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Syria Today – Iran Opens New Consulate; 17 Killed in Daraa

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria
Syria Today – Iran Opens New Consulate; 17 Killed in Daraa

Iran’s foreign minister inaugurated his country’s new consulate in Damascus on Monday, a week after a deadly strike blamed on Israel destroyed the former premises, sending regional tensions skyrocketing, AFP reported.

Tehran, a key Damascus ally, has vowed to avenge last Monday’s air strike on the Iranian embassy’s consular section that killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members, including two generals.

The strike came against the backdrop of Israel and Hamas’s ongoing war, which began with the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel.

Damascus and Tehran blame Israel for last Monday’s raid, but it has not commented.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian inaugurated the new consular section in a Damascus building in the presence of his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad, whom he also met earlier Monday, state news agency SANA said.

An AFP correspondent at the inauguration said the new consulate was not far from the premises destroyed by the strike in the upscale Mazzeh area, which also houses other foreign embassies and UN offices.

Amir-Abdollahian was also set to meet President Bashar al-Assad, and Syria’s pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said his talks in Damascus would be “mainly focused” on repercussions of last week’s strike.

Iran’s foreign minister began a regional tour Sunday in Oman, long a mediator between Tehran and the West, where Muscat’s foreign minister called for de-escalation.

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader warned on Sunday that Israeli embassies were “no longer safe” after the Damascus attack.

Analysts saw the raid as an escalation of Israel’s campaign against Iran and its regional proxies that runs the risk of triggering a wider war beyond the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Iran to hold off retaliation to Israeli strike on Syria consulate if Gaza truce reached: report

Iran will hold off from retaliating to the Israeli airstrike on its consulate in the Syrian capital if a ceasefire agreement is reached in Gaza, an Iranian media report said on Sunday.

“If America succeeds in containing the situation, it will be a great success for the Biden administration and we can build on that,” wrote Jadeh Iran journalist Ali Hashem on Saturday, citing an anonymous Arab diplomatic source.

No further information was given, and it was not clear if this Arab source was from Oman where Iran’s top diplomat was on Sunday as part of a regional tour.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, along with Iran’s National Security Council chief Ali Akbar Ahmadian, headed to Damascus on Monday in the wake of last week’s airstrike on the Syrian capital.

US, Egyptian, and Qatari negotiators are trying to mediate a temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas which would see the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli captives, six months on since the beginning of Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

Israel and the US have been on high alert for a possible retaliation by Iran since last week’s airstrikes on its consulate in Damascus that killed seven Revolutionary Guards commanders. Among them were two generals, including Quds Force commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

The attack was one of the deadliest for Iran since the US assassinated top commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020.

Iran has said it would respond “harshly” to the Damascus strike, and reportedly told the US to “step aside.”

On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei warned that Israel’s embassies were “no longer safe.”

At least 17 killed in clashes between rival groups in Daraa

At least 17 people have been killed in Syria’s Daraa province in clashes between rival armed groups, a day after a blast which killed at least seven children, Middle east Eye reported.

An “explosive device” was detonated in the city of Sanamayn in Daraa province on Saturday, state media agency SANA reported quoting a police source, resulting in the deaths of several children and the injuries of “two other people… one of them a woman”.

The UK-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), also reported on the blast, saying that militias were accused of planting the device in order to target an unidentified person in the area.

According to the monitor, an individual identified as Ahmad al-Labbad, who “leads an armed group”, was accused by a rival group of being responsible. Labbad, who previously worked for the security services, denied the accusations.

The rival group, which according to SOHR is led by an individual who “formerly belonged to the Islamic State (IS) group and who now works for the military intelligence services” stormed part of Sanamayn and came into conflict with Labbad and his supporters.

The fighting has left 17 dead, including a former member of IS, three members of the Labbad family and 12 of the group’s fighters, while a civilian was also killed by a stray bullet, with clashes continuing on Sunday afternoon.

Roadside bomb kills seven children in southern Syria, says state media

At least seven children were killed after a roadside bomb detonated in south-western Syria, in an area where dozens of incidents have already claimed about 100 lives in 2024, state media and a war monitor reported.

It remains unclear who planted the bomb in the northern countryside of conflict-stricken Daraa province, which lies between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Russian-backed Syrian government forces and their allies captured the city and province of Daraa from opposition forces in 2018.

Syrian state news agency Sana, citing an unnamed police official in Daraa, blamed militant groups, which are still active in the area.

But the UK-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused a pro-government militia of planting the bomb in an assassination attempt, without giving further details. It says at least eight children were killed.

Sana reported two other injuries in the explosion.

Daraa city was known as the cradle of the Syrian uprising in 2011 that spiralled into an all-out war, now in its 14th year.

Unexploded cluster bombs. The deadly legacy that continues to threaten Syrians

El Pais published a story on the dire consequences of the use of cluster bombs in conflict zones, with a specific focus on Syria. To refine your thesis statement and ensure it encapsulates the essence of your research, consider highlighting the key issues such as the ongoing threat posed by unexploded ordnance, the impact on civilian populations, especially children, and the international legal context regarding cluster munitions. Here’s a suggested revision:

It is a Sunday morning in March and the team of Maamoun al Omar, head of the War Remnants Disposal Center of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) in the town of Ariha in northern Syria, has just received a call from a man reporting of the presence of a strange object in a residential area of Al Nayrab. The team heads to the location and cordons off the area to prevent civilians from entering. With extreme caution, they approach and photograph the object.


The Civil Defense Center confirms that it is an explosive. Two women surround him with bags of earth and spray him with a substance to cause a controlled detonation. Al Omar suspects that the explosive was a cluster bomb, although a report must still confirm this. “Not a month goes by without us destroying between six and ten bombs of this type,” says Al Omar.

The Assad regime in Syria and its Russian ally have launched missiles loaded with cluster bombs on the northern regions of the country since 2011, according to various international organizations. These weapons contain dozens of explosive bomblets that are scattered when they reach their target. However, approximately a third of them do not explode on impact, although they remain active and represent an enormous risk to the public, since they can still explode if they are disturbed. A total of 124 countries have acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which “prohibits all use, production, transfer, and storage” of this type of explosive. Non-signatory countries include the United States, which used these weapons in Iraq, and Russia, which has dropped them on Ukraine and Syria.

It was one of these bombs that injured Abdul Rahman al Safar. He looks sad as he says quietly: “I thought it was a ball. But when I threw it to the ground, it exploded on my leg and I felt pain.” He was four years old when a cluster bomb destroyed his right foot.

The accident occurred when he returned home in 2020. A year earlier, the attacks in the north of the country by Bashar al-Assad’s regime had forced the eight members of the Al Safar family to leave their home. When they returned, they found the house full of weeds and war debris. One day, Abdul Rahman was playing in the grass and found a red ribbon tied to an artifact and picked it up. “I heard an explosion and I started running,” 42-year-old Maryam Matr, the little boy’s mother recalls. “We immediately took him to the hospital,” she tells this newspaper in an interview from her home.

Matr says that her grandmother Hassana al Satouf also died in a similar incident from a cluster bomb explosion in 2019. “We had never seen these explosives before in our lives and we didn’t know what they look like. “My husband has found several in different places,” she says.

“This type of bomb is a piercing weapon that causes very serious injuries,” explains Al Omar. In addition, some, like the M77, have a white or red ribbon that “catches the attention, especially of young children, who think it is a toy. But when they touch it or move it, it explodes,” the man warns.


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