Regime-controlled areas in April 2023 | Nearly 285 fatalities in acts of violence…nine assassinations of combatants…seven Israeli attacks…growing discontent over dreadful living conditions
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 April 2023, 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 April 2023, regime-controlled areas experienced an alarming escalation of acts of violence that left many casualties, where SOHR documented the death of 283 people across areas controlled by the Syrian regime and affiliated militias; the deaths are as follows:
144 civilians, including nine children and seven women. Here are further details of the circumstances of these deaths:
- 58 civilians, including four woman and four children, were killed in explosions of old ordnance.
- 38 civilians were killed by ISIS.
- 24 civilians, including a child, were killed in incidents of security disorder in Daraa.
- 18 civilians, including three women and four children, were murdered.
- Four civilians were killed in indiscriminate gunfire.
- One civilian died under torture in regime’s prisons.
- A civilian was killed by Iranian-backed militiamen.
- 46 members of regime forces, including two officers, were killed by opposition factions and jihadists in “Putin-Erdogan” area.
- 39 killed by ISIS.
- 17 killed in incidents of security disorder in Daraa province.
- Six assassinated by unknown gunmen.
- Two killed by explosions of IEDs and landmines.
- One killed in unknown circumstances.
-14 Iranian-backed militiamen:
- Seven killed by ISIS.
- Four killed in Israeli attacks.
- Three assassinated by unknown gunmen.
-Four ISIS members:
- Three killed in security operations in the Syrian desert.
- One shot dead in Daraa.
-Five ex-fighters, who did not joined any military formations after having struck reconciliation deals, were killed in incidents of security disorder in Daraa.
Kidnappings and arbitrary arrests
As regime security and intelligence services continue their repression, SOHR activists documented, in April, the arrest of at least 830 civilians, including three women, as well as the kidnapping of 39 others, including a little girl.
A regional breakdown of arbitrary arrests is as follows:
- Deir Ezzor: Six people.
- Damascus: Six people.
- Rif Dimashq: Eight people, including three women.
- Daraa: Six people.
- Aleppo: 502 people.
- Hama: Two persons, including a journalist.
- 300 Syrians were arrested by Syrian regime security services, after having been forcibly deported by the Lebanese security services.
A regional breakdown of kidnaps is as follows:
- Deir Ezzor: 23 people, including a little girl, among them there were 22 persons kidnapped by ISIS.
- Hama: Eight people kidnapped by ISIS.
- Daraa: Four people.
- Homs: Two people.
- Rif Dimashq: One civilian.
- Al-Suwaidaa: One person.
Here are further details of the arrests and kidnappings documented in the past month:
- April 1: A regime-backed local group in Hawsh Arab town in Al-Tel area in Rif Dimashq arrested a civilian for criticising economic conditions and complaining about the living situation, where they handed him over to the “air intelligence” branch in Harasta and his fate remains unknown.
- April 4: Regime’s security services arrested a young man from Jassem city western of Daraa, from inside the immigration and passport office building in the capital Damascus, while he was trying to receive a passport, without knowing the charges pressed against him.
- April 5: Regime security services arrested a displaced civilian from Afrin, where he was arrested in Al-Ashrafiyah neighbourhood in Aleppo city.
- April 6: A patrol of the Military Intelligence Department arrested two civilians arbitrarily, after storming their houses at the outskirts of Adwan town in western Daraa countryside, without knowing the charges pressed against them.
- April 6: Members of the Military Intelligence Department arbitrarily arrested a person working in a car wash place on the road of Daraa Al-Yadoda southern of Daraa, without knowing the charges pressed against him.
- April 10: Members of a local group affiliated with the military intelligence branch arrested a young man in a mosque in Daraa Al-Balad and asked his family to pay a ransom of 8,000 USD in return for his release.
- April 11: Members of a patrol of the military intelligence service arrested five people, including two male nurses, from the military hospital in Deir Ezzor city which is controlled by regime forces and Iranian-backed militias. The five persons, who work for a humanitarian organisation operating in SDF-controlled areas, were taken to Damascus, while the reasons behind arresting them remains unknown.
- April 13: A customs patrol in Damascus arrested tow young men from Al-Quraya in the southern countryside of Al-Suwaidaa.
