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Syria Today – U.S. Strikes Back, Russia Bombs Idleb

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

The U.S. army foiled an attack on its base in southeastern Syria and shot down three explosive-laden drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UVAs) before they could reach their targets. This comes after American bases have been subjected to numerous attacks since the beginning of the war between Hamas and Israel. At the same time, Russian military forces struck a drone warehouse in Syria’s Idleb province, the Russian Interfax news agency reported, citing Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, deputy head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria.

A Secret War, Strange New Wounds and Silence From the Pentagon 

The New York Times publish a long article discussing a secret U.S. offensive strategy employed in 2016 and 2017 to defeat the Islamic State. 

The strategy involved minimal American ground troops and heavy reliance on artillery fire. However, what was unforeseen was the devastating toll this strategy took on the troops responsible for the artillery fire. 

Many of them returned with severe mental and physical health problems, including nightmares, panic attacks, depression, and hallucinations. 

The military struggled to understand the cause of these issues and often misdiagnosed them. Despite a study revealing that gun crews were being harmed by their own weapons, the military did not take the threat seriously and failed to provide adequate support and treatment to affected veterans. 

The article highlights the silence from the Pentagon and the difficulties faced by veterans in understanding and addressing their health issues.

Russian forces strike drone warehouse in Syria’s Idleb

Russian military forces struck a drone warehouse in Syria’s Idleb province, the Russian Interfax news agency reported, citing Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, deputy head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, on Sunday.

“The Russian Aerospace Forces launched an air strike… against a warehouse of unmanned aerial vehicles of militants involved in shelling the positions of Syrian government troops,” Kulit was quoted as saying, according to Reuters.

No information about the scale of the damage or potential casualties was available.

The Syrian regime’s army has blamed rebels, who it says are jihadists, for attacks on regime-held areas in Idleb and Aleppo provinces and denies indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in territory under rebel control.

Opposition officials say both Russia and the regime are taking advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the Gaza war to escalate pounding of a region where over three million inhabitants refuse to live under the authoritarian rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

US army shoots down 3 armed drones before striking its base in southeastern Syria

The U.S. army foiled an attack on its base in southeastern Syria and shot down three explosive-laden drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UVAs) before they could reach their targets, sources told Anadolu on Monday.

The US Al-Tnaf military base in Syria, near the Jordanian border, was the target of the armed drones, local sources said.

US troops shot down the drones before they could reach their targets, they added.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack on the US military base, and the US has also not issued a statement about the incident.

In recent days, US military bases in Syria have been targeted by drones carrying explosives and surface-to-surface missiles, the perpetrators of which remain unclear.

The latest incident occurred when Israeli forces intensified attacks on Gaza after its blockade, preventing any humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

At least 10,022 Palestinians, including 4,104 children and 2,641 women, have been killed in the Israeli bombardments in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli death toll is nearly 1,600, according to official figures.

Besides the large number of casualties and massive displacements, basic supplies are running low for Gaza’s 2.3 million residents due to the Israeli siege.

Thousands took to the streets in many countries to express support for Palestine, while some of the protests are banned in France.

Does Syria Have a Role in the Israel-Hamas Conflict?

The Arab Center in Washington has published a report that delves into the intricate web of alliances and regional dynamics surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict, with a particular focus on Syria’s role in the ongoing crisis. Syria, a state influenced by powerful actors such as Russia and Iran, finds itself in a complex position, raising questions about its freedom to make independent decisions amidst these alliances.

The escalation of tensions in the region is a key focal point. Following Hamas’s deadly attack on Israel, rocket fire from various factions across the occupied Golan Heights triggered swift Israeli responses, sparking concerns of regional escalation. Palestinian factions and Hezbollah loyalists in southern Syria joined this volatile mix, resulting in increased punitive strikes on Syrian military installations and positions. Iran, a prominent supporter of Hamas and a key player in the so-called “axis of resistance” against the United States and Israel, quickly warned of preemptive action by this alliance, which also includes Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias in Syria, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The alignment of these groups against American and Israeli interests has created a high degree of cross-border synchronization, allowing Iran to exert influence on regional tensions.

The article emphasizes the international attention drawn to Israel’s northern border, particularly after daily skirmishes prompted a rare warning from U.S. President Joe Biden to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei regarding the safety of U.S. troops and installations in the region. French President Emmanuel Macron, during a recent visit to Israel, also cautioned Hezbollah against opening new fronts in Lebanon or Syria. However, Hezbollah’s General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah declared that his party would only consider expansion if provoked by Israel or if the Gaza situation deteriorated uncontrollably.

The escalating civilian death toll in Gaza, with over 9,000 casualties, including 3,700 children, has ignited tensions worldwide, leading to anti-Israeli and anti-American protests. Jordan canceled a summit planned with President Biden, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas following an attack on the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. Calls for a ceasefire have gone unheeded by Israel, which insists on continuing its fight against Hamas. The article also mentions the U.S. opposition to a ceasefire, including a UN Security Council resolution that lacked a clause recognizing Israel’s right to self-defense.

The article highlights the potential for the situation on Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria to escalate into a full-scale war if Israel’s operations against Gaza persist. The role of Iran, a major funding source for Hamas, is underscored. Hamas was previously headquartered in Damascus, where it received support from Syria for its struggle against Israel. However, in 2012, Hamas openly supported anti-government protests against the Syrian regime, leading to a rupture in relations. Only recently, under pressure from Iran, did Hamas re-establish ties with the Syrian regime, aligning itself more closely with the resistance axis against Israel.

