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Syria Today – Pedersen Calls for US Turkish Withdrawal; Israeli Strike Kills Two Hezbollah Fighters

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

UN envoy Geir O. Pedersen urges the withdrawal of US and Turkish troops from Syria to address various issues and calls for a new method to resolve the crisis. At the same time, Israeli strikes near Damascus resulted in the death of two Hezbollah fighters and two Syrians, amid ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

UN envoy asks for withdrawal of US, and Turkish troops from Syria

Geir O. Pedersen, the United Nations special envoy for Syria affairs has called on the United States and Turkey to pullout their troops from Syria.

According to the website of Russia Today-Arabic language, Pederson, who replaced Staffan de Mistura as the UN envoy for Syria in late 2018, said “Several issues must be dealt with and resolved to resolve the Syrian issue, including the issue of the withdrawal of Turkish and American military forces and Also, the issue of Kurdish YPG forces and the issue of sanctions.”

The UN envoy further said that the government of Damascus and the opposition must adopt a new method to resolve the crisis.

Pederson had told Al Jazeera in October that the failure to resolve the Syrian crisis due to foreign interference and continued sanctions has caused the people of the country to live in dire situations, and 9 out of 10 Syrians live below the poverty line. 

Two Hezbollah fighters among four killed in Israeli strikes in Syria: War monitor

Israeli strikes overnight near Damascus killed two Hezbollah fighters and two Syrians working with the Lebanese group, a war monitor said Monday, the latest such attack as Israel battles Hamas militants in Gaza.

“Two Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and two Syrian guards” working at one of the Iran-backed movement’s sites were killed, while three other fighters and three civilians were wounded, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Water cut to Syria’s Hasakah city cut since October

Water to the city of Hasakah has been cut since October from the Alouk water station controlled by Turkish-backed forces, according to Kurdistan 24.

The director of the water establishment Mohammed Othman told SANA that the station stopped working on Oct. 3 due to Turkish-backed groups.

The Alouk water station is a critical source of water for around one million people.

Haid Haid, a fellow at Chatham House, writing for the Tahrir Institute, said as a result households are forced to purchase expensive water brought in by tanker trucks. 

“To ease this burden, local authorities and NGOs have initiated efforts to provide free water deliveries to the population,” he wrote.

Since Turkish-backed groups took control of the Alouk water station in Oct. 2019, the water cuts have had a severe impact on one million people residing in Hasaka Province. 

This comes amidst decreasing water levels of rivers in Syria due to global warming.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) from October this has also given rise to poor sanitation and outbreaks of water-borne illnesses and disease, including cholera in September 2022.

“Turkey and other parties to the conflict should also engage with the UN’s ongoing efforts to facilitate approval of a monitoring mechanism, and adequate operational and maintenance capacity of Alouk water s

Is Syria’s al-Assad supporting Hamas for political gain or optics?

Analyzing whether Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is supporting Hamas for political gain or optics requires considering various factors, according to a report by Al-Jazeera.

Assad’s decision to mend relations with Hamas, as encouraged by Hezbollah and Iran, seems to be driven more by geopolitical strategy than by optics. The alliance aligns with the broader “resistance axis” against Israel, which includes Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria. Re-establishing ties with Hamas appears to be a part of Syria’s strategy to maintain its role in this alliance, especially in the context of the Abraham Accords, where several Arab states normalized relations with Israel.

While Syria plays a part in the alliance, its contribution to Hamas’s military strength is relatively small. Most of Hamas’s military resources come from Iran or are domestically produced. Syria’s role is more about its strategic position and its relations with Iran and Hezbollah, which are more active in supporting Hamas.

For Assad, the alliance with Hamas might also serve to bolster his regional standing, especially as he re-enters the Arab political sphere. However, domestically, Assad’s regime is challenged by economic crisis and public discontent, making his support for Hamas unlikely to significantly boost his popularity within Syria.

Syria, being a battleground for various regional and global powers, is affected by the larger conflict dynamics in the region. Assad’s involvement or support for Hamas must be viewed in the context of these broader regional power plays, especially the tensions between Iran and the US, and Iran’s opposition to Israel.

Assad’s support for Hamas could be seen as a blend of political gain and optics. Regionally, it aligns Syria with key players in the Middle East who oppose Israel, possibly aiding in mending ties with other Arab nations. However, the support also serves as a symbolic gesture to align with the broader anti-Israel sentiment prevalent in the region, which might be more about optics than substantive support.

In summary, Assad’s support for Hamas appears to be driven by a mix of geopolitical strategy and the necessity to align with key regional players, rather than purely for optics or significant political gain within Syria. The support aligns with Syria’s broader strategic interests and its alliances, particularly with Iran and Hezbollah, in the complex Middle Eastern geopolitical landscape.

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