle east Monitor reported.

“We proposed that Turkiye commits, first, to withdrawing its military forces from Syrian territory, and second, that Syria commits to deploying its forces on the border so that Turkish territory is not threatened,” Abdollahian said, according to Russia’s Sputnik news agency.

Abdollahian stressed that both Iran and Russia will be guarantors in this agreement.

On Saturday, a Turkish air strike targeted two cars of militants loyal to the US army in the northern Aleppo countryside near the Turkish border.

The Sputnik correspondent in eastern Syria reported that a group from the US- backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including three fighters from the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the SDF’s female wing, were killed in the Turkish air strike.

Attack on Turkish-backed opposition fighters in Syria kills 13, activists say

A Kurdish-led force attacked Turkish-backed opposition fighters in northern Syria on Monday, killing at least 13 of the militants, activists said, according to the Associated Press.

The opposition activists blamed the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces for carrying out the assault, though the U.S.-backed group did not claim responsibility.

Turkey says Syria’s main Kurdish militia is allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that has led an insurgency against Turkey since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands of people.

Turkey since 2016 has conducted three major incursions into northern Syria to clear areas under Kurdish control and create a buffer zone near its border. Since then, the two groups have routinely clashed, while Turkey has also conducted airstrikes and drone attacks on targets in Kurdish-controlled areas.

According to opposition activists, SDF forces tried to infiltrate the opposition-controlled city of Tal Battal in northern Aleppo province, attacking positions belonging to Turkish-backed militants and the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al Sham.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based opposition war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the death toll was at 14. According to the Observatory, mines exploded during the attack that took place at dawn.

The SDF has been the main U.S. ally in Syria in the campaign against the Islamic State group that was defeated on the battlefield in the war-torn country in March 2019.

The U.S. has some 900 troops in eastern Syria backing SDF forces in targeting militant Islamic State group sleeper cells.

Belfast: Racist attacks to force Syrian businessman to move shop

The BBC reports that a businessman whose new Belfast grocery store was subjected to four racially-motivated attacks in two weeks has said he will move his business.

Ahmad Alkhamran came to Northern Ireland from Syria seven years ago, fleeing the war, and worked to earn enough money to open his own store.

But his shop on Belfast’s Donegall Road was set on fire in an arson attack on Sunday evening.

Residents living in flats above the business had to be led to safety.

Police said Sunday’s attack was the fourth incident at the same premises within the past fortnight and they are treating them all as racially-motivated hate crimes.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Mr Alkhamran said he could not understand why his shop had been targeted.

“It’s disappointing but we will keep going and hope to open the business somewhere else, but not here,” he said.

“I believe love will win, not racists.”

He explained that he worked as a taxi driver after he arrived in Northern Ireland and had been saving his wages to start his own grocery business.

“I have worked for four months, the shop was to open next week.

“I have saved for seven years – in just a few minutes it was all gone.”

The blaze on the Donegall Road was reported at 21:25 BST on Sunday.

Mr Alkhamran said he and a friend had been working in the shop on Sunday evening to prepare for their opening, and they closed up at about 20:30 BST.

A short time later, he got a call from his landlord telling him the shop had been attacked again.

When he arrived at the scene, the emergency services were already helping residents in the flats above to safety.

“Thankfully [they] were not injured and we are extremely grateful for the quick actions of our officers and response from the fire service,” a police statement said.

Mr Alkhamran said his new store was badly damaged by the fire and much of his stock was ruined.

“Everything is damaged,” he added.

Syria’s Assad to visit China ‘in coming weeks’

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is to lead a high-level delegation for an official visit to China “in the coming weeks,” according to Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which cited unnamed Syrian officials, according to the MEMO.

“A high-ranking Syrian delegation is likely to visit the Chinese capital in the coming weeks to hold high-level meetings with Chinese officials to discuss the development of bilateral relations between the two countries,” the daily reported on Saturday.

“Al-Assad’s visit will constitute a strategic milestone in the course of Syrian-Chinese relations, and an additional strong dose of the Chinese role in the region,” the paper added.

The sources also said the visit will be “very important” as Al-Assad will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in an official ceremony.

