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Syria Today – U.S. Sends More Equipment; HTS Kills 9 Regime Soldiers.

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – U.S. Sends More Equipment; HTS Kills 9 Regime Soldiers.

A convoy of 30 trucks carrying logistical equipment, fuel, and ammunition has reportedly been dispatched by the U.S. military to Syria’s northeastern province of Hassakeh. At the same time, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham carried out operations in the de-escalation zone in northwest Syria, resulting in the killing of nine soldiers from the Syrian government forces.

U.S. Military Sends Equipment to Syria’s Hassakeh amid Resource Plunder Concerns

The Iranian news agency, Tasnim, has reported that a convoy of 30 trucks carrying logistical equipment, fuel, and ammunition has been dispatched by the U.S. military to Syria’s northeastern province of Hassakeh, as reported by Russia’s Sputnik news agency, citing local sources.

The convoy is believed to be heading towards U.S. positions in the province, including the “illegal” military bases in the countryside of Hassakeh, notably the base located at al-Jibsah oilfields in the town of al-Shaddadi.

The Iranian outlet says this recent development comes shortly after 39 U.S. military tankers crossed the al-Mahmoudiya border crossing and headed towards Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, having been filled with Syrian crude oil.

The U.S. military has justified its presence in northeastern Syria by claiming it aims to prevent the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists. However, Damascus says that the unauthorized US deployment is actually an attempt to exploit the country’s abundant mineral resources.

Earlier this month, a senior Russian diplomat, Mikhail Bogdanov, criticized the ongoing illegal presence of US military forces in Syria, demanding an end to the Pentagon’s occupation of the Arab nation’s energy- and mineral-rich regions. Bogdanov condemned the US for using the pretext of combating terrorism to justify its presence in strategically important areas with vast crude oil and natural reserves.

UN agency raises alarm over Syrian refugee relief in Jordan

The UNHCR has warned of “serious consequences” for refugees in Jordan if no adequate funding is added to its shrinking budget, Arab News reported.

The UN refugee agency has issued a recent appeal calling for “immediate” assistance after other agencies announced plans to reduce health services and food help in camps in Jordan.

Jordanian government-owned Al-Mamlakah TV commented on a UNHCR report which said that the UN refugee agency had only received 32 percent of its financial needs for 2023, or “$125.7 million of its annual budget of $390.11 million.”

In light of this 68 percent deficit, Dominik Bartsch, the agency’s representative to Jordan, has warned of a “humanitarian crisis and serious consequences for refugees and host communities.”

He added: “The current lack of funding for the refugee response is undermining the great achievements made in over a decade.”

Now, there is an imminent risk that the situation is sliding back into a humanitarian crisis, with serious consequences for refugees and host communities.

He said that there was growing concern that Jordan’s ability to include refugees in healthcare and education systems might be eroded.

“Sustained support over the years has allowed Syrian refugees to access the labor market,” Bartsch said.

“Now, there is an imminent risk that the situation is sliding back into a humanitarian crisis, with serious consequences for refugees and host communities.”

Bartsch praised Jordanian efforts in past years in giving assistance to refugees.

The country issued a record 62,000 work permits to Syrians in 2021, according to UNHCR.

This was a result of the international community committing funding and expanded trade facilitation under the Jordan Compact, an initiative to improve access to education and legal employment for Syrians forced to flee their homes.

Bartsch added: “Jordan has done so much, and donors need to recognize what is at risk.”

He called for a “determined and coordinated action … to keep the success story in Jordan alive.”

Bartsch said that the lack of assistance was exacerbating the vulnerability of refugees.

He added: “The number of refugee families who cannot pay their rent and are at risk of eviction from their homes rose by 66 percent from December 2022 to February 2023.”

The representative warned of another wave of refugees toward Europe should no “immediate action” be taken to improve their financial situation in Jordan.

He said: “Another consequence of lack of assistance is that it may push refugees onto irregular routes toward Europe. UNHCR is concerned about their protection after leaving Jordan as they are exposed to exploitation, abuse, and death.

“The recent shipwreck off Greece was a stark reminder that people who do not see a perspective, make desperate choices.”

Children forcibly separated from mothers at Syria’s Al-Hol, warns top rights expert

A UN-appointed independent expert expressed deep concern on Friday over the distressing treatment of children being held apparently indefinitely in prison-like conditions in northeast Syria, where they are forcibly separated from their mothers.

A UN official statement states that Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, is the first independent rights expert to gain access to the infamous facilities Al Hol and Al Raj, as well as other places of detention.

After her six-day visit to northeast Syria, Ms. Ni Aolain said conditions in both camps constituted arbitrary and indefinite mass detention with no prospect of legal or judicial process for those being held. 

Reliable witness

“I was able to witness first-hand, including mass arbitrary detention of children, incommunicado detention, disappearances, structural and systematic discrimination for the detained person on the basis of their nationality,” she told reporters.

The rights expert, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017, said that she also witnessed the systematic practice of boys being separated from their mothers in the camps – “most frequently in the middle of the night or in the marketplace”.

She added: “Every single woman I spoke to made clear that it was the snatching of their children that provided the most anxiety, the most suffering, the most psychological harm.”

The policy is based on an unproven security risk that male children are said to present when they become adolescents. 

