For the second consecutive day, demonstrations against increasing fuel prices and deteriorating living conditions continued in Syria’s government-controlled areas of Daraa and Suweida. In addition, protesters were observed displaying flags associated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Concurrently, on Monday, eight combatants lost their lives due to Russian airstrikes aimed at a rebel compound in the northwestern part of Syria. This region represents the final significant stronghold of armed resistance against the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad.
Egypt FM Stresses Keenness of Arab Ministerial Liaison Committee to Resolve Syria Crisis
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received on Sunday a phone call from Geir Pedersen, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, to discuss the outcomes of the meeting of the Arab Ministerial Liaison Committee on Syria, which was held in Cairo on August 15.
Shoukry, as quoted by Asharq al-Awsat, stressed the committee’s keenness to complete the task entrusted to it in order to reach a settlement to the Syrian crisis, and to preserve the unity and stability of Syria, said Ambassador Ahmed Abu Zeid, the official spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry.
Pedersen, for his part, underlined his keenness on coordinating with the various concerned parties to build on the agreements reached at the meeting.
Last week, the committee underscored that a political solution is the only way to resolve the Syrian crisis.
It hoped that the constitutional path would be resumed to achieve that goal, including holding a meeting of the Constitutional Committee in Oman before the end of the year.
The Cairo meeting also emphasized the importance of intensified efforts to end the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people and the need to address the refugee crisis.
Shoukry and Pedersen agreed to meet on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly next month.
A decade after a sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb, Syrian survivors lose hope for justice
One summer night a decade ago, the al-Shami family was woken up by a roaring sound or rockets but it wasn’t followed by the usual explosions. Instead, the family members started having difficulty breathing, AP reported.
Ghiad al-Shami, 26, remembers how everyone tried to run to the rooftop of their apartment building in eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb that at the time was held by opposition fighters trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Al-Shami’s mother, three sisters and two brothers died that night — victims of the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack that killed hundreds and left thousands of others hurt.
Ten years on, al-Shami and other survivors say there has been no accountability for the attack and for the other atrocities committed in Syria during the country’s brutal civil war, now in its 13th year.
Over the past year, Assad’s government — accused by the United Nations of repeated chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians — has been able to break out of its political isolation.
Assad was welcomed back to the Arab League, which had suspended Syria’s membership in 2011 following a crackdown on anti-government protests. With the help of top allies Russia and Iran, Assad also recaptured large swaths of territory he initially lost to opposition groups.
“Today, instead of holding perpetrators accountable, Assad is being welcomed back into the Arab League and invited to international conferences, cementing impunity for the most heinous of crimes,” said Laila Kiki, executive director of The Syria Campaign advocacy group.
“To all those who seek to shake hands with Assad, this anniversary should serve as a clear reminder of the atrocities his regime has committed,” she said in a statement.
The Syrian government and its allies reclaimed eastern Ghouta in 2018, with most of its residents fleeing to the last rebel-held enclave in Syria’s northwest.
Abdel Rahman Sabhia, a nurse and former resident of the suburb, has since moved to the town of Afrin in the northern Aleppo province, now under Turkish-backed groups.
“We lost hope in the international community,” said Sabhia, who worked at a voluntary field hospital in Ghouta at the time of the gas attack. “Why should we trust in them if we still haven’t seen any accountability for all the children who lost their families?”
Sabhia says he had gotten used to airstrikes and shelling, but the aftermath of the 2013 attack was different. The streets were eerily quiet, “like a ghost town,” he recalled. “We broke into a house and saw a baby, just months old, lying dead in bed with his parents.”
At the time, dozens of bodies were laid out in hospitals with families looking to identify their loved ones. Some families were buried together in large graves.
Al-Shami, who now lives in Istanbul recalls regaining consciousness a day after the attack.
Syrians in Daraa and Suweida continue ‘unprecedented’ protests over rising fuel prices
Protests over rising fuel prices and worsening living conditions entered their second consecutive day in Syria’s regime-held provinces of Daraa and Suweida on Monday, Middle east Eye reportes.
