Iranian military in Syria in July 2021 | Israel continues attacks on Iranian-backed militias…Hezbollah trade in Syrian people’s crises…purchased and taking over of real estate in progress • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Iranian military in Syria in July 2021 | Israel continues attacks on Iranian-backed militias…Hezbollah trade in Syrian people’s crises…purchased and taking over of real estate in progress

Iranian forces and their proxy militias still continue strengthening their presence throughout regime-held areas, disregarding the “cold war” with Russians and the repeated airstrikes by Israel and International Coalition, which are unable to put an end to such efforts or even hinder them.

 

In the following report, SOHR highlights the key developments in areas dominated by the Iranians in July 2021.

 

 

West Euphrates region: Iranian-backed militias’ movements top the scene

 

-Military sector

 

On July 5, SOHR activists reported that the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps withdrew large number of Iranian-made missiles from al-Rahba archaeological castle nearby al-Mayadeen in eastern Deir Ezzor countryside. According to SOHR sources, these missiles were transported by trucks, amid strict security measures, towards Tel al-Bateen and Hawi al-Mayadeen area which were the same areas where the Iranian forces had established rocket launchpads in May. It is worth noting that those rocket launchpads were oriented to areas under the control of Syria Democratic Forces and the International Coalition in east Euphrates region with al-Omar oil field being the nearest US base to the Iranians’ recently-established bases. These development coincided with the growing tension between the US and Iran in the recent times.

 

Also, on July 8, SOHR activists reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps seized dozens of houses in al-Mayadeen city in eastern Deir Ezzor. The Iranian-backed factions confiscated 14 houses in al-Arbeen Street, 12 houses in the 16th Street, and eight houses in al-Mahareem neighbourhood.

 

According to SOHR activists, all the houses were owned by opponents of the Syrian regime living outside the area. The Iranian-backed militias had notified relative of the houses’ owners, who were living in those house, to evacuate the houses in 48 hours. The inhabitants left without resistance, and their neighbours also fled from their houses, fearing that the militias would use the region’s inhabitants as human shields and turn the seized houses into weapon warehouses, which would posed a threat to the inhabitants’ safety and lives in the case that Israel or International Coalition executed airstrikes.

 

A few days later, militias of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps transported a large quantity of weapons and ammunition from warehouses in al-Mazare’ area on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen to these seized houses in populated neighbourhoods, where the transportation of weapons and ammunition was concentrated in the “16th Street” area in the city. SOHR had warned against such practices and pointed out to the growing popular fear of using the region’s residents by the Iranians as human shields.

 

On July 9, Abul el-Fadel al-Abbas militia fixed fake rocket launchpads near al-Rahaba castle on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen, while the Afghani militia of Fatimyoun also fixed several fake rocket launchpads near the grain silos in the region. These actions by Iranian-backed militias comes as a part of their efforts to camouflage the real rocket launchpads which had been established and oriented to the areas under the control of SDF and Coalition in west Euphrates region, so that they would not be attacked by Coalition drones and fighter jets.

 

While on July 16, the IRGC-backed militia of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas withdrew from their military post near al-Shabli archaeological site on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, where the militia handed over the military post to the Lebanese Hezbollah. The Lebanese Hezbollah was stationed in the post where it established a rocket launcher and anti-aircraft system (23 mm cartridge). However, the reasons behind handing over the military base to Hezbollah remained unknown.

 

 

-Entrenchment of presence

 

In late June, SOHR sources in al-Mayadeen city, the capital of the Iranian forces and their proxy militias in west Euphrates region, reported the graduation of a new batch of individuals recruited recently by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the city. The batch, which comprised nearly 85 recruits, had undergone a military course for a month in al-Mazare’ area, which hosts the largest gathering of Iranian-backed militias in west Euphrates region.

 

According to SOHR sources, 40 of the new recruits were learned how to use various types of heavy machineguns, while the 45 others learned how to use medium and light machineguns.

 

The sources added that the new recruits would get monthly salaries of 120,000 SYL each as well as food supplies and free medical services in medical posts affiliated to IRGC.

 

Similarly, in late July, the Iranian-backed Afghani militia of Liwaa Fatemiyoun graduated a new batch of the recently-joined recruitments. It is worth noting that the batch, which comprised nearly 64 militiamen, was taken to Ain Ali shrine on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, where the recruits practiced the rituals of Liwaa Fatemiyoun, including smearing faces with mud in the shrine, getting blessing of water there, and chanting Shiite slogans.

