Iran’s presence in Syria in July 2022 | Seizure and selling of civilian properties go on in Rif Dimashq...hectic movements escalate in Homs and Al-Raqqah...Israeli attacks leave heavy human and material losses • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Iran’s presence in Syria in July 2022 | Seizure and selling of civilian properties go on in Rif Dimashq…hectic movements escalate in Homs and Al-Raqqah…Israeli attacks leave heavy human and material losses

SOHR calls upon all international actors to intensify their efforts to expel Iran and its proxies from Syria and bring to justice all those who aided and abetted the killing and displacement of Syrian people

Iran and its proxy militias have unprecedented influence in most areas under the “symbolic” regime control, as neither attacks by Israel and the International Coalition, nor the “cold war” with Russia could hinder the alarming entrenchment and expansion of these forces across Syria. Strengthening their presence and promoting their ideology, the Iranians are still carrying on with their systematic plan to change the demography of different areas throughout Syria’s geography.

 

In the following report, SOHR highlights the key developments in areas dominated by the Iranians in July 2022.

 

 

West Euphrates region

 

As Iranian-backed militias seek to strengthen their presence and expand their influence over Syria, SOHR monitored escalating activities of Iranian-backed militias in west Euphrates region which was turned into “Iranian colony in Syria.” Here are the key developments in that region in July 2022:

 

  • July 3: Iranian Security Committee comprising military personnel, administrators and Shia’a scholars visited several security and military checkpoints in Al-Bokamal city, Ayash warehouses which large headquarters of Afghan “Liwaa Fatimyoun” militia. The committee also visited Al-Haj Askar in his house in Al-Maa’ri street, who supervises the Iranian activities in Al-Bokamal city. According to reliable SOHR sources, the visit aimed to conduct a general assessment of the activities of Afghan militias and evaluate the activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and their proxy militias in Al-Raqqah and Deir Ezzor. The members of the committee later headed to Al-Qosor neighbourhood inside Deir Ezzor city, which hosts the largest military post of Afghan militias.

 

  • July 4: The Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in Deir Ezzor raised the monthly salaries of their members by nearly 30%. The IRGC members received an additional 80,000 SYP this month, amounting to 260,000 SYP, up from 180,000 SYP. Meanwhile, new members who struck reconciliation deals received a monthly salary of 254,000 SYP each.

 

  • July 9: As Iran continued to exploit the religious beliefs for its personal agenda and objectives in Western Euphrates through spreading Shiism among people, and children in particular, similar to the policy adopted by ISIS of recruiting and brainwashing children during its control over large areas across Syria, exploiting the poor living conditions and poverty of the residents in western Euphrates, SOHR activists reported that Al-Emam Al-Redha Hosayniya” celebrated the graduation of a new batch of children by conducting a parade dubbed “Hayyaat Khuddam Ahl Al-Bayt” in Hatla village in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is worth noting that the new batch comprised 100 boys and girls who had undergone courses on “Ahl Al-Bayt” doctrine. The children received money and gifts, after having passed these courses.

 

  • July 11: Iranian-backed Afghan “Liwaa Fatimiyoun” militia conducted new exercises for its militiamen on the direct fight and the use of medium and short-range artillery weapons under the supervision of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officers in Al-Mayadeen desert, the “Iranian colony,” west of Euphrates in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.

 

  • July 17: Iranian-backed militias tested Iranian-made drones dubbed Ababil 3. The drones took off from Al-Mazzarea’ area in Al-Mayadeen desert and flew towards the desert, hitting several targets with live ammunition.

 

  • July 19: Clashes broke out between a militia affiliated with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and another group affiliated with “State Security” branch in Al-Bokamal border city with Iraq. According to Syrian Observatory sources, the clashes, that broke out near an automotive bread bakery in residential neighbourhoods in Al-Bokamal city centre, left a prominent member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps injured, ignited panic and fear among the people and led to the closure of shops in Al-Bokamal city.

 

 

Escalating Iranian activities in Homs desert

 

July 2022 saw a dramatic escalation of Iranian activities in Homs desert, highlighted by SOHR as follows:

 

  • July 5: “Imam Ali Battalions” militia deployed and established several checkpoints and security posts around the ancient city of Palmyra, east of Homs, and near Deir Ezzor-Palmyra international highway.

 

  • July 12: Different weapons were brought to Al-Talilah position, east of Palmyra in Homs countryside, which is controlled by Afghan “Liwaa Fatimyoun” militias. According to reliable SOHR sources, the weapons were transported by Shiite visitors who started their tour from Al-Bokamal to Damascus passing through Palmyra.

