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Syria Today – UNSC Session on Syrian Conflict; International Coalition in Raqqa; SDF Arrest ISIS Commander

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – UNSC Session on Syrian Conflict; International Coalition in Raqqa; SDF Arrest ISIS Commander

The United Nations Security Council held a session on Syria’s political and humanitarian issues. SDF and Asayish are working with the International Coalition in a security campaign dubbed “Operation Retaliation for Raqqa Martyrs. They captured a local ISIS commander in eastern Syria.

Security Council: 12 years of war leaves 70 percent of Syrians needing aid

Almost twelve years into Syria’s devastating civil war, the country remains tattered and deeply divided, facing massive economic hardships, limited political progress and the world’s largest displacement crisis, with 70 percent of the population now in need of humanitarian aid, senior UN officials told the Security Council on Wednesday.

“As we move into 2023, the Syrian people remain trapped in a profound humanitarian, political, military, security, economic and human rights crisis of great complexity and almost unimaginable scale,” said Geir Pedersen, UN Special Envoy for Syria.

Outlining recent developments, he reiterated his previous calls for calm on the ground, good faith engagement in Syria’s stalled Constitutional Committee process, and the Security Council’s critical humanitarian support.

‘As dire as ever’

As a first priority, Mr. Pedersen emphasized that a nationwide ceasefire remains essential to resolving the conflict.

Noting that 2022 saw periods of relative calm as well as times of escalation, he said January has produced an equally mixed picture so far.

Fewer airstrikes have been reported in northwest Syria, and the intense military escalation in the country’s northeast, seen in late 2022, has receded.

“But in other ways, the picture remains as dire as ever,” he said, noting that shelling, rocket fire and intermittent clashes have continued along all contact lines, involving a wide spectrum of actors.

In addition, ISIS remains active in the country, with sleeper cells killing both military personnel and civilians.

Talks stalled

Special Envoy Pedersen said another crucial priority is to see Syria’s Constitutional Committee resume and make more substantive progress toward ending the conflict.

Founded after months of painstaking efforts in 2019 with three main constituent groups – the Syrian Government, the opposition and civil society – the Committee has been stalled since May 2022, when it held its eighth and most recent meeting.

No progress has been reported since Russia criticized the Committee’s choice of venue, and the Syrian Government’s nominees failed to arrive in Geneva.

“The Constitutional Committee could be a door-opener and […] contribute to the wider political process,” said Mr. Pedersen, pledging to support a reconvening of the body without delay.

The United States

Ambassador Richard Mills, Deputy Representative to the United Nations, encouraged the UN to continue strengthening its oversight of and due diligence with respect to procurement in Syria, even as it expands cross-line aid deliveries. Given the alarming record of human rights violations and abuses in Syria and the well-documented cases of corruption, vigilance is important.

He called on Syria’s Assad “to cease its assault on the Syrian people. It is imperative that all sides agree to a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire. We are eager to see results from the renewed meetings of the Ceasefire Task Force in Geneva.”

He added that his government is “also eager to see the resumption of Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva, provided Russia abandons its arbitrary demands on unrelated issues.”

He noted that “the Assad regime can begin to demonstrate its commitment to good faith discussions by confirming the fates and whereabouts of the 132,000 missing or arbitrarily detained persons. While we acknowledge that last year’s so-called amnesty decree appears to have resulted in the release of around 500 people, we call on the regime to release everyone that it has arbitrarily detained.”

Syria angry

Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh, expressed Syria’s anger with the U.S. destructive actions that have taken millions of Syrians to a state of insecurity and instability, turned a large part of them into displaced refugees, and deprived them of food security.

Sabbagh, SANA reported, was speaking at the UNSC session on Syria’s political and humanitarian issues.

He said that some states still exploit UNSC to repeat campaigns of lies and misleading against Syria without seeking solutions to the difficult humanitarian situation to which they took the Syrians.

The Ambassador added that the U.S. incorrect policies in the world and the region, particularly in Syria, have led to destabilizing the situation in the country and destroying the development achievements made throughout decades.

“The illegitimate foreign military presence in Syria has contributed, to a great deal, to threatening the safety of the Syrian territorial integrity, and the theft of its resources, on top, the oil, gas and wheat,” Sabbagh said.


China has reiterated the call to end the illegal plundering of natural resources in Syria by foreign troops immediately.

“The illegal presence of foreign troops and their illegal military operations in Syria must end,” Dai Bing, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, was quoted by Xinhua as saying, adding that Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be fully respected.

Addressing a UN Security Council briefing on Syria, Dai urged the international community to abide by international law and Security Council resolutions, adopt unified standards, combat all terrorists in Syria with zero tolerance, and “cease condoning, shielding, or politically exploiting terrorist forces.”

Global Coalition Returns To Raqqa As ISIS Activity Spikes

Kurdish news agency North Press reported that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Internal Security Forces of North and East Syria (Asayish) announced that the Coalition was participating in a security campaign dubbed “Operation Retaliation for Raqqa Martyrs.”

The Coalition is mainly providing air and intelligence support for this mission.

Days before Turkey launched its invasion of areas of northeast Syria in October 2019, Coalition forces withdrew from Raqqa, Tabqa, Kobani and Manbij.

During the first day of the Raqqa operation, the joint forces captured 68 ISIS militants, including the ‘Wali of Raqqa’, a regional Islamic State (ISIS) leader, according to an SDF statement.

Combing operations were conducted in the town of al-Karama, 30 km east of Raqqa, al-Mansoura, a town west of Raqqa, and the towns of Sarrin and al-Jarniyah.

SDF Arrests ISIS Commander in Eastern Syria

Syrian Kurdish-led forces captured a local ISIS commander in eastern Syria as part of an ongoing operation targeting sleeper cells in the city of Raqqa, the US-backed forces announced Thursday.

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, the commander served as the chief of the extremist group’s faction for Raqqa and was among the 68 militants detained in operation, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said.

The operation started earlier this week in response to a December attack by ISIS that targeted military and security buildings in Raqqa and killed at least six Syrian Kurdish fighters. A Kurdish commander, Mazloum Abdi, said they had indications of “serious preparations” by ISIS for attacks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS militants also targeted a military intelligence prison holding some 200 militants in the December attack.

The captured ISIS commander was identified as Atallah al-Maythan. Syrian Kurdish forces said he headed the militant group’s operations across Raqqa province and allegedly “confessed to his involvement in planning and leading terrorist acts,” extorted money from residents in the area and kept ISIS sleeper cells in contact.

The U.S. Central Command said that 215 militants from ISIS were arrested last year, and 466 were killed in Syria.

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