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Two Hezbollah Members Killed as Israel Allegedly Strikes Syria-Lebanon Border

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Two Hezbollah Members Killed as Israel Allegedly Strikes Syria-Lebanon Border

Two individuals affiliated with Hezbollah perished in an airstrike conducted by Israel on a truck close to the Syrian-Lebanon border on Sunday morning. Simultaneously, a detonation from a landmine, believed to have been left by the Islamic State group, claimed the lives of at least 13 civilians who were scavenging for truffles in the Syrian desert, as reported by a monitoring group.

Two Hezbollah members killed as Israel allegedly strikes Syria-Lebanon border

Two members of the Hezbollah group were killed as Israel allegedly carried out an airstrike on a truck near the Syrian-Lebanon border Sunday morning, Times of Israel reported.

Footage showed the truck engulfed in flames on a road outside Qusayr, a Syrian city south of Homs near the border with northern Lebanon.

Shortly after the strike, Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah announced that two of its operatives were killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” its term for operatives slain in Israeli strikes. It did not say where the two were killed.

The pair, named Hussein al-Dirani and Ahmed al-Afi, were from Qsarnaba and Brital, two towns in the Baalbek District, adjacent to the Syrian region where the alleged Israeli strike took place.

Their deaths brought the group’s toll since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip to 214.

Shortly after the reported strike and throughout Sunday afternoon, several volleys of rockets were fired from Lebanon at northern Israel, all landing in open areas, according to the Israel Defense Forces and police.

There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it targeted an army base near Margaliot and IDF positions near Kiryat Shmona. It also claimed to have targeted an army base in the Mount Dov region on the border.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the strike near Qusayr, an area identified in the past as a Hezbollah stronghold. There was no comment from Syrian authorities.

Chemical weapons watchdog blames Islamic State for 2015 Syria attack

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Thursday identified Islamic State militants in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the likely perpetrator of a chemical weapons attack in Marea, Syria, on Sept. 1, 2015.

There were “reasonable grounds to believe that on 1 September 2015, during sustained attacks aimed at capturing the town of Marea, units of ISIL deployed sulphur mustard,” the organization said.

The OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team found that 11 individuals who had come into contact with a “black, viscous substance” found in projectiles at the site of the attack, had experienced symptoms consistent with exposure to sulphur mustard.

The team had established that the chemical payload was deployed by artillery from areas under ISIL control, it said.

“No other entity possessed the means, motives, and capabilities to deploy sulphur mustard as part of an attack in Marea on 1 September 2015,” it added.

Earlier OPCW investigations have found that the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April 2017 attack, dropped gas cylinders onto residential buildings in the rebel-held Syrian city of Douma in 2018, and has repeatedly used chlorine as a weapon.

Syria denies using chemical weapons and has blamed Islamic State militants for mustard gas use.

The Investigation and Identification Team was established by member states at the Hague-based OPCW in November 2018 to identify perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria after Russia vetoed the joint United Nations-OPCW mission.

2 Lebanese men ordered detained for bringing 146 Syrian refugees to Cyprus by boat

A court in Cyprus on Saturday ordered two men to remain in police custody for six days on suspicion of people smuggling. The men were identified as the drivers of two boats that brought 146 Syrian refugees and one Lebanese migrant to the east Mediterranean island nation, according to AP.

Police said the suspects are Lebanese nationals aged 19 and 21.

According to police, the refugees said during questioning that they departed from the Lebanese city of Tripoli on Thursday, Feb. 22 and each paid $2,500 for a place aboard the boats.

One boat carried 30 people, including 6 women and 11 minors. Aboard the second boat were 117 people, including 8 women and 17 minors. Police spotted both vessels Saturday afternoon off Cape Greco on the island’s southeastern tip.

All the migrants were escorted ashore and later taken to a migrant reception center just outside the capital Nicosia.

The President of Cyprus said earlier this month that the European Union won’t serve its own best interests if it doesn’t consider designating some parts of Syria as safe zones so refugees and migrants can return there.

President Nikos Christodoulides said Cyprus is working with like-minded EU member nations to start a discussion about that goal to help alleviate the pressure that Mediterranean countries receiving the most refugees and migrants are under.

