Israeli Air Strike Hits Syrian Port Of Latakia

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows firefighters battling the blaze at Syria’s Latakia port after an Israeli airstrike early on December 28, 2021. AFP

 

An Israeli airstrike hit Syria’s Latakia port on Tuesday, the second such attack on the key facility this month, according to Syrian state media.

Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out airstrikes on its strife-torn neighbour, mostly targeting Syrian government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and Hezbollah fighters.

“At around 03:21 AM, the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression with several missiles from the direction of the Mediterranean… targeting the container yard in Latakia port,” Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying.

The strike caused “significant material damage” and led to fires, it added.

Asked about the strike, an Israeli army spokesman said: “We don’t comment on reports in foreign media”.

Firefighters battle the blaze at Syria’s Latakia port after an Israeli airstrike early on December 28, 2021. AFP

 

On December 7, Israel carried out strikes on an Iranian arms shipment at Latakia, located in President Bashar al-Assad’s western Syrian heartland, without causing any casualties.

That earlier attack, which was the first on the facility since the start of the war, triggered a series of explosions, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor with a wide network of sources in Syria.

In November, three soldiers and two Syrian fighters affiliated with Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah were killed in Israeli strikes, according to the monitoring group.

While the Jewish state rarely comments on individual strikes it carries out on its northern neighbour — with which it is officially at war — it has confirmed hundreds since 2011.

According to a report by the Israeli army, it hit around 50 targets in Syria in 2020.

In the deadliest operation since the strikes began, Israel killed 57 regime force members and allied fighters in eastern Syria overnight on January 13, 2021.

The Israeli military has repeatedly defended the operations as a bid to prevent its archfoe Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows containers on fire at Syria’s Latakia port after an Israeli airstrike early on December 28, 2021. AFP

 

Israel’s head of military intelligence, Major General Aharon Haliva, has accused Iran of “continuing to promote subversion and terror” in the Middle East.

In a shadow war, Israel has targeted Iran’s military sites in Syria and also carried out a sabotage campaign in Iran against its nuclear programme.

Tehran has been a key supporter of the Syrian government in the decade-old conflict.

It finances, arms and commands a number of Syrian and foreign militia groups fighting alongside the regular armed forces, chief among them Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group.

The conflict in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations.

AFP

Syria Explosive Remnants Kill 19 Persons In November

Abdul Qader, a 5-year-old Syrian child, who was displaced from the city of Aleppo with his parents, sits with his father in front of the family house near the city of al-Bab in northern Syria, on November 18, 2021. Abdul Qader lost part of his left leg and left hand, and his face was disfigured, when a shell fired by regime forces hit his neighbourhood in al-Bab, as he left his family home to join his friends for a ball game in 2019. PHOTO: Bakr ALKASEM / AFP

 

Explosive remnants of war have killed 19 civilians in Syria since the start of November, a war monitor reported on Saturday.

“Nineteen Syrian civilians, including eight children and three women, have been killed by explosive remnants of war since the beginning of November, in the provinces of Idlib, Aleppo, Quneitra, Daraa, Hama, and Homs,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Explosives left in fields, along roads, or even in buildings by all sides in Syria’s decade-long conflict have wounded thousands of civilians and killed hundreds of others.

Syria overtook Afghanistan last year as the country with the highest number of recorded casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war.

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The Landmine Monitor said this month Syria had registered the most victims for the first time since its annual reports began in 1999, with 2,729 people either killed or injured.

Across Syria, one in three populated communities are thought to be contaminated by explosive ordnance, the United Nations said in March.

Syria’s war is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions since it began with a brutal crackdown of anti-government protests in 2011.

AFP

Mine Explosion Kills Seven In Syria

Syria map

 

A landmine explosion killed seven people, including a child, in Homs province of central Syria on Saturday, a war monitor reported.

It detonated as a vehicle with the seven on board passed through a desert road outside the historic city of Palmyra, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“It destroyed the vehicle and killed all the passengers inside, which included two women, a child, and four men,” said the monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

Explosives left in fields, along roads or even in buildings by all sides in Syria’s decade-long conflict have wounded thousands of civilians and killed hundreds of others.

The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor recorded 182 casualties last year in Syria, mainly from cluster munition remnants.

The figure accounted for nearly half of the 360 cluster munition casualties documented across the world in 2020, according to the watchdog.

It has recorded a total of 4,099 cluster munition casualties in Syria, including 2,102 in attacks and 1,997 from cluster munition remnants.

