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Syria Today – U.S. Positions Under Attack, Israel Stops Warning Russia Ahead of Syria Strikes

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

On Sunday, a US military base in Tal Bidar, Hassakeh province, was attacked. Simultaneously, it was reported that Israel ceased providing advance notice to Russia before conducting airstrikes in Syria amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas and Iranian proxy terror groups, leading to strained relations with Moscow.

US military base in Syria come under attack

The US military base in the town of Tal Bidar in Hassakeh province came under attack on Sunday.

The Iraqi sources announced that the Islamic Resistance of Iraq targeted the “Tal Bidr” base in al-Hassakeh, Syria, where American troops are stationed.

The media sources did not release further details.

Earlier, the Islamic Resistance of Iraq issued a statement and announced that it targeted the American military base in al-Shadadi, south of the Syrian city of al-Hassakeh.

Local sources on Friday night reported that the sound of an explosion was heard from inside the US base in Syria’s Kharab al-Jir.

The sources added that the illegal US base had come under a rocket attack.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack on the illegal US base in Syria, saying that the rockets directly hit the targets.

US intel suggests Syria’s Assad agreed to send Russian missile system to Hezbollah with Wagner group help

The US has intelligence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to provide the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah with a Russian-made missile defense system, according to two people familiar with the intelligence, according to CNN.

The Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, which operates in Syria, has been tasked with carrying out the delivery of the surface-to-air SA-22 missile system, the people said. It is not clear whether it has already been delivered or how close it is to delivery. The system was originally provided by Russia for use by the Syrian government, the sources said.

One of the sources said the US has been monitoring recent movement of the system, which is also known as a Pantsir. The other source said the US assessment was based partly on intelligence obtained about discussions among Assad, Wagner, and Hezbollah about the delivery of the system.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Wagner may provide the system to Hezbollah. Assad’s role has not been previously reported.

Wagner and Hezbollah fighters have both operated in Syria for years, where they have been working alongside Russian and Syrian armed forces to bolster the Assad regime against the Syrian opposition. Hezbollah began to pull its fighters out in recent years, but the group is also backed by Iran, which is a close Assad ally. A third source familiar with western intelligence said there was evidence of increasing collaboration between Hezbollah and Wagner in Syria.

The possibility that Hezbollah could soon have a new air defense system comes amid concerns that the militants are considering opening a new front in Israel’s war on Hamas, on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. The US has repeatedly warned Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups to stay out of the conflict and has positioned aircraft carriers and troops in the region to try to deter against a potential escalation.

Israel has also targeted these missile systems inside of Syria before, as part of broader Israeli attacks on Iranian military sites in the country.

It is not clear how much influence Russia had over the decision to provide the system to Hezbollah. Since the death of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in August, the Kremlin has made some attempts to absorb Wagner mercenaries and the group’s assets. But as of late September, the US had not seen a decisive shift in terms of the Kremlin taking full ownership over the fighters, CNN previously reported.

Russia did, however, host Hamas leaders in Moscow earlier this month, sparking outrage by the Israeli government.

Israel said to stop warning Russia ahead of Syria strikes, amid worsening ties

Since the war against Hamas erupted last month, Israel has stopped giving advance warning to Russia ahead of every airstrike it carries out in Syria, worsening bilateral ties with Moscow, Bloomberg reports.

Israel has struck multiple terror-related sites in Syria following rocket fire toward Israel, and has bombed airport runways to prevent Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group from arming.

The report says Jerusalem didn’t warn Russia ahead of a strike earlier this week on a Syrian military base in Daraa, or of a strike last week on a weapons depot and air surveillance radars at a Syrian base housing Hezbollah operatives.

Before the war, Israel would notify Russia to avoid accidentally hitting its forces.

Moscow has been critical of Israel during the current war, and even hosted a Hamas delegation in Russia.

Northwest Syria: Government Uses Cluster Munitions

Syrian government forces used widely banned cluster munitions in an attack on Termanin, a town in northern Idlib, on October 6, 2023, killing two civilians and injuring nine others, Human Rights Watch said today. The next day, a 9-year-old boy picked up a munition that had failed to detonate on impact during the attack. It exploded, injuring him and two others, Human Right Watch reported.

This attack was part of a larger military campaign by Syrian and Russian forces on opposition-held northwest Syria that started on October 5 and had, as of October 27, affected more than “2,300 locations” across Idlib and western Aleppo. At least 70 people have been killed, including 3 aid workers, 14 women and 27 children, 338 others injured, and 120,000 newly displaced, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Syrian government forces’ use of cluster munitions during its bombardment of opposition-held areas proves just how tragically indiscriminate these weapons are and their devastating legacy of lasting harm,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Amid the ongoing bombardment by Syrian and Russian forces, the children of Idlib yet again fall victim to callous and unlawful military actions.”

The attacks, which in some instances involved the use of incendiary weapons, also damaged critical services and infrastructure, including 23 health facilities and hospitals and 17 schools, the UN said. By October 30, the Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer search and rescue group operating in opposition-held areas, reported that airstrikes and artillery shelling was continuing to damage residential areas, schools, and health facilities across the region. One October 24 airstrike hit a camp for displaced people near the village of al-Hamama in the western countryside of Idlib governorate, killing five members of the same family, including a pregnant woman, two infants, and their 70-year-old grandmother.

Devastation at a camp for the displaced near the town of Al-Hamamah in Idlib’s western countryside following a Syrian-Russian military alliance airstrike that struck the camp on October 24, 2023, killing five members of the same family, including a pregnant woman, two infants, and their 70-year-old grandmother. © 2023 Ali Haj Suleiman

“We are witnessing the largest escalation of hostilities in Syria in four years,” Paulo Pinheiro, head of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria told the UN General Assembly on October 24. “Yet again there appears to be total disregard for civilians’ lives in what are often tit-for-tat reprisals.”

