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Syria Today – Mekdad in Cairo; Syrians Attacked in Turkey; ISIS Kills Three Soldiers

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Mekdad in Cairo; Syrians Attacked in Turkey; ISIS Kills Three Soldiers

On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Syria convened a meeting to assess the advancements made in the efforts to restore relations between Damascus and other Arab nations. Meanwhile, in central Turkey’s Province of Kayseri, a Syrian refugee and his son suffered serious injuries on Monday due to gunshot wounds inflicted by a Turkish citizen. Concurrently, in a separate incident, ISIS extremists launched an assault in the Syrian desert on Tuesday, resulting in the death of three regime soldiers.

Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers discuss normalization ahead of Cairo meeting

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Syria met on Tuesday to review progress in the push to re-establish relations between Damascus and Arab countries, The National reported.

Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry and his Syrian counterpart Faisal al-Mekdad met before the meeting of a five-nation committee set up by the Arab League to oversee Syria’s return to the Arab fold, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.

Beside Egypt, the liaison committee comprises the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

Separately, Mr Shoukry met Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal ben Farhan, to discuss re-establishing relations with Syria.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Mr Shoukry told Mr Mekdad the committee would “offer a helping hand to the brotherly Syrian people to pull through their predicament”.

The meeting follows the readmission of Syria to the Arab League in May, ending its decade-long isolation from the organisation.

In May, the Syrian government was readmitted to the Arab League after Mr Mekdad met the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in Amman.

Those countries vowed to “arrive incrementally to a political solution that ends the suffering of the Syrian people”.

Assad blames Arab countries for chaos

In an interview with Sky News Arabia last week, Mr Al Assad blamed Arab countries he did not name for what he called chaos in Syria, including a booming trafficking industry in the amphetamine known as Captagon, as well as other drugs.

The narcotics are mainly smuggled from areas under Mr Al Assad’s control in southern Syria to Jordan and then to Saudi Arabia. Arab officials say it is a multibillion-dollar-a-year business.

Jordanian officials have made it clear Mr Al Assad’s demands for funds for reconstruction and support to weather western sanctions cannot be met without curbing the flow of drugs.

An article in the Baath newspaper, published on the same day as the interview with Mr Al Assad and broadcast last week, said the Syrian President attended the Arab summit based on “a spirit and promises that were different to what we are hearing today”.

It was a signal that the normalization may be floundering.

“The regime is bankrupt,” Mr Abdelnour said. “Even its supporters are starting to protest [over] the misappropriation of resources and meagre salaries and food.”

Turkish man shoots Syrian father, son in Turkey

A Syrian refugee and his son sustained severe injuries on Monday after being shot by a Turkish man in the Province of Kayseri in central Turkey, North Press reported

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said the Syrian worker, Omar Ali, 46, and his son, Ibrahim, 24, were severely injured after a Turkish young man, 18, shot them in the Mimar Sinan neighborhood in the city of Kayseri.

The Turkish man refused to pay fees for transporting wood to his house, leading to a fight between them and eventually shooting both refugees.

In late July, a Syrian refugee was killed by young Turkish men in the Province of Izmir amid increasing racism against Syrians.

Recently, discrimination-related attacks increased against Syrian refugees in Turkey, especially in Istanbul and Izmir. Meanwhile, he Turkish authorities launched a deportation campaign against Syrians.

In late July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that “more than 600,000 displaced people have returned to the country.” In May, Erdogan said that Turkey is working on ensuring the “voluntary return” of one million Syrian refugees.

Though Syria is still unsafe for returns, Turkey tries to get rid of the refugees by forcibly deporting them, as the Turkish authorities have intensified the forced deportation of Syrians as part of what they call voluntary return to safe areas in northwestern Syria, according to media and documentary reports.

ISIS kills three pro-government fighters in Syria desert

ISIS extremists killed three fighters loyal to the Damascus government in an attack in the Syrian desert on Tuesday, a war monitor said, the latest such deadly assault.

According to Al-Arabiya Network, the ISIS members attacked “a munitions depot in the Palmyra area in the east of Homs province,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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“Three pro-regime fighters were killed” and eight others wounded, some in critical condition, said the Britain-based monitor, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

The attack “comes amid a considerable escalation of ISIS operations against regime forces in the Syrian desert,” known as the Badia, the Observatory added.