Across Syria, one in three populated communities are thought to be contaminated by explosive ordnance, the United Nations said in March.

One in two people are at risk from explosive ordnance contamination, it added in a report.

Syria’s war has killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions since it began with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

AFP

Syria Executes 24 People For Starting Wildfires

 

The Syrian government has executed 24 people it convicted of deliberately starting deadly wildfires that raged in the summer of last year, the justice ministry said Thursday.

Those executed on Wednesday were charged with “committing terrorist acts that led to death and damage to state infrastructure and public and private property through the use of flammable material,” the justice ministry said in a statement carried by state media.

Eleven others were sentenced to hard labour for life, four to temporary penal labour and five minors were handed jail sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years over similar charges, it added.

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Their identities were not disclosed, and no details were provided on where and how the executions took place.

The suspects, the ministry said, were identified late last year in an interior ministry probe into wildfires in the provinces of Latakia, Tartus and Homs.

“They confessed that they had started fires at several locations in the three provinces and they also confessed to convening meetings to plan the fires” that occurred intermittently in September and October 2020, according to the justice ministry.

It said it documented 187 fires affecting 280 towns and villages last year.

They devastated 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of agricultural land and 11,000 hectares of forest land, while also damaging more than 370 homes, the justice ministry said.

At least three people were killed and dozens wounded, state media reported at the time.

Syrian law still provides for the death penalty for offences including terrorism, arson and army desertion, according to rights group Amnesty International.

In its latest death penalty report published this year, Amnesty said it was able to corroborate information indicating that executions took place in Syria in 2020 but said it did not have sufficient information to give a reliable minimum figure.

The death penalty is usually carried out by hanging in Syria.

Syria COVID-19 Spike Sees Hospitals Reach Capacity

Syrian health workers tend to a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in the rebel-held northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on September 13, 2021. – Cases of Covid-19 have increased alarmingly over the past month in Syria’s rebel-controlled northern region of Idlib, local authorities said today. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

 

Hospitals in the Syrian capital Damascus and the coastal province of Latakia have reached capacity due to rising coronavirus admissions, a health official said Sunday.

“We have started transferring Covid-19 patients from the province of Damascus to the (central) province of Homs, and from Latakia to the province of Tartus,” Tawfiq Hasaba, a health ministry official, was quoted as saying by Syrian state TV.

The move came after “hospitals in these areas reached capacity because of a large spike in coronavirus cases,” he added.

Syria on Saturday logged 442 new coronavirus infections in government-held areas — a new daily record for a conflict-hit country that has documented more than 32,580 cases, including 2,198 deaths in regime controlled territory, since the start of its outbreak last year.

“It is the first time the number of cases reaches 400” in one day, Hasaba said, adding that the number of new infections was highest in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia.

Coronavirus cases have been on the rise across Syria since mid-August, including in the northwest and northeast, large parts of which fall beyond government control.

According to the World Health Organization, only two percent of Syria’s population has been at least partially vaccinated.

Syria’s conflict has since 2011 killed nearly half a million people and ravaged a healthcare sector struggling to cope with a mass outflux of professionals.

Around 70 percent of the country’s pre-war medical staff have left since the start of the war.

AFP

IS Attack Kills Seven Syrian Troops

A photo of the Syrian flag

 

Islamic State group jihadists killed at least seven soldiers and militiamen in eastern Syria on Wednesday, the latest in a series of deadly attacks, a Britain-based war monitor said.

Several government positions came under attack in a desert area of Deir Ezzor province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Several troops were also wounded, some of them critically, while five jihadists were also killed.

A Kurdish-led offensive overran the last patch of IS-held territory in Syria in March 2019 but sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in the vast desert that stretches from central Syria east to the Iraqi border.

UN Demands Accountability Over Syria Mass Disappearances

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday called for those behind “massive scale” enforced disappearances in Syria over the past decade of conflict to be held accountable.

The resolution, presented by Britain and a number of European countries, along with the United States, Turkey and Qatar, decried that Syria’s crisis had entered a second decade “marked by consistent patterns of gross violations.”

The war in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011, with all sides in the increasingly complex conflict accused of war crimes.

Tuesday’s resolution, adopted with 26 of the council’s 47 members in favour, six opposed and 15 abstaining, voiced particular concern about the fate of tens of thousands of people who have vanished.

The text “strongly condemns the continued use of involuntary or enforced disappearances in the Syrian Arab Republic, and related human rights violations and abuses, which have been carried out with consistency, in particular by the Syrian regime.”

