Syria Today – Cyprus Rescues 60 Migrants; U.S. Sends More Troops

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

Cyprus rescues 60 Syrian migrants lost at sea for 6 days. Several have been hospitalized

At least four people have been hospitalized after Cypriot police rescued 60 Syrian migrants found aboard a rickety wooden boat some 55 kilometers (34 miles) off the island nation’s southeastern tip, authorities said Wednesday.

They have been at sea for six days.

Police and army helicopters flew the three children and one adult to a hospital after a passing merchant ship notified Cypriot authorities of the boat’s presence off the island’s coast in pre-dawn hours.

Three of the children and one adult seemed to have lost consciousness. Three other adults who had sustained fractures to their lower extremities were treated by officers aboard a patrol vessel that intercepted the migrant boat, police said.

The boat was towed to the harbor where the remaining migrants received medical care.

Authorities said the boat had set sail from Lebanon on Jan. 18 and the migrants appeared to have run short of food and water.

A Lebanese lawyer who follows migrant issues in his country said the boat had gone missing since its departure until it reached Cyprus. He said the migrants were in bad shape because they hadn’t eaten for days.

Spain remands Syrian refugee suspected of planning jihadist attack on his high school

Spain’s high court on Tuesday ordered that a 17-year-old student suspected of having links to the Islamic State group and of planning to attack his high school be held on remand at a youth detention center for at least six months, Reuters reported.

The student, a Syrian national, was arrested early on Monday in the southern town of Montellano near Seville and has been charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and possessing explosives.

Jose Luis de Castro, the judge in charge of the court’s section for minors, said in his order that “these felonies of enormous gravity” justified the pre-trial detention.

There is “solid evidence” that the suspect obtained various substances used for homemade explosives, as well as manuals for their manufacture, the judge said, adding that the suspect had also pledged loyalty to Islamic State on social media.

The suspect had been living with his mother and 10-year-old sister in Montellano, a town of 7,000 people, for two years. All three have refugee status, according to Montellano’s mayor, Curro Gil.

The judge said the youth was “highly radicalized, obsessed with all things military, has camouflage clothing and is tremendously homophobic and antisemitic.”

Astana guarantors to discuss efforts for permanent peace in Syria

The Turkish, Russian and Iranian delegations, as well as the representatives from the Syrian opposition and Bashar Assad’s government, came together for a two-day round of the Astana talks in the Kazakh capital to discuss ongoing efforts for a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis, Daily Sabah reported.

Türkiye is represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yıldız, while Russia is represented by its Special Envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, Iran by Ali Asghar Khaji, a senior adviser to the Iranian foreign minister on special political affairs, the Syrian opposition by Ahmet Toma and the regime by deputy foreign minister Bassam Sabbagh.

Moreover, delegations from Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, which have observer status, also attend the talks, which are also attended by the United Nations Deputy Special Representative for Syria Najat Rochdi.

The sides will discuss the development of the regional crisis surrounding Syria, efforts for a comprehensive solution and the humanitarian situation in Syria, as well as mobilizing the efforts of the international community for the reconstruction of Syria within the framework of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2642.

The Astana peace process is the ensemble of initiatives and plans launched in 2017 under the guarantors Türkiye, Russia and Iran to resolve the Syrian civil war, which began in early 2011 when the Bashar Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protestors with unexpected ferocity. The war displaced nearly 7 million people and caused the deaths of over 300,000 people in total.

The summit is convening upon the request of guarantor nations, the Kazakh ministry noted.

Israel digging trench along Syria border

The Israeli army has begun digging a trench along the border with Syria in an apparent attempt to avoid repeating a scenario similar to the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation carried out by the Palestinian resistance, Hebrew newspaper Israel Hayom has revealed.

The paper said the trench comes within the framework of a new plan to secure the border areas and to prevent the infiltration of armed militia members supported by Iran, Palestinian factions, or Hezbollah members from Syrian territory.

It added that the plan includes a large trench extending along the land border, noting that it was designed at a depth and width that does not allow any type of vehicle to pass.

It quoted an officer saying that in the end, Israel had returned to solutions from the Middle Ages. “If there had been a trench, this [7 October] would not have happened. Our goal is to disrupt vehicles’ access to the border fence,” the source said.

Syrian Kurdish Journalist Missing 3 Months after Arrest in Iraqi Kurdistan

Nearly three months after his arrest at a Syria-Iraq border crossing, the whereabouts of a Syrian Kurdish journalist are unknown, and his family told VOA that they have not been able to reach him or get legal representation for him.

Sleman Mohammed Ahmed, an Arabic editor for RojNews, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was arrested by Kurdistan Regional Government security forces at the Semalka Border Crossing between Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan on Oct. 25.

His mother, Sultana Ahmed, said she and her family deserve to know where he is being held.

“I conveyed my voice to the Kurdistan Regional Government, but they did not respond. I asked a lawyer to represent us, but they did not allow him to see my son. I conveyed my voice to the Autonomous Administration [of Syrian Kurds], but they did not answer me, either. I just want my son’s fate to be revealed,” she told VOA.

VOA Kurdish Service’s requests for comment from Kurdistan Regional Government authorities remain unanswered.

On Oct. 30, the Duhok Security Directorate issued a statement saying Ahmed was “a PKK cadre” and that the province’s security forces arrested him for “traveling for secret and illegal work for the PKK,” a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

The statement said Ahmed’s arrest “has nothing to do with journalism.”

US sends reinforcements to troops in Syria 

The United States has sent reinforcements to its military base in Al-Hasakah province, which is under the control of the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria.

Local sources told Anadolu Agency that the US aid convoy entered Al-Hasakah yesterday after travelling from the Al-Waleed border gate between Syria and Iraq.

The convoy, consisting of approximately 40 vehicles and oil tankers, headed towards the Qasrak base where the US army is stationed in the northwest of Al-Hasakah.

The US had previously sent reinforcements to the bases on 5 and 6 January.

US forces are deployed in the provinces of Al-Hasakah, Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor, in areas where the country’s oil fields are located.

 

How war has inflamed the child mental health crisis in Syria

New Arab published a long report which discusses the severe impact of war and displacement on the mental health of Syrian children. Due to ongoing conflict and forced displacement, these children are facing a crisis in their cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional development. The article highlights that one in six children globally lives in war zones, and half of the over 100 million people at risk of forced displacement are children, with significant numbers in Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Palestine, and other countries.

A study in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications reports that exposure to violence, loss of loved ones, family separation, and future uncertainties contribute to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD in children. The 12-year war in Syria has led to the displacement of over 13 million Syrians, making them vulnerable to numerous traumatic events and psychological harm.

The study finds that family dynamics, mental health problems, poor parenting practices, and environmental stresses like food and water scarcity worsen these challenges. It also shows higher depression rates among adult Syrian refugees in neighboring countries compared to those in Western countries. The mental health of mothers, heavily affected by the war, plays a crucial role in children’s well-being and development.

Previous research has linked negative parenting and children’s psychosocial challenges to mothers’ psychological distress. Prolonged displacement and trauma from wars negatively impact refugee mothers’ mental health, leading to unfavorable parenting practices and worse outcomes for children.

The article suggests that supporting mothers could indirectly help children, and emphasizes the need for interventions focusing on psychosocial and parenting support for war-affected caregivers. It also calls for addressing structural challenges that affect caregiver and child mental health. The situation is dire, with 97% of the population in northwest Syria living in extreme poverty, and the mental health of children in conflict zones like Gaza, Sudan, and others, though under-researched, likely mirrors that of Syrian children. The article underscores the urgent need to improve the well-being and mental health of children and adolescents affected by wars and armed conflicts.

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