Syria Today – Israeli Strike; Iran Denies Involvement in Tanf Attack

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

On Monday, the Syrian military reported casualties from an Israeli airstrike on a Damascus suburb, as conveyed by state media. Opposition activists claim that the targeted area was a stronghold of Iran-backed groups. Simultaneously, Iran has refuted any connection to a drone attack in Jordan that resulted in the deaths of three US military personnel and left numerous others injured, as reported by state media.

An Israeli strike on a Damascus area where Iran-backed groups operate caused casualties, Syria says

An Israeli airstrike on a Damascus suburb on Monday killed and wounded several people, the Syrian military said in a statement carried by state media. Opposition activists said the area hit was a stronghold of Iran-backed groups, AP reported.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strike hit a farm housing members of Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group and other Iran-backed factions.

It said the strike killed seven people, including four Syrians, one of whom was the bodyguard of a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. It did not give the nationalities of the others.

The strike comes amid rising tension in the Middle East with the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza and a drone attack on Sunday that killed three U.S. troops and injured dozens more in northeastern Jordan, near the Syrian border.

Days earlier, an Israeli strike on Damascus destroyed a building used by the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, killing at least five Iranians.

Iran denies involvement in drone attack that killed 3 US soldiers in Jordan

Iran has denied involvement in a drone attack in Jordan that killed three US military personnel and injured dozens of others, state media has reported, according to al-Jazeera.

US President Joe Biden and UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron have blamed Iran-backed groups for Sunday’s attack near the border with Syria.

“As we have clearly stated before, the resistance groups in the region are responding [to] the war crimes and genocide of the child-killing Zionist regime and… they do not take orders from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Nasser Kanaani was quoted saying by IRNA on Monday.

“These groups decide and act based on their own principles and priorities as well as the interests of their country and people.”

Kanaani said claims of Iranian involvement were motivated by “specific political goals to reverse the realities of the region” and were “influenced by third parties, including the child-killing Zionist regime”.

Iran-backed groups in Iraq, Syria said to evacuate ahead of feared US retaliation

Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria are vacating their military posts in anticipation of a US retaliatory strike, according to The Times of Israel.

A source from the Islamic Resistance in Iraq umbrella group tells al-Araby al-Jadeed that the group has evacuated its positions along the Iraq-Syria border, leaving only one or two guards to man each post, amid intensified reconnaissance activity by American aircraft in the area, which has led the militias to fret that the US response will come quickly.

After leaving their positions, militia leaders have reduced their use of mobile phones for fear of being tracked and targeted, the source adds to the London-based Qatari-owned outlet.

Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet, says Iran-backed fighters in east Syria also began evacuating their posts. He tells The Associated Press that the areas are the strongholds of Mayadeen and Boukamal.

Three officials with Iran-backed militias in Iraq, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with journalists, said the drone attack against the base in Jordan was launched by one of the Iraqi groups. No faction has yet officially claimed responsibility.

WhatsApp messages reveal UK mothers detained in Syria fear death amid worsening conditions

The “alarming” situation in a prison camp in northern Syria has led to British mothers incarcerated there fearing for their safety, The Guardian reported on Monday.

The newspaper said it had seen WhatsApp messages sent by British women in Roj camp for former Daesh affiliates, including one in which a mother in her 20s wrote: “I’m going to die here if they don’t get me out soon.” She added: “I really, really want to go back and be with you guys. I really need hospital care.”

The Guardian said the revelations would put pressure on the UK government to repatriate the estimated 60 citizens, including 40 children, currently in Roj.

They include Shamima Begum, the London-born woman who left the UK in 2015 aged 15 to join Daesh, and who was subsequently stripped of her British citizenship.

The UK and Australia remain the only two Western nations that routinely oppose the repatriation of citizens currently in detention in Syria.

Others, including France and the US, have brought citizens home from Syria and neighboring Iraq to face justice, amid fears leaving people in the region could help destabilize it.

A UN report into Roj published last year said countries have an “absolute obligation to protect the right to life of their nationals.”

Sources told The Guardian that the UK government is aware of the poor conditions in Roj, which include cases of child malnutrition as well as deaths caused by treatable illness and pollution from nearby oilfields.

Iran Must Pay

An article from National Review, titled “Iran Must Pay,” discusses the Biden administration’s response to Iran’s alleged sponsorship of militancy and terrorism in the Middle East, particularly highlighting a recent drone attack on a U.S. position in Jordan by Iranian proxy forces. This attack, which resulted in American casualties, is portrayed as part of a broader pattern of Iranian aggression in the region, including attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

The piece criticizes President Biden for what it perceives as a lack of decisive action against Iran, arguing that the administration’s responses have been belated and inadequate. The article suggests that the administration’s strategy has failed to deter Iran or secure regional stability, as evidenced by ongoing attacks by Iranian proxies, including the Houthis in Yemen.

The author advocates for a more assertive U.S. policy towards Iran, citing the Trump administration’s approach, including the neutralization of IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, as an example of effective deterrence. The article also references Ronald Reagan’s response to Iranian aggression during the Iran-Iraq War as a model.

In summary, the National Review argues that the Biden administration needs to take stronger action against Iran to prevent further American casualties and to restore deterrence in the region, suggesting that Iran should face significant consequences for its actions.

What is Tower 22 – the secret US base at centre of Iran-backed drone attacks?

The Telegraph published a report explaining the significance of Tower 22, which was attacked Sunday.

Tower 22 is a secretive U.S. military base located near the Jordan-Iraq-Syria border, overlooking a refugee camp housing 15,000 people in northern Jordan. Situated just 12 miles from the Al-Tanf garrison in south-eastern Syria, Tower 22 is believed to play a key role in logistical support and border security for Jordan. Although the Jordanian government does not officially acknowledge its existence, Tower 22, alongside Al-Tanf, has been integral in the U.S. fight against Islamic State (IS) remnants in the region.

Al-Tanf is strategically important as it sits on a critical road connecting Iranian-backed forces from Tehran to southern Lebanon, near Israel. After IS initially took control of this border area, it was later secured by U.S.-backed forces and Iran-backed militias. Tower 22, which reportedly houses around 350 U.S. Army and Air Force troops specializing in various support roles, plays a crucial part in disrupting a potential land bridge that would enable Iran to link directly to the eastern Mediterranean.

The base has recently gained attention due to a drone attack by the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance in Iraq, resulting in American casualties. This incident has raised questions about the ongoing U.S. military presence in the region and increased domestic pressure on the Biden administration for a more forceful response to Iran-backed militias.

Since the Syrian civil war’s outbreak in 2011, the U.S. has supported Jordan with military funding and surveillance systems to monitor militant activities. The U.S. military presence, including undisclosed numbers of contractors and special operations forces, aims to prevent an IS resurgence and address the ongoing threat from al-Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iran-backed militias.

This presence is also strategically significant in countering Iran’s influence and restricting the movement of weapons into Lebanon for use by proxies like Hezbollah against Israel. Despite discussions about possibly withdrawing the 900 troops from Syria, the U.S. also maintains a significant presence in Iraq, with upcoming discussions anticipated between Washington and Baghdad regarding the 2,500 troops stationed there.

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