Regime-controlled areas in August 2022 | 105 fatalities in acts of violence amid rampant security chaos…heavy human and material losses in five Israeli attacks…ongoing efforts by Jabal Al-Arab’ residents to curb Iranian expansion
SOHR renews its appeal to the international community to intensify its efforts to end the Syrian people’s suffering
Regime-controlled areas experienced scores of dramatic developments in August 2022, including an alarming escalation of violence, worsening living conditions, tightening security grip and ongoing arbitrary arrests.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked all key developments in regime-controlled areas in the past month, which can be summarised in the following main points:
Acts of violence leave many casualties
In August 2022, regime-controlled areas saw an alarming escalation of acts of violence that left many casualties, where SOHR documented the death of 105 people across areas controlled by the Syrian regime and affiliated militias; the deaths are as follows:
43 civilians, including ten children and two women. Here are further details of the circumstances of these deaths:
- 14 civilians, including a woman, were killed in incidents of security disorder in Daraa province.
- 12 civilians, including two children and a woman, were murdered
- Ten civilians, including eight children, were killed by explosions of old ordnance.
- Three civilians were shot dead by regime-backed militias.
- A man was killed by a grenade explosion.
- A man was killed in unknown circumstances.
- Two men died under torture in regime prisons.
-29 military personnel and collaborators with regime security services: they are as follows:
- Ten were killed in incidents of security disorder in Daraa province.
- Eight were killed by ISIS.
- Five were killed in Israeli strikes.
- Four were shot dead by unknown gunmen.
- An officer was killed in unknown circumstances.
- One was killed in clashes with smugglers.
-11 gunmen were killed in family infightings.
-Eight former fighters of opposition factions: one died under torture in a regime prison and seven were killed in incidents of security disorder in Daraa province.
-Five ISIS members: a commander blew himself up in Daraa and four members were killed in Russian airstrikes on the desert.
-Four Iranian-backed militiamen: three were killed by ISIS and one was assassinated.
-Three “collaborators” with the Lebanese Hezbollah were assassinated in Rif Dimashq.
-An ex-ISIS member was killed in an incident of security disorder in Daraa province.
-Russian-backed militiaman was killed in an incident of security disorder in Daraa province.
Kidnappings and arbitrary arrests
As regime security and intelligence services continue their repression, SOHR activists documented, in August, the arrest of 13 people, including three children, as well as only three kidnapping cases. Here are further details of the arrests by regime forces and security services in August:
- August 8: Regime security services arrested a man at a checkpoint between Da’el and Tafas in Daraa countryside.
- August 8: Regime security services ambushed two men in Kafr Hour town in Qatna area in Rif Dimashq.
- August 22: Regime forces arrested three people, shortly after having returned from abroad and areas outside the Syrian regime’s control, via Kasab and Jarabulus crossings.
- August 23: Regime security services arrested six people in regime-controlled areas in Al-Hasakah city.
- August 23: Regime security services arrested a doctor from Deir Ezzor, while he was heading to Damascus.
While kidnappings documented in August can be distributed as follows:
- In the first ten days of August, the little girl “Jawa Istanbuli” was kidnapped in Homs city, before she was found dead a few days later.
- August 11: Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a man from Homs province while he was near Umm Al-Zaytoun village in the northern countryside of Al-Suwaidaa. According to SOHR activists, the kidnapped came from Homs to Al-Suwaidaa to apply for a job offered by his relative.
- August 15: Unknown gunmen kidnapped a civilian from Mahajjah town in Daraa countryside, while he was heading from Damascus to Ariqah town in Al-Suwaidaa countryside to visit his friend. The kidnappers asked for a ransom of 10,000 USD in return for his release. The kidnapped man’s family appealed to all relevant authorities to help them.
Rising tension in Daraa, the “Cradle of the Syrian Revolution”
On August 6, regime forces started shelling farms and houses in Tafas city and its surroundings with tanks and heavy weapons, along with attempts to advance into the city’s southern neighbourhoods, as they had threatened to launch a military operation in the city a few days earlier. The intensive bombardment triggered mass exodus in the city. Regime forces renewed their bombardment on August 17.
