Syria Today – Israel Strikes Aleppo; Assad Hits Idleb

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

The end of 2023 was particularly bloody in Syria. On Saturday, Israeli missiles struck warehouses and bases of pro-Iran groups near Aleppo’s airport, resulting in the death of four foreign fighters. Simultaneously, Syrian regime forces carried out an artillery attack on a popular market in the center of Idleb city, killing two civilians, including a child, and injuring 16 others.

Israeli army intercepts drone over Syria’s Golan Heights

The Israeli army claimed on Sunday that it intercepted an armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the occupied Golan Heights that was launched from Syria, according to The Middle East Monitor.

This marks the third such incident since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza on October 7th.

On Friday, the Israeli army said that rockets were launched from Syria toward Israel, and one reportedly landed in the occupied Syrian territories.

Earlier, an explosive-laden drone, suspected to have been launched from Syria, targeted the occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday, the army statement said.

Israel occupied the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967, annexing it in 1981. However, the UN and the majority of the international community, except the US, consider it as occupied territory.

23 Pro-Iran Fighters Killed in East Syria Strikes

Airstrikes in eastern Syria, “likely” carried out by Israel, killed at least 23 pro-Iran fighters last Saturday, a war monitor said, reporting four more dead in the country’s north, VOA reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, “23 pro-Iranian fighters,” including five Syrians, four from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, six Iraqis and eight Iranians, were killed in at least nine pre-dawn airstrikes near the Iraqi border.

It said the raids were “likely carried out by Israel,” after earlier indicating they were “likely American.”

A U.S. military official, requesting anonymity, said the “U.S. did not conduct any defensive strikes overnight.”

The Observatory said the strikes targeted military positions in Albu Kamal and its surroundings in Deir-ez-Zor province, adding that a weapons shipment from Iraq and an ammunition warehouse were also hit.

Israel rarely comments on individual strikes targeting Syria, but it has repeatedly said it will not allow arch-foe Iran, which backs President Bashar al-Assad’s government, to expand its presence there.

Also Saturday, the Observatory said that “Israeli missiles targeted warehouses and bases of pro-Iran groups” near the airport in the main northern city of Aleppo, killing four foreign fighters.

Syrian state media, citing a military source, said that at around 5:20 p.m. (1420 GMT), “the Israeli enemy carried out an air attack… targeting a number of points south of the city of Aleppo.”

Assad forces target crowded market, kill two: Syria’s White Helmets

Two civilians, including a child, were killed, and 16 others, including four children, were injured in an artillery attack by Syrian regime forces targeting a popular market in the centre of Idleb city on Saturday evening, according to the Syria Civil Defence, cited by Al-Jazeera.

“We received two martyrs and 14 injuries, including two critical cases, at the hospital, and they are now in the operating room,” said Ismail al-Hassan, the head of the emergency department at Idleb University Hospital.

Al-Hassan told Al Jazeera that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had recently intensified its targeting of the area, necessitating a constant state of preparedness to receive any injuries within the city or its vicinity in the event of any bombardment.

“For nearly 13 years, we have been working to save civilian casualties targeted by the Assad regime and Russia,” al-Hassan said. The Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, said that earlier on Saturday, a child was wounded as a result of artillery shelling targeting the city of Atarib in the western Aleppo countryside.

“The timing and location of today’s attack in Idleb indicate that its goal is to kill the largest number of civilians,” said Ahmed Yazigi, a board member of the Syria Civil Defence. Yazigi told Al Jazeera that the attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia on the Idleb region consistently aim to target vital centres, schools, and hospitals with the intention of killing civilians.

“Since the beginning of 2023 until today, we have documented more than 1,200 attacks by the Assad regime and Russia on the northwestern Syria region, including 27 attacks on schools and 16 attacks on displaced camps,” he said. “The attacks of the Assad regime and Russia on the region can only be described as terrorist attacks seeking to undermine stability in the area.”

Idleb province, the last stronghold controlled by Syrian opposition fighters, is considered the most densely populated area in northwestern Syria, hosting 4.5 million people, including 1.9 million living in internally displaced camps, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Within moments, the market turned into a pool of blood and thick dust,” said Abdullah Aloush, a displaced person from Khan Shaykhun and the owner of a nearby shop in the targeted area in Idleb City. Aloush told Al Jazeera that the market was targeted at a time when it was crowded with civilians. “Initially, myself and those with me in the shop were helpless, not knowing what to do, before we went out to check on our neighbours and assist the injured.”

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