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Syria Today – UK Arrests British Journalist After Trip to Syria; Suweida Protests Continue

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – UK Arrests British Journalist After Trip to Syria; Suweida Protests Continue

In August, British counter-terrorism authorities detained a British journalist for an extended period of five hours. This journalist had previously worked in northeastern Syria. Concurrently, protests against the regime in Syria’s southern city of Suweida marked their 32nd day on Thursday, drawing large crowds from the nearby towns and villages.

Iran-Russia “burgeoning” military ties prop up Syria’s President

The US Air Force commander in the Middle East warned on Wednesday of “burgeoning” military ties between Iran and Russia, saying shared drone technology was a particular concern, North Press reported.

Modified Iranian drones used by Moscow in its war in Ukraine could feed back to Iran, which in turn may employ them in its campaign to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich said in a briefing in Abu Dhabi.

“I see the implications of that relationship playing out a little bit in Syria,” he added.

On the same day, Iranian Tasnim news agency said that the Russian defense minister and his entourage, who have traveled to Iran at the invitation of Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, paid a visit to the headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Group Crops (IRGC) Aerospace Force in Tehran.

General Shoigu was shown a number of drones, missile systems and missile defense equipment, according to the source.

The Russian defence minister and the Iranian military officials have discussed a range of issues in Tehran, such as long-term military cooperation between the two countries.

UK police hold, and question British journalist for work in NE Syria

In August, the British counter-terrorism police arrested a British journalist for five hours. The journalist previously worked in northeast Syria, North Press reported.

According to the Guardian, Matt Broomfield, 29, said, that after he got off from a plane from Belgrade on Aug. 24, the police questioned him about his reporting and opinions on the British state.

Broomfield said the police seized his phone and laptop but did not return them after the questioning ended.

Broomfield, with other reporters, co-founded the Rojava Information Center(RIC) in northeast Syria. The RIC is an independent, volunteer-staffed organization and helped many researchers and national and international media outlets with information from on the ground in northeast Syria.

He said the police officers focused on his writings in their questioning and who he had met and interviewed.

Previously, Broomfield had been held for two months in a detention center in Greece in 2021 and denied entry into Italy due to his media and advocacy work he believed. He was also questioned one time in the UK.

Broomfield said, “It seems clear the Schengen ban and my harassment by the UK police are driven by direct or indirect pressure from Turkey, on the basis of my work and reporting in Rojava and around the Kurdish issue.”

Suweida protests enter 32nd day amid calls for Assad to step down

Anti-regime protests in Syria’s southern city of Suweida entered their 32nd day on Thursday, with crowds coming from surrounding towns and villages.

Protesters, according to New Arab, gathered in Karama Square in Suweida city centre calling for a political transition in Syria based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which the Assad regime has rejected. 

Sources close to Sheikh Hikmat al-Hajri, a popular spiritual leader of the Druze community who has encouraged the protests, told The New Arab’s Arabic language site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that many Syrians from outside Suweida had visited his residence in the town of Qanawat to voice solidarity with the demonstrations.

Activist Salam Abbas told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: “The regime is striving hard to thwart and discredit any figure that supports the protests,” adding that the regime also feared that protests would expand, potentially to other Syrian provinces.

In videos shared on the Suwayda 24 Facebook page, dozens of people can be seen waving banners showing loyalty to the Druze sect and chanting slogans describing President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling establishment as a “gang of thieves”, and chanting “Syria wants freedom”.

Protesters also held up slogans and banners in various languages, including Chinese as Assad and his wife Asma were visiting China on Thursday to attend the opening of the Asian Games.

Pro-regime media, however, continued their negative coverage of the Suweida protests, saying that there could be armed attacks on checkpoints in the city, according to a report by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. 

Activist Munif Rashid told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that new people were joining the protests every day. He emphasised the presence of “intellectuals and lawyers” as well as women in the rallies.

“The number of protesters continues to increase every day,” he said, adding “This gives further momentum and strength to the protests.”

‘Like a Grave’: Syrians Shelter Underground

Asharq al-Awsat published a story of a resident of the battered village of Kansafra in Syria’s Idlib province, who has constructed a bomb shelter to protect his family from the ongoing attacks in the region. The article highlights the dire conditions in Idlib, an area home to approximately three million people, where many have been displaced by years of conflict. 

In a battered village in Syria’s last main opposition bastion, one resident has hewn a bomb shelter out of a rock to stay on his land and protect his family from attacks.

Kansafra, in the south of Idlib province, often comes under Syrian army fire targeting militants who control the area, while Russian warplanes circle above and carry out airstrikes in support of ally Damascus.

Many families have fled the village, located less than two kilometres from the front lines.

Now, just a few shops remain open, while heavily damaged buildings line the streets.

But Ahmad Khalil, 53, would not leave.

“People keep telling us to go to a camp for displaced people, but these camps are a thousand times worse,” he said.

Khalil carved out the shelter next to his house in 2017.

Winding, narrow steps lead down to a small room with a low, curved roof, illuminated with sunlight from a shaft and a dim lamp.

“I prefer to stay here under the bombs,” he said, even though the shelter is “like a grave”.

held Idlib region in Syria’s northwest is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced from other parts of the country during more than a decade of conflict.

Many live in impoverished tented settlements, dependent on international aid.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham controls swathes of Idlib, as well as parts of the adjacent provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks, so Khalil’s family has been spending more time underground.

Whenever they hear shelling or warplanes, they run to the shelter.

“There are always aircraft flying over the village and the area, it never stops. The life we lead is worse than death,” said Khalil, who has two wives and seven children.

Mostly bereft of furniture, the shelter is covered with basic floor mats. Jars of vine leaves and other fermented vegetables are stored in the cool of the underground cave.

Buying bread means a walk to the nearest shop, at constant risk of attack.

In the family’s sombre shelter, two of Khalil’s young sons played with toys on the ground.

“My children dream of living like any other children — of going out and playing outside,” said the father.

But here, “there are no other children for them to play with… and the entire region is in ruins,” he added.

“This is no life.”


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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