While on August 8, regime checkpoints allowed farmers from Tafas city to head to their farms and continue cultivation, after preventing them for a few days when regime forces opened fire on them to intimidate them.
Meanwhile, security suspects left Tafas city, so that regime forces would not cite their presence in the city as an excuse for their military escalation, as a local source told SOHR.
Also, on August 10, plains around southern Tafas came under fire with heavy machineguns, amid exchange of medium machinegun fire between local gunmen and regime forces which were attempting to advance into the city. According to SOHR activists, regime forces managed to take control of posts in the south of Tafas city, on Al-Yadouda road. The clashes and regime bombardment triggered civilian exodus from southern Tafas.
A few days later, an agreement was reached between the security committee and representatives of Tafas, according to which regime forces entered Tafas city on August 16 to start inspection, while regime security services entered the building of the cement institution as well.
Ongoing efforts by Jabal Al-Arab’ residents to curb Iranian expansion
On August 11, local factions in Al-Suwaidaa, led by Sheikh Laith Al-Balaous, Al-Jabal Brigade and anti-terrorism forces, encircled Qanawat town in the north-eastern of Al-Suwaidaa countryside. These local factions launched a new security campaign in search of suspects belonging to Raghi Falhout group and another group known as “Al-Fahd Forces,” led by Salim Hamid which is affiliated with the military intelligence service. This security campaign comes as a part of the ongoing efforts by local factions to eliminate groups operating under the banner of the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias.
According to SOHR sources, the local factions had given a deadline to Salim Hamid, commander of “Al-Fahd Forces,” who was stationed in Qanawat town and was close to Raji Falhout, to disband his faction and surrender their weapons, but Salim Hamid did not respond. Meanwhile, only several members of Al-Fahd Forces individually surrendered their weapons. At the end of the deadline, the local factions began the security campaign, where they stormed several houses of “Al-Fahd Forces” members, including the house of the faction’s commander. However, they did not find him, amid unconfirmed reports of his escape from Qnawat town.
During the security campaign, which experienced exchange of fire between the local factions and “Al-Fahd Forces” militiamen, the local factions managed to arrest several members of “Al-Fahd Forces.”
While on August 29, tension grew between local factions and other factions backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah and military security service in Qanawat town in the northern countryside of Al-Suwaidaa. According to SOHR sources, local armed factions in Al-Suwaidaa and “Rejal Al-Karamah” movement,” with the help of residents, carried out a raid campaign targeting the commander and members of “Al-Fahd Forces” which are backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah and military security service in Qanawat town.
This came after the release of the group’s commander, Salim Hamid, by a local faction known as “Liwaa Al-Jabal,” at the request of the religious authority, led by the spiritual leadership of Druze, which ignited a state of tension in the area. According to SOHR activists, “Rejal Al-Karamah” militiamen cordoned off the house of the group’s commander, demanding him surrender without resistance. “Rejal Al-Karamah” militiamen also called on the residents not to leave their houses until the end of the campaign, stressing that all the killers must have been punished.
Soaring petrol price ignites public anger and Iranian oil tanker unloads in Baniyas
SOHR reported growing public anger in regime-controlled areas in all Syrian provinces following a decision issued by the regime’s Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection to increase fuel prices. According to the new decision, the new prices were set as follows:
- State subsidised premium petrol (octan 90) which is distributed via smart cards: from 1,100 SYP to 2,500 SYP per litre.
- Unsubsidised premium petrol (octan 90): from 3,500 SYP to 4,000 SYP per litre.
- Unsubsidised petrol (octan 95): from 4,000 SYP to 4,500 SYP per litre.
The ministry declared that the rise of prices aimed at easing off the heavy losses in oil budget and avoiding the unavailability of fuel.
