Greater Middle East

Assad regime faces Druze resistance in Syria's south

The Assad regime is facing a challenge to its authority in southern Syria, with Druze groups in Suwayda province seizing control of the headquarters of a pro-regime militia on July 27. The Druze Men of Dignity overran the local headquarters of the Dawn Forces, affiliated with regime military intelligence, in the town of Ateel. At least 21 were reported killed n the clash—17 Dawn militiamen and four Druze, including a sheikh. Druze groups accuse the Dawn Forces of kidnappings and assassinations throughout the province. Tensions escalated in the days leading up to the Ateel clash, when Dawn militiamen abducted a local man from Shahba city, accusing him of attempts on the life of their leader Raji Falhout. The rival militias blocked roads to each others' strongholds, and both sides took hostages. Four regime officers, including two colonels, were reportedly seized by the Men of Dignity. (EA Worldview)

Turkey escalates drone strikes on Rojava

A Turkish drone strike on July 22 targeted three members of the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) who were driving in a vehicle near the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli. All three women were killed, and several passers-by injured by shrapnel. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) said that it was the second drone strike on territory of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North & East Syria (AANES) in the past 48 hours. The YPJ is the women's wing of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the territorial defense force of the autonomous zone, in the region known to the Kurds as Rojava. Turkey has carried out repeated drone strikes on targets within AANES territory this year, amid apparent preparations for a new military incursion into the autonomous zone.

Assad regime pulls out of Syria constitution talks

The Assad regime has pulled out of the UN-brokered talks on Syria's constitution, with the ninth round scheduled to open in Geneva on July 25. The regime used the pretext that Switzerland is no longer neutral because it supported European Union sanctions against Russia over Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. A UN spokesperson responded: "We do reaffirm the neutrality of Switzerland as a venue…. Discussions on Syria need to be kept as much as possible separate and apart from discussions on other topics." Simultaneously, Syria formally broke diplomatic ties with Ukraine, in response to Kyiv breaking ties with Damascus over the Assad regime's recognition of the "independence and sovereignty" of the Russia-backed breakaway enclaves of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Europe rights court censures Turkey over detained activist

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled July 11 that Turkey violated a prior judgement in the case Kavala v. Turkey by keeping activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala in detention. Kavala was arrested in 2017, ostensibly for involvement in the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and an attempted coup d'etat in 2016. Kavala brought a complaint to the ECHR for wrongful detainment and won his case, with the court finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove any criminal intent to "overthrow the government." Turkey was ordered to release Kavala and pay damages. However, upon his release, Kavala was immediately detained again, this time on the charge of "espionage." Kavala was then sentenced to life in prison, and the ECHR opened infringement proceedings to determine whether this new sentence defied their original judgement.

Syria aid access resolution expires amid UN standoff

A Security Council resolution that allowed the UN to deliver humanitarian aid across Turkey's border into northwest Syria without President Bashar al-Assad's permission expired on July 10, as diplomats failed to come to a deal in the face of a Russian veto. Russia, which has long opposed the cross-border aid operation as an affront to Syrian sovereignty, used its veto to stop a one-year renewal on July 8. Its own proposal for a six-month extension was voted down by the United States, Britain, and France. While negotiations continued through the weekend on a compromise, there was no vote by the resolution's end date, the 10th.

UN: more than 300,000 civilians dead in Syria war

More than 306,000 civilian were killed in Syria between March 2011 and March 2021, according to new estimates released June 28 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. According to the latest findings, civilians represent an overwhelming majority of the estimated 350,209 total deaths identified since the start of the civil conflict.

Turkey arrests 16 Kurdish journalists

Turkish officials formally arrested and jailed 16 Kurdish journalists on June 16 after detaining 21 journalists for eight days without charges. Five of the original 21 were released. According to Turkey's Media & Law Studies Association (MLSA), the 21 journalists were originally detained on suspicion of "terrorism." The MLSA's Mehmet Ali Birand dismissed the validity of the charges, saying: "Most of these colleagues were working in media organs such as DİHA [news agency] and Özgür Gündem [newspaper]... None of these journalists participated in terrorist activities. None of these journalists carried a gun, pulled a trigger, or killed anyone." Turkish officials claimed the arrests were part of an investigation into the "press committee" of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Weapons manufacturers sued over Yemen war

Three human rights organizations on June 3 filed a lawsuit in France against three arms manufacturers for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen. The European Center for Constitutional & Human Rights (ECCHR), Mwatana for Human Rights and Sherpa allege that Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA France, through their military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have enabled the killing of Yemeni civilians. Humanitarian organizations and rights groups have charged that air-strikes from the Saudi-UAE military coalition have targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure since 2015.

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