Syria Today – US Base Under Attack; Organizations Call for More Aid; Russia Recruiting Mercenaries

Explosions have been reported near a US army base in Syria following an attack linked to retaliatory US airstrikes against Iranian-aligned groups and their positions. Meanwhile, the United Nations and human rights organizations have called for increased aid for Syria, one year after a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and the war-torn country, further harming its impoverished population. Simultaneously, Ukraine’s Military Defense Intelligence (HUR) has reported on its Telegram channel that Russia is recruiting mercenaries from Syria to bolster its military resources for the war in Ukraine.

‘Swarm of suicide drones’ attacks US army base in Syria in retaliation for Baghdad airstrike

Explosions have been reported near a US army base in Syria, by the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese media network Al Mayadeen, on Wednesday.

The American base in the Al-Omar oil field in the Kurdish-controlled region of northeastern Syria, close to the city of Deir ez-Zor, American troops have been present here since at least 2017.

The base was attacked by a “swarm of suicide drones” according to Egypt-based Bayan-gate news and is the second attack of its kind this week against US bases in the region.

The attack has been linked to the retaliatory US airstrikes against Iranian-aligned groups and their positions, by Arab media.

The American airstrikes were a response to the three American servicemembers killed at a base in Jordan, near the Syrian border earlier this week.

UN calls for more aid to Syria on deadly quake anniversary

The United Nations and rights groups have called for increased aid for Syria, one year after a devastating earthquake struck Türkiye and the war-torn country, battering its impoverished population.

“Billions of dollars in damage aside, the human toll of this disaster is incalculable. Many people remain displaced to date, waiting for solutions and shelter,” two senior UN officials said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Syria was already reeling from an economic crisis, but “the earthquakes exacerbated the situation further yet,” said UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Adam Abdelmoula, and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi.

On February 6, 2023, a pre-dawn 7.7-magnitude tremor killed nearly 60,000 people in Türkiye and Syria.

According to Damascus, the earthquake killed more than 1,400 people in government-controlled areas of Syria, while more than 4,500 died in areas held by opposition factions in the country’s northwest.

“Today, a staggering 16.7 million people require humanitarian assistance. This shocking number comes against the background of a bleak funding outlook and conflicts raging across the globe,” the UN officials said.

“This trend must urgently be reversed,” they said.

“Our 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan was just over 36 percent resourced by the year’s end,” they said, pleading for more funds.

Russia Recruiting Syrian Mercenaries for ‘Meat Assaults’ – HUR

Ukraine’s Military Defense Intelligence (HUR) has reported on its Telegram channel that Russia is recruiting mercenaries from Syria to bolster its military resources for the war in Ukraine.

“The recruitment of Syrians for the war indicates a deterioration in the moral and psychological state of the Russian occupation forces due to large-scale losses and the need to replenish them for further meat assaults,” HUR reported.

Initial training sessions which focus on urban combat operations for the first group of mercenaries, estimated to be around 1,000 strong, are said to be underway in Syria, near the city of Aleppo and the Kuweires airfield.

Following the completion of their training, the mercenaries are expected to be transported to Russia’s Khmeimim airbase in Syria before being transferred to Russian territory.

Upon arrival, according to Ukrainian intelligence, Syrian recruits are granted Russian citizenship, provided with Russian passports and subsequently drafted into the Russian army’s assault units.

Intelligence sources have revealed that Moscow is enticing Syrian men, obviously facing dire circumstances in their own war-torn country, through travel agencies.

Initially, they are promised positions as security guards at oil refineries in Yakutia, only to be later enticed with offers of “higher-paying jobs” in Buryatia.

Hezbollah operative killed in alleged Israeli strike said to have helped Iran establish air defense system in Syria

Arabic media reports that one of the Hezbollah operatives killed earlier this afternoon in an alleged Israeli drone strike on a car travelling in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatieh was Abbas Al-Debs.

The Times of Israel reports that Al-Debs was tied to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was helping Iran set up air defences in Syria, Arabic media reports.

Army Radio reports that Al-Debs was also the commander of the area from which anti-tank fire was launched at the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.

It says the strike was carried out in response to that tank fire striking an IDF base nearby and seriously injuring one of the soldiers there.

Under Gaza’s Shadow, Syria Faces a New Welter of Conflict

The analysis published by The New York Times outlines the complex and multifaceted nature of the ongoing conflict in Syria, which the conflict in Gaza has exacerbated. The authors, Paulo Pinheiro, Hanny Megally, and Lynn Welchman, members of the U.N. Syria Commission of Inquiry, highlight the dire situation in Syria, where violence has escalated along multiple fronts, contributing to the world’s largest displacement crisis. This escalation comes despite the world’s attention largely being drawn away by the events in Gaza.

According to the op-ed, Syria’s war has intensified along five main fronts. This includes clashes between Syrian government and Russian forces against armed opposition groups in the northwest; increased ISIS attacks across Syria; Turkish assaults on Kurdish-led forces in the northeast; conflicts between Kurdish-led forces and local tribes; and military actions by the United States and Israel against forces linked to Iran.