In this context, transport crisis worsened further across regime-controlled areas, along with growing congestion and acute lack of means of transportation because of the latest decision; this, in turn, ignited public anger among civilians in regime-controlled areas, including the pro-regime individuals. The low salaries which are given to employees in regime-controlled areas do not meet the successive increase in fuel prices; let alone the prohibitively high prices of all products. The chronic crisis in regime-controlled areas also included the frequent power cuts in light of the extreme high temperatures.
On the other hand, an Iranian oil tanker unloaded 5,000 tonnes of fuel at Baniyas, in western Syria in late August. SOHR sources reported that the unloading of the fuel cargo took place as soon as the Iranian tanker had arrived at Bayniyas port. Amounts of the fuel would be delivered to the branches of the General Fuel Company in areas controlled by regime in all provinces, before they would be distributed to petrol stations in these areas.
Sources confirmed that more Iranian oil tankers would transport diesel and fuel to Syria by sea, in accordance with “Credit Line” agreement reached between the Iranian and Syrian governments earlier this year, which provides for supplying Syria with Iranian diesel. According to SOHR sources, this is not the first time for Iran to supply Syria with fuel and diesel, as Iranian oil tankers had recently delivered 36,000 tonnes of fuel to Baniyas harbour.
Ongoing Israeli attacks
As Israel continues to violate Syria’s sovereignty, SOHR documented five Israeli attacks that left heavy human and material losses. Here are further details of these attacks:
- August 12: An Israeli tank fired shells on Al-Himaydiyah area in Al-Quneitra countryside at the border with occupied Syrian Golan, injuring two people.
- August 14: Three regime soldiers were killed and several others were injured in an Israeli attack which hit a base of the air-defence forces and a radar system’s unit in Abu Afsah village, five kilometres to the south of Tartous city on the Syrian coastline. The targeted posts are located nearly eight kilometres away from the Russian base. Israeli missiles also hit a regime military post in Al-Qutyfah area in Rif Dimashq.
- August 25: A regime soldier was killed in Israeli strikes that hit warehouses in the vicinity of Masyaf in west Hama countryside. The Israeli missiles also hit positions and ammunitions and weapons depots of Iranian-backed militias in areas on Wadi Al-Oyun road to the west of Masyaf, the scientific research area, Al-Suwaidah area to the south-east of Masyaf and Al-Jalimah area. Following the attack, successive loud explosions were heard for hours, while SOHR documented the injury of 14 civilians. According to SOHR sources, the Iranian missiles, which exploded in the warehouses targeted by the Israeli attack, were assembled over the course of more than a year and their number is estimated to be more than 1,000.
- August 31: Three Israeli missiles hit ammunitions and weapons warehouses of Iranian-backed militias nearby Aleppo international airport, while a fourth missile hit the perimeter of the airport. However, no damage to the airport’s runway. It is worth noting that Russian and regime forces are stationed inside Aleppo international airport, while the Iranians are prohibited from using the airport for any military activities, although the airport is used by Iranian airlines which transport “Shai’a pilgrims,” as they claim. According to reliable SOHR sources, Russian forces stationed inside the airport had prior knowledge of the Israeli airstrikes, as they were put on high alert ten minutes before the strikes.
- August 31, a regime soldier was killed in Israeli attack with two missiles on regime military positions hosting militiamen of the Lebanese Hezbollah in south-eastern Rif Dimashq. The attack also injured three persons whose nationalities remains unknown. Regime air-defences managed to shot down one of the missiles, before it reached its target. The targeted sites are located a few kilometres away from Damascus international airport and Sayeda Zeinab area.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has been all along warning against the repercussions of the crippling chronic crises and security chaos in regime-controlled areas and elsewhere in Syria, with only the Syrian regime to blame for the disastrous situation Syria is in right now. We, at the Syrian Observatory, call upon all international actors not to abandon their responsibility and obligations towards the people of Syria and urge them to find a lasting solution to the tragedy of millions of Syrians and bring Al-Assad, his affiliates and all those responsible for violations and those who aided and abetted the killing of Syrian people to justice.