Syria Today – Jordan Strikes; Three Pro-Iran Fighters Killed in Deir-ez-Zor

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

An airstrike believed to have been carried out by Jordan’s air force struck a province in southern Syria late on Monday night, as Amman said it killed several smugglers in a border clash. At the same time, a four-wheel military vehicle of the IRGC was hit by a drone near al-Boukamal. Three fighters were killed.

An airstrike likely carried out by Jordan’s air force targets drug dealers in Syria, reports say

An airstrike believed to have been carried out by Jordan’s air force struck a province in southern Syria late on Monday night, Syrian opposition activists said. Hours earlier, Jordanian authorities said their troops killed several smugglers in a border clash, according to AP.

There was no immediate confirmation from Jordan on the strike that hit the province of Sweida, a known route for drug smuggling from war-torn Syria to its southern neighbor.

Smugglers have used Jordan as a corridor over the past years to smuggle highly addictive Captagon amphetamines out of Syria, mainly to oil-rich Arab Gulf states. Jordanian authorities have managed to stop several smuggling attempts, including some in which smugglers used drones to fly the drugs over the border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Monday’s airstrike targeted the area of Salkhad and killed a well-known drug dealer in the region. It said the strike was most likely carried out by Jordan’s air force but did not elaborate.

Earlier Monday, Jordan’s state news agency said the country’s border guards killed and wounded several smugglers along the border with Syria. It added that nine smugglers were detained and that troops seized nearly five million pills of Captagon, as well as an unspecified amount of cannabis.

Turkey announces assassination of prominent Syrian Kurdish commander Sherwan Hassan

Turkish authorities announced on 17 December that they had assassinated Sherwan Hassan, a prominent Kurdish commander, in northeastern Syria in a continuation of its targeting of the Syrian Kurdish leadership, New Arab reported.

Hassan, who helped found the Kurdish Self Defense Forces (HXP) in northeast Syria and was a member of the Deir az-Zour military council, was killed by an explosive device on 5 December after leaving a meeting with the international coalition to defeat the so-called Islamic State (IS).

In a statement after his death, the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that Hassan had a “pivotal role” in the organisation after IS was defeated and that he was a “clear target for hostile parties that do not want good for the region.”

The Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) was responsible for the assassination of Hassan in Deir az-Zour, according to Anadolu Agency.

His assassination as Turkey carries out an intensified campaign against the SDF since a government building was bombed in Ankara on 1 October, which Turkey blamed on the Syrian group.

Turkey has since carried out extensive bombing on northeast Syria, hitting civilian infrastructure and killing 48, nine of whom were civilians, according to Qamishli-based Rojava Information Center.

Turkey views the SDF as an outgrowth of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, with which it has waged a 40-year-long civil war. It has pledged to push the Syrian Kurdish group away from its southern border.

Syrian Jihadist Sentenced To Life For German Knife Attacks

AFP reports that a 27-year-old Syrian Islamist was sentenced to life for murder and attempted murder in Germany on Tuesday over two stabbing attacks earlier this year in the western city of Duisburg.

The defendant, named only as Maan D., was a supporter of the Islamic State group and admitted his crimes, the court in Duesseldorf said in a statement.

He was “still determined to kill those he sees as ‘infidels'”, added the court.

Maan D., who arrived in Germany as a refugee during the 2015 influx, attacked a man at random in Duisburg on April 9, stabbing him at least 28 times in the abdomen, head and neck with a kitchen knife.

The 35-year-old victim, who had been partying on a street with friends, died later the same day.

Less than two weeks later, Maan D. stormed a gym in Duisburg, where he attacked three men in the locker room and shower area with the same knife, leaving them with life-threatening wounds in their upper bodies. He then also inflicted two stab wounds to the thigh of a first aider.

The court classed the crimes as particularly grievous and ordered Maan D. held in in preventive detention beyond the 15 years usually served in Germany under a life sentence.

It found that he had been “radicalised since 2020 by militant-jihadist ideology of the Islamic State (IS) terror organisation on the internet” and saw all who didn’t share his views as “infidels”.

“Hence he decided — without directly belonging to IS or any other terror organisation — to kill randomly selected male residents of the federal republic,” the court said.

Unidentified drone kills three fighters in Deir ez-Zor

The war monitor SOHR reported a four-wheel military vehicle of the IRGC was targeted in the desert near Al-Sukareyah town north-west of Al-Boukamal city within areas controlled by the Syrian government and Iran-backed armed groups.

In the past, both US and Israeli warplanes have targeted Iran-backed armed groups in Deir ez-Zor. But thus far, neither has claimed the drone strike.

The drone attack comes amidst the ongoing war between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces, with Iran-backed groups retaliating against  US support for Israel by targeting its airbases and installations in Iraq and Syria.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary, told reporters on Dec. 14 that “we’ll continue to take appropriate actions to protect those forces and also deter future attacks.”

A Pentagon official told Kurdistan24 on Dec. 15 that Iran-backed armed groups have carried out a total of 98 attacks on US forces, with 46 occurring in Iraq and 52 in Syria since Oct. 17.

On Nov. 29, the US Treasury Department sanctioned 20 persons and entities for facilitating financial transactions for Iran’s IRGC and other military institutions of the country.

Death and fear among civilians in NW Syria amid Assad regime’s bombardment

In recent devastating events, the military under President Bashar al-Assad launched bombardments in Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo, leading to the death of seven civilians and injuring 20 others. The Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, reported that the attacks in Darat Izza resulted in the deaths of five people, including a child and a pregnant woman, and injured five others, including two children.

This assault, according to Al-Jazeera report, is part of a series of 48 attacks this month across 15 cities and towns, claiming nine lives, including three children and a woman. The continuous shelling has instilled fear and caused widespread displacement among residents. Majoun Turki, a resident of Shuhada Camp in Darat Izza, was injured by shrapnel during the attacks, leading his family to flee for safety.

The Syrian regime and its ally Russia have consistently denied targeting civilians, claiming their operations are aimed at military factions. However, observers like Abu Amin report that recent attacks, such as those in Idlib, appeared unprovoked and not directed at military positions.

Despite a ceasefire truce since March 2020, the region has witnessed relentless violations, with Civil Defence teams documenting 1,206 attacks by regime forces and allies this year, resulting in 154 deaths and 652 injuries. This escalation exacerbates the humanitarian crisis in the region, where 2.9 million of the 4.5 million residents are displaced, living in camps lacking basic services.

The UN has expressed deep concern about the impact of these bombings, with recent displacement figures reaching 120,000 people. This situation represents one of the most severe escalations in the region since 2019.

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