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Syria Today – Rebel Shelling Kills Four Soldiers; Three Civilians Die in Russian Bombing

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Rebel Shelling Kills Four Soldiers; Three Civilians Die in Russian Bombing

On Sunday morning, four Syrian regime soldiers lost their lives in northern Lattakia province due to rebel shelling. The day before, on Saturday, three civilians from the same family were killed in Idleb, when Russian warplanes targeted the outskirts of the city. Adding to the escalating conflict, a drone strike by Turkey on Thursday night targeted Kurdish-led forces in Syria. The situation remains highly volatile and tense in the country.

Four Syrian regime soldiers killed in rebel shelling after a Russian strike on Idleb

Four Syrian regime soldiers were killed in the early hours of Sunday morning in rebel shelling of the northern Lattakia province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported, following a deadly Russian strike on Idleb city.

SOHR said that the dead soldiers included one colonel and another officer and that the Fath al-Mobin rebel operations room was responsible.

Syrian pro-regime sources said that the attack targeted the Nabi Younis peak in the mountains of northern Latakia province.

At least two regime soldiers were also wounded in the rebel shelling. The injured soldiers were taken to a regime military hospital for treatment.

The rebel attack came less than one day after Russian warplanes struck the outskirts of rebel-held Idleb city in northwestern Syria, killing a man, his wife, and their son and wounding six other people.

The Russian attack on Idleb City followed a period of relative calm in rebel-held northwestern Syria.

Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011 following the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests by the Assad regime.

Over 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced, most of them by regime bombardment of civilian areas.

The Assad regime has been able to regain control over most of Syria after receiving crucial backing from Iran and Russia.

Idleb province in northwestern Syria is now the last area of the country to be held by anti-Assad rebels.

Russian strikes kill three civilians in Syria: monitor

Three family members, all civilians, were killed on Saturday when Russian warplanes struck the outskirts of the northwest Syrian city of Idleb, a war monitor said.

Russia has over the years repeatedly struck Syria’s last main opposition bastion, but attacks killing civilians had been limited this year until an uptick in violence in late June.

“Russian air strikes this morning” to the west of Idleb left “three dead from the same family” including a woman and a child, and six others wounded, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Four strikes hit the area where rebel bases are also present, added the Britain-based group which relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria.

An AFP correspondent saw a partially destroyed building with floor mats, mattresses and the remains of a vehicle among the rubble.

With Russian and Iranian support, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has clawed back much of the territory it had lost to rebels early in the conflict that erupted in 2011.

The last pockets of armed opposition to the Assad government include swathes of rebel-held Idleb province, controlled by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is led by the country’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Syrian baby born under earthquake rubble turns 6 months, happily surrounded by her adopted family

A baby girl who was born under the rubble of her family home destroyed by the deadly earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria six months ago is in good health, loves her adopted family and likes to smile even to strangers, The Associated Press reported.

The dark-haired baby Afraa survived 10 hours under the rubble after the Feb. 6 earthquake crushed to death her parents and four siblings in the northern Syrian town of Jinderis. When she was found, her umbilical cord was still connected to her mother.

Her story captivated the world at the time, and people from all over offered to adopt her.

After spending days at a hospital in north Syria, Afraa was released and handed over to her paternal aunt and her husband, who adopted her and are raising her along with their five daughters and two sons. Afraa was handed over to her aunt’s family days after a DNA test was conducted to make sure the girl and her aunt are biologically related, her adopted father, Khalil al-Sawadi, said.

On Saturday, baby Afraa was enjoying herself, swinging on a red swing hanging from the ceiling while al-Sawadi pushed her back and forth.

“This girl is my daughter. She is exactly the same as my children,” said al-Sawadi, sitting cross-legged with Afraa on his lap.

Al-Sawadi said he spends the day at an apartment he rented but at night the family goes to a tent settlement to spend the night, as his children are still traumatized by the earthquake which killed more than 50,000 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

Al-Sawadi said he has received several offers to live abroad, but he said he refused because he wants to stay in Syria, where Afraa’s parents lived and were killed.

Afraa’s biological father, Abdullah Turki Mleihan, was originally from Khsham, a village in eastern Deir-ez-Zor province, but left in 2014 after the Islamic State group captured the village, Saleh al-Badran, an uncle of Afraa’s father, said earlier this month.

“We are very happy with her because she reminds us of her parents and siblings,” al-Sawadi said. “She looks very much like her father and her sister Nawara.”

Turkey conducts drone strike against Kurdish forces in Syria

Turkey carried out a drone strike against Kurdish-led forces in Syria on Thursday night, further escalating the conflict in the country.

According to a report by Al-Monitor, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the “Turkish occupation” struck a vehicle carrying six SDF members en route to the village of Harmi Sheikho, near the city of Qamishli in northeast Syria. Four fighters were killed, while another two were injured, the SDF said in a press release on Friday.

Turkey’s National Defense Ministry also said on Friday that it “neutralized” five “terrorists” belonging to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in an unspecified part of northern Syria, the official Anadol Agency reported.

The YPG is a Kurdish armed group that leads the SDF. Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed PKK, though the SDF denies this.

Why it matters: Turkey’s attacks on the SDF have escalated in recent months. Despite the uptick in violence, the United States and Russia have remained silent on the issue, Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman reported last month.

The US supports the SDF in its fight against the Islamic State, while Russia backs the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Know more: The SDF defeated IS territorially in 2019, but the latter remains active in Syria. The Islamic State (IS) attacked a Syrian military convoy on Monday.