- April 18: Regime security services arrested a civilian from Nawa town in Daraa countryside who is living in the northern neighbourhood in Daraa, after having returned from Lebanon.
- April 18: Regime security services arrested a civilian, while he was transporting an injured person to a hospital in Damascus following an infighting between two families in Beit Jinn village in Rif Dimashq.
- April 20: regime security services arbitrarily arrested two young men from Kafar Shams in Daraa countryside at a checkpoint at the entrance of Damascus city.
- April 22: Regime security services arbitrary arrested a young man at the checkpoint of Namer village in the western countryside of Daraa, without knowing the charges he was arrested for, where he was taken to an unknown destination and his fate remains unknown.
- April 23: Regime security services arrested a young man from Al-Dahla town in east Deir Ezzor countryside.
- April 26: Regime security services arrested a woman and her son from Kanaker town in Rif Dimashq arbitrarily, while they were in Al-Mosawaa Hospital in the capital Damascus to undergo a surgical operation, to pressure the father of the family to hand himself over to the security services.
- April 27: Members of a checkpoint of the “State Security” branch stationed near Al-Jandoul roundabout on the road to Handarat arrested a young man from Al-Owayjah village in Aleppo countryside, while he was heading with his family from Aleppo city to Al-Owayjah village on charge of “dealing with the former Free Army.”
- April 27: The head of Jadida Artoz district in Rif Dimashq detained two women, one of which is the wife of a suspect from Al-Golan and the other is her mother, to pressure the suspect to surrender himself, where he is wanted for criminal acts against residents from Al-Baghoz in Deir Ezzor countryside.
- April 27: Members of a joint checkpoint of the Military Security and the Airforce Intelligence near the central market of Al-Bokamal city, arrested four young men from Al-Bokamal city and its countryside, for unknown reasons.
- April 27: Members of the “Airforce Intelligence” department arrested a “microbus” driver working on the line between Jassem and Damascus two days ago in Daraa’s Garage in Damascus, without knowing the charges pressed against him.
- April 28: Regime security services arrested a journalist, who is the director of a media network, in Masyaf city in the western countryside of Hama, after publishing posts on the network page on social media, disclosing thefts and violations committed by the regime’s government and affiliated institutions and criticising exaggeration by pro-regime individuals.
- April: Regime security services in Aleppo city launched a large-scale security campaign in early April, arresting hundreds of women and men for “possessing uncustomed mobile phones and receiving remittances from individuals living abroad.” According to SOHR sources, the number of people who have been arrested during this campaign exceeded 500, and they were taken to several security branches, such as the criminal security branch and air-force intelligence branch. Some of the arrested people were released, after having paid large sums of money which reached five million to eight million SYP and their mobile phones having been confiscated. Through this campaign, security services are seeking to collect the largest possible sums of money from the arrested people, while members and officers of the security services auction off the confiscated mobile phones or sell them at mobile phone stores.
- April 1: Unidentified gunmen in a “black taxi car” kidnapped a young man and stole his “Kia 4000” truck on the road between Ghasm and Al-Sahwa towns, before fleeing towards Ghasm town in Daraa countryside.
- April 2: A gang’s men in security services uniform kidnapped a pharmacist in Ashrafiyat Sahnaya town in Rif Dimashq and communicated with his family, asking for a ransom of 100,000 USD in return for his release. According to SOHR sources, the kidnapped civilian’s family paid a sum of money estimated to be 180,000,000 SYP and jewelry, so that the gang would kill the pharmacist, after having informed local authorities. The local authorities managed to detect the place where the kidnappers were hiding in a farm in Sahnaya town and arrested them, before the sum of money and jewelry which had been given by the pharmacist’s family to the kidnappers were restored.
- April 3: Communication was lost with a group of 16 civilians, including women, near Al-Dafinah dam near Jabal Al-Bishri area in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor, while searching for truffle. SOHR sources suggested that the 16 civilians, who are from Al-Kharitah town in Deir Ezzor countryside, were kidnapped by ISIS cells in the desert, where their fate remains unknown.
- April 4: Gunmen, who are believed to belong to ISIS, kidnapped four shepherds and their animal stock in Sabikhan desert eastern of Deir Ezzor, and took them to an unknown destination. Their fate remains unknown.
- April 5: A gang kidnapped a civilian in his 50s, who works as a car dealer, in Adwan village in western Daraa countryside. Members of the gang demanded 15,000 USDs from his parents in order to release him.
