Syria unsafe for refugees to return: UN report

The latest report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stated on Sept. 14 that Syria is "not fit for safe and dignified returns of refugees." The report found that between July 2020 and June 2021, armed conflict increased in the country. The report documented 243 civilian deaths, but estimated that the total number of fatalities is actually far greater. The report also stressed the humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Conditions were also found to be precarious for the 6.7 million displaced persons within the country.

The report estimated that 40,000 children are being detained in camps for suspected ISIS collaborators in the Kurdish-controlled east of the country. Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Commission of Inquiry, said that these conditions indicate that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Syria ratified in 1993, is being "completely forgotten."

"The parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity and infringing the basic human rights of Syrians," commented Pinheiro. "The war on Syrian civilians continues, and it is difficult for them to find security or safe haven."

The report recommended that the Syrian government and other parties to the conflict allow humanitarian organizations access to the country without restrictions, immediately cease perpetrating human rights abuses, and work towards a ceasefire.

From Jurist, Sept. 15

See our last post on the plight of Syrian refugees, and the Assad regime's restrictions on aid.

Call to repatriate women and children in Syria detention camps

The organization Rights & Security International (RSIpublished a report calling for the immediate repatriation of women and children held in the al-Hol and Roj detention camps in northeast Syria.

According to the report, an estimated 12,000 people from countries outside of Iraq and Syria, are being held in these camps (out of a total population of 60,000), and are experiencing conditions so harsh they amount "torture," on the basis of a presumed connection to ISIS. UN experts have described conditions in both al-Hol and Roj camps as a blight on the conscience of humanity, with no end in sight for the women and children in the camps. (Jurist)

ISIS attack on Syrian prison

ISIS fighters attacked a prison run by local Kurdish forces at Hasaka in northeast Syria, in an attempt to free thousands of their followers. The militants detonated a car bomb outside the facility and then unleashed hails of gunfire at the guards. The attack set off deadly clashes with the Kurdish militia that controls the area, killing dozens of people and allowing scores of prisoners to flee. (NYT)

Battle for Hasakah enters sixth day

Residents of Hasakah in northeastern Syria endured a fifth night of gunfire and explosions as US-backed Kurdish forces and ISIS militants fight for control of al-Sina'a prison. (VOA)

US air-strikes in battle for Hasakah

Kurdish forces on Jan. 26 announced they have fully recaptured a prison in Hasakah that had been attacked by ISIS fighters, ending the biggest jihadist assault in the country in three years.

More than 100 ISIS militants attacked Ghwayran (al-Sina'a), held by the autonomous Kurdish administration. Heavy fighting in and around the prison since it was taken on Jan. 20 killed 181 people, including 124 ISIS fighters, 50 Kurdish fighters and seven civilians. There was no immediate word on the fate of scores of minors held at the prison and caught in the crossfire. The death toll is epxected to rise.

The US backed the Kurdish forces with armored vehicles, attack helicopters and air-strikes.

Kurdish authorities are holding more than 12,000 suspected ISIS fighters and sympathizers with 50 different nationalities. They have long warned of jailbreaks since they do not have the capacity to hold, let alone place on trial, all the detainees. (AFP, NYT)

ISIS leader killed in US raid in Syria: White House

ISIS emir Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was killed during an overnight raid by US Special Forces in in northeastern Syria, the White House announced Feb. 3, ending a two-year hunt for the group's leader. Local rescue workers said women and children were among at least 13 people killed during the raid. President Biden said al-Qurayshi died when he exploded a bomb, killing himself and members of his family. (LWJ, NYT, AP)

As in the similar raid in which his predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in October 2019, al-Qurayshi was slain in an area of Idlib province controlled by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, the former Nusra Front).  

A-Qurayshi was apparently also known as Muhammad Sa'id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla. 

Guards fire on protesters at Syria's al-Hol camp

One child was killed Feb. 7 when guards at northeastern Syria's Kurdish-administrated al-Hol camp opened fire at residents who had apparently attacked them with rocks and knives. More than 60,000 people, including both victims and suspected supporters of ISIS, are being held at the camp. Many are foreign nationals whose home countries refuse to take them back. (TNH)

ISIS leader captured in US raid in Syria: Pentagon

An ISIS bomb-maker who became a top figure in the organization, Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi AKA "Wali of Raqqa," was captured in a raid in the Turkish-controlled zone of northern Syria, the Pentagon said. (WaPo, ABC News)

ISIS leader killed in US raid in Syria: Pentagon

The Pentagon announced that it killed an ISIS leader, Maher al-Agal, in a drone strike outside Jindaris (Jindires), Aleppo governorate. Claims of no civilian casualties could not be immediately confirmed. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, al-Agal was a former prominent commander of the Islamic State group during its control of Raqqa and had since moved to the Afrin area in 2020, under Turkish occupation. He was most recently a commander in a Turkish-backed faction called Jaysh Al-Sharqiyyah.

Last month, a US drone strike in Idlib killed a senior leader of the Horas al-Din group, Abu Hamzah al Yemeni. (AP, CBS)

ISIS media spokesman gets life in prison

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has sentenced Mohammed Khalifa, a Canadian born in Saudi Arabia, to life in prison for his involvement with SIS as a media figure and fighter.

Khalifa pleaded guilty in December 2021 to "conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization." Khalifa traveled to Syria in 2013 and swore allegiance to then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Khalifa was recruited by the ISIS media department in 2014, where he worked until 2018. During this time, he served as the lead English narrator and translator for as many as 15 propaganda videos. In two of the most brutal ISIS videos, a masked Khalifa actually executed captured Syrian soldiers. Khalifa surrendered to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in 2019. The SDF delivered him to the FBI for criminal charges. (Jurist)

Kurdish forces carry out sweeps at al-Hol camp

US-backed Kurdish fighters have arrested hundreds of suspected ISIS members in a weeks-long operation in northeast Syria's al-Hol camp, which also reportedly led to the release of several women captives. The camp is home to some 56,000 people, including both supporters and victims of the extremist group. (TNH)