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Syria Today – Massacre in Jisr al-Shughour; Drone Strike on Qardaha; SNHR Report on Torture in Syria

Your daily brief of the English-speaking on Syria.
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Syria Today – Massacre in Jisr al-Shughour; Drone Strike on Qardaha; SNHR Report on Torture in Syria

Russian airstrikes in northwestern Syria’s Idleb resulted in the deaths of at least nine civilians and left over 34 individuals injured. Simultaneously, a drone attack aimed at Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ancestral town of Qardaha occurred, killing one. Furthermore, a recent report revealed an escalation in torture practices within the regime’s security apparatus, which granted security forces unrestrained authority to arrest, mistreat, exploit, and torment Syrian civilians.

At least nine killed in Russian air strikes in Syria’s Idleb

At least nine civilians were killed and more than 34 wounded after Russian warplanes carried out numerous air strikes on Idleb in northwestern Syria, including a market crowded with shoppers, according to a group of emergency rescue volunteers, Al-Jazeera reported.

Other agencies raise the figure to 13.

The attack on Sunday targeted a vegetable market in the city of Jisr al-Shughour, in the eastern Idleb countryside, said the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.

A local monitor told Al Jazeera that two Russian Su-24s targeted Idleb City, Benin town and the al-Arbeen mountain area with five strikes, while a Russian Su-34  hit the market in Jisr al-Shughour.

“During our work today at the vegetable market, we were startled by an air strike that targeted the market where we were present, turning [it] into a pool of blood and the remains of victims,” said Reda Hayshid, a 21-year-old vegetable vendor.

Ahmed Yazji, who is on the Syria Civil Defence’s board of directors, said: “In general, the Syrian regime and Russian attacks on the region have witnessed an escalation in the last few days, which puts a huge burden on our work because both [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia are known to double attack areas where we are present while trying to rescue the victims and the injured.”

Hayshid told Al Jazeera that the vegetable market in Jisr al-Shughour is considered a central one for most farmers in the area and its outskirts, who sell their crops there daily.

“The scenes of my friends whom I used to see daily in this market continue to haunt my imagination as some of them were taking their last breaths, while others have lost their limbs due to the air strike,” Hayshid said.

“[The] Assad regime and Russia are fighting us, even our … means of sustenance, and they care only about inflicting the highest possible number of casualties and injuries.”

Rami Jaafar, who was buying groceries at the market, left a mere 10 minutes before the bombing. He rushed back after the attack to check on his relatives who were working in the market.

“On my way back home with my family, we heard the sound of an explosion coming from the direction of the vegetable market. I quickly secured my family in one of the houses in Jisr al-Shughour and rushed to the market to check on my cousins who were there,” Jaafar said

“The place was filled with dust, the smell of blood and gunpowder permeating the air. There was no sound except for the moans of the wounded and the ambulances that transported my cousins to the hospital,” he added.

SNHR’s 12th Annual Report on Torture in Syria on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) released its 12th Annual Report on Torture in Syria on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. 

The report highlights the close relationship between torture, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearances in Syria. Since the start of the uprising in 2011, the regime’s security apparatus has expanded its torture practices, with security forces having unrestricted powers to detain, degrade, abuse, and torture Syrian citizens. 

The regime’s torture practices are seen across all governorates, indicating a deliberate and calculated policy that amounts to a crime against humanity. 

The Syrian regime has failed to launch investigations or hold anyone accountable for these violations, leading to impunity and an increase in torture figures. While some regime personnel have faced trials and convictions in other nations, their limited impact does not deter the regime. 

The report emphasizes the need for states to reconsider restoring relations with the Syrian regime without ensuring the release of detainees, as it gives the regime a green light to continue its atrocities. 

The report provides extensive documentation, including verified information and evidence, on the victims of torture in Syria. It aims to inform decision-makers about the reality of torture in the country. SNHR’s methodology includes interviews with victims’ families and survivors, adhering to strict protocols to ensure safety and privacy. 

The report reflects only a fraction of the violations taking place, and the actual numbers of victims are much higher.

Drone strike hits Syrian president’s ancestral town

A drone attack targeted Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ancestral town of Qardaha on Friday with two projectiles, killing one person and lightly injuring another, Syrian state news agency Sana reported, The Arab News reported in the weekend.

The strike came a day after Sana reported a drone attack on Salhab, another government-held town in northwest Syria near rebel territory, that killed a woman and a child.

The strikes on Qardaha and Salhab, which are around 35 kilometres (22 miles) apart, come amid a flare-up in fighting in the northwest with shelling between Syrian government forces and rebels on some front lines.

Qardaha is about 10 km (6.5 miles) from Russia’s Hmeimim air base. Russian warplanes have targeted rebel-held areas recently, the Syrian opposition has said. Syrian government forces have increased deployments in some front-line areas according to sources on both sides.

Major warfare has mostly stopped in Syria with front lines largely stable in recent years after Assad’s government regained control over most of the country with help from his allies Russia and Iran.

However, rebels against Assad still hold an enclave centred on the Idleb province in the northwest, close to Qardaha and Salhab, with backing from Turkiye and there are sporadic bouts of fighting between them and Syrian government forces.

Water in Syria: Today’s Thirst, Tomorrow’s Disasters

Politician and analyst Fayez Sarah says in an op-ed in Asharq al-Awsat that the water crisis in Syria, exacerbated by the ongoing war and regional dynamics, poses significant threats to the population’s basic needs, food security, and overall well-being, calling for urgent efforts to confront the crisis and prevent further disasters.

Syria is not the only country facing water scarcity in the eastern Mediterranean. This is a prevailing situation across the region’s countries (excluding Türkiye), as each country faces varying degrees of issues related to water.

Sarah says Syria is facing severe water scarcity, compounded by the impacts of the war in the region. The country shares its water resources with neighbouring countries, making it dependent on agreements and understandings. Stormy climate effects have also led to a decrease in rainfall, contributing to a decline in running water and groundwater reserves. 

Unregulated and corrupt policies, the columnists add,  have further exacerbated the water crisis, including the draining of rivers and groundwater due to the widespread use of pumps. The war and political conflicts have worsened the water situation, leading to a collapse in water management unity and the control of various authorities with limited knowledge and resources. 

Pollution, including the mixing of water with oil and sewage infiltration, has become widespread. Syria’s northern neighbours, particularly Turkey, have also played a role in the reduction of the Syrian-Iraqi water share and control over local water sources in northwestern Syria. 

The writer concludes that the deteriorating water situation threatens the population’s basic needs, food security, and electricity generation. Urgent efforts are needed to address this threat before it leads to further disasters.

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