Logo Wide

Syria Today – Turkey Expels More Syrians; Russia Raids Wagner Positions; NE Syria

Your daily-brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Turkey Expels More Syrians; Russia Raids Wagner Positions; NE Syria

On the first day of Eid al-Adha, Turkish authorities expelled 22 Syrian refugees via Bab al-Hawa. Concurrently, Russian military police conducted operations on Wagner mercenary bases within Syria. Furthermore, Moscow executed precise strikes on various targets in the vicinity of Idleb, a city located in northwestern Syria.

Turkey deports 22 Syrians on first day of Eid al-Adha

North Press reported that Turkish authorities deported 22 Syrian refugees on Wednesday, the first day of Eid al-Adha, through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to Idleb Governorate in northwest Syria without notifying their relatives residing in Turkey.

An exclusive source at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing told North Press that Turkish border guards dropped 22 Syrians inside the yard of the border crossing in northern Idleb in a mass deportation, including nine people who hail from the city of Afrin and minors under the age of 18. They did not inform their relatives residing in Turkey of their arrest and deportation. This is the third deportation taking place in June.

On June 22nd, the Turkish authorities deported seven Syrian refugees, including a minor girl, back to Syria through the Tel Abyad crossing in Raqqa Governorate, northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on May 23 that Turkey will deport one million Syrian refugees to northern Syria.

The source added that the Turkish authorities took iris scans, fingerprints, and their identification papers to prevent them from returning to Turkish territories even though they have worked and lived there for years.

From Brussels to Damascus, how fringe delegations to Syria are 

New Arab has published an analysis of the frustration faced by EU lawmakers due to the involvement of fringe delegations with Syria, which is undermining the EU’s policy of isolating the Assad regime. The analysis says that despite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s return to the Arab League and a recent pledge of financial aid for Syrians, the EU maintains its stance of political isolation and sanctions against the Syrian government. However, some members of the European Parliament (MEPs) hold differing views and continue to support Assad through unofficial delegations, social media comments, and voting patterns.

Notably, the article argues, French far-right National Rally MEP Thierry Mariani has been a vocal advocate for political compromise with the Assad regime. He has visited Syria multiple times and maintains a consistent pro-Assad stance in the parliament. Other MEPs, such as Estonian Centre Party MEP Yana Toom, have also met with Assad, leading to controversy and accusations of misrepresentation of EU interests in Syria.

The article highlights the blurred line between official and unofficial visits by MEPs to Syria. While MEPs are free to travel in a personal capacity, there is confusion regarding the nature of these visits and whether they reflect official EU positions. The European Parliament has guidelines for disclosure of attendance and payment received, but it remains unclear what constitutes an official visit. Assad’s domestic news agency often presents these visits as legitimate, creating the perception of a lack of unity within the EU on Syria.

The article also mentions the involvement of left-wing MEPs who support Assad as a socialist alternative to the US. Irish Independent 4 Change MEPs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace are frequent visitors to Syria and have been vocal opponents of sanctions. However, the EU has recently increased sanctions against Assad’s relatives, accusing them of involvement in illegal activities.

The convergence of fringe politicians from both the left and right in their support for Assad, along with their opposition to EU motions declaring Russia a terrorist state, is noted. This alignment, driven by migration, Russia, and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, presents a challenge to the EU’s policy of political isolation towards Syria. The article concludes by highlighting the conflict and inconsistency within the EU’s current approach to Syria.

Russian military forces allegedly raid Wagner bases in Syria reports Saudi news channel

Russian military police in Syria conducted raids on Wagner mercenary bases in the country, Saudi Arabian TV news channel Al-Hadath alleged on June 27.

Citing its own sources, the channel reported that Russian military police allegedly arrested the head of the Wagner unit in As Suwayda, southern Syria, as well as three “high-ranking commanders” at the Khmeimim Air Base.

According to the channel, the police also visited Wagner offices in other Syrian cities, including Deir-ez-Zor, Hama, and Damascus.

However, Telegram channels associated with Wagner have denied these reports.

“Regarding the detention of Wagner PMC fighters in Syria. The information about the arrests is not true,” wrote the “Orchestra Wagner” channel. They did not specify whether raids were conducted without arrests.

Russian military police checkpoints are permanently stationed in several populated areas in Syria. Russia officially states that its main tasks are “monitoring the situation, ensuring the security of humanitarian actions, and patrolling strategically important roads for the country.”