Fear ‘palpable’

“The fear of boys below 10 (of being taken away) is palpable,” she recalled, after meeting a large number of traumatized boys and their mothers. 

Speaking in Geneva, the rights expert expressed alarm that violence and deep insecurity pervade the detention centres – where some 56,000 suspected extremists and families of alleged ISIL fighters are reportedly detained.

Eight in 10 are under 12, including “a two-year-old who’s currently living in this facility, who doesn’t get returned home and lives in a situation of mass, arbitrary detention throughout his or her life”, she said.

Ms. Ní Aoláin also reiterated concerns about the practices of incommunicado detention and disappearances, including against children in the Gweiran Sina’a / Panorama prison, as well as a confirmed tuberculosis outbreak, exacerbating the health crisis in the facility.

Ms. Ní Aoláin’s main concern was for the mass and indefinite detention of children which constitutes an “absolute contravention of international law in what appears to be a never-ending cycle of cradle to grave in detention”.

UK, Australia  must repatriate more nationals in Syria, says terrorism policy adviser

The UK and Australian governments are facing increasing pressure to allow greater repatriation of their nationals held in Syria, particularly in light of changing circumstances since 2017The Guardian reported. 

The UK government is facing increasing pressure to allow greater repatriation of British nationals held in Syria, particularly in light of changing circumstances since 2017, according to Jonathan Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, The Guardian reported. 

Hall emphasized that many of these individuals are likely to return, and he predicted little security risk in allowing the return of high-profile cases like Shamima Begum. Begum, who fled her east London home at the age of 15 to join the Islamic State in Syria, is infamous, making her susceptible to lifelong anonymity orders requiring constant contact with authorities. Begum was stripped of her British citizenship in 2019, and this decision was upheld by the supreme court.

The US has been urging the UK to join its European allies in repatriating more of its nationals, as Britain has been seen as an outlier in resisting such returns.

Meanwhile, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, reported that around 52,000 people, including 60% children (80% of whom are under 12), are detained in the Hol and Roj camps in Syria. She stressed that conditions in these camps are dire, with children living in fear of being separated from their mothers. Ní Aoláin warned that without increased efforts by countries to repatriate from these camps, the children face life imprisonment and the stigma of being associated with terrorism merely due to their place and circumstance of birth.

The situation is particularly concerning for children born to Syrian women and foreign fathers, as they are unlikely to gain citizenship or lead normal lives in Syria. Court cases in Europe have highlighted the complexities faced by children born out of mixed jihadist marriages. Some of these cases involve Australian men and foreign women who have returned from Islamic State-held territory in Syria. Mixed-nationality children from such marriages often face uncertain futures in Syria’s camps, and calls are growing for their repatriation to offer them a chance at a better life.

The issue of repatriation has become a pressing matter, with conditions in the camps constituting arbitrary and indefinite mass detention without legal or judicial process. Ní Aoláin stressed that citizenship stripping should be a last resort and should not be used to evade a nation’s obligations to its citizens. Urgent action is needed to address the plight of these individuals, especially the children, who are caught in the crossfire of a complex and distressing situation.

The report reveals Iran’s growing threat to U.S., Israel from Syria

A report by JPost.com highlights Iran’s growing threat to the US and Israel from Syria. According to an unnamed intelligence official, Iran is supporting heavily armed forces in Syria, known as the Imam Hossein Division, which are preparing and gathering capabilities to pose a threat to American forces in Syria and Israel. This division is reportedly armed with precision-guided munitions, attack, and spy drones, along with various weaponry. It conducted drone and rocket attacks on the US military garrison in Al-Tanf in October 2021.

The Imam Hossein Division consists of fighters from multiple countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, and others. The unit operates under the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and is seen as a significant concern due to its powerful and robust capabilities.

Iran’s presence in Syria is not new, and it has been assisting the Syrian regime since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. The IRGC has recruited fighters from Shi’ite communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, including Hezbollah, to join its forces in Syria. The report suggests that Iran has been forming a “second Hezbollah” in Syria for years.

The presence of the Imam Hossein Division in Syria, particularly in areas near Damascus and Homs, raises concerns about potential future attacks against Israel and the US. Iran has been actively supporting other militant groups, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, to increase threats in the West Bank.

The report highlights the need for vigilance on the part of Israel and the US, as Iran’s activities in Syria and its support for armed forces pose a significant security challenge in the region.

HTS kills 9 soldiers of government forces

North Press reports that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) carried out operations in the de-escalation zone in northwest Syria, resulting in the killing of nine soldiers from the Syrian government forces. The HTS’s Sniping Brigades faction was responsible for these attacks, which occurred within a 48-hour period. The soldiers were targeted on the outskirts of the town of al-Kabina, located north of Lattakia Governorate on the Syrian coast, as well as near Zawiya Mountain in southern Idlib Governorate.

Al-Fateh al-Mubin Operations Room, a military source, confirmed that they have been focusing on sniper attacks against the government forces.

Despite the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement signed in March 2020, which established a de-escalation zone in northwest Syria, the area continues to witness frequent mutual bombardments. The agreement also included provisions for the establishment of a safe corridor and joint patrols on the M4/Aleppo-Lattakia Highway.

The situation in the de-escalation zone remains tense, with both sides engaging in hostilities despite the ceasefire agreement.

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