Syria Media Roundup – 23 to 29 July, 2018

In this Media Roundup, we collect weekly local news from Syria, which are published mainly in Arabic and Kurdish media. By this, we would like to make these news, which from our point of view, reflect the current situation on site, accessible to a broader readership. The sources come from news channels that we consider the most trustworthy, though we can not guarantee absolute reliability. The focus of the content are areas where mainly ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are living, such as in Afrin, Al-Qamishli and As-Suwayda.

Hundreds of victims by attack from Daesh in As-Suwayda

On July 25, 2018, Daesh, respectively the so called Islamic State, has launched several attacks in the city of As-Suwayda and a number of villages on its eastside, causing the death of hundreds (Suwayda24). While Syrian regime forces were absent in the area, the fighters of Daesh attacked seven villages, even using missiles (SMART News). Suwayda24 reported that locals have tried to defend the attacks, but could not prevent the death of a large number of individuals, including women and children. During the civil war, people in As-Suwayda have received some military support from the Syrian governmental forces, but have missed effective weaponary to counteract attacks to that extent. SMART News reported that the number of victims of the terror attack has reached two-hundred, most of them civilians, in addition to forty missing, including women and children. Later, other sources have stated that the number has increased to almost three-hundred (derStandard).

Civilians as well as Druze political leaders have held the governor and police chief of the Syrian regime in As-Suwayda responsible for the high number of victims and expelled them from the funerals. No military reinforcement had been sent to the point of the attack by the responsible persons. Civil protestors furthermore criticized that on July 26, 2018, 36 hours after the attack of Daesh, the Syrian regime has sent a military convoy to the eastern countryside of As-Suwayda (SMART News). Walid Jumblatt, one of the most influential Druze leaders form Lebanon, has also made the Syrian regime responsible for the terror attack. He questioned, how Daesh was able to reach As-Suwayda, even though the Syrian army had announced its defeat. From his point of view, the attack was a revenge against the Druze, due to a decision of the top religious leaders, who rejected the recruitment of Druze people for the Syrian army (Etilaf). The Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Syria issued a statement in which it strongly condemns the terror attack in As-Suwayda. The KNC declares its solidarity with the people in As-Suwayda. It called on the international community to resolve the Syrian crises and implement international resolutions (ARK News).

On July 23, 2018, Suwayda24 reported about incidences were the Syrian army had sold properties of habitants of Al-Masyada during former military operations. The village is located in the northeast of As-Suwayda close to strategic military facilities. Accordingly, residents of Al-Masyada were asked to leave temporarily during military operations of the Syrian regime against Daesh. A few days after the residents had left their houses, their furniture was on sale in a nearby town. Suwayda24 added that the residents of the village are still afraid submitting complaints to the Syrian security authorities.

Kidnappings and arrests in north-east Syria

On July 23, 2018, PYD’s Asayish forces have kidnapped Abdulhamid Khalil and Abdulmajid Musa from their houses in Sari Kani, in Al-Hasakah in the northeast of Syria. Both of them were taken to an unknown location. Khalil and Musa are members of the PDK-S, a member party of the Kurdish National Council. According to a statement of the PDK-S, the gunmen had already raided the houses of Khalil and Musa two days before the kidnapping (ARK News). A PDK-S member said that the reasons for the kidnappings were their criticism of the PYD self-administration and political differences between PDK-S and PYD (SMART News).  

SMART News, published an article on July 23, 2018, that the military police of the SDF, which is led by PYD, arrested numerous individuals, who were escaping from a military training camp, in the west of the city of Ar-Raqqah, in the north-east of Syria. Additionally, four young men were arrested at the checkpoints between the villages of Al-Salhabiya and Mazra’t Al-Rasheed and brought to the central prison in Ar-Raqqah.

PYD meets the Syrian regime

A delegation from the Syrian Democratic Council, which is led by PYD, has met officials of the Syrian regime in Damascus on July 26, 2018. Ilham Ahmad, one co-president of the SDC and the head of the delegation said that the aim of the meeting is to discuss political and military issues. Riad Darar, the second co-president of SDC, stated that “a delegation from the SDC will visit Damascus to discuss issues of public services with the Syrian regime” (SMART News: July 27). In addition, Sipan Hemo the head of YPG has met the governor of Al-Hasakah. Initiated by the Syrian regime, they discussed issues of local council elections, as well as the transfer of oil from Al-Hasakah to Baniyas in the west of Syria. Regarding the integration of the PYD into the regime, Salih Muslim, the former head of the PYD, said: “Everything that happened between the Syrian government and SDC is just talks, and there are still no actual agreements” (Rudaw).

Other sources, contradict the statement of Saleh Muslim that there was no agreement between PYD and regime. Apparently, the police command of the Syrian regime held a ceremony for the graduation of officers in Al-Hasakah, on July 22, 2018, an area which is actually controlled by the PYD (ARK News).

While downplaying the relationship between PYD and regime, Salih Muslim, confirmed on July 29, 2018, the readiness of PYD forces to participate in a potential offensive in Idlib. Muslim pointed out that the PYDs “agreement with the international coalition is to combat terrorism. In our view, the presence of any terrorist faction in Syrian is a threat to us, Syria and its people. It should be fought” (ARK News). Another member of PYD, Aldar Khalil, stated: “in case of launching the operation for the liberation of Idlib from the control of the Turkish army and its factions, and if this is in the interest of Afrin, we are ready to take part in it” (Rudaw). Afrin and Idlib are geografically close to each other. The Syrian factions controlling Afrin, are also present in Idlib.

On July 29, 2018, PYD has seized the houses of around twenty-four families in Ar-Raqqah and prevented the inhabitants from entering. As a reason for the seizure, the PYD named the proximity of the houses to their military headquarter. Subsequently, PYD forces built a two and a half meters high, concrete wall around the area (SMART News).

Fires and property disputes in Afrin

Forests around the village of Aranda in Shiya, which is a sub district of Afrin, were set on fire on July 22, 2018. The Turkish troops, which are present in the same area, did not provide any help to extinguish the fire. Fire broke out also in the surrounding forests of the village Bailey in the district Balbala. The surrounding forests of the village Omara the area Sharra were set on fire on July 21, 2018. Activists from Afrin are accusing the Syrian factions of setting fire to forests, farms, olive trees and vineyards (Rudaw).

On July 26, 2018 the local council in the Maabatli, a sub district of Afrin, published a decision that internally displaced Arab families, who are originally not from Afrin, should leave fifty houses owned by Kurdish families (ARK News). The IDPs rejected the decision. They called on the United Nations and the international community for help and demonstrated with around three-hundred people against the presence of the Assad-regime in their areas of origin (SMART News).