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Syria Today – Syrian Cuisine Takes On L.A.; Strikes on Syria

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

An article detailing the remarkable transition of a Syrian woman, evolving from a participant in the Syrian revolution to becoming a culinary ambassador in Los Angeles, was recently published by the LA Times. Meanwhile, Turkey, Israel, and the U.S. jointly targeted locations within Syrian territories.

Syrian state media says Israeli strike caused ‘material losses’ near Damascus

Syria’s state-run SANA broadcaster, citing a military source, says Israeli Air Force warplanes fired two missiles from over the Golan Heights at a site near the capital Damascus.

It claims Syrian air defenses downed one of the missiles, while the second caused “material losses.”

The report says there are no injuries in the alleged strike.

U.S. Strikes Iranian-Linked Facilities in Iraq

The United States conducted a new round of airstrikes — the second in roughly a day — in Iraq early Wednesday, destroying two facilities used by Iranian proxies that had been targeting American and coalition troops, U.S. military officials said.

According to The New York Times, The latest rounds in the tit-for-tat attacks between the United States and Iranian-backed fighters took place in Iraq, in a departure from the United States’ practice of striking mostly targets in Syria.

This time, the United States struck an operations center and a command-and-control node south of Baghdad used by Kataib Hezbollah, a militia group in Iraq that is considered a proxy of Iran. Kataib Hezbollah’s political wing is part of the coalition of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani of Iraq.

A defence official said the military could not provide a casualty assessment.

The strikes came as the Biden administration has escalated its attacks recently. Barely more than 24 hours earlier, an American military gunship fired on and killed three Iran-backed militants on Monday night who the Pentagon said Tuesday were part of an attack on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. Unlike that exchange, which Pentagon officials said came at the spur of the moment after an American warplane in the area witnessed the ballistic missile attack on Al Asad Air Base and retaliated, the Wednesday morning strikes were planned, at least for a few hours.

The administration blames Iran and the militias aligned with it, known as the Axis of Resistance, for what has become a daily barrage of rocket and drone attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. fires on key Iranian-backed sites in Syria

U.S. forces struck a pair of key sites in Iraq commonly used by Iranian-backed forces in Syria on Wednesday, UPI reported.

An Air Force AC-130 gunship fired on a vehicle said to be carrying Iran-backed militants who had launched a missile at American troops in western Iraq, causing “several enemy casualties,” the U.S. Central Command and defense officials said.

“On the morning of November 22 in Iraq, U.S. Central Command forces conducted discrete, precision strikes against two facilities in Iraq. The strikes were in direct response to the attacks against U.S. and coalition forces by Iran and Iran-backed groups, including the one in Iraq on Nov. 21, which involved the use of close-range ballistic missiles,” a statement from Central Command read.

U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have sustained nearly daily attacks on American targets and assets. This is the fourth U.S. retaliatory airstrike on Iranian-backed forces in the region since the attacks began in mid-October, 10 days after Hamas launched a surprise offensive on Israel, killing at least 1,200 people.

Turkish drones target three cars in northern Syria

Turkish drones consecutively targeted three cars within a few hours in northern Syria (Syrian-Kurdistan, or “Rojava”), in three locations in the countryside of Qamishlo, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports.

Turkish drone strikes targeted three cars in separate attacks in the Shurak village, located in the countryside of Qamishlo, Tal Marouf, and Rumaylan in the Hasakah province.

According to the most recent data update from SOHR, Turkey has executed 101 drone strikes since the beginning of 2023, leading to 82 deaths, and injuring another 90 persons.

 Syria’s two main airports still shut month after Israeli strikes: monitor

Syria’s two main airports are still shut a month after simultaneous Israeli strikes put them out of service — the longest such closure since the Syrian conflict began, a war monitor said Wednesday, according to Arab News.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported two Israeli strikes near the capital Damascus on Wednesday, targeting Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, a Damascus ally.

Flights to and from Damascus and Aleppo airports have been suspended since the October 22 strikes damaged the runways.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory, said both airports “are closed” despite the completion of repairs.

Syrian authorities did not respond to an AFP request for comment on the extended closures.

Since Syria’s conflict began in 2011 after the government repressed pro-democracy protests, Israel has repeatedly targeted Damascus airport, but this is the first time it has been shut for a month, Abdel Rahman added.

Israel, which has launched hundreds of air strikes on its northern neighbour since 2011, primarily targeting Hezbollah fighters and other Iran-backed forces as well as Syrian army positions, has intensified attacks since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7.

On Wednesday morning, the Observatory, which has a vast network of sources inside Syria, said Israeli strikes targeted a center belonging to Hezbollah in the Damascus countryside.

Later in the day, it reported “new Israeli air strikes that targeted Hezbollah” on the outskirts of Damascus, without immediately reporting casualties.

Syrian state media did not report the morning attack.

