Logo Wide

Syria Today – Israeli Attack on Damascus; Earthquake Affects 8,8 Million People

Your daily brief of English-speaking news on Syria.
Syria Today – Israeli Attack on Damascus; Earthquake Affects 8,8 Million People

Syria’s military says five people have died after what it alleged were Israeli missiles hit the capital Damascus and surrounding areas on Sunday, SANA reported.

Officials said a building was hit in the central Kafr Sousa neighbourhood, killing four civilians and one soldier.

The densely populated district is home to a large, heavily guarded security complex.

Israel’s military declined to comment on the strike when approached by the Reuters news agency.

Sunday’s attack was the first since a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the northwest of the country, as well as parts of neighbouring Turkey, 12 days ago.

The Kafr Sousa area is home to senior officials and security agencies, but also civilians living in residential buildings.

The strike – which hit at 00:22 local time (21:22 GMT) – caused damage to several homes in Damascus neighbourhoods and other nearby areas, Syrian officials said.

The country’s defence ministry said the rockets were launched from the Golan Heights, a rocky plateau southwest of Damascus which was annexed by Israel in 1981.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 15 people, including civilians.

“The strike on Sunday is the deadliest Israeli attack in the Syrian capital,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the observatory.

It comes over a month after an Israeli strike hit Damascus’s international airport, according to the Syrian army, killing four people, including two soldiers.

Was Iran the target?

Two Western intelligence sources told Al-Jazeera the target was a logistics centre in the building run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Syria’s close allies – Russia and Iran, whose military support helped President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide of the civil war in his favour – both condemned the strikes, warning they threatened regional stability.

For almost a decade, Israel has been carrying out air attacks against suspected Iranian-sponsored weapons transfers and personnel deployments in neighbouring Syria. Israeli officials have rarely acknowledged responsibility for specific operations.

The raids, which in recent months have targeted Syrian airports and air bases, are part of an escalation of what has been a low-intensity conflict with the goal of slowing down Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria, military analysts say.

Syria demands urgent international action

“Syria expects the United Nations Secretariat and Security Council to condemn Israeli aggression and crimes, take the necessary measures to deter them, hold them accountable, punish their perpetrators and ensure they do not recur,” the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said on Sunday.

The Ministry said, in a statement, that at the time when Syria was trying to heal its wounds, bury its martyrs, and receive condolences, sympathy and international humanitarian support in facing the devastating earthquake, the Israeli entity launched an air aggression today targeting the civilian-populated residential neighbourhoods in Damascus, causing, in a primary toll, the martyrdom of 5 civilians and injury of 15 others and the destruction of a number of houses.

Foreign and Expatriates Minister Dr. Faisal Mekdad called for urgent condemnation of the Israeli aggression to deter it from killing civilians and violating the sovereignty of states.

Mikdad’s remarks came during a meeting with ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Syria on Sunday.

He called the Israeli aggression a crime against humanity, noting that Syria is racing against time to address the catastrophic consequences of the devastating earthquake.

Iran condemns

While Russia kept silent, Iran has strongly condemned the Israeli aggression targeting Damascus and its vicinity on Sunday at dawn, causing the death of five people and injury of 15 others.

“In an indication to the sequence and coincidence of the new Israeli aggression on Syrian territory along with the terrorist attacks committed by Daesh terrorist organization in Homs eastern countryside on Saturday, the full connection and coordination between these two terrorist entities form a natural relationship between them’, IRNA News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, as saying in a statement.

Israel blames Iran for attack on oil tanker in the Arabian Sea

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that Iran was responsible for a reported attack on an oil tanker last week.

An attack on the Liberian-flagged Campo Square was confirmed on Saturday by the ship’s captain, who said it was lightly damaged by an airborne object on February 10 while sailing through the Arabian Sea.

Shipping databases linked the tanker to Zodiac Maritime, which is controlled by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer.

“Last week, Iran again attacked an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and harmed the international freedom of navigation,” Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting.

8.8 Millions Affected By Earthquake In Syria – UN 

According to the latest UN statistics, 8.8 million Syrians have been affected by the Feb. 6 earthquake. An additional 1.75 million refugees, mostly Syrians, were affected by the earthquake in Turkey, North Press reported.

Almost half – or around 4 million – of affected Syrians were internally displaced before Feb. 6. 3.7 million of the 8.8 million are children. The UN puts the latest death toll in Syria at 5,791 and the number of injured at 10.041.

The worst-hit region in Syria is Aleppo Governorate, where the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, counts 235 collective shelters housing 183.000 people affected by the earthquake.

The agency launched a $51.3 million supplementary appeal aiming to assist 385.000 earthquake victims across the country. On Feb. 14, it said it required $397.6 million to help 4.9 million earthquake-affected Syrians.

Activists in northwest Syria have criticized the UN for its slow reaction to the earthquake. During a visit to the area, Martin Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, acknowledged that the organization had failed to properly assist victims.

Doctors Without Borders Issues Urgent Appeal for Quake-Hit Syria

The group Doctors Without Borders called Sunday for the “urgent scaling up” of earthquake aid to northwest Syria as it delivered a convoy laden with emergency assistance.

