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Syria Today – Commercial Flights With Saudi Arabia Resume; Israel Attacks Syrian Army

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Commercial Flights With Saudi Arabia Resume; Israel Attacks Syrian Army

The Associated Press reported that regular flights between the Syrian capital of Damascus and Saudi Arabia resumed Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade as part of a thaw in relations between the countries, Syrian state media reported.

In May, Syrian pilgrims travelled on a direct flight to Saudi Arabia for the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage, but Wednesday’s Syrian Airlines flight to Riyadh marked the return of regular commercial flights.

Israel attacks Syrian army infrastructure in Golan heights

Israel attacked infrastructure associated with the Syrian army in the Golan Heights, which the military said contradicted the Disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria (1974), the Israeli army announced on Wednesday, according to JPost.com.

Targets associated include the Syrian army’s military infrastructure with tanks and artillery.

The army said it considers the Syrian army responsible for everything that happens in its territory and “will not allow attempts to violate the separation agreement.”

Turkey moves ahead with ‘security corridor’ against PKK in Iraq, Syria

Minister of National Defense Yaşar Güler reiterated Ankara’s intention to continue its counterterrorism operations to wipe out the PKK from its immediate borders. Güler was quoted on Wednesday as saying that they would create a 30-40 kilometre (around 18-25 mile) deep security corridor along his country’s Iraqi and Syrian borders and “completely clear the region of terrorists.”

“We will continue operations until the last terrorist is (eliminated),” Güler said in an interview published on the website of Politico magazine.

Turkey’s escalating counterterrorism operations in northern Iraq in recent weeks have led to speculation that a wider summer offensive against the terrorist group is already underway.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signalled months ago that they were considering more operations against the group this summer to clear the region of the PKK. Officials often emphasize efforts to close the security loop and sever the ties between the group’s leaders in Iraq and its Syrian wing, YPG.

The “terror corridor” is already targeted by the army and Turkish intelligence in Syria and Iraq.

Unconfirmed reports say the Turkish army is already advancing along a road connecting Iraq to Syria and has occasionally carried out operations since last month. Airstrikes have also targeted Mount Gara, where the PKK members have a major hideout.

Güler also responded to questions about Turkey’s place in NATO, where it commands the second-largest army of the alliance. Most NATO countries openly sided with Ukraine in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, while Turkey pursued close relations with both sides. Güler said they rejected the criticism that Turkey was an unreliable member of the alliance. “In an environment where 32 allies are together, it is unthinkable to have the same views on every issue,” he said, blaming “some countries” for Turkey’s false portrayal as an unreliable partner.

He stated that Turkey adhered to a balanced and active stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict within the framework of a strategic partnership with Ukraine and positive dialogue with Russia. “To date, Turkey has been the only country that has been able to bring both sides of the war together in high-level talks,” he is quoted.

“We will not allow the Black Sea to turn into a strategic battlefield,” Güler said.

Germany opposes holding any elections currently in Syria: It would entrench division

Germany has expressed opposition to holding any elections in Syria at present, whether by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) or the People’s Assembly elections scheduled to be held by the regime in a few days.

Enab Baladi reported that that German envoy to Syria, Stefan Schneck, stated today, Wednesday, July 10, that Germany does not support holding elections in Syria at the moment, explaining that free and fair elections are an integral part of resolving the conflict and establishing peace in Syria, but the conditions are not yet ready.

According to what Schneck mentioned on “X,” Germany supports the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which calls for elections after the adoption of a new constitution, but urges all parties to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process aimed at approving a new constitution and implementing Resolution 2254.

Holding elections in Syrian territory at this time will not push the political process forward but will instead entrench the long-standing status quo of conflict and division, according to the German envoy.

He also called on all parties to refrain from taking any steps that could threaten the prospects of reaching a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria and transitioning to power as called for by Resolution 2254.

Syria’s Assad agreed to meet with Turkey’s opposition leader: party official

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accepted a request from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Özgür Özel for a meeting in Damascus to discuss problems regarding Syrian refugees in Turkey, a party official has announced.

CHP Deputy Chairman Burhanettin Bulut told Halk TV during a program on Wednesday that Özel will travel to Damascus once the date and place of the meeting are set jointly with the Syrian regime.

Özel told Turkish media last week, following the eruption of anti-Syrian riots across several provinces in the country after mobs vandalized businesses and properties owned by Syrians, that he is hoping to have an official meeting with Assad in Damascus in July to address border security and refugee issues.

He said his party officials were trying to arrange an official meeting between the two in Damascus and that unofficial contact with Assad had already been made.

Turkey hosts approximately 3.2 million Syrian refugees, and xenophobic violence, often fueled by social media rumors, has erupted multiple times in recent years. The fate of these refugees remains a contentious political issue, with some opposition politicians making their repatriation an election promise.

Özel’s expectation for a meeting with Assad comes at a time when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking to reconcile with the Syrian president with whom he had close relations that were cut off after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria.

Lebanon Needs Help in Dealing with Its Syrian Refugees

Arab Center Washington DC published a detailed report on the significant challenges Lebanon is facing due to the presence of 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who are living in increasingly dire conditions amid rising xenophobia and economic collapse. 

Lebanon, the report says,  is grappling with severe domestic challenges, including economic collapse, social repercussions, and a dysfunctional political system. Amidst these issues, the presence of 1.5 million Syrian refugees has become a significant concern. The refugees face rising xenophobia and racism, living in poor conditions without access to basic services due to lack of legal status.

The Lebanese government and various municipalities have imposed severe restrictions on Syrian refugees, aiming to force their return to Syria, despite the dire conditions there. The Assad regime in Syria complicates their return by maintaining military conscription and seizing properties, making it nearly impossible for refugees to go back.

The report argues that economic hardships in both Lebanon and Syria further exacerbate the crisis. Syrian refugees contribute to Lebanon’s low-wage labor force but live in poverty as resources dwindle and inflation soars. Many attempt to flee to Europe, facing increasing anti-immigrant sentiments.

A comprehensive approach involving humanitarian efforts, international financial contributions, and political pressure on the Syrian regime is needed to address the refugee crisis. The international community must push for a political solution in Syria to allow for a transition from authoritarian rule. Lebanon requires support to manage the economic and social well-being of both its citizens and Syrian refugees, avoiding forced repatriation and ensuring humane treatment.

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