- April 9: Members of a group of the local committees of “Talal Al-Zahry” in Mahjaba town northern of Daraa kidnapped a young man from Inkhil city north western of Daraa without knowing the reasons, and took him to an unknown destination.
- April 9: Gunmen believed to be members of ISIS cells kidnapped two young men who were searching for truffle in the north of Palmyra city in the eastern countryside of Homs.
- April 11: Two members of the National Defence Forces kidnapped a 10-year-old girl on a street in Al-Jebayliyah in Deir Ezzor city.
- April 16: Unknown gunmen attacked 12 civilian truffle hunters of Al-Bosaraya tribe in Duwayzin area in the south-east of Salamiyah in the eastern countryside of Hama. Four persons managed to escape, while the others were kidnapped.
- April 16: Two civilians were kidnapped while herding sheep during an armed attack with machineguns by gunmen believed to be of ISIS cells on motorcycles in Baqrus desert which is controlled by regime forces in Deir Ezzor countryside.
- April 21: Unknown gunmen in a car, “Kia Rio” make, blocked a civilian on a motorcycle on the road to Qanawat in Al-Suwaidaa and kidnapped him, after having fired bullets in the air to force him to stop without injuring him. The fate of the civilian remains unknown.
- April 29: A gang kidnapped a young man and left his brother, who was with him, where they hail from Al-Ghariya Al-Sharqiya in Daraa countryside, as members of the gang intercepted them, kidnapped the young man and took him to an unknown destination without knowing his fate.
Crime rate is on the rise
Since early 2023, regime-held areas have experienced an alarming escalation of crime rates, in light of the regime security services’ failure to put an end to the state of disorder and rampant security chaos in all Syrian provinces.
The Syrian Observatory has documented 14 murders in regime-controlled areas in April 2023, where domestic violence and armed robbery were behind some of these murders, while motivations behind the others remained unknown. These murder crimes left 18 fatalities: three women, 11 young and adult men and four children. The fatalities are distributed regionally as follows:
- Rif Dimashq: Four murder crimes left four men dead.
- Latakia: Two murder crimes left a child and three women dead.
- Al-Suwaydaa: Two murder crimes left a child and a man dead.
- Homs: One murder crime left a man dead.
- Daraa: One murder crime left a man dead.
- Aleppo: One murder crime left two children dead.
- Deir Ezzor: Three murder crimes left four men dead.
Daraa “the cradle of the Syrian Revolution:” Security chaos noticeably escalates
Incidents of security disorder, mainly armed attacks, in Daraa province escalated dramatically in April 2023, where SOHR documented 61 attacks in different areas throughout Daraa province. These attacks left 47 people dead; they are as follows:
- 24 civilians, including a child and a 11 persons accused of “involving in drug business.”
- 16 members of regime forces and security services and “collaborators” with security services.
- Five former fighter who did not join any military formation, after having struck reconciliation deals.
- An ISIS member.
- An ex-fighter with settled-status working for regime security services.
Nine assassinations and attacks target combatants
In April, SOHR documented five assassinations and attacks which targeted members of regime forces and security services in Al-Quneitra, Deir Ezzor, Idlib and Rif Dimashq provinces, which left many casualties. Here are further details:
- April 8: Residents found the body of 20-year-ols regime soldier inside a deep well with gunshot wounds in Tab Harabish neighbourhood in Deir Ezzor city
- April 13: A regime captain was killed, and three others at least were injured due to the explosions of two IEDs planted by unidentified people, where the first one targeted a military checkpoint of the regime forces in Ghadir Al-Bustan town in the southern countryside of Al-Qunaitrah, while the second targeted a checkpoint on the road between Al-Maalaqah and Ghadir Al-Bustan towns near the border with the occupied Golan.
- April 14: A regime soldier aged 25 was killed, while attempting to dismantle landmines, planted earlier by military formations, in Deir Ezzor city.
- April 16: A regime officer of the Special Task Forces of the regime-backed 25th Division, which is led by “Suheil Al-Hasan,” was assassinated by unknown gunmen inside the airport of Abu Al-Thahour in the eastern countryside of Idlib, within “Putin-Erdogan” area.
