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Syria Today – Ukraine Planned Attacks on Russian Forces in Syria; Syrians putting down roots in Germany; Kurds Open to Regime

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Ukraine Planned Attacks on Russian Forces in Syria; Syrians putting down roots in Germany; Kurds Open to Regime

Washington Post: Leaked Documents Show Ukraine Planned Attacks on Russian Forces in Syria

Ukraine’s military intelligence made plans to conduct covert attacks on Russian forces operating in Syria with the help of Kurds, leaked U.S. intelligence documents show, the Washington Post reported.

The plans appear to have been aimed at Russian and Kremlin-backed private mercenary Wagner Group, active both in Ukraine and Syria.

The plans were terminated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but the leaked documents, dated to late January, detailed the possible plan of action the Main Directorate of Intelligence, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry’s military intelligence agency, could have taken to carry out attacks that would have provided Ukraine with plausible deniability.

The leaked documents are part of a trove of classified U.S. military and intelligence files that appeared on the social media network Discord. The U.S. arrested a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman on April 13, suspected of leaking the documents.

Russia Ups its “Dangerous Behaviour” in Syria

Russian forces have been increasingly harassing U.S. forces in Syria, including overflying American positions with armed fighters and coming within a few hundred feet of U.S. fighters, according to U.S. officials, a specialised air force website reported.

A surface-to-air missile system fired at a U.S. drone in November 2022, for instance.

Russia has routinely flown into airspace over Syria previously agreed to be controlled by the U.S. and flown over American ground positions more than two dozen times since March 2022. The incidents have increased the risk of miscalculation, according to U.S. officials.

Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, the head of Air Forces Central, expressed alarm at the actions of Russian warplanes, warning in a statement they increase the “risk of miscalculation.”

Syria’s Kurds make their own pitch as Arab states court Assad

The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria (AANES) has unveiled a nine-point declaration that it is ready to “meet and hold dialogue with the Syrian government and all Syrian parties for consultations and discussions to provide initiatives to find a solution to the Syrian crisis”, Al-Monitor reported.

The AANES confirmed its commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity, saying that it was ready to work with the Assad regime to provide initiatives to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. The announcement came after Arab governments and Turkey announced that they were seeking to reconcile with the Assad regime. Syrian Kurds have been in talks with Damascus since 2018 when Turkey invaded the mainly Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria. Since then, Russia has been driving the reconciliation, arguing that only peace with Assad can spare the Syrian Kurds from further Turkish attacks.

The nine-point declaration was intended for Assad, who accused the Kurds of “working for a foreign power” and labelled them “traitors” and “collaborators”. Syrian Kurds have accused the Syrian government of refusing to accede to any of their demands. Diplomatic engagement with AANES, limited at the best of times, has been steadily shrinking since Russia’s occupation of Ukraine, and the Biden administration’s interest in Syria writ large has dwindled.

A State Department spokesperson did not convey any objections to the AANES’s calls for dialogue with Damascus. The spokesperson said, “We have seen this initiative and note it affirms the unity of Syria as the foundation for any political solution, in accordance with UNSCR 2254, which we believe remains the only viable solution to the conflict in Syria.” AANES representatives have been excluded from UN-sponsored talks in Geneva due to Turkey’s objections.

Aron Lund, a researcher with the Swedish Defense Research Agency, told Al-Monitor that the declaration was “an attempt by the administration’s leadership to get into the diplomatic game”. “They see there are political talks underway, and they do not want to be left out of what might be an important political moment,” he added.

Assad in the Arab League: What’s the cost?

Arab foreign ministers have met to discuss Syria’s potential re-entry into the Arab League. However, The New Arab reports, not all members are on board with Syria’s re-admittance. Jordan has taken a “step-by-step” approach that promises increased diplomatic engagement with Assad in exchange for concessions, while Saudi Arabia has pushed for a consensus-based approach.

The UAE has been moving unilaterally towards reconciliation with Syria since 2018. The three countries have yet to come to an agreement on how to engage with Damascus. Even if a regional approach is formed, it is unclear if these countries can extract concessions from Syria or if it is possible to use a more formal, rigid “step-for-step” approach.

There is also the potential that normalization with the Assad regime without preconditions of accountability and reforms makes the likelihood of a political settlement unlikely. Returning to the Arab League would be a symbolic victory for President Assad and his supporters.

It would provide much-needed legitimacy abroad, and Arab legitimacy may be followed by reconstruction funds.

Statistics show Syrians putting down roots in Germany

The young Syrian community are putting down roots in Germany, as more than half of 1.2 million Syrians are under 30, the National News reported on Saturday.

The National News reported figures showing that Syrians’ average age of 25 has helped bring down Germany’s overall average to 44.

The Syrians made up one in six new arrivals in the past decade, with large numbers reaching Germany during 2015 and 2016.

The source reported that 15,000 Syrians became German citizens in 2022 while another 181,000 Syrians arrived in the past five years.

Many have had children in Germany, as Syrian families have more children than average in Germany, which has a low birth rate.

Also, 80 percent of Syrians are under the age of 40 and about 495,000 Syrians are children or teenagers, and a similar number are aged between 20 and 39.

The report mentioned that 66,000 Syrians completed a university degree, including 9,000 with a master’s degree.

In total, Germany shelters about 695,000 Syrian men and 530,000 women, who are most likely to be part of the labour force.

In early April, German media said that residents of the German town of Ostelsheim in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg elected Ryyan Alshebl, from Syria, to become their mayor.

Syrian women toil in Lebanon’s fields while facing abuse and sexual exploitation

Middle East Eye published a report on the suffering of Syrian women refugees in Lebanon.

According to a 2021 study by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 85.7 percent of the agricultural workers in Lebanon are employed informally and most of them are women, who represent a cheap and expendable labour force. Syrian women, who are often refugees, represent most workers in the fields, and they earn half as much as men for the same work.

These women often face abuse and sexual exploitation, as well as hard working conditions, which include working 5 to 10 hours a day, with no days off or vacations, and earning a meagre salary. Syrian refugees are barred from most professions in Lebanon, and working in fields next to their refugee camps is often the only employment these women can find.

The Lebanese state does not provide any support to Syrian refugees in the country, and they have to rely on limited assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Since 2019, Lebanon has endured one of the world’s worst economic crises, which was fuelled by the collapse of its banking sector and the corruption of the country’s political elites.

As cooking oil and gas become inaccessible, 82 percent of Lebanese and 97 percent of Syrians in Lebanon live in multidimensional poverty. The violence towards Syrian refugees comes from the hands of the shawish, the man responsible for carrying out the landowner’s orders on the fields.

The shawish often uses violence as a form of pressure to meet productivity quotas, and they scream at the women to go faster, insult them, and if they are too slow to pick up the vegetables, they hit them.


Syria earthquake: Survivors in Idlib feel forgotten

The BBC has published an article on how survivors of the earthquake in Idlib are feeling deserted.

The article tells the story of Sedra and Abdullah, two Syrian children with cerebral palsy and osteoporosis who survived a devastating earthquake in north-west Syria that killed over 7,000 people in February 2023.

The earthquake added to the trauma already faced by Syrian children due to the 12 years of war that the country has endured.

The majority of the affected population, over four million people, are women and children who depend on humanitarian aid.

The article also mentions the difficulties faced by earthquake survivors in getting the help they need and the rows of fresh graves in a cemetery that has doubled in size since the earthquake.

More than 7,000 people died in February’s devastating quake and for those who survived the situation is now even tougher.

According to the UN, more than four million people in north-west Syria depend on humanitarian aid, the majority of them women and children.

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