Speculation surrounds the visit, as Damascus, while gradually emerging from regional and international isolation, continues to grapple with the impact of US sanctions and a partial military occupation.

The recent announcement of the Indian-Arab-Israeli-European Corridor, with US support, is believed to have spurred the Chinese into action, prompting them to reinvigorate their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plans.

Beijing is set to host a conference next month to mark the tenth anniversary of the plan’s announcement. Notably, Syria occupies a strategic position along one of the potential routes of the proposed economic corridor.

In 2004, Al-Assad became the first Syrian president to visit China since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1956.

In May 2023, Al-Assad praised Beijing’s supportive stance towards Damascus and its role in reconciliation efforts in the region. He made the remarks during his meeting with the visiting special envoy on Middle East affairs, Zhai Jun to the Syrian capital.

Syria’s Murshidis: Fair Treatment and Accusations of Heresy

A long report published by fanac.com delves into the history and characteristics of the Murshidiyya sect in Syria, shedding light on its emergence, development, religious beliefs, and societal impact. Here are the major ideas it discusses:

Emergence and Foundation of Murshidiyya: The Murshidiyya sect emerged in the 1920s in the Syrian coastal mountain region, particularly in areas bordering Latakia, Hama, and Homs. The sect’s founder, Salman al-Murshid, advocated for a moral and ethical approach to seeking God’s mercy. The movement aimed to free the community from the control of religious leaders and promote individual growth and collective beauty.

Challenges Faced by Murshidis: The Murshidiyya movement faced significant challenges, including opposition from the French Mandate government, which perceived it as a progressive religious faction. Salman al-Murshid was exiled and later executed in 1946. The movement continued to evolve through different phases after his death.

Unique Characteristics of Murshidiyya: Murshidiyya is characterized by its emphasis on inner spirituality, personal dialogue with God, and the prioritization of purity of the heart over strict adherence to administrative laws. The sect rejects religious authority, promotes equality among individuals, and places value on the purity of conscience.

Accusations of Heresy: The Murshidiyya sect faced accusations of heresy during its early history, especially under national rule until 1963. This resulted in limited academic research on the subject. Murshidiyya has often been associated with other denominations like the Alawites, which are viewed as heretical by Sunni Muslims.

Freedom and Women’s Rights: Murshidiyya advocates for total religious freedom and women’s rights. Women within the sect have the freedom to choose their life partners and pursue education and professions without coercion or pressure. The sect promotes equality between men and women.

Rituals and Holidays: Murshidiyya lacks a formal religious hierarchy or designated places and times for prayer. The core practice involves personal prayer with an emphasis on sincerity and intention. The sect celebrates the “Feast of Joy in God” on August 25th, marking the day of Mujib Salman’s call for Murshidiyya. This celebration lasts for three days and includes greetings emphasizing faith and happiness.

Contemporary Status: The Murshidis are estimated to number between 300,000 and 500,000 and primarily reside in specific regions of Syria. The sect refrains from engaging in missionary work and remains primarily a moral religious doctrine.

The report offers valuable insights into a lesser-known religious sect in Syria, highlighting its history, beliefs, and societal contributions. It also underscores the challenges and misconceptions that have shaped the perception of Murshidiyya over the years.

HTS arrests commander, 2 militants in Syria’s Idlib 

North Press reported that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly al-Nusra) arrested on Sunday three of its militants, one of them an Afghani leader, in the city of Idlib, northwestern Syria, under charges of espionage for foreign parties.

A military source within the HTS told North Press that the General Security Service (GSS) of the HTS raided the residence of the Afghani commander, aka Abu Omar Amaliyat, in the al-Sheikh Thelith neighborhood in Idlib.

The source added the GSS militants arrested the Afghani leader and a militant who was accompanying him. They were taken to one of the prisons near the city. At the same time, the GSS arrested Abu al-Zubeir, a security official who hails from the town of Shuhail in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor Governorate, eastern Syria, from his house in Idlib.

These arrests were carried out as part of HTS’ campaign to eliminate sleeper cells among its ranks. Since the beginning of 2023, the HTS has arrested more than 350 militants and commanders in its ranks under charges of espionage for foreign parties, according to the source.

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