- April 16: An officer with the rank of lieutenant and the head of the military intelligence detachment of “Sa’saa” branch, was assassinated, and four other members were injured due to an armed attack carried out by gunmen using heavy weapons and RPG launchers, on the detachment on the road of Al-Musherfah-Rasm Al-Khawalid in Al-Qunaitrah countryside near the border with the occupied Golan.
- April 17: A member of the “National Defence” from “Al-Omor” tribe was shot dead by five people in a black “Hilux” car in front of his house in Al-Matla town in Rif Dimashq.
- April 19: Unidentified gunmen targeted two officers ranked first lieutenants of the 90th Brigade and a person on a motorbike, on the outskirts of Rasm Al-Qabow village in Al-Qonaitara countryside near borders with the occupied Golan, killing the officers and the driver of the motorbike.
- April 24: Three Syrian members of “IRGC” militia were killed on the previous day by anti-Iranian armed groups who attacked their motorbike on the road of Ain Ali-Mahkan which is controlled by Iranian militias in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.
- April 27: Unknown gunmen attacked a regime checkpoint with an IED in the outskirts of Harasta in Rif Dimashq, in coinciding with heavy shooting, what resulted in the death of a regime soldier, while the attackers fled to an unknown destination, amid a mobilization among regime forces and reinforcing the area searching for the attackers.
Infightings in Rif Dimashq and Al-Suwaidaa
Regime-controlled areas experienced three infightings in April: two in Rif Dimashq province and one in Al-Suwaidaa, which left casualties. Further details can be summarised as follows:
- April 7: Clashes erupted between a family backed by the 4th Division and residents of Bait Jinn in Rif Dimashq. According to reliable SOHR sources, the family that is backed by the 4th Division used anti-aircraft weapons. The clashes left a civilian and four gunmen dead. The clashes took place between both sides following the explosion of an IED that was planted by unidentified people in a car carrying commanders of the family, causing the injury of some of them.
- April 11: An armed fight erupted between Al-Jaheem and Al-Rubaydan families following a dispute between the two families in Ashayer Al-Badou neighbourhood in the west of Shahbaa to the north of Al-Suwiadaa city. During the infighting, grenades were thrown on the house of a member of Al-Jaheem tribe, which resulted in the injury of a man
- 23rd and 24th of April: Clashes took place in Jadidat Al-Fadl in Rif Dimashq between young men from Golan and others from Deir Ezzor. The clashes left 13 people on both sides injured, some seriously, while the elder of a tribe from Deir Ezzor died of a heart attack, according a medical report.
Ongoing freefall of Syrian currency triggers public discontent
The Syrian pound has hit a new record low, where the Syrian pound against the US dollar recorded nearly 8,000 SYP. In Damascus, the selling rate of the Syrian lira reached 8,200 SYP and the buying rate was 8,300 SYP against the dollar. Meanwhile the Syrian Central Bank set the exchange rate of the Syrian currency against the US dollar at 7,400 SYP, according to the rate bulletin issued on April 26.
With the ongoing freefall of the Syrian currency, the prices of all food products, goods, fuels, services and all essentials continue to increase, further burdening all Syrians.
Many Syrians reacted with the new disastrous exchange rate of the Syrian pound against the US dollar, expressing their concern about the skyrocketing prices, which have already reached a level unaffordable by the many. Others have criticised the policy of the regime government which have failed so far to find economical solution for the ongoing collapse of the Syrian currency, blaming the Syrian Central Bank for “competing black markets in letting the Syrian currency to collapse further.” Some social media users commented on the current situation, where some of those comments read “everything is increasing except salaries.” “Thanks for the government for caring about the Syrian citizens.” “This is the first step towards breakthrough.”
Most of Syrian families live below the poverty line in light of the low salaries and wages, where the monthly salary of an employee in a governmental institution ranges between 100,000 SYP and 150,000 SYP, less than 20 USD.
On the other hand, Syrian telecommunication and internet companies in regime-controlled areas raised the fees of call and internet services on April 24. The Syrian Telecommunication Regulatory Authority announced the list of the new fees of fixed and mobile telecommunication service, justifying this raise by the increase in of the cost of basic devices and operational costs. According to the new prices, the fees of mobile service increased by 30 to 35 percent, while the fees of fixed telecommunication service have increased by 35 to 50 percent. The new service fees will be activated by May 1.