Hundreds of Syrians in the cities of Daraa and Suweida, home to the country’s Druze population, took to the streets on Sunday to protest an increase in fuel prices that has further impacted the living standards of ordinary Syrians, who are already struggling to afford basic necessities amid unbridled inflation.
Shops and official government buildings continue to be closed, and the headquarters of the local Baath party branch has been blocked by protesters, as well as several roads inside and around Suweida, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Video footage emerged online showing hundreds of protesters in the streets of Daraa and Suweida chanting anti-government slogans.
Protesters were also reportedly seen waving Free Syrian Army (FSA) flags.
According to reports by Turkiye newspaper and videos online, the Syrian army opened fire on protesters on Sunday night.
Local media outlet Suwayda24 called the protests “unprecedented” since 2011 and reported that protests were held in more than 40 points across the province.
Deteriorating living conditions
The protests first erupted on 16 August, following a significant currency depreciation, with one US dollar equivalent to 15,000 Syrian pounds on Tuesday. At the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011, one US dollar was equivalent to 47 Syrian pounds.
Earlier last week, the Syrian government lifted petrol subsidies, leading to an increase in the price of petrol from 3,000 pounds to 8,000 Syrian pounds per litre.
The hike in fuel prices led to chaos on the streets on Wednesday, as bus and taxi drivers refused to work.
Daraa and Suweida are known to be the cradle of the Syrian uprising of 2011. Protests initially erupted in Daraa in 2011 after a group of teenagers was arrested over anti-regime graffiti. A Russian-backed ceasefire deal in 2018, however, saw the city return to regime control.
Suweida has been mostly spared from fighting during Syria’s civil war, but occasional protests against living conditions have occurred there due to the war’s economic toll on the region.
SDC expresses solidarity with protests in southern Syria
On Monday, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) expressed its solidarity with the protesters in Suwayda and Daraa governorates in southern Syria.
Riyad Dirar, the co-chair of the SDC, expressed that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand in support of the popular movement and the people’s demands for their rights that have been unjustly taken away. They advocate for peaceful change and emphasize the necessity of putting an end to the “oppressive authoritarian regime”. The SDC aims to establish a viable alternative to the current “regime”.
Dirar informed North Press that the SDC maintains direct communication with the leadership of the popular movement in southern Syria. “We support for their stances and actively encourage them to develop an organizational project that presents an alternative. This alternative entails the formation of capable popular committees that can effectively manage the region while safeguarding the interests of the people and preventing any adverse consequences,” he added.
Dirar anticipates that the movement will broaden its scope and extend beyond the south, eventually encompassing all of Syria. This projection arises from the absence of effective solutions to address the escalating crisis. The widespread discontent and grievances are likely to resonate with people across the country, leading to a potential expansion of the movement throughout Syria.
Russian Strikes Kill 8 Fighters In Syria Rebel Area: Monitor
AFP reports that eight fighters died Monday in Russian air strikes targeting a rebel base in Syria’s northwest, the last major bastion of armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, a war monitor said.
Moscow’s intervention since 2015 has helped Damascus claw back much of the territory it had lost to rebel forces early in the 12-year civil war, and Russian forces have repeatedly struck the Idleb area.
Early Monday, “Russian warplanes carried out air strikes on the western outskirts of Idleb city, targeting a military base belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)… killing at least eight fighters,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Several other fighters were wounded in the strikes, with some in critical condition, said the Britain-based monitor which relies on a wide network of sources inside Syria.
Jihadist group HTS, led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls swathes of Idleb province, as well as parts of the adjacent Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.
An AFP correspondent said the jihadist group cordoned off the area after the strikes, which came shortly after midnight (2100 GMT on Sunday).
HTS regularly carries out deadly attacks on soldiers and pro-government forces.
On Monday, the Syrian defence ministry said its forces had downed “three drones laden with explosives” operated by “terrorist organizations”.
The Observatory said the army shot down three reconnaissance drones in Idleb and Hama provinces.
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.