Syria Today – Another Strike on Aleppo Airport; Assad Amends Investment Law

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

An Israeli air strike hit near Syria’s Aleppo airport early Wednesday, causing “material damage” and shutting down operations there, Syrian officials said. In contrast, regional intelligence sources said the attack hit an Iranian arms depot.

Reuters reported that the attack was the third attack on Aleppo airport in six months. Israel launched “a number of missiles from the Mediterranean Sea, west of the coastal city of Latakia, at 3:55 a.m.”, the Syrian defence ministry said in a statement on state media.

The strike put the airport out of service, and teams were working on repairs, Bassem Mansour, the head of Syria’s civil aviation service, told local media outlet Sham FM.

An Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment.

Two regional intelligence sources said the strike hit an underground munitions depot linked to the nearby Nairab military airport, where missile systems delivered on several Iranian military planes had been stored.

Iran has increased the use of the airport to deliver more arms during the past month, taking advantage of heavy air traffic as cargo planes offload relief aid following February’s deadly earthquake, three Western intelligence sources say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

An alleged Israeli air strike targeted Syria’s Aleppo airport causing some “material damage” to it, the Syrian defence ministry said in a statement on Facebook early on Wednesday. No casualties were reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, reported that the attack was aimed at a weapons and ammunition warehouse at the airport. It further reported that the attack caused damage to the airport, temporally shutting down operations there.

Following the initial report, two regional intelligence sources said the strike hit an underground munitions depot linked to the nearby Nairab military airport, where missile systems delivered on several Iranian military planes had been stored.

SANA

State news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, said at the time that Israeli warplanes fired missiles that hit Aleppo International Airport while flying over the Mediterranean Sea. It said the strike “caused material damage to the airport and put it out of service.”

Flights to and from Aleppo had only resumed Friday, the country’s head of civil aviation said. Bassem Mansour told the pro-government Sham FM radio station that flights to and from the airport of Syria’s largest city resumed Friday morning after repairs were completed.

The General Organization said that all incoming and outgoing flights have been diverted to Damascus and Lattakia airports until the repair work is completed.

The Organization added that its cadres, in cooperation with companies and institutions concerned, have started the restoration and repair work.

Helicopter crash might have revealed a secret PKK air route

According to Turkish sources, the Duhok region of Iraq may have revealed a secret air corridor that was used to transport senior members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) between Iraq and Syria, according to the Middle East Eye.

The sources allege that these flights could only happen with the knowledge of the US government since US forces control the Syrian and Iraqi territories.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that nine of its members died in the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter crash last week but didn’t reveal who owns the helicopters or how they could use them.

The Kurdistan Regional Government officials have said that the choppers were carrying PKK members but didn’t provide any further details.

There are tensions between the KRG’s ruling parties over parliamentary elections and oil income. Turkish sources allege that the PUK, who have closer relations with the PKK, may be involved in these flights. Investigations into the crash are ongoing.

Assad issues Law No. 2, amending some provisions of Investment Law No. 18

President Bashar al-Assad issued Law No. 2 for the year  2023, which includes amendments to some provisions of Investment Law No. 18 for the year 2021, with the aim of finding an appropriate mechanism to avoid institutional restrictions, simplify investment procedures in the field of real estate development, and focus on defining responsibilities and roles among the various organizational structures concerned with investment, in order to optimally benefit from the exemptions, advantages and facilities granted by Law No. 18.

The decree, according to SANA, comes in view of the fact that the establishment of investment projects for the purposes of real estate development or for the purposes of urban development contributes to providing the elements for comprehensive and balanced growth for the different regions and in line with development priorities.

The Investment Law No. 18 formed a unified umbrella for investment in Syria, and dealt with the state of dispersion that was in previous laws and unified their reference through a unified law, particularly after the transportation sector was damaged as a result of the terrorist war waged on Syria, which entails benefiting from the advantages and facilities of Investment Law No. 18.

U.S. confirms rejection of normalization with Assad

The U.S. renewed its rejection of normalizing ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following the recent second visit the latter paid to the UAE.

This was stated by Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson, during a press briefing, stressing his country’s rejection of normalization “our stance against normalization remains unchanged…we will not normalize with the Assad regime.”

Patel was quoted as saying that the U.S. administration will not encourage others over normalization amid “absent authentic and enduring progress towards a political resolution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”

He cited the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as confirming his country’s commitment to providing needed assistance to Syrians impacted by the Feb. 6 earthquake.

Patel confirmed his country’s ongoing efforts “to urge anybody engaging with Damascus to consider sincerely and thoroughly how their engagements can help provide for Syrians in need, no matter where they live.”

Pedersen in Jordan to  tackle Syria solution initiative

Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi and UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen on Tuesday discussed an initiative to solve the Syrian crisis through direct Arab-Syrian government dialogue.

Safadi, who is also minister of foreign affairs and expatriates, reaffirmed his country’s full coordination with the UN on all details of the initiative, reported Jordan’s News Agency.

During their meeting in Amman, the deputy prime minister briefed the UN envoy on the kingdom’s aid to survivors of the earthquakes that struck Syria and Turkiye last month.

Coordination is continuing with Arab countries on a date to launch the Syria initiative, Safadi said, adding that Arab countries are entitled to lead the dialogue.

He reiterated Jordan’s support for Pedersen’s efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254.

The UN envoy highlighted the importance of cooperation between Jordan and the UN, and commended the kingdom’s humanitarian role in providing aid to Syrian earthquake survivors and refugees in Jordan.

A sad Ramadan without food or joy in Syria

More than three million in northwestern Syria will observe this year’s Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting, while living in rundown tents and shelters after enduring protracted displacement, years of war, and a devastating earthquake.

“We’re living the toughest days of our lives… How will we rejoice in Ramadan’s advent when many of our loved ones will be missing from our Iftar tables?” Khaled, 33, a west Idleb local who lost 13 relatives, including a mother and a brother, in the February 6 quake, tells Asharq Al-Awsat.

Khaled noted that this year, his family did not perform the usual preparations for Ramadan because they were still mourning their loss.

Umm Muhammad, 41, whose family was afflicted by the earthquake, took refuge in a shelter near the city of Jandaris.

“This year’s Ramadan is coming, and I’m living in unprecedented instability,” she said, recounting how she had lost her kitchen and house in the earthquake.

Umm Muhammad now lives in a tent with a few cooking utensils. Moreover, she does not have stable access to cooking gas, which is why she prepares her meals over a fire she sets after gathering wood from nearby farms.

Making matters worse, a heavy rainstorm recently hit northwestern Syria, impacting hundreds of displaced families. Torrential rains swept their tents, and everything inside was damaged, including the supplies families worked to prepare for Ramadan.

An official in the “Adwan refugee camp,” which houses more than 400 displaced families in the western countryside of Idleb, confirmed that they no longer have anything suitable for food after the devastating rainstorm.

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