It also criticised enforced disappearances by other parties to the conflict, including the Islamic State group, but said the Syrian regime was the main perpetrator.

The resolution voiced alarm at recent comments by the UN’s independent commission of inquiry on the rights situation in Syria indicating that “widespread enforced disappearance has been deliberately perpetrated by Syrian security forces throughout the past decade on a massive scale.”

The investigators had indicated that such disappearances had been used “to spread fear, stifle dissent and as punishment,” and that tens of thousands of men, women, boys and girls detained by Syrian authorities “remain forcibly disappeared”.

Presenting the resolution to the council, British Ambassador Simon Manley slammed the regime’s role in such a massive number of disappearances was “simply inexcusable.”

That regime, he said, “has the bureaucratic means to provide information on these disappeared individuals, the means to end the suffering of the families and loved ones of these people.”

“But it chooses not to employ those means. This is a deliberate act of unspeakable cruelty.”

He echoed a charge in the resolution, accusing Damascus’s forces of “intentionally prolonging the suffering of hundreds of thousands of family members.”

It emphasised “the need for accountability, including for crimes committed in relation to enforced disappearance,” stressing that “accountability is vital in peace negotiations and peace-building processes.”

AFP

Over 200 Vaccinated In Syria’s Al-Hol Camp

A health worker prepares a dose to inoculate a woman with the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a school-turned-vaccination centre in New Delhi on May 5, 2021. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

More than 200 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in northeast Syria’s densely-populated Al-Hol camp for the displaced and families of defeated jihadists, a government official said Thursday.

The vaccination drive, using AstraZeneca jabs under the Covax programme for low-income parts of the world, covers government-held areas and territory run by a Kurdish local administration.

Syrian health ministry teams had inoculated 205 people up until Wednesday in Al-Hol camp of Hasakeh province, the ministry’s provincial chief Issa al-Khalaf told AFP.

The camp houses about 62,000 people, mainly women and children, including tens of thousands of family members of foreign Islamic State group fighters.

According to medical sources inside the camp, foreign wives of suspected fighters were being excluded from the vaccination drive, a charge denied by Khalaf.

Syria’s health ministry in April received a first consignment of 203,000 doses of AstraZeneca through Covax, according to the World Health Organization.

Almost 7,000 people have so far been inoculated in the Kurdish-held areas, in a campaign launched a month ago, local health chief Jawan Moustafa said.

The areas of northeast Syria under Kurdish control, where medical shortages are rife, have recorded over 18,000 cases of coronavirus, including 761 deaths.

AFP

Israeli Airstrikes Kill 11 Syria Troops

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EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

Israeli airstrikes in central Syria killed at least 11 government troops and militiamen late Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The strikes were the first carried out by Israel in Syria since 11 days of heavy fighting with the Hamas rulers of Gaza ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on May 21, the Britain-based war monitor said.

“At least seven army soldiers and four National Defence Forces militiamen were killed,” Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP, adding that all of the dead were Syrian.

The Observatory said the strikes targeted air force positions near the village of Khirbet al-Tin on the outskirts of Homs, as well as an arms depot belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

The Israeli air force carried out Tuesday evening strikes in several regions of Syria, in the capital Damascus as well as in Homs, Hama and Latakia provinces, the Observatory said.

Syria’s state SANA news agency said there had been “explosions in Damascus” as Israeli forces carried out the raid from Lebanese air space.

It said air defences had been activated against the “Israeli aggression”, but said nothing about any casualties or damage.

The Israeli army, which rarely acknowledges individual strikes on Syria, declined to comment on “reports in the foreign media”.

Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Syrian territory, targeting government positions as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

Israel has said repeatedly that it will not allow neighbouring Syria to become a launchpad for its arch-foe Iran.

-AFP

Syria President Bashar Al-Assad, First Lady Test Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) A file handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on November 4, 2020 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and his wife Asma, wearing face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, during a visit to a state-sponsored fair in Damascus for small businesses from Aleppo, northern Syria. The Syrian president and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing mild symptoms, the presidency said on March 8, 2021.
SANA / AFP

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma have tested positive for Covid-19 after experiencing mild symptoms, the presidency said Monday.

“After experiencing mild symptoms that resemble… Covid-19, President al-Assad and first lady Asma Al-Assad took a PCR test, and the result showed that they are infected with the virus,” the presidency said in a statement.

“They are in good health and their condition is stable,” the statement added.