Moreover, the prices of monthly internet packages would be increased greatly as follows:
- 1 MBPS: 6,000 SYP.
- A half MBPS: 4,100 SYP.
- 2 MBPS: 8,500 SYP.
- 4 MBPS: 14,000 SYP.
- 8 MBPS: 24,000 SYP.
In the meantime, MTN company posted a list of the updated prices of mobile service, where the cost of a pre-paid minute has increased to 35 SYP, the cost of a post-paid minute has increased to 33 SYP and the cost of a mega bite has increased to 22 SYP.
The new prices ignited broad discontent and anger among the residents, most of whom have emphasised that the owners of mobile shops and internet cafes would not comply with the new prices and raise the prices of the services they provide even further.
Some residents also noted out that private companies would multiply the fees of their services, while others have commented on the new decision, stressing that the telecommunication and internet services have been already very bad and net work is very weak. The residents also accused the regime authorities of “attempting to cover the fiscal deficit at the expense of Syrian people, despite the dreadful living conditions and low salaries and wages.”
Ongoing Israeli attacks
As Israel continue to violate Syria’s sovereignty, SOHR documented seven attacks in April, which left casualties and heavy material losses. Here are further details of these attacks:
- April 2: Israeli missiles hit several military positions of the regime and Iranian-backed militias in Homs, where a weapons warehouse of Lebanese “Hezbollah” in Al-Dab’ah military airport area in the western countryside of Homs, which has been controlled by Lebanese “Hezbollah” for eight years, was destroyed. The strikes also destroyed an air defence battery in the scientific research area in the western countryside of Homs and targeted the scientific research centre. The attack left two Iranian-backed militiamen dead and five members of air-defence forces injured.
- April 4: Israeli missiles were fired on the area of the Damascus International Airport, an Iranian position near the area of Al-Saida Zainab and Al-Ma’amil (laboratories) area in Al-Kaswa, while missiles of the Syrian Air-Defence were fired to block them and managed to block at least two missiles. Also, an Israeli missile hit Radar Tel Al-Sahn area of the regime in eastern of Lahoya village in Al-Suwaydaa countryside. The attack which targeted the glass laboratory in Al-Kaswa area in Rif Dimashq left two volunteers of the Lebanese Hezbollah in the battalions of what is known as “Syrian Resistance to Free the Occupied Golan.” The two men were Syrians from Al-Qonaitara and Al-Suwaydaa.
- April 9: Israeli fighter jets and drones carried out several airstrikes on the Radar Battalion in the western countryside of Al-Suwaidaa, the 90th Brigade near the border with the occupied Syrian Golan in Al-Quneitra countryside and the 52nd Brigade in the eastern countryside of Daraa.
- April 9: Israel fired artillery shells on several positions in Al-Quneitra countryside and the area of the Yarmouk Basin in the western countryside of Daraa.
- April 18: Israeli forces fired heavy artillery shells on positions in areas which Iranian-backed militias locate in, on the outskirts of Saida town near the occupied Golan in the southern countryside of Al-Qunaitrah. No causalities were reported.
- April 24: Israeli ground forces stationed in Marased Jabal Al-Shaikh fired over 20 shells on Qors Al-Nafl position western of Hadr town in Al-Qonaitara countryside near the occupied Syrian Golan.
- April 29: Israeli missiles hit an ammunitions warehouse of the Lebanese Hezbollah in the area around Al-Dab’ah military airbase in Homs countryside in the early hours of Saturday morning, completely destroying the warehouse and trucks carrying weapons. The missiles were fired by Israeli fighter jets from the airspace of north Lebanon. During attempt by regime air-defences stationed in Shanshar area to intercept the Israeli missiles, which targeted the surrounding areas of Al-Dab’ah military airbase, a petrol station on the junction of Abel village near Al-Naqirah sustained damage. However, it is not known if the station was hit by Israeli missiles or shrapnel of the regime air-defences’ missiles. According to SOHR sources, the petrol station belongs to a person affiliated with the Lebanese Hezbollah, and it is located in an area hosting three air-defence bases, one in Shanshar area and two near Al-Andalus suburb. The Israeli strikes resulted in the injury of four combatants, amid unconfirmed reports of fatalities in the attack which targeted the weapons trucks and the ammunitions warehouse.
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.