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Syria Today – Israel Warns Regime Over Hezbollah Links; EU Sanctions New Individuals; Refugees Killed in Turkey and Sudan

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Israel Warns Regime Over Hezbollah Links; EU Sanctions New Individuals; Refugees Killed in Turkey and Sudan

Hundreds protest against Arab rapprochement with Syria’s al-Assad

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of several cities in northwestern Syria to protest against warming ties between some Arab countries and President Bashar al-Assad.

The biggest demonstration took place on Sunday in Idlib, a stronghold of forces opposed to al-Assad, while smaller groups gathered in Azaz – a refuge for Syrians who fled from other parts of the country amid the 12-year war – and Tal Abyad, a town on the Turkey-Syria border, among other locations in the country’s northwest.

“We went out in this demonstration to deliver a message to the Arab countries that have failed the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution,” an activist displaced to Idlib from the southern city of Deraa told Al Jazeera.

“The Syrian revolution began as an orphan and is still an orphan,” he added.

Syria’s civil war broke out after al-Assad’s repression of peaceful anti-government demonstrations in 2011 escalated into a deadly conflict that pulled in foreign powers and global armed groups.

More than half a million people have been killed and about half of the country’s pre-war population has been forced from their homes.

Rebel-held Idlib is home to about three million people, half of them displaced by the war.

Landmine kills 4 women from Syria’s Raqqa

On Monday, four women from Raqqa, in northern Syria, lost their lives in an explosion of a landmine, most likely left by the Islamic State (ISIS), in Jebel Bishri, in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria.

The four women were reportedly in search for truffles. The search for the elusive stuff has caused dozens of people to lose their lives in the Syrian Desert due to the spread of landmines.

Civilians, including women and men, have been truffle-hunting since February, and they take the career as a profitable source for living, since each kilo of truffle is sold for as high as 100,000 Syrian pounds (around $13).

However, the truffle-hunting season can easily have deadly ends, as the Syrian Desert is fraught with dangers, such as the presence of extremists and left-over landmines.

Iranian-backed militias and government forces control large areas of the Syrian Desert and the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, which constitutes a source of concern, as it is the site of intensive operations by ISIS sleeper cells.

‘Hezbollah has turned you into a sacrificial lamb,’ Israel warns Syrian regime

Israeli planes dropped warning leaflets on southern Syria on Monday hours after reportedly shelling pro-Iranian groups in the same region.

Flyers, according to a report by New Arab, were dropped over the town of Hader in Quneitra province, close to a UN armistice line separating Syria from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The leaflets warned the Syrian regime against cooperating with Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah militant group, which has a strong presence in Syria.

“We are closely monitoring and aware of the ongoing intelligence cooperation with Hezbollah within the Syrian army’s positions in the region, including near the Israeli border strip,” the text on the leaflets read.

“Your cooperation with Hezbollah has turned you into a sacrificial lamb and brought you more harm than good. Cooperation with Hezbollah leads to damage!”

The leaflets included images of what Israel said was the Syrian regime’s head of military intelligence, Maj Gen. Samer al-Dana, alongside commander of Hezbollah’s intelligence apparatus in Syria, Tareq Maher.

Early on Monday, Israeli ground forces bombarded a location on the outskirts of Quneitra where fighters from the Syrian Resistance to Liberate the Golan are located, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Syrian state media did not report the bombardment and no casualties were reported, but two local media outlets close to the regime reported an “Israeli aggression” that targeted the outskirts of Quneitra, a city which was largely abandoned in 1967, when Israel captured parts of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

The shelling came days after a similar attack on 18 April, when Israeli forces bombed positions in the Quneitra countryside targeting areas where Iran-linked groups are present.


EU Targets Syrian Leader’s Family Over Amphetamine Business

The European Union on Monday slapped sanctions on several Syrians, including members of President Bashar Assad’s family, accusing them of making and trafficking an amphetamine that enriches and helps to prop up the regime.

According to the Associated Press, asset freezes and travel bans were imposed on 25 people and 8 “entities” — most of them companies — at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

“The majority of today’s designations target individuals and entities responsible for the production and trafficking of narcotics, notably Captagon,” a statement said.

“The trade in amphetamine has become a regime-led business model, enriching the inner circle of the regime and providing it with revenue that contributes to its ability to maintain its policies of repression against the civilian population,” it added.

Experts say Captagon is primarily produced in Syria and neighboring Lebanon, where packages containing millions of pills are smuggled into Gulf countries, Europe and elsewhere.

According to British estimates, the Captagon industry is worth $57 billion to Assad, and has been a major source of revenue with Syria’s conflict now in its 13th year. Assad’s brutal crackdown on protests in 2011 led to his global isolation. His forces were accused of torture, bombing civilian infrastructure, and using chemical weapons with support of allies Russia and Iran.


Syrians Face Death in Sudan Amid Clashes

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said Sunday that it was following with concern the developments in Sudan, a week after deadly clashes erupted in the country, killing 11 Syrians.

Syria is also following with great interest the situation of its nationals and the diplomatic mission in Sudan, it said.

State-owned Syrian News Agency (SANA) official news agency quoted an official source as saying that the Ministry instructed the Syrian embassy in Khartoum to register the names of Syrian community members wishing to be evacuated.

Syrian refugees residing in Sudan had sent out, via social media, distress calls to evacuate them from the troubled country.

A Syrian woman told Asharq Al-Awsat that four days ago she lost contact with her brother, who informed her earlier that the situation was challenging. She said he and his family were confined to their home without electricity, water, or enough food.

The woman was trying to find a way to help her brother out of the country, but that didn’t seem easy.

Aside from the dangerous security situation, her brother cannot return to Syria because his passport has expired, and he is wanted by the Syrian security forces.

According to Syrian sources in Sudan, several Syrian workers were stabbed when they left their embassy in Khartoum on Friday. They also confirmed that the death toll had risen to eleven since the outbreak of the clashes a week ago; four of them were killed in an attack at the embassy five days ago.


Syrian refugee stabbed to death in Turkey

On Sunday, a Syrian refugee succumbed to his injuries after being stabbed by a group of Turkish youths in Kilis, southern Turkey, North Press reported.

The Turkey-based Human rights activist Taha Ghazi told North Press that the 19-year-old Muhammad Farid al-Shar, from Idlib, in northwestern Syria, was stabbed twice in the border city of Kilis, after which he was transferred to the city hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

The activist added that al-Shar was with several of his Syrian friends, when they were intercepted by a group of Turkish youths who accused them of making provocative movements. The confrontation escalated into a fight and the Syrian youth was stabbed.

The uncle of the deceased teenager told North Press that his nephew asked his father to go to the market to repair his mobile phone, and while he was on his way to the market with his friends, several Turkish youths confronted them and stabbed him.


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