More to follow

Syria Denounces US Strike As ‘Bad Sign’ From Biden

In this file, US Navy handout image was taken on October 4, 2014, two US Navy F-18E Super Hornets supporting operations against IS, are pictured after being refueled by a KC-135 Statotanker over Iraq after conducting an airstrike. At least 17 pro-Iran fighters were killed in US strikes in Syria at the Iraq border overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on February 26, 2021.

 

Syria on Friday condemned a deadly US air strike on Iran-backed militias in its far east as a bad omen from the administration of new US President Joe Biden.

The US said it carried out the strikes overnight at a Syria-Iraq border control point used by Iran-backed groups, destroying “multiple facilities” in retaliation for a spate of rocket attacks targeting its troops in Iraq.

A war monitor said at least 22 fighters were killed in the operation that struck three trucks loaded with munitions coming from Iraq near the Syrian frontier town of Albu Kamal.

It was the first US military action targeting such groups since Biden took office five weeks ago and came just as Washington had opened the door to resuming negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme.

“At President Biden’s direction”, the US raids targeted “infrastructure utilised by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria”, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

“These strikes were authorised in response to recent attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike killed at least 22 fighters from Iraq’s state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

The raid also destroyed border posts of the Hashed, an umbrella group that includes many small militias with ties to Iran, said the monitor.

Kirby said the location was used by Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada, two Iraqi pro-Iran groups operating under the Hashed.

Kataeb Hezbollah said one of its fighters was killed.

It identified him as Rahi al-Sharifi, and said he had been “stationed at the Iraqi-Syrian border to protect Iraq’s land and people from the gangs” of the Islamic State group.

-‘Bad sign’-
Syria condemned the strike as “cowardly American aggression”.

“It is a bad sign regarding the policies of the new US administration which should adhere to international” norms, its foreign ministry said.

Iraq’s defence ministry denied the US had coordinated with it to conduct the strike, saying it only works together with the US-led coalition in the fight against IS.

Syria’s ally Russia also condemned the attack, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov questioning the Biden administration’s plans in Syria.

“It is very important for us to understand the United States’ strategic line on the ground,” he said.

The US action followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by US and coalition forces fighting IS.

One of those strikes, on a military complex in the Kurdish regional capital Arbil on February 15, killed a civilian and a foreign contractor working with coalition forces, and wounded several US contractors and a soldier.

Last week, the Biden administration offered talks with Iran led by European allies as it seeks to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal, left on the brink of collapse after Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from it.

But the new administration has also made clear it would not brook “malign activities” in the region by Iran.

– ‘Unambiguous message’ –
Although Kataeb Hezbollah did not claim responsibility for the attacks, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was behind them.

“We’re confident in the target we went after. We know what we hit,” he said.

“We are confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes” against US interests in Iraq, he added.

Iran is believed to be searching for an opportunity to avenge the US assassination of top general Qasem Soleimani one year ago.

Soleimani, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander, was Iran’s key liaison to its allies in Iraq and Syria, and elsewhere in the region.

He was killed in a US drone strike just as he arrived in Baghdad for meetings with top Iraqi officials.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday the US would “hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans” but would not “lash out” and risk destabilising Iraq.

Kirby also called Thursday’s strike “proportionate”.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel,” he said.

“At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation.”

Nicholas Heras, of the Institute of the Study of War, said other diplomatic interests were also at play.

“The Biden administration is in the process of seeking out a way to show the Israelis that it is willing to do more against Iran and its proxy groups in the region, especially in Syria,

Syria Approves Russia’s Sputnik COVID-19 Vaccine

 

Syria has authorised the use of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, its embassy in Moscow said Monday.

The country is the latest to approve the Russian vaccine, named after the Soviet-era satellite. Sputnik V was registered in August before clinical trials were underway, which left experts wary.

But leading medical journal The Lancet published results showing the jab to be safe and 91.6 percent effective.

“The Syrian Arab Republic has completed all registration procedures for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus infection and allowed its use on its territory,” the Russian TASS news agency cited the Syrian embassy as saying in a statement.

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More than 30 countries have approved the vaccine, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which financed its development.

Syria in December also signed on to the World Health Organisation’s Covax initiative to procure vaccines.

The WHO, together with the UN children’s agency UNICEF and Gavi, will support Syria in acquiring jabs to initially cover at least three percent of the population and aim for 20 percent by the end of the year.

Syria has recorded 15,179 coronavirus infections and 998 fatalities from the virus in government-held areas.

Territories under Kurdish control in the country’s northeast have recorded nearly 8,600 cases and 311 deaths, while the rebel-held northwest has reported 21,121 infections and 408 fatalities.

Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s long-running civil war.