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Syria Today – Israeli Attack Kills 8; SNA Factions Clash Injures 4

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

An Israeli attack on military positions in southwest Syria on Wednesday killed eight soldiers and wounded seven more. At the same time, heavy clashes erupted on Wednesday between two groups of Turkish-backed armed factions in the countryside of Ras al-Ain.

Syria Says Israeli Attack Kills Eight Soldiers 

An Israeli attack on military positions in southwest Syria on Wednesday killed eight soldiers and wounded seven more, the Syrian state news agency (SANA) reported.

Citing a military source, SANA said Israel’s “aerial aggression” targeted a number of military positions near the southwestern city of Daraa. The strike also caused material damage, it reported.

The attack took place at around 1:45 a.m. on Wednesday (2245 GMT on Tuesday), SANA reported.

Israel’s military said earlier that its jets had struck Syrian army infrastructure and mortar launchers early on Wednesday in what it described as a response to rocket launches from Syria toward Israel.

Clashes between SNA factions leave 4 injured in Syria’s Sere Kaniye

North Press reports that heavy clashes erupted on Wednesday between two groups of Turkish-backed armed factions, aka the Syrian National Army (SNA), in the countryside of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain), northeastern Syria, over a dispute on narcotics.

A patrol officer of the Military Police in Sere Kaniye told North Press clashes occurred between an armed group of the Hamza Division and another of the Sultan Murad faction in the town of Mabrouka in the west of Sere Kaniye.

This came after militants of the Hamza Division seized amounts of hashish belonging to the commander of a military group of the Sultan Murad faction in Mabrouka, the source noted.

The clashes resulted in the injury of four people including a woman. The wounded were taken to the Sere Kaniye Hospital. The injured woman is in critical condition, according to the source.

This is the fourth clash that has happened in October for varying reasons. These clashes result in material damage and injuries among the locals.

Fighting in Syria has hit ‘four year peak’: UN

The fighting in Syria is at its worst point in the last four years, the head of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI) said on Tuesday, 24 October, as the bombing has struck three different parts of the country over the last month.

“We are witnessing the largest escalation of hostilities in Syria in four years. Yet again, there appears to be a total disregard for civilians’ lives,” Paulo Pinheiro, the chair of the COI, told the UN General Assembly, according to The New Arab.

Pinheiro’s statement came as the Syrian regime has carried out a punishing bombing campaign on rebel-held northwest Syria for the past three weeks, leaving at least 200 civilians killed and injured.

The regime has shelled hospitals, mosques and schools in what it says is retaliation for an attack on a regime-military academy in Homs on 5 October, which killed more than 100.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the regime has blamed former al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls the northwest.

In the country’s northeast, Turkey launched extensive airstrikes in the region controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Turkey commenced the attack after accusing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of carrying out a bombing of a government building in Ankara, which injured two Turkish soldiers.

As a result of the Turkish attacks, at least 18 civilians were killed and “major damage and destruction” was sustained by critical civilian infrastructure, according to a report by the northeast Syria NGO forum.

“The scale of damage far supersedes the capacity of the humanitarian community to sustain emergency life-saving service provision,” the NGO Forum said on 16 October.

‘Fatal and horrific’ injuries in northwest Syria

Though the Syrian regime at first said it was targeting northwest Syria in response to the attack on the Homs military academy, it has since justified its continued assault as a retaliation against Israel.

Commenting on Israeli strikes on the Damascus airport, a Syrian military source said the strike was “part of the approach in supporting the terrorist groups that the Syrian Arab Army is fighting in the north of the country, which constitutes an armed arm of the Israeli entity.”

The source added that “the Syrian Arab Army will continue to pursue and strike the [terrorist groups] until the country is cleansed of them.”

The toll of the regime’s bombing campaign has been borne by civilians, with a single strike on a displacement camp in northwest Syria killing five civilians, including three women and two children, on Monday.

“As soon as people started to move in the streets, shells fell on the city. Unlike every other time, [Syrian President] Assad wants to kill more people. He doesn’t want to destroy buildings,” Mahmoud Mosa, an activist in Idlib, told The New Arab.

Drone attacks on American bases injured two dozen U.S. military personnel

Two dozen American military personnel were wounded last week in a series of drone attacks at American bases in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Central Command told NBC News on Tuesday.

The Pentagon confirmed the attacks last week, but the number of U.S. casualties has not been previously disclosed.

Twenty American personnel sustained minor injuries on Oct. 18 when at least two one-way attack drones targeted the al-Tanf military base in southern Syria, CENTCOM said.

One of the drones was shot down. All of the wounded personnel were returned to duty, CENTCOM said, and there was no damage to any military installations.

On that same day, another four American personnel suffered minor injuries during two separate drone attacks against U.S. and coalition forces stationed at al-Asad base in western Iraq, CENTCOM said.

The U.S. shot down the one-way attack drones, but the debris from one destroyed a hanger that contained small aircraft, CENTCOM said. All of the injured personnel returned to duty.

