Syria Today – US Sends Reinforcements; Iranians Question Russia Ties

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

Recently, a convoy from US forces entered al-Hasakah through the Al Waleed border crossing between Iraq and Syria, as reported by Anadolu. Meanwhile, an Israeli missile attack in Syria last week killed a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, leading to criticism of the military partnership between Russia and Iran, according to Middle East Eye.

US sends reinforcements to Syria 

According to information obtained by Anadolu, in the last two days a convoy belonging to US forces entered al-Hasakah through the Al Waleed border crossing between Iraq and Syria.

The convoy made up of about 15 vehicles carrying medical supplies and equipment, reached US bases in Deir-ez-Zor, including the Omar oil fields.

Late Saturday, two cargo planes belonging to the US also landed at the Harab Cir bases in al-Hasakah.

The moves marked the US’ first reinforcements this year to its bases in Deir-ez-Zor and al-Hasakah.

Washington consistently sends reinforcements to its military bases and points located in oil fields under the occupation of PKK/YPG terrorists.

The US claims that it uses YPG forces as allies in the fight against Daesh/ISIL. Turkish officials have long pointed to the contradiction in this approach, saying that using one terrorist group to fight another makes no sense.

It also fiercely objects to the US training and supporting with arms and other supplies a terrorist group that poses a threat to Türkiye’s borders as well as local residents of northern Syria, who have suffered under terrorist oppression and attacks.

US citizen wins $50m lawsuit against Assad regime over imprisonment, torture in Syria

An American citizen has won a $50 million lawsuit against Syria’s regime of Bashar al-Assad over his abduction, imprisonment, and torture, almost eight years after he was released from detention.

41-year-old Kevin Dawes, an American freelance journalist, was detained by forces loyal to the Assad regime after he crossed over into northern Syria from Turkiye in 2012, and was then transferred to a Syrian military intelligence branch in Damascus. There he was kept in a windowless cell and subjected to repeated torture, a practice commonly conducted by regime authorities throughout its vast prison network.

He was finally released in 2016 through the mediation of Russia, one of the Syrian regime’s main allies. According to the judge ruling on the case, the four-year ordeal left Dawes with permanent nerve damage and other physical ailments, all of which continue to cause him “profound and lasting agony”.

Throughout his detention, the Syrian regime did not notify the US government of the imprisonment, leaving it to a fellow prisoner – British citizen Abbas Khan – to inform his family during a prison visit regarding Dawes. A UK inquiry has since revealed that Khan was later “deliberately and intentionally killed”, a claim which Damascus denies and maintains that he killed himself under detention.

It was in October 2021 that Dawes filed the lawsuit with the assistance of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), accusing the Assad regime for its ill-treatment and torture.

Syrian woman makes impassioned plea to UN

A destitute 50-year-old Syrian woman with several medical complaints is asking for the United Nations to relocate her to a third country where she can receive medical care.

Lubna Ali Deeb fled Aleppo, Syria three and a half years ago. She lives in the Qushtapa refugee camp in Erbil province.

“I make a living selling water,” Deeb said. Suffering from a muscle atrophy disease and several other ailments, this is the only work she can do. “When I was a child, I just had three fingers. After suffering a stroke, I lost them. So I cannot work at factories or in houses.”

She also has severe back pain and poor eyesight.

Her husband passed away 15 years ago and last month the assistance she received from the United Nations ended. She lives off the small amount of money she makes selling water and the kindness of neighbors.

“Since I am sick, I need money. I am forced to work,” she said. “God is my witness, sometimes I have no money to buy food. Sometimes, I borrow money from my neighbors for food.”

Now all she wants is to move to a third country where she can receive medical treatment.

“I am pleading for help from the UN,” she asked.  “I need the UN to relocate me to a third country. I want them to take me to a country where I will receive medical care, a country that will take care of me, take me to a hospital and cure me.”

“I am 50 years old now. I am too old to be in the streets selling water.”

There are more than 250,000 Syrian refugees living in the Kurdistan Region.

Iranians question Russia ties after Israel killed key commander in Syria

An Israeli missile attack that killed a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force in Syria last week has sparked criticism of the military partnership between Russia and Iran, Middle east Eye reported.

