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Syria Today – Israel Strikes Hezbollah in Damascus, Assad’s Security Reform

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Israel Strikes Hezbollah in Damascus, Assad’s Security Reform

According to Syria’s defense ministry, Israel launched missiles at multiple military targets outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday. Regional intelligence and Syrian sources indicate that these strikes targeted fortified positions belonging to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and were intensified. Concurrently, a report detailing recent changes within Syria’s security apparatus suggests a notable advancement in President Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing efforts to emerge from the immense shadow left by his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Israeli strikes target Hezbollah inside Syria, sources say

Israel launched missiles at several military targets outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, Syria’s defence ministry said, in what regional intelligence and Syrian sources said were stepped-up strikes on fortifications of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Reuters reported.

Syrian air defences intercepted Israeli “missiles and shot down some of them”, the ministry said in a statement, adding they caused only material damage.

Two Syrian military sources familiar with the strikes said Israel targeted a Hezbollah ammunitions depot near the city of Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains, northeast of the Syrian capital.

It was the second strike within 48 hours on the same mountain range that spills over into Lebanon where the heavily armed Hezbollah has several major supply routes into Syria.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Israeli military have been trading fire since the Palestinian group Hamas stormed southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, in a steadily intensifying conflict that has fuelled concern of wider escalation.

Another strike hit a nearby location near Qutayfah, almost 40 km (25 miles) east of Damascus, within the same stretch of territory where Hezbollah forces are well entrenched, according to a Western intelligence source.

“These latest raids are clearly targeting Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Syria, especially its elaborate fortifications along the Lebanese-Syrian border,” the source who requested anonymity told Reuters. He referred also to a recent strike on the city of Qusayr along the border where Hezbollah maintains security control with checkpoints.

An Israeli military spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Israeli army forms new ‘mountain’ brigade on border with Syria and Lebanon

The Israeli media reported that the army announced the formation of a new regional brigade on Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon.

The “HeHarim,” or Mountains, Brigade, will be tasked with the Mount Hermon and Mount Dov regions, under the 210th “Bashan” Division, replacing the existing 810th “Hermon” Regional Brigade.

The army says the new brigade is formed “as part of the operational response to the situation on the northern border and in accordance with the situational assessment.”

“The brigade will specialize in combat in difficult terrain and warfare in mountainous areas,” the IDF says.

It says that the Mountains Regional Brigade will begin its activity in the coming weeks and that Col. Liron Appleman will be appointed its first commander.

UK Statement for Commission of Inquiry on Syria

During an interactive dialogue with the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Simon Manley, the UK Permanent Representative to the WTO and UN, delivered a powerful statement on behalf of the UK, addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.

In his address, Manley echoed the Commission’s grave concerns about the intensifying conflict in Syria, which has seen a significant escalation in hostilities, including indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians and vital infrastructure. He highlighted the dire humanitarian situation, noting that the needs of the Syrian people are now at their most critical point since the conflict’s onset thirteen years ago, following the suppression of peaceful protests.

The UK representative did not shy away from addressing the harrowing issues of sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture documented in the Commission’s report. These atrocities, he stated, have a devastating impact on the Syrian population, leaving families in anguish as they wait for news of their loved ones. Manley unequivocally placed the primary responsibility for these violations on the Assad regime and its allies, calling for accountability.

Manley’s statement was a call to action for members of the Council, urging them not to divert their attention from the Syrian crisis. He pressed for concerted efforts to ensure accountability for the serious violations occurring in Syria and posed critical questions to the Commissioners. He sought their recommendations for ensuring that humanitarian access is granted and aid is effectively delivered to all Syrians in need, across all areas of the country. Additionally, Manley inquired about ways in which the international community could support concrete actions to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

The UK’s firm stance at the UN dialogue underscores its commitment to addressing the Syrian crisis and advocating for the Syrian people’s rights and needs at the international level.

Bashar Al-Assad’s Security Shake-Up Is A Slap In The Face To His Late Father

Worldcrunch.com published a report on recent adjustments within Syria’s security framework which signal a significant stride in President Bashar al-Assad’s long-standing endeavour to step out from the colossal shadow cast by his father, Hafez al-Assad, who led the country prior to him. This development involves key personnel changes within the regime’s security apparatus, most notably the replacement of Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk with Kifah Melhem as the head of the National Security Bureau.

The motives behind these shifts, according to the report,  have spurred a range of speculations. Some analysts perceive them as Assad’s response to the competing influences of Russia and Iran over Syria, while others consider it a routine reshuffle, particularly in light of Mamlouk’s health concerns. A faction believes these changes align with Assad’s previously announced reforms following Syria’s re-engagement with Arab nations.

However, a deeper narrative suggests that these reforms are part of Bashar al-Assad’s broader effort to forge his own path, distinct from that of his father, Hafez al-Assad, over two decades since his death. This attempt to delineate his leadership is seen as both a symbolic and practical departure from the elder Assad’s era, which was marked by a tight security grip managed by figures like Mamlouk, renowned for his secretive handling of Syria’s chemical program.

The report added that Bashar al-Assad’s strategy involves distancing his regime from the legacy of his father’s appointments, leaning instead towards a “new generation” of leadership that navigated the country through years of conflict. This departure is symbolized by actions such as issuing new currency notes that feature Bashar prominently, unlike previous versions that honored Hafez al-Assad.

Public perception and Assad’s own statements reflect this shift. Initially, Bashar al-Assad regarded his father as a guiding force beyond the grave. Yet, as he cemented his position following what he perceives as a victory in the civil war, Assad has increasingly sought to define his tenure independently of his father’s influence, despite the overarching control exerted by allies Russia and Iran.

This transition, the report concludes, is evident not only in administrative changes but also in the symbolic landscape of Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s image now dominates public spaces once shared with his father. Assad’s recent public denials of being predestined for presidency by his father, along with the erection of monuments celebrating his leadership, underscore a deliberate effort to reshape his legacy, distinct from that of Hafez al-Assad’s.

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