An American civilian contractor died due to a cardiac incident during a shelter-in-place order, but it did not occur during one of the drone attacks.

The attacks came amid rising tensions in the region over the conflict in Israel.\

How Jordan and Syria can cooperate to improve relations

Majid Rafizadeh published an op-ed in Arab News which discusses the potential for improved relations between Jordan and Syria by addressing critical issues that have strained their bilateral relationship. The author highlights three key areas where cooperation between the two countries could lead to better ties.

Firstly, Rafizadeh points out the persistent problem of drug smuggling from Syria into Jordan, which has the potential to destabilize trade and contribute to social and economic instability. He notes that Syria’s current circumstances, including the civil war, security challenges, economic crisis, and international isolation, have created an environment conducive to the illicit drug trade. Jordan has taken steps to combat drug smuggling, including downing drones carrying drugs from Syria, but the issue remains unresolved. Rafizadeh suggests the creation of coordinated joint committees to enhance border security, combat drug trafficking, and prevent smuggling. Jordan could also seek support from other Arab countries to pressure Syria into cooperating on this issue.

The second obstacle discussed in the op-ed is the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan. Despite the improvement in relations between Jordan and Syria, many Syrian refugees in Jordan have not returned home, placing socioeconomic strain on Jordan, which hosts a significant number of refugees per capita. Rafizadeh argues that peace, stability, economic growth, and security in Syria are essential to facilitate the sustainable return of refugees. The Syrian government must address economic mismanagement, and state-controlled economies, and focus on infrastructure reconstruction to create job opportunities and attract foreign investment.

In summary, Rafizadeh emphasizes that for Jordan and Syria to enhance their bilateral ties, they must cooperate closely on three main fronts: border security, addressing the refugee crisis, and promoting trade. The op-ed underscores the potential benefits of such cooperation in addressing common challenges and improving relations between the two nations.

Syrian Constitution: Drawing Lessons from Iraq’s Experience

As Syria continues to grapple with the complex process of drafting a new constitution, experts and activists have turned their attention to Iraq’s 2005 Constitution as a potential blueprint for achieving a balanced and inclusive governance framework. Syrians for Truth and Justice Organization publish a long study which compares the constitutional endeavour today and that of Iraq in 2005. In a series of dialogue sessions titled “On the Way to a New Syrian Constitution; How to Draw Upon the Experiences of Other Countries?” participants delved into the strengths and weaknesses of Iraq’s constitution and explored how Syrians can learn from their neighbour’s experiences.

Iraq’s 2005 Constitution, despite its challenges, is viewed by many as a generally positive constitution, providing a wide range of rights and freedoms, along with safeguards to protect them. However, participants in the dialogue sessions raised several critical points that could serve as valuable lessons for Syria’s constitution-making process.

One of the key issues highlighted was the hurried drafting of Iraq’s constitution within just five months. This haste resulted in contradictory and sometimes incomprehensible articles, which some attributed to external pressures, including from the U.S. government. While the speed of drafting was due to unique circumstances, Syrian constitution-makers are being urged to take the time needed to ensure clarity and coherence in the document.

Participants also pointed out that Iraq’s constitution was written from the perspective of the oppressed, reflecting the widespread persecution that many Iraqis endured during Saddam Hussein’s rule. This perspective influenced the content of the constitution, particularly in addressing issues of diversity and identity.

One contentious area was the balance between diversity and Iraq’s Arab and Islamic identity. Iraq’s constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the state and a foundation source of legislation. However, this declaration raised concerns among some participants who called for a clearer separation of religion and state to prevent favouritism towards any particular religion or language.

Another point of contention was the use of the term “components” in Iraq’s constitution, which some felt equated minorities with larger groups and potentially hindered the protection of minority rights. Syrian constitution-makers are being encouraged to carefully consider the language used to address diversity and representation.

The rigidity of Iraq’s constitution was also a topic of discussion. Changes or amendments to the constitution in Iraq require a complex process, including the approval of two-thirds of the country’s provinces and a popular referendum. Participants suggested that Syria should aim for a balance between rigidity and flexibility to ensure that the constitution can adapt to changing circumstances.

In light of these discussions, participants offered several recommendations for the Syrian constitution-making process:

  1. Ensure genuine political will and consensus among all Syrians to apply the drafted constitution.
  2. Avoid vague and loosely defined language in the constitution to prevent different interpretations.
  3. Clearly acknowledge the importance of transitional justice in the constitution.
  4. Ensure effective representation of all components of the Syrian population in the constitutional committee.
  5. Adopt a neutral approach towards religions, sects, and nationalities.
  6. Draft articles that are compatible with the ideas and visions of different societal groups.
  7. Avoid enshrining a sectarian or national quota system and focus on building a nation that respects the rights of all citizens.

As Syria navigates the challenging path toward a new constitution, the experiences of its neighbor Iraq provide valuable insights and cautionary tales. The hope is that Syria can learn from these lessons to create a constitution that upholds the principles of democracy, inclusivity, and human rights for all its citizens.

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