On 25 December, Seyyed Reza Mousavi, a key figure in shaping Iran’s military presence in Syria, was killed in a missile strike on his residence in the Zainabiyah neighbourhood of Damascus.

Although it wasn’t the first time that Israel had targeted Iranian forces in Syria, this incident has drawn attention to Russia’s failure to deploy its advanced S-300 anti-missile defence system in support of Iran, its primary ally in the region.

Iranian columnist Jafar Gholabi, in a recent piece, questioned Russia’s stance on defending Iranian forces and its silence on Israel’s attacks. 

He wrote: “Why doesn’t the Russian government use its advanced S-300 system to protect Iranian advisers in Syria? Why not even condemn those attacks?”

Gholabi also raised concerns about Russia’s apparent lack of action against Israeli and American air forces. 

“No government or group, aside from the Israeli and American air forces, possesses the ability and motivation to conduct air operations against the Syrian government,” he said.

Some Iranian military experts also criticized Iran’s approach to Israel, linking Mousavi’s assassination to Iran’s perceived silence over previous Israeli attacks on its soldiers in Syria.

Jordanian army says five killed in battle to stop Syrian drug smugglers

Jordan’s army said on Saturday that five drug and weapons smugglers linked to Iranian militias operating in southern Syria had been killed after infiltrating from Syria, according to Reuters.

The kingdom has promised to respond to what it says is an alarming rise in such incursions, accusing Syria of failing to stem Iranian-run smuggling networks.

Jordanian officials, like their Western allies, say the operations are controlled by Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and other pro-Iranian militias who control much of southern Syria after supporting President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has lasted almost 13 years.

The army had earlier said it was pursuing large numbers of smugglers who had crossed the border before dawn in heavy fog.

Last month, Jordan reported clashes with dozens of infiltrators using drones and equipped with rocket launchers.

And on Thursday, it launched air strikes against suspected smugglers’ warehouses and hideouts in Syria, Jordanian and regional intelligence sources said.

“This continued threat to our national security won’t end with one raid or confrontation … It’s a long war,” Minister of Government Communications Muhannad Mubaidin told the public broadcaster Al Mamlaka.

Relentless bombing and ‘constant death’: A bleak start to 2024 for Syria

Al-Jazeera published a report in which it tried to look into the year 2024 in Syria. The report says that Northwestern Syria greeted 2024 with relentless bombings and bloodshed, continuing the tragic pattern of the previous year. On January 1, the Syrian regime and Russian allies bombed civilian areas, including a bakery near the home of Shaher Masri in Jakid al-Adas, Darat Izza. This attack was part of a broader offensive in the Aleppo countryside, resulting in the deaths of six people, including a baby, and injuring 11 others.

Tragic scenes unfolded as residents, including children, witnessed the aftermath of bombings that damaged essential infrastructure like markets, mosques, and electricity facilities. These attacks, including one where a man was killed while bringing breakfast home, symbolize the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region.

The Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) director, Nada al-Rashed, highlighted the regime’s strategy of destabilizing the population by targeting civilian infrastructure. This, coupled with the lack of accountability for the Syrian regime’s actions, has allowed the violence to continue unchecked.

Journalist and researcher Mustafa al-Naimi pointed out the regime’s possible motivations, including a response to Israeli air raids and a desire to prevent economic investments in Idleb, deepening the region’s economic stagnation. He also mentioned that the military operations might be a diversion from the regime’s inability to address internal issues.

Despite the ceasefire agreement brokered in 2020 by Russia and Turkey, the regime and its allies have continually violated it. Opposition leaders, like Khattab al-Shami, remain defiant, claiming they are prepared to respond to the attacks. Al-Shami also noted the regime’s bombings even in areas under Turkish control and suggested that the regime’s aggression might be an attempt to reclaim sovereignty and distract from its own internal failures.

This ongoing conflict in northwestern Syria, marked by the targeting of civilians and essential infrastructure, perpetuates a cycle of displacement, fear, and suffering for the residents, intensifying their hardships during the winter months.

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