 

 

-Other developments

 

On July 11, a hand-to-hand fight erupted between a group of the national Defence Forces (NDF) and local militiamen affiliated to the IRGC-backed Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas and evolved later to firing bullets in the air, as the conflicting members were awaiting in a queue in front of a plant in al-Mayadeen city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor for getting ice blocks. The infighting left members of both sides injured and caused material damage to the plant, which prevented the residents who had to wait in the queue for long hours from getting ice blocks. It is worth noting that the region’s residents are forced to buy ice blocks to face the current high temperature and power outages at a time when the price of an ice block approximates 5,000 SYL.

 

On July 23, an IRGC commander punished IRGC-backed local militiamen by forcing them to clean the main streets in al-Mayadeen city in eastern Deir Ezzor. The commander known as al-Haj Hussein was in an inspection tour in al-Mayadeen desert and paid a surprise visit to advanced posts of the Iranian-backed militias, when he found several militiamen, who were supposed to be in a guard shift, sleeping. Accordingly, he ordered them to clean the main streets as a punishment.

 

On July 26, the 4th Division, headed by Maher al-Assad the brother of the Syrian regime’s president and close to the Iranians, seized six houses in al-Mayadeen city. These houses belonged to oppositionists living outside this region, where three of these houses were located near Ali Ibn Abu Taleb school, and two were near the Blood Bank, while the sixth house was located next to al-Said hospital. According to SOHR sources, the 4th Division turned these houses into military headquarters.

 

 

At Iran and Syrian affiliate’s orders:  purchased and taking over of real estate expands

 

As Iran continues strengthening its presence in Syria with the help of its proxy Syrian and non-Syrian militias and its affiliates throughout the country, reliable sources told SOHR in late July that the Iranian-backed militias recruited young and adult men from al-Mayadeen, al-Bokamal and other areas in Deir Ezzor, at commanders’ orders, and sent them to regime-held areas in al-Raqqah province with the aim to purchase and take over real estate, including houses, land plots and shops. The Iranians had practiced such technique in eastern and western Ghouta, when they recruited locals from Deir Ezzor and sent them to Rif Dimashq where they purchased tens of houses and shops.

 

According to SOHR sources, the new recruits in al-Raqqah managed, since early July, to purchase 78 units, including houses, land plots and shops, in Maadan city and surrounding areas and other regime-controlled towns and villages in al-Raqqah countryside. It is worth noting that these people bought the units without bargaining, and that they asked brokers to inform them of any houses or shops offered for sale in the region.

 

 

Lebanese Hezbollah keeps going on its suspicious activities on the Syria-Lebanon border comfortably

 

Lebanese Hezbollah has been still making great fortune at the expense of the Syrian and Lebanese people through trading in fuel smuggled from Lebanon to Syria, as smuggling operations by Hezbollah and the 4th Division, headed by Maher al-Assad the brother of the Syrian regime’s president, have alarmingly escalated via crossings on the Syria-Lebanon border in Homs countryside. It is worth noting that the smuggled fuel is being merchandised in black markets in all Syrian provinces starting from Homs.

 

This development comes as a part of the exploitation of the Syrian people’s urgent need to fuel, which forces them to buy fuel at black markets in light of the Syrian regime’s inability to secure it in petrol stations. By these illegal activities, Hezbollah also exploits the Lebanese people who have already been grappling with chronic crises.

 

 

Ongoing airstrikes

 

In July 2021, Israel attacked Iranian forces and their proxy militias in Syria on two occasions. The first attack took place on July 19 when Israeli jets attacked Iranian militias’ positions in al-Waha area in al-Sferah in south-eastern Aleppo, which destroyed a military base and a post as well as killing five Iranian-backed militiamen. The fatalities were two Syrian militiamen of Shiaa sect from Nubel and al-Zahraa and three non-Syrian militiamen.

 

The second attack occurred on July 22 when Israeli fighter jets flying over Lebanon struck military positions of the Lebanese Hezbollah in al-Dab’a military airbase in the western countryside of Homs and other military positions and posts in the eastern countryside of Homs. These airstrikes have destroyed a weapons and ammunition warehouse, amid confirmed reports of casualties.

 

While on July 14, a drone attacked the military gate of the Iranian-backed militias in al-Herri village near al-Bukamal city on the Syria-Iraq border, but no casualties were reported.

 

In light of the escalating strikes on positions of Iranian-backed militias in Aleppo, reliable sources told SOHR in late July that the Iranian-backed militias boosted their positions in the areas of al-Safrah, Deir Hafer and Maskanah. Military and logistical reinforcement arrived in these positions, along with transporting weapons and ammunition to other posts for fear of expected attacks by Israel or the International Coalition.

 

This development coincided with the arrival of military reinforcement, including Iranian-made missiles at a base established recently on a hill in Habboubah village, between Maskanah and al-Khafsah, opposite areas held by the International Coalition and Syria Democratic Forces on the opposition bank of the Euphrates river.

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