The analysis emphasizes the critical need for a dedicated international effort to contain the fighting in Syria. A diplomatic end to over a decade of bloodshed is deemed imperative, with a suggestion that a lasting truce in Gaza could also help calm the situation in Syria by reducing tensions between involved foreign powers.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is described as increasingly intolerable, with nearly 17 million Syrians in need of aid. The report criticizes the use of internationally prohibited weapons, including cluster munitions, and documents war crimes and crimes against humanity, including attacks on civilians, summary executions, and torture. It highlights the urgent need for international legal action to address these violations.

The disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria is part of a broader trend that undermines the international protection system. The analysis calls on member states to urgently address this alarming trend and emphasizes the importance of continued, supported, and expanded efforts to convict perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The analysis concludes with a plea for the international community not to lose sight of the Syrian crisis. It advocates for a nationwide cease-fire and stresses the need for courageous diplomacy, generous donations, and determined legal prosecution to bring an end to the conflict and support Syria’s recovery.

This comprehensive overview highlights the complexity of Syria’s conflict, the severe humanitarian crisis it has spawned, and the crucial need for international intervention and accountability to bring about peace and aid to the Syrian people.

‘Moving is torment’: Life for amputees after Turkey earthquakes

Around 70,000 people in Turkey are believed to have a disability caused by injuries in last year’s earthquakes, according to a report by Al-Jazeera.

The report details the harrowing aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that struck southern Turkey on February 6, 2023, particularly focusing on the challenges faced by amputees. Adile Yetkin and her family, residents of Adiyaman, are among those profoundly affected by the disaster. The earthquakes, with magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5, resulted in over 50,000 deaths across southern Turkey, with Adiyaman alone recording more than 8,000 fatalities and around 17,500 injuries. The United Nations estimates that up to 70% of the approximately 100,000 people injured may now live with disabilities as a consequence of their injuries.

Adile’s story is a poignant illustration of the new difficulties earthquake survivors must navigate. She and her husband both lost a leg, and their eldest son was killed. They now live in a two-room prefabricated container, grappling with the physical and psychological scars left by the earthquake. The article highlights the inadequate support and resources available to those with disabilities, including the challenges of accessing basic services and the dire need for suitable housing and medical care. Despite receiving prosthetic limbs, Adile and her husband face significant obstacles, including malfunctioning prosthetics and the physical pain of adapting to them. The Yetkins, like many others, rely on the assistance of relatives, friends, and non-governmental organizations for their daily needs and medical expenses, underscoring the vast shortfall in official support.

Furthermore, the article underscores the extensive destruction of Adiyaman’s infrastructure and the additional barriers it creates for people with disabilities. Despite the government’s promises of aid and housing, progress is slow, leaving many survivors in precarious living conditions and uncertain futures. The psychological impact of the earthquakes, compounded by loss and disability, is another critical issue that the article addresses, emphasizing the widespread need for psychological support in the community.

Overall, the article sheds light on the ongoing struggles of earthquake survivors in Turkey, particularly those who have become amputees. It calls attention to the need for comprehensive support and rehabilitation services, improved infrastructure and housing, and the importance of addressing the mental health crisis following such a catastrophic event.

Why Turkey’s Syria Policy May Be About to Change

A report published by the Carnegie Institute discusses Turkey’s potential shift in its policy towards Syria amid evolving regional dynamics and domestic electoral considerations.

According to the report, with municipal elections approaching on March 31, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has heightened its security rhetoric, particularly concerning threats from the Turkish-Syrian border. Historically, Turkey has engaged in military incursions into Syrian territory to counter the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group Turkey considers a terrorist organization and seeks to neutralize due to its presence near the Turkish border.

Turkey has conducted military operations in northern Syria and Iraq, targeting PKK and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions, the latter led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as an extension of the PKK. Recent Turkish military actions have expanded deeper into Syrian territory, targeting not just military objectives but also civilian infrastructure to undercut the PKK’s funding sources.

Turkey’s aggressive posture risks confrontation with other key players in Syria, including Russia, Iran, and the United States. Despite past vetoes from Moscow and Washington against a Turkish ground incursion, Erdoğan has signaled readiness to proceed with new military steps. However, the geopolitical landscape, including Turkey’s evolving relations with Russia and Iran and speculation about a U.S. troop withdrawal from northeastern Syria, could influence Ankara’s actions in Syria.

The article says that the upcoming elections also play a significant role in Turkey’s Syria policy. Military operations against the PKK have traditionally rallied nationalist support for Erdoğan’s government. Yet, there are signs of a possible strategic shift towards engaging with the Kurdish electorate in Turkey, highlighted by recent concessions to Kurdish political figures and discussions about restarting peace processes. The fielding of a mayoral candidate in Istanbul by the main Kurdish opposition party, DEM, could further impact the government’s approach to Kurdish issues domestically and in Syria.

Despite potential changes in tactics, Turkey’s fundamental goals regarding Syria remain consistent: establishing a PKK-free buffer zone along the border and facilitating the return of Syrian refugees currently in Turkey. How Ankara adjusts its strategies to achieve these objectives amidst domestic and international pressures remains a critical question.

In summary, Turkey’s policy towards Syria is at a potential turning point due to a complex interplay of regional security dynamics, international relations, and domestic political calculations, particularly in the upcoming elections.

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