Battling the public mood, Turkey quietly assimilates Syrians

Like millions of other Syrians fleeing war, Mahmud Abdi came to Turkey hoping to return once the bloodshed ebbed, AFP reported

Almost a decade later, the 30-year-old carpenter is looking to open his own workshop in the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa, where a quarter of the two million inhabitants are Syrian.

“I’ve learned to handle new machines,” said Abdi, who fled the Islamic State’s short-lived “caliphate” in Syria’s Raqqa. “After my course, I’m going to work for a furniture maker.”

Abdi’s new ambitions pose a political problem for Turkey, which still views most of its nearly 3.5 million Syrians as “guests” receiving “temporary protection”.

Syrian refugees became a hot-button issue during this year’s presidential election, held amid an economic crisis that fanned anti-migrant flames.

But with the European Union’s help, Turkey is quietly setting up integration-through-work programmes — even if few officials publicly admit that many Syrians are probably here to stay.

“Employment plays a key role in ensuring harmony” between locals and the Syrians, said Metin Baydilli, mayor of Sanliurfa’s Karakopru district.

That harmony was violently broken in the capital Ankara in 2021, when Turkish nationalists went on a rampage, attacking Syrian businesses and homes following the death of a teen in a street fight involving Syrians.

Other, less violent incidents have become painfully common in recent years.

Against this backdrop, the EU stepped up financial support, hoping Turkey can continue accepting refugees who might otherwise end up in Europe.

The sides signed a landmark deal in 2016, with Brussels releasing nearly 10 billion euros since 2011 for schools, healthcare, and training programmes such as Abdi’s furniture-making course.

– Political problem –

“The word ‘integration’ is not used by Turkish officials,” Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, the European Union’s ambassador to Turkey, said during a visit to Sanliurfa last month.

“But in reality, a lot is being done for integration, even if the prospects of a return are being kept alive for political reasons.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prided himself on Turkey becoming the welcoming home for millions fleeing hardship in places such as Syria.

But polls show the overwhelming majority of Turks prefer to see the Syrians go back.

WIU art exhibit inspired by photos of Syrian atrocities

The Western Illinois University Department of Art and Design is hosting an exhibit of paintings that document crimes against humanity.

The Caesar files

The paintings are recreations of photographs taken by a person known only as Caesar.

The former medical photographer for the Syrian government risked his own life by making tens of thousands of copies of photos of men, women, and children who were tortured to death in prisons run by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Caesar smuggled the images out of Syria a decade ago to expose the atrocities to the world.

His identity remains unknown.

The exhibit is called “The Caesar Files: War Crimes in the Digital Age.”

“The art I’ve been making is based on digital images that I have seen flash before me – like everyone else – on social media,” said artist Marc Nelson.

“The war crimes being committed by Putin in Ukraine and by Assad in Syria are there for anyone to see. So ‘War Crimes in the Digital Age’ is about crimes that are 24/7 at your fingertips, which is a weird reality to live in.”

The paintings will remain on display in the Annex Gallery at WIU through Nov. 17.

Nelson teaches art to fourth through eighth-grade students in Kewanee and also teaches students about the Holocaust through graphic novels and other means.

Pro-Iran militia hits US troops in eastern Syria with rockets

A pro-Iran Iraqi militia group on Sunday claimed it attacked United States forces with drones in northeast Syria, Rudaw reported.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a network of shadow Iraqi militia groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said in a statement that it used drones to attack the Tel Baydar base that houses the US troops in Hasaka province. 

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that drones coming from the direction of Iraq targeted American troops in Hassakeh and the sound of at least one explosion was heard near the base. SOHR initially reported that the drone was Turkish. 

Rudaw English contacted the US-led global coalition for confirmation, but they were not immediately available.

The Islamic Resistance militia has claimed responsibility for most of the dozens of recent attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria, linking them to American support for Israel against the Hamas Movement in the Gaza Strip. 

The Pentagon in late October blamed Iranian proxies for 27 attacks on its forces in Iraq and Syria. There have been more assaults since then. 

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS News last week that American troops have responded to threats against them in the Middle East and will continue doing so, warning that “[W]e are seeing elevated threats against our forces throughout the region and an elevated risk of this conflict spreading to other parts of the region.” 

“We are doing everything in our power to deter and prevent that. But I’m not going to predict what the future brings, other than to say that if we are attacked, we will respond,” he added.

US intercepts unidentified drone near Global Coalition base in NE Syria

US forces successfully intercepted a unilateral attack drone that approached a US-led Global Coalition base on the outskirts of Hassakeh governorate in northeast Syria on Sunday.

A Coalition military source told the North Press Agency that the drone had come from an area controlled by Turkish-backed armed opposition groups, commonly known as the Syrian National Army (SNA).

However, other sources claim the downed drone belonged to the Iraqi Sunni Islamist armed group the Islamic Resistance Front.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported that the drone downed near the US base at Tell Baydar, north of Hassakeh city, belonged to Turkey. SOHR later retracted its report that the drone was Turkish.

The Islamic Front for Iraqi Resistance, which has previously carried out drone attacks on US bases in the region, said it had carried out an attack on the Global Coalition base in Hassakeh. “Our mujahideen targeted the American occupation base in Tell Baydar in Hassakeh with drones and hit it directly,” the group said in a statement as reported byBirgün.

The SOHR released photographs of the base in the aftermath of the downing of the drone.

The US forces have yet to make an official statement.

The increase in hostile incidents targeting US forces and personnel in Syria and Iraq coincides with Israel’s retaliatory aggression in Gaza following a Hamas attack in southern Israel on October 7th.

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