The article concludes by considering whether the conflict will escalate to Syria. Mortar and rocket exchanges have become routine, with Syria considering Israel its enemy since its creation in 1948. Israel views Iran’s presence and influence in Syria as a growing threat, leading to repeated strikes against Iranian targets. The repercussions of a full-fledged war on Syria’s infrastructure and economy are highlighted, as the country already faces an economic crisis exacerbated by various factors. The article characterizes Syria as a puppet of its patrons, where the Assad regime rules but lacks both legitimacy and the means to effectively manage the country, serving as a battleground for regional and global confrontations among influential actors.

U.S. targets in Iraq and Syria were attacked at least 10 times since Thursday

Bases in Iraq and Syria with U.S. personnel have been attacked at least 10 times since Thursday, bringing the total number of attempted attacks on U.S. targets in the region since Oct. 17 to 38, according to three U.S. defense officials.

The officials say most of the attacks have come via one-way drones and rockets and there have not been any new U.S. casualties or damage to infrastructure.

Most of the newest attacks occurred on Sunday and Monday, according to U.S. officials.

At least 19 of the 38 attacks against U.S. targets have come since the U.S. launched retaliatory strikes on two Iranian-linked targets in Syria on Oct. 26.

Before they retaliated, U.S. and coalition forces had been attacked repeatedly in Iraq and Syria, according to defense officials.

Father of Highland Park parade shooter pleads guilty to reckless conduct charges in plea deal

The U.S. defines attacks as attempted strikes on U.S. facilities. Not all attempts actually reach the U.S. targets. 

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Defense Department press secretary, said on Oct. 24 that the groups conducting the attacks are supported by Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“We always reserve the right to defend ourselves, and we will never hesitate to take action when needed to protect our forces and our interests overseas,” he said.

October 2023: Grim Human Rights Violations in Syria Revealed by SNHR Report

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has published a comprehensive report summarizing the most notable human rights violations in Syria during October 2023. The report sheds light on the dire situation in the war-torn country, emphasizing the tragic impact on civilians and the urgent need for international action.

Key highlights from the report include:

  1. Attacks on Vital Civilian Facilities: The report reveals that no fewer than 85 attacks on vital civilian facilities occurred in Syria in October. Out of these, 74 were carried out by Syrian regime forces, mainly concentrated in the governorates of Idleb and Aleppo. These attacks targeted various civilian objects, including educational facilities, medical facilities, and places of worship.
  2. Civilian Casualties: In October, the SNHR documented the killing of 161 civilians, including 34 children and 44 women. These civilians fell victim to the conflict, with some even dying due to torture. The report also documents four massacres during this period.
  3. Arbitrary Arrests and Detentions: The report records 193 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria. Among these detainees, 13 were children and four were women. Syrian regime forces were responsible for most of these detentions.
  4. Escalation in Northwestern Syria: Syrian regime forces escalated their attacks in northwestern Syria in October. These attacks were characterized by their indiscriminate nature, and some specifically targeted certain objects. The attacks affected areas in Idleb, Aleppo, and western Hama governorate. Cluster munitions and incendiary munitions were used in some of these attacks.
  5. Civilian Demonstrations: Peaceful civilian demonstrations against the regime continued in October, mainly in the governorate of Suwayda. Protestors expressed their grievances regarding the dire state of the country and called for the downfall of the regime.
  6. Economic and Living Conditions: Economic, living, services, and security conditions deteriorated in areas under Syrian regime control. Fuel price volatility led to increased costs for goods, affecting public life. In northwestern Syria, economic suffering continued to worsen, driven by rising food prices, unemployment, and poverty.
  7. Landmine Explosions: Two civilians, including a child, were killed by landmine explosions in October, bringing the total number of landmine victims in 2023 to 101, including 25 children and eight women.
  8. Unidentified Assailants: More assassinations of civilians by unidentified assailants were recorded across Syria in October, particularly in Aleppo, Daraa, and Deir Ez-Zour governorates.

The SNHR report emphasizes that many of these attacks have been deliberately directed at civilians and civilian facilities, constituting war crimes. It calls on the UN Security Council to take additional measures, refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court, and hold all parties involved, including the Russian regime, accountable for their actions. The report also advocates for a prohibition on the use of cluster munitions and mines in Syria, similar to the ban on chemical weapons, and urges greater humanitarian assistance efforts in conflict-affected areas.

Overall, the report provides a sobering account of the ongoing human rights violations and suffering in Syria, highlighting the urgent need for international intervention and accountability for those responsible for these crimes.

Meet me for Lunch: Fleeing a war in Syria to study in Sudbury, Ont.

When Alissar Ali lived in Syria, she often started her day with a dish called fatayer.

It’s typically a meat pie that can also be stuffed with cheese or spinach instead. 

But as an international student at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ont., Ali doesn’t eat fatayer as often as she once did.

Today, she’s more likely to order a pizza or get something to eat at Tim Hortons.

“Like nothing really fancy and basically eating what the students would eat,” she told the CBC’s Markus Schwabe for the Meet me for Lunch series on Morning North.

Ali is studying data analysis at Cambrian, and hopes to be financially independent and help rescue animals — something she did in Syria — in her spare time.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since 2011, and Ali said she has memories of airstrikes hitting her high school.

“I had to move schools too, because there is a girl who died and a girl who got her legs amputated from airstrikes at the school,” she said.

Ali said her family helped her and her sister come to Canada. Her sister studies at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont.

“I haven’t seen her since I’ve come here because we’re like four hours away from each other,” she said.

“But she’s doing her own thing. We’re all becoming independent on our own.”

Ali said she has enjoyed her time in Canada so far.

“I love the people I love. I love how friendly and nice everyone is. That’s like one of my favourite things about Canada.”

As an animal lover, she has tried to pet seagulls, without any success so far.

But she did get to see a black bear roaming near her townhouse. 

“I wish I was able to get near him, but I can’t obviously,” she said. “And I wouldn’t do that. I’m just admiring the bear from afar.”

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