On Thursday, IS confirmed the death of its leader Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi. IS said that Quraishi was killed in clashes with the Syrian Islamist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Turkey claimed in April that its forces had killed the IS leader.

IS named Abi Hafsan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as its new leader, Agence France-Presse reported.

AANES Slams US Stance on Demographic Change in Syria’s Afrin: “Unfair”  

North Press reports that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) said the recent statement of the US regarding the demographic change in Syria’s Afrin was “unfair”.

In a press brief on August 2, spokesperson of the US Department of State, Matthew Miller, said they do not see the building of settlements in the Kurdish city of Afrin in northwest Syria by Turkey to house the families of the militants of the armed factions as a demographic change.

Badran Chiya Kurd, co-chair of the Foreign Relations Department of the AANES, said in a tweet in Arabic that “the recent statement by the US Department of State which included that the deportation of Syrian refugees to northern Syria does not change the demography of Afrin is incorrect,” adding, “this is a political stance that is unfair and contrary to reality.”

Replying to a question about “this is an intention to alter the demographic change in Afrin?” Miller said, “No.” Furthermore, he thanked Turkey for what he called “hosting communities for generously supporting nearly 3.7 million refugees, 3.3 million of whom are Syrians.”

Chiya Kurd said the Turkish plan to deport three million refugees aim at eliminating the Kurdish presence in northern Syria. “Lately, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked about a plan to deport a million Syrians from Turkey to the Turkish-occupied areas, like Afrin.”

The Kurdish-majority region of Afrin has been under the Turkish occupation since 2018 following a military operation dubbed “Olive Branch” to push away the Kurdish People’s/Women’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) under the pretext of protecting the Turkish national security.

The invasion displaced around 300,000 indigenous Kurds. Turkey and its affiliated opposition factions of the Syrian National Army (SNA), replaced the population with Arabs fleeing other parts of Syria. The Kurds in Afrin are subject to systemic discrimination and violence. In 2022 alone, 633 people, mostly Kurds, were arbitrarily arrested by SNA factions and Turkey.

“The statement of the US Department of State further complicates the situation and reveals a clear consistency with the Turkish demands,” Chiya Kurd added.

UK must stop funding detention of children in Syria, says David Davis

The former UK cabinet minister, David Davis, has called on the UK government to end its policy of funding the illegal detention of children in north-east Syria and to reveal how many British minors are being held in camps run by Syrian Kurds, according to The Guardian.

This comes after the case of Yusuf Zahab, a 19-year-old Australian citizen who was locked up in Syria since he was 14 and was presumed killed in an Islamic State (IS) attack on a prison in Hasakah. However, a year-old video of him speaking, dated after the attack, was recently released, raising questions about his status.

The UN previously contacted the British government in 2022, stating that the UK was providing up to £20 million to fund detention camps in Syria, some of which hold young boys as young as nine. David Davis expressed disappointment that the UK Middle East minister, Lord Ahmad, had not responded to his request for information on British children held in these camps, citing operational security.

Davis emphasized that other countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Canada, and the Netherlands, have repatriated families from north-east Syria, and there is a consensus among the UK’s allies, notably the US, that repatriation is the best solution. He stated that the detention of British boys in dire conditions without trial is a breach of international law and constitutes collective punishment, funded in part by the British taxpayer.

The director of the legal charity Reprieve, Maya Foa, echoed Davis’s concerns, urging the UK government to repatriate British families from Syria instead of continuing to fund the detention camps. She argued that the longer the government delays, the higher the risk that children will be disappeared into these camps indefinitely.

In response to previous lobbying, Lord Ahmad had mentioned that detention and camp facilities in north-east Syria were under the jurisdiction of the autonomous administration of north and east Syria. He cited the UK’s commitment to supporting vulnerable populations with humanitarian assistance in the region but highlighted the challenges of providing direct help to British nationals located there due to the lack of a consular presence within Syria.

How Feb. 6th earthquake compounded the misery of northwest Syria’s children

The February 6 earthquakes that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria compounded the misery of northwest Syria’s children, with many becoming orphaned or separated from their families, The Arab News reported.

. The earthquakes resulted in one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in the region, affecting at least 2.5 million children in Syria alone, according to UNICEF.

Children who lost their adult family members in the earthquakes either moved in with distant relatives, many of whom were also displaced, or had to fend for themselves. The situation has been especially harmful to orphaned children with no adult relatives in the area, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, trafficking, and mental health disorders.

The challenges faced by these children are vast and include trauma, physical injuries, inadequate health support, disrupted education, and heightened risks of child marriage, child labor, and recruitment by armed groups. Boys, in particular, face a higher risk of becoming separated, unaccompanied, or being recruited into armed groups.

The earthquake disasters in northwest Syria have significantly compounded the hardship faced by children, affecting various aspects of their well-being and development. They are in urgent need of emotional support and mental health services. However, mental health support remains inaccessible for most, and there is a lack of funding dedicated to children’s well-being.

The loss of civil documentation during the conflict and earthquakes poses a significant barrier to these children’s ability to exercise their rights and access services. Without proper documentation, they face challenges in obtaining protection against trafficking and other threats and may face arbitrary arrest and detention in the long run.

The humanitarian situation in the quake-hit region is complicated by limited funding for child protection and the absence of formal child-protection mechanisms. Millions of children remain vulnerable and are at risk of an uncertain fate unless efforts to protect them are intensified.

NGOs and charities operating in the region are calling for increased support and resources to address the dire situation faced by the children affected by the earthquakes and conflict in northwest Syria.


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