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Syria Today – ISIS Targets SDF; UN Calls for “New Dynamic” in Syria; Iran Launches Military Campaign

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – ISIS Targets SDF; UN Calls for “New Dynamic” in Syria; Iran Launches Military Campaign

A commander from a Kurdish-led force and Syrian regime personnel were killed earlier this week in attacks in Syria blamed on the Islamic State (IS) group.

Mustafa Alou, a commander in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commando unit, was shot dead late on Monday at his home in the village of Hazima, north of the city of Raqqa, by unknown assailants, local sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site.

IS was accused of being behind the killing, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

Alou’s assassination came days after other deadly attacks targeted SDF members and their convoys.

The Kurdish-led, US-backed group spearheaded the fight against IS extremists in 2019 and drove them out of the large swathes of territory they controlled for years in eastern Syria.

But the militant group’s sleeper cells are spread out in the Syrian desert continue to carry out hit-and-run attacks.

At dawn on Tuesday, sources close to Syrian opposition groups told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that IS militants carried out a large-scale attack on three militant checkpoints belonging to Syrian regime forces and Russian-backed militias.

Two personnel were killed and three others were injured in that attack, which took place in the Raqqa governorate, on a road linking the town of Al-Resafa and the Tabqa Airbase.

Reports said Russian forces have begun bringing in more reinforcements and deploying in different points of the neighbouring Deir Ezzor governorate, where IS activity has increased recently.

UN says new dynamic on Syria could create ‘much-needed momentum’ for progress

The Arab News covers the UN Security Council special meeting on Syria. The article discusses the recent diplomatic moves in Syria and emphasizes the need for real action to match these developments. Geir Pedersen, the UN special envoy for Syria, highlights the ongoing suffering of the Syrian people and states that while they have observed diplomatic progress, they have yet to see any improvement in their lives. Pedersen emphasizes the importance of confidence-building measures on the ground and the resumption of the political process to signal that the current opportunity has been seized.

The article recalls recent dialogues with the Syrian government in Amman, Jeddah, and Moscow, focusing on key issues such as the humanitarian situation, safe access to aid delivery, the return of refugees, reconstruction, and countering terrorist groups. These issues align with UN Resolution 2254 and present an opportunity to move forward if addressed incrementally. Pedersen believes that addressing these concerns could create much-needed momentum.

The report also mentions the Arab League’s decision to welcome Syria’s government back into its fold, ending over a decade of exile. 

Pedersen acknowledges the dangers of the status quo and emphasizes the importance of addressing the concerns of the displaced, ensuring their safe and dignified return that takes into account their security and economic fears. The fate of missing people and detainees in Syrian prisons is also highlighted as a core issue for moving forward, and Pedersen urges support for the establishment of an institution dedicated to the search for missing Syrians.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs notes that over 70 percent of Syria’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance, with 15.3 million people experiencing some degree of humanitarian stress. The recent earthquakes have worsened the situation, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and depriving many of basic services and livelihoods. The article calls for greater solidarity and increased humanitarian funding to prioritize the urgent needs of the Syrian people.

Overall, the report emphasizes the need for tangible action to accompany recent diplomatic progress in Syria and highlights key issues such as the humanitarian situation, the return of refugees, and the fate of missing individuals and detainees. It underlines the potential of addressing these concerns to create momentum and improve the lives of the Syrian people.

Syrian government blocked UN earthquake response in opposition areas

An investigation by Syrian Investigative Reporting for Accountability Journalism (Siraj) and Middle East Eye (MEE) reveals that the Syrian government obstructed rescue efforts in the country’s northwest following the devastating earthquake in February. 

The government did not ask for international emergency response teams to be deployed to opposition-held areas, effectively blocking the rescue efforts. The report also accuses UN officials of negligence for failing to utilize protocols that would have allowed them to send in rescue teams on humanitarian grounds without the government’s consent.

The investigation highlights that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has an international emergency response system capable of deploying search and rescue teams anywhere in the world. However, UN guidelines allow for rescue efforts to be initiated by a UN resident coordinator in the affected country, even without the government’s consent, in certain circumstances such as complex emergencies.

The failure to coordinate the deployment of search and rescue teams into opposition-controlled areas falls short of UN guidelines. The UN’s failure to respond quickly to the earthquake is criticized, and it is stated that the UN’s hands were tied by bureaucracy. The report also questions why the UN did not deploy rescue teams through the established UN Security Council resolution permitting humanitarian aid to be sent into northwest Syria from Turkey.

The lack of a timely international response in opposition-held Syria stands in contrast to the UN’s response in southern Turkey, where search and rescue teams were deployed from 82 countries in support of the rescue efforts.

Critics argue that the Syrian government’s failure to request or facilitate the deployment of rescue teams to opposition-held territory may be in breach of principles of international humanitarian law. The report raises concerns about the UN’s failure to send search and rescue teams and heavy-duty rescue equipment into opposition-held areas and calls for an internal investigation into the matter.

Iranian militia launches military campaign in Syria’s Deir-ez-Zor

Iranian-backed militia announced on Tuesday the launching of a combing campaign of the eastern and southern countryside of the Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, eastern Syria, to pursue Islamic State (ISIS) sleeper cells, North Press reported.

The Iranian-backed Liwa al-Quds, Liwa Fatemiyoun, and Abu al-Fadel al-Abbas faction launched the campaign due to the increase of ISIS attacks against their militants, a military source of Liwa al-Quds told North Press.

The campaign will last for five days, according to the source.

On the same day, residents of the town of al-Marashda, east of Deir-ez-Zor, found the bodies of two militants of Abu al-Fadel al-Abbas faction who were kidnapped two days ago by unknown people.

A local source of Abu al-Fadel al-Abbas faction said that the residents found the bodies west of the town of Abu Kamal, in the eastern countryside of Deir-ez-Zor.

The Iranian-backed militias and Syrian government forces control vast swathes of the Syrian Desert and the eastern countryside of Deir-ez-Zor, which witness increasing activity by ISIS sleeper cells and militants.

Syrian Refugees and Demographic Ideology

In an op-ed in Asharq al-Awsat, columnist Hazem Saghieh discussed how some Lebanese were busy publicly outbidding one another regarding the figures of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The article discusses the use of demographic ideology and the manipulation of population figures in political discourse. It highlights historical instances where population growth was portrayed as a threat and used to justify various ideologies and discriminatory practices.

Saghieh mentions the theories of Thomas Malthus, who argued that population growth would lead to global famine unless drastic measures were taken to control it. However, as living conditions improved with the industrial revolution, Malthus’ theories were proven wrong.

The article also mentions the concept of “Social Darwinism,” which applied Darwin’s theories of evolution to human society and justified social disparities, military expansion, and racism. The author points out that during this time, writers and novelists also propagated fears about population growth and the dangers of the masses.

Saghieh emphasizes the impact of these ideologies on political discourse and the dehumanization of people when they are reduced to mere figures. Politicians have used inflated population figures to stoke fear and justify discriminatory policies. The author mentions examples from Algeria, Lebanon, and the Arab world, where population figures were manipulated for political purposes.

The article concludes by highlighting that reducing people to numbers is not ethical or sound, as it devalues human life and perpetuates discrimination. The Syrian communities are particularly targeted in this regard.

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