Despite losing their last piece of territory in Syria in 2019, ISIS has maintained hideouts in the vast Syrian desert from which it has carried out ambushes and hit-and-run attacks.

The extremist group, which announced a new leader earlier this month, has been blamed for a string of deadly attacks on government loyalists in recent weeks.

Islamic State group still has thousands in Syria and Iraq and poses Afghan threat, UN experts say

The Islamic State group still commands between 5,000 and 7,000 members across its former stronghold in Syria and Iraq and its fighters pose the most serious terrorist threat in Afghanistan today, U.N. experts said in a report circulated Monday and shared by AP.

The experts monitoring sanctions against the militant group, also known by its Arab acronym Daesh, said that during the first half of 2023 the threat posed by IS remained “mostly high in conflict zones and low in non-conflict areas.”

But the panel said in a report to the U.N. Security Council that “the overall situation is dynamic,” and despite significant losses in the group’s leadership and reduced activity in Syria and Iraq, the risk of its resurgence remains.

“The group has adapted its strategy, embedding itself with local populations, and has exercised caution in choosing battles that are likely to result in limited losses, while rebuilding and recruiting from camps in the northeast of the Syrian Arab Republic and from vulnerable communities, including in neighboring countries,” the experts said.

The Islamic State group declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swath of territory in Syria and Iraq that it seized in 2014. It was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 following a three-year battle that left tens of thousands of people dead and cities in ruins, but its sleeper cells remain in both countries.

Despite sustained counter-terrorism operations, Daesh continues to command between 5,000 and 7,000 members across Iraq and Syria, “most of whom are fighters,” though it has reduced its attacks deliberately “to facilitate recruiting and reorganization,” the experts said.

In northeast Syria, approximately 11,000 suspected Daesh fighters are being held in facilities of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which have played a prominent role in the fight against IS, the panel said. The fighters include more than 3,500 Iraqis and approximately 2,000 from almost 70 nationalities, it said.

Northeast Syria is also the site of two closed camps – al-Hol and Roj – where the experts said some 55,000 people with alleged links or family ties to IS are living in “dire” conditions and “significant humanitarian hardship.”

Syria is on the verge of economic collapse. Assad is to blame

An article by Joseph Daher in The New Arab examines the dire economic situation in Syria, attributing the country’s economic collapse to a combination of factors, primarily the Syrian regime’s neoliberal policies. The author highlights the severe impact of currency devaluation and inflation on the cost of living for Syrians. The central bank’s devaluation of the official exchange rate, coupled with the currency’s subsequent depreciation on the black market, has led to soaring prices on essential goods, forcing businesses to close and importers to halt their activities.

The rise in fuel and diesel prices has adversely affected various sectors such as agriculture, electricity generation, and transportation, leading to increased production costs that further exacerbate inflation. The Syrian government’s failure to address the deteriorating currency and its subsequent economic repercussions has sparked widespread anger and frustration among the population, evident through social media expressions.

The article also discusses the potential removal of subsidies on essential products like bread and oil and the lack of measures to improve living standards and wages for ordinary Syrians. Despite such challenges, the official minimum wage remains inadequate for sustaining a family, and the cost of living continues to rise, leading to a significant decrease in purchasing power.

Furthermore, the economic crisis is intersecting with a reduction in international funding for humanitarian aid, further worsening the situation. This backdrop of economic turmoil is driving many Syrians, particularly young graduates and skilled workers, to seek better opportunities abroad, contributing to a growing trend of migration.

While external factors like the financial crisis in Lebanon and Western sanctions have had a role in the economic decline, the author underscores that it is the Syrian regime’s policies, including continuous neoliberal approaches, corruption, and favoritism towards specific trader networks, that are chiefly responsible for the ongoing impoverishment of the population.

In conclusion, the article presents a comprehensive analysis of the economic collapse in Syria, attributing it to a combination of domestic policies and external factors. It highlights the devastating effects on the Syrian population, the challenges faced by businesses and individuals, and the broader context of migration and reduced international aid.

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