Syria Today – Turkish Soldiers Clash with “Militants”; EU Announces New Sanctions

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

The Turkish Defense Ministry has reported that its forces retaliated against 14 militants engaging in hostile actions within the Operation Euphrates Shield zone in northern Syria. Concurrently, the European Union expanded its sanctions list on Monday by including six individuals and five entities about the ongoing situation in Syria, as reported by Al-Arabiya.

Turkish Security Forces Respond to Hostile Fire in Northern Syria, 14 Militants Affected

The Turkish Defense Ministry announced that its forces responded to hostile actions by 14 militants in the Operation Euphrates Shield zone in northern Syria. The operation on January 22 was aimed at individuals who engaged in aggressive actions against Turkish security personnel.

According to the ministry’s statement, the involved militants were part of groups that Turkey regards as a security threat. The term “neutralized” used by Turkish authorities indicates that these individuals either surrendered, were apprehended, or were incapacitated in the operation.

In response to recent hostile activities, including those impacting Turkish soldiers, Türkiye has intensified its security measures against groups in northern Iraq and Syria. These efforts aim to prevent the establishment of hostile territories along its border and to facilitate the safe and peaceful settlement of the local population.

EU sanctions Al-Assad’s supporters and five companies due to situation in Syria

The European Union on Monday added six people and five entities to its sanctions list in connection to the ongoing situation in Syria, Al-Arabiya reported.

Among the people are an economic advisor to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, three leading business persons supporting the regime and benefiting from it, and two persons connected to the Al-Assad family.

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The five companies sanctioned companies are Al-Dj Group, Cham Wings, Freebird Travel Agency, Iloma Investment Private JSC, and Al-Aqila company.

“Some of these entities are engaged in the transfer of Syrian mercenaries, arms trade, narcotics trafficking or money laundering, which support the activities of the Syrian Regime,” the EU said.

These people and companies are now subject to the freezing of their funds and other financial assets in EU member states, while EU operators are prohibited to make funds and economic resources available to them.

Syrian pro-regime fighter jailed in Dutch war crimes trial

A pro-regime fighter in Syria’s civil war has been found guilty of torturing prisoners and sentenced to jail by a Dutch court, The National reported.

Prosecutors said Mustafa A. was to blame for two civilians being dragged from their homes and violently tortured in Syria in 2013.

Dutch investigators described Mustafa A. as a “loyal ally” of President Bashar Al Assad’s regime who left Syria for the Netherlands in 2019.

Mustafa A. admitted being part of a pro-government militia called Liwa al-Quds that allegedly had close ties to Syrian intelligence.

He denied involvement in war crimes but was convicted by a court in The Hague and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Prosecutors had sought a 17-year term.

It is the first Dutch war crimes case involving an ally of Syria’s regime after earlier proceedings were brought against ISIS supporters or other militants.

They are brought under a “universal jurisdiction” which means people can be prosecuted outside Syria if the suspect is in the Netherlands or a Dutch citizen was involved.

Mustafa A. successfully claimed asylum upon arriving in the Netherlands in 2019.

However, he was arrested in May 2022 after Dutch police were tipped off about his links to the militia, which grew out of a Palestinian refugee camp near Aleppo.

Iran holds funerals for Guards killed in alleged Israeli strike

AFP reports that hundreds of mourners gathered Monday in Tehran for the funerals of Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria, in what Iran called an Israeli strike.

It was the latest incident adding to regional tensions and fears of wider conflagration during the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The strike in Damascus on Saturday killed five members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the military force said. Iranian media later reported the victims included the group’s intelligence chief for Syria and his deputy.

Mourners carried aloft coffins bearing some of the victims, draped in colours of the Iranian flag, before a stage bearing pictures of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani who was killed three years ago by the United States.

State media reported that funeral processions were planned for three of the five IRGC members killed.

Syrian Citizens Struggle with Restrictive Domestic Money Transfer Limits

In a report by Enab Baladi, the publication said that Syrian residents are facing significant difficulties due to the imposed limit of one million Syrian pounds (approximately $67) for domestic money transfers, affecting various essential transactions such as healthcare, education, and commercial dealings. This situation was reported in Qamishli, al-Hasakah by Enab Baladi on January 22, 2024.

The report highlights the plight of individuals like Mohammed al-Aliwi, a resident of Qamishli, who struggled to transfer large sums of money needed for his mother’s cancer treatment to Damascus. With the fluctuating transfer ceiling, he had to make multiple transfers over several days, adding to the urgency and stress of securing treatment.

Citizens resort to fragmented transfers through multiple companies or involve acquaintances to bypass these limits, methods that are not always reliable or available. Additionally, transfer companies scrutinize the sources and purposes of the transfers, often leading to feelings of anxiety and fear among the customers.

Another issue is the refusal of transfer companies to accept older currency notes in smaller denominations like 500 and 1000 Syrian pounds. This forces people to exchange these for larger denominations at exchange offices, incurring additional costs.

The restrictions and verification procedures are part of the companies’ compliance with fluctuating daily transfer ceilings and regulations to prevent accusations of “financing terrorism and money laundering.” The Syrian regime has recently decreed severe penalties for unlicensed currency exchange and transfers, further complicating the situation for ordinary citizens trying to manage their financial needs.

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