Aid has been slow to reach Syria’s rebel-held areas since the February 6 quake killed a combined total of more than 43,000 people across Türkiye and Syria.

“An urgent increase in the volume of supplies is needed to match the scale of the humanitarian crisis,” said the French aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

It charged that supplies “currently fail even to match pre-earthquake volumes”.

“Aid is trickling in in negligible amounts for the moment,” said Hakim Khaldi, MSF’s head of mission in Syria. “We emptied our emergency stocks in three days.”

Assad regime, Russia shell earthquake-stricken northern Syria, say aid groups.

The Syrian regime and Russian forces shelled villages across northern Syria on Saturday, humanitarian response groups said, less than two weeks after thousands were killed in a devastating earthquake that hit the region, The New Arab reported.

Artillery shelling hit the villages of Qastoun, Al-Ziyara and Al-Sarmaniyeh in Hama governorate, according to the Syrian Civil Defence otherwise known as the White Helmets.

There were no known casualties in the shelling, the White Helmets said.

The shelling occurred hot on the heels of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that has devastated much of southern Turkey and northern Syria and killed at least 45,000 people. At least 6,000 have died in Syria because of the quake, which struck on 6 February.

Some good news

Thousands of people have offered to adopt the baby girl who was born under the rubble of a collapsed building in north-west Syria, following Monday’s earthquake, according to BBC.

When she was rescued, baby Aya – meaning miracle in Arabic – was still connected to her mother by her umbilical cord.

Her mother, father and all four of her siblings died after the quake hit the town of Jindayris.

Aya is now in the hospital.

“She arrived on Monday in such a bad state. She had bumps and bruises. She was cold and barely breathing,” said Hani Marouf, the pediatrician looking after her.

She is now in a stable condition.

Videos of Aya’s rescue went viral on social media. Footage showed a man sprinting from the collapsed debris of a building, holding a baby covered in dust.

Khalil al-Suwadi, a distant relative, who was there when she was pulled to safety, brought the newborn to Dr. Marouf in the Syrian city of Afrin.

Thousands of people on social media have now asked for details to adopt her. One report said her great-uncle would adopt her.

“I would like to adopt her and give her a decent life,” said one person.

A Kuwaiti TV anchor said, “I’m ready to take care of and adopt this child… if legal procedures allow me to.”

Syrians in Turkey face economic aftershocks as livelihoods laid to waste

Syrians and Turks have been left reeling as they face the death and destruction wrought by the catastrophic earthquake that hit southern Turkey and northwest Syria last Monday, with aftershocks continuing for days.

As the number of dead rises by the day, currently over 41,000, and with thousands more injured, the immediate concern in both countries is still to rescue as many survivors as possible, although hope has dwindled after over a week since the quake.

However, for those who have survived, another calamity is looming – the loss of thousands of livelihoods under the rubble.

The economic aftermath of the earthquake is expected to lead to a steep deterioration in the already harsh living standards for thousands of Syrian families across the afflicted regions, which may be left dependent on aid and shelters – as will be the case for many Turkish families as well.

The worst is yet to come for living standards

Some predict that the coming period may see the worst living conditions yet – even after over a decade of war had left hundreds of thousands destitute in northwest Syria before the quake, and life had been far from easy for those resettled in Turkey, who had slowly rebuilt lives and livelihoods over the last decade.

“For those who have survived, another calamity is looming – the loss of thousands of livelihoods under the rubble.”

Syrian citizen Ibrahim Awad, who lives in Antakya province, says his work is gone, and the small business he saved up to establish has been destroyed. He and his family have fled to an encampment on an agricultural road where dozens of Turks and Syrians are staying temporarily.

He told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that everything he saved over the five years he was working in the construction sector had gone, but the most important thing was his family’s safety “because we saw death with our own eyes after the building completely collapsed”.

U.S. conducts helicopter raid in Syria capturing ISIS official

The U.S. military and Syrian Democratic Forces conducted a helicopter raid in eastern Syria early Saturday, capturing an ISIS official, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.

Batar, “an ISIS Syria Province Official involved in planning attacks on SDF-guarded detention centers and manufacturing improvised explosive devices,” was captured in the raid, CENTCOM said in the statement.

The U.S. did not provide any additional information or evidence regarding its claims about Batar.

No civilians, SDF or U.S. forces were killed or injured in the raid, according to CENTCOM.

The development comes on the heels of an earlier helicopter raid in Syria on Thursday night that the U.S. military said killed Hamza al-Homsi, a senior ISIS leader, as well as wounded four U.S. troops and a working dog.

Officials told CNN that U.S. forces were “close to” al-Homsi when an explosion occurred, killing al-Homsi and wounding the U.S. service members. It is unclear at this point if the explosion was the result of a suicide vest, a booby trap or something else, two officials said.

Separately, U.S. Central Command said in a statement Saturday evening that two rockets had landed near a coalition base in northeast Syria.

No U.S. or coalition troops were injured, and no damage to equipment or infrastructure occurred during the rocket attack that targeted Green Village, a coalition base in northeast Syria.

Helpful keywords