 

  • July 14: In light of Iranian forces and their proxy factions ongoing expansion across regime-controlled areas, SOHR sources reported that the command of Iranian-backed militias in Mahin and Al-Qaryatayn areas in the eastern countryside of Homs started admitting young men to the ranks of these militias. It is worth noting that the command of Iranian-backed militias offered several incentives to lure a large number of young men, especially with the young men’s unwillingness to join their ranks recently. According to SOHR sources, the Iranian-backed militias’ leadership announced that the new recruits would receive monthly salaries of 200 USD each, as well as granted security cards and licences for owing personal weapons and food baskets. According to the leadership, the new recruits would enjoy these incentives only when they undergo a military course in Al-Mahsa mountains, near Al-Qaryatayn city in the eastern countryside of Homs.

 

  • July 15: Iranian-backed Afghan militia of “Liwaa Fatemiyoun” started to transport prefabricated rooms to a farm known as “Brigade Mohamed Wasif farm” in Al-Wadi Al-Ahmar area, nearly eight kilometres to the east of Palmyra city in the eastern countryside of Homs, turning the farm into new headquarters of the militia. According to SOHR sources, the farm, which is near Homs-Deir Ezzor highway, is large and contains several buildings, some of which were subjected to partial damage and destruction during ISIS control over that region. The Afghan militia recently rehabilitated the devastated buildings.

 

  • July 21: Members of Afghan “Liwaa Fatimyon” militia attacked civilians’ properties and beat the workers in a salt mining site in eastern Homs countryside. According to reliable SOHR sources, members of the militias headed towards Sabkha Al-Moh, which is a site for mining salt, broke the salt mining shovels, confiscated “Andira” motors used to extract salt water, dismantled the tugboats transporting salt bags and confiscated some of them. The militias attacked the civilians to force them join their ranks, however, regime security forces in the area did not lift a finger.

 

  • July 26: SOHR sources reported Lebanese “Hezbollah” experts arrived in Palmyra’s archaeological city in the eastern countryside of Homs, which is controlled by Iranian-backed Afghan “Liwaa Fatimiyoun” militia, days earlier. According to SOHR sources, weapons and nearly 40 Afghan “Fatimiyoun” militiamen had arrived in Al-Tallilah area, east of Palmyra, the headquarters of Iranian-backed militias, that refrigerated truck loaded with Iranian training drones escorted by Lebanese Hezbollah experts arrived there to train Liwaa Fatimiyoun militiamen on the use of these drone.

 

  • July 28: Iranian-backed militias started to fortify a position north of Al-Sokhnah city on Al-Sokhnah-Al-Raqqah highway at the entrance to the city and the road linking Al-Sokhnah to Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway. Furthermore, Iranian-backed militias sent reinforcements, including several militiamen and weapons, to their checkpoints and posts in Al-Taybah village in Al-Sokhnah countryside to use these sites as fortified positions in event of any possible attacks by ISIS cells on Iranian-backed militia positions in light of escalated ISIS activities and attacks there.

 

  • Two Iranian-backed militiamen, one operating under the banner of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and another of Iraq’s Nujaba movement, were killed by ISIS fighters in Homs desert on the 6th and 20th of July.

 

 

Seizing and selling Civilian properties in Rif Dimashq

 

SOHR activists reported that Iranian-backed militias, led by a Syrian man from Deir Ezzor named “Mersal” continued to purchase real estates in Moadamiyat Al-Sham city in western Rif Dimashq. “Mersal” is a relative of the wife of Maher Al-Assad, brother of Syrian regime president Bashar Al-Assad and commander of 4th Division.

Mersal, his followers of the 4th Division and others from Deir Ezzor purchase real estate in Moadamiyat Al-Sham, which is of great symbolic importance to Iranian-backed militias and the 4th Division.

In Moadamiyat Al-Sham city, Mersal buys as much real estate as possible, whether homes or shops, through various means and methods, such as offering large amounts of money or using their power if anyone refused to sell their real estate.

 

SOHR sources added that during Eid Al-Adha, Mersal slaughtered dozens of livestock, as sacrifices, and distributed meat to the inhabitants and residents of Moadamiyat Al-Sham in an attempt to woo and impress them.

 

It is worth noting that the properties acquired by Mersal for dozens of Iranian-backed militiamen have not yet been inhabited by anyone or sold.

 

In the meantime, Iranian-backed militias continued strengthening their presence in areas near and on the Syria-Lebanon border in Rif Dimashq, disregarding Syria’s laws which ban selling or purchasing any land plots in border areas. With the Lebanese Hezbollah being the de facto ruler of this area, the purchasing of plots of land along the border strip was on progress.

 

According to SOHR sources, the Iranian-backed militias purchased over 640 plots of land in Al-Zabadani region and its surroundings and at least 720 plots in Al-Tufayl border area since early 2021, turning the region into an “independent” village headed by a Syrian man known by his initials as H. D. who is close to the Lebanese Hezbollah commanders.

