Bouthaina Shaaban, the special adviser to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, has affirmed her country’s openness to relations with all Arab countries, noting that Damascus “has long enjoyed excellent relations with Arab countries.”
Speaking to Russia Today, Shabaan said that despite everything that has happened during the Syrian crisis, “Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad still believes in good relations with Arab countries, given that the Arabs’ fate is one.”
Earlier this month, media outlets reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan might visit Damascus. Still, an informed source told RT Arabia there is no talk about such a visit in Damascus.
But Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Dr. Faisal al-Mekdad, expressed his extreme dissatisfaction “of some countries and their leaders who have always claimed humanity.”
“These countries,” Mekdad said, “continued their policies based on politicization and double standards and turned a blind eye to the cries for help of the victims under the rubble under the severe shortage in rescue and relief equipment caused by the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria which affirms that these measures are in fact nothing but a tool of collective punishment and killing and they are not less dangerous than the earthquake.”
He spoke in a video circle to the High-Level 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council.
Mekdad renewed Syria’s rejection of the practices of some countries in the Council that seek to impose politicized resolutions and mechanisms that constitute a model of blatant interference in the internal affairs of independent countries, especially developing countries. A violation of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and an exploitation to human rights titles, noting that such an approach would lead to losing the Council’s credibility and adversely affect the environment of international work in the field of human rights.
He added that Syria has also strengthened means of support and protection to create an appropriate environment for returning all Syrians who were internally displaced and refugees to their homes in a safe, dignified and voluntary manner.
Mekdad said, “The catastrophe of the earthquake that struck Syria has deepened the harsh conditions the country has been going through for twelve years. It added grave challenges and doubled the suffering of the Syrians. The Syrian Government quickly launched an emergency response plan at the national level to address the repercussions of the disaster and appealed to countries and international to support the affected areas.”
Israel Threatens to Strike Hezbollah in Southern Syria
On the Israel-Iran front, Israeli planes dropped leaflets in areas in the governorates of Qouneitra and Daraa, southern Syria, warning the Syrian army against the consequences of sheltering Hezbollah members.
The leaflets read: “We will not accept the continued presence of Hezbollah at the Tel Al-Hara military base, and the continuation of cooperation in any way… Hezbollah continues to extend its arms in the region, bringing disaster and destruction… You will be the first to be harmed.”
A former leader in the opposition factions in the Daraa governorate told Asharq Al-Awsat that since 2018, Tel Al-Hara has been exposed to three Israeli attacks.
The hill, which is located northwest of Daraa governorate, is considered a strategic military site, due to its location, which overlooks the occupied Golan and is only about 15 km away from the border with Israel. It also represents a link between the western countryside of Damascus and the governorates of Daraa and Quneitra.
Several sites were targeted in As-Sweida, including the 159th Regiment, Al-Thala Military Airport, and the Al-Dour Battalion, and the radar points in Tal Al-Sahn, Tal Qina, Tal al-Masih, and Tal Qalib, which were recently bombed on Feb. 18.
Syrian children face catastrophic threats’ after quakes: UNICEF
The United Nations children’s agency warned of severe risks to 3.7 million children in Syria’s earthquake-affected regions.
The Feb. 6 quake that struck neighbouring Türkiye killed over 50,000 people, including almost 6,000 in Syria.
In Syria alone, at least 8.8 million people have been affected by the devastating quake, according to the U.N.
“The 3.7 million children in affected areas of Syria … are facing several growing and potentially catastrophic threats,” the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said in a statement on Thursday.
It cited the disaster’s emotional and psychological impact, the increased risk of disease, and “a lack of access to basic services for families, left vulnerable by almost 12 years of conflict.”
UNICEF’s executive director Catherine Russell, who had a two-day visit to Syria on Thursday, said, “the children of Syria have already endured unspeakable horror and heartbreak.”
Eight truffle-hunters dead in Syria landmine blast
A war monitor said that eight truffle hunters were killed and more than 30 injured in eastern Syria when the vehicle they were travelling in hit a landmine.
“Eight citizens were killed and at least 35 wounded when a landmine… exploded as they were travelling to look for truffles on the outskirts of Deir-ez-Zor,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
State news agency SANA blamed Islamic State group jihadists for planting the mine.
On Monday, landmines blamed on IS killed 14 people, mostly truffle hunters, in Hama province to the west, the Observatory said, updating an earlier toll after more bodies were found.
Guterres calls on governments to repatriate more citizens from Syria’s al-Hol camp.
All countries with citizens held in Syria’s Al Hol camp for suspected ISIS members and their families must do more to repatriate them, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a visit to Iraq on Thursday.
His remarks came on a tour of the Jeddah-I camp outside the northern city of Mosul, where hundreds of Iraqi families have been transferred from Al Hol since May 2021. His trip came only days after the US military said Iraq had repatriated 500 people from Al Hol to Jeddah-I.
His statements echoed Iraq’s demands to foreign governments to repatriate their citizens from the camp so that it can be dismantled due to security concerns.
Kurdish officials who administer the camp — in north-eastern Syrian, fewer than 10km from the Iraqi border — also describe it as a security risk and have urged the international community to do more.
Outside Jeddah-I, Mr. Guterres said: “From here, I want to send a message to all member states with nationals in Al Hol and elsewhere. All member states must significantly step up their efforts to facilitate their nationals’ safe and dignified repatriation.”
Al Hol houses more than 50,000 people, including Syrians, Iraqis and other citizens who fled ISIS-held areas as the extremists faced an onslaught from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in 2019.
SDF arrests ISIS financer in Syria’s Hassakeh
On Thursday, the U.S.-led Global Coalition announced the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) arrested and detained on February 17 an Islamic State (ISIS) financial operative in Hasakah, northeast Syria.
This came in a statement by the Combined Special Operations Joint Forces – Levant (SOJTF-Levant). It said the SDF commandos arrested and detained an ISIS financer who was “involved in providing financial and lethal aid for ISIS operations within the middle Euphrates River Valley.”
US Air Forces Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor, SOJTF – Levant commander, stressed that this operation “demonstrates the SDF’s ability to execute unilateral, complex operations and their persistent commitment to the region in the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
Tudor added that detaining this ISIS operative contributes to disrupting ISIS’s ability “to further plot and carry out attacks” against the SDF and innocent civilians in the region.
He stressed the Global Coalition’s commitment to “advising, assisting, and enabling” the SDF to reach their common goal of “maintaining the safety and security” of civilians of northeast Syria.
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.