Russian diplomats flew to Mali and Syria hours after Prigozhin announced his failed Wagner rebellion, assuring leaders the Kremlin was in charge

Kremlin diplomats flew abroad hours after Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced a rebellion, WSJ reported.

According to the Wall Street Journal, diplomats with Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations flew to Mali and Syria after Prigozhin announced a mutiny in Moscow last week. The diplomats made their way to countries where Russia has relied on Wagner mercenaries to fight their proxy wars — telling the leaders that Wagner would report to the Kremlin now.

Kremlin diplomats personally reassured Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that Wagner would continue operating in the country, but not independently, according to the Journal. The Journal sourced the update through Wagner defectors, anonymous diplomats and intelligence officials close to the conversations, and through tracking international flight data.

Wagner forces played a key role in capturing the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and many of the 30,000 mercenaries employed by the company have fought for Kremlin interests in Syria and Africa.

New migrant tragedy at sea changes little as EU leaders forge ahead with tougher borders plans

The Associated Press has published an article which discusses the EU’s response to the recent migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea, where an overcrowded fishing trawler sank, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people. The European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, expressed the need for urgent action and highlighted priorities such as stabilizing Tunisia’s economy, managing migration, and finalizing the reform of the EU’s asylum rules.

The article compares von der Leyen’s response to a similar tragedy a decade ago, where the then European Commission President José Manuel Barroso vowed that such tragedies should never happen again. However, subsequent concerns about creating a “pull factor” led to the discontinuation of search and rescue missions by the Italian Navy.

At the upcoming EU summit, leaders will discuss von der Leyen’s plans, with a focus on preventing migrants from entering the EU. The article highlights the challenges of equitably sharing out refugees and the increasing number of unauthorized attempts to enter the EU.

According to AP, Von der Leyen emphasizes the need to limit irregular departures from Africa and Turkey, fight against migrant smuggling, and establish comprehensive partnerships with third countries. The EU’s approach includes providing financial support to countries such as Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt, as well as strengthening border security measures.

The centrepiece of EU policy is the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which is still a work in progress. While the member countries reached an agreement on part of the asylum reform package, the European Parliament insists on mandatory refugee quotas, which could pose a challenge.

The article concludes that while the reform package may not put an end to drownings at sea, it aims to address certain aspects of the migration issue, such as border security and ties with transit countries. However, actively patrolling the Mediterranean to rescue migrants in distress is not a high priority for the EU, and their ships only respond to emergency calls as required by international law.

Recruitment of children by armed groups in Syria is on the rise, even as fighting subsides

According to a recent United Nations report on children in armed conflict, the recruitment of child soldiers in Syria is increasing despite the winding down of fighting in most parts of the country. The report indicates that the number of children recruited by armed groups in Syria has steadily risen over the past three years, reaching 1,696 in 2022, compared to 813 in 2020. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, was implicated in half of the cases (637) in 2022, while the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaida-linked group, were also involved in child recruitment.

Children are recruited for various reasons, including forced conscription, financial necessity, ideological motivations, and family or tribal loyalties. The complexity of the situation is exacerbated by the presence of numerous armed groups in different parts of Syria. In 2019, the SDF committed to ending the recruitment of children under 18, but recruitment by other groups in areas under SDF control has continued. The Revolutionary Youth, a group associated with the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), was cited as one of the groups responsible for child recruitment.

While some progress has been made in addressing child recruitment, challenges remain due to the fragmented nature of armed groups in Syria. The UN report calls for greater efforts to stop the recruitment of child soldiers and urges all parties involved to fulfill their commitments to protecting children.

Russia says it hit several targets around Syria’s Idleb with precision weapons

Russia carried out precision strikes on several targets near the northwestern Syrian city of Idleb, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria, was quoted as telling Interfax news agency on Wednesday.

According to Gurinov, the strikes were meant as a response to “militants attacking targets in government-controlled Syrian territory with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Last week witnesses and rescuers said that Russian jets bombed villages and towns near Idleb, killing at least nine civilians and wounding dozens in a major flare-up of violence in the country’s last opposition stronghold.

Gurinov said on Wednesday that as a result of the strikes a control point, a warehouse with weapons and ammunition were destroyed, and 18 insurgents were killed.

During past outbreaks of fighting, Damascus and Russia have said they only target insurgent groups and deny indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

Helpful keywords