 

On the other hand, these militias continued taking over luxury apartments and villas in Bludan area and other nearby areas, bringing the number of villas and apartments these militiamen inhabited in to more than 550. These practices took place with full support of the Lebanese Hezbollah which facilitated such operations, despite the large media coverage for that issue, especially by the Syrian Observatory.

 

 

Ongoing military reinforcement in Al-Raqqah

 

As Iranian-affiliated militias continue their incursions, SOHR sources in West Euphrates region “Iranian colony” in Syria reported that two trucks carrying ammunition and Iranian short-range and medium-range missiles arrived in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor during the late hours of Sunday night from Iraq.

 

The trucks headed to Al-Mazarea’ area in Al-Mayadeen, east of Deir Ezzor, and unloaded their cargo there, then another truck was brought in and some of those weapons and ammunition loaded on board. The truck set off to Iranian-backed militia positions in Al-Rasafah and Maadan deserts in Al-Raqqah. While the other section of the weapons was stored in Al-Mazarea’ area. According to Syrian Observatory sources, the two trucks were brought in by Afghan “Liwaa Fatimiyoun” militia.

 

SOHR sources in western Euphrates, “the Iranian colony in Syria,” reported that the Iraqi Nujaba militia brought three trucks to its warehouses in Al-Mazarea’ area in Al-Mayadeen desert in eastern Deir Ezzor countryside. Iranian-backed militiamen loaded weapons and ammunitions from those warehouses in tunnels to the trucks which took Deir Ezzor-Al-Raqqah road to the areas of Dibsi Faraj and Dibsi Afnan in western Al-Raqqah desert, within areas under the control of Iranian-backed militias and regime forces. It is worth noting that the militiamen fortified and reinforced their recently-established positions on Al-Raqqah-Aleppo highway.

 

 

Ongoing Israeli attacks

 

As Israel continues to violate Syria’s sovereignty, SOHR documented three Israeli attacks that left heavy casualties and caused heavy material damage. Here are further details of these attacks:

 

  • July 2: Several violent explosions were heard in areas in the countryside of Tartous near and at the border with Lebanon due to Israeli airstrikes that hit positions in and around Al-Hamidiyah area south of Tartous near the border. Israeli missiles hit animal husbandry believed to be used militarily and commercially by Lebanese Hezbollah, causing severe material damage. A young man also suffered a broken foot and a woman also suffered bruises because of the shrapnel of Israeli missiles.

 

  • July 7: An Israeli drone targeted a person from Hadar town in northern Al-Quneitra countryside, on Wednesday evening, immediately killing him. According to SOHR sources, the dead man was working in monitoring and reconnaissance for Lebanese Hezbollah, in Hadar town on the occupied Syrian Golan border. The man was targeted by the Israeli drone near his house in Maqlaa’ Hadi area west of Hadar town.

 

  • July 22: Israeli attacks killed three people of non-Syrian nationalities and two “collaborators” with the Lebanese Hezbollah in a position hosting a workshop for manufacturing Iranian drones nearby Sayeda Zeinab area, as well as three Syrian members in military positions hosting air defence batteries in the perimeter of Al-Mazzah airbase. Israeli missiles hit offices of the Air-force Intelligence service, the office of a senior officer and a car on the perimeter of Al-Mazzah airbase. Moreover, missiles hit positions near a security checkpoint on the perimeter of Al-Mazzah airbase, Al-Mazzah highway and an Iranian warehouse in the vicinity of Sayeda Zeinab area, destroying it completely.

 

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) is used to hearing the Syrian regime’s empty mantra that it always reserves the right to respond to Israeli attacks. However, regime forces do not hesitate when it comes to shelling opposition positions or bombarding residential and civilian areas inside Syria. The Iranians also dare not launch a large-scale military operation against Israel, as they know full well that they will be facing the might of Israel’s military, so the Iranians seem satisfied with letting its proxies do its bidding by firing only a few rockets from time to time on the occupied Syrian Golan, using the Iranian and Hezbollah-backed movement “Syrian Resistance to Liberate Golan”.

 

At a time when the Syrian regime “intercepts and downs” Israeli missiles only with a Russian green light, Israel can hit Iranian targets -with the purpose of undermining the Iranian military presence in Syria- and only with Russia’s full consent.

 

On the other hand, Washington justifies Israel’s stance that “Tel Aviv practices its legal rights to defend its security and interests against the Iranian direct threat”, not to mention the US desire to get Syria free of Iranian forces and militias.

 

We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), call for keeping the Syrian civilians out of the regional conflicts as the targeted areas and facilities are owned by Syrian people alone, not by Iran or its proxy militias.

 

SOHR stresses the importance of expelling the Iranian forces and militias from Syria without risking the safety and lives of civilians or damaging Syria’s public properties and facilities.