But state news agency SANA, carrying a statement from a military source, later said that at around 3:10 p.m. (1210 GMT), “the Zionist enemy carried out an air attack with two missiles from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting some points in the vicinity of the city of Damascus.”

“Air defences responded to the attack and downed one of the missiles,” the statement said, reporting “material damage.”

With both Damascus and Syria’s second airport Aleppo out of service, the transport ministry said flights have been re-routed to Latakia on the coast in the west.

Latakia airport, more than 300 kilometres (185 miles) from Damascus, is smaller and flights there are limited, including to Russia, Iran and Iraq.

Several U.S. service members injured in missile attack at Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, Pentagon says

Several U.S. service members were injured in a ballistic missile attack by Iranian-backed militias on Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. The attack Monday night on U.S. and coalition forces involved a close-range ballistic missile and resulted in eight injuries and minor infrastructural damage, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement

U.S. military responded with a retaliatory strike, which was not pre-planned, killing several Iranian-backed militia personnel, CBS News learned.

“Immediately following the attack, a U.S. military AC-130 aircraft in the area conducted a self-defense strike against an Iranian-backed militia vehicle and a number of Iranian-backed militia personnel involved in this attack,” Ryder said in his statement. 

In a tweet, U.S. Central Command said the AC-130 “maintained visual confirmation of the individuals from the time of the launch to the time of engagement.”

The U.S. conducted further “precision strikes” against two facilities in Iraq early Wednesday morning local time, CENTCOM said in a statement. 

“The strikes were in direct response to the attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces by Iran and Iran-backed groups,” including the attack on Al-Asad Airbase, “which involved use of close-range ballistic missiles,” the statement read.

A U.S. official told CBS News the targets were an operations center and a communications node belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, one of the main Iran-backed militias in Iraq. The sites were manned at time of strikes, the official said, so casualties were expected. The official said there had been no retaliatory action by Kataib Hezbollah as of Wednesday morning.    

The U.S. service members wounded in the attack are still being evaluated, a Pentagon official told CBS News, adding that this was the 66th attack against American-affiliated military bases in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17.

A former revolutionary has a new mission: better representation of the Syrian table

The Los Angeles Times published a report on a Syrian woman’s journey from a participant in the Syrian revolution to a culinary ambassador in Los Angeles.

Nesrin, a former participant in the Syrian revolution, has embarked on a new mission—to promote and celebrate Mediterranean cuisine. Her journey takes place in Los Angeles, where she has established Mediterranean Pastries Den, a stand at various Westside farmers markets. Despite its name, the real star of her offerings isn’t pastries but rather a diverse array of savoury dishes, with a strong emphasis on vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Nesrin’s culinary expertise is showcased in her meticulous cooking style. In an industrial kitchen in West Los Angeles, she can be found meticulously preparing dishes, infusing them with the flavours and traditions of the Mediterranean. Clad in gold slides and a green apron, her hair neatly tied back with a cloth headband, she tends to each clay pot with care. Her creations include eggplant tagine, where the eggplant is first fried and then stewed with onion, garlic, and tomatoes, resulting in a rich, sweet, and creamy concoction adorned with whole cloves of garlic. She also prepares okra by gently folding it rather than stirring it to retain its unique texture. Among her specialties is Yemen-style ful, made from pureed favas stewed with garlic, tomatoes, cumin, and turmeric, a recipe passed down from her neighbours in Damascus.

Nesrin’s journey into the culinary world was inspired by her experiences in the Syrian revolution. She passionately discusses her involvement in the civil rights movement from 2010 to 2014, emphasizing the challenges faced by the movement. Nesrin’s commitment to her homeland led her back to the United States, where she sought asylum and obtained a green card. Her ultimate dream is to open a restaurant, but the high rents and substantial investment required for such an endeavour in West L.A. pose significant obstacles.

Amidst her culinary endeavours, Nesrin remains informed about world events. While cooking, she listens to the news and checks alerts on an iPad, staying engaged with current affairs. She has a deep connection to regions in conflict, having witnessed the suffering in both the Syrian civil war and the Israel-Hamas conflict. For her, the impact on civilians in such conflicts is particularly distressing.

Nesrin’s customers come from diverse backgrounds, and she sees her role as an educator, aiming to address shortcomings in American food culture. Her approach challenges conventions such as the over-reliance on meat and the practice of serving plain roasted vegetables. Many of her regular customers are families who appreciate her flavorful and kid-friendly dishes, such as her expertly prepared okra and green beans. Her culinary creations have even changed the way some customers perceive and appreciate certain ingredients, like okra.

In essence, Nesrin’s mission extends beyond serving delicious Mediterranean cuisine. She seeks to foster a deeper understanding of the diverse and rich culinary traditions of the Mediterranean region, bridging cultural gaps and inspiring an appreciation for a more vegetable-forward and culturally diverse approach to food.

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