IS landmine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor

A blast from a landmine left by the Islamic State group killed at least 13 civilians foraging for truffles in the Syrian desert, a war monitor said.

“Thirteen civilians, including women… were killed when a landmine left by the IS group exploded while they were searching for truffles” in the desert in Raqqa province, said the Syria Observatory for Human Rights.

The Syrian desert is renowned for producing some of the best quality truffles in the world, which fetch high prices in a country battered by 13 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.

Authorities frequently warn against the high-risk practice.

But every year between February and April, foragers risk their lives to collect the delicacies in the vast Syrian desert, or Badia – a known hideout for militants that is also littered with landmines.

Syria files complaint to Lebanon over British-funded watchtowers

The Syrian regime has filed a formal complaint to the Lebanese government regarding watchtowers along the border, claiming they posed a threat to Syria’s national security.

Syria’s foreign ministry submitted the “urgent” memorandum to its Lebanese counterpart earlier this week. The memo is expected to be directed to Lebanon’s Ministry of Defence and then to the Lebanese army. An appropriate response will then be sent back to Syria, sources say.

A Syrian military and security delegation is reportedly scheduled to visit Lebanon to hold talks with officials regarding the British-funded observation towers. It is unclear when this visit will take place.

Beirut has not yet publicly commented on the complaint, and this is not the first time the issue has been raised by Damascus since the watchtowers were built.

A source told The New Arab on Saturday that the memo has been received by the Lebanese army, which is preparing a response.

When asked about the timing of this complaint, the source, wishing to remain anonymous, said they were unaware.

“These towers have existed since 2010, and there are [military] centres, not just towers,” the source added.

The New Arab emailed the British embassy in Lebanon for comment.

Syria Says Attacks on US Troops Mean Biden Must Withdraw

In an article published by Newsweek, the publication quotes Syrian officials who have communicated to Newsweek their view that the ongoing conflicts between U.S. troops and a coalition of militias, which include groups aligned with Iran, signify a clear message to President Joe Biden that it’s time for the United States to withdraw its forces from Syria. This assertion comes amid escalating tensions and a series of confrontations that highlight the complex geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East, particularly the intricate relationships among Syria, Iran, Russia, and the United States.

The article says that the Pentagon has consistently argued that the presence of U.S. forces in Syria is crucial for ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS. However, Damascus regards the nearly decade-long U.S. military deployment as a breach of international law and the United Nations Charter, framing it as an illegitimate occupation that fuels regional instability and undermines Syria’s sovereignty.

Syria’s stance is underpinned by its categorization of the U.S. presence as not only illegal but also as exacerbating tensions and contributing to the destabilization of the region. The Syrian government criticizes U.S. policies for supporting terrorist groups and separatist militias, plundering Syrian resources, and imposing sanctions that have dire humanitarian consequences on the Syrian population.

The backdrop to this contention includes the multifaceted conflict against ISIS, where both U.S.-backed forces and Iran- and Russia-supported Syrian military efforts have occurred, often leading to indirect or direct confrontations among the various international actors involved. The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has further complicated the situation, with Syria warning that the escalating regional tensions should prompt a reconsideration of U.S. strategies in the area.

According to the article, the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, alongside Russian and Iranian interests, underscores the country’s position as a battleground for influence among global powers. The Syrian government, backed by Moscow and Tehran, has clashed with U.S.-supported groups, including the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), over territorial control and political governance, reflecting the broader contest for power and influence in the post-ISIS landscape.

Despite calls for U.S. withdrawal, around 900 American troops remain stationed in Syria, primarily in the northeast and the Al-Tanf region, continuing to face threats from Iran-backed militias. The situation is further complicated by international responses to militia attacks, including U.S. airstrikes against militia positions in Syria and Iraq, illustrating the ongoing cycle of retaliation and escalating military engagement.

The article concludes that the Syrian Mission to the United Nations has articulated a clear expectation for the U.S. to adhere to international norms and principles, emphasizing the need for respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. This narrative is part of a broader call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, reflecting a persistent demand for an end to foreign military intervention in Syria’s affairs.


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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